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Remarks by President Biden at National Medal of Science and … – The White House

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The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500
East Room
12:26 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, welcome.  And please have a seat.  This is a happy occasion.  We need some more happy occasions.  Thank you.  Thank you all for being here.

And welcome to the White House — your house. 

In 1921, Marie Curie visited the White House with President Warren Harding, and [he] presented him [her] with a precious gift: one gram of radium carefully stored and purchased with funds raised by thousands of American women to help continue her research that would transform everything from X-rays to cancer treatment to nuclear energy.

Twenty-four years after that visit, a girl was born in Syria.  She dreamt of being Madame Curie, moving to Paris, and becoming a scientist.  Then a — a family member [friend] with real wisdom told her — (laughs) — that “if you want to dream big, dream about going to America.  That’s where great science happens.” 

We’re determined to return great science to America by — we used to invest 2 percent of our GDP in — in — of — in science and technology.  Now we invest 0.7 percent of our GDP.

And — but, anyway, she did come to America, and her name is Dr. Akil.  She’s here today.  Doctor, where are you?  There you are.  Right on the end.  (Inaudible.)  (Applause.)  Stand.  Stand up so everybody can see you.  (Applause.)  Thank you. 

A groundbreaking scientist studying neurobiology and emotions.  We could use that badly.  (Laughter.)

Anyway, she joined 20 other Americans receiving our nation’s highest honors in science and technology.   

The National Medal of Science is given for outstanding contributions to the knowledge — to knowledge in the sciences, and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for outstanding contributions to the promotion of technology for the improvement of the economic, environmental, and social and — and social well-being of the United States.

With this year’s recipients, “outstanding” may be an understatement.  They’re extraordinary.

Delivering clean drinking water and fuel-efficient heat sources to low-income countries.  

Growing crops that can withstand extreme weather.

Deepening our knowledge of blood vessels, nerve cells [neurons], and molecules. 

Pointing the way toward new treatments for diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s and addiction.  

Transforming how we live, work, and communicate by being able — by — by helping create advanced manufacturing and expand access to the Internet.  

Protecting our democracy by developing new technologies to protect the right to vote.  

Making our world more accessible by creating a next-generation wheelchair technology.  

Expanding — expanding our understanding of everything from the depths of the human eye to the depths of the universe.  

And they have paved the way for a generation of other scientists and inventors to pursue their own discoveries, to unlock our nation’s full potential.

To all the honorees: Thank you, thank you, thank you for your courage, for your perseverance, and maybe most importantly for your integrity.  

And thank you as well to the family members and loved ones here today.  I want all the family members to stand.  Come on.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

I’m being a little facetious, but you know what it must have been like growing up saying, “It’s time for dinner.”  And they say, “What?”  (Laughter.)   

Anyway, thank you. 

I’ve long said America can be defined by a single word.  I was in the Tibetan Plateau with Xi Jinping.  I’ve spent a great deal of time with him one on one — back when I was vice president and since then.  And he looked at me, and he said — we just had simultaneous interpreters.  And he said, “Can you define America for me?”  And I said, “I can.  One word, and I mean this sincerely: possibilities.  Possibilities.”

The fact that several of today’s honorees immigrated from other countries is proof of the assertion that everything is possible.

You know, there will be more techno- — technological change in the next 10 years, maybe in the next 5 years, than in the last 50 years.  There’s a — in large part to the minds sitting in front of us.  And I want America to lead — to lead that change. 

Because of the greatness of a country is measured not only by the size of its economy or the strength of its military.  It’s — the strength of the nation is also measured by its boldness of its science, the quality of its research, and the progress it helps bring forth for not only the country but whole the world.

In this administration, America will be the place where great science happens.  

You know, starting on day one, in the middle of the pandemic, we vaccinated a nation: the greatest operational effort ever undertaken by this country — operational.  And we did it with a strategy based on science, not on politics.

Now, scientists are exploring whether the mRNA technology that brought us safe and effective COVID vaccines can be used against cancer.

I brought together some of our nation’s top minds in my Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.   And I elevated the Office of Science and Technology Policy to a Cabinet-level position.  It’s helping to lead major initiatives on everything from artificial intelligence to ARPA-H to Advanced Research Projects Agency and Health — for Health that are going to drive breakthroughs in how we direct [detect] and treat cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases.   

And this year, we’re investing $200 billion in research and development.  

In addition, I signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, two of the most significant investments America has ever made to supercharge research, innovation, and job creation. 

Already, private companies have announced over $600 billion in investments in industries from clean energy to advanced manufacturing right here in America. 

Right now, NASA is leading a mission on Mars.  On our phones, we can see images of the red planet that before we could only dream of seeing.  We are further into space than ever before, and the answer to the most fundamental question about how the universe began is not far away. 

All of this and so much more has happened because America is leading the way and because the people in this room and the labs across the country are leading.  It matters.  It matters.

