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Editor's Page

September 1, 2008
Volume 86, Number 35
p. 5, 67


Project SEED

Alfred and Isabel Bader are longtime supporters of the American Chemical Society's Project SEED. Alfred Bader made the following comments at a reception following the presidential symposium "Project SEED 40th Anniversary: Crossing Generations and Energizing Minds" at the recent ACS national meeting in Philadelphia.

ISABEL AND I have tried to help students in many fields of learning and in different parts of the world. Perhaps the most satisfying has been our involvement with Project SEED, an effort by the American Chemical Society conceived 40 years ago by Alan Nixon to assist financially disadvantaged students.

While president of ACS, the late Paul Gassman, an old friend at the University of Minnesota, suggested that we get involved, and we did. When I was asked to speak in 1993 at the 25th anniversary of Project SEED, I tried to explain our involvement.

"Paul was a very old friend, and I listened when he urged me to become involved in Project SEED. But what did SEED mean? Summer Educational Experience for the Disadvantaged. I knew what summer and education and experience meant, but who was really disadvantaged, or how can it be defined? I had just been studying the works of Michael Faraday and Josef Loschmidt, two of the world's greatest chemists, each of whom as a boy was disadvantaged.

"I like to think of Project SEED more in terms of what the word SEED really means—the SEED, the beginning of a really good life.

"Allow me to share with you a little bit of my own personal philosophy:

"To me one of the most important sentences in the Bible is the sentence at the very beginning of Genesis, where the Bible tells us that God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image.' Please note that He did not say, 'Let Us make a white man or a black man or a yellow man, a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, in Our image,' but that all of us are made in God's image. There is some of God in each and every one of us, and to me it seems that this is the only rational basis for democracy. And that, of course, gives everyone the right to equal opportunity.

"Paul explained that Project SEED gave opportunities to high school students for one summer. But then I thought back to my own days as a student, and I remembered how happy I was when a paint company in Montreal offered me a summer job. I really enjoyed it, and of course the fabulous salary of $130 a month. And I was so happy when Murphy Paint Co. asked me to return to them during the next summer at no less than $160 a month. During that second summer, I learned so very much more and could do so very much more than I had done in the first summer. In any first summer job, you spend a lot of time finding out where the beakers are and where the toilets are, and you can surely be far more productive in a second summer. So my family and I offered to help Project SEED II, and I very much hope that all of you who have taken part in Project SEED II will agree that a second summer is more productive than a first."

Please allow me to add another personal note. I also became really interested in Project SEED because I realized that a fair number of the students, around 35%, were black. Ever since I came to the United States in 1947, the mistreatment of American blacks has moved me emotionally. One of the most important commandments in the Bible, in Leviticus XIX, is "Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor." So, what could I do to help my neighbors? I soon became a member of NAACP and, 30 years ago in 1978, decided to become a life member, to learn more about the history of American blacks.

I had very much wanted to come to America; those who arrived here as slaves did not. For 244 years, from 1619 when the first slaves arrived in New England, until 1863, it was their work that was building the South. Wealth for the whites, misery for the slaves. Then came segregation, America's version of apartheid. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" was clearly not for all. Not until the Civil Rights Acts and the Voting Rights Act of 1964–65 did matters truly improve. But there was still discrimination and a great deal of poverty in this country.

There is not equality for all, and from 1951 when I started Aldrich Chemical, I tried to hire as many minority employees as I could. It has been my way of trying to help my neighbors.

A few years ago, I was interviewed on a Milwaukee radio program about my thinking about marijuana. I explained that I had never smoked anything, but that I thought the drug laws were particularly unfair to blacks. Most white kids if caught could get a lawyer; most blacks could not afford one. I expected many calls the next day accusing me of softness on drugs. Instead I received only three calls each complaining, "Why do you call us black and not African American?" I explained that I truly thought of myself as black at heart, but I could not call myself African American.

Through Project SEED Isabel and I have had an opportunity to help some of those for whom life has not been fair, those who have not been given an equal opportunity. Overall, 70 to 80% of the students in Project SEED come from minority groups. All deserve help. I certainly would not want to help only black students, but I cannot help feeling black at heart myself.

I am excited because I hope that there is a chance that Martin Luther King's dream may become a reality—that people will be judged not by the color of their skin but by their deeds. Today at last there is a fair chance that a brilliant young black man may become president of the United States. What a role model.

Isabel and I are so proud of your achievements. You, the Project SEED students, have done so well with your opportunities and you are role models. We want you to know how very delighted, how thrilled we are at your successes.

Thank you for listening.

Alfred Bader

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.

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