President Obama lauded the 12 recipients of the nation’s highest honor for achievement in science, technology and innovation today, joking that they should all make us feel embarrassed about our old science projects.
“You know, the volcano with the stuff coming out with the baking soda inside. Apparently, that was not a cutting-edge achievement even though our parents told us it was really terrific,” Obama said at a White House ceremony honoring the seven researchers receiving the National Medal of Science and the five inventors receiving the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.
“Thanks to the men and women on the stage, we are one step closer to curing diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s. Because of their work, soldiers can see the enemy at night and grandparents can see the pictures of their grandchildren instantly and constantly. Planes are safer, satellites are cheaper, and our energy grid is more efficient, thanks to the breakthroughs that they have made,” he said on a more serious note.
The awards recognize a range of work including the discovery of a new property of the DNA helix, improvements in energy efficiency, and pioneering developments in cardiovascular physiology.
While three-quarters of the honorees were born in foreign countries, Obama said they came to the U.S. “because America is the best place in the world to do the work that they do.
“America has always been a place where good ideas can thrive and dreams can become real — where innovation is encouraged and the greatest minds in the world are free to push the very limits of science and technology,” Obama said.
The president also noted it was “troubling” that only one in 10 of all U.S. undergraduate students are studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics “because no matter how many great minds we attract from around the world, it won’t be enough if we can’t grow some here at home.
“The key to our success has always been and always will be our unparalleled ability to think up new ideas, create new industries, and lead the way in discovery and innovation. And that’s how the future will be won,” he said.