President Obama Awards National Medal of Science and Medal of Technology

President Obama:
Thank you so much. Thank you. Everyone please have a seat. Before I begin the ceremony to
introduce these extraordinary innovators, let me just
mention a few people who are in the audience today. First of all, we’ve got some
outstanding members of my Cabinet: Secretary Locke,
Secretary Sebelius, Secretary Chu, and
Administrator Jackson. We are very grateful for all the
outstanding work they’re doing. We’ve got some wonderful
partners in Congress that I want to mention: Senator
Jeff Merkley of Oregon; Senator Jim Risch
of Idaho; Senator — Representative Rush Holt. Rush, I almost gave you
a promotion there — (laughter) — or a demotion, depending
on how you look at it — (laughter) — of New Jersey; Representative
Anna Eshoo of California; and Representative Zoe
Lofgren of California. I also want to mention my
science advisor who is doing outstanding work,
Dr. Holdren is here, as well as NASA Administrator
Charles Bolden. And we want to thank some of the
people who helped to organize today’s event — the National
Science Foundation and its director, Arden Bement; the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and its director, Dave Kappos;
and Linda Katehi, the chair of the National Medals of Science and Technology and Innovation Committee. So give all of them a
big round of applause. (applause) Now, it’s also a real pleasure
to have so many distinguished researchers and
innovators joining us, although I must admit that I
have an ulterior motive for presenting these awards today. You see, Sasha has a
science fair coming up. (applause) And I was thinking that you
guys could give us a few tips. (laughter) Michelle and I are a
little rusty on our science. (laughter) In all seriousness, it is a
privilege to present these medals, our nation’s highest
honor for scientific and technological achievement, to
the folks who’ve come here today from all parts of our
country and all areas of scientific investigation. The scientists in this room have
plumbed the furthest reaches of the universe and the deepest
recesses of the human mind; they’ve sequenced the human
genome and stimulated the workings of the atom; they’ve
developed technologies that have greatly improved our
understanding of the human body and the natural world; and
they’ve fostered innovations that have saved millions of
lives and improved countless more. So this nation owes all of you
an enormous debt of gratitude far greater than any
medal can bestow. And we recognize
your contributions, but we also celebrate the
incredible contributions of the scientific endeavor itself. We see the promise — not just
for our economy but for our health and well-being —
in the human capacity for creativity and ingenuity. And we are reminded of the
power of free and open inquiry, which is not only at the
heart of all of your work, but at the heart of this
experiment we call America. Because throughout our history,
amid tumult and war and against tough odds, this nation has
always looked toward the future and then led the way. It was during the darkest days
of the Civil War that President Lincoln established the
land grant colleges and the National Academy of Science. It was during World War II that
President Roosevelt requested that Vannevar Bush — his
science advisor and a future recipient of the National Medal
of Science — outline a set of policies to maintain our
scientific and technological leadership in the 20th century. And it was in the years that
followed the Soviet launch of Sputnik, the first artificial
satellite to orbit the Earth, that the United States
would create DARPA, NASA, and the National
Defense Education Act, which helped improve math and
science education from grade school to graduate school. In fact, the National Medal
itself was established just two years after that launch, as
a sign to the world and to ourselves of how highly
we valued the work of the nation’s scientists. Today, we face more complex
challenges than generations past. A medical system that holds the
promise of unlocking new cures — attached to a health care
system that has the potential to bankrupt families
and businesses. A system of energy that
powers our economy but also endangers our planet. Threats to our security that
seek to exploit the very interconnectedness and openness
that’s so essential to our prosperity. And challenges in a global
marketplace which link the trader on Wall Street to the
homeowner on Main Street, and the office worker in America
to the factory worker in China — we all share an opportunity,
but we also all share in crisis. At such a difficult moment,
there are those who say we can’t afford to invest in science,
that it’s a luxury at a moment defined by necessities. I could not disagree more. Science is more essential for
our prosperity, our security, and our health, and our way of
life than it has ever been. And the winners we are
recognizing only underscore that point, with achievements
in physics and medicine, computer science and
cognitive science, energy technology
and biotechnology. We need to ensure that we are
encouraging the next generation of discoveries — and the next
generation of discoverers. That’s why my administration has
set this goal: by investing in education, funding basic
and applied research, and spurring private innovation,
we will devote 3 percent of our gross domestic product to
research and development. That’s more than at any
point in recent history. (applause) And as part of this effort,
we’re putting in place policies that will move us from the
middle to the top of the pack in math and science education
over the next decade. We are challenging states to
