Home Interviews Exclusive Interview With The Great Astronaut and Physician: Dr. Bernard Harris MD -- First African-American to Walk in Space
Exclusive Interview With The Great Astronaut and Physician: Dr. Bernard Harris MD -- First African-American to Walk in Space PDF Print E-mail
Written by Patricia Turnier   
Friday, 04 January 2013 04:13

Walking in the black vacuum, looking at the blue-white planet Earth more than two hundred miles below, would be a reverie for many children around the world. This dream became a reality for Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr. on February 9, 1995 during Black History Month, when he glided out the gate of the space shuttle Discovery. This wonderful accomplishment made him the first African-American to walk in space. Actually, he flew on the space shuttle twice in the nineties. Dr. Harris’ story is the epiphany of the American dream, an amazing upward socio-economical mobility.

Dr. Bernard Anthony Harris, Jr. M.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.P was born on June 26, 1956 in Temple, Texas. He grew up on the Navajo Nation during his formative years. Dr. Harris left the reserve later with his family and graduated from Sam Houston High School in San Antonio, Texas, in 1974, where he was actively involved in science fairs, book clubs and other academic activities. He obtained a B.S. degree in biology from University of Houston in 1978, and got his Doctorate of medicine (MD) degree from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine in 1982. Dr. Harris did his residency in internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in 1985. He later received a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Houston Clear Lake. The physician did a National Research Council Fellowship in Endocrinology at NASA's Ames Research Center in 1987.

In addition, Dr. Bernard Harris trained as a flight surgeon at the Aerospace School of Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio in 1988 and received a Master's Degree in biomedical science (MMS) from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in 1996. 

After completing his fellowship at NASA Ames, Dr. Harris enrolled in NASA's Johnson Space Center as a clinical scientist and flight surgeon, where he conducted clinical investigations of space adaptation and established countermeasures for extended duration space flight.

As mentioned, Dr. Harris journeyed into space twice. On his second mission he was the Payload Commander on STS-63 (2 February 1995 – 11 February 1995), the first flight of the new joint Russian-American Space Program. Mission highlights included the first rendezvous (but not docking) with the Russian space station Mir, and retrieval of the Spartan 204 satellite. During the aforementioned flight, Dr. Harris became the first African-American to walk in space – noteworthily it was also on this flight that Eileen Collins became the first female Shuttle pilot. On this mission, Dr.  Harris flew 198 hours and 29 minutes in space, completed 129 orbits, and traveled over 2.9 million miles in total.

Dr. Harris left NASA in April 1996 and has pursued research. He occupied the position of Vice President of SPACEHAB, Inc., an innovative space commercialization company, where he conducted the company's space science business. He was also Vice President of Business Development for Space Media, Inc., an Informatics company, where he created an international space education programme for students and developed an e-commerce initiative that is now part of the United Nations education program.

In addition to his experience as a medical doctor and astronaut, Dr. Bernard Harris is the author and co-author of several scientific publications. He is the CEO and managing partner of Vesalius Ventures, a venture capital firm that focuses on new to mid-stage healthcare technologies and companies. Moreover, the physician has several faculty appointments, including Associate Professor in Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch and Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Hence, Dr. Harris is a philanthropist and a bold man who likes challenges. He won’t sit on his laurels or won’t stay in comfort zones. He served as the chief medical officer and payload commander, not to mention conducting a spacewalk.

Dr. Harris is a member of several professional, academic and service organizations: the American College of Physicians, Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, among others. He is a board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Houston, National Math and Science Initiative, Medical Informatics, Technology and Applications Center, Houston Technology Center, and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, Board of Scientific Counselors. Furthermore, Dr. Harris was a Senior Consultant for the NASA Aerospace Safety Panel, a Member of the NASA Biological and Physical Sciences Committee, the Council for the National Institute Health/National Institute for Deafness, Texas Tech University Board of Regents, Texas Higher Education Coalition, Texas Commission on a Representative Student Body and Communications Disorders and the Committee for the National Academies Institute of Medicine.

Dr. Harris has been recognized many times by NASA and other organizations for his professional and academic achievements. In 1996, he received an honorary doctorate from the Morehouse College School of Medicine. He was granted after other honorary doctorates from Stonybrook University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, and the University of Houston. Moreover, he has earned a NASA Space flight medal, a NASA Award of Merit, a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the 2000 Horatio Alger Award. He was inducted into the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. In 2005, the North East Independent School District of San Antonio, Texas named a middle school -- then under construction -- after Dr. Harris. The Bernard Harris Middle School opened August 14, 2006 with a capacity of 1500 students.

In his autobiography, Dream Walker: A Journey of Achievement and Inspiration, Dr. Harris narrates his formative years on the Navajo Nation (where his mother was teaching) into outer space and back to complete his earthly mission of planting seeds of self-empowerment and self-determination in today's youth.

The autobiography doesn’t focus solely on Dr. Harris’ accomplishments, it goes beyond that. Hence, it is a GPS for anyone interested in learning about life as an astronaut and the process of becoming one. The physician and former astronaut shares wisdom and stories from his moving life that will inspire readers to take steps toward achieving their dreams and goals.

Thus, Dr. Harris’ book is also interesting because the author shares valuable information in many realms: medicine, space travel and entrepreneurship. Readers will also find humor in the autobiography. Prominent people such as Dr. BENJAMIN S. CARSON, SR., MD endorsed Dr. Harris’ book. Dream Walker, was named a 2010 "Editor's Pick" by Jet Magazine. The book was part of our top 20 for fall 2012:  Top 20 Books.  

Dream Walker should be translated into several languages: French, Spanish, etc.  Dr. Harris has been featured in GQ Magazine, USA Today, and The Houston Chronicle. He also appeared several shows as an expert: CNN's "American Morning," NPR's "Tell Me More," "The Gayle King Show," "Fox & Friends", "The Tom Joyner Morning Show", etc. In 2008, Dr. Bernard Harris was featured in Microsoft's "I'm a P.C." ad campaign.  

Overall, Dr. Bernard Harris has 37 years of experience in research, management and hardware/product development. Throughout his career, Dr. Harris, managed multimillion-dollar programs for the government and served as a senior manager for private corporations. On February 9, 1995, he became the first African American to perform an extra-vehicular activity (spacewalk). He was also the first African-American man to go in space as one of NASA's research teams and he was involved in the building of the space rovers.

