This past weekend I visited Ellis Island in New York City, where 12 million immigrants came to pursue a new life. One of those immigrants was Piotr Wylegala of Poland, my great grandfather, a poor tailor from Poland, whom I never met. And yet, Great Grandpap Pete left a huge inheritance for his children, his children’s children, and generations after. By spending what might have been a life’s fortune for travel, by braving a putrid 3rd-class voyage across the sea, by starting anew in a land foreign in tongue and culture … he became an American. And as a result, I am an American, and my children are American. The inheritance my Great Grandpap Pete left was not one of money or property, but of opportunity and hope. I am deeply thankful.
When I was about 5 years old, I had my tonsils taken out. My Grandma Kopson bought me a gift, to cheer me: a handheld calculator. It seemed as large as a brick — much larger than today’s calculators — and used a lot of batteries. And I loved it. I loved to play with numbers, try little experiments with numbers, see numbers. That love of numbers and math has extended to the present. I am using calculations with my research in “Physics of Community”, which studies community decision making, power, conflict, competition, cooperation, and the like. What do you love so much that you doodle with it in your spare time? Dance? Writing? Piano? Gardening? Woodwork? Cars? These are things that we excel at. Let us never give up our pursuit of Excellence in those things we love.