Presentation - Richard Hayes

Presentation - Richard Hayes
Opening Plenary


Greetings everyone! It’s my great pleasure to welcome everyone here to this 3rd Tarrytown Meeting.  I’d like to set the stage for what we’ll be doing together over the next three days.

The Tarrytown Meetings were initiated in 2010 to help foster a network of individuals and groups committed to addressing the challenges raised by the new human biotechnologies, and whose concerns were grounded in values of social justice, human rights, ecological integrity, democratic accountability and the common good. We recognized the many benign and beneficent applications these technologies might hold, but were also acutely aware of the many profoundly pernicious uses to which they might be put, if allowed to develop free of responsible societal oversight. 

I’m happy to say that we’ve made good on our initial intensions.  We’ve indeed helped foster a network of committed individuals and groups; we’ve developed ongoing relationships on critical issues; we’ve begun collaborating in new ways, with new colleagues, around new projects; and additional projects are being proposed.  We’ll be hearing more about all of these over the next three days.  

When we initiated the Tarrytown Meetings we planned to take a break after the third meeting and assess what should happen next.  So this Tarrytown Meeting is the last of the currently planned series.  But it’s hardly the end of the work we need to do together.  The challenges we face are as intense as when we began. In truth, we’ve only just begun.

The three Tarrytown Meetings have been invitation-only, and the proceedings have intentionally been mostly off-the-record, in order to allow full and frank exchange on controversial topics.  Now we need to move beyond our network, and begin communicating with broader audiences.  So special attention is being given at this final meeting to skills and initiatives to do this, through education, advocacy, campaigning and more.  A special plenary tomorrow morning will focus on grounding our communications in core values that resonate widely.  And the theme of communicating with wider publics figures prominently throughout the many working sessions.

As you can see in your programs, much of the working session time is committed to four focal tracks, addressing Markets and Assisted Reproduction, Genetic Technologies and Racial Justice, Genetic Information Rights and Responsibilities, and Synthetic Biology and the Human Future. This format was adopted in direct response to the many evaluations we received last year urging that we allow participants time to really sink their teeth into a selected number of priority topics, and to give special consideration to communication and advocacy efforts we might be in a position to initiate or support. Everyone here is free, of course, to move between tracks at any time, but some tracks are designed to build in a particular manner over the three days.  In addition to the tracked sessions, we’ve organized a number of sessions which intentionally cut across the topical boundaries of the tracks.

This fall we’ll be preparing a report on everything that took place during the course of the threeTarrytown meetings. We’ll be inviting the over 200 colleagues who’ve participated in the Meetings to collaborate on this report.  We’ll be getting all the videos, and much of the written material, appropriately vetted, onto the Tarrytown Meetings YouTube Channel and other public sites, and will be actively promoting these.

In addition, although there won’t be a “Tarrytown 4” in 2013, we are proposing that there be a number of smaller-scale “Tarrytown 3.5’s”, or “Biopolitical convenings,” in 2013. You’ll be hearing more about these, and about how you can help shape and plan them, tomorrow evening. 

One objective that we had hoped to make more progress on over the past three years than we have is that of identifying new sources of funding for all the important work in which so many of us are engaged. It’s imperative that we do better at this, and we plan to redouble our funding outreach efforts after this Meeting. In fact, let’s get started now. I’d like to invite anyone who wants to help strategize further outreach to the philanthropic community to join me and others at breakfast tomorrow morning at 8:00 am, in the main dining hall.

I have a second invitation as well.  From the start, the Tarrytown Meetings have been a collective effort, involving numerous individuals and organizations.  It fair to acknowledge, of course, the special contribution that the Center for Genetics and Society has played in providing staff support for these Meetings.  As many of you may be aware, the current CGS Executive Director is soon to be stepping down from that role. We have a search underway for candidates for the E.D. position, and are looking for a really exciting, dynamic individual who can build on what we have in place right now, both for CGS itself and for the work we want to do in support of the wider network of colleagues addressing these issues.  So I’d like to invite everyone here to think of anyone you know who might be a candidate, and to talk with the head of our search committee, CGS Advisory Board member Francine Coeytaux – Francine, will you stand up and wave - about how we might reach out to those colleagues.

Just two logistics announcements: Dinner today and tomorrow will be here in the Mary Duke Ballroom. Breakfast, and tomorrow’s lunch, will be in the Main Dining Hall.  But lunch on Wednesday will be here in the Mary Duke Ballroom, to give us more time together before our closing plenary. 

If in the course of our three days together you have any questions, suggestions or proposals about anything – the program, schedule, logistics, rooms, food, av equipment, anything at all – just grab any of the four Tarrytown Meetings Co-Chairs – that’s me, Marcy Darnovsky, Judy Norsigian and Osagie Obasogie – or any of the CGS staff and staff associates – and I’ll ask them to stand up and wave – Emily Beitiks, Jessica Cussins, Sona Maker, Jake Orr and Daniel Sharp.

OK, with that, let me introduce CGS Associate Executive Director Marcy Darnovsky, who will lead us in today’s opening plenary session.