While still in elementary school in Miami, Winston E. Scott, who would participate in two space shuttle missions, watched the original seven astronauts blast off, never dreaming he would one day follow in their footsteps.
In town Friday to address a conference on leadership, Scott remembered his days with NASA, and spoke of the responsibilities of leadership.
"Every single one of you in this room has an obligation to leadership," he said.
"You're a leader. That has been given to you. The only choice is whether we accept," he said.
Scott's address was featured in "2001: A Leadership Buffalo Odyssey," a daylong conference and reunion that brought together graduates of the program.
Scott told the group, gathered in the Grand Hall of Adam's Mark Hotel in Buffalo, that leaders need to be aware of the concerns, issues and worries of their communities. He spoke of teamwork, and how vital teamwork was to space missions.
"We could not have done what we did without literally thousands of people around the world," he said. "As leaders, you have to foster teamwork.
Diversity is also important, he said.
"We not only had a cohesive unit, it was diverse," he said. "It's very important to you in your leadership position to not always choose people who look like you."
He warned the group that, as leaders, they would be distracted and would need to focus on the goal.
"You can lead your team to success," he said.
"Another thing a leader has to do is create a vision," he said. "Never has it been more necessary."
Scott, who currently is vice president for student affairs at Florida State University, challenged members of the audience to rededicate themselves to their communities.
"It's up to each one of us to lead our community into this new era," he said.
During his seven-year career as an astronaut, the former naval officer led teams in groundbreaking experiments for the international space station and played an integral part in retrieving from orbit the Spartan science satellite during the 1997 Columbia mission.
At one point during Friday night's program, Scott recounted the moments just after liftoff.
"It sort of leaps off the pad, shaking, vibrating and noisy," he said. "There's no doubt in your mind you're going somewhere fast. It is a dynamic ride."
Leadership Buffalo, the host of Friday's daylong event, was founded in 1987 to unite leaders from diverse backgrounds and perspectives in order to increase their knowledge and understanding of community issues, broaden their vision and enhance their ability to lead.