dramatically improve achievement by raising standards, by
improving the use of technology, and by making it possible for
professionals like our honorees to bring a lifetime
of experience and enthusiasm into the classroom. And we’ve also launched a Race
to the Top fund to encourage states to compete for the most
innovative programs in math and science, as part of a broader
effort to foster new ways of engaging young people
in these fields. The White House is
participating, too. Tonight, in fact, we’re bringing
children to the South Lawn for a night of astronomy. I am really looking
forward to this. (laughter) This is going to be fun. They’ll peer through telescopes,
wander through exhibits, and hopefully feel a sense of
wonder that might one day lead them here to receive
a medal themselves. And my administration has set
another goal to compete for the jobs of the future and to
encourage the scientists and engineers of the future. By 2020, America will once again
have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. We used to be number one. We have fallen behind. We are going to
regain our position. (applause) To meet this goal, we’ve
increased the Pell Grant and passed legislation through the
House — which we’re working to pass through the Senate — to
end more than $80 billion in wasteful subsidies to
lenders and use that money instead to help students. Beyond the classroom, the
Recovery Act that we passed is funding the largest
single boost to biomedical research in history. My budget makes the research
and experimentation tax credit permanent to help
companies afford the often high cost of innovation. I’ve proposed eliminating
the capital gains tax for investments in startups and
small companies — because countless big ideas begin
in small businesses. And we are doubling our
capacity in renewable energy, even as we seek to create a
system of incentives to make clean energy the profitable
kind of energy in America. For at our best, this nation
has never feared the future. We’ve shaped the future. Even when we’ve endured
terrible storms, we haven’t given up or turned
back — we’ve remain fixed on that brighter horizon. That’s how we’ve led in the
pursuit of scientific discovery; and in turn that’s how science
has helped us lead the world. There’s no better illustration
than what took place at the close of World War II, when the
United States transported dozens of captured V-2 rockets
from Germany to New Mexico. These were among the most
sophisticated weapons in the world, a reminder that much of
World War II was fought far from the battlefield — by Alan
Turing in Bletchley Park, and Oppenheimer in Los Alamos,
and by countless others who developed radar and
aircraft and antibiotics. The military wanted to
understand this new missile technology that the
V-2 represented; but scientists were also invited
to use these tests to take measurements of the atmosphere. And then one engineer had an
idea: to rig a camera and attach it to one of the rockets. And so in this brief moment
between the end of a world war and the start of a cold war, a
group of scientists erupted with joy as they discovered that they
had captured the very first photos of our world
as seen from space. Their work would continue as the
Rocket and Satellite Research Panel. And after the launch
of Sputnik in 1957, the work of this panel would
be assumed by a new agency, called NASA. The research into these weapons
of war would lead to the missions of Mercury
and Gemini and Apollo. That’s the incredible promise of
the work scientists do every day — like the scientists,
researchers, and engineers, and innovators we honor
with these medals. Yes, scientific progress
offers us a chance to achieve prosperity and
defend our nation. It has offered us benefits that
have improved our lives and our health — improvements that
we often take for granted. But it also gives
us something more. At root, science forces us to
reckon with the truth as best as we can ascertain it, and to
reckon with the power that comes from this knowledge —
for good and for ill. With each new discovery brings
new responsibility to move past our differences and to
address our shared problems; to embrace a sense of wonder,
and our common humanity. Carl Sagan, who helped broaden
the reach of science to millions of people, once described
his enthusiasm for discovery in very simple terms. He said, “Somewhere, something
incredible is waiting to be known.” (laughter) Thank you all for the incredible
discoveries that you have made, the progress you’ve invented,
and the benefits you’ve bestowed on the American
people and the world. So it is now my honor to ask the
recipients to come forward to receive their medals, and as
their citations are read I will — you’ll just have to
bend down a little bit — (laughter) — and we will bestow on you the
highest honor that our nation can give you for your science,
technology, and innovation. So, do we have someone
here for the citations? Military Aide:
Dr. Berni Alder. (applause) 2008 National Medal of
Science to Dr. Berni Alder, Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory, for establishing powerful
computer methods useful for molecular dynamic simulations,
conceiving and executing experimental shock-wave
simulations to obtain properties of fluids and solids
at very high pressures, and developing Monte Carlo
methods for calculating the properties of matter
from first principles, all of which contributed to
major achievements in the science of condensed matter. (the medal is presented) (applause) Dr. Francis S. Collins. (applause) 2008 National Medal of Science
to Dr. Francis S. Collins, National Institutes of Health,
