Thankful for Progress, Hopeful for More

As preparations for Inauguration Day and the Obama Administration move forward, people continue to consider the significance of the election of America's first black president. Walter Massey, who served in 1989 as president of AAAS, which publishes ScienceInsider, and directed the National Science Foundation from 1991 to 1993, says the scientific community must try to capitalize on the energy Obama's election has inspired and improve diversity in science. In an e-mail written in Chicago on election night, Massey reflected on the significance of the day:

As someone who grew up in Mississippi in a totally segregated society, I can say that this [is] indeed a new America, and I am grateful to be alive to see this. Congratulations to all of you who put so much effort into making this happen, that America will have its first black president.

The first black president of the United States of America. WOW! I have another dream left, that we will someday have a black Nobel Prize winner in science. Somewhere out there are many young "Barack Scientists to to be", if they could only be inspired to believe it could happen. I suspect that after tonight there [will be] many more young blacks in America who believe they could be president of the United States than those who believe they could win a Nobel Prize in Science. We all have to continue to work to change this situation.

That means taking advantage of every opportunity—however informal—to show children the role science plays in their daily lives, Massey tells ScienceInsider. It also means getting federal support for those efforts, he says: "The long-term growth of this country does depend on investing in innovation, investing in research and science education."