Robert N. Danziger
 

Why This Website?


Even as a eight-year old I wanted to make history. Hancock Park Elementary School, sandwiched between the Farmer's Market and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, started a safety monitor program.  The largest person in the school - students or staff - I volunteered.  I remember consciously selecting the old tunnel that crossed under Fairfax Boulevard, the steps opening up to the school entrance on the east side and a candy store on the west for my assignment because it would be the first person on the job.  I got up two hours early to make sure I was the first person in the history of Hancock Park Elementary School to be a safety monitor.

No one knew besides me.  I didn't brag, boast, or even tell anyone.  In fact I doubt I've told this story more than a handful of times in the intervening 50 years.  The doing of it was the important thing for me, not the recognition.

Which is not to say that I don't like honors and attentions.  I do.  But somehow even as a child I knew that history is properly judged only with the passage of much time, and long after my death. 

I believe I made history a few times in the course of my life.  I believe that God gave me powerful burdens and powerful capacities.  I feel blessed beyond measure.  I have everything I ever wanted, and received gifts of times beyond my ability to conceive.  Most importantly, I think I did some historic good and the how of that is worth sharing.

For these reasons I offer this website.  My case for inclusion in history, and a case study for those trying to change the world for the better.

If this story was already documented or discoverable on the internet I would not be constructing the site.  Much of what I did pre-dates the internet as we know it.  Key events occurred, and the documents that sprang from them when Apple still worked from a garage, personal computers were nonexistent, and a cell phone was the size of a suitcase.  Or earlier.  

If there is one thing I want all the future world-changers and captains of constructive industry to know it is that living well is the best revenge.  Fixing hell is one thing, living there is another.



Bob Danziger Facebook Page
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Video of Keynote Speech for the Cal-State University Monterey Bay 2013 Commencement

(Video and text of 2011 Honorary Degree Ceremony Below)



Introduction by President Ochoa:

 

Today our Commencement Address is presented by Dr. Robert Danziger.  This Carmel resident received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree from Cal-State Monterey Bay in September 2011 in recognition of his accomplishments as a musician, inventor, and sustainable energy pioneer.  Welcome. Dr. Danziger.

 

Commencement Address:

 

President Ochoa, Faculty and Staff, families, friends, graduates:

 

I’d like to start by asking you a question.  By applause, make some noise if you are the first in the history of your family to get a college degree? 

 

Congratulations!

 

Now with me it was my parents, they were the first, so if you, or perhaps a child, a parent, a grandparent, brother or sister was the first to get a college degree, make some noise! 

 

Ladies and gentleman, we all have ancestors from hundreds of years ago who were slaves, or serfs, or refugees from war and famine.  But they endured.  They persevered.  And they put all of their hopes and dreams and love into their child. They prayed that that one day their blood and passion would beget a descendant who would rise above their circumstances; hoping that for the first time, someone would have the chance to lead their family to accomplishment, to safety and sufficiency.

 

If there is a heaven they are there now.  Ladies and gentleman, dear graduates, you have accomplished much and earned the right to stand proud. You have.  In addition, on this day, at this hour, after hundreds of years of waiting and hoping, when your name is called and you walk across this stage and receive your diploma, your ancestors dreams have come true, for all of you, their hearts are glad, and they can now rest content. Finally every sacrifice they made, every oppression they endured – was worth it.

 

 

[HOW CAN I COMPETE?]

 

When I was sitting where you are today, I was asking myself: How am I going to compete, measure up against the people who have graduated from the elite schools?

 

I went to a small regional law school while working two jobs, and studying alternative energy.  Through luck I was offered a job at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which had more triple PhD’s than anyplace in the world, and almost of all of them from the elite schools.  Leading deep space work for the United States like the recent Mars landings, they were forming an alternative energy think tank, and I was to be part of it.  One of our jobs was predicting the future as it applied to energy and environment.

 

The Dean at the school had some sense of what I was getting into (cause I didn’t) and called me into his office. He said:

 

“When one of these guys is predicting the future, or telling you the nature of the universe, if they are not floating six inches above the ground it’s just an opinion.” 

