This tweet’s bounced around the last couple days or so:
Forbes:there are no scientists in politics? We have Rush Holt,rocket scientist, they have Rush,oxycontin specialist http://t.co/ylBVOzC #p2
and it reminds me of the year Rush Holt was elected to Congress, 1998, when I was on staff. I had my own reasons for working on that campaign, I’ll get to that, but struck me was how interesting his everyday volunteers were. It was common to walk into the kitchen at his Pennington farm to fellow physicists, novelists, truck drivers, Indian restaurant chefs, editors, engineers and teachers licking stamps and folding campaign lit. Also at that table, Helen Holt, the first woman Secretary of State in West Virginia’s history, and Rush’s mother, his late father, Rush Holt, Sr. was the youngest person ever popularly elected to the US Senate. Conversations around that table went on for days, with revolving personnel. My all-time favorite was a 3-day extravaganza: Resolved: All physicists are Democrats and all engineers are Republicans. Discuss.
Vern Ehlers, a Republican (MI-3, he retired from the House in January) was the first research physicist ever elected to Congress. Rush Holt was the second. I remember Holt joking he and Ehlers should start a House Physics Caucus, because all they’d need was a blackboard and chalk. Republican Bill Foster (IL-14) was the third physicist elected to Congress, but he lost his first re-election in November. As far as I know, that makes Holt the only physicist now in Congress. I think he’s also still the only Quaker.
When I was at University of Michigan, the best learning experience I had was in a class I had no business in, Physics of Music. It was an advanced class, and I was struggling with simple concepts everyone else walked in the door with. I was 17. But the prof personally pulled me through by spending massive time on dumb me, just for the sheer pleasure of watching me grasp concepts in science he thought were thrilling. I passed. And on the last day, he told me why he spent so much time making sure I didn’t fail, even though I was a theater major; because “science is wonderful, and scientists can see all kinds of possibilities other people sometimes miss, because of the way we’re trained to find facts. And that’s something the world needs more of.” I never forgot that, and I agree, and it’s one of the reasons I went to work there.
Rush Holt is still un-slick, still speaks more slowly than other people in politics. But his approach to the issues decided on in the House still represent me better than my own congressman, Leonard Lance (I was redistricted out of NJ-12, into NJ-7).
who can speak with some experience about the need to restore science to its rightful place, who said during the dark days of the Bush 43’s presidency, the United States Congress’ Nerd in Chief