Senator John Heinz


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The Heinz Awards


John Holdren

Dr. John Holdren receives the Heinz Award in Public Policy for his prodigious contributions to such complex issues as arms control, sustainable development and global energy resources. Dr. Holdren is that rare scholar who is also a born negotiator, one who is able to inspire colleagues and students to new heights of effort and understanding while possessing the ability to cut to the heart of a problem and offer new perspectives on which consensus can be based. Dr. Holdren's contributions to public policy are noteworthy, not simply because of their quality and scope, but also because they span a number of disciplines.

He is credited with playing a significant role in mobilizing the international community of policymakers and scientists to take action in the arms control area, where he has been a powerfully effective advocate of U.S. attention to the security of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials in Russia. He has been extremely active in the international policy dialogue regarding global environmental degradation and resource conservation.

He has served in a wide variety of advisory roles for policymakers in state, federal and international agencies since the early 1970s, and he became a member of President Clinton's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) when it was formed in 1994. Dr. Holdren chaired the first study requested from PCAST, which led to a revision of U.S. policy on cooperation with Russia on nuclear materials protection. Also in the mid-1990s, he co-chaired the National Academy of Sciences' reshaping of U.S. policy on the management of this country's weapons-grade plutonium. And from 1995 into 1999, he chaired a series of PCAST studies on revising U.S. energy research strategy to more effectively address the challenges of the 21st century, including especially the challenge of global warming.

Dr. Holdren has been a member since 1973 of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international group of scholars and public figures who meet regularly to discuss ways to reduce the dangers from weapons of mass destruction and to build international cooperation on other common problems. He served as chair of the executive committee of the Pugwash Conferences from 1987 to 1997, and was chosen by his colleagues to give the acceptance speech when the organization shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.

Dr. Holdren has been an extraordinarily effective and articulate leader in shaping public policy, not only through his various advisory roles to government but also indirectly, as an educator engaged in training the next generation of leaders in science and technology policy. He is currently at Harvard University, in both the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, which named him as its first Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy. Additionally, he serves as Visiting Distinguished Scientist at Woods Hole Research Center.

Dr. John Holdren has had a profound influence in international efforts to reduce the dangers of nuclear conflict, achieve solid cooperation in energy-technology innovation and shape new understanding and policies relating to a workable strategy to ensure sustainable development of the earth's resources. He has had an enormous impact on bringing the tools of science and technology to bear on the challenges of formulating public policy to cope with the economic, environmental and security challenges posed by the scientific and technological advances of the 20th Century.

Note: This profile is excerpted from the commemorative brochure published at the time of the awards' presentation.


October 2010 - John Holdren, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director, is this year's recipient of the Hans A. Bethe Award, a prestigious science award presented by the Federation of American Scientists "for his enduring work on complex global issues that hinge on science and technology, such as the causes of climate change, analysis of energy technologies and policies, and ways to reduce the dangers from nuclear weapons." - The Washington Post

December 2008
- John P. Holdren, a physicist and environmental policy professor at Harvard, has been appointed as the president's science adviser in the role of director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, and will additionally serve as co-chairman of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. - The New York Times

July 2006
- Holdren co-writes article with Alan Leshner stating that there is no doubt about the reality of climate change and that the United States, "as the largest emitter of carbon dioxide on the planet, needs to become a leader in developing and deploying serious solutions." - The San Francisco Chronicle

February 2006 - John Holdren takes office as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

June 2005 - John Holdren becomes the second director of the Woods Hole Research Center. The organization, which focuses on environmental research with an emphasis on "preserving forested regions such as the Amazon River Basin in Brazil," was established in 1986 by George Woodwell, another Heinz Award recipient and the man who Holdren will succeed as director. - The Boston Globe

March 2005 - Holdren and the National Commission on Energy Policy, which he co-chairs, release a report that endorses the use of "biomass electricity and biofuels as a strategy to meet U.S. energy needs." The report, which was entitled Ending the Energy Stalemate: A Bipartisan Strategy to Meet America's Energy Challenges combines two years worth of research with conscious proposals for United States' energy future. - BioCycle

December 2004 - John Holdren is elected to the office of president-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

July 2003 - Holdren serves on a panel of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that address the future of nuclear energy issue. The report concludes that "the nuclear option should be retained precisely because it is an important carbon-free source of power." - U.S. Newswire

February 2003 - Holdren co-chairs a panel with Nikolai Laveroc, of the Institute of Geology and Geophysics in Russia, which was called "to appoint a joint committee to develop a roadmap for submarine dismantling", that would focus on fuel conservation. The panel is also to serve as an example of strategic cooperation between Russia and the United States, hopefully serving other agendas like "nonproliferation, nuclear safety and environmental security." - Nuclear Waste News


3/5/2001 - Acceptance Speech

Well, thank you very much, Teresa. One might wonder from the array of interests of mine that have just been mentioned, whether I simply have a short attention span, but I do like to think that there is some method in this madness. I think that many, if not most, of the great problems of the human predicament - population, resources, environment, prosperity, security - are not separate problems, but are intimately interconnected. And I believe if they're not all addressed and solved together, they won't be solved at all.

This insight was impressed on me first by a book called The Challenge of Man's Future. It was written in the early 1950's by the great geochemist and scientific statesman, Harrison Brown. I read that book as a sophomore in high school, and it launched me onto the career path that I've followed since. Its insight about the inter-connectedness of the human predicament was also understood by the late Senator John Heinz, whom I had the pleasure to know. And, it's understood by Teresa and embodied in the work of the Heinz Family Foundation and in the Heinz Awards.

One does not arrive, of course, at a podium such as this one, without a lot of help. I've been guided by marvelous mentors. I've been stimulated by superb students. I've been amplified by collaborations with an extraordinary collection of colleagues. None more important, I should say, than Paul and Anne Ehrlich, who received the first Heinz Award in Environment. Anne and their daughter, Lisa and her husband Tim, are all here tonight. I've been enabled by uncommonly flexible administrators. I've been supported by outstanding staff.

But, most importantly I've been sustained by the love and the encouragement and the tolerance of my wife, Cheri, who's here tonight, and our children and grandchildren who could not be, and by the affection and help in one hundred different ways of good friends and good neighbors. In fact, our neighbors in Falmouth, Bill and Pie Smith, made it through the storm by train to be with us here tonight, as well. I know that I also owe the honor of the Heinz prize to the nominators who exaggerated my accomplishments, the letter writers who embellished the exaggerations, and the jury who swallowed enough of it to choose me over others more deserving.

And of course, I'm thankful to the terrific and tireless Teresa Heinz, who established these Awards in memory and honor of Senator Heinz. Our country misses him, as I do, and is grateful to her, as I am.

Thank you all very much.

John Holdren