 

 

He told me my opinion was as good as anybody else’s, and  that was really great advice I share with you today.

 

Jet Propulsion Laboratory was an amazing place to work. History happened every day.  I loved it there.  For example, one day I went to the cafeteria for breakfast, sitting next to me was some guy who turned out to be the navigator for a future mission to Jupiter called Galileo.  

 

He explained to me that they had no way to get the spacecraft Galileo to Jupiter, they were stymied because their older, solid fuels could no longer be used for interplanetary space missions, and the new liquid fuels weren’t strong enough.

 

I was eating oatmeal, he kind of spaced out, grabbed my oatmeal, smoothed it out with his fingers, and started putting raisins, and sugar cubes, and walnuts into the oatmeal, in the form of our solar system.  Then he started drawing in my oatmeal while spacing well off  into his own thoughts. He drew some circles around earth, which was a raisin, and explained that you couldn’t go fast enough in orbits around earth and slingshot to Jupiter.  His finger sent oatmeal flying towards me and a walnut that was the sun, and he said “The orbit’s not big enough.”

 

Then he started muttering to himself, “But you know, if we made the orbit all the way between Venus [a sugar cube] and Earth [the raisin I mentioned], we could build up enough energy to get to Jupiter!!” He was very excited.  He was drawing circles, and oatmeal was flying everywhere, it was literally dripping off of me.  He got really excited, jumped up and ran away, ran from the table.

 

And believe it or not, that’s exactly what they did. They called it “‘VEEGA’ for Venus-Earth-Earth Gravity Assist.  Orbiting twice around Venus and Earth, Galileo slungshot 500 million miles to Jupiter.

 

And it all started in my oatmeal.  Who knows what would have happened if it was Cream of Wheat or Cheerios, we probably would have ended up at Saturn.

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I had a ringside seat to history on that day, and many would have been very surprised.  I was a funny kid, a giant kid.  I was the biggest person in school from the second grade on, and was never in a room with someone my size for over thirty years.  Starting at the age of two, maybe earlier, I was told thousands of times, thousands of times, I was going to die soon because of my size.  And that I had neither the skill or the smarts to make a mark in life.  Add to that a back broken when I was 18, I nevertheless started a successful alternative energy company, have one of the lowest carbon footprints in history, been awarded ten patents, won the New York Film Festival Best Original Music Award, received an Honorary Doctorate from this University, and I stand before you today.

 

I, and indeed many of you, probably all of you, were told we were not going to make it.  Almost everyone here today has been hit, rallied, and redeemed themselves, everywhere up there [the bleachers], and everywhere down here [the field],  and at this time I am delighted to note that we were right and those who doubted us, were wrong. 

 

 

[Vernon Elementary School, Teacher's name is Adriana Moran]

 

I leave you with the story of the most beautiful thing I ever saw.  It was at the Vernon Elementary School, which my company had adopted.  The most impoverished school in the district, in the middle of the dirtiest air in the United States.  We provided programs and all kinds of stuff for the children.  The kids loved it and I loved it too.

 

One day my wife Martha and I went over to the school, and the students in the Special Education class took us into their room to see a dance they had prepared.  They closed the door, and positioned themselves on the empty floor. A young girl whose body twisted permanently to the side, and a challenged boy who beamed as he stood straight and proud, prepared their beginning position.  Several other groups of kids combined to make their bent bodies part of iconic arrangements ready to move in time with the music. The teacher put on an angelic toy piano version of “White Christmas.”  And they began to dance. It was the most beautiful dance I have ever seen, and not because they were challenged kids, it’s because it was just beautiful.  They achieved what every artist seeks – a perfect moment. 

 

I found out the teacher, this hero, had looked through hours and hours of ballet and other dance videos, to find world-class choreography that used the positions that her students were born to.  She showed these kids the beauty in their bodies, where society was telling them they were too different to matter, and they did it, they found the universal beauty in themselves. 