Dr. Harris was chosen by NASA in January 1990 and became an astronaut in July 1991. He qualified for assignment as a mission specialist on future Space Shuttle flight crews. He occupied the position of the crew representative for Shuttle Software in the Astronaut Office Operations Development Branch. Dr. Bernard Harris was the mission specialist on STS-55, Spacelab D-2, in August 1991. He logged on board Columbia for ten days, (26 April 1993 – 6 May 1993); on the mission the Shuttle reached one year of total flight time. Dr. Harris was among the payload crew of Spacelab D-2, conducting a variety of research in physical and life sciences. During this mission, he flew over 239 hours and 4,164,183 miles in space.

Dr. Harris was at NASA for ten years, where he was in charge of research into musculoskeletal physiology and disuse osteoporosis. Later, as Head of the Exercise Countermeasure Project, he conducted clinical investigations of space adaptation and invented in-flight medical devices to extend Astronaut stays in space. A veteran astronaut for over nineteen years, he flew for more than 438 hours and traveled over 7.2 million miles in space.

More recently, in 2009, Dr. Bernard Harris was Vice-President of the American Telemedicine Association, he became the President of this Association in 2011, serving for a one-year term that ended in 2012.

In 2010, Dr. Harris was part of the Dream Tour, visiting over 30 schools across the U.S. It is important to mention that the physician empowers more than 15, 000 students annually. He is currently the CEO of Vesalius Ventures.

Dr. Harris wears many hats: a physician, an astronaut, an entrepreneur, a sought-after spokesperson (for instance, he gave a powerful keynote speech at the Exxon Mobil Texas State Science and Engineering Fair among many others) and an author. Dr. Harris is also a qualified licensed private pilot and certified scuba diver. In addition, he had a cameo appearance in the “Men in Black” music video, from the movie that featured the actor/rapper Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

On a more personal level, Dr. Harris lives in Texas. He married Sandra Fay Lewis. They have an adult daughter. The physician enjoys flying, sailing, skiing, running, scuba diving, art and music. His mother, Mrs. Gussie H. Burgess, and his stepfather, Mr. Joe Roye Burgess, live in San Antonio, Texas. His father, Mr. Bernard A. Harris, Sr., resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Here, Dr. Harris speaks candidly about his journey, the process of becoming a physician and an astronaut, among other things. He was very generous with his time and I was impressed to discover how unassuming he is despite all his accomplishments. Dr. Harris hopes that his path will especially inspire our young readers around the world to achieve their own dreams. The interview was conducted last fall from Canada and it is Dr. Harris’ first Canadian exclusive interview.


P.T. Share with our readers what inspired you to become a physician and astronaut. What made you think it was possible, seeing that you grew up during segregation? In other words, what made you believe in the American concept of meritocracy during an era when there were few prominent African-Americans because of the Jim Crow system compared to now?

Dr. H. That is a great question! I was one of these kids fascinated with science. I was not negatively easily influenced by people who do not value education. I always knew education is highly important and I surrounded myself as much as possible with peers who had the same mindset. I also refused to believe that the odds were against me.  

In addition, as a child I loved science fiction so I was naturally drawn to space programs. When I looked to space programs, one of the people who inspired me was Neil Armstrong (a humble man who gave few interviews and didn’t want to be deified) and Buzz Aldrin in 1969 (July 20) -- on the Apollo 11 mission -- when they descended to the lunar surface. 600 million people in forty-three countries watched these astronauts. They left Earth on July 16th 1969 with Michael Collins. I was 13-years old at that time and I was fascinated to see human beings leave our planet to go to the moon on my black and white television. I loved the quote of the late Armstrong: “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. I was fascinated by the plaque left by Armstrong with these words: “We came in peace for all mankind”. That was a sparkling moment for me, which kept me going. However, you are correct; it was surprising to aspire to this dream when in the same era and on the same television I saw what was happening to my people in Alabama (and elsewhere in the nation) with the Jim Crow system. So, here we are in a world where we become observers of something which was never done before, and on the other hand we were dealing with basic civil rights issues. For a young Black kid who looks at his television and decides that he will follow in the footsteps of these White astronauts could appear to be an impossible dream but I always had faith, and when you truly have spirituality, many things become attainable. The motto of my foundation is “Dreamer … Nothing is impossible, if you believe in your dreams.” I have to add also that after I set my goal to become an astronaut at a very early age, with rare exceptions, I kept my dream a secret. I didn’t want anyone to discourage me and tell me I couldn’t do it.

P.T. This was very smart and really mature. In addition, I always believe that nobody should shatter the dream of a kid by telling him/her he/she will not be able to accomplish his/her wishes because nobody can predict his/her future and he/she has his/her whole life ahead.

Dr. H. Definitely! When I decided to tell my mother that this is what I wanted to do, I got all sorts of support from her and other members of my family. They let me know that I could become whatever I wanted to be as long as I was willing to work really hard for it. This was the only licence I needed to have to pursue my goals.

When I was in high school, I was befriended by our family physician, Dr. Frank Bryant (in San Antonio, Texas) who happened to be an African-American. I saw the life that he had as a medical doctor. I also combined that with my nature to want to help people. When I did research about the NASA, I found out they had physicians who work in their space programs. This is how I put two and two together: being a physician first and eventually I would travel in space.

Dr. Joseph Peter Kerwin was the first American physician in the seventies to go into space. He flew on board the Skylab mission for 28 days. There are beautiful pictures of him in space examining one of the crew members. It was really cool to see this during my youth.

P.T. I thought you were the first American male physician to go into space.

Dr. H. No, what I accomplished first is to be the first physician who did telemedicine in space and who conducted a telemedicine conference up there. When I was in space, as the crew’s medical officer and mission specialist, my job was to ensure the health of the team and to lead scientific investigations.

To go back to my youth, I went to University of Houston and after to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. I later did my residency at the Mayo clinic. That gave me the foundation to then enter NASA. In this regard, in 1986 I was accepted into a program at the NASA Ames Research Center in California. I did a fellowship in oncology studying bone loss which happens to astronauts. I developed an expertise in that area. A year and a half later, I moved from that NASA center to Johnson Space Center here in Houston in 1987. I started to do more research about human survival in space flight. At that time, we were travelling in the shuttle and we were getting ready for the international space station. In addition, we were doing rides to the Russian space station. So, this is how I ended up at NASA.

I would like to add that living on the Navajo reservation definitely inspired me also to go into space. I believe that it is a wonderful place to be for inspiration during your youth because it is a high desert which means that where we lived in Arizona, we had beautiful sky with stars at night with no light pollution which blocked the view of the galaxy. So, I would sit there as a child and look at heaven while imagining what it would be like to travel to see the stars.

P.T. Share with us what was going on in your mind at age 13 when you were among the 1 billion people to watch on television the Apollo 11’s landing on July 20, 1969. You touched on this earlier, but please elaborate.

