John F. Chafee Memorial Lecture


Each year, ladies and gentlemen, a high point of our national conference, in addition to the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award, is the accompanying John H. Chafee Memorial Lecture, and also its handsome publication, which you will generally receive a little bit later in the year. There are copies of past lectures on the tables outside, handsomely produced, and I invite you to take them and enjoy reading them. It’s a wonderful selection.

As senator from Rhode Island, Senator John Chafee was one of the pioneers to campaign on behalf of the environment. He was indefatigable, he was courageous, and he was eloquent in defending the environment against corporate greed, political ideologues, and an apathetic public.

I personally experienced his commitment when ideologues within the Reagan Administration were trying to reverse the strong U.S. position for an effective ozone treaty, the Montreal Protocol, and incidentally, to relieve me of my position as chief U.S. negotiator in the process. Senator Chafee was solid as a rock in his support of me and of a strong protocol, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Ladies and gentlemen, the list of Chafee lecturers rivals the Nobel Prize I would say. In fact, the first were Nobel laureates, Sherry Rowland and Mario Molina, who provided a scientific underpinning for the Montreal Protocol and protection of the ozone layer. And after that came E.O. Wilson, Rita Colwell, Jared Diamond, William Ruckelshaus, Ralph Cicerone, and Larry Brilliant. They’re all names that you all recognize.

And one of the most important fringe benefits for me as being president of this wonderful organization is introducing the annual John H. Chafee Memorial Lecture. In this case, it’s an old friend and colleague, this year’s laureate, John Holdren. He holds not one, but two professorships at my alma mater, Harvard University. He is Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, and he is also professor of Environmental Science and Public Policy in Harvard's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.  It's particularly appropriate because Senator John Heinz was a very close colleague of Senator Chafee in those early days of providing leadership on environmental issues in the U.S. Senate. 

Dr. Holdren is also the President and Director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, and is the immediate past President and current Chairman of the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS.  A more complete biography of our laureate is on page 32 of your program [see page 23 in this document].

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to present this year's Chafee lecturer, Dr. John Holdren.


-Ambassador Richard Benedick, President, National Council for Science and the Environment