 

 

Ladies and gentleman, if you can find in yourselves the beauty and the honor and the joy those children found, and the wisdom and love of our magnificent teachers, you will make your mark, you will raise your family, and you will seize this opportunity with all the fire and passion that brought you to this day, and that will propel you, and your family, into the future.  Congratulations and blessings to all of you. 

 

 

 

 

 

[note – some of the text is taken from my book, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Energy Independence” and the speech I gave at the 2011 CSUMB ceremony awarding me a Doctor of Fine Arts (Honorary)]



This is my power plant, the cover to two of my music albums. And my paradigm statement of the energy/environmental goal I pursued.


Video of 2011 Honorary Degree Ceremony
On September 14, 2011 I was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts by California State University.  The citation reads:

Robert Nathan Danziger is a committed energy environmentalist, lawyer, inventor and musician.  His career linking the sciences, humanities, and the arts embodies the interdisciplinary values integral to the Vision Statement of California State University, Monterey Bay.

 

Mr. Danziger founded the Sunlaw company, reflecting his interests in alternative energy and law.  He has worked in a variety of areas related to his environmental interests, including for Khosla Ventures (biotechnology due diligence); for National Semiconductor (smart grid); Goal Line Environmental Technology (catalysis, nanotechnology); Calera (cement from seawater and CO2); Gridpoint (smart grid, electric and hybrid vehicles); Google (electric and hybrid vehicles); Carmel Highlands Inventions (most recent patent, electricity from the non-carbon portions of coal, acid mine drainage remediation, in situ coal gasification), and Cogentrix (CO2 management options for coal-fired power plants focusing on making wood or masonry-substitute materials from greenhouse gases).

 

As inventor, Mr. Danziger has six issued patents, including one for a “Walking Chair,” a medical assistive device for individuals with back problems.  In addition, Mr. Danziger has five music albums to his credit.  He has composed several sound sculptures, including 1910 Nocturne, which played as part of the exhibition “Painting by Moonlight” at the Monterey Museum of Art in 2009, and “Steinbeck’s Chinatown” which debuted in April 2010, and ran until July 4, 2010, at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas.  Mr. Danziger has connected with the CSU Monterey Bay campus in a variety of ways, including his support of community partnerships in the arts and humanities, and his participation as a lecturer in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

 

In recognition of his accomplishments as an innovative and cross-disciplinary thinker, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University Monterey Bay are proud to confer upon Robert Nathan Danziger the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.


-----------------

My remarks are reproduced here:

As-Delivered Remarks of Robert Danziger in Connection with Receiving a Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from California State University at Monterey Bay

 

September 14, 2011

 

Introduction

 

President Harrison & Provost Cruz-Uribe,  Chairman Bains, Deputy Chairman Waters, Faculty, My wonderful wife Martha, Family and Friends, thank you for being here.

 

Dr. Harrison, I recently learned your career has been dedicated to the study, teaching and practice of social work.  My Mother was a social worker, and she spoke often in her last few weeks about how fulfilling, how comforting, how warm it made her feel to have been a social worker, it was an extremely important part of her life.

 

My father grew up desperately poor in a difficult household with a very sick mother.  He didn’t have so much as a birthday party until Mom came along.  Despite his childhood suffering, He and my mother gave my sister Ronna and I everything we needed to live a successful life.  I have to believe he was Mom’s most successful project, and they broke the chain of poverty and the associated social ills that usually pass from generation to generation.  Just like social workers try to do every day.

 

When you called me earlier in the year to tell me about this honor my mother had recently passed away, and I told you I would dedicate, and do now dedicate this Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts to my Mother, Shirley Delores Rotstein Danziger. 

 

 

PART I

 

I appreciate all the kind things being said about me.  But I do have one big regret: I did not accomplish one of the most important goals I had set for myself.  This was to achieve, in my lifetime a kind of universal prosperity, coupled with energy independence and a clean environment, of the sort we enjoy here in Monterey. 