Dr. H. That was a very exciting time for everyone. It was amazing to see a human being, Neil Armstrong, taking that first step. I felt like many people around the world to go outside and look up to see the moon. It was incredible to realize that human beings were up there. It was fascinating. Many people wanted to be American heroes like those astronauts of the early days. I was no different from other American kids. In fact, all the children around the world wanted to be astronauts at that time because of that event.

P.T. You penned in your book that there are no flawless missions. You probably also met many naysayers reminding you about this, including the Challenger disaster in 1986. What was your secret to not be influenced by them and to find the courage to accomplish your goal to go on a Space mission?

Dr. H. I believe that when you have a dream or a goal that you really want to accomplish, it will come to fruition when this desire in your head goes to your heart. I truly think that when you have what it takes to realise your dream, nobody will be able to convince you otherwise. A lot of people believed in the past that it would not be possible to go to the moon. My stepfather was one of them. When I came back from space after my first mission and I gave him a hug, my first question was to ask him: “Well, what do you think?” [Laughs out loud]. He responded: “I guess that I have to believe it now“[laughs]. The Wright brothers are definitely among the people could not allow themselves to be deterred by dream killers to accomplish their goals. Naysayers didn’t think during their era that it was possible to create a plane which could fly like the more recent naysayers didn’t believe human beings could go to the moon.

P.T. You spent an important part of your childhood on an Indian reservation, specifically the Navajo Nation that you describe as the Promised Land. Can you talk about the impact this population had on your character and your life? What are the most important Native values you cherish? In addition, tell us what it meant to you to bring their flag with you during your Space mission.

Dr. H. I spent several years that I call formative years growing up in the Navajo Nation. It was a rich environment. It was a different setting for an African-American kid to grow up in and it allowed me to be involved in the Native-American community. I also had the opportunity to meet people from other cultures and all walks of life: Hispanics, Latinos, Whites, etc. This experience helped me gain the ability to interact with people from diverse backgrounds. It was definitely worthwhile for me until my adulthood. This rich experience will always stay with me. Being among Natives expanded my spirituality because it is an integral part of their lives. They believe in mother earth, the love of humanity, the spirit world, etc. I picked up a lot of these beliefs while I lived there. It was really wonderful. For me, it was totally natural to take their flag to the space. Astronauts are allowed to take items with them into space to honor people or institutions they have been involved with. So, I wanted to pay homage to the Navajo Nation. In this regard, I requested their national flag. It was wonderful to do that for them.

P.T. What does it mean to you to be the first Black man and the first physician (with an internal medicine specialty) who walked in space?

Dr. H. It was a wonderful experience even if I didn’t set out to be first of anything when I applied to the NASA. My chief goal was to go into space. There is a hierarchy in the astronaut profession. I was a mission specialist. Once you fly in space as a mission specialist you definitely want to do a spacewalk. In fact, it is the most coveted thing to do as an astronaut besides flying the shuttle. So, it was great to have the opportunity on my second flight to walk outside. This experience is almost indescribable from the visually standpoint of what you see being outside of the vehicle looking back at your fellow crew members inside the shuttle. All of us travelled around the world at 17, 500 miles per hour in the rocket. With that speed, it was possible to go around the world in 90 minutes.


Dr. H. Every 45 minutes, we saw the sunset or sunrise. In addition, we had an unobstructed view of the earth and the Milky Way behind the earth. I was very proud of that moment and to be the first African-American astronaut to walk in space. However, I thought about this afterward. My priority was to focus on releasing the satellite, to do activities in preparation for building an international space station. When I got back in, I received a call from President Clinton to congratulate me for being the first African-American to walk in space. It is really at that moment that it hit me that I did something different [Laughs out loud]. I certainly lived a dream: walking, floating, and maneuvering in space, 250 miles above Earth.

On February 9, 1995, we made history with the space shuttle Discovery in three ways: Eileen Collins became the first woman to pilot the space shuttle, Michael Foale was the first Englishman and I became the first African-American to walk in space. We definitely had an international crew that included Vladimir Titov, the Russian cosmonaut who had the record for longest endurance.

P.T. What were your perceptions of space before you got there and after your walk? In addition, share with us your main thoughts when you were in Space for 18 days 06 hours 08 minutes.

Dr. H. Before, it was a combination of dreaming of what it would be like to be out there based on what I read and what I saw on TV in documentaries and so on. After, when I enrolled in the NASA, I was trained in different aspects of life in space. Finally, when you end up in orbit, it is not a complete surprise. Space is the only place where you can tie everything together. So, the visual of looking at the earth, the speed when you travel around the earth, doing the simplest things like eating, dressing in space made everything change because of the lack of gravity. Conducting experiences were completely different up there in orbit. In many ways we were prepared and unprepared if you understand what I mean. We had to adapt to our new situation. The only true preparation was going there for the first time. When you go for the second time, you feel much more comfortable because you know what to expect. Furthermore, you understand the environment, which is more familiar. I would like to add that no pictures can truly capture all the beauty I saw in space. So, before I ended up there, I gained a lot of knowledge, I got the basics. I understood things, I had the pictures, I did the training, but when you are in space there is nothing else like this scenery. Traveling up there gave me a profound new perspective as I gazed down on our planet.

P.T. If in the future a movie is made about your life, which actor would you like to portray your character and why? I can’t wait to hear your answer!

Dr. H. [Laughs out loud] That is a good question! Oh my goodness, let’s see. I think I would like Will Smith to play me because he is a great actor.

P.T. You met him for your cameo appearance on the “Men in Black” music video.

Dr. H. Exactly! I believe that he has the capacity to attract the interest of viewers of all ages, and on an international level. I consider him a Renaissance man, meaning that he has a strong body of work. He started as a rapper and at that time he brought originality on the scene with his humor. After, he did comedic acting and now he moved to dramatic acting. I believe that he is very versatile. I am impressed with the characters he played and I am convinced that he would do an excellent job. His sense of humor would make the movie very interesting on top of it [Laughs].

P.T. I know already what would be one of my favorite parts of the movie: when the FBI questioned some family members and friends who didn’t know that you wanted to be an astronaut

Dr. H. [Laughs out loud]

P.T. What is your assessment of the current American health system and what changes would you like to see in the future?

Dr. H. I think we are poised to make dramatic changes which are already occurring in the current American health system. I think we made a very positive step to make sure that we can have all Americans insured. About the lack of health insurance, this issue is particularly relevant for children who live in communities of color. According to the Minority Health Initiatives, children of color are more likely to lack health coverage: There are currently 8.1 million uninsured children in the US and more than 5 million of them are children of color. With the health reform, this situation will change. I am aware that there is a lot of controversy surrounding universal health care or national health insurance. I believe that Canada has this system.

