South Court Auditorium

4:12 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, Eric.  As you know that — when I was running for this office this time, I would talk about PCAST and people would look at me like, “What in the hell is he talking about?”  And then I’d explain what I meant.  And we — it wasn’t particularly active the last four years, but science is back — (laughs) — back in vogue.

And I want to welcome everyone here today with me in the President’s Council on Advisors on Science and Technology — so-called PCAST.  But first and foremost, I want to thank the co-chairs Dr. Lander, Dr. Arnold, and Dr. Zuber, you know, and the entire council — all of you — for your willingness to serve.

You know, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of this council.  I would say, parenthetically, I used to — when we were in the — in the Obama administration, we’d have our meetings with PCAST, and we’d be down in the library, and they’d make a presentation.  I’d say, “Can I stick around, ask a few questions?”  And three hours later, they’d be pulling me out because I had so many questions.

But, you know, I often say that America can be defined — and I mean this sincerely — I was in — on the Tibetan Plateau with — I think that’s where it was — with President Xi of China.  And — absolutely a true story.  And we had been traveling — I traveled 17,000 miles with him here in the United States and then in China. 

And president — the president wanted me to get to know him because we knew he would be the next president.  And President Hu was then President and — but it wasn’t appropriate for the President of the United States to be spending all that time with the Vice President, so I spent a lot of time with him. 

And we had a lot of conversations.  I think — I don’t know that’s true — but I’m told I’ve spent more time with him in person and on the telephone than any other world leader.  And we were — we’d have these conversations.  And I’d have an interpreter, and he’d have one — simultaneous interpreting.  And we’d talk, and we’d have all these meetings. 

And, as I said, we were sitting there, and he said — he looked at me, he said, “Can you define America for me?”  And I said, “Yes.  In one word: Possibilities.  Possibilities.”  Unlike any other country in the world, we’re — we’re just — we’re organized on the notion that anything is possible.  And that’s the very spirit that this — animates this council.

Your job is to ask how science and technology can expand our possibilities, solve our toughest challenges, and make it impossible — make the impossible possible.

This year, we’ve seen the power of science and technology deliver extraordinary breakthroughs — from the miracle of safe and effective COVID vaccines and treatments to game-changing clean energy technologies, helping us meet the climate crisis — although we have a long way to go — while creating new jobs and new industries.

And, you know, to the flight of a helicopter on Mars and the launch of a new deep-sea telescope that’s going to help us unlock discoveries yet unknown — it’s essential that science and scientific integrity are again taken seriously and are at the center of what we’re about as a nation; that scientists have a seat at the table, every table in the government. 

And that’s why this Council, to me at least, is so important and why I think is going to be so important to the United States and to the world.

You represent the top of your fields in medicine, mathematics, astrophysics, agriculture, oceanography, public health, clean energy, cybersecurity, nanotechnology, and so much more.

The breadth of this council isn’t an accident; it’s by design.  And that — there was a time when PCAST didn’t include social scientists or medical doctors or, frankly, the voice of women.  But, today, we understand that to harness the full power of science and technology, to meet the challenges we face, we need to hear from every part of the scientific community.  And that’s why I’m so proud that for the first time in the history of this council, we have a PCAST that looks like America. 

And then, I’m looking forward to hearing from our co-chairs about the work we’re engaged in, particularly — particularly around addressing the disparities in our public health system, meeting the threat of climate change and extreme weather, ensuring Americans’ global leadership and innovation, and create good-paying jobs, and win the competition in the 21st century.

And so — so that’s what this is all about, in my view. 

So, Eric, I’m anxious to get started.  And I apologize for taking so long, but thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. And I’m looking forward to seeing all of you in person as we get this COVID issue a little more under control. 

So — so thank you very much.

(Cross-talk by reporters.)

MR. LANDER:  Well, thank you, Mr. President.  I think what we’re going to do is thank the press very much right now and ask folks to step out. 

And for folks watching by Zoom, it’ll be another, you know, moment or two and then we’ll pick up as folks collect their things. 

Thank you all so much for coming.

Q    Sir, can you say declaratively the election this fall will be legitimate?

Q    Why are you waiting on Putin to make the first move, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughs.)  What a stupid question.

4:16 P.M. EST

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