Dean's kickoff Speech/Project to Archive FIRST Philiosophy

While most of you were watching or attending FIRST kickoff 2006, you were probably anxiously thinking about the game and the kid of parts. I know, I was doing the same thing. But then I saw something quite unexpected, something I should’ve known coming, and my mind stopped thinking about the game and the hint.

Dean’s Speech that morning was the best speech I’ve ever heard him gave. So good that I thought it is worthwhile to type it up and post it here for everyone to see.

Then I thought about it and realized there’s no central place where all the good speeches about FIRST philosophy are located at. That’s why I would like to start this project call “Project to Archive FIRST Philosophy”, so, in the future, everybody who participates in FIRST have a chance to read and hear all the inspiring statement and writing made about what FIRST is all about. While I am most concerned with speeches and writings made by Dean, Woodie, and others in FIRST, I have no reason to see why speeches and writings done by participants should not be archived in the same manner.

But I know everybody is busy with a new game, so I will leave this at that for now. In the mean time, enjoy Dean’s speech in writing if you have time to read it, and have fun with the new game!

Text of speech of Dean Kamen, FIRST founder, during the kickoff of 2006

Good Morning!

So, Paul [Gudonis] said all the things I wish I could say, John [Abele] said all the things I wish I could say, and in a few minutes, Woodie [Flowers] and Dave [Lavery] will explain the game and the spirit and all the other stuff so, I don’t have anything to say this morning.

But I do want to remind people of something really important. Yes, we are out of control, and it’s great, we are growing at a phenomenal rate, you heard about all the new programs from Paul [Gudonis]. But, part of the risk of the fact that FIRST has become so competitive like every other sport and so much fun like every other sport that people might forget that there’s a difference. It’s not an accident we are built on the sport’s model, but there’s a big difference, it’s an important difference.

To the returning veterans I would like to remind you why 15 years ago I started this thing, and to the rookies maybe for the first time I want you to really remember as you go through this very anxiety ridden season what’s really important here, because unlike in most sports where the means and the ends are the same, I bounce the ball or I got the point or I didn’t, the purpose of FIRST is to bring whole new opportunities and ideas and concepts to kids that might not ever really think about them.

FIRST was built on a single premise 15 years ago, “we get in any culture what we celebrate”, and most of the rest of the culture around the world these days are celebrating knowledge and learning. They’ve seen what we have in this country because for hundreds’ of years we’ve led the world in science and technology and learning. But, the result of all that success of this country has made us so wealthy we get to spend our time on sport and entertainment. And kids spent an inordinate amount on sports and entertainment, and they forget that is the result of our wealth, not the cause of it. And they take for granted the stuff around us that has really created our quality of life and standard of living.

We take for granted the science and technology. But if you believe that the society gets what it celebrates and we need more capability to stay in the leading edge, to make the future better than the past, if you believe that therefore kids have to really learn to celebrate the important and right things, there’s got to be room for science and technology, in their consciousness, in the sea of noise of, frankly, a lot of the distractions. And so, 15 years ago, we said “Let’s create an institution that will do for science and technology and engineering what the NBA and NFL and the entertainment community have done so well to celebrate those things”.

I mean, think about it. We are surrounded by sports hero and entertainment figures. Where do kids in this country see scientist and engineers and inventors and thinkers and problem solvers as heroes, as celebrities? Where do they see that these are young, exciting people that love what they do and have the same passion as Shaquille O’Neil does? Where do they see that there are women and minorities that are every bit as much part of this world as these others? It’s rare. And so, 15 years ago we said “Let’s steal from the play book of sports, let’s make science and engineering and technology every bit as appealing and accessible and fun as any other sport”. Because the only sport that human really play in the unlimited class is thinking. I mean, you think we are big on the football field? Put an elephant out there. You think we are fast? Put a gazelle out there. The only sport in which human do really well is creating, and thinking. That’s what it’s all about.