P.T. Definitely!

Dr. H. I think as a country, health care is a right and should not be considered a luxury. A healthy population will guarantee the growth and the prosperity of a nation. How it is right now in the U.S., it is a privilege and it should not be that way. The highest quality of health care is given to those who have the money to pay for it. The health reform will expand the coverage among the uninsured. Rules will have to be created to see when the care is enough because some people are at the end of their lives and cannot be saved. It can be done with humanity. There are people who do not desire futile medical care and it has to be respected. However, I am aware that the medical community is divided on this issue and the society as a whole.

I also believe that it is possible to provide better care with innovative technology. My company is involved with that and this is what we are implementing in corporations. We develop and invest in enterprises which will provide better health care.

P.T. About the health care system, files cost a lot of money in North America and I don’t get it that in the information age we still do not have electronic medical files everywhere.

Dr. H. Here, if a patient saw a doctor in his office and he/she goes afterward to the hospital, the staff won’t have the record from the physician at his clinic.

It is time consuming, valuable information is not transmitted fast and it costs money to open a new file each time. It is not an efficient system. It is definitely required to have access to electronic medical records. This will fix a lot of problems.

P.T. You have been involved in telemedicine. What is your assessment of this new technology in your realm? In your book you mentioned that telemedicine will completely transform the current health care system. Can you elaborate on that?

Dr. H. This question is partially related to what I said earlier. I talked about the importance of bringing efficiency in health care. It will create a better outcome, an effective delivery system with the use of technologies. The development of electronic records where data can be moved from one place to another, is an example.

Developing diagnostic devices can be done at home, or using telecommunication systems via smartphones or ipads is another possibility. These devices allow physicians to assess you anywhere in the world.

P.T. Isn’t it dangerous to diagnose people from a distance without close examination?

Dr. H. Not at all. A physician surely would not handle a cardiac attack via smartphone. However, a doctor could detect that the person is having chest pain with the description he’s receiving, and he will recommend to the individual to go to a medical facility. Some people have chronic heart disease and they are already aware of the symptoms. In these cases, the physician will know what to recommend.

I can give a specific example which is already utilized all over the world through telemedicine. Multiple people have strokes each year. Many times when they are having the stroke, they are not in the hospital or at the doctor’s office. In these cases, they are not seen rapidly. So, this is how teleneurology was developed. A neurologist will be informed and available to interact with the patient via telemedicine. He will assess the patient and see for instance if the person needs an anticoagulation such as TPA (Tissue plasminogen activator, a protein involved in the breakdown of blood clots). When the blood clots are dissolved with this drug the symptoms of the stroke go completely away after two hours. So, instead of having a partially paralyzed person, this individual will be able to live a normal life without having to go to physiotherapy sessions for months and so on. This is dramatically effective in the field of neurology.

P.T. Why was it important for you to write the book and how has it been received so far by the public, especially the youth that you are mentoring?

Dr. H. It has been received very well. I give multiple speeches to different audiences. Many people hear my story and want to have more details. So, this is how I decided to talk more in-depth about certain aspects of my life in the book. My desire to inspire young people was also one of the main reasons I decided to write it. It took me ten years in total to complete it, including the search for the right publisher.

P.T. In your autobiography, you mentioned that you lived in a neighborhood during your childhood where you had access to prominent professionals such as physicians, lawyers and so on. There is ongoing criticism that decades after desegregation and the post-civil rights era, the Black bourgeoisie left to live elsewhere and Black youth are not as exposed as before to these role models. Even during the fifties, the renowned sociologist Franklin Frazier wrote the classic Black Bourgeoisie which exposed this issue. What is your opinion about this phenomenon and what needs to be done to improve the situation?

Dr. H. The essence of your question is about the responsibility of role models. I believe that it is critical for a child’s life, especially in inner-cities. There is a great scarcity of professionals who look like us. When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to interact with and be mentored by an African-American physician. That meant a lot to me because I could actually see what I could become. So, I definitely think that it is highly important for kids to have access to these role models now more than ever, especially when only 28% of African-American kids have both parents at home. In 1960, 80% of Black children were living with both parents. So the number has decreased significantly to 52% since then and makes the foundations of our families much weaker. Studies have demonstrated that kids have a better chance of success when both parents are raising the child. In this regard, Black boys have even less access to male role models and this often creates a negative outcome. Our kids need to see positive role models. Unfortunately, they are bombarded with stereotypes -- images of thugs and so on -- in the media, which worsens the situation. Those among us who are concerned about this very serious issue have to change these images seen by our children and they can also become role models for them.

P.T. I think it is great that what you are saying is not just rhetoric because you are actively involved with the youth, including minorities.

Dr. H. Thank you! Through the foundation, we are all over the country and last year we went to three countries in Africa. Most of our programs are educational to encourage young people to be on the right track.

P.T. In your memoir, you share the funny story about a twelve-year-old kid, Cleverick Johnson who, during your childhood, encouraged you to think big, to expect an income of $10 million later in life. You strongly believe in the power of positive thinking. What you accomplished would not have been possible without this mindset. In addition, in your autobiography, you wrote this powerful sentence: “I believe that when we enter this world, there are no limits in our minds.” Can you elaborate on that and about the power of positive thinking?

Dr. H. Certainly. I read a book when I was in high school, probably shortly after my encounter with Cleverick Johnson – who later became a dentist. The book was The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. This classic bestseller is wonderful because it talks about accomplishments and success in life. You don’t succeed in life by being negative, you succeed in life by being positive about yourself and the world around you. You must have inside yourself the feeling that you can change the world. It may be your own world, but there are some people in this world whose sphere is much larger than themselves and they are able to change the world. Actually, I believe that we are born with the ability to do that naturally. Unfortunately, in some communities because they have to struggle, they forget who they are: infinite human beings with infinite possibilities. Their unlimited potential is to do whatever they want to accomplish in life. Many people come into this world with natural talents, abilities and skills. We have the capability to learn even more skills with our brains. I also believe that we are all born for a reason. There is something that we have to achieve in life. And if we fulfill those things, this is how we change the world. I think in many cases, the only limit in attaining success are the restraints you place on yourself.

P.T. Your conversation with Cleverick Johnson when you were a child would be a really funny part in a movie about your life.

