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The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor: “Sunita Williams is an inspiration to all who have dreams and visions”

Ljubljana, 20. 5. 2013 | press release

The President of the Republic, Borut Pahor, today awarded the Medal for Services to Sunita Williams, an astronaut of Slovenian descent, for her contribution to fostering natural and technical sciences and their promotion among young Slovenians.
The President of the Republic, Borut Pahor, today awarded the Medal for Services to Sunita Williams, an astronaut of Slovenian descent, for her contribution to fostering natural and technical sciences and their promotion among young Slovenians.
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA

Sunita Williams nowadays ranks among the world’s elite in astronautics, as a member of the space mission that has been engaged in carrying out vital missions at the International Space Station on behalf not only of the United States but of the whole of humanity. As an expedition crew member, between December 2006 and June 2007, Ms Williams spent 195 days in space and set a new record for the most spacewalk time logged by a female astronaut. Within a joint project with the space agencies of Russia and Japan, in 2012 she was a crew member on several missions and set another record for the longest single spacewalk undertaken by a woman. Sunita Williams has shown great interest in the lives of her Slovenian ancestors from the village of Leše near Tržič, and having engaged in cooperation with various Slovenian institutions, entered the world of Slovenian youth as a role model for their future research and scientific work. The pride she takes in her Slovenian roots makes her an prominent promoter of our country.

On conferring the award on Ms Williams at a ceremony attended by villagers of Leše, Slovenian scientists and other guests, President Pahor said that he was honouring an outstanding personality, an astronaut and professional who with her knowledge and courage almost literally breaks down the boundaries of human knowledge and existence. “Ms Sunita Williams is of Slovenian descent, she regularly visits Slovenia, and being connected with Slovenian science, and in particular with the Slovenian Science Foundation, she transfers knowledge on the latest developments in the field of spaceflight, particularly technology and research in space, to Slovenia. Thanks to her Slovenian roots, which she has taken care to preserve, it’s only right that we consider her one of us," said President Pahor, adding that the Slovenes, though small in number, are a great nation, one which has managed to preserve and develop its culture and national identity and finally also succeeded in creating its own state. “We tend to forget the outstanding achievements that our ancestors and contemporaries made and continue to make in the arts, sciences, sports and many other fields. Therefore we must be more proud of each individual who succeeds in achieving above the average in their work, and in particular of those rare few that achieve outstanding success at the global level. Sunita Williams has succeeded in achieving exactly that,” said the President, adding that Ms Williams was an inspiration to all who have dreams and visions.

Sunita Williams thanked President Pahor and the audience for their warm welcome, and gave the President a memorial photograph of herself in space. The official ceremony was followed by her lecture entitled “My Journey into Space”, where she presented a brief history of spaceflight and her life story and invited young people from Slovenia to become a part of the space programme, “a story that leads humanity forward”. She recounted that as a child she never thought she would become an astronaut, and that she was not one of the lucky few who already at five years of age know what they really want in life.She was educated at a maritime university, where she learned a lot about leadership, team work, cooperation and survival. Later on she realised that this was an important milestone in her life. After graduation, when considering her future career, she enrolled in a school for test pilots and there for the first time became acquainted with the profession of astronaut and thus discovered the calling that she pursues to this day.