No, seriously -- if there is anyone who has significantly contributed towards making the world a better place through prolonged hard work and dedication (rather than a singular invention or product), it's Norm Augustine.
Aside: OK, you could probably argue that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the Google Guys have had an equally impactful role in society. But Norm is in a different class of engineering: metal, carbon fiber, and freaking large institutions. End Aside.
So, wow, did my ears perk up when I saw this article in Forbes by Mr. Augustine: America is Losing Its Edge In Innovation. When Norm speaks, I listen.
- On Practicing Engineering - I read this as an engineer early in my career, and it has been a continuing source of inspiration for me. (You might have to register to see this link, but it's worth it.)
- Rising Above The Gathering Storm - Congress asked him, and others, to look at the state of education in 2005.
- Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited - (Big PDF there) 5 years later, Norm takes another look at education.
- The Augustine Report on Space Travel - I've blogged about this before. Norm was asked to take a hard-nosed look at the state of space travel today.
Back to the Forbes article that is the point of this post. There are many good quotes in there, but this one really, really rang true for me:
In fact, scientists and engineers are celebrities in most countries. They’re not seen as geeks or misfits, as they too often are in the U.S., but rather as society’s leaders and innovators. In China, eight of the top nine political posts are held by engineers. In the U.S., almost no engineers or scientists are engaged in high-level politics, and there is a virtual absence of engineers in our public policy debates.
I have seen the pitfalls of this in many, many government circles. People making dumb decisions for the wrong reasons. Alas.
He goes on to extol the virtues of proper spending on education, engineering, and science in this country, and how "greatness must be worked for and won by each generation." All a few days ahead of the President's State of the Union address.
But enough from me. Just go and read the article -- it's not long. And enjoy.