Dr. H. [Chuckles]

P.T. You strongly believe in education. Black America has historical figures such as Frederick Douglass, a former slave who practically learned by himself how to read and who became one of the most eloquent American orators. America’s universities grant more than 12,000 PhDs per year. To find 2000 Blacks with doctorates per year, one would have to count all the way back to 1920 at a time when it was much more difficult for African-Americans to be educated. In 1993, 951 African-Americans earned doctorates at U.S. universities. It is only more recently, in 2008, that the number of Black doctorates reached an all-time high of 2,030. In addition, very few Black Americans end up in the scientific field, which provides great incomes such as actuarial affairs. How do you explain this phenomenon and what needs to be done to improve this situation?

Dr. H. Those statistics are awful and bleak. Seriously, this means that there is a lot of work to do. I am sure that Frederick Douglass in his time thought we would be further than we are today. I am convinced that Dr. Martin Luther King would also think the same thing, but those are the facts. Maybe one of the reasons is the higher cost of college education, which has increased tremendously in the last decades. I also see this situation as a challenge and opportunity for the Black elite to work harder. The will for change has to start with us, we cannot rely on people outside of our community to stand up for us if we are not willing to stand up for ourselves. We have to increase the level of education of our people. We need to find our own spot to rise up the Black community.

P.T. In North America, the Black people who often go further in their studies are Africans who earn post-PhDs.

Dr. H. I thought about this reality concerning people who come to America. It is true also for Asians (Indians and so on). We cannot forget that this can be explained partially by the fact that most of these people are the cream, the elite, who are coming here. They are at the top of their class. In addition, they have other cultural differences. For instance, Chinese and Nigerians have a higher level of expectations in educating the youth compared to Black America.

P.T. What can also explain the academic success of Africans is the fact that they have not been uprooted, which creates a better sense of self, an important factor to thrive in life.

Dr. H. This is an interesting point! The phenomenon you described in your question may be due to the holdover, the sequela or the atavism of slavery. Many books have been written about it. I believe it is related to the aftereffect of enslavement and the oppressive Jim Crow system which followed. I refuse to think that we were born that way; it is certainly not inbred in us. I also think it would help African-Americans to know that Africa was at the forefront of the world's mathematics stage. Mathematics was born in Africa. In addition, written mathematics was discovered first in Africa. This is how the pyramids, for instance, were built in Ancient Egypt thousands of years ago. Given the fact that Black youth in America is not exposed on a regular basis to the knowledge of past scientists (for example, the physician Dr. Charles Drew, the blood bank innovator) and present Black scientists and/or inventors (for instance the ophtalmologist Dr. Patricia Bath) does not help. As I said earlier, you become what you see. So, we have to find ways to change this situation for the better and the expectations must be higher. My siblings and I were brought up to believe that education was the best and quickest way out of the slums. Acquiring knowledge is a key component to personal growth.

P.T. Giving back to the community is very important to you. Talk to us about The Harris Foundation http://www.theharrisfoundation.org/ (its mission, etc.) established in 1998, about the Dare to Dream (DTD) program with its ABC mantra and the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp (the deadline to apply for the next camp in 2013, the criteria, etc.).

Dr. H. As mentioned, our largest programs are related to education because it is the key to thrive. As Frederick Douglass said, education allows us to find ourselves and to help our community to strive. It is important to honor and focus on that. So, we put emphasis on math, science and technology to prepare the youth who want to embrace a career in engineering, computer science and so on.  In this regard, The Harris Foundation (THF) is a non-profit organization that supports math/science education, health and wealth programs for youth and their communities to learn financial skills. THF supports programs that empower individuals, especially minorities, other economically and/or socially disadvantaged, to discover their potential and pursue their dreams. In partnership with the ExxonMobil Foundation, THF provides science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educational opportunities to underserved youth, including 20 summer science camps at universities nationwide, scholarships and a STEM education speaking series, which focus on the need to prepare the youth for success in the global workplace. The National Science Foundation estimates that 80 percent of jobs in the next decade will require math and science knowledge.

Dare to Dream began as a three-year curriculum focusing on self-improvement (My Self), community service (My Community) and career planning (My World). Every year, the program starts with my visits where I distribute cards with my personal credo – the ABCs, which stand for “I can Achieve, if I Believe and Conceive my dream.”

DTD has been co-sponsored for 18 years by the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department and Communities in Schools. Since then, other partners including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have joined the DTD team. We help young people make the right choices and it is a crime prevention program. Part of the program deals with kids in juvenile detention center. The other part reaches out to kids in elementary school to prevent them from ending up having problems with the authorities. Our Dream Tour encourages students to pursue high tech careers. By the end of 2011, The Dream Tour went to 39 cities since its inception to achieve its goal of influencing more than 1 million students, teachers and parents. The Dream Tour also made an international stop last year – a three-country African tour: Nigeria, South Africa and Angola – to widen the program’s impact and address the need for strong STEM initiatives worldwide. Since its inception the Dream Tour has reached over 50,000,000 people through direct student and teacher participation, as well as multiple media impressions. The tour also added a component called the Educational Forum.

The Science camp highlights focuses on math and science. It has been out there for a long time. It started at the University of Houston and now it has been implemented in twenty universities nationwide. We had generous financial support from ExxonMobil and they are big believers in education. Thanks to their contribution, it allowed us to reach 1200 kids per year with that program alone. We bring these kids to universities for two weeks.

P.T. This is so important and I am sure it allows these kids to dream big. Without this program, maybe during their entire childhood and teenage years some would not even set a foot in these institutions.

Dr. H. Definitely! These kids have the opportunity to enroll in a very interactive program where the professors from these universities share their knowledge with them about math and science. The program starts every spring. The universities are selected in the fall. These institutions will host the program and they will recruit the students in March-April. The camps are held each summer between June and August at 23 colleges and universities nationally. We make sure that each campsite has 50% female and 50% male participants representing each grade level.

To be eligible, students have to meet these criteria:

• Be part of a traditionally underserved and underrepresented population;
• Be entering 6th, 7th or 8th grade in the fall of 2012;
• Have a GPA of at least “B” overall in mathematics and science;
• Have grades at the median to superior level in standardized mathematics and science tests;
• Write a 250-word essay explaining their interest in the camp and STEM;
• Be interviewed, if necessary;
• Have shown an interest in mathematics and science; and have solid recommendations from their current mathematics and science teachers.

To have more information about the summer science camp, readers can go to this link: http://www.theharrisfoundation.org/sitecontent/565/summer-science-camp/category/457/education.aspx.