But, in a media driven culture, how do you get that to kids? Well, again, stealing from the world of sports and entertainment. You want kids to do those things, you show them the best of the best. You show them, the incredible super start in the world of entertainment and singing and dancing, you show them the world’s best athletes in the NBA and NFL and the Olympics. So, in order for FIRST to work, we had to go find the super stars of science and technology. They are out there, they’ve created the life we’ve take for granted. But we had to collect them and figure out how to put them in front of kids in an interactive way that is friendly and appealing and accessible like sports.

And we did it. And it’s growing. But it’s important then to remember that the super stars in those other fields are paid to be there, to be stars, because that’s how they make a living. The mentors that are working with the students here, they have a day job. They keep the lights on, they keep the hospitals running, they are curing the diseases and making the air breathable and the water drinkable. These people, these mentors, these super stars of science and technology, are donating time and effort and energy to give kids and opportunity to see what’s really possible. They are the role models that hopefully are going to give kids an opportunity to make intelligent decisions with their lives. Maybe they will become intelligent designers, and becoming an intelligent designer will be an interesting thing.

It’s not just fun. We hope over the next couple of months you have as much fun as you can have in any sport you will ever do. But, the other part of FIRST that’s missing from most other things that are this much fun is that if you all do it right, the students that participate in this, might make career decision that literally will change their lives as a result of this. And it will change our lives, and it will change our culture, and it will change our future, and it will give us the right kinds of things to celebrate. So, we are now up to eleven hundred and some odd teams, it took us fifteen years to get here. If we can keep doing this right, I think all kids in this country and around the world should have the opportunity to see what’s really possible for people that focus in solving real problems and achieving really important goals in a fun, productive, nurturing environment. If we do it right we will keep attracting these incredible super stars from industries and universities and else where to make it work. And we will be able to do more with the students. And we will keep on this incredible growth trend with this incredible important organization.

I know you want to get onto the game, and I know Woodie [Flowers] is going to give you some really good insights about how to do it and Dave [Lavery] is going to show you some really cool technology that we put into the kit this year. But I am really asking everybody to, everyday, take a deep breath and remember that as much fun we are having, this is some really important stuff, and I just hope that the students realize what an unbelievable opportunity you all have, to take these people whose day job is to create the quality of life that we all take for granted and have them give you a window of what your futures might be if you use your time wisely and work hard at things that matter.

And as I said last night, why do we really do this? Why do I do this? Why do I try to convince so many people in business and industry and government to help us? Cause I am selfish. Because I want to get old and keep seeing the world to be a better and better place and I don’t think that happens for free. I am selfish because I get up every morning and see the same news as everybody else these are pretty crummy news these days. These tsunamis, and there’s hurricane, and there’s bird flu, and there’s terrorists, and all sorts of problems.

But then you look at this world full of people over worked and under loved trying to keep everything together and these incredible busy people some how have time to donate, to give, opportunities to kids to see what life can be like, for people that think, that have the tools of science and technology and engineering and the disciplines. And I think that, one of the bright spots in my life and in the life of a lot of people that participate in FIRST is that it brings the best from everybody that touches it. And it gives us hope for the future. That we really can, through science and technology, solve the problems we know about today, prepare for the ones that will come tomorrow, and have better lives, better futures.

So to everybody that participates, A, I thank you, and B, please help spread the word to the rest of the country and the rest of the world. We need more people on the positive side of the issues of this world, being net producers of solutions, and focus on the things that really matter. And we will keep doing it in a fun way, cause that’s the whole purpose of FIRST.

Good luck this year, have a great season!

-Dean Kamen, FIRST Founder, January 7th, 2006, Manchester, New Hampshire.

1 Like

I would also like to ask if anyone have Dean’s 1998 speech, please post it in here. I couldn’t quite find the complete text of it. (Or maybe it is shorter than I thought it was)

These speeches would fit perfectly into somewhere in the FIRSTwiki.

Oh yes, definitely. In fact, I don’t intent to limit these to just texts themselves. If video or audio files could be found for them and archived along with the transcripts and writing, all the better.

But since everyone is busy with the new game at the moment, this thread is going to have to do for now.

I was just thinking that another set of speeches that would be great to have archived would be the speeches announcing the Woodie Flowers Award winners (both championship and regional winners).