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My refusal to make the Pledge of Allegiance
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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So for instance, one thing is that because of the protest against the Vietnam War I refused to say the pledge to the flag. And the principal would call me in and tell me he would expel me, I was like, fine, expel me. I have the right to... You know, it doesn't mean anything if you're forced to say it. And he said, 'You know, sometimes the FBI comes by and asks me about people, and if they ever ask me about you I'll tell them that you wouldn't say the...' I was like, 'Fine, you do that.'

And in fact, years later when I was on some commission appointed by the president to do something they were doing a security check on me and they said, 'Is there anybody who will say anything bad about you?' And I said, 'Yes, actually, you can go back and talk to my high school principal and he'll tell you how unpatriotic I am.'

W Daniel Hillis (b. 1956) is an American inventor, scientist, author and engineer. While doing his doctoral work at MIT under artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, he invented the concept of parallel computers, that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He also co-founded the famous parallel computing company, Thinking Machines, in 1983 which marked a new era in computing. In 1996, Hillis left MIT for California, where he spent time leading Disney’s Imagineers. He developed new technologies and business strategies for Disney's theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer product businesses. More recently, Hillis co-founded an engineering and design company, Applied Minds, and several start-ups, among them Applied Proteomics in San Diego, MetaWeb Technologies (acquired by Google) in San Francisco, and his current passion, Applied Invention in Cambridge, MA, which 'partners with clients to create innovative products and services'. He holds over 100 US patents, covering parallel computers, disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, and various electronic and mechanical devices (including a 10,000-year mechanical clock), and has recently moved into working on problems in medicine. In recognition of his work Hillis has won many awards, including the Dan David Prize.

Listeners: George Dyson Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: clash, Pledge of Allegiance, flag, high school, FBI, principal, patriotism

Duration: 1 minute, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017