On Friday, the internet mourned the loss of Leonard Nimoy, who was best known as Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek series.
As a character, Spock showed the world that it was okay to be a little different, that smart was cool, that science was cool.
Nimoy’s public life didn’t end with Star Trek, though. As my colleague Nathaniel Downes notes, Nimoy was a photographer, a poet, an author and he acted in numerous other venues. He was also a champion of science.
In many ways, Nimoy was truly ahead of his time. In 1968, he addressed a teenage girl who had a black mother and a white father. She wrote to him because Mr. Spock was half Vulcan on Star Trek. The girl was feeling left out because she wasn’t really accepted as either white or African American. Nimoy advised her, among other things, to “realize the difference between popularity and true greatness. It has been said that ‘popularity’ is merely the crumbs of greatness.”
Like the teenage girl, President Obama is also biracial. He likely also knows the pain of not being accepted by either. Fortunately, he chose true greatness. Obama also related to Spock in another way. Both are smarter than most people. Both are a bit nerdy. It’s easy to see that the death of Nimoy affected Obama as much as any other Star Trek loving American. He issued a statement about Nimoy’s passing on Friday:
Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy. Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time. And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.
I loved Spock.
In 2007, I had the chance to meet Leonard in person. It was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for “Live long and prosper.” And after 83 years on this planet – and on his visits to many others – it’s clear Leonard Nimoy did just that. Michelle and I join his family, friends, and countless fans who miss him so dearly today.
Featured image via Popular Mechanics.