Subject:     Recent Speeches by Chairman Jackson

         United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission
                   Office of Public Affairs
                     Washington, DC 20555
            Phone 301-415-8200   Fax 301-415-2234

  No.  S-98-32

                   Expanding Our Universe:
       New Models of Success for the Minority Community


              Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, Chairman
              U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

       20th Annual W.E.B. DuBois Distinguished Lecture
           University of Maryland, Baltimore County

                      November 16, 1998

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  I am delighted at this opportunity
to present the 20th Annual W.E.B. DuBois Distinguished Lecture.  I
especially am honored that I am the first scientist to participate in
this lecture series.  Given that understanding, and given my specific
background as a theoretical physicist, I believe I have selected a topic
that fits the occasion.  I have entitled my presentation, "Expanding Our
Universe:  New Models of Success for the Minority Community."  I will
begin by providing you, by way of context, a brief description of my
current position as the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 
I then will attempt to answer two questions:  (1) How does a scientist
or, for that matter, a high-level government policy maker contribute to
the minority community? and (2) As members of a minority community, how
can we continue to "expand our universe"?

I. The Role of the Nuclear Safety Regulator

Let me begin with a brief overview of how the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC) has evolved into its current regulatory role.  Back in
1954, when the Congress passed the Atomic Energy Act, the NRC did not
exist.  The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), created in 1946, had the
dual responsibilities of both promoting the growth of nuclear power and
regulating its use.

Over the ensuing years, as nuclear power progressed from an experimental
technology to an established source of electricity production, concern
grew over the inherent conflict of interest in having promotion and
regulation invested in the same agency.  In the 1960s and 1970s, the
rapid growth in the number of nuclear power plants brought a
corresponding increase in concern over nuclear safety, waste disposal,
and the role of the regulator.  In 1974, the Congress abolished the
Atomic Energy Commission and created two new agencies:  the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission, led by a 5-member Commission, with an exclusively
regulatory mandate; and the Energy Research and Development Agency
(ERDA), which later became the Department of Energy (DOE).

Concern over the role of the regulator was not limited to separating
promotion from safety oversight.  The Congress perceived two additional
needs:  (1) to eliminate the aura of secrecy associated with the AEC;
and (2) to establish clearly how a 5-member Commission should function
efficiently.  This second issue, related to the NRC organization and
management, was still not well understood or resolved at the time of the
1979 accident at Three Mile Island (TMI).

The TMI accident clearly was a watershed event that cut across all
aspects of nuclear energy and nuclear regulation.  Multiple
investigations, both internal and external to the NRC, called for
drastic change across a broad spectrum of issues including the demand
for profound improvements in severe accident analysis, and the need for
more clearly spelled-out reactor safety objectives.  One of the key
focus areas for both of the major TMI investigations the President's
Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, known as the Kemeny
Commission; and the NRC Special Inquiry Group, headed by Mitchell
Rogovin was the lack of clarity in the NRC governance, and the adverse
safety impact that could result from confusion and the lack of role

Both the Kemeny Commission and the Rogovin group recommended replacing
the 5-member Commission with a single administrator and placing the
agency in the Executive Branch, under the President.  President Carter
rejected both recommendations; however, he took strong action to define
how the NRC would function both during emergencies and in day-to-day
operations.  This action eventually took the form of legislation, which
became known as the Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1980.

The Reorganization Plan defined the role of the Commission as one
involving policy formulation, rulemakings on non-administrative matters,
and orders and adjudications.  It emphasized the importance of clear
communication lines and Commission access to information.  Certain
responsibilities formerly assigned to the Commission, as a whole, were
moved specifically to the Chairman:  the role of Principal Executive
Officer and official agency spokesperson; the responsibility for
day-to-day operation of the agency through the Executive Director for
Operations; the ultimate responsibility for all NRC emergency response
functions; the development of policy planning and guidance; and
rulemaking for administrative matters.

This hybrid arrangement is fairly unique among Federal agencies an
independent agency in which policy matters are formulated by Commission
consensus, but with a Chairman leadership role designed to increase
efficiency and define responsibility. Within this arrangement, the
mission of the NRC remains the adequate protection of public health and
safety, the environment, and the common defense and security, in the
civilian use of nuclear materials.  This mission encompasses the
regulatory oversight of not only nuclear power reactors, but also
research, test, and training reactors, fuel cycle facilities, low-level
and high-level radioactive waste facilities, and the use of
radionuclides in medicine, research, and industry. 

