Leadership in Innovation

President Obama Honors America’s Top Scientists and Engineers, Launches New Steps to Cultivate Tomorrow’s Innovators

 FLI Obama 1

Today, in the East Room of the White House, President Obama awarded National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology and Innovation to 19 of our nation’s top thinkers, discoverers, and innovators — marveling both at the amount of brainpower packed into the room and the magnitude of the laureates’ achievements.

“The results of the work of the people we honor today have transformed our world,” President Obama said.

The medals are the nation’s highest honors for achievement and leadership in advancing the fields of science and technology. This year’s class of laureates includes individuals with groundbreaking accomplishments that have improved lives and pushed forward the boundaries of human understanding — from contributions including the commercialization of thumb drives and invention of minimally invasive medical devices, to new insights about insect-plant interactions and how heart valves operate, to the fundamental research that has made HPV vaccines a reality.

In remarks honoring the awardees, President Obama noted that to continue this legacy of scientific discovery and technological innovation, we must do all that we can to lift our game in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education:

“We have to remind ourselves constantly that so much of what has set us apart economically, culturally, is our commitment to science. And we have to continue to broaden opportunities for young scientists, especially girls and minority students, to enter into the field, and we have to remind them of how exciting it is to be able to shape the world, unlock its secrets, make new stuff. That’s who we are.”

President Barack Obama presents the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to Eli Harari

President Barack Obama presents the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to Eli Harari, SanDisk Corporation, Calif. in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 20, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

At today’s ceremony, the President announced a series of important new commitments and announcements to advance his Educate to Innovate initiative, an all-hands-on-deck campaign to help more girls and boys be inspired to excel in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. The campaign reflects the President’s core conviction that far more needs to be done in giving students the critical skills needed to succeed in STEM fields, and that success requires action not just from the federal government, but also the broader community of educational leaders, foundations, companies, non-profits, and science and technology professionals. Steps announced by the President and Educate to Innovate partners today include:

  • 100kin10, a network of more than 200 partners, announced that it has raised another $28 million in support of the goal of preparing 100,000 excellent STEM teachers over a decade.
  • Change the Equation, a coalition of leading CEOs, committed to expanding high-quality STEM programs to more than 1 million students by 2016.
  • Discovery Communications will launch a new show next year to inspire students in STEM fields, highlighting “All-American Makers.”
  • Ongoing progress from a range of partners, with full details here.

Noting the achievements of today’s medalists and the promise and potential of a new generation of scientific discoverers, explorers, builders, and makers, President Obama remarked:

“That’s one of the things that makes America exceptional — this sense that we push against limits and that we’re not afraid to ask questions. And when that spirit, that sense of possibility, is truly unleashed, then you get the remarkable men and women that you see here today.”

The White House warmly congratulates all of today’s National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation laureates. Tomorrow’s laureates are sitting in classrooms across the country today, and the world awaits the incredible discoveries and inventions to come.

President Barack Obama presents the National Medal of Science posthumously to David Blackwell

President Barack Obama presents the National Medal of Science posthumously to David Blackwell, University of California, Berkeley, Calif. in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 20, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

by Kumar Garg. Kumar Garg is Assistant Director for Learning and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Neekta Hamidi is a Student Volunteer in Communications at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

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20 October 2014

President Obama Honors Nation’s Top Scientists and Innovators

President Obama today announced a new class of recipients of the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation—our Nation’s highest honors for achievement and leadership in advancing the fields of science and technology. The new awardees will receive their medals at a White House ceremony later this year.

“These scholars and innovators have expanded our understanding of the world, made invaluable contributions to their fields, and helped improve countless lives,” President Obama said. “Our nation has been enriched by their achievements, and by all the scientists and technologists across America dedicated to discovery, inquiry, and invention.”

The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the Medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. The President receives nominations from a committee of Presidential appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge in and contributions to chemistry, engineering, computing, mathematics, and the biological, behavioral/social, and physical sciences.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation was created by statute in 1980 and is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Patent and Trademark Office. The award recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life and helped strengthen the Nation’s technological workforce. A distinguished independent committee representing the private and public sectors submits recommendations to the President.

The new recipients are listed below.

National Medal of Science

  • Bruce Alberts, University of California, San Francisco, CA
  • Robert Axelrod, University of Michigan, MI
  • May Berenbaum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL
  • Alexandre J. Chorin, University of California, Berkeley, CA
  • Thomas Kailath, Stanford University, CA
  • Judith P. Klinman, University of California, Berkeley, CA
  • Jerrold Meinwald, Cornell University, NY
  • Burton Richter, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University, CA
  • Sean C. Solomon, Columbia University, NY

And a posthumous Medal to:

  • David Blackwell, University of California, Berkeley, CA

National Medal of Technology and Innovation

  • Charles W. Bachman, MA
  • Edith M. Flanigen, UOP, LLC., a Honeywell Company, NY
  • Eli Harari, SanDisk Corporation, CA
  • Thomas Fogarty, Fogarty Institute for Innovation, CA
  • Arthur D. Levinson, Calico, CA
  • Cherry A. Murray, Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, MA
  • Mary Shaw, Carnegie Mellon University, PA
  • Douglas Lowy and John Schiller, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, MD

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