The People in the Room: Freedom & Oak Ridge

By Jim Campbell, ETEC’s First President | July 03, 2020 |

This week I re-read two of our nation’s most sacred documents: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. They aren’t long, but they say a lot.

Recommended reading for all members of ETEC and really everyone.

They talk about freedom. Freedom for the people to govern themselves. Freedom to worship how they wanted to worship and to pursue happiness. They talk about equality and justice.

They are complicated documents, free to interpretation, as we have come to learn over the past several hundred years, in many different ways. But they are as relevant today as they were in the 18th century.

A congressman came to Oak Ridge some years ago to speak to the ETEC audience. He asked, “What should I speak about?” I suggested only one word: “freedom.”

Forty-five minutes later, without notes, he reminded us that everything we do in this town is about freedom.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about freedom and Oak Ridge, TN is the Y-12 National Security Complex. Created in a time of national crisis, the men and women of Y-12 go to work daily to preserve our Nation’s security. They do it quietly without a lot of fuss or fanfare. There isn’t a place I know of that is more dedicated to the cause of freedom than Y-12 National Security Complex.

Except for Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The great science of ORNL, which even as we celebrate this 4th of July holiday, is working with partners all over the world to free us of this global pandemic. They’ve been working on energy security, eradicating other diseases, and making the world safer in thousands of ways since the end of the Manhattan Project. They care about freedom.

And we cannot forget ORAU and ORISE. They bring thousands of young people, just starting their careers, to government organizations that need the best and the brightest. They open up the world of science and engineering to new generations. The freedom to pursue happiness indeed.

The enabler in these pursuits is the men and women who work in environmental management. They are repurposing our lands, removing wastes, and creating new places to work and play safely. They are heroes in every sense of the word.

Freedom is at the core of the federal missions in Oak Ridge. Its challenges and responsibilities come with the people who work here every day. And there are new challenges every day.

Happy 4th of July. May we always be free.