Bush Awards National Medals of Technology and Science

February 13, 2006. President Bush gave a speech, and presented National Medals of Technology (NMT) and National Medals of Science (NMS), at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Monday, February 13.

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NMT Awardees. Two individuals received NMTs. First, one medal was awarded to Ralph Baer, who is now an engineering consultant. He was rewarded for his "groundbreaking and pioneering creation, development and commercialization of interactive video games".

Another medal was awarded to Roger Easton. He received the NMT for "extensive pioneering achievements in spacecraft tracking, navigation and timing technology that led to the development of the NAVSTAR-Global Positioning System", mostly back in the 1950s and 1960s.

The remaining five medals were given to corporations. One medal was given to Gen-Probe Inc. for developing and commercializing blood testing technologies and systems for detecting viral diseases. Gen-Probe was represented at the ceremony by Henry Nordhoff, its Chairman, President and CEO. Nordhoff has an MBA in international business and finance.

Another medal was given to IBM-Microelectronics Division for "four decades of innovation in semiconductor technology". This is the eighth time in twenty years that IBM, or its employees, have been given a NMT. Nicholas Donofrio, an EVP of IBM, represented IBM at the event.

Motorola was given a NMT for "over 75 years of achievement and leadership in mobile communications". It was represented by Padmasree Warrior, an Executive Vice President of Motorola.

PACCAR Inc. was given a NMT for "development and commercialization of aerodynamic, lightweight trucks". Its Chairman and CEO, Mark Pigott, represented the company.

Finally, a medal was given to Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), which is a subsidiary of Lucasfilm Ltd. George Lucas formed ILM to provide special effects for his first Star Wars movie. ILM also provides visual effects for the entertainment industry. It was represented by Chrissie England, its President, and George Lucas, its Chairman.

NMS Awardees. Eight people received the NMS.

Kenneth Arrow, an emeritus professor of economics at Stanford University, received the NMS for his work in economics. His Nobel prize winning career is built upon his "Arrow's Theorem". See, Social Choice and Individual Values [Amazon], first published in 1951.

In recent years, Arrow has assisted ProComp in its efforts pertaining to the Department of Justice's (DOJ) antitrust action against Microsoft, and telecommunications carriers and cable companies in legislative and regulatory relations. See, for example, story titled "ProComp Opposes Microsoft Antitrust Settlement" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 356, January 29, 2002, and story titled "Nobel Economists Comment on Broadband Regulation" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 426, May 7, 2002. See also, comment [PDF] filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by Arrow and others regarding regulatory treatment of broadband services. Vint Cerf, who now lobbies for Google, was awarded a NMT by former President Clinton. He was present at the White House ceremony on Monday.

Norman Borlaug of Texas A&M University was awarded the NMS for his work in developing high yielding wheat.

Robert Clayton of the University of Chicago was awarded the NMS for his work on the evolution of the solar system.

Edwin Lightfoot of the University of Wisconsin at Madison was awarded the NMS for his research in transport phenomena and blood oxygenation.

Stephen Lippard of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was awarded the NMS for his work regarding anti-cancer drugs.

Phillip Sharp of the MIT was awarded the NMS for his work on RNA interference phenomena.

Thomas Starzl of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine was awarded the NMS for his work in organ transplantation and immunology.

Dennis Sullivan of the City University of New York Graduate Center & State University of New York at Stony Brook was awarded the NMS for his contributions to the field of mathematics.

Awards Ceremony. President Bush presented the medals at a White House ceremony on Monday morning, February 13. The NMS medals are attached to ribbons, like Olympic medals, and the Congressional Medal of Honor. President Bush placed the medals around the necks of each of the winners. They then shook hands and posed for photographs.

Five of the seven winners of the National Medals of Technology were corporations. These medals came in boxes. Corporations have no necks.

Neither the awardees of the NMT or the NMS spoke at the ceremony.

Carlos Gutierrez (Secretary of Commerce), John Marburger (Director of the Executive Office of the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy), and other government officials, were present, but did not speak at the ceremony.

There was also a dinner ceremony on Monday night. See, speech by Deputy Secretary of Commerce David Sampson, and pictures. Sampson praised and summarized President Bush's innovation agenda.

Bush's Speech. Bush gave a speech at the Monday ceremony. He spoke about the NMS and NMT and about his package of policy proposals for promoting innovation. He made clear that he views the award of these NMSs and NMTs as part of an overall plan to incent, promote and reward innovation.

President Bush announced his innovation agenda during his state of the union speech on January 31, 2006. See, story titled "Bush Announces American Competitiveness Agenda" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,301, February 1, 2006.

On January 31 Bush announced that the purpose of his "American Competitiveness Agenda" is "to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our nation's children a firm grounding in math and science."

He elaborated in his speech to the Congress that "First, I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years. ... Second, I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit to encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life -- and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come. Third, we need to encourage children to take more math and science, and to make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations."

In his February 13 speech Bush discussed his American Competitiveness Agenda. He said that "I've talked about an American Competitiveness Initiative that will double over the next 10 years the federal commitment to the most critical, basic research programs in the physical sciences. I think that's a good use of taxpayers' money. ... we have got to spend money now to make sure we stay on the leading edge of technological change."

He added that "We've also got to recognize it's in the private sector where most money is spent on research and development, yet we unwisely have allowed the research and development tax credit to expire. If the United States expects to remain competitive in a global economy, we must encourage our private sector to continue to invest in leading-edge technologies, and therefore, we ought to make the research and development tax credit a permanent part of our tax code."

He also discussed the NMS and NMT programs. He said that "the National Medal of Technology recognizes innovators whose work keeps America on the cutting edge with discoveries that change the way we live".

"Our greatest resource has always been the educated, hardworking, ambitious people who call this country their home." He later added that "this country will be better off in making sure that we've got the future scientists and mathematicians living right here in the United States of America." His speech was carefully written to specify that it is people in the U.S., rather than merely U.S. citizens, who provide the beneficial innovation. Moreover, the wording of his speech specified that it is individuals who innovate. He added, "revolutionary inventions began with men and women with the vision to see beyond what is, and the desire to pursue what might be."

The words of his speech contrasted with his actions on the stage. He awarded five of the seven NMTs to corporations, rather than individuals. Moreover, the NMT awards program discriminates against foreign citizens. They are not eligible.

Bush also spoke about the importance of educating and incenting young people. "We can't be the leading country in the world in science and technology unless we educate scientists and young mathematicians. ... apply special money for kids who need extra help in junior high for math and science".

He continued that "We can't make sure our children have got math and science -- fine math and science courses unless we've got teachers capable of teaching math and science. And one way to do that is to expand education to high school teachers in how to teach advanced placement. Advanced placement programs work. They make a significant difference in the lives of our children."

He said that "we want young kids to think math and science -- math and science are cool subjects, that it's okay to be a mathematician, that it's exciting to be a scientist."

A high school class was present at the February 13 awards ceremony. Bush said, "I hope that you are inspired by the examples of excellence and success that you see right here in this ceremony today. You know, it's interesting, people generally do not pursue a career in science or technology with the goal of fame. I'm kind of trying to change that today. The work of discovery is quiet and often solitary. Yet, all Americans benefit from your imagination and your talent and your resolve."

The President did not explain why awarding medals to corporations, rather than to innovative people, should incent young people to pursue innovation related careers.