<i>Carpe Occasio</i>! Celebrate National Internet2 Day

Today, lots of people on Internet2 member campuses will be celebrating National Internet2 Day, locally with brown bag lunches, luncheons, and presentations from campus-based speakers—and virtually, using a variety of netcast options. We should all join them, no matter where we are.

Just as we now rarely give a thought to the people who designed and built the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Mackinac Bridge, and the Hoover Dam, users of the ubiquitous Internet will, in what will seem like no time at all, reap their connected benefits without considering pioneering efforts like Internet2. The people we live and work with who have the vision and who are doing the work will be forgotten, even as their creation lives on. So, carpe occasio, Internet 2, seize this favorable moment!

Somewhere in the plastic boxes that house my collection of family photographs there is an old oversize photograph with the upper right-hand corner torn off that shows the ballroom of a fancy hotel. The image is more dark brown and beige than it is black and white, clearly it’s an old print. Each of the many tables is filled with people, mostly couples, dressed to the nines, smiling broadly, and lifting glasses in a toast. On the back, in very legible handwriting, the photograph is labeled, “Pete and Mae, 1938.”

I never met Mae, but did get to enjoy Pete in his later years. “Pete” was Pete Clarity, my wife’s grandfather. He had grown up in Panama, where his father was an engineer with the Panama Canal project. Pete graduated from Renseallear and he helped build the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

I think about Pete and the thousands of people, some of whom gave their lives, every time I drive across Pennsylvania, but most drivers and passengers never give it a thought. There are places along the way where you could take a moment and stop and view a bronze plaque with some commemorative language, but few do. The situation is the same with other important and useful projects that I have recently driven across, like the Mackinac (Mack-in-awe) Bridge that connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan and the Hoover Dam. Even though the government has turned Hoover Dam into a tourist trap, you only see that if you drive over it – not if you are benefiting downstream from its existence.

But the people who designed and built those things, illustrated by that old photograph, did in fact celebrate. They did more than carpe diem, seize the day, they seized the “favorable moment,” occasio. They knew they were doing a big thing, and recognized and celebrated its importance in changing their world.

The Internet2 folks – those who fund it, those who run it, those who are doing the hands-on work, and everyone else on various campuses who are collaborating and supporting them, are changing the world. And, if you think about the scope of building Internet 2, the stress and the travel involved for many, there probably will be lives given up in a this project, too, sadly.

All too soon there will be few memories of the Internet2 project. We’ll zip around in public transit and in our cars with ubiquitous connectivity to anything we want, any time we want it. We will live in unimaginable combinations of virtual and physical communities. And we will give almost no thought to how it all came about. It is even unlikely that there will be much in the way of monuments in concrete and bronze, since the whole thing is virtual and distributed anyway. Where would you put the monument? Whose names would you inscribe?

We are all at the same place, all at the favorable moment, occasio, when this is happening, and we can recognize it. That’s the genius of Internet2 Day. I recommend that you visit the related Web site - http://events.Internet2.edu/2004/Internet2Day/ - and register as a participant. Carpe occasio – seize this favorable moment and be part of it.

About the Author

About the author: Terry Calhoun is Director of Communications and Publications for the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP). You can contact him through CT's IT Trends forum by clicking here. View more articles by Terry Calhoun.

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