On November 14, 2013, former New York Jets player James McKinstry came to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, as part of the Museum’s Power of One speaker series.
More than 175 students from the New York City area came to hear McKinstry speak, including participants in the Museum’s Leadership Institute for Today and Tomorrow (LIFTT) program. McKinstry, who played for the Jets between 1963 and 1965, spoke about overcoming obstacles to get a college education and the importance of always looking forward.
Students, who also participated in an educational museum tour prior to the event, came from all over the five boroughs of New York, including Staten Island, where McKinstry was born.
Growing up in Staten Island and Long Island, McKinstry went to State University of New York at Farmingdale and played in the Canadian Football League. After playing for the Jets, McKinstry served in the Army and also worked for Grumman Aerospace Corporation on the F-14 Tomcat and Lunar Excursion Module.
“You had a choice of getting a deferment or going into the service,” he said of his decision to join the Army instead of staying with the Jets. “The team agreed that I was doing something good.” After returning from service, McKinstry opted to work at Grumman, where he had worked during the football off-season, in order to be a part of the Space Race with Russia.
“We were racing the Russians to the moon,” he told students. “How can you get any bigger than that competition?”
In recent years, McKinstry’s interests shifted to education and he worked for the New York City Department of Education. He spoke to students about how difficult it is to become an elite professional athlete, comparing it to the multitude of opportunities available when it comes to education. The Jets, he said, have fewer than 75 players, compared to the thousands of people who worked on the Lunar Excursion Module during the Space Race: “Education brings opportunities.”
The Intrepid Museum’s Power of One speaker series encourages prominent members of the New York City community and beyond to speak to students who are overcoming their own struggles in order to achieve success. Several more Power of One events are planned for the 2013-2014 school year.