Al Gore's multimedia lecture on global warming to a capacity throng at Margaret Bundy Scott Field House got the headlines and the accolades, but an earlier stop at the Science Center may have been just as important to the future.
Before presenting "An Inconvenient Truth"— an address drawing on his book and Academy Award-winning documentary of the same name — on April 26, the former vice president got together with about two dozen Hamilton students from two science classes for an informal question-and answer session.
He came in "with such ease and so little ceremony that it caught us off guard,"Molly Kane '09 reported. "We were shocked to see him standing in front of us, and we forgot to stand to welcome him like we had planned."
Gore had agreed to meet with students from a global warming seminar led by Gene Domack, the Joel W. Johnson Family Professor of Environmental Studies, and a sophomore seminar on global change taught by Domack and Associate Professor of Chemistry Ian Rosenstein. And, Kane said, Gore made sure that the meeting was a serious discussion, not just a photo op. He "seemed interested in our questions about greenhouse gas emissions and nuclear power plants and eager to answer them, as if he hasn't been speaking about the same topics all over the world for the past few years."
Hours later, the politician turned-environmental activist took the field house stage as the 15th lecturer in the Sacerdote Great Names Series. "What interests us most tonight," President Joan Hinde Stewart said in introducing Gore, "is the courageous and determined way he has turned disappointment in the 2000 presidential election into a crusade against global warming."
Stewart also noted the commitment of the Hamilton community to sustainability, including the recent certification of the Skenandoa House by the U.S. Green Building Council and her own recent signature to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment. She called Hamilton's commitment to the environment "a part of Mr. Gore's legacy."
Gore described global warming as "the most dangerous crisis we have ever faced in our civilization." But he added that while the word "crisis" conveys a sense of alarm, it is better to define "crisis" as the Chinese and Japanese languages do — as an instance of both danger and opportunity.
"We focus on the danger without seeing the opportunity," he said. "We have to walk through the danger in order to seize the opportunity, and in order to walk through the danger we must recognize it."
— Contributing: Caroline Russell O'Shea '07, Molly Kane '09