Neil deGrasse Tyson
A person who thinks unconventionally -- even something as simple as having great faith in one's self -- will experience intolerance and prejudice in society and in school. Many "open minded" teachers and administrators will only go so far in support of your open mindedness, and in many cases they won't support it at all. It's difficult for young people to recognize this because our educational systems support authorities in casting their discomfort as your defect. As a result many young people are pressed into inferior situations presented as the "wiser" alternative. If you aspire to great things, then the struggles Neil Tyson describes will apply to you whether or not you are black.

Hindering a passionate person often does little more than piss that person off. And while fighting and resistance are not often the best ways forward, they certainly served Neil well. But then Neil is not only passionate, he's also ambitious, smart, savvy, and charismatic. Neil is now the director of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium in New York City, and a working astrophysicist. He has become a celebrity in his role as a public ambassador of science.

Neil and I were friends as graduate students in Texas, where his future wife Alice and I were classmates. After this interview we all met at Macy's to shop for luggage.

Interview Excerpts
Read the full interview :

"Call it ambition or call it enchantment, but it was the source of my energy to continue to create, to continue to write. And of course I’ve always had a love for the universe, and that has been since I was 9 years old, first visiting the Hayden Planetarium… growing up in New York City where there is no night sky… The stars came out (in the planetarium) and I thought it was a hoax. I thought it was a hoax because there are not that many stars. I said, 'I know how many stars there are and it’s not that!'…

"I would rather have someone who is inspired by their work stand in front of me and be my teacher, even if they don’t know how to teach. Because — you know something — that doesn’t matter. In the end what matters is the osmotic link that is made between your and their enthusiasm. Just by being in the same room at the same time…

"…because my interest ran deep, that gave me the drive to never stop … in spite of personality mismatches between me and my first graduate school… I had a Ph.D. committee and things were breaking down and they just dissolved the committee, which was tantamount to them saying 'We’re kicking you out.' You know? They did not understand the depth of my interest in the subject. They did not understand my resolve with regard to that ambition. So for them to say, 'What are you going to do now? … Do you want to become a computer salesman or …' It was like 'No! … No, it doesn’t work that way!' …

"There is no shortage of people telling you what you shouldn’t be in life.  And why is that so? Like, why do they even give a shit? Why should someone go out of their way to tell you what you can’t be?" …

"I don’t have patience for people who want to limit the dreams of others."


Neil's Bio
Neil's Research
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Wikipedia
Neil ca. 1983

Copyright © 2010, Lincoln Stoller. All rights reserved.