MARCHING FOR SCIENCE?
By Don C. Reed
I was trying very hard NOT to go to the April 14th March for Science, in Oakland, California.
I had no real excuse to miss the event. I had already visited Roman (my paralyzed son) in the morning, plus my stem cell writing was done for the day. I had no conflicting appointments until 5:00, at which time my wife Gloria intended to drag me out to dinner with her group.
I leaned back in my favorite chair, closed my eyes…
But the longer I lay there, the more awake I got. My legs were twitching against my will, as if there was music playing nearby. And somehow, despite all attempts to dissuade my limbs, I found myself vertical, on my feet, putting on my favorite RIDE FOR ALS t-shirt, walking down the steps, out the door, into the car—and heading for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station.
After purchasing a “clipper” card to ride, I scrambled up the steps of California’s beautiful mass transit system.
I was not entirely sure where I was going. One crowd of young people were gathered around a woman had a t-shirt labeled “I AM A GENIUS!”— I asked her if she was going to the March for Science rally? No, she was not. I told her that was too bad, because since her shirt said she was a genius I was sure she supported stem cell research!
Disembarking in Oakland, I asked which way was the Lake Merritt amphitheatre, and interpreted the one-finger gesture as directions. I walked a half mile or so, interacting with local folk. If they showed any interested in science, naturally they got my standard thirty-second pitch for stem cell research.
Example: “I’m looking for the Lake Merrit Amphitheater,they’re having a rally for science there?”
Pause for response: “I think it is that way”…. “Oh, great, I support stem cell research, and as you know, Oakland is the headquarters of the California stem cell program!”
If they show signs of interest (i.e., they do not run away), I might tell them about the girl in the plastic bubble whose life was saved by a stem cell therapy, or about my son Roman Reed’s fight against paralysis, or any of five or six stem cell mini-messages I can do awake or asleep.
As I got closer to Lake Merritt, the number of people with pro-science signs increased. A woman and her two sons had T-shirts about climate change, so I knew it was close—another block and turn right—and there it was.
When you see a rally on TV, it can seem a little threatening, as if violence was just about to erupt, and you might be arrested for breathing too hard.
But this was nothing like that; just a friendly place of people working together for the common good.
The Lake Merrit Amphitheatre is an open arena, a grassy incline with a small stage. At the moment there was some local talent making music, and when they stopped a young lady began speechifying about global warming.
If I had known about the event earlier, I might have asked to speak, five minutes on the California stem cell research program. But I hadn’t, so I didn’t.
The big event was a 5-mile march around Lake Merritt. That was scheduled to start at 2:30… Let’s see, five miles at my walking pace… I calculated my chances of survival if I was late for Gloria’s dinner event. Hmm. Probably not.
What I liked best was all the little booths set up everywhere, staffed by people like me.
Advocates. We recognized each other. We all had something important to say, and were just looking for a way to share it.
They were willing to hold their breaths while I told them about stem cell research. And they needed to know Oakland’s best-kept secret.
“Do you see that building over there, the tall one? On the 16th floor is the California stem cell research program—it began as a citizen action (advocates always loved that part)– and we hope there will be another version in 2020!”
Then I would listen to their pitch, earthquake preparedness or gender equity or a new bill to combat homelessness—maybe sign a petition if I agreed with it, take some literature, swap some advocate cards.
This was important.
Washington has altogether too many members of what I call the Anti-Science Society (or A.S.S. for short).
One year ago, in various sites across the world, a million people gathered in support of science. At multiple sites in the Bay Area, perhaps 70,000 supporters rallied.
Today looked about 2,000, according to one of the organizers. It was—sustainable.
Everybody here was a pro-science advocate.
An educator and science rapper, Glenn Wolkenfeld;
Dr. Shaye Wolf, of the Center for Biological Diversity;
Daniel Hilsinger of March or our Health;
Dr. Jonathan Foley, of the California Academy of sciences;
Samuel Gatachew of Youth Speaks;
Dr. Mayra Padilla, Dean of Institutional Equity at Contra Costa College;
Dr. Jennifer R. Cohen, American Association for the Advancement of Science policy Fellow;
Amy Hines-Shaikh, Healthy California—
And lots more.
I walked around for a couple hours, making friends for stem cell research.
Then I got tired, and went home.
Why are such rallies important? We need to know the strength we have. We are overwhelmingly in the majority. Let me prove that to you.
What percentage of Americans are against cuts in medical research?
The answer will surprise you. Eighty-seven per cent. Let me say that again.
According to a recent national poll, 87% of Americans are against cuts in medical research. 87%? It is hard to find anything agreed upon by almost nine in ten Americans!
We are millions, and all we need to win is to recognize our numbers, share our messages, vote appropriately, and (every so often) get together and enjoy the company of others like ourselves.
Want more information? Here is a useful guide to the basics of advocacy.
Want to support future marches for science?
Contact Holly Cordero, Communications Director for the March. (650-679-4006) firstname.lastname@example.org
And consider visiting my updated website (www.stemcellbattles.com) to sign up for my free newsletter on stem cell research.