The year 1998 saw momentous social advancement.
California bars, clubs and card-rooms went smoke-free.
The country of Mongolia switched from a 46-hour to a 40-hour work week.
Cue applause. Yay!
Neither the President nor members of Congress gave an official proclamation. Nonetheless it was fait accompli – the public, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the inventing community at large accepted August as National Inventors Month.
At the time, then-Inventors Digest Publisher Joanne Hayes-Rines said the motivation to create a month-long celebration for inventors was, “to recognize those talented, brave individuals who dare to be blatantly creative, and therefore different, and whose accomplishments affect every facet of our lives.”
OK. But why August?
“We had picked August because it was a slow press month,” Hayes-Rines said in an email. “And we hooked it with a few historical connections, but I don’t remember them now.”
The month of August, it turns out, is more than a slow news cycle. School is out. Congress is in recess. And the wheels of societal initiative seem to turn at half speed as well.
Thirteen years after the founding of National Inventors Month, it’s time for some more change.
With traditional allies, Inventors Digest is working with political leaders on both sides of the aisle to move National Inventors Month to May.
Look for an official Resolution this year (hopefully before the dog days of August), as well as an exciting line-up of sponsorship opportunities to boost innovation, as well as expose more youth to science, technology, engineering and math.
Indeed, the move to May better aligns National Inventors Month with the academic calendar. The move allows more opportunities for youth K-12 to become aware of the vital contributions inventors have made and continue to make for society, as well as to more broadly celebrate and foster the spirit and practice of innovation.
The move also coincides with the annual National Inventors Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, held each May in Washington, D.C. This year’s ceremony is Wednesday.
“Moving National Inventors Month to May can have a much stronger impact since that is a time when teachers and students can celebrate the contributions of inventors in their classrooms,” says Jeffrey Dollinger, the organization’s senior vice president of program development. “It is also a good time of year to seek greater involvement from partners at the federal level.”
Mark Reyland, executive director of the United Inventors Association, also supports the move.
“I think anything we can do to draw more attention to the contribution of inventors is always a good thing,” says Reyland. “In this case moving the recognition to May allows for better synergy with school programs than August did – and it also brings it in line with several other key industry events.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter as much what month we choose to recognize inventors,” Reyland adds. “It matters far more that we choose to recognize them in the first place.”
The move, which was in the works last year, also is timely considering President Barack Obama’s urgent call this year for a renaissance of national innovation, or as he said in a State of the Union address, a new “Sputnik moment.”
“We wholeheartedly agree that in order for the United States to maintain its leadership role in science, technology and invention, we need to do everything we can to encourage innovation,” says Dollinger.
And what about Hayes-Rines, one of the original founders of National Inventors Month? What does she have to say about moving her baby to May?
“If you can bring in the Hall of Fame, and if the powers that be want May,” she says, “then go for it.”
Editor’s note: This article appears in the May 2011 print edition.
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