Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Help get Robert A. Heinlein into the Hall of Famous Missourians

If you don't know who Robert A Heinlein is, then you probably aren't a science fiction fan. Even if reading isn't your thing, he has influenced American culture immensely, and his works shaped the future of science fiction. He was named the first Grand Master of Science Fiction in 1974, and along with Clarke and Asimov are the best known authors in science fiction history. Even if you're not a science fiction fan, you've probably heard of his work "Stranger in a Strange Land" that had such a major impact that Billy Joel's "We didn't Start the Fire" lists it alongside Bob Dylan and the separation of Berlin by the Berlin Wall.

Odds are much better that you know who Heinlein is than what the Hall of Famous Missourians is. The Hall recognizes noteworthy individuals who have at some point called Missouri their home. While housed in the capitol, all existing busts were paid for by a fundraiser held by the Speaker of the House who selected the respective inductees. The Hall is located on the third floor of the Missouri capitol building in the rotunda (the big round area in the middle) and open to the public. These are frequently used to educate students on their heritage as Missourians.

In 2013, the Speaker asked the public to weigh in, picking two to induct (Andrew Taylor Still and Robert A. Heinlein) while he picked another two (Mel Hancock and Virginia Minor). Of these four, all but one were able to be funded through the Speaker's efforts. Not to leave Heinlein out, though, for the first time ever, an outside party is being allowed to raise funds for the bust of the next inductee.

That's where you come in!

The Heinlein Society has taken on the task of leading the fund raising, and they need our help!

  • If you prefer Paypal, they have four donate buttons at the top of the page. You want the one on the top-right that mentions the bronze bust of Robert A. Heinlein. 
  • If you prefer to donate by check, they have their full address listed at the bottom of the page.
  • Whether you donate or not, SHARE their link and send more people there who might donate.

I have wanted to see Heinlein in the Hall of Famous Missourians for as long as I've known it existed. I'm not the only one who has been crossing my fingers every year, hoping his name would come up. When I learned the question was going to be opened up to the public, I was excited. The moment it was officially announced to the public, I personally emailed THS, posted it on Twitter, and emailed it to my family and friends...along with a number of reminders of just how important Heinlein was in shaping what we take for granted today. I believe that got all of three votes, and one of the three was mine. Fortunately, other people jumped in and made sure he won a place in the Hall. While I'm disappointed it wasn't able to be funded last year, it is still very cool that Heinlein will be the first in the history of the Hall to be crowdsourced. As a man known for popularizing the phrase and concept "pay it forward", it seems fitting that we all can step in and have a part in making sure the future doesn't lose sight of the bright light left behind by one of our most brilliant minds. As much as I wish Heinlein as alive to be recognized, the purpose of recognizing our heroes is to inspire the next generation.

This is where I mention that I work for the Missouri House of Representatives as nonpartisan staff and have done so for almost a decade now. I've written a lot of the code that makes the Hall of Famous Missourians visible on the web. I'm posting this on my own time on my own account because I am a fan of science fiction and a fan of Heinlein's works (most of them...if someone asks I might post reading recommendations), but it wouldn't be right not to mention this bust would be three floors above me where I can go see that nerds like me are not the only ones who realize the importance of science fiction to the world. I am also donating to this.
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