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Tribute to Science and Democracy: Eight Great Quotes by U.S. Presidents

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Union of Concerned Scientists Blog by , former analyst, Center for Science & Democracy | July 3, 2013, 2:11 pm EDT

From George Washington to Barack Obama, in the words of both Republicans and Democrats, our presidents express continuity in their thinking about the essential role of science in American society.  Below are 8 of my favorite quotes and why I think each one is important. I invite you to share your favorite patriotic quotes about science and democracy in the comments…

….2)           “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” James Madison. Epilogue: Securing the Republic. Chapter 18.

Madison rocks!! That is all. Go read the quote again. Madison wouldn’t know what “rocks” means, but he’d ask questions and figure it out. We need the tools to do that, too. In today’s world, access to “popular information” means transparency. It means public access to information—this kind and this kind. It means education. It means science literacy, effective science communication, and scientists engaging with policy makers and fellow citizens every chance they get.

1)           “Now and in the years ahead, we need, more than anything else, the honest and uncompromising common sense of science. Science means a method of thought. That method is characterized by open-mindedness, honesty, perseverance, and, above all, by an unflinching passion for knowledge and truth. When more of the peoples of the world have learned the ways of thought of the scientist, we shall have better reason to expect lasting peace and a fuller life for all.” Harry S. Truman, “Address to the Centennial Anniversary AAAS Annual Meeting (1948)”

What I like about Truman’s message is its democratizing spirit. Truman is saying that you don’t have to be a scientist in order to think like one.  And he is saying that those qualities—those habits of mind—that bring us greater scientific knowledge are the same that bring us greater peace and prosperity.

To life, liberty, and the pursuit of science!

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