Given this context, you may understand better my feelings when, in 1995,
President Clinton asked me to consider nomination to the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission and to become the Chairman of the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission.  My reaction was not, as some might assume, an
immediate and unqualified "yes."  At that time, I was a Professor of
Physics at Rutgers University, and for over 15 years before my tenure at
Rutgers, I had conducted research at AT&T Bell Laboratories and other
facilities, working in theoretical physics, solid state and quantum
physics, and optical physics.  Becoming a high-level presidential
appointee, even if it meant heading up a highly technical independent
agency like the NRC, was not exactly part of my pre-calculated career
plan. In addition, there were other considerations.  How would this
change affect my family? How would it restrict my involvement in
industry boards of directors, advisory boards, or various scientific
councils?  What contributions could I bring to the civilian nuclear
industry through the avenue of nuclear safety regulation?

Finally, there was the question I would like to focus on today a
question I had asked and answered before, when choosing a career in
physics:   "As a scientist or in this case, as a nuclear safety
regulator, or as a high-level government policy maker how will I be
making a contribution to my own community?"

II. Making a Contribution to the Minority Community

To understand this question properly requires, first, that we reflect
briefly on the all-too-familiar barriers that many minorities have faced
in choosing career fields that are non-traditional for individuals of a
particular gender or ethnic background.  Sometimes those barriers can
take the form of direct discrimination, or confrontational reminders of
demeaning stereotypes.  Let me give you a personal experience:  in 1965,
as a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, still
deliberating on what my major would be, I was approached by an MIT
professor with a piece of career advice.  "Colored girls," he told me,
"should learn a trade."  

Consider, if you will, that I was newly separated from the support
system of my family and my community back in Washington, DC.  Consider
that I was one of two African-American women in an MIT freshmen class of
900.  How does a young woman, eager for success but also desirous of
support and respect, respond to so denigrating a suggestion, to so clear
a depiction of the limitations associated with racial and gender
stereotypes?  I will tell you.  I chose a "trade."  I chose physics! 
Four years later, my friend, Dr. Jennifer Rudd, and I became the first
African-American women to graduate from MIT.  She went on to become a
physician.  I remained at MIT as a graduate student, and received my
Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics in 1973, the first
African-American woman to receive a doctorate from that institution.

An experience of that sort, a direct and forceful encounter with what we
sometimes call a "glass ceiling," can have a traumatic effect on a young
person on her view of the world, and on her view of the opportunities
available.  However, most of the challenges I faced, relevant to my
pursuit of a scientific career, were more subtle.  In fact, some of the
challenges came to me from within my own community not from people who
wished to be denigrating or discriminatory, but from individuals who, in
all other ways, I counted on for support.  These challenges, sometimes
direct but more often indirect, could be summarized as follows: "You are
a bright, talented young woman.  With all that brainpower, with all that
energy, where is your sense of responsibility?  You have the potential
to succeed in any field you choose why, then, are you not choosing a
career that will make a direct contribution back to your own community? 
How will your career in physics be of benefit to African-Americans?"  

I do not mean to imply that challenges of this sort are frivolous. 
However, just as discrimination and injustice sometimes take more subtle
forms, so too I believe that we must take a more expanded, and, if you
will, a more sophisticated, view of what constitutes a contribution to
the African-American community or other minority communities. 
Contributions can take many forms some direct, some less direct.  For
example, where imminent social issues need to be addressed, a community
must have attorneys capable of bringing and defending cases, competent
in drafting and promulgating needed legislation, as a way to redress
social inequities.  For that reason, the law has been a natural pathway
for motivated African-American achievers.  Career fields such as
medicine, religion, and education also have been frequent choices again,
because of their direct contribution to the communities of their

When an extraordinary degree of success is achieved in one of these
fields as in the life and career of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood
Marshall the direct benefits to the African-American community are
considerable and obvious, and justifiably receive high recognition. 
When we think of Justice Marshall, we think immediately of his role as
"the little man's lawyer," his support of the NAACP, and his overall
stature as a champion of civil rights.  However, I believe it also is
important to understand his indirect contribution to the
African-American community his renown as a successful litigator, his
national recognition as an authority on constitutional law, and his
appointment by President Johnson as the first African-American Associate
Justice of the Supreme Court.  Those personal achievements were of less
direct benefit to the African-American community, but they were of
profound significance in "breaking the darkened glass ceiling" forcibly
raising the standard of achievement as an inspiration to those who would
follow.  What do I mean by "the darkened glass ceiling?"  Seeing through
a glass darkly does not always allow one to know what is on the other
side.  But one wants to "go there" to know to find out what is there,
and what one can do "on the other side."

