The Roddenberry Foundation recently announced a $1,000,000 cash prize for the best ideas on how to make our future #BoldlyBetter. TrekMovie interviewed leader of The Roddenberry Foundation and heir to the Star Trek throne Rod Roddenberry about the #BoldlyBetter campaign, his foundation’s funding of innovative ideas, and more.
Header image from Chasing Atlantis
Legacy is something that everyone at some time or another wonders about. What will be their legacy be when all is said and done? For Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, it was not just a 50-year pop culture phenomenon, but a movement that says humanity’s future is one of hope and accomplishment. While he might have been known as the Great Bird of the Galaxy, his son Rod is making a name for himself as the Great Facilitator of the Galaxy through his Roddenberry Foundation, which seeks to spur innovation by all to realize the future his father envisioned.
Sparking Radical Innovation
“It’s about big, bold ideas that can change the world.” Rod’s mission is to “spark”, as he refers to it, “radical innovation,” to assist the human race to move forward. In addition to cash prizes being offered to anyone who conceives or is already working on an idea “for a boldly better future,” the Foundation also launched its #BoldlyBetter movement on September 3rd during the Mission: New York convention. The idea behind the hashtag is to spark a viral and social media crusade; to encourage not only Star Trek fans, but all people across the globe, to share their ideas, whether “radical innovation” or a more personal grassroots campaign. In addition, Rod also wants Star Trek fans to share how the franchise has shaped their lives.
Foundation to Issue Cash Prizes to Creators, Inventors, and Radical Thinkers
Prior to the start of the 50th anniversary rebroadcast of the episode that ignited the Star Trek phenomenon, “The Man Trap”, at the Smithsonian on September 8th, Rod presented a challenge to the next generation of creators, innovators, and radical thinkers: help humanity move forward and make the world a better place in which to live. To that effect, Roddenberry announced cash prizes would be awarded to the best ideas to accomplish the goal.
Funds from the Roddenberry Foundation will be awarded to those looking to shake-up the status quo of traditional ideas and research, to find ways to improve life on the planet, and help the human race move forward.
“This year, we are running a $1,000,000 prize,” Roddenberry said, “with one $400,000 and four $150,000 prizes. The Roddenberry Prize is for anyone out there who has a bold, innovative idea that has the potential to address a global issue. It doesn’t matter where it is in its process or if it’s a person, a team, or an organization driving it.
“We want to encourage the guy in his basement or garage who’s got a unique idea or even a corporation or large non-profit; it’s for anyone and everyone. That’s the real engagement we want with the public. If you want a better future, have an idea, let’s hear it.”
Attacking this initiative on two fronts, the Foundations’ #BoldlyBetter drive is much more than a social media hashtag. In fact, it is about continuing and elevating the mission that Rod’s father began 50 years ago. Star Trek’s message was one of hope, inclusion and the human desire to explore and grow. Rod wants that hopeful future to become a reality by inviting and challenging everyone to dream big.
“The Foundation has been around since 2010,” Rod explained, “so we’re kind of young and still learning. We don’t listen to people who say it can’t be done, which I love. With the 50th anniversary, we wanted to find ways to reach out and democratize the prize experience. What we want is organizations of all sizes and people from all walks of life to engage in trying to improve and address the issues we face; I genuinely am in love with that idea in Star Trek.”
Rod Embraces the Ideal Future His Father Envisioned
Accepting his new role of emissary of the philosophy his father established with Star Trek, Rod is now carving his own unique niche out of the sensation which has inspired and mesmerized generations of fans and believers in a better tomorrow.
Dreams are useless unless aspirations are high, and Rod has already met at least that goal. He has adopted the ideas of a world working together, where money is no longer the motivating factor in people’s lives, while placing worth on the people themselves and what makes them unique in order to produce a stronger and preferable world. Not surprisingly, he sounds a lot like his father when explaining his idea of the future.
“We won’t get to it in my lifetime, but the idea of the replicator is one that can shape the world. You have something that can control the atom and essentially build whatever you want, anything: money, diamonds, Ferraris, you name it. It can build another replicator. When we learn to control the atom, and we have a device that can replicate itself, there will be no more need or want in the world. Things that we put value in today: fast cars, jewelry, fancy clothes, the importance of those things will go away, because everyone will have access to it. A diamond won’t matter anymore because everyone will have a diamond. So what we’ll do is start to realize what is truly unique and what can’t be replicated is the individual, the philosophy, the idea, the thought. When there is no more need, no more want and we truly find value in learning about each other and the differences in each other. That’s the IDIC philosophy.”
“I take it very seriously, the philosophy, sometimes even too seriously.”
Heidi as a Motivator for Rod
Spotlights tend to shine on the visionaries, much like it did on his father. However, Rod quickly realizes while he has become a promoter of a better future, he understands his own limitations and quickly moves aside to put the focus on those doing the work themselves. He has been inspired by people pushing the boundaries of exploration and science, as well as those also trying to make the world a better place in their own way. In fact, one such person can be found close to home.
“Before we married, before we started dating, Heidi always wanted the world to be a better place. She believed in it, and she had her own way of trying to make that happen. She genuinely wants a quality and unconditional love throughout the entire world. She embodies that as a person. She is very compassionate and a huge inspiration for me.”
Leaders lead, but sometimes they get down in the muck and dirt. Sometimes they bring forth a vision and a call to action. Rod is doing the latter today with his attempt to not only engage Star Trek fans, but idealistic minds in the world. This is where revolutions and movements begin, with a charismatic and excited voice motivating others to follow along, to buy into what is being contemplated.
“I feel very strongly that inclusion is the way to go. Do I have all the answers? Can I snap my fingers and make it happen? Do I understand things are very complicated – absolutely, I get that. I’m pro-world, as corny as that is to say. I don’t care if China comes out with a technology that makes the world a better place – great! If Africa comes out with a methodology that reforms education – great! We have to work together to make our planet better. If we work together there will be plenty of innovation.”
What Gene and Majel Would Think of the Initiative
Sadness does not creep into Rod’s voice when talking about his father and his mother, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, who did not force ideas on him, although his father did try to get him into the family business. Commercials at an early age and a job on the set of The Next Generation for a 13-year old Rod did not have the desired impact. Yet today, Rod knows they would both be pleased with this endeavor.
“I wish they were around long enough, because I do think they’d be proud of me, and also think they’d say, ‘you figured it out.’ They had to do all the hard work. I’m privileged in many ways. They had to worry about whether the show was going to be cancelled, renewed, as well as putting food on the table. In terms of Star Trek, I just get to embrace the philosophy and carry it on.”
Passion is an important part on the road to leading others to take a journey of not just faith and hope, but also of action. Listening to Rod, enthusiasm will never be an issue, neither will his lack of humility when it comes to understanding his own limitations. Utilizing the Roddenberry Foundation and engaging fandom, Rod has become the spokesperson for the future of this planet. Like his father before him, we hope the world heeds his call.
“The call to action right now is to go to social media and spread #BoldlyBetter or go to roddenberryprize.org.”
“There is so much strength in numbers, with so many, not just fans, but believers in that future. If we can all just sort of get together, we can move mountains, we can change the face of our planet in a better way. It would be nice to get a campaign, where foundations, NGO’s, fans all come together, maybe yearly, to focus efforts in a particular area; whether it’s plastic in the ocean, education, whatever, we could change a lot if we all came together–cheesy, but 100% true.”
Rod, like his father, is cementing his legacy in the world. Perhaps in another 50 years it will be Rod’s son, Zale, continuing the mission laid out by his father and grandfather before him.