James A. Dator: The Man Who Beats the Drum for Futures Studies

Publication Date: 
December 2013
Journal of Futures Studies, December 2013, 18 (2): 105-110


I think it was in 1991 at the Hawaii Judicial Foresight Congress in Honolulu. Jim Dator was a major speaker—if not the keynote speaker—before a very large audience. After he was introduced, Jim walked to the podium and, as the audience quieted down, he stood for a moment or two looking at the assembled crowd. Then, suddenly, he dropped straight down and disappeared behind the podium.
Instantly, all eyes in the conference auditorium became riveted on that empty podium.Everyone was wondering what had happened to him. A few long seconds passed in silence.Then, up popped Jim from behind the podium. He was wearing mock rabbit’s ears on his head and was furiously beating a small tin drum. He had turned himself into the Energizer Bunny. 
Never have I witnessed a more stunning and effective way of getting people’s attention.
Everyone in the conference hall was now fixated on Jim who was off and running, as he segued into his speech, “beating the drum” for futures studies. Beating the drum to help people understand the importance of futures thinking to their lives and to the human communities of which they are part. Beating the drum for imaginatively envisioning alternative futures. Beating the drum to explain how policy and decision-making can be improved by exploring images of the future. And beating the drum, too, for the well-being of humanity and for creating a better world for future generations.