Imagining the Future

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. This ran in the September 2001, edition of National Right to Life News and the reason we’re including it in our year-long “Roe at 40” series is that I believe it helps us understand the nature of the pro-life grassroots and why we must never fail to thank each and every one of you for all that you are doing each and every day. If you are not a subscriber to National Right to Life News, please call us at 202-626-8828.

J.C.R. Licklider

J.C.R. Licklider

As I often do on my ride into work, I flipped my radio dial over to National Public Radio. I was rewarded with a fascinating interview with M. Mitchell Waldrop, author of a new biography of a man 99.999% of us have never heard of: J.C.R. Licklider.Licklider, who died in 1990, was a “seminal influence” in helping create the world of personal computers in which nearly all of us now actively participate. A visionary who “imagined the future” (in Waldrop’s elegant phrase), Licklider’s contributions apparently are endless. Although for all practical purposes unknown to the wider world, Licklider laid the foundation for virtually all of modern computing – – “times-sharing, point-and-click interfaces, graphics and the Internet.”

Among his greatest strengths was that when presented with a “never-to-be-repeated opportunity,” Licklider had the guts to press ahead where others might falter. Yet he was genuinely humble, always pooh-poohing his own contributions.

Part of the reason his enormously inventive work has gone unrecognized, Waldrop writes, is because “he refused to toot his own horn. He seems to have been one of those rare beings who genuinely didn’t care who got the credit.”

As I looked Waldrop up on the web, I learned that he is a physicist turned journalist. I checked out a few of his many other fine pieces. The title of one preliminary essay on Licklider caught my eye because it made me think of our Movement: “Computing’s Johnny Appleseed.”

But while there was only one J.C.R. Licklider, there are thousands and thousands of grassroots pro-life champions, each of whom is sowing good will, compassion, and love for both mothers and their unborn children. And know that your efforts are bearing fruit.

Like Licklider, none of you feels the need to brag about what you do. Like this unfailingly humble man most of your work is done out of the limelight, completed quietly behind the scenes.

Like this computing visionary, you could care less who gets the credit. What matters is that together we are moving the world in the direction of consistently finding life-affirming solutions.

A final thought. Licklider provided support and encouragement to a huge number of students and assistants over the years. He was a tremendous teacher and mentor.

One told Waldrop, “[E]verybody he touched felt that he was their hero, and that he had been an extraordinarily important person in their life.”


That is the way I feel when I go out to give talks or when I have the privilege of meeting the people who make up this Movement at National Right to Life’s annual convention. Each one of you is a hero to me. Each one of you is “an extraordinarily important person” not just to me, but, more importantly, to the millions of little ones whose futures depend on your indefatigable determination and faithfulness.

There is another new book out with the arresting title of “The Fragility of Goodness.” Indeed, goodness is delicate, like a flower that must be cared for, nurtured, and protected from the elements.

And that is exactly what you do, day in, day out, in season and out.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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