We also organise high-tech events, supported by ExxonMobil Foundation, such as interactive science experiments, a simulated shuttle launch with firsthand accounts from ExxonMobil engineers about the rewarding aspects of their careers. In addition, we offer scholarships, named on my behalf to serve underrepresented students pursuing careers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The scholarship is paid to the university of the student’s choice and can be applied to tuition and related expenses for the upcoming collegiate year. The ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Math and Science Scholarships were established to encourage minority students to pursue college degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Each June, $5,000 scholarships are awarded to two African American and two Hispanic students while completing their senior year of high school in a member district of the Council of the Great City Schools.

To conclude, we offer STOMP, (Science & Technology Online Mentoring Program) a collaborative project between Science Buddies and The Harris Foundation funded by an Innovation Generation grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation. This pilot program is designed to support middle school students as they complete science fair projects.

P.T. You like challenges, you won’t sit on your laurels or stay in your comfort zone. Why was it important for you to take an entrepreneurial path and what is the most important thing you learned as a businessman?

Dr. H. I took this path because as you said I am not someone who will sit around and do nothing [chuckles]. In addition to becoming a physician and an astronaut, it was my ambition to be an entrepreneur. I believe, as mentioned in our infinite possibilities, that we can do anything that we set our mind to. It was a natural step for me to start my own company seeing that I dreamed about this for a long time. I used my skills as a physician, as a researcher and as someone involved in telemedicine.

The most critical thing that I learned about running a business is to find the right people to build a strong team. For instance, a business can have a perfect technology, but if it does not have the right staff, it won’t thrive. It is important to invest in people by participating in their professional growth. The human side of the company absolutely cannot be neglected.

P.T. There are people who had dreams they wanted to achieve but have been deterred by life’s obstacles, or they decided to settle for jobs beneath their abilities for financial security. What advice do you have for them, especially the youth, for not being discouraged by hurdles and by people who do not believe in them?

Dr. H. [Silence]. Oh, when you are not surrounded by people who do not believe in you, as one of my friends, Valerie Mosley says, it is important to put your oxygen mask on first [laughs]. For instance, when a plane is going down, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. If you put the oxygen on other people before yourself, you will run out of air and you won’t make it. So, if you put the mask on you first, you will insure your survival and you will be able to help others after. Regardless of what people tell you, it is important to take care of yourself. You must follow your goals, which benefit you and those around you. After, you are in a better position to help others.

P.T. What competencies and qualities are required for space medicine? Furthermore, can you tell us the main criteria to become an astronaut and go into space: the age range, etc.?

Dr. H. To be an astronaut, you need to have at least a Master’s degree in a science field. I believe that technology and engineering are among the most applicable fields to become an astronaut. This is the main criterion whether you want to be a mission specialist or a pilot. I believe the youngest astronaut we had was 29. There is no age limit as long as you are physically capable of performing the duties. If you recall, on October 29, 1998, the astronaut John Glenn became the oldest person to fly in space. In addition, he was the only one to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs, when at age 77, he flew on Discovery (STS-95).

I also recommend to people that when they are interested in becoming an astronaut, it is important to apply to take flight training courses to become a pilot. This will allow you later to be comfortable in the space environment. You also need the competency to work with a team in a high pressure environment. Of course you have to be able to handle stress efficiently. To become a researcher or to do space medicine, there are residency programs in aerospace medicine where you can enroll. So, after medical school, people can go to the University of Texas in the medical branch or can enroll to a military school called Wright-Paterson Air Force Base which is part of Central Michigan University (in Ohio) for aerospace medicine. If you want to be a researcher, choose a domain which interests you and get a master’s and/or a PhD to become an expert in the field you love. This will allow you to become a highly sought- after researcher by space agencies.

I would like to add that patience is important throughout this process. I didn't get selected the first time I applied, but I got a job at the Johnson Space Center, which helped me build up the experience and credentials required and allowed me to make it the second time I applied, in 1990. This led me to have a career as an astronaut with two shuttle flights, including the spacewalk on my second flight.

P.T. What message do you have for young people worldwide who want to follow in your footsteps? In addition, in your book you wrote that few astronauts walk in space. This is the dream of most young people who want to embrace your career. What are the misconceptions they should avoid and what should motivate them to become astronauts?

Dr. H. The first thing is to have the dream. Some people think that they cannot be an astronaut because they are not smart enough, they think it is too physically grueling, or they are scared to travel in space. When you get pass these concerns and you decide to become an astronaut, it goes back to what I said earlier about setting goals and having dreams. After, you have to be willing to work hard to accomplish that goal. It is not easy and the road is long to becoming an astronaut – I was in my thirties when it happened for me (after undergraduate school, graduate school, medical school and residency). Every path is unique to get to the NASA. Once you get there, you have to learn a lot more information and do more training with long hours. It can be physically challenging also. Then the day when you have to go in the space arrives. It may be physically difficult (your body has to adapt to the new environment). In addition, long hours will be ahead of you. This is why you have to be truly passionate about it because this will be the main motivation to not be deterred by hurdles, or not be tempted to surrender. The kids have to learn to hang in there and work through the challenges. With all that said, it is the most fascinating, rewarding job that I could have ever dreamed of. So, I believe what can keep someone motivated is to discover something which has not been done before, and this is always possible whether you have the opportunity or not to go into space. You always can be innovative.

To conclude, my goals in life have been achieved through self-empowerment and self-determination. I believe that education and effort will allow anyone to meet any challenge in life and be inspired to reach for the stars.

P.T.: Thanks Dr. Harris for this great interview. It was an honor to interview you and I know that our worldwide readers, especially the young ones, will be very happy to hear about you and discover more information regarding your path! You are a role model to them!

Dr. Harris. My involvement with the youth is very important to me and you are helping in my mission. In addition, I wish you a lot of success.

P.T.: Thank you!

Official website of Dr. Harris’ foundation: http://www.theharrisfoundation.org/



Dr. Harris in brief:

                    NASA Astronaut

Nationality                 African-American 
Status                        Retired
Born                           June 26, 1956 (age 56)
                                    Temple, Texas
Other occupation    Medical Doctor
Time in space          18 days 06 hours 08 minutes
Selection                   1990 NASA Group
Total EVAs                1
Total EVA time         4 hours 39 minutes
Missions                   STS-55, STS-63

Mission insignia       

Source: www.wikipedia.org


1978 BS                              University of Houston, Houston, TX

1982 MD                              Texas Tech University
                                              Health Science Center, School of Medicine
                                              Lubbock, TX

1996 MMS                           University of Texas Medical Branch
                                              Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
                                              Galveston, TX

1996 Doctor of Science     Morehouse School of Medicine
          Honorary                    Atlanta, GA

1999 MBA                             University of Houston- Clear Lake
                                               School of Business Administration
                                               Houston, TX

