Joe Biden

Remarks by President-elect Joe Biden Announcing Key Science Advisors in Wilmington, Delaware

January 16, 2021

[As prepared for delivery.]

Good afternoon.

Two of the most extraordinary, yet least known, departments at the White House are the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

They are composed of some of the most brilliant scientific minds in the world.

When I was vice president I had an intense interest in everything they were doing and I paid enormous attention to these issues.

As president, I'll pay great attention to these issues again.

When I travelled the world as vice president, I was often asked to explain America to other world leaders.

And I remember one conversation vividly I had with Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader.

He asked me if I could explain America to him. And I said, "Yes, I could. In one word: Possibilities."


That's what the people on this stage — and the departments they will lead — represent.

They are the ones asking the most American of questions — what's next? What is the next big breakthrough? How can we make the impossible possible?

And they weren't just asking questions for the sake of it.

They were asking questions as a call to action.

To inspire. To help us imagine the future and figure out how to make it real and improve the lives of the American people.

This the team that asks us to imagine every home in America being powered by renewable energy within the next 10 years.

Imagine 3D printers restoring tissues after traumatic injuries and hospitals printing organs for organ transplants.

Imagine, and then rally the scientific community to do it.

Using science, data, and discovery was a governing philosophy of the Obama-Biden administration.

On everything from the economy and environment, to criminal justice reform and national security. And, on health care.

For example, a belief in science led to our efforts to map the human brain and to develop more precise and individualized medicine.

And it led to our ongoing mission to end cancer as we know it — something that is deeply personal to my family, to Kamala's family, and countless families across America.

When President Obama asked me to lead the Cancer Moonshot, I knew we had to inject a sense of urgency in the fight.

We believed we could double the rate of progress and do in five years what would take ten.

Jill and I traveled around the country and the world, meeting with thousands of cancer patients and their families, physicians, researchers, philanthropists, technology leaders, and heads of states.

We sought to better understand and break down the silos and stovepipes that prevent sharing of information and impede advances in cancer research and treatment, while building a focused and coordinated effort at home and abroad.

We made progress, but there is so much more we can do.

When I announced that I would not run for president in 2015, I said that I had only one regret — that I wouldn't be the president who presided over the end of cancer as we know it.

As president, I will do everything we can to get it done.

It will be a top priority for me and Kamala, and a signature issue for Jill as First Lady.

We know that science is discovery, not fiction. It's also about hope.

And that's America. It's in the DNA of this country.

We're on the cusp of some of the most remarkable breakthroughs that will fundamentally change our way of life.

We can make more progress in the next 10 years than we made in the last 50 years.

But we also face some of the most dire crises in generations, where science is critical to whether we meet this moment of peril with the promise we know that is in reach.

In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt asked his science advisor: how could the United States further advance scientific research in the crucial years following the Second World War. The response led to some of the most groundbreaking discoveries over the last 75 years.

We can do it again.

So today, I am proud to announce the team of some of the country's most brilliant and accomplished scientists to lead the way.

I'm asking them to focus on five key areas to start.

First, the pandemic and what can we learn about what is possible, or what should be possible,
to address the widest range of our public health needs?

Second, the economy, and how can we build back better to ensure prosperity is fully shared across America and among all Americans?

Third, how can science help us confront the climate crisis with American jobs and ingenuity?

Fourth, how can we ensure the United States leads the world in the technologies and industries of the future that will be critical to our economic prosperity and national security, especially as we compete with China and other nations?

And fifth, how can we ensure the long-term health and trust in science and technology in our nation?

These are each questions that are calls to action.

And I am honored to announce the team that is answering the call to serve.

As Presidential Science Advisor and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy — I nominate Dr. Eric Lander.

A pioneer in the scientific community. A principal leader of the Human Genome Project.

It's not hyperbole to suggest that Dr. Lander's work has changed the course of human history.

His role in helping us map the genome pulled back the curtain on human disease, allowing scientists ever since — and for generations to come — to explore the molecular basis for some of the most devastating illnesses affecting our world.

And the applications of his pioneering work are poised to lead to incredible cures and breakthroughs in the years to come.
Dr. Lander now serves as the president and founding director of the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard — the world's foremost non-profit genetic research organization.

I came to appreciate Dr. Lander's extraordinary mind when he served as a Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology during the Obama-Biden administration.

I'm grateful we can work together again.

I have always said that the Biden-Harris administration will also lead with science and truth.

That's how we're going to overcome this pandemic and build our country back better than before. And that's why, for the first time in history, I will be elevating the Presidential Science Advisor to Cabinet rank.

As Deputy Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, I appoint Dr. Alondra Nelson.

A professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. President of the Social Science Research Council.

And one of America's leading scholars, an award-winning author and researcher exploring the connections between science and our society.

The daughter of a military family — her Dad served in the Navy, while her mom was an Army cryptographer.

Dr. Nelson developed a love of technology from a young age — tinkering with the early computing products and code-breaking equipment she grew up with in her home.

And that passion forged a lifelong curiosity about the inequities and the power dynamics that sit beneath the surface of scientific research and the technologies we build.

Dr. Nelson has fused those insights into science and technology and society, like few before her in history.

Breaking new ground in our understanding of the role that science plays in American life, and opening the door to a future in which science better serves all people.

As Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, I appoint Dr. Frances Arnold.

Director of the Rosen Bioengineering Center at CalTech. One of the world's leading experts in protein engineering. A lifelong champion of renewable energy solutions who has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Not only is she the first woman to be elected to all three of the National Academies of Science, Medicine, and Engineering, she is also the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

A daughter of Pittsburgh — she worked as a cab driver and a jazz club server before making her way to Princeton and Berkeley and a career on the leading edge of human discovery.

She survived breast cancer, and overcame tragic losses in her family, while rising to the top of a field still overwhelmingly dominated by men.

Her passion has been a steadfast commitment to renewable energy for the betterment of our planet and of humankind.

She is an inspiring figure to scientists across fields and across nations.

And I want to thank Dr. Arnold for agreeing to join us as Co-Chair of the first all-woman team to lead the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which leads me to the next member of the team.

As Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, I appoint Dr. Maria Zuber.

A trailblazing geophysicist and planetary scientist.

A former chair of the National Science Board.

The first woman to lead a science department at MIT, and the first woman to lead a NASA robotic planetary mission.

Growing up in coal country — in a small town in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles south of Scranton — she dreamed of exploring outer space.

Reading every book she could find and listening to her mom's stories about watching the earliest rocket launches on television.

Maria became the first person in her family to go to college — and never let go of her dream.

Today, she oversees the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT and leads the institution's Climate Action Plan.

She has played a leadership role in ten NASA missions.

Her groundbreaking work in planetary mapping has generated some of the most accurate topographic maps humanity has ever produced of the Moon and of Mars.

Not only is she an explorer of outer space, she is one of our most accomplished explorers in generations.

I am honored that she has agreed to answer this call to service and to help us chart new courses of discovery.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that Dr. Francis Collins, who could not be here today, will stay on as Director of the National Institutes of Health at this critical moment.

I've known Dr. Collins for many years and worked with him closely. He is brilliant, a pioneer, and a true leader.

Above all, he is a model public servant and I am honored and thankful to be working with him again.

To each of you and your families, thank you for your willingness to serve in the administration.

And to the American people, this is the team that will help restore your faith in America's place on the frontier of science and discovery and hope.

I'll now turn it over to the team, starting with Dr. Lander.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by President-elect Joe Biden Announcing Key Science Advisors in Wilmington, Delaware Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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