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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering

1990-02-20

Thank you all. Thank you, Jack. I got worried there when Jack was saying, ``When we want somebody that is well known to present the prize.'' I was thinking, Barbara's not here. [Laughter] But, Jack, thank you for those very kind remarks.

To our honorees, Kilby and Noyce; and to Ambassador Dubinin, our Soviet Ambassador here, who's doing such a good job for his country; and Dr. White; Dr. Charyk; and my old friend Dr. Seamans; also another old friend, Steve Bechtel; Mr. Morrow; and the Under Secretary, Ivan Selin; and Don Atwood here from the Defense Department; and members and guests of the National Academy of Engineering:

I'm reminded of the famous story of the guy that called the insurance company after it closed one evening. A voice answered, and he said: ``Sir, I'd like to talk to you about converting my 20-pay-life into the cash value immediately. And further, I've heard more about your key man insurance that insures the very key people, and we'd like a little more information on that. And lastly, we have this family -- I have six kids, and we want a family health plan.'' The voice on the other end said, ``Look,'' he said, ``I'm the janitor around here just cleaning up, and after I said hello, that's all I know at all about insurance.''

I feel the same way about engineering here tonight -- [laughter] -- surrounded by all this brainpower. It's overwhelming. But I am pleased to be here. I deem it a very great pleasure to help honor and celebrate National Engineers Week. And of course it is an honor to salute the first two recipients of this, engineering's highest international award, the Charles Stark Draper Prize.

Let me begin with a story that will show you my understanding of engineering, that I see it. It concerns three men that were scheduled to be executed on the same day of the French Revolution. One was a lawyer, another a politician, the third an engineer. First, came the lawyer. He put his head in the guillotine, and the blade went two-thirds of the way down the track and then stopped. The man was set free. Next, the politician. When the guillotine stopped short of his head, he, too, was spared. Finally, came the third man, the engineer, and he focused on the matter at hand. ``I think that guillotine has a problem,'' he told the executioner. ``But don't worry; I think I have the solution.'' [Laughter]

I say that with respect. [Laughter] But as you see, engineers just can't help themselves. Whatever the cost -- [laughter] -- they keep aiming for perfection. And they've helped make our century a time of extraordinary exploration, opening doors into an age where mankind not only moved into the future but reinvented it.

Tonight we honor Jack Kilby and Bob Noyce and their landmark work -- the microchip, an invention which has already taken its place among the greatest of all time. Not to date myself, but when I was growing up, PacMan was a hiker, not a video game. The microchip came along and changed all of that and helped America change the world.

Think, for example, of a computer the size of a room shrunk down to the size that fits on your lap -- the microchip made all that possible -- or a calculator slashed from the size of a refrigerator to the size of a wristwatch. Think, finally, of our planet, and how the microchip has stirred the new breeze of democracy.

Maybe it's a good day to salute that because today the President of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel, came over to the Oval Office and then was our guest at the White House for lunch. And what a stirring moment -- I'll just divert for one second -- I took him up to the Lincoln Bedroom, which is not normally the thing when you have these official visits. But I wanted him to see the room in which Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. And I think I detected tears in his eyes, this playwright who not so many months ago was in jail and here he is the President of a fine, new, burgeoning democratic country. It was a very moving experience.

As I talked with him, I thought of how images of the past year have linked the peoples of Prague and Warsaw and Budapest and Berlin, images of bravery and defiance, of humanity's quest for freedom. And it was the microchip which carried them from one nation to another, becoming an instrument of liberty, the symbol in this information age. Integrated circuits have enabled us to do the unimaginable. Now it is unimaginable to believe we could ever live without them.

Already, the microchip has helped America not to deindustrialize but reindustrialize. To paraphrase Churchill, never has something so small done so much for so many. Yet remember, too, that if we are to lead the world, we must provide that world with further breakthroughs; for engineering is always a beginning, never a consummation.

I know that the National Academy of Engineering shares this belief. So, it has studied how America's engineering talent enhances our competitiveness and is exploring new ways to protect the globe from environmental abuse. You realize that truly informed decisions on issues like climate change require us to better integrate science, technology, and engineering into the policy equation. Our administration agrees and, so, supports research and development in all areas of science, technology, and engineering. We've asked for a record-high billion for R D in our budget for fiscal 1991. And to short-circuit the prediction that America will run short of engineers, we've introduced a National Science Scholars Initiative to give kids a new incentive to excel in science, math, and engineering. And I have announced an ambitious goal, one of our national goals reached after great consultation with the Governors, but a goal that we can achieve: that U.S. students will be number one by the year 2000.

You can tell -- I hope you can tell from looking around -- that I have great respect for people who have an understanding of science. Jim Watkins is a member of our Cabinet, Secretary of Energy. I'm pleased to see Dr. Bromley here and Secretary Rice and of course my own Chief of Staff, John Sununu, such a man -- engineer. Yet, ultimately, I am convinced -- not that we duck our responsibility in the Federal Government -- but ultimately, I am convinced that it is the private sector that not only has shaped American opportunity but will continue to bring opportunity to the new millennium.

Look at -- Jack, I don't want to embarrass you -- but look at GE, spending .2 million a year on minority science scholarships, and a million commitment to involve more inner-city kids in engineering, or Mobil, launching grant programs to help students enhance America's technological ability. I know that I'm going to, just through omission, risk embarrassing others because so many in this room are responsible for programs of this nature.

These efforts, both private and public, will sustain the computer revolution, for they rely on the qualities of American drive and determination, qualities that will contribute, as your Academy says, ``to the advancement of engineering and the well-being of all humanity'' and that are central to the man for whom this evening's prize is named.

Charles Draper was, first, an idealist pushing back the boundaries of mankind's technological future, and yet at the same time a practical man. I'm reminded of a writer who was asked what he would take if his home were on fire and he could remove only one thing. ``I would take the fire,'' he replied. [Laughter] Dr. Draper knew that Yankee ingenuity revolves around what works.

Finally, he was indomitable, a fighter who looked to himself for inspiration. Albert Einstein once spoke of this genius of engineering, which explains in turn the greatness of Dr. Draper. He said: ``Only men who are free create the inventions and intellectual works which make life worthwhile.'' Working in freedom, Charles Draper well used that freedom: used it to create and to inspire, to make history move his way.

This evening, we honor two men who themselves have made history and made each American proud. So, let me now present to Jack Kilby and Bob Noyce engineering's highest award, the Charles Stark Draper Prize, and say thank them, thanks to both of you, for your inspirational leadership.

Thank you all, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 8:50 p.m. in the ballroom at the Department of State. In his remarks, he referred to Jack Welch, Jr., chairman of the National Academy of Engineering; Jack Kilby, a consultant; Robert Noyce, president and chief operating officer of Sematech; Robert M. White, president of the National Academy of Engineering; Joseph V. Charyk, chairman of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc.; Robert C. Seamans, Jr., chairman of the Charles Stark Draper Prize Committee; Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr., chairman of the Bechtel Group, Inc.; Richard M. Morrow, chairman and chief operating officer of Amoco Oil Corp.; Under Secretary of State for Management Ivan Selin; Deputy Secretary of Defense Donald J. Atwood; D. Allan Bromley, Science Advisor to the President and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Secretary of the Air Force Donald B. Rice.

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