William Shatner Honored by NASA for Good Reason

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April 28, 2014;Washington Post

Is this a nonprofit story? Probably not, but it’s worth a few seconds of commentary. William Shatner, the hero to all sci-fi aficionados of the 1960s for his role as Captain Kirk on Star Trek, received NASA’s Distinguished Public Service medal last weekend, the highest honor NASA can bestow on a civilian.

Shatner is a great choice. He’s been an unabashed space enthusiast for 50 years and has lent his voice to NASA videos. It’s hard to imagine that he didn’t know that Star Trek was a kind of hysterical show, with him as a something of a space cowboy. His sense of humor, always abundant, especially in his extremely funny Priceline commercials, suggests he knew what Star Trek was—and it wasn’t Kubrick’s 2001 and he wasn’t quite Sigourney Weaver in Alien.

But just imagine how many of today’s scientists were inspired as youngsters watching Kirk, Spock, Sulu, and Scotty cavort through space. Shatner might have done as much for contemporary scientists—he was always promoting science and math education—as any educational program that might have been launched with a similar purpose back then.

But just last week, Shatner received another award. Bernard McGuirk, the executive producer of Imus in the Morning, was on The O’Reilly Factor and invited to make his choice for “pinhead of the week.” McGuirk named Shatner “pinhead” because Shatner had suggested publicly that Hillary Clinton might be a good president if elected.

Shatner was up for the honor. He tweeted a characteristic response;

 

 

You really have to be impressed with Shatner’s ability to disarm O’Reilly and McGuirk, whether you agree with his opinion of Clinton or not.

It’s hard to believe that Shatner-Kirk is now an indefatigable octogenarian, but still out there doing a one-man show, writing books, and, most importantly for NPQ readers, involved in charity. In fact, he received word of his NASA award while he was running his annual Hollywood Charity Horse Show. Shatner also showed up at New York Comic-Con as a celebrity supporting the work of the Pop Culture Anti-Bullying Coalition’s “I Am” campaign. This one is hard to believe, but he reportedly sold a kidney stone, presumably his own, for $75,000 which was used to support Habitat for Humanity’s building a home for Hurricane Katrina victims.

Shatner seems like a card and a pretty solid good guy. Congratulations, Captain, for your award from NASA. Did you know that the “T” in James T. Kirk stands for “Tiberius?”—Rick Cohen