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Speaking at the National Academy of Sciences
, the President paid due tribute to the wonder, history, and inspiration of science in America. But he also made the connection between science and the news being discussed all across America right now to make clear that science is no afterthought or hobby:
At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science, that support for research is somehow a luxury at moments defined by necessities. I fundamentally disagree. Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been before. (Applause.)
And if there was ever a day that reminded us of our shared stake in science and research, it's today. We are closely monitoring the emerging cases of swine flu in the United States. And this is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert. But it's not a cause for alarm. The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency as a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively. And I'm getting regular updates on the situation from the responsible agencies. And the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control will be offering regular updates to the American people. And Secretary Napolitano will be offering regular updates to the American people, as well, so that they know what steps are being taken and what steps they may need to take.
But one thing is clear -- our capacity to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community. And this is one more example of why we can't allow our nation to fall behind.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what's happened.
The President gave the all-too-familiar statistics about math and science education, and lamented the politicization of science that has too often stunted American ingenuity. He pledged to address those problems head on:
I believe it is not in our character, the American character, to follow. It's our character to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. So I'm here today to set this goal: We will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development. We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science. (Applause.)
This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history.
Just think what this will allow us to accomplish: solar cells as cheap as paint; green buildings that produce all the energy they consume; learning software as effective as a personal tutor; prosthetics so advanced that you could play the piano again; an expansion of the frontiers of human knowledge about ourselves and world the around us. We can do this.