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Public Papers - 1991

Remarks at the Westinghouse Science Talent Search 50th Anniversary Banquet

1991-03-04

Thank you. Please be seated. Let me just say how pleased I am to be here, salute the members of my Cabinet here, Secretary Sullivan; and Governor and Mrs. Sununu; Dr. Bromley, outstanding science adviser to the President; Dr. Seaborg, an old friend who's been so instrumental in all of this; Mr. Lego, Mr. Sherburne, Ms. Luszcz, Monsignor Quinn, Mr. Flatow; and trustees of the Westinghouse Foundation. And then, of course, the past and current Westinghouse Award recipients; also, the judges of the Science Talent Search; distinguished guests of science -- and that leaves me as the only one. [Laughter]

I went in and saw five of these displays in there on the condition that they'd not give a test after they explained exactly what they had wrought. [Laughter] And I wish all of you could have seen it; it was wonderful.

But thank you, sir, for introducing me and for all you do, for this warm reception out here. And let me welcome to Washington the trustees of our posterity: high school students, the best and the brightest, high school students who act for the Nation and neighbor. And it's a pleasure for me to be here at this Super Bowl of science.

You know, we meet tonight on the 50th anniversary of the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, a program which has helped to make the past half-century a time of extraordinary exploration. Fifty years ago, 1941 -- just think of the changes since then. As for the VCR -- people couldn't set their clocks on the VCR back then either. [Laughter] Because there wasn't any VCR. [Laughter] When I was growing up in 1941, PacMan was a hiker, not a video game. [Laughter] And there have been so many changes, so much scientific change for the good. And who knows how future endeavors will make ours a richer, more decent world?

Tonight, we honor distinguished scientists and researchers who are opening doors into an age where mankind not only moved into the future but reinvented it. Think of discoveries like biotechnology and microchip, and of pioneers like Kilby and Noyce, Cohen and Boyer, the first two people to splice a gene. All knew, as Thomas Jefferson wrote to a Polish general who fought with us in the Revolutionary War, ``The main objects of all science are the freedom and happiness of man.''

Since the dark days of World War II, Westinghouse recipients have aided this freedom, becoming an instrument of liberty and the symbol of the information age. From the first man to win the top prize in the Science Talent Search -- Paul Teschan, saving soldiers' lives with the artificial kidney in the Korean war -- to Raymond Kurzweil, whose reading devices make life easier for the blind, each has reached for the stars so that future generations of Americans might someday travel to them.

This program's history reaffirms that truth. Five Westinghouse Award recipients have won the Nobel Prize. Eight have received MacArthur fellowships. Three have been admitted to the National Academy of Engineering. Twenty-eight have also been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of your profession's highest honors.

Albert Einstein put it best when he noted that everything that is really great and inspiring is created by individuals who labor in freedom. In short, he believed what all of these honorees believe: freedom works. This year's national winners, 40 in all, were culled from more than 1,400 entries. Many belong to their school debate team or baseball club or their newspaper or their church group or their band. All have created research projects which show how the trailblazers of today can indeed be the heroes of tomorrow.

Consider Clifford Wang of Vero Beach. He proposed that seaweed can be grown in the ocean to remove metal pollutants and then harvested for methane generation, cleaning the environment while at the same time producing energy. Or Tara Bahna-James of New York City, who explored the relationship between math aptitude and musical talent. In Spring, Texas -- right there in my old congressional district -- Wade Butine developed a varnish to withstand the rigors of weather and salt water. And in Pittsburgh, Susan Criss recently completed a 2-year project -- it's one of the five I saw -- that showed how betacarotene in the bloodstream may reduce the risk of cancer.

These and other projects show how learning is always a continuation, never a consummation; that because freedom works, dreams make possible even greater dreams. Here's a story which magnifies that fact. In 1843, a Commissioner of Patents made a report to President Tyler. And he said, ``The advancement of the arts from year to year taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.'' He went on to urge that the Patent Office be liquidated -- even Ripley wouldn't believe this -- [laughter] -- because, he allegedly believed, there was nothing else to be invented. [Laughter]

Today, all of us know better. We realize this nation has no natural resources like its intellectual resources. So, we must, and are, assisting the knowledge that is our most enduring legacy, vital to everything we are and can become.

