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Remarks on Presenting the National Medals of Science and Technology

September 30, 1993

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. When we schedule these wonderful things on the South Lawn, we normally do it because it's so warm at this time of year. I would give another medal to someone right now who could raise the temperature just 6 degrees. [Laughter]

Mr. Vice President, Secretary Aspin, Secretary Brown, Under Secretary Kunin, Dr. Gibbons, Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology Mary Good, and Acting Director of the National Science Foundation Dr. Fred Bernthal, the Director-designate of the Science Foundation Dr. Neal Lane, distinguished medal recipients and members of the National Medal of Technology Nominating Evaluation Committee, members of the President's Committee on National Medal of Science, and the 1993 Presidential Faculty Fellows, the 30 outstanding young scientists and engineers who are joining us here for this ceremony, and I congratulate all of you—where are you? They're in the back over there—and to the Foundation for the National Medals of Science and Technology and other guests, although I hope I've named everyone by now. It's a great privilege for us to have you here today. I haven't been exposed to this much knowledge of science and technology since I named Al Gore to be my running mate last year. [Laughter]

I'm glad to salute all of you who are winners, whose discoveries advance our standard of living and the quality of our lives, our health, our understanding of the world and our own place in it.

I know that the achievements we honor today will improve our ability to communicate with one another, to increase the productivity of our people, and to secure our place in the global economy and hopefully to help to preserve in common our planet.

It's especially important to me that we find ways to preserve what is important to us and to succeed in this global economy, because I know we cannot win the fight that we are in by continuing to do what we have done, which is to have our working people work harder and harder for less and less.

Yesterday we celebrated two achievements of science and technology, and a great gamble besides, by announcing, as some of you noticed, an unprecedented joint research venture with the Big Three automakers, our national defense labs, and our other Federal scientific research facilities to try to triple the fuel efficiency of cars by the end of the decade. And then we announced that we were removing export controls on 70 percent of America's computers, both regular computers and supercomputers, in ways that we believe will add billions of dollars, indeed, tens of billions of dollars to our exports.

Today, we honor people who are the dreamers, the pioneers, the risk takers, who remind us that the things we celebrated yesterday were once just a gleam in the mind's eye of a brilliant scientist or an engineer. You, too, will have that pleasure some day. But today we honor people who are the new scouts in our timeless urge for adventure.

Forty years ago, J. Robert Oppenheimer said in a lecture, "Both the man of science and the man of art live always at the edge of mystery, surrounded by it. Both, as the measure of their creation, have always had to do with the harmonization of what is new with what is familiar, with the balance between novelty and synthesis, with the struggle to make partial order in total chaos." That sounds like my job. [Laughter] "This cannot be an easy life," he said. Well, it may not be an easy life, but clearly it is a life worth living, and today, a life worth honoring.

I thank all of you so much for helping this country and this administration move toward the 21st century.

Daniel Boorstin wrote in his book, "The Discoverers", "All the world is still an America. The most promising words ever written on the map of human knowledge are terra incognita, unknown territory." Your discoveries of unknown territory are for the rest of us most promising, and your country salutes you for them.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:05 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Presenting the National Medals of Science and Technology Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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