Receipt of the ACS Public Service Award
September 29, 1999
Thank you, Ed, for those very kind words. I can't tell you how honored I feel to receive this prestigious award. I'm extremely grateful to the ACS, and especially to your President, Ed Wasserman; your Immediate Past President, Paul Walter; President Elect, Daryle Busch; and your Executive Director, John Crum.
It feels very good to be here
among so many close friends and colleagues, including Congressmen Vern
Ehlers and Rush Holt.
It is deeply moving to be receiving this award, previously given to the late Congressman George Brown, a great champion of science and technology and wonderful human being. You know, I am really a chemist at heart. In my early childhood years, I had a chemistry set and bottles of chemicals of all kinds - in those days you could buy anything. I mixed all sorts of combinations, heated them, inhaled all manner of fumes. Some of you may think that accounts for my peculiar personality. In Texas, I was even more a chemist, since much of my research was funded by the Robert A. Welch Foundation. Chemistry was an important part of my life in other ways. My wife, Joni, and I spent many evenings in college going over chemistry homework. She was great with the mathematics - in fact, her help with Latin amd math got me through some tough moments in High School - and she has continued to help me in countless ways throughout my career. We are both delighted to be here this evening."
As many of you know, I have spent the past several years exhorting my colleagues in the science and technology community to strive toward the model of the "civic scientist" - one who is concerned not just with intriguing intellectual questions but also with using science to help address societal needs. So I am particularly moved that you would select me to receive an award based on similar values.
I know there are many committed civic scientists in this room tonight, and this knowledge makes me value this award even more highly.
I commend those civic scientists among you who spent part of today on Capitol Hill with Rita Colwell, visiting Congress to urge increased Federal support for the National Science Foundation and other S&T appropriations. I believe that only by uniting in our efforts can we sustain U.S. leadership across the frontiers of scientific knowledge. That is not merely a cultural tradition of our nation - today it is an economic and security imperative.
No one knows better than scientists and engineers such as you how crucial strong, stable R&D funding is to the future quality of American life. We must all make our voices heard in the halls of Congress. Considering that the ACS alone represents nearly 160,000 chemists and chemical engineers, their combined voices can have a powerful impact. Add to that the millions of scientists, researchers, and engineers from other disciplines, and I'm confident we can really start changing some minds. So I welcome your work on the Hill - including your recent e-mail broadcast - to help tell our story to the decision-makers here.
I'm also gratified that the ACS has been at the forefront of those calling for a doubling of the Federal investment in research over the next 10 years. Your outreach and activism have also included holding monthly forums on Capitol Hill for members and their staffs to discuss science and policy. You've led efforts on the Green Chemistry Challenge and the Presidential Green Chemistry Award. And you're actively engaged in working with State governments to help improve science and mathematics education. I commend you for all of this great work.
I'm fond of that old Adlai Stevenson quote that goes something like "we Americans never see the handwriting on the wall until our backs are up against it." And we're certainly up against the appropriations deadline tonight at the beginning of this new fiscal year. Nevertheless, I remain hopeful that our Senators and Representatives will see the handwriting on the wall and will protect our Federal investments in R&D across all the major scientific fields, including chemistry and chemical engineering.
As we head into a new century and a new millennium, we must maintain the momentum we have built in our steady progression toward a better future for all Americans, and for human beings everywhere.
I am touched by your kind words
and I will treasure this wonderful award, and I want to extend my special
thanks for all that ACS does to shape and improve the world's future.
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