2006 Doctor of Science     Stony Brook University (SUNY)
          Honorary                    Stony Brook, NY

2008 Doctor of Science     University of Hartford
          Honorary                    Hartford, CT

2009 Doctor of Science      New Jersey Institute of Technology
          Honorary                     Newark, NJ

Postgraduate Training:

1982-1985   Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
                       Resident in Internal Medicine
1986-1987   NASA/Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA
                       National Research Council Fellowship in Endocrinology
1988              Aerospace School of Medicine, Brooks AFB, San Antonio, TX
                       Flight Surgeon, Aerospace Medicine



1983-Present    State of Texas
1983-1987         State of Minnesota
1986-1988         State of California


1988-Present   Private Pilot Single Engine Rating
1990-Present   NASA Co-Pilot Multi Engine/Jet


1991-Present PADI/NAUI

Board of Directors:

Current Positions


Babson High-Yield Capital Fund
The Endowment Fund
Salient Absolute Return Fund
Salient Mid Energy Fund
U.S. Physical Therapy (Nasdaq: USPH)
The Space Agency
American Institute of Minimally Invasive Surgery (AI-MIS)


Project HOPE
National Math & Science Initiative (NMSI)
National Space Biomedical Research Institute, Board of Scientific Counselors
NASA Advisory Council- Commercial Space Committee
IOM Committee on Aerospace Medicine and the Medicine of Extreme Environments (CAMMEE)
Houston Technology Center (HTC)
Greater Houston Community Foundation
The Harris Foundation


 Venture Capitalist, investing in telemedicine and healthcare
 Astronaut
 Medicine in Space
 Past President of the American Telemedicine Association
 Author, Dream Walker: A Journey of Achievement and Inspiration

Selected memberships: The American College of Physicians, The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, The Aerospace Medical Association, The National Medical Association, The American Medical Association, The Minnesota Medical Association, The Texas Medical Association, The Harris County Medical Society, The Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, The Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, The Texas Tech University Alumni Association, The Mayo Clinic Alumni Association, The Aircraft Owners Pilot Association, The Association of Space Explorers, The American Astronautical Society, The Member, Board of Directors , The Boys and Girls Club of Houston, The Committee Member, The Manned Space Flight Education Foundation Inc.

Selected Awards and Honors: 1996 Honorary Doctorate of Science, Morehouse School of Medicine. Medal of Excellence, Golden State Minority Foundation 1996. NASA Award of Merit 1996. NASA Equal Opportunity Medal 1996. NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal 1996. The Challenger Award, The Ronald E. McNair Foundation 1996. Award of Achievement, The Association of Black Cardiologists 1996. Space Act Tech Brief Award 1995. Distinguished Alumnus, The University of Houston Alumni Organization 1994. Distinguished Scientist of the Year, ARCS Foundation, Inc., 1994. NASA Space Flight Medals 1993, 1995. NASA Outstanding Performance Rating 1993. JSC Group Achievement Award 1993. Physician of the Year, National Technical Association, 1993.

Selected Honors and Awards:

1995 NASA Space Flight Medal
          Certificate of Merit, State of Texas by Governor Bush
          Congressional Certificate of Commendation from U.S. House of Representatives 12th District of Texas
          SCLC/WOMEN, Trailblazer Award,
          Southern Christian Leadership Conference
          Outstanding Contributions to the Community and Education, Ebony/Jet Guide to Black Excellence Program
          Honorary Bronze Eagle
          Honorary Hometown Hero, Warner Cable
         “Legacy of Achievement,” San Antonio Tuskegee Airman Inc.
          Dr. Calvin W. Rolark, Sr. Special Achievement Award,
          United Black Fund, Inc.
          Math and Science Award, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
          Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society

1998 NASA Team Excellence Award, The Space Station Program Office
          NASA Group Achievement Award, Phase 1 Shuttle Mir Program

1999 Savvy Award for Community Service
           Beta Gamma Sigma, Business Honor Society

2000 Candle in the Dark Award, Morehouse College
           Inducted into the Texas Science Hall of Fame
           Horatio Alger Award
           Robert R. Gilruth Award

2001  Laurel Wrealth Award, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity

2003  Professional Achievement Award, Mayo Clinic Alumni Association

2004-06 Houston Technology Center Entrepreneur

2006       Distinguish Alumni Award,
                Texas Tech University Health Science Center
                Honorary Doctor of Science, Stony Brook University (SUNY)

2008        College of Education's Award, University of Oklahoma
                 Distinguished Leadership Award, 100 Black Men- Houston Chapter
                 Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Hartford

2009        Honorary Doctor of Science, New Jersey Institute of Technology

2010        City of Houston Hall of Fame

Selected Publications:

Harris, B.A.and Epstein, P., “Out of Thin Air: The Evolving Enigma of Erythropoetin and Neocytolysis”, Editorial, Annual of Internal Medicine, Vol. 134, Number 8: 710-712, April 2001.

Harris, B.A. and Hamill, D., “The Commercial Alternative for Biomedical and Telemedical Research in Space”, 13th IAA Humans in Space Symposium EXPLORING SPACE, Acta Astronautica, Vol. 49, No. 3-10, pp. 483-488, 2001.

Harris, B.A. contributing author in Ball, J.R. and Evans, C.H., editors, “Safe Passage: Astronaut Care for Exploration Missions”, Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001

Harris, B.A., “Diabetes: An Investor’s Perspective”, Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, Vol. 2, Issue 2, pp. 288-291, March 2008

Harris, B.A., Doan, C.R., Ulrich, R., VanderWerf, M., and Thomas, T., “Roundtable Discussion: Venture Capital and Telemedicine”, Telemedicine and e-Health, Vol. 14, No. 5, pp.418-425, June 2008

Harris, B.A. and et al, “Technical Evaluation of the NASA Model for Cancer Risk to Astronauts Due to Space Radiation”, National Research Council of the National Academies, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2012


Harris, B. A., S. F. Siconolfi, J. B. Charles, and M. W. Bungo. Cardiovascular fitness before and after 7-8 days of space flight. Aviat. Space Environ. Med., 1989.

Siconolfi, S. F., B. A. Harris, J. B. Charles, and M. W. Bungo. The impact of fluid loading and cardiovascular fitness on the cardiovascular index of deconditioning. Aviat. Space Environ. Med., 1989.

Fuji, M. D., R. P. Elam, M. C. Greenisen, S. F. Siconolfi, A. D. Mazzocca, and B. A. Harris. Differences in biomechanical parameters during treadmill running at equivalent metabolic effort. Aviat. Space Environ. Med., 1989.

