Compilation of Weekly Presidential Documents - March 20, 2000 - Remarks on presenting the National Medals of Science and Technology

� March 14, 2000



� The President. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you and

welcome to the White House. Thank you, Secretary Daley, and thank

you, Dr. Lane, for your leadership. Secretary Shalala, Dr. Colwell,

Representative Nick Smith, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson,

thank you for your support of science and technology in the United

States Congress, across party lines. We welcome Sir Christopher

Meyer, the British Ambassador to the United States, here to be with

us today.



� Every year I look forward to this day. I always learn something

from the work of the honorees. Some of you I know personally;

others, I've read your books. Some of you, I'm still trying to grasp

the implications of what it is I'm supposed to understand and don't

quite yet. [Laughter) But this has been-I must say, one of the great

personal joys of being President for me has been the opportunity

that I've had to be involved with people who are pushing the

frontiers of science and technology and to study subjects that I

haven't really thought seriously about since I was in my late teens.

And I thank you for that.



� When Congress minted America's first coin in 1792, one of the

mottos was "Liberty, Parent of Science and Industry." Very few of

those coins survived, but the Smithsonian has lent us one today. I

actually have one. It's worth $300,000. [Laughter] Not enough to

turn the head of a 25-year-old ,com executive-[laughter]-but to a

President, it's real money. [Laughter] And I thought you might like

to see it because it embodies a commitment that was deep in the

consciousness of Thomas Jefferson and many of our other Founders.

And we could put the same inscription on your medals today.



� You have used your freedom to ask and answer some of the greatest

questions of our time. Each of you has been a brilliant innovator,

and more, breaking down barriers between disciplines, broadening the

frontiers of knowledge, bringing the products of pure research into

everyday lives of millions of people, helping to educate the next

generation of inventors and innovators.



� For this, America and, indeed, the entire world is in your debt. It

is terribly important that we continue to open the world of science

to every American. The entire store of human knowledge is now

doubling every 5 years. In just the 8 years since I first presented

these medals, think about what has occurred. In 1993 no one's

computer had a zip drive or a Pentium chip; there were only 50 sites

on the World Wide Web, amazing, January of 1993. Today, there are

about 50 million. In 1993 cloning animals was still science fiction.

But Dolly the sheep would be born just 4 years later. Since 1993,

we've sent robots to rove on Mars, created prototype cars that get

70 to 80 miles a gallon, invented Palm Pilots that put the Internet

on our belts and lead to the increasing nightmares of a busy life.




� The work that you and your colleagues have done has changed

everything about our lives. It has brought us to the threshold of a

new scientific voyage that promises to change everything all over




� Perhaps no science today is more compelling than the effort to

decipher the human genome, the string of 3 billion letters that make

up our genes. In my lifetime, we'll go from knowing almost nothing

about how our genes work to enlisting genes in the struggle to

prevent and cure illness. This will be the scientific breakthrough

of the century, perhaps of all time. We have a profound

responsibility to ensure that the life-saving benefits of any

cutting-edge research are available to all human beings.



� Today, we take a major step in that direction by pledging to lead a

global effort to make the raw data from DNA sequencing available to

scientists everywhere to benefit people everywhere. To this end, I

am pleased to announce a groundbreaking agreement between the United

States and the United Kingdom, one which I reconfirmed just a few

hours ago in a conversation with Prime Minister Blair and one which

brings the distinguished British Ambassador here today.



� This agreement says in the strongest possible terms our genome, the

book in which all human life is written, belongs to every member of

the human race. Already the Human Genome Project, funded by the

United States and the United Kingdom, requires its grant recipients

to make the sequences they discover publicly available within 24

hours. I urge all other nations, scientists, and corporations to

adopt this policy and honor its spirit. We must ensure that the

profits of human genome research are measured not in dollars but in

the betterment of human life. [Applause] Thank you.



� Already, we can isolate genes that cause Parkinson's disease and

some forms of cancer, as well as a genetic variation that seems to

protect its carriers from AIDS. Next month the Department of

Energy's Joint Genome Project will complete DNA sequences for three

more chromosomes whose genes play roles in more than 150 diseases,

from leukemia to kidney disease to schizophrenia. And those are just

the ones we know about.



� What we don't know is how these genes affect the process of disease

and how they might be used to prevent or to cure it. Right now, we

are Benjamin Franklin with electricity and a kite, not Thomas Edison

with a usable light bulb.



� As we take the next step and use this information to develop

therapies and medicines, private companies have a major role. By

making the raw data publicly available, companies can promote

competition and innovation and spur the pace of scientific advance.

They need incentives to throw their top minds into expensive

research ahead. They need patent protection for their discoveries

and the prospect of marketing them successfully, and it is in the

Government's interest to see that they get it.



