Address delivered by the Executive Director at the closing ceremonies in MathPath 2005
July 23, 2005
Colorado Springs, CO
Parents, students, staff, and faculty:
FAREWELL TO “AMS”
Rene Descartes said in his great work “The Discourse on the Method” the following: “ Je pense, donc je sui.”
More brief, in Latin, “ Cogito, ergo sum”.
Traditionally translated as "I think, therefore I am," but more accurately "I am thinking, therefore I exist" is possibly the single best-known philosophical statement. I have titled this speech “ Farewell to ams.” Ams purposely spelled ams.
You are all thinkers, you are the am in Descartes’ statement. I am bidding farewell to you, the ams. Farewell to ams.
Ernest Hemingway wrote the novel “Farewell to arms” which essentially depicts men and women behaving with grace under pressure and finding the courage to go on.
You have been the mathematician’s apprentice for four weeks. We have tried to provide you training that is appropriate for the future mathematician. We are confident that you are now among the best prepared students in the world for your age.
Many of you will choose the mathematical career, others will go on into allied disciplines. Your early entry into the world of mathematics will only help you launch your career early. You will go on to become undergraduates in universities and great colleges and to do graduate work in the finest universities under great professors. After your graduate work, most of you will become professors or scientists. You will teach and do research. Some of you will become generalists and some specialists. But the glory will come to those of you who become specialists. That is, those who do research at the cutting edge of a small field.
There is a Russian story that a man was granted a wish that he will have all the land in the closed simple loop he can complete by running so long as he returns to the starting point by sunset. The man started running. There he sees a fine meadow, there a lovely forest, there a mansion, and there a little lake, and yonder a rolling hill. It was close to sunset but he thought he could include some more lovely areas, but by sunset he could not come back to the starting point and he lost.
In any event, you will be enthralled now and then by the discoveries you make.
But sustained happiness would only come from your demeanor – how you treat others, as a result of how you think about others. Do we do a favor to others by being nice to them. Nay, we are being nice to ourselves. [Pause] We live in comfort because of others – the things they built, the discoveries they made, the food they brought, and so on and on. People gave you life and people will bury you. We would be in trouble without people. So being nice to people is in our self interest.
I call you Mathpathians, like Olympians. Afterall, some of you will go on to represent our nation in not only the International mathematical Olympiad, but also in other such events. A Mathpathian is nice to others, and he is good to others. But there is an even harder thing that I would like to recommend as your ideal vision. That is, not only to do good deeds, but to consider the welfare of others when yours is in conflict with theirs. This is hard to do. However, I have found that when conflicts arise, the solution is always found in looking at the principle involved, regardless of the parties involved.
It is easy to be carried away by the thought of your mathematical capacity. But remember what Professor Paul Zeitz reminded us today. “Intellect is an attribute, not a virtue.” In society, there are people with various abilities to the extreme. You are just one of them. This means you would think of yourself as another human and treat your coworkers with deference so that they as well as you will have an easier life.
We have worked hard for you. .
When I look at you what I see is not the youngster, but the future professor or the famous scientist. This is why I have always treated you with respect. But you are a human still growing up and you are often mischievous. But I can not get mad with you even when it is warranted. That is why we have men and women here – our staff - who can achieve a balance that I can not achieve myself or with others like myself collectively.
Our counselors this year have made this one of two best years so far. I thank them.
The strength of the camp operation emanates from the bond that exists among the senior staff, including me.
Mr. Evans, while some of you may not have preferred the school master discipline he necessarily had to enforce, has been always thorough and professional in the work. Mr. Lippert has one of the most difficult jobs – academic scheduling and coordination of problem solving classes. He makes the job look easy and even finds time to procure a variety of prizes for those who win in the Problem of the Day. We are all thankful to Mr. Sumner for running a safe, fun, and orderly camp. Since the camp is run by Mr. Sumner through the staff under him, it is interesting that he always looks out for his colleagues. He has always exacted from me the highest remuneration for his employees, while at the same time taking a cut himself as well as recommending the same cut only for the most senior staff. I am thankful for his wisdom, fairness and straight forwardness.
Professors Glen Van Brummelen, Drucker, Hartshorne, and Paul Zeitz are here because they are among the world’s best communicators of mathematics. We are thankful that they make time in their busy schedule to be here.
We are grateful to your parents for making it possible for you attend.
Parents constitute one of the core elements of the Mathpath family. We, the staff, would come to the camp for a few years, and some of us come for even less time. But the parent of the Mathpathian remains so for ever for Mathpath. We thank you – those of you who are present and those who are at home.
I now bid farewell to ams.
May the future be happy for you!
George Rubin Thomas, Ph.D.
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