I recently saw Hidden Figures which is a remarkable movie about the role African-American women played in the early American space program. These women were on the leading edge of breaking barriers for both women and African Americans. Given that they were on the leading edge it is logical to conclude that there were many more brilliant African-American women who came before them and were unable to contribute to our scientific and cultural advancement due to racism and sexism. We all suffered in the past and continue to suffer today as a result of their marginalization. We will never know the heights we could have reached today with their help.
It would be nice if we had learned the lessons of the past, but we continue to deny opportunities to people based on national origin, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and class. This weekend we are denying entry to non-Christians from seven countries for highly suspect and unsubstantiated security purposes. Many of these are the scholars who will become the architects of our future, and they are traveling here because our universities are still centers of excellence in the world. By pushing people away we are diminishing ourselves and our society both now and in the future. We need only look to examples such as Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, and Hans Krebs to see examples where the United States has accepted refugees who have had a tremendous influence on our understanding of the Universe itself. If we want to make America great again, we should open our arms to immigrants and refugees, who have traditionally made our country great.