The Nation's Governors and I have set a goal -- a national goal -- for U.S. students to be number one in the world in math and science learning by the year 2000. And we can achieve it. We will achieve it. To start with, we will achieve it through our own National Educational Excellence Act that I will soon send up to Congress. Last fall Congress acted favorably on our initiative for a National Science Scholars program, which will give America's youth a special incentive to excel in science, math, and engineering.

We will also achieve this goal through research and development in all areas of science, technology, and engineering. Last month, I submitted our new budget to the Congress, and it includes special emphasis on math and science education. We propose an increase of 5 million for math and science education, new funding for R D that totals billion, including a record high of over billion for basic science research.

Our budget will continue our basic commitment to double the funding for the National Science Foundation; devote over billion for major space activities, and that's up 15 percent over last year; and support the development of worthy ideas from electric powered vehicles to high performance computing to the human genome project. It gives more money than ever to the small science research -- research by individuals embodied, if you will, by the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. And it urges Congress to provide the 28-percent increase I seek to raise the quality of precollege math and science education, which we must do if American science and technology will continue to lead the world.

This budget will help freedom work at home. And yet this freedom has also helped advance the cause of liberty abroad. For evidence, look halfway around the world at the Persian Gulf, where achievements in science are responsible for the high-tech equipment which has served our military so well.

In the past, some have urged that we depend more for our protection on theories of deterrence than technologies of defense. Well, thank God that when those Scuds came in, the people of Israel and Saudi Arabia had more to protect them than some abstract theory of deterrence.

You just go over to Riyadh or Tel Aviv. And a theory didn't protect those citizens. Patriot missiles born of technology did. Because of science and technology, because of American creativity, thousands of innocent civilians -- priceless human lives -- have been spared. The Patriot and other missiles show how American innovation stems from American inspiration.

If the cause of peace is to continue being served by American military power, it must continue being advanced by American brain power. Ask our troops in the Gulf -- yes, those finest soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coastguardsmen any nation has ever had. Today, all of us are especially grateful that 10 coalition POW's, including several Americans, are on their way back home. And our remaining POW's should not be far behind. Welfare of our troops was our top priority in the war. And as we forge a new peace, all of them will be on our minds until all of them are back home. Each of these brave men and women know how science and technology brought closer freedom's ultimate victory.

Ask, too, those other great heroes, our teachers. Each day they give perhaps the greatest gift of sharing their knowledge with others. And ask, finally, America's students and parents. They know that while learning is very practical, it is also among mankind's most noble endeavors. It can presage a new golden age -- a bold, new world order where creativity flows more than ever from the human heart and mind.

Over the past half-century, scientific breakthroughs have benefited us all. From the first radar to pioneering advances in shock and burn treatment, to the revolutionary laser, to the high-tech of today, America's scientists have done their duty, as they will in the future, helping us not merely to prevail at war but also, more importantly, to win the peace.

What a magnificent legacy for the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. What a magnificent metaphor for the dream that is America. Thank you for all you do. Congratulations to each and every one of you. Please continue -- I would ask this of all of you -- to pray for our sons and daughters in the Gulf and for peace -- lasting peace in that troubled corner of the world.

God bless you all, and thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:28 p.m. in the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel. In his opening remarks, he referred to Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis L. Sullivan; John H. Sununu, Chief of Staff to the President, and his wife, Nancy; D. Allan Bromley, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology; Glenn Seaborg and E.G. Sherburne, Jr., chairman and president of Science Service; Paul Lego, chairman and chief executive officer of Westinghouse Electric Corp., who introduced President Bush; Carol Luszcz, program director for the Westinghouse Science Talent Search; Msgr. Louis Quinn of Saint Matthew's Cathedral; and Ira Flatow, president of Samanna Productions, Inc.

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