 

Sunlaw Energy Corporation, the company I founded, did build and run a real-world commercial, unsubsidized powerplant, where the air coming out was virtually cleaner than the air going in – the first and still the only such plant to do so.  I composed the music for a documentary about [building] the plant and amazingly won the New York Film Festival Best Original Music Award.  Sunlaw had a perfect safety record, hosted a wildly successful kids and professional mural program, was the first plant ever to achieve 100% reliability – availability, all while sponsoring the groundbreaking Shades of LA program that collected pre-1960 photographs of all the different ethnic communities in Los Angeles. We made good paying jobs that didn’t cannibalize other jobs. We set an example that has yet to be equaled, and cannot be bettered.

 

To achieve this we had to take on opposition from all points of the political compass, and the determined, often threatening opposition of commercial, governmental and activist entities.

 

The next generation you are training will hopefully have a chance to make this kind of performance commonplace, although partisanship is the enemy of prosperity, the enemy of energy independence, and most certainly the enemy of a clean environment.  For these and many other reasons, I hope our current political situation changes to make such things prudent and possible.

 

There’s a famous scene in the movie “American President” in which an environmental lobbyist played by Annette Benning, and the President played by Michael Douglas kiss on their first date.  She tells her sister:

 

I gotta nip this in the bud. This has catastrophe written all over it. The sister replies:  The man is the leader of the free world. He's brilliant, funny, and handsome. He's an above-average dancer. Isn't it possible our standards are just a tad high?

 

Like many in this room, almost all of us in this room, my goals are a tad high.  I know that.  I clearly wanted, though, to be a positive footnote in the history of our time for having achieved a universal dream – prosperity, coupled with energy independence and a clean environment.  I wish I could’ve done that.

 

PART II

 

I was a funny kid, a giant kid.  In fact I was the biggest person in school from the 2nd grade on, and was never in a room with someone my size for over 30 years.  Starting at the age of two, maybe earlier, I was told thousands of times, thousands of times, I was going to die soon because of my size.  Add to that a back broken when I was 18 - - - The cliché is “live each day as if it were your last.”  The real world effect has been to demand of myself to do all I could, as completely and wholeheartedly as I could, for as quickly and as long as possible.

 

I liked this pressure, that’s the weird thing, I liked this pressure - it worked for me. I came up short often, but I did learn to muster every side of me to accomplish something big and tangible.  I liked that at any moment I could honestly stand before any man or God.  But in all this I learned how limited I am, how limited all human beings are, but specifically myself.  Somehow or other the mystery of all we don’t know now comforts me.

 

I do need to note though, that even though I was being told I was going to die, I never believed it – and at this time I would like to note that I was right and they were wrong.

 

PART III

 

Some have noted the broad range of areas I have been blessed to make a contribution – My experience as a musician, a job that requires innovation and invention every working day, made each new experience, every new area I found a way into, a canvas for my creativity.  A platform for invention.  I love that.

 

Maybe my biggest break was getting the job at California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  JPL at Cal-tech was a truly elite think tank that I’m told had, and I believe still has, more triple PhD’s than anywhere else in the world, and at the time was the Lead Center for all alternative energy research in the United States.  I had no undergraduate degree, a second level law degree, and had only gotten through high school by the grace of God and the tolerance of the school administration.  I want to thank Mr. Tunney who is here today, and thank you for overlooking a few of those things, I appreciate it.  [audience laughs]  - That’s a knowing laugh from my sister.

 

Because of my law review articles on solar energy I was invited to give a seminar at JPL – the first step in their hiring practices.  I prepared my talk “The Legal Implications of a 1 Megawatt Solar Power Plant” very much like the one up the hill here at CSUMB.  Unbeknownst to me JPL had just received a contract to write a report for Congress on “The Legal Implications of a 1 Megawatt Solar Power Plant.”  The same exact title, it was a pure coincidence, but they decided to overlook my relative lack of credentials and hire me.  When I got the job Dean Friesen of my law school told me, “When one of these guys is telling you the nature of the universe or predicting the future, if they are not floating 6 inches above the ground it’s just an opinion.”  He told me my opinion was as good as anybody else’s.  That was really great advice.

