President Obama Speaks at the 150th Anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences

“…. But President Lincoln founded the Academy with a mandate that went far beyond the science and technology of war. Even as the nation was at war with itself, President Lincoln had the wisdom to look forward, and he 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.

It was the same foresight that led him to establish land-grant colleges and finish the Transcontinental Railroad — the idea that the essence of America is this hunger to innovate, this restlessness, this quest for the next big thing. And although much of this innovation would be generated by the powers of our free market, the investments and the convening power of the federal government could accelerate discovery in a way that would continually push the nation forward.

That’s our inheritance, and now the task falls to us. We, too, face significant challenges — obviously not of the magnitude that President Lincoln faced, but we’ve got severe economic and security and environmental challenges. And what we know from our past is that the investments we make today are bound to pay off many times over in the years to come.

So we will continue to pursue advances in science and engineering, in infrastructure and innovation, in education and environmental protection — especially science-based initiatives to help us minimize and adapt to global threats like climate change….

And what I want to communicate to all of you is, is that as long as I’m President, we’re going to continue to be committed to investing in the promising ideas that are generated from you and your institutions, because they lead to innovative products, they help boost our economy, but also because that’s who we are. I’m committed to it because that’s what makes us special and ultimately what makes life worth living.

And that’s why we’re pursuing “grand challenges” like making solar energy as cheap as coal, and building electric vehicles as affordable as the ones that run on gas. And earlier this month, I unveiled the BRAIN initiative, which will give scientists the tools that they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action, and better understand how we think and learn and remember.

Today, all around the country, scientists like you are developing therapies to regenerate damaged organs, creating new devices to enable brain-controlled prosthetic limbs, and sending sophisticated robots into space to search for signs of past life on Mars. That sense of wonder and that sense of discovery, it has practical application but it also nurtures what I believe is best in us.”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/12K7pEe

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