Tom Finneran: Mr. President, I Dissent
Friday, August 17, 2012
Adjectives fall short of capturing the incredible journey of Curiosity, the Mars spaceship and explorer vehicle now sitting on the surface of the Red Planet. And our lives, now routinely filled with the most miraculous gadgets, have made us blasé about the human drama of such an accomplishment. If I could only wake my father, just to tell him about our world today.
And, if I could talk quietly with the President, just for a moment, I’d tell him “Mr. President, I dissent”.
I dissent from your decision to cut NASA’s budget. This quintessentially American realm of space exploration warrants more money, not less. And your decision, Mr. President, opens a dangerous door to other nations eventually shouldering us aside in the quest for knowledge. Let’s not forget Sputnik, Mr. President. Where once we were fearful of the domination of space by the Soviet Union, now we are complacent about the significance of the science involved and the application of that science to our lives. And while our federal budget and debt are rapidly becoming national embarrassments, please don’t tell me that we cannot afford the 2.5 billion dollar cost of this mission to Mars. Don’t b.s. me on that one. I’ve got a built-in b.s. detector.
Please don’t let the glitter of the White House blind you to the wonderment of what we have just done. Forget Mitt Romney for one second. Call in your science advisor. Ask him about the “seven minutes of terror”, about traveling at 13,000 miles per hour, about rocket-powered backpacks, and about Curiosity’s sky-crane. This is American science. Cherish it. And fund it.
You have two daughters Mr. President. I do too. Mine are a little bit older than yours (about twenty years or so). Let’s think a little about the marvels of their world—the marvels of computers, of communication, of medicine, of Google, of things as yet unapplied but which will surely transform their lives in ways which are unimaginable to us. All these things and many many more are derivatives of America’s decision to respond to the challenge of Sputnik.
The next time that you or Michelle or Sasha or Malia go to the doctor’s office, take a moment and ask about imaging, about labs, about medicines, and about miniaturization. Every one of these fields of medicine have gone through multiple revolutions since you were born Mr. President, and all those revolutions began with America’s response to Sputnik. There are equivalent revolutions in so many fields—ATMs anyone? For someone of my age and generation, the ubiquitous ATMs are incredible conveniences.
I know that you’re a Blackberry guy Mr. President. So am I. And what a transformation that little toy, now a necessary tool, has brought to our lives. We’re hooked on it because it allows us to do instantly and efficiently what our parents used to dream about and then scoff at as pure science fiction. By the way, Mr. President, I should tell you that Blackberry is on the ropes and is seen by Sasha and Malia as a prehistoric relic. Welcome to the realities of parenting, and of science.
Finally, Mr. President, I have an assignment for you. I have no doubt that when you and Michelle were just starting out as a married couple, the news of her pregnancies sparked both joy and fear. All parents are familiar with those joys and fears. I also have no doubt that, given your ages, Michelle had one or two, perhaps several ultrasounds done during the course of her pregnancies. You saved those ultrasounds.
I know you did. We all do. So your assignment is simple—retrieve those ultrasounds and set them aside in a special folder. And then wait patiently until Sasha and Malia begin their own married lives, starting families of their own, with the same joys and fears and with their own ultrasound tests. Compare the two. One set will seem utterly primitive to you and the other newer set will be your very first amazing look at your awesome grandchild.
Case closed Mr. President. Science marches on, but let’s be sure that it is American science leading the way.
I’m heading for the door Mr. President and I know that I have taken too much of your time already, but do you remember those fears you felt as a young father-to-be and your hope that you would be blessed with a healthy baby? Sadly Mr. President, not all babies are as fortunate as ours were. You and I, our wives, and our children were the lucky ones. But today, even the unlucky ones have a chance at life. Ask those doctors of yours about the wonders of pre-natal medicine, of operating on babies in the womb, and of bringing the joys and hopes and dreams of frightened and anguished parents to a longed for happier day.
All of it, today’s miracles as well as tomorrow’s, came from the decisions of other Presidents to push forward on the frontiers of science. Mr. President, don’t leave curiosity, or Curiosity, abandoned.
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