� But as scientists race to decipher our genetic alphabet, we need to

think now about the future and see clearly that, in science and

technology, the future lies in openness. We should recognize that

access to the raw data and responsible use of patents and licensing

is the most sensible way to build a sustainable market for genetic

medicine. Above all, we should recognize that this is a fundamental

challenge to our common humanity and that keeping our genetic code

accessible is the right thing to do.



� We should also remember that, like the Internet, supercomputers,

and so many other scientific advances, our ability to read our

genetic alphabet grew from decades of research that began with

Government funding. Every American has an investment in unlocking

the human genome, and all Americans should be proud of their

investment in this and other frontiers of science.



� I thank all of you for all you have done to build international and

national support for American investment in science and technology.

I am grateful that this administration has had the opportunity to

increase our funding for civilian research every year and that we

have requested an unprecedented increase this year, in areas from

nanotechnology to clean energy to space exploration.



� As the new century opens, we are setting out on a new voyage of

discovery, not just into human cells but into the human heart. We

cannot know what lies ahead. Each new discovery presents even more

new questions. What is the purpose of the 97 percent of our genetic

makeup whose function we don't know? What will we find in the genes

left to identify? How will we make sure the benefits of genetic

research are widely and fairly shared? How will we make sure that

millions of Americans living longer lives also live better and more

fulfilling ones?



� Almost 200 years ago, Lewis and Clark set out on a voyage of

discovery that was planned in this room, where Thomas Jefferson and

Meriwether Lewis laid out maps on tables, right where you're sitting

and, though it would be politically incorrect today, tromped around

on animal skins on the floor. [Laughter] That discovery would not

only map the contours of our continent, but expand forever the

frontier of our national imagination.



� Before setting out, when Meriwether Lewis was here in the East Room

with Thomas Jefferson, poring over maps and sharing the lessons in

natural science, he actually lived on the south side of this room,

in two small rooms that Thomas Jefferson had constructed in this big

room for him. I must say today, I wish I could ask all of you to do

the same. [Laughter] I always feel that when I do this, the wrong

person is talking. I wish we could hear from all of you today.



� One of the things that I wish I could do a better job of as

President is sparking the interest and understanding of every single

citizen in the work you do-of everyone's ability to see how

profoundly significant what goes on in your labs and in your minds

is to their future. I do think the American people are coming a long

way on that, and I tried to talk in the State of the Union in ways

that would help. I also try to think of little ways to illustrate

how you are changing our conception of the most basic things: what

is big and what is small; what is long and what is short. Dr. Lane

has actually given me a primer of what nanotechnology is, and I can

carry on a fairly meaningful subject about something that is totally

unfathomable to me. [Laughter]



� And last year, Neil Armstrong and his colleagues came back to the

White House to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his walk on the

Moon. And while he did it, as a part of the ceremony, he gave me

just on loana vacuum-packed Moon rock which, if you see the

photographs now of the Oval Office with the two chairs and the

couches and the table in between, the Moon rock is now visible to

the world that sees it.



� And when Members of Congress and others come in and get all heated

up and angry over some issue, I often call a time out, and I say,

"Wait a minute. See that rock? It came off the Moon. It's 3.6

billion years old. We're all just passing through. Chill out."

[Laughter It works every time. [Laughter] So there's a practical

gain I got from scientific advance. [Laughter]



� There are many other things that have happened that have enriched

our lives. I have to acknowledge the presence here of my good friend

Stevie Wonder, who has had a lot to do with improving musical

technology, and is obviously interested in some of the scientific

developments now going on, which might restore sight to people and

other movements to people who have suffered debilitating paralysis

and other things. And we thank you, Stevie, for being here today.

Thank you.



� As our honorees receive their medals,we thank them; all of us

thank them for the way they have changed the way we view our planet

and broadened infinitely the ways we gather and store knowledge. You

are part of an unbroken chain from Lewis and Jefferson to Edison and

Einstein, from the cotton gin to the space shuttle, from a vaccine

for polio to the mysteries of DNA. I thank each of you for what you

have done to change our world and to enrich our minds, our

imaginations, and our hearts.



� And I think-I learned right before I came in here that it is

infinitely appropriate that you are receiving these awards on Albert

Einstein's birthday. So thank you very much. Congratulations.



� Commander, please read the citations.



� [At this point, Comdr. Michael M. Gilday, USN, Navy Aide to the

President, read the citations, and the President presented the




� The President. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I want to just say two

things in closing. First of all, we saw again today another triumph

of the scientific method. After two failures, all the other honorees

took off their glasses on their own. [Laughter] It was truly




� This has been a wonderful day. I'd like to invite alI of you to

join us in the State Dining Room for a reception in honor of the

award recipients.



� Thank you very much.



� NOTE: The President spoke at 3:23 p.m. in the East Room at the

White House. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Tony

Blair of the United Kingdom; Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong,

Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, and Michael Collins; and musician Stevie





<< Return to Compilation of Weekly Presidential Documents Index