New York’s Brightest

Once again, New York State has proven that it is home to the

most scientifically gifted high school students in the country, and that those

students attend public, not private, schools. The 40 finalists have been

announced in the Intel Science Talent Search (formerly the Westinghouse Science

Talent Search), the nation’s most prestigious academic contest among high

school students, and 13 of them-32.5 percent-come from New York. The next closest

state was California, with four finalists. The schools with the most impressive

showing were Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and Byram Hills High School in

Armonk, N.Y., each of which produced three finalists. 

Who are these students, who will now be competing for a

$100,000 college scholarship and the chance to join the ranks of previous

winners, among whom are five Nobel

laureates? Vinod Nambudiri, of Blind Brook High School, studied sleep

patterns in teenagers; Kimberly Kempadoo, of Ramapo Senior High School,

examined the effects of the neurotransmitter dopamine on goldfish; Johanna

Waldman, of Roslyn High School, conducted experiments to monitor students’

cheating behavior; Eve Henry, of Byram Hills High School, did research on the

cancer-fighting properties of vegetables (watercress came out ahead of

broccoli); and David Khalil, of Great Neck North High School, studied how the

human brain functions when it perceives ambiguity (he also invented an alarm to

protect sleepwalkers). It was the rare finalist who was not also president of

his or her student body, editor of the yearbook, a member of a varsity sports

team and a skilled musician.  Behind each finalist is a dedicated teacher,

which is a great testament to the quality of teaching in many New York schools.

In particular, the public schools have consistently shown that they know how to

nurture a creative scientific environment.

The Intel results also point to a troubling irony, however.

Only three of the New York finalists intend

to go to college in the state: Two plan to attend Columbia University,

and the third is looking toward Cornell. The rest will be spread out among

Harvard, Stanford, M.I.T., Princeton and Yale. 

One should ask why, with the country’s most talented high school science

students, New York does not have a college or university that can keep them

here? Instead, we export our best and brightest, like basketball players, to

out-of-state universities. Perhaps one of the finalists will one day solve that

puzzle.

Mayor Giuliani, Arts

Patron

New York sealed its place as a world-class city more than a

century ago, when it wisely invested millions of dollars in the construction of

cultural facilities that remain the envy of the world.

Now, in the first year of the 21st century, the city is

about to embark on another era of forward-thinking cultural investment. Mayor

Rudolph Giuliani has proposed spending $1.2 billion over the next decade on the

city’s museums, libraries and arts organizations. In addition, the cultural

community will be given $1.5 billion in tax breaks over the next four years.

For many reasons, City Hall cannot treat art and culture

like afterthoughts. Museums, theaters, libraries and other cultural

organizations are part of the lifeblood of New York. Culture brings smart,

interesting people here, which contributes both to the city’s tax base and to

its intellectual base.

Among the institutions that will benefit are Lincoln Center,

the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, the Museum of

Modern Art and the Museum of Jewish Heritage. The Mayor clearly understands

that this is the time to make such

commitments. Money set aside today can’t be raided in the future, when

times may not be so good and Mayors so generous.

Of course, it helps that Mr. Giuliani is in the

legacy-polishing phase of his tenure. Like any public official with an eye on

history, he is looking to influence the opinion makers of the future.

With this plan, Rudolph Giuliani will leave a profound mark.

He already has made the city safer-indeed, the safest large city in the nation.

Now he will make it richer in culture and art. He has set a commendable

standard, which future Mayors will undo only at great cost to themselves and

their city.

Arthur Levitt

As he steps down after eight years as chairman of the

Securities and Exchange Commission this month, Arthur Levitt will be recognized

not only as the longest-serving S.E.C. chairman ever, but also as one of that

rare breed of men and women who bring honor and dignity to public service.

The average American investor, who probably never knew Mr.

Levitt’s name, was the prime beneficiary of his superb work at the S.E.C. Mr.

Levitt had the guts, and know-how, to take on

Wall Street institutions such as the National Association of Securities

Dealers, the New York Stock Exchange and the American Stock Exchange; firms

such as Lazard Frères and Merrill Lynch; and the United States Congress. His

reforms of Nasdaq brought billions of dollars to investors. His programs

influenced the exchanges, the accounting industry and the municipal-bond

market. “There were a lot in the industry who felt Arthur was too tough on

them,” Alan Blinder, an economist at Princeton University, told The New York Times.  “But if people think he was too tough, look

at the markets. It’s been a fabulous period to be on Wall Street.”

Mr. Levitt’s dedication

to public service began when he became chairman of the American Stock Exchange

in 1977, after a successful career on Wall Street. He had an excellent role

model: His father, Arthur Levitt Sr., had an impeccable and unblemished record

as New York State Comptroller. Taken together, this father-son team compiled a

record of public service that equals or exceeds the better-known public

families of New York, such as Rockefeller and Wagner.

At a time when our elected officials often treat the public

trust with a terrible disregard, Arthur Levitt showed how a private man can

embark on a vigorous public career, make several lasting and deeply significant

changes, act at all times with uncommon decency, and leave his position larger

than he found it.