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A message from ASCE Texas Section President Travis N. Attanasio PE, CFM

A message from ASCE Texas Section President Travis N. Attanasio PE, CFM

September 2023

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

As I near the end of my presidential year, I went back through all my messages to see if I could come up with an overall theme to wrap things up.  As a reminder they were:

  • My Journey to the Presidency (Nov. ’22)
  • How Star Wars and Top Gun: Maverick are the same movie (Jan. ’23)
  • Miles and Miles of Texas (Feb. ’23)
  • How many stars are in the Milky Way? (Apr. ’23)
  • What does AI think about Civil Engineers? (ref. The Matrix) (May ’23)
  • Why are Board Members elections so important? (Jun ’23)
  • So much to do and so little time (Aug ’23)

Well, that didn’t work like I thought it would. They were all over the place, but if I had to find a theme it’s “I like movies and question things often.”

So, in The Wizard of Oz, what does “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” – The Wizard, actually mean?

I would like to propose a theory that as we go about our lives, we are not perceiving reality, but a distorted form of reality. A distortion field exists in our head that corrupts our perception such that we perceive a hostile world in which we must “look after number one” and fight for our survival. In The Wizard of Oz, the distortion field is controlled by “the man behind the curtain”, who we discover is a harmless old man. If we translate the allegory into real life, “the man behind the curtain” is each one of us. We are, simultaneously, the creators of the distortion field, and its victims. We are trapped in a prison of our own making. But it would be a mistake to blame ourselves or others for creating the distortion field, as we are just “harmless old men”. Whenever we blame ourselves or others for our misfortunes, we are being tricked by the distortion field. But once “the man behind the curtain” is exposed, we know how the trick is done, we no longer live in fear, and we can forgive ourselves and others when the power of the distortion field is overwhelming.

It’s been a pleasure serving as the President of the American Society of Engineers — Texas Section. To the friends I have made along the way, to the overworked and underappreciated staff, and to all 10,500+ members, I want to humbly say “Thank You”.

As I join the long list of Past Presidents, I am welcomed into a new club and according to one past president, this club is like Hotel California: “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!”


Travis N. Attanasio PE, CFM, M.ASCE
2023 ASCE Texas Section President