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December 2, 2002
Volume 80, Number 48
CENEAR 80 48 p. 37
ISSN 0009-2347




Galileo's famous statement: "It still moves," modified to future tense, was the title of my first ever letter to the Editor (C&EN, March 15, 1971). Probably, "I have not yet begun to fight" (attributed to John Paul Jones) would have been equally suitable, but the circumstances were more similar to those faced by Galileo--even though I was not threatened with excommunication. The purpose was to show that the movement that nominated for the ACS Presidency a bench chemist, Alan Nixon, with the statement, "The first responsibility of the ACS is to its members," was not a fluke, but the beginning of a new ACS era. Despite having an abbreviated campaign period, Nixon barely lost the election to a famous chemist. The "Young Turk" (Middle-aged Hungarian??) created the grassroots movement with one goal: "To make ACS a home for everyone from the youngest B.S. chemist working in industry to the most respected Nobel Laureate." The next year, the "impossible" happened. After being re-nominated, Nixon was elected by the largest voter turnout in ACS history. When the following year another petition candidate, Bernie Friedman was also elected, he proved that the movement had Society-wide grassroots support.

The Young Turk went on fighting with unbreakable determination: circulating a newsletter, OUR SOCIETY, nominating other candidates by petition, and submitting many petitions to modernize our governing documents. His voice was heard continuously on the Council floor, progressing from the voice "crying in the wilderness" to that of the ACS President. He visited 161 of the 189 Local Sections and inspired their members to action. He chaired many Society Units: Section, Division, and Committee. Council selected him by an overwhelming majority as a candidate for the Presidency, and he was then approved by the ultimate authority: the members.

Looking back 30+ years, two questions come to my mind. One is: "Did I succeed?" I wrote numerous Letters to the Editor and ACS Comments on needed actions--more than three times as many as any other non-paid ACS member. Most of them are available on my web page: Some ideas are still viewed with skepticism, but nonetheless the movement has steadily gained support. The first motion I made to the Board 12 years ago was defeated 14:1; my last motion this past August carried 11:4. Thirty years ago, my first petition to amend our Bylaws was overwhelmingly defeated in Council by 90:10; the last one in Boston carried by more than a 2/3 majority. My Presidential message (C&EN, Jan. 1, 2001, page 4) gives a summary of long-range must-programs. As a result of my Presidential electronic poll, the first one in our history, we have a statistically and demographically significant set of conclusions about our members' expectation of what should be done.

However, there still exists some reluctance to move. The musical I wrote, entitled "It is Time for a Change," which can be also found on my web page, is built around a dialogue between Drs. Status Quo and Jane Q. Change. While the characters are fictional, their dialogue is not. It represents the actual words frequently heard from members in ACS Governance. The dilemma is simply this: should we wait for the perfect solution to address all our problems at one time or act now to solve at least some of them?

Quo vadis ACS? What is our future? The results of my Presidential electronic poll point to the direction we have to go. Our members, young and old, B.S.s and Ph.D.s, want more than journals and meetings. They want help with their careers. The debate without action could go on for years, unless you become more active in YOUR SOCIETY. Be involved and be heard.

To the second question: "Was the 30 years of relentless effort worth the frustration caused by resistance to change?" the gray haired "Young Turk" in the mirror answered: YES. In life's last minutes, the number of publications, awards, and lectures will be immaterial. Regardless of what belief, theory, or hypothesis we have about the next life phase, the details are still covered by a question mark. My life philosophy was, is, and always will be that if at that time I can state that I have made the world a better place for others, then the question mark is immaterial. When Past Presidents die, Council passes resolutions acknowledging their accomplishments. I do not know what mine will say, but judging from the standing ovation I received from the Council in Boston, never given to an Immediate Past-President, I believe I fulfilled my life philosophy. The grassroots message has been heard. The ACS did and will change toward the set goals, but it can only happen if you help--all of you! Dr. Status Quo still has a strong influence.

Thank you for the privilege of serving you for 30+ years, ultimately as your President.


As a service to ACS members, C&EN periodically publishes a list of frequently requested phone numbers. Unless otherwise noted, first dial (800) 227-5558. WhenACS LOGO 4c (10p) prompted, dial the extension given below. To contact other offices, dial the 800 number and ask for operator assistance, or visit the ACS website,
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