“The ability to communicate is what makes us human and allows technology to advance.” – Alan Alda
Last night Alda, who was born on this date in 1936, was given the Screen Actors Guild “Lifetime Achievement Award.” His acceptance speech was touching and inspiring and I encourage you to look for it on YouTube.
In addition to his acting, Alda is a writer and entrepreneur and also founder of a science program for kids called “The Flame Challenge.” The “Challenge” gives 11-year-old kids the opportunity to ask a question that is then given to scientists around the world to answer “in language that is clearly understandable by an 11-year-old.”
The Flame Challenge is an outgrowth of The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, a cross-disciplinary organization at Stony Brook University in New York and housed, interestingly enough, in the Department of Journalism. Its goal “is to help scientists and science writers learn to communicate more effectively with the public.”
Alda said that too often both scientists and science writers have amazing things to share but they simply don’t know how to share them in clear and concise language.
When it comes to “effectively communicating” there’s little doubt Alda succeeds. A 6-time Emmy and Golden Globe winner, he is best known as Hawkeye Pierce on the long-running show M*A*S*H. Alda wrote a couple dozen of those shows, including the finale – the most watched TV show in history. He is the first person to win Emmys for acting, writing, and directing in the same series. And he has written several books, including a memoir with the clever title: Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself.
“Be brave enough to live life creatively,” Alda advises. “The creative place where no one else has ever been.”
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