for his visionary contributions to the fields of genetics and
genomics through the work of his own laboratory and his
leadership of multiple international
genomics initiatives, including the Human
Genome Project. (the medal is presented) (applause) Dr. Joanna S. Fowler. (applause) 2008 National Medal of Science
to Dr. Joanna S. Fowler, Brookhaven National Laboratory,
for her pioneering work in chemistry involving the
synthesis of medical imaging compounds and her innovative
applications of these compounds to human neuroscience, which
have significantly advanced our understanding of the human
brain and brain diseases, including drug addiction. (the medal is awarded) (applause) Dr. Elaine Fuchs. (applause) 2008 National Medal of
Science to Dr. Elaine Fuchs, The Rockefeller University,
for her pioneering use of cell biology and molecular genetics
in mice to understand the basis of inherited diseases in
humans and her outstanding contributions to our
understandings of the biology of skin and its disorders,
including her notable investigations of adult
skin stem cells, cancers, and genetic syndromes. (the medal is awarded) (applause) Dr. James E. Gunn. (applause) 2008 National Medal of
Science to Dr. James E. Gunn, Princeton University, for
his brilliant design of many of the most influential telescopes
and instruments in astronomy, and in particular for the
crucial role those technological marvels played in the creation
of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which has cataloged 200 million
stars, galaxies, and quasars; discovered the most
distant known quasars; and probed the epoch of formation of the first stars and galaxies. (the medal is awarded) (applause) Dr. Rudolf E. Kálmán. (applause) 2008 National Medal of
Science to Dr. Rudolf E. Kálmán, Swiss Federal
Institute of Technology, for his fundamental
contributions to modern system theory, which provided rigorous
mathematical tools for engineering, economics,
and statistics, and in particular for his
invention of the “Kálmán filter,” which was critical to
achieving the Moon landings and creating the Global Positioning
System and which has facilitated the use of computers in control
and communications technology. (the medal is awarded) (applause) Dr. Michael I. Posner. (applause) 2008 National Medal of
Science to Dr. Michael I. Posner, University of Oregon,
for his innovative application of technology to the
understanding of brain function, his incisive and accurate
modeling of functional tasks, and his development of
methodological and conceptual tools to help understand the
mind and the development of brain networks of attention. (the medal is awarded) (applause) Dr. JoAnne Stubbe. (applause) 2008 National Medal of
Science to Dr. JoAnne Stubbe, Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, for her groundbreaking
experiments establishing the mechanisms of ribonucleotide
reductases, polyester synthases, and natural product DNA cleavers
— compelling demonstrations of the power of chemical
investigations to solve problems in biology. President Obama:
He had to practice that. (laughter) (the medal is awarded) (applause) Military Aide:
Dr. J. Craig Venter. (applause) 2008 National Medal of
Science to Dr. J. Craig Venter, J. Craig Venter Institute,
for his dedication to the advancement of the science of genomics, his contributions to our understanding of its
implications for society, and his commitment to the clear
communication of information to the scientific community, the
public, and policymakers. (the medal is awarded) (applause) Dr. Forrest M. Bird. (applause) 2008 National Medal of
Technology and Innovation to Dr. Forrest M. Bird,
Percussionaire Corporation, for his pioneering inventions
in cardiopulmonary medicine, including the
medical respirator; devices that helped launch
modern-day medical evacuation capabilities; and intrapulmonary
percussive ventilation technologies, which have saved
the lives of millions of patients in chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease and other conditions. (the medal is awarded) (applause) Dr. Esther Sans Takeuchi. (applause) 2008 National Medal of
Technology and Innovation to Dr. Esther Sans Takeuchi,
University at Buffalo, the State University
of New York, for her seminal development
of the silver vanadium oxide battery that powers the majority
of the world’s lifesaving implantable cardiac
defibrillators, and her innovations in other
medical battery technologies that improve the health
and quality of life of millions of people. (the medal is awarded) (applause) Dr. John E. Warnock and Dr. Charles M. Geschke. (applause) 2008 National Medal of
Technology and Innovation to Dr. John E. Warnock
and Dr. Charles M. Geschke, Adobe
Systems Incorporated, for their pioneering
technological contributions that were central to spurring the
desktop publishing revolution and for their role in changing
the way people create and engage with information and
entertainment across multiple mediums including print,
video, and the Web. (the medal is awarded) (applause) Mr. Samuel Palmisano,
accepting for IBM Corporation. (applause) 2008 National Medal of
Technology and Innovation to IBM Corporation for the IBM Blue
Gene supercomputer and its systems architecture,
design, and software, which have delivered fundamental
new science, unsurpassed speed, and unparalleled energy
efficiency and have had a profound impact worldwide on
the high-performance computing industry. (the medal is awarded) (applause) President Obama:
Well, that — the
ceremony is over, but I think it would be
appropriate for everybody to, again, to stand up and
give these recipients a big round of applause. (applause)

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