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Public Papers - 1992 - June

Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology


Thank you, and welcome to the Rose Garden. Well, thank you very much. And what a beautiful day here in the Rose Garden. May I salute Dr. Bromley; Dr. Bernthal, the Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation; and of course, over my right shoulder here, Secretary Barbara Franklin, Secretary of Commerce; also Congressman Vander Jagt, who's so interested in all of this; and so many special guests here today, and then three generations of American scientists.

As I look out at the group here of the men and women that we honor, you may remember what Albert Einstein said to his fellow scientists: ``Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors in order that the creations of our mind should be a blessing and not a curse to mankind.'' Today we honor men and women whose life's work answers Einstein's challenge. They bless mankind not only with the brilliance of their minds but with the integrity of their hearts.

I am very proud to present the National Medals of Science and Technology to our 16 recipients, to these men and women of persistent and, at times, clairvoyant determination. They've explained the frontiers of science on canvasses as infinitesimal as a single human cell and as infinite as space itself. We honor them for their accomplishments. But we honor them, also, for having the courage to undertake the journey.

There's a church in Sussex, England which has a wonderful inscription that captures these recipients' pioneer spirit of innovation. The inscription says, ``A vision without a task is but a dream; a task without a vision is drudgery; but a vision with a task is the hope of the world.'' The hope of our world lies in individuals who asked why and then followed wherever that question led. Scientists like Nobel Prize Laureate Howard Temin, a truly seminal thinker in the history of biology who reshaped our thoughts about RNA and DNA. Entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, who cofounded Microsoft and in the process literally led a revolution in the information industry. Visionaries like Eugene Shoemaker, who helped to transform our world, not only through the astounding breadth of his contributions to space explorations but also through the infectious enthusiasm of his imagination. Inventors like Norman Joseph Woodland, who developed a simple device of our daily lives: bar coding. You've seen first-hand how impressed I am -- [laughter] -- by how bar coding works. Amazing.

You all proved that America's greatest resource is the genius of our people. We must encourage, we must support it. That's why Congress must double the budget of the National Science Foundation by 1994 and keep funding on track in 1993 for the superconducting super collider. That's why I'm committed to increases in R D funding, large increases in R D funding, to let our most talented people push the limits of their imaginations to understand the universe and to use the results to create jobs in the future of others. And to support research I've also established a national technology initiative to bring Government officials together with private business to shape technology, to move the new discoveries out of the Federal labs into the marketplace.

In addition, I believe that we need to stimulate private sector investment, the engine obviously of any entrepreneurial economy. And that's why I'm going to continue to fight so hard to get Congress to slash the capital gains tax. This would create new businesses, encourage new innovation. I also want to make that R E, that research and experimentation tax credit permanent.

The world economy of the 21st century will demand a new age of American competitiveness in a fiercely challenging global marketplace. In order to compete we must make immediate, drastic changes, beginning with the need for the best educated, the most well-educated workers. Many of you here today, I'm told, are teachers, influencing one dream at a time, and you know that education is the basis of our future. You know the terrible fact that in some math and science studies we rank almost last, almost last among the industrialized nations. Rest assured we will turn that around. I'm counting on you, and I pledge to you the support of this Government.

Technical competence is so vital that one of our six national education goals is to be the first in world math and science by the year 2000. In order to reach that goal our budget invests 8 million in precollege math and science education, an increase I believe it's about 18 percent over last year and 123 percent over the way things were just back in 1990.

We must open a new world of educational opportunity for America's children and give middle- and low-income families more of the same choice of all schools that wealthier families already have. So, later this week I'll announce a new proposal that will do just that. It's a ``GI bill'' for America's children.

Forty-eight years ago the original GI bill opened educational doors for our war vets by giving them dollars to spend at any school they chose, public, private, or religious. It created a competitive marketplace of colleges and universities and encouraged improvement through innovation. Now it's time that we give the families the same consumer power for choice in precollege schools. That's why I'm introducing this exciting and, I think, powerful bill for our future.

Our Nation can remain strong only by investing its resources and talents in science, technology, and education. And I want to recognize a group of special people who are dedicating their lives to that quest, our first class of Presidential faculty fellows, 30 young faculty members named for their excellence and promise in research and teaching. These scientists and engineers represent the best investment that we can make in our future. But I'd like to remind them of something. As you look at the distinguished medalists that we honor today, remember that whatever work you do, you will be standing on the shoulders of giants.

I want to tell you about something, in conclusion here, pretty unusual that I ran into -- I want to say discovered -- a few months ago up in New Hampshire. Dean Kamen is here. He is a very special individual. What I'm talking about, the discovery, was of something known as the Maize Craze competition. I'm not sure exactly how to describe it. Kids have to make a kind of a robot to fetch tennis balls out of a box filled with corn. Some of the best ideas sound pretty strange at first, but let me tell you, this is a terrific idea.

I was enormously impressed, Dean, by how this Maize Craze teams high school students with high-powered engineering teams from major universities and corporations, a great example of the private-public partnership that will lead us to excellence in the next century. I had forgotten what a salesman Dean is, but he just came into my office and he said, ``Now, if these corporations can sponsor Olympic athletes, why isn't it a great idea that they encourage young scientists in the same way?'' And he's absolutely right about that. Maize Craze is part of U.S. FIRST, a national alliance of business, education, and Government working to reverse declining student interest and performance in science and math.

I invited Dean to bring his winners here today, sponsors Xerox and NYPRO, and teams from Wilson Magnet and Clinton High Schools. We're honoring today a spectrum of achievers that goes then from high school to the pinnacle of research. In turn, we need to nurture every step on the educational ladder, for each depends on the soundness of the preceding one.

So I just came out here to say congratulations to all of you, especially, of course, to our distinguished medalists who show us the triumph of the human mind and the unfolding drama of the human imagination. May God bless all of you. And now, Dr. Bernthal will present the citations, and I will stand in awe as these geniuses come marching by.

Congratulations, and thank you all for coming.

[At this point, Deputy Director Bernthal presented the medals.]

Well, I believe that concludes our ceremony. Dean, are those young people with you here? Maybe we could ask them to stand up, all those that came down from the Maize group. Where are you, all of you scientists -- tortured my mind up there.

Well, that concludes our ceremony. But we're just delighted you all were here, and thank you very much for coming. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:38 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Dean L. Kamen, founder of U.S. FIRST, and D. Allan Bromley, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

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