An important visit

His Excellency Dr. Abdul Kalam, former president of India, joined Fermilab Director Pier Oddone and former Fermilab director and Nobel laureate Leon Lederman for lunch on the 15th floor of Wilson Hall Monday, April 25.

Yesterday we were honored by the visit of His Excellency Dr. Abdul Kalam, the former president of India. Dr. Kalam, who is considered the father of India’s missile and space program, is a revered figure in India. Not only is he an accomplished scientist, engineer, educator and leader, but also a prolific writer with more than two dozen books to his name, including well known books of poetry. As president of India he was an early supporter of our collaborative work with Indian laboratories on superconducting radio frequency (SRF) accelerators along with India’s then Secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy Dr. Anil Kakodkar.

Today, that collaboration is working on the broad front of SRF technologies necessary for Project X and India is planning to make a large in-kind contribution toward building Project X. India’s current Secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy Dr. Srikumar Banerjee is also a very strong supporter of the collaboration as are the directors of the four Indian laboratories involved in the collaboration: BARC/Mumbai, IUAC/Delhi, RRCAT/Indore and VECC/Kolkata. Indian universities participate in the Fermilab program and will expand their participation in the many experiments possible with Project X. India’s primary interest beyond their participation in the science and technology for Project X is based on their long-term plans to develop intrinsically safer thorium-based power reactors.

As I sat at lunch with Dr. Kalam I saw him at work interacting with the four young students sitting at our table, both asking them questions and responding to their questions, with a clear aim to encourage and educate. He skillfully led the conversation to answer the question of what is the most important element in the development of young people and leading them to the conclusion that it is to have a dream. Only then did he stump them asking what was the most important quality to have in a dream. Afterwards he proceeded to explained that in a world full of pressures to make us all the same, the most important quality in a dream was to be a unique individual, contributing to society in a unique way.

After a tour of our facilities, Dr. Kalam gave a lecture to a full auditorium on his current dream of a multi-national collaboration to achieve a world knowledge platform for the benefit of mankind. His idealism was both evident and inspiring. We are very thankful, considering the many demands on his schedule during his short visit to Chicago, that he devoted nearly a full day for his visit to Fermilab, thus highlighting the importance and depth of our collaboration with Indian institutions.