Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Breakfast With Hillary

Today I attended a breakfast and issues discussion group put on by the Hillary for President campaign. Lori Garver invited me as well as some other people. The breakfast was light -- things like rolls, bagels, fruit, coffee, tea. We were not there for the food. I began by chatting with complete strangers, telling them about my special interests -- science, technology, aerospace, especially space. I chatted a bit with a nice woman named Molly about young people today and perhaps why they weren't as much interested in science and technology as when we were young. I did bring up the C. P. Snow observations about the two cultures. I also mentioned how much more withdrawn and subdivided scientists and engineers were today than even in the not all that distant past. This makes it more and more difficult for most to even discuss their fields with outsiders. Molly noted that young people today who were naturally outgoing were rewarded by our culture while those -- especially young men like her son -- who had a bent for science, mathematics, engineering, etc. were subtly discouraged even to the point of being "learning disabled" simply because they were not interested in some subject in school. I told her about the sons of a Mensa friend in Pennsylvania who fit this profile quite well.

After nearly an hour of this kind of chatting, Hillary made her appearance. She came in bright eyed and bushy tailed, strode to the podium, introduced several members of Congress in attendance and then made some brief remarks. She touched on several topics such as the Iraq war and the general failure of the Bush administration. She did mention some tech oriented topics -- energy independence, global warming, H-1B visas (that surprised me), education. It was a good speech in front of a crowd disposed to be friendly. If there were any press in the room I did not see them. As for Republicans or other natural opponents, they were either very quiet or not in attendance.

Around 9:30 we broke into issues groups. Lori Garver and Glen Mahone -- both of whom worked for NASA in senior positions at some point -- led the discussion. There were a number of people there from Lori's firm, Avascent. I didn't count the number of participants, but I'm pretty sure it was more than 10 and less than 20. I identified myself as one person in the room who had actually done tech work. John Mankins also did so. I briefly commented I could well understand how Mike Griffin managed to say such controversial things with regard to global warming the previous week. Instead of sticking to a tech viewpoint, though, I did bring up -- in a hopefully productive way -- some of the things I noticed about tech culture while working at NASA Goddard. I did point out some positive role models -- Nobel prize winning physicist John Mather, Ames Center Director Pete Worden -- and said a few things about why they should be emulated by other tech people.

Things broke up around 11 AM. I headed back home via Metro.

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