President Barack Obama reiterated his strong support for science and technology today in a speech to members of the National Academy of Sciences at its 150th annual meeting. Science, technology, engineering, and medicine are critical to the nation’s prosperity, Obama said, noting that investments made today are bound to pay off for many years to come.
The president warned that recent mandatory cuts in federal spending could slow these critical advances in research. “With the pace of technological innovation today, we can’t afford to stand still for a year or two years or three years,” Obama said. “We’ve got to seize every opportunity we have to stay ahead, and we can’t let other countries win the race for ideas and technology of the future.”
Just as science and technology have advanced the nation in the past, he noted, they will be critical in addressing today’s challenges. “We will continue to pursue advances in science, engineering, infrastructure, education, and environmental protection, and especially science-based innovations to help us minimize and adapt to global threats like climate change,” Obama said.
President Obama made an impassioned plea to ensure that the nation’s young people continue to maintain their spirit of discovery and receive strong educations in STEM. “We don’t want our kids just to be consumers of the amazing things that science generates,” Obama said. “We want them to be producers as well. We’ve got to make sure we’re supporting that next generation of dreamers and risk takers.”
Since Abraham Lincoln signed the congressional charter founding the National Academy of Sciences 150 years ago, the Academy has played a critical role in advancing science and shaping public policy. “[Lincoln] recognized that finding a way to harness the highest caliber scientific advice for the government would serve a whole range of long-term goals for the nation,” Obama said, noting that his administration turns to the Academy for advice on many issues.
“Like President Lincoln 150 years ago, President Obama clearly understands the importance of S&T to the future prosperity and security of our nation,” said NAS President Ralph J. Cicerone in introductory remarks. “We’re pleased that President Obama and the administration continue to turn to the National Academy of Sciences for help, analysis, and advice on many issues facing the nation and the world today.”
President Obama is the only president to address the National Academy of Sciences’ annual gatherings of members twice; he also spoke at the 2009 NAS annual meeting. Other presidents who have addressed the NAS include George H.W. Bush in 1990, John F. Kennedy, who spoke at the NAS Centennial Convocation in 1963 and at the NAS annual meeting in 1961, Jimmy Carter in 1979, and Calvin Coolidge in 1924.
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and — with the National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council — provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.