Monday Oct. 9, the University of Connecticut welcomed guest speaker Dr. John Holdren to give a lecture on the role of science in politics. Dr. Holdren, who was former President Obama’s Science Advisor, spoke about the importance of discussing science in Washington, especially in regards to climate change and talked about his experiences with Obama’s campaign. Holdren also used his time to share with students the ways that America has made great strides towards a greener tomorrow and the ways it has failed to do so, to gain support and inspire future generations to work towards an eco-friendlier future.
Holdren’s presentation to UConn’s students certainly had high and low points. For many of the students that attended the lecture, they did so because they were interested to hear personal experiences from Holdren, in addition to wanting to be more educated in how science plays a role in past and present presidential administrations. Others, of course, were interested in how Holdren’s experience working in the White House compares to what we imagine to be the experiences of current presidential advisors. However, no matter the reason students chose to attend the lecture, many left with the same sentiment: They were happy to be informed, but also upset about the current quality of science representation and leadership in our federal government.
While, of course, Holdren came to speak with students just to share his insight and experiences working as a very prominent person in Washington D.C., through his visit he also helped ignite a fire in the students of UConn. By speaking about everything that has been accomplished accomplished to help our planet become more sustainable and sharing how the Trump administration is tearing down these accomplishments, many students were enraged and will hopefully be motivated to take action in the future. While the lecture may have been “depressing,” as one student put it, these are the types of feelings that need to be elicited in order to make a change. By coming in and not only talking about the good parts of working in science policy, he is ensuring this need for change will be felt, even if it has to be jumpstarted.
Holdren’s strategy of giving talks to younger generations about his time working under Obama hits right where it needs to. Not only can he provide an interesting and intimate account of a presidential administration, which not many can, he is also illuminating a weakness and providing awareness for an issue that is clearly not being sufficiently attended to. Holdren’s efforts to keep the conversation of science in politics alive are commendable, and are the wake-up call that some students need in order to see the America we are living in may be a destructive one.