 

After a couple of years at Jet Propulsion Laboratory I started planning for my alternative energy company Sunlaw Energy Corporation.   At that time there was not a single successful alternative energy company in the US, maybe the world.  The 16 PhD economists who I worked with at JPL urged me not to be the first.

 

The cliché is that the pioneers get the arrows.  The functional problem was the virtual non-existence of experienced banks, lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, libraries, training programs, college courses, engineers, builders, regulators, utilities, or ways to reliably measure ultra-low emissions.  It all had to be created, it all had to be invented, and whoever was the first company had to lead these efforts.  Who else can?

 

I waited as three companies got into the business, then JPL converted me to a consultant and I started Sunlaw.  Within 6 months all three of the companies ahead of me had gone bankrupt.  I was out there all alone.  It was very naked and very windy. 

 

But inventing all day, every day, felt completely natural to me, because of my background in music, and being taught to invent on a schedule at JPL.   JPL gave me a front row seat to experience what might be judged the greatest invention and engineering achievement of the 20th century when they sent the Voyager spacecraft one billion miles to Saturn and were less than 1/10th of a second behind schedule and just a few feet off course.  I challenge us to drive home that well.  At a billion miles.

 

I lucked into a rare moment and became sought after by institutions that would never deal with someone like me as the industry matured.  Sunlaw was jazz, sculpture, and performance art.  I was 27, the youngest CEO in the alternative energy business anywhere in the world, and I was born to do this.

 

I do want to note for the record there were about 20 people on the front lines with me, I wasn’t truly alone, but I was the leader in the early days, and the key decisions were mine to make. 

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

In conclusion I have many things to be grateful for.  Such a long list.

 

  • Founding and running an energy company that caused worldwide emissions and energy consumption to be reduced by billions of tons, has made the world cleaner than if I had not come along.
  • I got to work with a great team, and be their leader. 
  • I got to build some really big stuff.  I’m a guy, love big tools.  What can I tell ya, I love stuff like that, love things that make big noises and go boom.  I like that stuff.  That was fun.
  • And thank God I was given the inventiveness and determination to prosper despite my physical challenges.

 

 

I leave you with the story of the most beautiful thing I ever saw.  It was at the Vernon Elementary School that Sunlaw had adopted.  The poorest school in the school district in the dirtiest zip code in the United States.  We had a career day where we brought in world-class professionals from every continent to come and talk with the kids.  The president of Disney or the head of the Chilean phone company, great musicians, businessmen and women, magicians, academics and artists.  We asked them to speak for five minutes about their family and in the next five minutes give a professional presentation just like they would to their most esteemed colleagues. When they talked of their families it created an emotional connection to everyone there, and these hardened world-class pros would spends hours, sometimes many days, with the children.  The kids loved it and I loved it too.

 

One day Martha and I went over to the school, and the students in the Special Education class took us into their room and closed the door.  They positioned themselves on the empty floor.  The teacher put on an angelic toy piano version of “White Christmas.”  And they began to dance.  A young girl whose body twisted permanently to the side balanced herself against a challenged boy who could stand straight and proud, and he beamed while she danced as if around the maypole.  Several other groups of kids also combined to make their bent bodies part of classic arrangements moving in tme with the music.  It was what every artist seeks – a perfect moment. 

 

I found out the teacher, this hero, [note: The Teacher's name is Adriana Moran] had looked through hours and hours of ballet and other dance videos, to find world-class dances that used positions that her students were born to.  She showed these kids the beauty in their bodies, where society was telling them they were ugly and unwanted, and they did it, they found the universal beauty in themselves.  It was the most touching dance I have ever seen, and not because they were handicapped kids, it’s because it was just beautiful.

 

President Harrison, this University and this place we live in is a special place, a blessed place.  We are singing a great song, harmonizing with generations past and generations yet unborn.

 

Let's keep the music flowing.  Thank you for this opportunity to do a brief solo.

 

[Applause]

 

**note: sections in italics were accidentally omitted from the actual speech.