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Column as published in the Jackson Sun on Obama and Science

Perhaps I should have shed my tears during some of George W. Bush’s speeches, instead of Obama’s. My lack of tears for Bush’s speeches probably had more to do with the fact that, like a lot of people, I wasn’t paying much attention to government and politics until I realized that something was inherently wrong with the policies of the Bush Administration. To a science and freedom loving liberal, nearly everything Bush stood for was an offense to my sensibilities, but instead of crying I was angry and worried for much of his second term. I was concerned for his assault on the Constitution, I was offended by his belief that he was “the decider”, and I was certainly terrified by his drive to enforce the economy depleting Reganonics. However, the person whose speeches bring me to tears is President-Elect Barrack Obama. The first time I cried was while listening to his speech in Virginia about his plans to do what he can for gender equality. The second Obama inspired cry happened at a local Democratic Party rally where I had decided to make a statement about the hope he inspired in me and became nearly too choked up to speak. Quite embarrassing.

Now I’ve had my third cry, thanks to our next president. His speech to announce his plans to “…once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America’s place as the world leader in science and technology.” The feeling I have after hearing him say that is comparable to the feeling I once had after waking up from a bad dream where I needed to run from some kind of monster but my legs just wouldn’t move. The relief that I am seeing the end of the Bush administration’s attempt to create what seemed like the next “dark ages” could only be expressed in a nice cleansing cry. Luckily no men were around to tease me about being a marshmallow, so I let my tears fall freely as I listened to what sounded like music.

In his speech he stated “Whether it’s the science to slow global warming; the technology to protect our troops and confront bioterror and weapons of mass destruction; the research to find life-saving cures; or the innovations to remake our industries and create twenty-first century jobs—today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation.” Obama’s understanding of the importance of critical inquiry and need for leaders “who respected the integrity of the scientific process” was more than my science-oriented heart could bear. His vision is so precisely what I desperately wanted to hear, I questioned if I was dreaming, for if it a dream, dare not wake me.

Obama also stated, “Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources—it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient—especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States—and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work.” With those words, there is a resonance of the words expressed from our greatest presidents. Thomas Jefferson wrote, as he was leaving the presidency in early 1809, "Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight.” James Madison wrote “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” John F. Kennedy wrote, “Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce. “ After Obama’s speech on the importance of scientific discovery, there is hope that he will continue the relationship of science and great presidents and be one of the presidents who cared enough about the American people to give them the future science has to offer.

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