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Remarks at Newton Apple Tree Presentation to Former Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. "Jay" Rockefeller

[As prepared.]

Mr. Chairman, distinguished guests, former "JDR" staff, my name is Willie May, director of NIST. On behalf of all of us at NIST, we welcome you, Mr. Chairman, to "Rockefeller Center," also known as NIST. 

Let me fill all of you in on a little secret: There is a mutual admiration society between NIST and Chairman Rockefeller. 

He has said many wonderful, kind things about our people and our programs, and we have said a lot of nice things about him, to him, and to others. 

Rarely has a federal agency had a champion quite like we have had with Senator Rockefeller. He believed in NIST back when we were still NBS! 

He was a champion for NIST when cybersecurity was called information technology.

He was a forceful advocate for NIST when we were talking about the factory of the future. Today, we call it advanced, or digital, manufacturing.

Chairman Rockefeller believed in federal workers, in our workers. In their pursuit of excellence (have I mentioned our Nobel prizes?), dedication to public service, and commitment to scientific integrity. 

We are a small agency, relatively speaking. With the right friends, we could seem a lot bigger. It helped a small agency like us to have a big friend. And we've had that friend in Jay Rockefeller.

This is not Chairman Rockefeller's first visit to NIST—not even close. He was here talking with NIST staff and learning about our programs when, frankly, we were all a lot younger. Gas was around $0.95 a gallon! I even had hair!

What all of this points to is one undeniable truth: Jay Rockefeller made a huge difference in the lives of all those who have called this place their professional home for the entirety of his storied Senate career, and today we thank him for it.

And so the question is, how do we thank you for all you have done for us?

And we thought and we thought, and then it dawned on us. It literally hit us in the head. We could think of no better way to thank you for all you have done for us than to give you a sapling that is a descendant of the Newton apple tree. 

It seemed fitting to award you an apple tree in commemoration of your decades of leadership on science and technology issues as a senator from a major apple producing state. 

This sapling will reside on the grounds of West Virginia University in Morgantown, at the John D. Rockefeller IV School of Policy and Politics, where I have no doubt it will flourish. 

So if I may, I would like to read the inscription on the plaque:

"This Newton Apple Tree is presented to Senator John Rockefeller in recognition of his distinguished service to the Nation as a member of the United States Senate and in particular as Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

NIST greatly appreciates Senator Rockefeller's steadfast support for NIST's mission and its staff over many years. As this tree grows, may it remind everyone who stands in its shadow of Senator Rockefeller's strong support for federal science and engineering.

This tree is a direct descendent of the original apple tree in England that is said to have inspired Sir Isaac Newton to develop his theory of gravitational forces. Grafted from the Newton Apple Tree on NIST's headquarters campus in Gaithersburg, Md., we hope that the fruit of this descendent inspires others to pursue scientific discovery."

Atop the inscription is this quote from Sir Isaac Newton: "If I have been able to see farther than others, it was because I stood on the shoulders of giants." 

We, NIST, can see farther—our future is much brighter—because you kept us perched and protected on your shoulders.

On behalf of all of us at NIST, thank you so very much, Chairman Rockefeller.

Created May 13, 2015, Updated June 2, 2021