Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, and author. He is a Companion of the Order of Canada and a recipient of UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for science, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) medal, the 2012 Inamori Ethics Prize, the 2009 Right Livelihood Award, and UNEP's GLobal 500 award. Suzuki is professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and holds twenty-nine honorary degrees from universities in Canada, the US, and Australia. He is familiar to television audiences as host of the CBC science and natural history series The Nature of Things and to radio audiences as the original host of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks, as well as the acclaimed series It's a Matter of Survival and From Naked Ape to Superspecies. In 1990 he co-founded, with Dr. Tara Cullis, the David Suzuki Foundation to "collaborate with Canadians from all walks of life including government and business, to conserve our environment and find solutions that will create a sustainable Canada through science-based research, education, and policy work." His written work includes more than fifty-five books, nineteen of them for children. Dr. Suzuki was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Humanist Association at its annual conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, in May 2018. The following is adapted from his acceptance speech.
Wow, thank you. This is an incredible honor for me, and I'm thrilled to be recognized by the American Humanist Association.
I look at the world from the perspective of a scientist and a grandfather, but now I speak mainly as an elder, because elders are relieved from the constant search for more fame, money, or power. (There are some elders who still seek those things, but they need help.) This allows us then to speak the truth from our hearts, and if that offends people that's their problem, not mine.
And elders have something no other group in society has. We've lived an entire life. We've made mistakes, suffered failures, and celebrated successes. We've learned a lot. So at this time, we must sift through our lives and grab the important nuggets to pass on to the coming generations. I tell my fellow elders: you don't have to play games for a job, promotion, or raise, so get off the couch, or the golf course, and spend some time telling people about the lessons you've gained through your lifetime.
I'm especially delighted to receive this award from an American organization so that I can thank Americans who have played such a pivotal part in the formation of my life and my career. It began when I was accepted at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Amherst at that time believed that foreign students added to the education of American students, and they were willing to pay for that. They gave me a scholarship that was worth more than my father earned in a year. Now, this was 1954 so it was $2,000, and I still had to work bussing tables, but it enabled me to go to an elite school and shaped my life as a scholar.
As a foreign student at Amherst, it was arranged for me to spend Thanksgiving with an American family. And I vividly remember that Thanksgiving dinner. We got into a discussion about politics, and, to my shock, the mother started arguing vehemently with her husband, totally disagreeing with him. In my family, my mother would never dream of getting into a political discussion, let alone disagree with my father with others around. The experience provided an incredible insight for me and formed the roots of my feminism in later life.
It was at Amherst that I was taught by Professor William Hexter, who inspired me to go into a career in genetics. Having starting my senior year, I was stunned, on October 4, 1957, to hear that the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik. It was really a...