Remarks for the Staff Awards Ceremony
upon receiving Presidents' Award, Oct 1, 2001
Michael Jensen

Forgive me if I skip the traditional opening joke.

I've been given about three minutes to speak as a sort of representative of all the Award winners, and though a joke is supposed to begin such a speech, what happened on the eleventh has made light humor seem almost unnecessary.

In these last few weeks, I have found solace, like many, in my church, in my family, and in my friends and community. And like many in this room I have found solace in my work itself.

It was unreasoning zealotry that fueled the mass murder on the 11th, as it has fueled most of the atrocities of the last century; what we do at the Academies is medicine for that illness.

The only antibody for unreason is reason. The vaccine for the mindless passion of zealotry is mindful consideration. And reasoned, mindful consideration are at the heart of the Academies' work.

The National Academies brings together the best minds of the country to distill the best information about topics affecting our world, to contextualize it, and to make the clearest statements and the best recommendations possible. We are, as our catchphrase says, the "advisors to the nation on science, technology, and health."

I know I sound a bit like that new-employee video. But the fundamental idealism of the Academies--that decisions should be informed by ideas, not tyrannized by them, and that scientific analysis is the best underpinning for policy--that fundamental idealism is something I can be proud of.

I'm blessed with a role that allows me to routinely explore the incredible breadth and depth of the 2300 Academies reports available online, and I'm constantly amazed. We do so much. Name the issue, and the National Academies seems to have something useful to say about it--or will come out with a report on it soon.

We're routinely mentioned in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Galveston Tribune.

Reporters, policymakers, advisors, researchers, and the high school student in Osceola, Nebraska read the reports that all of us together make possible. Libraries the world over contain our work. Over a million Web pages a week are read from the reports on the NAP site--reports made possible by all our work. The reports we all make possible inform decisions across the country, indeed the world.

Knowing this has made even the daily mundane tasks like entering data, copying files, answering emails seem worthwhile.

Isn't it great to be working for the cause of sanity? Isn't it great to be able to come to work, and know that we are serving the cause of a better world?

My three minutes are up, I'm afraid, but one more thing to say: That from all of us, we say "Thank you" to the Academies: Thank you for all these awards, but most of all, thank you for giving us all the opportunity to have work that helps to build a safer, more sane world.

Thanks for listening.

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