“Sir Ernie of Fall River”, or how a Portuguese MIT professor helped bring about the Iran deal

There are so few Americans of Portuguese descent that are seen on the national stage, much less the international stage, and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz has managed to do both.  He is one of the few people in politics and policy circles that I would totally go all fanboy over if I ever had the chance to meet him.

Why? you might ask.  After all, this guy is probably more famous for his hair in American culture than for anything else about him.

Well, let me tell you a bit about him.

I will try to do a quick summary from memory, so this doesn’t take me forever to write.

Secretary of Energy (and former MIT professor) Ernest Moniz is descended from Portuguese immigrants who came from the island of Sao Miguel, in the Azores, which is where my father’s family is also from.  He was born in Fall River, grew up there, went to Durfee High School and graduated in 1962, two years after my own father graduated from Somerset High School.

He first became an MIT professor in the 1970s, and he is still affiliated with MIT in some capacity (not sure what he is still doing, I think he sits on some oversight or advisory board) and worked in the Clinton administration in a science advisory capacity (I can’t remember the exact office).  And he was nominated for Secretary of Energy in 2013, for which he was unanimously approved by the Senate.  The guy is pretty wicked smaht.

And what’s more, he is just a highly approachable and likable guy.  Check out this two-part interview he did with Jon Stewart on the Daily show back in May.

Part One – http://www.cc.com/video-clips/b2qea7/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-exclusive—ernest-moniz-extended-interview-pt–1

Part Two – http://www.cc.com/video-clips/zxeuwg/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-exclusive—ernest-moniz-extended-interview-pt–2

Anyway, he first became noticed in mainstream American culture during President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2014.  The camera focused on him briefly while the President was discussing energy and energy policy.  And a thousand memes on his hair were born.

And Secretary Moniz has played a critical role in the negotiations with Iran, and after those negotiations ended Moniz stopped in Portugal, where he was knighted as a member of the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Henry.  That’s the highest award in that order.

Before Moniz left Portugal, the American ambassador there gave him a bottle of fine Madeira to open when (and only when) the negotiations with Iran were completed successfully.  So Moniz, now called “Sir Ernie of Fall River” by Secretary Kerry and the other negotiators, opened the bottle and shared it with them.

What a cool story.  Makes me want to have a glass.

I salute you, Mr. Secretary.  Parabens.  Saude. 

-Geoff

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