I was impressed generally with the American system of higher education. This really was a journey of discovery for me. I have more information than I can currently digest and will have to spend a lot of time just thinking about everything I learned and how to use it.
I know we like to wring our hands and talk about how we are falling behind. From what I have seen and recently learned about our colleges and universities, I can say with conviction that this is not true. What is true is that others are catching up and we are actually helping. That is a good thing for us. For too long a time the task of creating knowledge and innovation has been over-concentrated in our country.
We can use the help of others and all will benefit if we work in partnership. Science is a social process. It builds on the work of others and thrives best when the best minds are linked with others. Science w/o Borders will help Brazil forge links with the world of innovation and Brazil will benefit. I have grown to love and respect my Brazilian friends and I certainly wish them well, but I am American. I have to ask what is in it for America. I think there is a clear benefit for America when we have the opportunity to work with more minds and take advantage of more innovative imaginations. These connections are two-way – multiple-way – exchanges. Helping innovators in Brazil will help innovators in America and innovation is what secures our hopes in the future.
What our great thinker-scientist-president Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1813, nearly 200 years ago remains true. In the 200 years since then it has been proven again and again. Jefferson wrote, “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lites his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” It gets better. In the world of ideas, when you share your light, your own gets brighter, better and longer lasting. To extend the fire-light analogy, when you are building a campfire, the flames that are separated die out, but those that are able to feed each other grow warmer and stronger. This exchange is a marvelous idea.
My picture shows Constitution Hall in Philadelphia. Our Constitution was the first to address science. “Congress shall have the Power to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The system gave inventors the right to benefit from their discoveries for a limited time on condition that they share the knowledge that went into it. This kind of idea is one of the reasons why we went progressed so fast since. Our political heritage is also a scientific one.