Allow me to once more use that word, historic. Yesterday was indeed an historic day as Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States of America. Watching from Canada, where there was never much love for Dubya and his policies, there is much hope for the future under the new President. And a great deal more cautious optimism. During the noontime celebrations, I was busy feeding my son his lunch, so I caught the show later that evening. Even distanced by the sound bites and analysis of the nightly news, it was still powerful to watch. Obama said many things to many people, each person taking away what they felt was important to them. Here is part of what I took away; what drives my hope that real, positive change may well be upon us.
“Our health care is too costly and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
“We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its costs. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.
I've often said that too much technology isn't the problem. The problem is too little, insufficiently mature, technology. For this world to survive, for us, the human race, to survive, curiosity and science needs to grow and to thrive. Sadly, curiosity and science have been under sustained attack by ignorance, superstition, and that fear that accompanies both.
As Edmund Leach said in his 1968 book, "Runaway World",
Men have become like gods. Isn't it about time that we understood our divinity? Science offers us total mastery over our environment and over our destiny, yet instead of rejoicing we feel deeply afraid. Why should this be? How might these fears be resolved?
The answer to those last two questions is this. Embrace curiosity and science. Learn. Bury those twin demons of ignorance and superstition. Rejoice in every new understanding, and each new discovery. Reach forward into the future with bold optimism and with unrestrained hope.
Obama's words regarding science give me a new hope. In our society, much direction comes from those in positions of power and whatever you may think of this, there is perhaps no higher office on this planet than that of the President of the United States. As George W. Bush so ineptly demonstrated, one person in that position of power, can do an incredible amount of damage. Perhaps the right person can do an incredible amount of good.
Is Barack Obama the right person? I won't claim to have loved every word of Barack Obama's inauguration speech. I didn't. But as I said when I began this post, every person will have walked away with some part of that speech; some part that spoke to them; something that touched them.
Science is the vanguard of human achievement. It is our future. I sincerely hope that the President truly understands that.