President Bush yesterday presented awards to the 2005 and 2006 National Medal of Science and Technology Recipients, and in his remarks reiterated his support for a strong federal role in support of fundamental research. There’s no guarantee, of course, that the President’s strong support now will help alleviate the coming appropriations meltdown (that could threaten science funding gains), but at least it appears that his heart is in the right place. The full remarks are here, but I thought I’d just highlight a bit of them:
The work of these Laureates demonstrates that innovation is vital to a better future for our country and the world. In America, the primary engine of innovation is the private sector. But government can help by encouraging the basic research that gives rise to promising new thought and products. So that’s why I’ve worked with some in this room and around our country to develop and propose the American Competitiveness Initiative. Over ten years, this initiative will double the federal government’s commitment to the most critical, basic research programs in physical sciences. Last year the Congress provided more than $10 billion, and that’s just a start. And I call on leaders of both political parties to fully fund this initiative for the good of the country.
Maintaining our global leadership also requires a first-class education system. There are many things that American schools are doing right — including insisting on accountability for every single child. There are also some areas where we need to improve. And so as members work to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, one of their top priorities has got to be to strengthen math and science education.
One way to do that is to create an “adjunct teachers corps” of math and science professionals all aiming to bring their expertise into American classrooms. It’s not really what the aim is — the aim is to make it clear to young Americans that being in science and engineering is okay; it’s cool; it’s a smart thing to do. And so for those of you who are involved with inspiring youngsters, thank you for what you’re doing. I appreciate you encouraging the next generation to follow in your footsteps. And I ask that Congress fully fund the adjunct teacher corps, so you can have some help as you go out to inspire.
One of the many reasons that I am an optimistic fellow, and I am, is because I understand that this country is a nation of discovery and enterprise. And that spirit is really strong in America today. I found it interesting that one of today’s Laureates, Dr. Leslie Geddes, is 86 years old and continues to teach and conduct research at Purdue University. Even more interesting is what he had to say. He said, “I wouldn’t know what else to do. I’m not done yet.” (Laughter.)
He’s right. He’s not done yet, because the promise of science and technology never runs out. With the imagination and determinations of Americans like our awardees today, our nation will continue to discover new possibilities and to develop new innovations, and build a better life for generations to come. And that’s what we’re here to celebrate.