One of the most subtle and covert forms of discrimination and racial
stereotyping is the false and demeaning notion not always articulated
aloud that minority group members do not have what it takes to succeed
in certain fields.  This way of thinking, in my view, has created what I
refer to as a "restricted universe" for young people in minority
communities a limited range of career options.  When social pressure is
placed on a talented young person of minority background to choose a
career that is "clearly relevant to the needs of the minority
community," that pressure, in its own way, can self-perpetuate this
"restricted universe," by limiting the range of what those young people
will view as valid models of success.  In so doing, pressure from within
the minority community can in fact reinforce external stereotypes
regarding fields of low minority representation.

Consider another example.  One early African-American practitioner of
science who was intimately acquainted with the confines of this
"restricted universe" was Benjamin Banneker a name that should be
familiar to many of you, given that he lived and worked here in
Baltimore County in the 18th Century.  Among his other interests,
Banneker was an avid mathematician and astronomer who successfully
predicted the solar eclipse on April 14, 1789 (to the discomfiture of
other prominent astronomers of the day).  In August of 1791, Banneker
enclosed a copy of his latest almanac with a letter to Thomas Jefferson,
who was then the U.S. Secretary of State.  In his letter, Banneker
argued passionately and forcefully that the Jeffersonian credo of "life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," as inalienable human rights,
could only find its logical result by bringing an end to slavery.

Once again, when considering these achievements of Benjamin Banneker,
one could argue that his efforts as an early civil rights advocate made
a more direct contribution to the African-American community than his
other pursuits.  In this case, however, I can testify, from personal
experience, regarding the benefits to me of his scientific interests and
accomplishments.  As a child, I found Banneker fascinating because, like
me, he had an intense curiosity, he liked math and science, and he had
helped to design my home town of Washington, DC.  While my parents were
extremely supportive of my early interest in science, there were few
African-American scientists with whom I could identify as role models. 
Banneker was an exception, an African-American who had put "a crack in
the darkened glass ceiling."  To put it another way, Benjamin Banneker
helped to expand my universe by serving as an unusual model of success. 
 [I should say, for the record, that at that time I did not focus on the
fact that Banneker also was the first African-American to receive a
presidential appointment, when George Washington appointed him to a
three-man team of surveyors to design the District of Columbia.]

So let me ask a slightly different question:  Should every member of a
minority group feel bound to choose a profession of direct and obvious
benefit to that group?  The answer, I believe, hinges directly on this
subtle differentiation between direct and indirect contributions.  I
would argue that it is of profound value to our minority communities, as
well as to the nation as a whole, that we have Native American,
Hispanic, and African-American mathematicians, scientists, and engineers
of renown.  Every African-American or Hispanic or Native American man or
woman who succeeds as an astrophysicist or geologist, as a
microbiologist or computer scientist or chemist, is contributing to the
well-being of his or her community, even if the specific work performed
does not have an immediately observable impact on the social problems of
the ghetto, the barrio, or the reservation.

When, in the 1920s and 1930s, Dr. Ernest Everett Just overcame less than
optimal circumstances to establish a reputation as a leading expert on
cell biology and human metabolism, he also was creating a new model of
success for others to follow.  When, in September 1992, astronaut Mae
Jemison became the first African-American woman in space, she expanded
the universe of the African-American community a little more. Sooner or
later, every such message of individual achievement makes a community
impact, as a source of pride to the elders, as a source of hope and
opportunity to the young, as an education to the larger society.  The
young, in particular, need to feel that there is no field foreclosed to
them, no glass ceiling intact.  They must be afforded the chance to
dream, and must feel that striving to make their dreams reality is worth
the effort.

Every success sends a message to society as a whole, helping to break
down the prejudices, spoken and unspoken, that imply either a lack of
capability or a lack of contribution from certain minorities in certain
professions.  When we contribute to disproving those prejudices, we
benefit not only ourselves, not only the groups to which we belong, but
our nation itself.  To illustrate, within my present field of focus
civilian applications of nuclear materials and nuclear energy I would
note such contributors as the African-American Roscoe Koontz, one of the
first formally trained Health Physicists, who made significant advances
in radiation detection instrumentation, environmental sampling
equipment, and survey techniques, to protect humans from the dangers of
ionizing radiation; and Dr. J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr., also a physicist and
mathematician, who conducted seminal research in radiation absorption
and radiation shielding, as well as helping to design and develop
nuclear reactors for electrical power generation (Dr. Wilkins currently
is distinguished professor at Clark Atlanta University, and adjunct
professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology Georgia Tech).