I want to close with this.  Last year, I went to Pre- — President Kennedy’s library and museum in Boston to deliver a speech about what I referred to as the “cancer moonshot” that my wife, Jill, and I reignited after we got to the White House. 

You know, I’ve said before: If there’s one thing I wish as president I could do, it would be ending cancer as we know it, for two reasons. 

One, America began to lose faith in its ability to do anything.  The one thing that would prove to Americans that we can do anything is ending cancer.  There’s more important things — more — as consequential — but ending cancer.

We’ve never set our mind to a project we haven’t accomplished if we do it together.

For those who have lost, like many of us in this room, and for the ones we can save, I don’t just hope we can do it, I know we can do it. 

I was in that library with Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, a dear friend.  She presented me with her father’s framed speech answering the question of why he was sending Americans to the moon — America to the moon. 

And here’s what he said in the letter.  He said — President Kennedy said it was, quote, “because the challenge is one we are unwilling — we are willing to accept and one we are unwilling to postpone and one which we intend to win.”

That’s the American attitude.  “Unwilling to postpone.”  We are unwilling to postpone, and we’ve been postponing a lot of things too long. 

That’s all of you here today.  You’ve been unwilling to postpone.  That’s America at our best. 

We just have to remember who in God’s name we are.  We’re the United States of America.  There is nothing — nothing beyond our capacity if we set our mind to it and do it together.

So, thank you very much. 

And with that, I’d like to invite the Military Aide to come up and read the citations before I present the medals.

Thank you all for being here.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  The recipient of the National Medal of Science, Huda Akil.

The National Medal of Science is being presented to Huda Akil of the University of Michigan for pioneering contributions to our understanding of the brain biology of emotions.  Her seminal discoveries of the molecular, neural, genetic, and behavioral mechanisms of pain, substance abuse, and depression have helped identify novel targets for treatments, strengthening our nation’s public health, including the fight to end the opioid epidemic.

(The National Medal of Science is presented.)  (Applause.)

Barry C. Barish.

The National Medal of Science has been awarded to Barry C. Barish of California Institute of Technology for exemplary service to science, including groundbreaking research on sub-atomic particles.  His leadership of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory led to the first detection of gravitational waves from merging black holes, confirming a key part of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.  He has broadened our understanding of the universe and our nation’s sense of wonder and discovery. 

(The National Medal of Science is presented.)  (Applause.)

Gebisa Ejeta.

The National Medal of Science has been awarded to Gebisa Ejeta of Purdue University for outstanding contributions to the science of plant genetics.  By developing sorghum strains that withstand droughts and parasites, he has improved food security for millions.  His advocacy for science, policy, and institutions as key to economic development has lifted the fortunes of farmers and strengthened the souls of nations.

(The National Medal of Science is presented.)  (Applause.)

Eve Marder.

The National Medal of Science has been awarded to Eve Marder of Brandeis University for her paradigm-shifting contributions to the understanding of neuronal circuit plasticity, homeostatic regulation of neuronal excitability and individual variability; her visionary application of theoretical and experimental approaches to understanding neural circuits; and her inspirational advocacy of basic science. 

(The National Medal of Science is presented.)  (Applause.)

Gregory Petsko.

The National Medal of Science has been awarded to Gregory A. Petsko of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital for advancing our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.  His role in founding structural enzymology, along with his commitment to educating the public about brain health, have empowered people around the world and raised the ambitions of our nation regarding aging with dignity.

(The National Medal of Science is presented.)  (Applause.)

Accepting on behalf of Myriam Sarachik, Philip Sarachik and Karen Sarachik.

The National Medal of Science has been awarded to Myriam Sarachik of the City College of New York for her seminal contributions to fundamental experimental studies of molecular nanomagnets, quantum spin dynamics, and spin coherence in condensed matter systems at low temperatures; for her tireless advocacy of human rights throughout the world; and for serving as an inspirational role model for women in physics.

(The National Medal of Science is presented.)  (Applause.)

Subra Suresh.

The National Medal of Science has been awarded to Subra Suresh of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brown University for pioneering research across engineering, physical sciences, and life sciences.  A transformative educator, he has advanced the study of material science and its application to other disciplines.  His commitment to research and collaboration across borders has demonstrated how science can forge understanding and cooperation among people and nations. 

(The National Medal of Science presented.)  (Applause.)

Shelley Taylor. 

The National Medal of Science has been awarded to Shelley Taylor of the University of California Los Angeles for groundbreaking research into mental health and the power of human connection.  Her work showed that optimism, self-esteem, and strong relationships improve the health of people with cancer, diabetes, and other diseases, helping establish the fields of social cognition, health psychology, and social neuroscience, and increasing our nation’s wellbeing. 

(The National Medal of Science presented.)  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Wait a minute, let’s take a picture.  (Laughter.)

(Addressing the White House photographer.)  You got it?  (Laughter.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Sheldon Weinbaum.

