Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the National Medal of Science

February 27, 1985

I'm delighted to welcome all of you here today. In a few minutes, it'll be my privilege to present the National Medal of Science to 19 Americans who have made outstanding contributions to our way of life and to our future.

Recently, I was told that all those scientists don't want it generally known, most enjoy their work so much that they almost feel guilty getting paid for it. [Laughter] I was told this either by Jay Keyworth, reminiscing about his previous job -- [laughter] -- or by Dave Stockman, reminiscing about his present one. [Laughter]

Well, we're not here to take up a collection. [Laughter] In fact, despite the constraints in Federal spending, our budget for the next fiscal year calls for a 6.7-percent increase for basic research in the physical sciences. I should add that we're also planning for increased funding for science and technology and basic research through the end of the decade, and that's because what you do is that important. The ultimate source of innovation, of new technology, of human progress itself, is knowledge; and that's the business of science.

Now, there's no nation on Earth that can match our scientific capability, but, of course, no nation depends as much as we do on the science base. Our enviable standard of living, our national security, our ability to create millions of new jobs -- more than 7 million over the last 2 years, in what the Europeans are calling an American miracle -- all depend on new talent, knowledge, and our talent for making use of it.

And there's no doubt that the measure of America's future safety, progress, and greatness depends on how well scientists keep pushing back new frontiers. That's why I'm so pleased that today's ceremony is the third White House event this month honoring the people whose work will determine that future.

Last week we presented the first National Technology Awards for exceptional achievements in developing and using technology for industrial advances. Technology last week; science this week. Isn't that just like the Government? Getting the cart before the horse. [Laughter]

Jay Keyworth tells me that there have been times, not too long ago, when scientists and technologists barely spoke to each other. Well, I believe that one of today's real strengths is the enthusiasm with which scientists and technologists explore each other's interests. In fact, it occurs to me that if we could have brought together last week's doers with today's thinkers in a single ceremony, we might have seen the formation of several new companies before -- [laughter] -- the medals were even presented. Maybe we should keep that in mind for next year and invite a few venture capitalists. [Laughter]

But at least this year, today is the day for the National Medal of Science. And I know Einstein once remarked that, ``The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.'' Well, that was easy for him to say. [Laughter] As for me, I'm still trying to decide -- or decode energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. And I must tell you that when I looked over the briefing materials for this event and saw phrases like ``discovery of the free neutrino'' and the ``central role of neuropeptides'' and ``spectroscopic investigations,'' I thought they were mentioning some of the questions left over from [Attorney General] Ed Meese's confirmation hearings. [Laughter]

But today's awards honor a remarkable group of American scientists. The National Medals of Science are a tribute from your fellow -- well, from a group of -- why should I pause right here when it's right in front of me and all I have to do is look at it? -- from your fellow scientists. I started to say just from your fellow Americans, but I think that would have been proper, too, because I'm sure they share our gratitude and appreciation for all you do.

Each of you has devoted your energies not to truth as understood, but to the search for truth not yet understood. You had faith that you'd come to understand the unknown, and you did. You had faith that your discoveries would bring progress, and they did. And because of your achievements and those of your colleagues, we stand on the verge of greater advances than mankind has ever known.

Your work is proof that there are no limits to discovery and human progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams. You've proven time and again that freedom plus science equals opportunity and progress and that America's future can be determined by our dreams and our visions.

On behalf of the American people in whose names these medals are presented, I extend my congratulations to all of you, to your families, and your coworkers. We deeply appreciate what you've done, and we thank you. And God bless you all.

And now I'm going to ask Jay Keyworth to help me present the medals.

Note: The President spoke at 11:29 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to George A. Keyworth II, Science Adviser to the President and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and David A. Stockman, Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Recipients of the medal were Howard L. Bachrach, Paul Berg, E. Margaret Burbidge, Maurice Goldhaber, Herman H. Goldstine, William R. Hewlett, Roald Hoffmann, Helmut E. Landsberg, George M. Low, Walter H. Munk, George C. Pimentel, Frederick Reines, Wendell L. Roelofs, Bruno B. Rossi, Berta Scharrer, J. Robert Schrieffer, Isadore M. Singer, John G. Trump, and Richard N. Zare.