Roper, M. L., J. C. Hayes, A. D. Mazzocca, L. H. Barrows, B. A. Harris, and S. F. Siconolfi. Optimal angular velocities for concentric and eccentric contractions in five joints. Aviat. Space Environ. Med., 1989.

Mazzocca, A. D., J. C. Hayes, L. H. Barrows, B. A. Harris, and S. F. Siconolfi. Affects of 7 days of bed rest on hand muscular endurance and strength. Aviat. Space Environ. Med., 1989.

Wogan, C. F., A. D. Moore, L. H. Barrows, B. A. Harris and S. F. Siconolfi. Assessing fluid shifts with bioelectrical resistance during bed rest. Aviat. Space Environ. Med., 1989.

Barrows, L. H., B. A. Harris, A. D. Moore, and S. F. Siconolfi. Fuel utilization during exercise after 7 days of bed rest. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 1990.

Siconolfi, S. F., B. A. Harris, J. B. Charles, and M. W. Bungo. The impact of initial fitness and space flight duration on cardiovascular deconditioning. Aviat. Space Environ. Med., 1990.

Siconolfi, S. F., J. B. Charles, B. A. Harris, and M. W. Bungo. The interaction of space flight duration and the initial level of "fitness" on cardiovascular deconditioning. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., 1990.

Barrows, L. H., B. A. Harris, A. D. Moore, and S.F. Siconolfi, Aerobic economy during graded exercise after 7 days of simulated bed rest. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., 1990.

McBrine, J. J., A. D. Mazzocca, J. C. Hayes, M. L. Roper, L. H. Barrows, B. A. Harris, and S. F. Siconolfi. Adjusting VO2 max for decrements in strength following 7 days of bed rest. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 22(2):S11, 1990.

Moore, A. D., J. B. Charles, B. A. Harris, M. W. Bungo, and S. F. Siconolfi. Does bed rest produce changes in orthostatic tolerance comparable to space flight? Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 22(2):S27, 1990.

Kear, K. T., J. C. Hayes, B. A. Harris, S. F. Siconolfi. Muscle endurance, strength, and leg volume changes after 7 days of bed rest. FASEB J. 4(3):A568, 1990.

Mazzocca, A. D., J.C. Hayes, M. L. Roper, J. J. McBrine, L. H. Barrows, B. A. Harris, and S. F. Siconolfi. Muscular endurance and strength of following 7 days of bed rest. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 22(2)S74, 1990

Roper, M. L., A.D. Mazzocca, J. C. Hayes, L. H. Barrows, B. A. Harris, and S. F. Siconolfi. The effect of muscle strength on movement and task times after 7 days of bed rest. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 22(2):S117, 1990.

Hayes, J.C., Taylor, W.C., Harris, B.A., “Characteristics and Determinants of Leisure-Time Physical Activity Among United States Astronauts.” American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting, 1996.


The book is available on www.amazon.com, .ca or www.barnesandnoble.com 

Prominent People who endorsed Dr. Harris’ book: 

"Bernard Harris is a great example of the American success story. In Dream Walker he describes how he is trying to pass on his experience and success to the next generation -- we can all learn from his real life story."
- CRAIG R. BARRETT Former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Intel Corporation

"A riveting read for anyone who dreams of achieving the impossible. Dr. Harris' experiences make him the ultimate tour guide for space enthusiasts and newcomers alike."
- BENJAMIN S. CARSON, SR., MD and Dr. Evelyn Spiro, R.N. Professor of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Professor of Neurological Surgery, Oncology, Plastic Surgery, and Pediatrics Johns Hopkins Medical Institution

"Bernard Harris has visited schools from Florida to Alaska meeting with teachers, students, families and civic leaders to stress the importance of education, especially math and science. Dream Walker shows us that, with education, anything is possible."
- BYRON V. GARRETT, Chief Executive Officer, National PTA

"You can go from zero to hero, and be gloriously and joyously inspired to do so, like my "dream walking" friend Dr. Harris. Drink deeply of his wise example and it will help propel you to success, happiness, prosperity and achievement."
- MARK VICTOR HANSEN Co-creator, #1 New York Times bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul® Series, Co-author, Cracking the Millionaire Code, The One Minute Millionaire and Cash in a Flash, Author, Richest Kids in America

"Bernard Harris knows about the value of power: the power of the mind. He focuses his foundation on the power of the mind and the ability of young people to achieve the highest level of intellectual prowess. Dream Walker is a great book that lays out the roadmap for finding within one's self, as Harris did, the strength to succeed, to achieve greatness in spite of life's obstacles. It is a must-read for anyone wanting a life-changing experience."
- SHEILA JACKSON LEE, U.S. Congresswoman 18th District, Texas


Excerpt from Dream Walker:

“Chapter 3


Whether you think that you can or that
you can’t, you are usually right.

— Henry Ford

Who would guess that some of the most helpful advice I have
ever received came from a twelve-year-old? During one of our
childhood summer trips to Houston, I befriended Cleverick
Johnson, who lived across the street from my great-aunt Helen
in a part of Houston called Sunnyside.

Sunnyside sat in the heart of Houston’s black community.
My aunt’s home was in a new, middle-class neighborhood.
Many of our neighbors were professionals: teachers, preachers,
and lawyers. There were a good many role models to draw
from, but the person who had the most lasting influence on me
was Cleverick.

We were the same age, but he was a city kid, and I had been
living in a time warp among the Navajo. One day he and I were
sitting on the curb, contemplating what we would do next, when
we began to talk about the future.

“What are you going to do when you grow up?” I asked. He
said that he wanted to be a dentist. I volunteered nothing of my
dream of becoming an astronaut. I said only that I enjoyed science
and that I wanted to make a lot of money.

My response prompted him to ask, “What do you think is a
lot of money?”
I thought about my answer for a while, and then I said, “If I
had ten thousand dollars, I’d be rich.”

“Ten thousand dollars?” he repeated, his voice skeptical.
“That’s not a lot of money.”
“Okay,” I said, making a quick adjustment. “Then one hundred
thousand dollars. That would do it for me.”

He said, “Is that all? You’re not thinking big enough.”
I asked, “Well, what do you think is a lot of money?”
He replied, “A million dollars. No, ten million dollars.”

As I sat there thinking about the magnitude of his answer,
for the first time in my life I realized that I was thinking too
small. My whole concept of big money was dwarfed by his.
Why? Because I had no frame of reference. From then on, not
only was my perception of wealth broadened, but also my understanding
of the world expanded. Cleverick’s simple question
opened my mind to think on a different scale. It was the first
time—but not the last—that someone suggested to me that the
sky was the limit. »