Thursday, July 21, 2016

Académie Américain?

Many years ago, never mind how long exactly, I learned of the French Academy. I immediately thought it was a cool idea: 40 seats, each one rotating with the greatest minds of the Arts and Sciences - the most notable contributors to French culture and life. In place since 1635, it is a veritable 'whose who' of great French people. Their not-subtle motto is "to immortality".

The seats are numbered, and have included: Seat Two: Montesquieu, Seat Three: Georges Clemenceau and Marguerite Yourcenar, Seat Five: Joseph Fourier, Seat Seven: Henri Bergson, Seat Thirteen: Jean Racine, Seat Fourteen: Pierre Corneille and Victor Hugo, Seat Seventeen: Louis Pasteur and Jacques Cousteau, Seat Eighteen: Alexis de Tocqueville, Seat Twenty-Four: La Fontaine, Marivaux, Sully Prudhomme, and Henri Poincare, Seat Twenty-Nine: Claude Levi-Strauss, Seat Thirty-One: Jean Cocteau, Seat Thirty-Three: Voltaire, Seat Thirty-Five: Georges Cuvier, Seat Thirty-Eight: Anatole France and Paul Valery, and so on.

Now, the purpose of the Academie is to protect what the French hold most dear: their language. But as I conceived of an American version of this traditional body, I figured it would be best to have such notables advise the country in a meaningful way. The Seats, too, should be fixed, so as to not end up with lopsided membership (fourteen novelists, for example).

After considering the roles that would be suited to the task I went ahead and made some basic rules:

American Congressional Academy

Purpose: To make an annual report to Congress and the public of the areas in which the United States should direct its energies, financial, intellectual, and professional, with a focus on problem-solving.

Membership requirements: 1) American Citizen and resident for at least 10 years. 2) Significant innovation or influence in the field. 3) Not currently serving in the United States Legislature, Judiciary, or Executive branches of government in an elected position. 4) Must be able to attend the three annual meetings in person

Foreign membership requirements: 1) Significant innovation or influence in the field, of global recognition. 2) Must be able to attend at least one of the three annual meetings in person.

Organization: The Academy consists of twenty-five permanent Seats, each representing a different facet of American life. One individual serves as Secretary General, whose position must also reflect a significant contribution to the field of Activism. All of the Academy Membership requirements apply to the Secretary General. The Seats, initially filled by Congress, are lifetime appointments, allowing for an Academy Member to resign at any time, with possibility of reappointment. Seats are appointed by a 2/3 majority of the sitting Academy Members. The Secretary General is also appointed by 2/3 majority of the Academy Members. In addition, five International Seats will also be appointed by the Academy Members, by 2/3 majority. Being an International Member provides the same contribution privileges, however they do not vote on new membership of any type except Secretary General. As with Academy Membership, International Members are lifetime appointments, but may resign with possibility of reappointment. The Secretary General may be recalled from the post by a 2/3 majority vote of the entire Membership, consisting of both the Academy and International Seats. If recalled, the individual may be appointed to a vacant Seat, or later reappointed as Secretary General, or Academy Member.

So far so good. With this in mind, I came up the Seats, and suggested inaugural members:

Inaugural 2016 Academy Membership:

Seat 1, Health: Louis Wade Sullivan, 82

Seat 2, Physics: Steven Weinberg, 83

Seat 3, Prose: Toni Morrison, 85

Seat 4, Mathematics: Persi Diaconis, 71

Seat 5, Poetry: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 97

Seat 6, Chemistry: EJ Corey, 88

Seat 7, Law: Sandra Day O’Connor, 86

Seat 8, Education: Sal Khan, 39

Seat 9, Technology: Elon Musk, 45

Seat 10, Music: Wayne Shorter, 82

Seat 11, History: David McCullough, 83

Seat 12, Architecture: I.M Pei, 99

Seat 13, Journalism: Gloria Steinem, 82

Seat 14, Human Rights: Dolores Huerta, 86

Seat 15, Economics: Amory Lovins, 68

Seat 16, Anthropology and Sociology: Jared Diamond, 78

Seat 17, Astronomy and Cosmology: Neil deGrasse Tyson, 57

Seat 18, Biology: E.O. Wilson, 87

Seat 19, Design: Paula Scher, 67

Seat 20: Philosophy: Saul Kripke, 75

Seat 21, Two-Dimensional Art: Kara Walker, 46

Seat 22, Three-Dimensional Art: Maya Lin, 56

Seat 23, Psychology: Philip Zimbardo, 83

Seat 24, Theater Art: Lin-Manuel Miranda, 36

Seat 25, Film and Television: Spike Lee, 59

Secretary General (Activism): Angela Davis, 72

Inaugural 2016 International Members:

Art: Ai Weiwei, 58, China

Science: Jane Goodall, 82, United Kingdom

Social Science: Muhammad Yunus, 76, Bangladesh

Politics: Kofi Annan, 78, Ghana

Law and Journalism: Tawakkol Karman, 37, Yemen

Given the ages of the membership above I'm pretty sure Seats would open very soon. Any suggestions on who should be elected to the Seats next in the various categories? Or were any of the Inaugural Seats poorly filled? I'd be interested on folks opinions.

I called up everyone I thought of, and they very graciously flew out to Berkeley for a photo op. Terribly nice of them.

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