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At a time when supporters of America’s new Administration think they can push us back to the bad old days, Hidden Figures comes along as a welcome aid to consciousness.  It reminds us where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we need to go.  

At a time when supporters of America’s new Administration think they can push us back to the bad old days, Hidden Figures comes along as a welcome aid to consciousness.  It reminds us where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we need to go.  

Baby Boomers need no reminder of the racism of Virginia and further south during the 1950s and 1960s. It was gory enough to be seared into our minds for life.  But younger Americans need a reminder of what it was like in America half a century ago, and what it is like for many of our fellow Americans still.  No, we no longer have “colored” restrooms and drinking fountains, but the bigots of those times live on in their children and grandchildren.  

Permeating Hidden Figures is the colossal transition taking place then from the analogue to the digital age. In those days, the computer bays were still empty, and the comic scene of NASA engineers having to break down walls to install an IBM mainframe, which was barely up to the task, metaphorically shows us the less obvious barriers that many worthy Americans still face. In those days many underpaid women were called “computers,” and did all of the calculations manually.  

Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) led the charge into the digital era, and became NASA legends in the process.  They served as beacons of excellence, who set an example for the rest of us to emulate.  It is high time their story is told outside the NASA community.  

Faced with racial bigotry, male chauvinism, and digital ignorance, they rose above their circumstances to make major contributions to the missions NASA today accepts as second nature.  But their results were far from foregone conclusions when the USSR put Yuri Gagarin into space first.  

Hidden Figures is a timely movie, which asks two kinds of questions.  Who do Americans want to be as a Nation? And who will lead us into the future, regardless of race, gender, creed, and/or fundamental ignorance? This movie is destined to be so popular that the answer may be the visionaries of Hollywood and social media, who know how to educate in spite of the barriers many of us still face today. 

In my city, which is filled with NASA engineers and administrators, the theatre was full on a snowy Sunday afternoon.  Golden Globe and Oscar Nominations are on the way!

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