The National Medal of Science has been awarded to Sheldon Weinbaum of the City College of New York for pathbreaking research in biomechanics.  His models have driven innovation in physiology, bone biology, and blood flow, increasing our understanding of cardiovascular disease and leading to lifesaving treatments.

His exceptional teaching and mentorship underscore his lifelong advocacy for diversity and inclusion, tapping into the full talents of our nation. 

(The National Medal of Science presented.)  (Applause.)

The recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Mary-Dell Chilton.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has been awarded to Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta Biotechnology for laying the foundation of modern plant biotechnology.  Her breakthrough success developing the first genetically modified plant has led to the engineering of crops that can withstand insects, disease, extreme weather, and climate change, transforming agriculture, protecting the planet, and improving the health of people around the world. 

(The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is presented.)  (Applause.) 

John Cioffi.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has been awarded to John Cioffi of Stanford University and ASSIA for advancements that helped bring high-speed Internet to the world.  The digital subscriber line that he helped invent ignited the growth of the digital age, vastly increasing people’s access to information, reshaping the global economy, and transforming how we work, communicate, and find community. 

(The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is presented.)  (Applause.)

Rory Cooper.  

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has been awarded to Rory A. Cooper of the University of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for empowering the lives of millions of Americans.  By inventing and developing cutting-edge wheelchair technologies and mobility devices, cultivating the next generation of rehabilitation engineers, and championing wounded veterans and students with disabilities, he moves us closer to being a nation that is accessible for all.

(The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is presented.)  (Applause.)

Ashok Gadgil.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has been awarded to Ashok Gadgil of the University of California Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for providing life-sustaining resources to communities around the world.  His innovative, inexpensive technologies help meet profound needs, from drinking water to fuel-efficient cookstoves.  His work is inspired by a belief in the dignity of all people and in our power to solve the great challenges of our time.

(The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is presented.)  (Applause.)

    Juan Gilbert.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has been awarded to Juan Gilbert of the University of Florida for protecting democracy.  His pioneering designs in elections technology aim to make voting more secure and accessible — (the President puts his arm around Dr. Gilbert) — (laughter) — helping ensure that ours remains a government of, by, and for the people.  An advocate for diversity in computer science, he makes this discipline stronger and more representative of our nation.

(The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is presented.)  (Applause.)

Charles Hull.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has been awarded to Charles W. Hull of 3D Systems for helping launch the groundbreaking 3D printing industry.  Thanks to stereolithography, which he invented, countless products can be prototyped faster and cheaper, reshaping industries from aerospace to healthcare to education.  He continues to drive innovation in advanced manufacturing critical to our nation’s economy, security, and global leadership.

  (The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is presented.)  (Applause.)

Jeong Kim.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has been awarded to Jeong H. Kim of Kiswe Mobile for advances in engineering and technology that transformed how we communicate. His work on broadband optical systems, data communications, and wireless technologies have made communication faster and clearer, including improvements in battlefield communications that strengthen our national security.  He exemplifies the power of American entrepreneurship and innovation.

(The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is presented.)  (Applause.)

Steven Rosenberg.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has been presented to Steven A. Rosenberg of the National Cancer Institute for transforming the way we treat cancer and advancing our progress toward ending cancer as we know it.  By leading the development of the first effective immunotherapies, he has saved countless lives and inspired a generation of scientists.  His work powerfully illustrates that we can do big things as Americans.

(The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is presented.)  (Applause.)

Neil Gilbert Siegel. 

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has been awarded to Neil Gilbert Siegel of the University of Southern California for technology that bolstered our nation’s security, economy, and connectivity.  His creation of the “digital battlefield” represented a new approach to combat operations, integrating secure communications and precise, real-time data to minimize U.S. casualties and protect allies and civilians.  Today, technologies he invented are found in smartphones everywhere.

(The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is presented.)  (Applause.)

James Fujimoto, Eric Swanson, and David Huang. 

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has been awarded to James Fujimoto and Eric Swanson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and David Huang of the Oregon Health and Science University for enhancing human vision.  Their invention of optical coherence tomography transformed ophthalmology by providing a detailed image of the retina for the first time.  Their work is now the standard of care for the detection and treatment of eye disease, giving millions a new chance to see the world.

(The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is presented.)  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  You all are so damn impressive.  (Laughter.)  No, I really mean it.  Think of how you’re literally changing the world for the better.

Thank you, everybody.  And congratulations, again, to our outstanding laureates and their families.

And remember what America is all about — you do — possibilities.  Possibilities.  That’s who we are.  Anything is possible if we put our mind to it.

And with you all, you’ve got incredible minds.

Thank you for what you’ve done so far.  You’ve saved people’s lives.  You’ve changed the way we look at the world, and you made it better.  I don’t know that anybody could ask for anything more.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.  And God bless you all.  (Applause.)

(The President departs the podium.)

Q    Mr. President, is humanitarian aid getting into Gaza fast enough?

THE PRESIDENT:  Not fast enough.
12:59 P.M. EDT
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