Discovery is a Team Sport
Thank you, Angie
Thank you all for being here tonight and for supporting the ARCS Foundation.
I’m honored to accept the ARCS Foundation Eagle award – and I do so on behalf of all of us at Booz Allen. We share ARCS’s commitment to science in the service of patriotism.
I’m joined tonight by a number of senior leaders from Booz Allen – many of them women in technical fields like the ARCS’ officers and directors.
I especially want to congratulate the ARCS scholars here tonight. In reading the brochure, I was fascinated by your backgrounds and the focus areas of your research. Our firm is sponsoring Chris Kelley in his doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins in geography and environmental engineering. And, I want to thank the other companies and individuals here who are generously supporting these exceptional young men and women.
Many years ago, I had the great gift of two women educators who took an interest in me – my 8th grade teacher, Mrs. Wyche, who saw an aptitude for math and science and planted the seed about engineering – and my high school guidance counselor, Miss Newsome, who steered me toward Penn, and helped me apply for a Ben Franklin scholarship. So, I know first-hand, the difference that mentors and scholarship money make.
I believe – as you do – that leadership in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math – is essential to our nation’s security and prosperity. We need to develop a deep bench of top scientists and engineers who will lead the world in discovery.
Two Saturdays ago, like other rabid sports fans, my attention was glued to the Final Four. But earlier that day, more compelling basketball was being played on a court at the DC Convention Center. It was the Washington DC regional FIRST Robotics Competition, and teams of robots built by our local high school students were playing for the regional championship. These same students, because of their participation in FIRST, are eligible to apply for significant scholarship money at some of the best universities in the country.
Booz Allen, NASA, and Lockheed Martin were the presenting sponsors of the tournament, and a dozen other companies also support the program in this region. Our employees are very involved as coaches, mentors, and parents for FIRST Robotics (as well as the FIRST Lego League for middle school students). The most impressive thing to me about the FIRST program – even beyond how good these robots are at shooting baskets – is the talent and teamwork of the students who build them. Watching these kids tune up their robots in the pits, and then control them on the court, makes it patently clear that discovery is a team sport.
These students building robots, our ARCS scholars discovering new breakthroughs in science, engineering, and medical research, and those of us working at technology companies, in academia, military, and the government – I think of us as “STEM Team USA.”
The Olympics are coming this summer – and we rightly take national pride in the accomplishments of our country’s athletes. But, there’s no question that STEM Team USA means more to our future.
When the ARCS Foundation was created in 1958, STEM Team USA was working to discover the mysteries of space and win the Cold War. Today, Team USA is working to discover ways to protect peace-loving people from terrorism, to find cures for disease, and pursue other critical missions – such as seizing the benefits and reducing the risks in Cyber space. Booz Allen’s Vice Chairman, Mike McConnell has called for an e-Sputnik movement in Cyber technology to signal the need for a similar call-to-action as the one we had 50-some years ago in the space race.
STEM Team USA needs coaches and money to win, just as our Olympic athletes do. That’s where organizations like ARCS come in. Whether we are in the lab making plays in the sport of discovery, or coaching, cheering, and contributing on the sidelines, we’re competing for the highest stakes – the future of our nation, the earth, and beyond.
The scientist and Pulitzer-prize-winning author, Edward O. Wilson, whose zeal for biology started as a teenager here in Rock Creek Park, said “There is no better high than discovery.”
The 3-pointer sinking as the whistle blows in the Final Four, and the split-second finish of an Olympic race are exciting indeed. But, I agree with Wilson – there is no better high than discovery.