Memories of Senator Kennedy

In his long career of public service, Senator Edward  Kennedy championed good governance, as demonstrated by his enduring support for the Office of Technology Assessment.

Speaking on March 2, 1972 in support of the legislation that created OTA, he said:

Technology Assessment refers to matters of the utmost importance and urgency to those of us in the Congress and to each of our citizens.  Like it or not, science and technology have become central to our civilization, to our economic strength, to the preservation of our environment, and to the quality of our lives.

What citizen does not have vital data on himself stored in some computer memory cell?  Who is not at the mercy of far-reaching power blackouts and brownouts?  How many citizens are impervious to the transportation snarls that strangle our cities?  What family will not someday be dependent on the outmoded medical technology which prevails in far too many of our hospitals?

Which one of us doesn’t daily take some chemical additives with his food?  Or hasn’t used some medication which FDA hasn’t yet certified as effective?  Who doesn’t breathe the pollution in our air?  Or regret the filth in our rivers and streams?

We live in a world increasingly shaped by man, and technology is the principal tool he uses to shape it.

He favored OTA as a way of assuring that new technological developments would be “channeled so as to achieve the maximum benefit for humanity.”  The transcript of the hearing can be found here in the archive.  (The quote above is from pages 35-36.)

Senator Kennedy was the first chairman of  OTA’s Technology Assessment Board and served on its Board throughout OTA’s entire existence, until the agency was disbanded in 1995.

Near the end of OTA, on July 20, 1995, Senator Kennedy again spoke on the floor of the Senate in defense of OTA:

In the years ahead, as we move into the 21st century, there will be even greater need to rely on OTA for impartial assessment of technology-related policies.  The world of science and its impact on public policy are becoming more complex, not less.  Technology is central to every aspect of American life, from biotechnology to law enforcement, from agriculture to education.  It would be a serious mistake to limit our ability as a legislature to evaluate and respond to the scientific and technological challenges facing Congress, the Administration, and the Nation.