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Here’s a life lesson from San Jose astronaut Steve Smith

Retired NASA astronaut Steve Smith is a veteran of four space shuttle missions, helped repair the Hubble Space Telescope and walked in space for longer than nearly anyone else. But when the San Jose resident visits schools and talks about the perseverance he needed to handle being rejected four times by the astronaut program, he talks about balloons, not rockets.
Smith, who received the Legacy for Children Award on Friday night from the Children’s Discovery Museum , brings two inflated balloons of different colors to his classroom talks. He asks students to vote on which balloon will rise the highest. When he lets go, one balloon falls to the floor and one goes to the ceiling. Of course, one is filled with air and the other with helium.
“It’s what’s inside that counts,” Smith said he tells students. “The important lesson to the children is don’t let people judge you and don’t judge other people.”
More than 500 people attended the awards gala at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, which brought in more than $1.4 million for the museum, which recently expanded to include Bill’s Backyard, an outdoor exploration area . Smith, 59, a graduate of Leland High School, joins a roster of honorees that started with Fred Rogers  in 1999 and includes Thedor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) , Sally Ride , Ronnie Lott , Alice Waters , Steve Wozniak and Sally Osberg .
“It’s not every year that we get to honor someone who is a true American hero and also is from San Jose,” said Toeniskoetter Construction CEO Dan Amend , president of Children’s Discovery Museum’s board.
STARLIGHT CINEMAS LINEUP ANNOUNCED: With movies starting at dusk — often after 8 p.m. in the summer — the pre-show entertainment is a key ingredient of  Starlight Cinemas , the San Jose Downtown Association’s free outdoor movie series at St. James Park.
Amy Anderson of the Downtown Association says families should love what’s lined up for this year’s slate of movies — especially those with parents who grew up in the 1980s and ’90s. 3Below Theaters  is bringing fun props for “The Princess Bride” (June 16), the San Jose Giants will have mascot Gigante there for “The Sandlot” (July 21), Grupo Folklorico Los Laureles Academy will perform before “Coco” (Aug. 18) and San Jose Bike Party is planning something special for “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (Sept. 15).
“We’ve found that the films we choose really appeal to adults, too,” Anderson said. “They’re really for the kid in all of us.”
PHONED-IN PERFORMANCE?: A festive crowd showed up last Thursday for Little Italy San Jose ‘s wine-tasting fundraiser at Enoteca La Storia , where I poured wine for the masses along with fellow volunteer bartenders John A. Sobrato , Michael Mulcahy , Rod Diridon , Frank Sunseri and Pasquale Esposito . Early estimates had the party bringing in $15,000 for an Italian Cultural Center and Museum at the growing district near SAP Center.
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But the highlight of the night may have been when Esposito, an Italian tenor and music teacher, had an a capella song performance interrupted by the ringing telephone of a nearby audience member. Without missing a beat, Esposito answered the phone and held it up while he finished his song — no doubt to the amazement of whoever was on the other end.

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