Executive Statement: Chicago Public Schools

          Congratulations to the Chicago Public Schools Science Fair on its 50th anniversary!

          And what a half-century of scientific discovery!

          The eradication of smallpox and polio; lasers and laser surgery; the artificial heart; cryosurgery; cloning; organ transplantation; gene synthesis and gene therapy - discoveries that brought a new understanding of the human body and better health and longer life to millions of people.

           Nuclear power, microprocessors, fiberoptic cable, satellites and space exploration, ultra-fast trains, supersonic jetliners, catalytic converters, color TV, CDs, and, of course, personal computers and the Internet - discoveries that improved living standards, greatly enhanced communication, and gave us a better understanding of our world and of the infinity of space that lies beyond it.

          All of those discoveries were made by patient, curious people employing the scientific method - just like our Science Fair contestants. As always, we at Kraft Foods are proud to sponsor the Fair, for many reasons: the intellectual challenge, the thrill of competition, the independent discovery of new knowledge, and throughout the whole process, the opportunities for teachers to coach and mentor - and for parents to support and encourage.

          When I was growing up in the U.K., none of this was available, so to the contestants, let me say that you are very fortunate indeed! I love to take my kids to science fairs and help them with their projects.

          I chose a career in science because I was better at it than I was at the arts. In college, I focused on biochemistry, because that was where the real cutting-edge work was being done. We were studying what had been discovered almost literally that same year. So, just like our contestants, I do appreciate the thrill of scientific discovery.

          My science courses and projects helped me in another very important way: they taught me to think critically. I learned that there are often many sides to a question and that science involves building theories and testing hypotheses.

          If you learn this kind of thinking, you're in a much better position to understand the meaning of new information -- and its implications for your life. You're better able to think through an issue, and you can figure out what kinds of evidence are needed to choose between alternate hypotheses.

          Some of our most critical issues today are scientific questions. How real is global warming - and if it's real, what causes it? What foods can help keep you healthy and what - if any - vitamin supplements should you take? Which is safer, a large car or a small one? How much does recycling really help the environment? Do antibiotics cure the common cold? How can we ensure the safety of our food supply? Is there extraterrestrial intelligence?

          Questions of health and environment, of safety and risk, of the very nature of life and reality - these are some of the most basic and difficult questions that we face. If we understand how science answers these questions and many others, we can live our lives more intelligently - and we can make better decisions as a citizens of a democracy.

          Within the next century, for example, modern societies will need to move from fossil-based energy systems to new energy sources. How will we do it? And how will we deal with the biotechnology revolution and all the questions it raises?

          The new technologies of the 21st century should - and can - be as beneficial as the discoveries of the past 50 years. We must make them useful, cheap, and available to all. We must guard against their dangers and harness their power to save lives. We must use them to spread knowledge, well-being, and wealth around the world.

          Our Science Fair participants are just the kind of people we need to help us accomplish all of this. You can help us realize the tremendous potential of science and technology in the new century.

          Congratulations to this year's contestants, from all of us at Kraft Foods. You're all winners, and we hope that your interest in science will lead you to further discoveries, achievements, and success.