Can you tell the story of how you came to write your first book, Silver Linings?
Several years after the Challenger space shuttle accident, Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral “Hour of Power” program asked me to be a guest at his Sunday morning service. I agreed to share my experience of the accident that resulted in the tragic loss of my husband, Dick Scobee, and our friends on board the Challenger, including the beloved schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. I accepted the interview because it seemed everyone knew how the Challenger crew died, but I wanted the world to know how they lived and the reason they risked their lives to go into space.
After I told my story, Dr. Schuller paused before his massive audience and said, “June, you should write a book about your story. It could help you and others too.” I accepted the challenge to write the positive story—to tell how we took tragedy and found the inspiration to create “stars from scars.” It was a story about how we found the “silver lining” beyond that dark cloud of sorrow and loss.
Can you tell me a little about the mission and work of the Challenger Centers?
These centers continue the Challenger crew’s mission to engage students of varying ages and backgrounds in science, math, and technology. At each of the Challenger Centers, gifted flight directors serve as crew commanders and guide the students in simulated missions to the moon, Mars, the space station, or out to rendezvous with Halley’s Comet. To have a successful simulation, the flight directors encourage the students to work as a team to solve problems. Those who work in the Challenger Centers—there are more than fifty of them now—share a genuine desire to inspire curiosity about the universe and to help students begin thinking about their own futures. There is a lot more information about the Challenger Centers here.
How would you describe your Silver Linings?
In the twenty-five years since the Challenger accident, I’ve often been asked, “What life experiences gave you the inspiration and courage to survive a national and personal tragedy and use it as motivation to help others?” To explain, I share my childhood story of poverty and loss and talk about ways to turn negatives in our lives into positives, something I learned from reading Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking.
My new book is an expanded and updated version of the original. It begins with the story of my difficult youth and my teenage marriage to Dick Scobee. It concludes with stories from the last fifteen years of my life, which includes the trials and tribulations of creating the Challenger Centers, an organization that has now provided golden opportunities to more than eight million students and teachers.
What has happened in your life in the years between the release of Silver Linings and the writing of your new book?
More good than I deserve has come my way in these past years, all to the credit of God’s grace and the mighty power of love. I continue to work as the founding chairman for Challenger Center. In that position, my goal is to help others find their own silver linings so they can truly reach for the stars. Since the publication of my first book, I’ve also co-authored and written several other books and spoken to audiences around the world. And most of all, God has given me another chance to love and be loved with my marriage to retired Army lieutenant general Don Rodgers. Together, we share the joy of nine grandchildren.
What is your hope for how your new book might impact readers?
My journey took me down some bumpy roads, but when I look back it seems like a beautiful journey. Even when my world appeared to be crumbling, I held to my dreams. My new book is about the journey of self-discovery, about finding my passions, and about affirming the wisdom I’ve learned in my life—wisdom that continues to sustain my life today. My wish is that my story might find its way into the hands and heart of a young girl who has begun to lose hope. I pray that my story can help her rediscover her faith and move toward a positive future. On another level, I hope my book can offer readers insight about surviving loss—the death of a loved one, divorce, or even a personal or business failure.