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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Rep. Holt ‘70 calls for return to science in Opening Convocation

<resentative for New Jersey and Carleton alumnus Rush Holt ’70 visited campus last Monday to deliver the opening Convocation speech for the new school year. He discussed the application of scientific thinking to topics such as politics.

“We have had a tradition of engaging political leaders, often Minnesota governors, or other civic or business leaders as Opening Convocation speakers,” Elise Eslinger, associate vice president and chief of staff for Carleton, said. “Rep. Holt’s breadth of expertise and career experiences not only speak to the value and possibilities of a liberal arts education, but his degree of success and thoughtful civic service have led him to be on our list of possible speakers for quite some time.”

Carleton President Steven Poskanzer introduced Holt as “an effective champion in the halls of Congress for science and technology, education and research, and air and water conservation,” noting that Holt is the only research physicist in the House of Representatives. In his speech, Holt expanded on using his science background and Carleton education to solve political problems.

“With the right system, progress is possible, and can be recognized, measured, and even enhanced,” Holt said of the Founding Fathers’ approach to creating a government. “The democratic accessibility of science challenged the aristocratic order. Science and liberty in America sustain each other.”

Holt also spoke about how scientific, empirical thinking is “incompatible with hide-bound ideology.”

“The founders made a system where new ideas could be developed and tried out and thrown away,” Holt said. “The openness of possibility is an opportunity. Doubt and discussion are essential to progress. Democracy, like science, is built on the knowledge of human fallibility.”

Although Holt was chosen as this year’s Opening Convocation speaker by President Poskanzer, as all Opening Convocation speakers are, weekly Convocation speakers are selected by the Convocations Committee based on suggestions by students, faculty and staff.

After speaking for about 45 minutes, Holt closed his address by re-emphasizing the importance of scientific thinking, saying that “thinking like a scientist is what we need in Washington, in Northfield and across this country.”

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