Silvestre Reyes: Supporting the Goals and Ideals of National Chemistry Week (2007)

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Supporting the Goals and Ideals of National Chemistry Week
by Silvestre Reyes

Supporting the Goals and Ideals of National Chemistry Week



Monday, October 22, 2007

Mr. REYES. Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of H. Res. 751, a resolution I have introduced supporting the goals and ideals of National Chemistry Week, which starts today, October 22, 2007.

During the next 5 days, millions of people, particularly students in elementary and secondary schools, will be engaged in chemistry-related activities that show the importance of chemistry to our quality of life. With assistance from American Chemical Society, ACS, staff, thousands of volunteers will conduct these activities in venues from shopping malls, to classrooms, to university labs.

National Chemistry Week was created by ACS in 1987 to draw attention to the positive contributions chemistry makes to our everyday lives. These contributions include helping feed, house, and clothe the world's population; tapping new energy sources; providing renewable substitutes for limited materials; improving public health; strengthening our national security; and protecting our environment.

During this year's 20th anniversary of National Chemistry Week, we are celebrating "The Many Faces of Chemistry." This theme was chosen to emphasize the extensive variety of careers available in the world of chemistry and to honor the tremendous diversity of people who have contributed and will contribute to the advancement of chemistry and all of its branches. This year's theme takes added importance when you consider that a disproportionately low number of minority, underprivileged, and young women students are taking up careers in science and technology.

The inclusion of women and under-represented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, STEM, is not just important to correct for historical employment inequities, but to provide under-represented minorities an opportunity for prosperity. The increased education and participation of this segment of the workforce is also essential to supplying the American economy with the STEM expertise the country needs to innovate and remain competitive. According to the U.S. Census, 39 percent of the population under the age of 18 is a racial or ethnic minority. That percentage is on a path to pass 50 percent by the year 2050. Yet, in 2000, only 4.4 percent of the science and engineering jobs were held by African Americans and only 3.4 percent by Hispanics. Women constitute over half of the post- secondary students in the Nation, but represent a little more than one- quarter of our science and engineering workforce. We must correct these disparities, and fast.

This is not an issue of compromising high standards. If America is to achieve its strategic objectives in STEM, the enormous potential of groups that are currently under-represented in the STEM fields must be realized through expanded and focused educational opportunity. Some see tension between policies that focus resources on certain groups and the pursuit for excellence, but the simple truth is that the general achievement of excellence is strongly linked to the prevalence of opportunity.

Scientists from these under-represented groups have demonstrated excellence through important contributions to our understanding of the environment and the sciences. Two notable examples include Mario Molina, an atmospheric chemist who received a Nobel Prize for his work establishing the link between CFCs and atmospheric ozone destruction, and Percy L. Julian, who was the first black chemist elected to the National Academy of Sciences and whose work in synthesizing a compound used to treat glaucoma led to his having been ranked by ACS as one of the top 75 Distinguished Contributors to the Chemical Enterprise.

If we are to remain an innovative and economically competitive nation, the face of our high-tech workforce must reflect the true face of America. Our workforce will not be the best America has to offer if we do not ensure that we are taking advantage of all pools of domestic talent. "The Many Faces of Chemistry" theme is especially significant because it focuses on promoting diversity, which will help ensure national competitiveness by encouraging broad participation from all sources of talent in the sciences and chemistry.

I thank the American Chemical Society for their work in promoting the chemical sciences and the important role of diversity. I urge my colleagues to support this resolution.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).