Senator to Scientists: Speak Up

April 25th, 2014

“I need your voice”—that was the key message from Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) to members of the MIT Club of the Delaware Valley and the Delaware section of the American Chemical Society. In a talk recorded earlier this year, Coons stressed the importance of basic and applied science to the US—and the need for scientists and engineers to get more involved in public life to help make that case.

Coons, who has undergraduate degrees in chemistry and political science, has established himself as a leading voice for research funding, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education, the innovation economy, and energy policy.

“At a time of scarce public resources, at a time when the federal budget is way over target and unsustainable, science is a critical investment,” he said. “It’s critical for our country, it’s critical for our world, it’s critical for our continuing to be the nation we’ve been.”

However, he said, scientists need to speak up. “There are very few in Congress who hear about the compounding value of investment in basic science, in applied science, about the risks we face in intellectual property, about the importance of fixing our badly broken immigration system, about the importance of getting STEM education at the elementary school levels right.”

To that end, he urged his audience of scientists and engineers to get more engaged in politics. “We do not have enough people in public life who have a sense of scale, causation, correlation, consequence. Any superficial glance at our budget would suggest this is true.

“You bring to the table unique gifts,” he said. “If we are to fly as a country with both wings and to think as a country with both sides of our national brain, we need you engaged….It is so important for our whole country.”

MIT’s Legislative Advocacy Network, which coordinated the recording of Senator Coons’ talk, was created to help MIT alumni engage in key policy areas. For example, the toolkit available through the network features a way for alumni to contact their local congresspeople with a one-click letter in support of STEM education. For more information, contact alumadvocacy@mit.edu.

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