In physics research overall I would note the work of Dr. Chien-Shiung
Wu, a pioneering physicist who changed our accepted view of the
structure of the universe by proving, through experimentation, that
parity was not conserved in sub-atomic interactions, and the work of 
theoretical physicist Walter Eugene Massey, who, in addition to seminal
research dealing with many-body problems, quantum liquids, and quantum
solids, served as the Director (and later as the Vice President for
Research) of Argonne National Laboratory, and the Vice President of the
University of California system (he is now President of Morehouse
College, in Atlanta, Georgia.  Only the most myopic perspective would
view the contributions of these individuals to the body of science as
something other than of significant benefit to their own minority
communities as well.

III.    Continuing To Expand Our Universe

As members of the minority community, how do we continue to expand our
universe?  I believe the answer lies, as the title of this lecture would
suggest, in establishing more diverse models of success.  I have stated
before that, in order for minorities to realize their full potential in
professional fields of endeavor, three essential conditions must coexist
and be sustained:  (1) within each individual must be a catalyst--a
driving force that compels the individual to take on challenges and to
excel despite obstacles; (2) the opportunities must exist, within these
fields of study, to put training and education to practical use in
careers worth pursuing; and (3) societal values must support the
professional growth and development of all the human resources available
within the society.  The creation of new models of success relates
directly to this last objective.

The process of establishing these models occurs in a series of steps. 
First of all, as a community, we must be aware of our own demographics,
and we must understand the value of increased participation in those
fields in which our community is under-represented.  In most cases,
there have been or there will be individual "trailblazers," the
precedent-setters who achieve career "firsts" by ignoring or overcoming
the ethnic and gender stereotypes and other obstacles.  We cannot expect
of these individuals that they will always be the best in their
respective fields of endeavor.  On the other hand, for those of us who
have achieved a measure of success and recognition, with that
recognition comes the responsibility as leaders to set an example of
vision, hard work, and ethical integrity.  In addition, we have the
responsibility, wherever possible, to cultivate and serve as mentors to
"the second-generation pioneers" coming along behind us.  

These nurturing and mentoring activities hopefully will lead to
communication networks, small circles of support and identification. 
These intimate networks, in turn, give birth to larger foundations and
support programs that work actively to publicize successes, to educate
young people as well as the larger community, and to eradicate limiting
stereotypes.  It is only part of human nature that we feel more
comfortable in entering those segments of society where we see others
like us, and these networking and support activities can help to remove
any associated barriers for individuals of minority background entering
non-traditional fields.

By way of encouragement, I believe we are closer to achieving this
objective the establishment of new models of success than we have ever
been.  Many studies, discussions, and actions have concentrated on
formal organizational support and assistance to encourage more women and
individuals of minority background to participate directly in
science-based careers.  This formal organizational approach has been an
essential contributor to progress in certain fields over the last
decade, and it will play a continuing, vital role in the future.  I also
would suggest that we are experiencing a change in employer perceptions
toward diversity.  Most business and governmental organizations
increasingly are recognizing that, if they are to compete successfully
in a global political and economic setting, they must make use of all of
the best human resources available.

Fundamentally, the present and foreseeable challenges facing this nation
simply are too great for society to ignore or to undervalue the
capabilities of entire population segments. If we are to have an
environment and a society worth passing on to our children, we must be
sure that we engender an appreciation for one another as human beings
with individual qualities, rather than peering through blinders of
prejudice, inherited from the past.  For those of you who have chosen or
are considering a career in science or engineering, I would urge you not
to be dissuaded or disheartened by any who would tell you that such a
career is irrelevant to the broader social concerns of your communities.
Such advice is off the mark.  The inner city, the barrio, the
reservation, and yes, the suburbs do need teachers, doctors, lawyers,
and social workers, to be sure; but the contributions of scientists,
mathematicians, and engineers, on a global scale, in the long run, are
just as vital.  Many environmental, medical, and social problems cannot
be resolved without strong scientific and technological input.  Our
communities must appreciate these needs, and must support those who
choose the path of science and related fields.

In conclusion, I am reminded of an old Swahili proverb, which says, "The
prayer of the chicken hawk does not get him the chicken."  So let me
leave you with a challenge:  How will you contribute to this complex
formula for success in a diverse society?  Will you let others define
your models of success?  Or will you work to expand our universe, to
create a future of productivity and mutually beneficial opportunities?

As I stated earlier, one of the basic elements required for minority
communities to reach their full potential involves individuals who are
motivated from within, who can tap into an inner source of strength
comprised of passionate interest, personal ambition, staying power, and
multicultural awareness.  Our vision must be clear enough to understand
the challenges of a restricted universe, strong enough to produce the
hard work needed to push back its edges by creating new models of
success, and enduring enough to produce stability and continued progress
once that success has been achieved.  

Remember: "The Prayer of the Chicken Hawk does not get him the chicken."

Thank you for your attention.