The Randolph-Sheppard Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt in 1936. The act established a priority for blind vendors on Federal property. Nearly 77 years later, walking toward the snack stand operated by a blind vendor, the irony always occurs to me as I read an unusual brass plaque on the hallway that commemorates the origin of the Human Genome Project and its champion, Dr. Charles DeLisi. The irony is that Rick, the blind vendor who could one day benefit from that project, cannot see the plaque.
It takes individuals with an almost futuristic vision, able to counter criticism by those with less foresight, to take leaps of faith to establish such a far-reaching effort such as the Human Genome Project. Dr. DeLisi was apparently such a person.
Dr. DeLisi, then Director of the Office of Health and Environmental Research at the Department of Energy, recognized the available technology and came up with the idea to sequence the human genome in 1985. He formally funded the program in 1987. With the involvement of the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, Congress eventually approved longer-term budgets that included the National Institutes of Health. It is often the role of government to pursue long-term research, spanning decades, where the prospect of dividends are high risk and often times diffused throughout society. Good examples of government foresight are the development of the Internet by the Department of Defense and communications technology developed by NASA. These technologies are imbedded in our very lifestyle … so much so that our quality of life could not be imagined without them. The results are in every smart phone. Yet...Read more...