Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 16, 1997


Room 450
Old Executive Office

9:54 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Dr. Gibbons, Secretary Daley. I'm also delighted that Neal Lane, the Director of the National Science Foundation, and Dr. Harold Varmus, the Director of the NIH, are here with us, as well as the Chairman of the House Science Committee -- Congressman Sensenbrenner, thank you very much for being here.

Today we honor 14 remarkable men and women for extraordinary individual accomplishments, from discovering new ways to chart the universe to exploring the internal universe of human nature. We honor them, however, also for their collective achievement. By giving these awards we honor the American passion for discovery that has driven our nation forward from field to factory to the far reaches of cyberspace. This spirit of discovery will lead us into a new century and a new millennium.

This is a moment of great challenge for our nation, a time where we must rise to master the forces of change and progress as we move forward to the 21st century. Later this week I will announce or discuss the new economy, one of the most powerful forces of change. This morning I want to talk about the force of scientific and technological innovation. It is helping to fuel and shape that new economy, but its impact goes well beyond it.

For five years in a row, I have increased our investments in science and technology while bringing down the deficit, often in the face of opposition. These investments have surely paid off -- in higher paying jobs, better health care, stronger national security, and improved quality of life for all Americans. They are essential to our efforts to address global climate change, a process begun last week in Kyoto, with the strong leadership of the Vice President. They are critical to America's ability to maintain our leadership in cutting-edge industries that will power the global economy of the new century.

Half our economic growth in the last half-century has come from technological innovation and the science that supports it. The information, communications, and electronics industries already employ millions of Americans in jobs that can pay up to 73 percent above the national average. Firms that use advanced technologies are more productive and profitable than those which do not.

But technological innovation also depends upon government support in research and development. Let me give you just two examples.

Five years ago, the Internet was unknown to most Americans. Today, thanks to farsighted investments, tens of millions of Americans surf the web on a daily basis, and our investments in the next generation Internet will give our universities and national labs a powerful research and communication tool.

Five years ago, the mystery of the human genetic system was only partly known. Today, government-funded scientists have discovered genes linked to breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and our Human Genome Project is revolutionizing how we understand, treat, and prevent some of our most devastating diseases.

These ground-breaking innovations could not have happened without dedication, downright genius, and government investment. Today I'm pleased to announce $96 million in new research and investments to continue that progress.

First, the Defense Department will invest $14 million to help our universities, in partnership with private industry, to develop a new supercomputer on a chip, among other new projects. These chips will be no larger than my fingernail, but their computing power will be 25,000 times greater than this entire mainframe computer.

Let me try to illustrate -- this is the size of the chip. It equals 25,000 of those. Pretty good work. (Laughter.)

This technology, once developed, will make possible everything from faster, cheaper home computers to advanced weapons systems to cleaner, more efficient car engines and many, many others.

Second, the Commerce Department's Advanced Technology program will sponsor a series of private-sector competitions for $82 million in new grants to foster innovations like cleaner energy sources that reduce greenhouse gases, low-cost methods of producing life-saving drugs and radio-transmitting ID cards that can help to locate lost children, to name just a few. These investments will help to usher in a new era of discovery we can only dream of today.

Benjamin Franklin once said he was sorry to have been born so soon because he would not -- and I quote -- "have the happiness of knowing what will be known 100 years hence." It's hard to imagine what he would think if he were here, 200 years later. I'm sure he'd be filled with awe and pride that the American tradition of innovation he helped to establish is still driving our nation forward.

And who knows what will be known in only 25 years, whom we will be honoring -- the researchers who find cures for cancer; perhaps scientists who discover life on other planets; the engineers who devise new energy sources to preserve our environment and sustain our economy for generations to come. The discoveries of tomorrow will be made possible by the scientists of today, and by our continued commitment to their passionate quest.

Now, I am honored to present the men and women with the National Medals of Science and Technology. Please read the citations.

(The citations are read.)

Thank you all very much. Thank you.

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