Science and Technology in the State of the Union

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Publication date: 
25 January 2012

In  last night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama spoke of the  importance of science and technology and the role that the federal government  plays in the support of research.  It is  notable that previous State of the Union addresses by President Obama and President  George W. Bush commented on the need for strong federal funding for research  programs.  The following are selections  from their addresses:

President  Obama in 2012:

“Innovation  also demands basic research.  Today, the  discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could  lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched.  New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers  that can stop any bullet.  Don’t gut  these investments in our budget.  Don’t  let other countries win the race for the future.  Support the same kind of research and  innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs  and new American industries.”

President  Obama in 2011:    “Half  a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite  called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon.  The science wasn’t even there yet.  NASA didn’t exist.  But after investing in better research and  education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of  innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.     “This  is our generation’s Sputnik moment.  Two  years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development  we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race.  And in a few weeks, I will be sending a  budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal.  We’ll invest in biomedical research,  information technology, and especially clean energy technology - an investment  that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new  jobs for our people.”

President  Obama in 2010:

“You  see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems  have grown worse. Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy.  Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations -- they're not  standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting  more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure.  They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want those  jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America.” “.  . . we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest  investment in basic research funding in history -- an investment that could  lead to the world's cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells  but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such innovation  than energy. You can see the results of last year's investments in clean energy  -- in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping  to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put a  thousand people to work making solar panels.”

President  Obama in 2009:

“Thanks  to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy  in the next three years.  We have also  made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an  investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs  in medicine, science, and technology.”

President  Bush in 2008:

“To  keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our  scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of  tomorrow. Last year, Congress passed legislation supporting the American  Competitiveness Initiative, but never followed through with the funding. This  funding is essential to keeping our scientific edge. So I ask Congress to  double federal support for critical basic research in the physical sciences and  ensure America remains the most dynamic nation on Earth.”

President  Bush in 2006:

“And  to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must  continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest  advantage in the world has always been our educated, hardworking, ambitious  people -- and we're going to keep that edge. Tonight I announce an American  Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and  to give our nation's children a firm grounding in math and science."

  "First, I  propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research  programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years. This funding will  support the work of America's most creative minds as they explore promising  areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.” 

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