Sunday, January 19, 2003

The real Reed

This post by Dean Esmay reminded me of an experience I had doing contract work for Commonwealth Edison 10+ years ago.

In college I kept an eye on ComEd because they were based in Chicago, near where I wanted to locate after graduation. So I researched their recruiters whenever they came to the campus. And I noticed that they were always black.

This wasn't exactly a scientific sample, but it did defy probabilities. And by then I knew of the Bakke case and was disgusted that the issue had ever come up. Yeah, that's it - the way to achieve equality is through systematic discrimination, to gain "the just spoils of a righteous war". The cumulative effect of these and other random observations, independent of suggestions from anyone else and contrary to the way I had been conditioned, was to make me inherently suspicious of blacks in high positions.

Then I became aware of a black executive at ComEd named Cordell Reed. He was high in the engineering department over the nuclear power plants, and I was morbidly curious - was he what I was already thinking of as "an affirmative action special"?

So I asked around as discreetly as possible. Everyone I asked said that he was the genuine article. He was one of the first 3 engineering graduates from the University of Illinois. He was also a nuclear power pioneer - he had worked in the control room at Dresden, which at the time was first commercial nuclear power plant built entirely without federal money. I have no reason to believe that anyone was being PC - they really thought well of the man.

Mr. Reed did it the hard way, as recognized here and and at the National Academy of Engineering.

So, I offer the now-retired Mr. Reed my profound apologies and respect. It's the sorriest honor he'll ever get, but it's all I have.

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