A couple of days ago, a certain scientist/t.v. show host dropped by my small town on the prairie! He found himself face to face with a full gymnasium (1,700 people in all… that’s nearly 2/5 of the town!) of students screaming “BILL! BILL! BILL! BILL! BILL!”.
Bill Nye gave a fantastic talk. He was a charismatic, engaging speaker. I was surprised at how genuine he was. Most speakers I hear are used to the speaking circuit, and each talk is just another stop to get through. I fully expected a fairly dry hour of science talk that would go over my head. That was not the case. He spoke for over two hours and seemed genuinely interested in us. He cracked the stereotypical Minnesota jokes about cold winters, ice fishing, the Vikings, and promised us that there are such a thing as hills. (Morris is known for being very flat.)
Instead of sticking to facts and figures, Nye’s talk followed a narrative. In essence, he basically told us stories for two hours. He took us through his family’s history, including his father’s obsession with sun dials, and lead us in stories about deep space exploration. He was a passionate speaker and continually told us we could: “dare I say it, CHANGE THE WORLD!”
The one thing about his talk I didn’t like was that I felt he was unnecessarily harsh towards Ken Ham, Creationist opponent in a debate that took place last February. I thought he could have shown more kindness and respect towards Ham. I wasn’t offended by what Nye said because, although I do believe in Creation, I don’t side with Ham’s extreme views that the world is only 6,000 years old. But I thought bringing Ham up was unnecessary.
One of the questions at the end of the talk had to do with being taken seriously by an adult audience after being on a children’s show for so long. Bill said that, yes, the transition is sometimes difficult, but it’s a process. He also said that he never regretted the t.v. show. I realized that, twenty years later, he was still speaking to the same audience. Most of the students in the crowd grew up with his quirky show. Now, here we were twenty years later, and he was still speaking to us. It’s come full-circle.
One of the cool things about the event was that it sheds VERY good light on my university. Being a tiny liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere, we often get sidelined, despite the fact that we are one of the most academically rigorous institutions in the state of Minnesota. And having a nationally known cultural icon like Bill Ny did, and will continue to do, wonders for our public relations. I mean… we got a hashtag trending on Twitter!
It was a great night, though. Although I’m not a science major, I loved his excitement as he encouraged our generation to engage in the world of discovery. I grew up with Bill Nye–he’s the man who taught me all I know about magnets and nuclear power. I used to run around the house singing his theme song at the top of my lungs. Countless study-worn students, myself included, left the talk bright-eyed and refreshed to learn all they can and, dare I say it, change the world.