In about 1955 or 1956 President Dwight D. Eisenhower came to Portland, Oregon for some reason or another. At that time I was attending Fernwood Grade School in NE Portland and our teacher walked us down to Sandy Blvd., where Eisenhower drove by in a convertible as he was traveling from the new airport to someplace downtown to meet with other politicians, waving to the crowd. Our teacher thought it was a great experience for us, but at that age the President was not as popular with us kids as Heck Harper, a local cowboy with a Saturday morning cartoon TV show, or Mr. Moon, who had a similar show and later got busted for being a pedophile. TV was a real fad among young Americans at that time, similar to how Twitter or iPhones are perceived today. However, some of my classmates soon began to wear “I Like Ike” pins on their shirts and most of the rest of us were kind of envious because we couldn’t afford such buttons, and because our parents didn’t have — and couldn’t give us — any.
Forty years later I finally read his “beware of the military-industrial complex” speech and came to realize it had a “Part 2”: “beware of government funded science” that really struck home with me, and explained a lot of what concerned me regarding scientific research and academic rewards at Oregon State University as I was completing my graduate research studies:
“In this revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
“Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
“The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.
“Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”
— Dwight Eisenhower, Farewell Address, January 17, 1961