October 6, 2009
When I took on the role of director, one of the remarks I made to the search committee was that I imagined that the spectrum of interactions with politicians would be an area in which I would be challenged. My experience to that point had been minimal, and my understanding of how it worked was negligible.
After a year in the position, I still feel myself to be a neophyte. I still grope for how to say things and when to say them. But my education is fairly intense. Last week, we had a visit from Secretary Chu and a number of important Virginia politicians. On Thursday, I testified before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives. The witnesses were Lisa Randall of Harvard, Dennis Kovar of the DOE’s Office of High Energy Physics, Pier Oddone, the director of Fermilab, and myself.
Unexpectedly, there was a last-minute change to the title of the hearing, but we completed a draft on Friday, Sept. 25. On Monday Sept. 28, Deborah Dowd delivered the required 55 paper copies to the committee rooms in the Rayburn House Office Building. On Thursday, at 10:45 she delivered me. The time allotted for the spoken testimony was five minutes. In that time I can read about one and a half pages, which is a lot less than the written testimony I had submitted. When you start speaking a light turns green, it changes from green to orange after four minutes and to red at five.
There are then questions from the committee members in a well defined order of rank. The proceedings were interrupted twice to allow the members to go to the House floor, vote and return. The whole thing took two and a half hours. It was quite an experience.
So over the year, I have had the opportunity to speak enthusiastically about the laboratory and nuclear physics in several fora, from physics conferences and colloquia, to all-hands meetings, to ground-breakings and celebrations, from reviews to briefings of politicians and their staffers, and now to a House subcommittee. Of course, it’s helpful that Jefferson Lab and nuclear physics are easy subjects about which to be enthusiastic.
The written version of my testimony is here .
To read more about the Oct. 1 hearing click here .