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President Clinton Speaks to the American Association for the Advancement of Science

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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

February 13, 1998


Philadelphia Marriott
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

12:45 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, all the young people in the audience, I thank you all for that warm welcome. Thank you, Dr. Dresselhaus, for making me feel so welcome; Dr. MRC Greenwood, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, and over 5,000 members of the AAAS. I'd like to recognize the presence here of Congressman Chaka Fattah, of Philadelphia -- my friend and Congressman from Philadelphia -- thank you for being here. (Applause.) General Barry McCaffrey, the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. (Applause.) Dr. Neal Lane, the Director of the National Science Foundation. (Applause.) Dr. Harold Varmus, the Director of the National Institutes of Health. (Applause.)

There are very many other people in this audience and I hesitate to mention any of them for fear of omitting some who have helped this administration in some way or another to advance the cause of science and technology. But I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge, because of their unique support for us in the last five years, Dr. David Hambury and Dr. John Holdren. Thank you especially for what you have done for us and for our country. (Applause.)

I want to thank Jack Gibbons for that wonderful introduction. You know, just as there are laws of science, there are laws of politics. That introduction reflects Clinton's fourth law of politics -- whenever possible be introduced by someone you have appointed to high office. (Laughter.)

I had to -- you may find this hard to believe, but I actually had to fight the highest people in my family, both my family and my larger family, to get to give this speech. The First Lady wanted to give this speech. (Laughter.) She said, look, it was my idea to create this research fund for the 21st century and have this idea that we should celebrate the new millennium by imagining the future and preserving our past treasures, like the Star-Spangled Banner and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

And the Vice President, he really wanted to give this speech. (Laughter.) This is all he ever thinks about, you know. (Laughter.) This is a guy who goes absolutely rhapsodic when contemplating the Spallation Neutron Source. (Laughter.) We had this huge fight, but I won it fair and square. I pulled rank. (Laughter.)

You should know, on a more serious note, that the Vice President did have one honor that I am not given by the Constitution. Today he got to swear in a world-renowned public health leader and a great doctor, Dr. David Satcher, as America's new Surgeon General. (Applause.)

Before I get into my remarks, I'd like to make another couple of announcements about important changes in our science and technology team. First of all, with great regret I have accepted the resignation of Dr. Jack Gibbons as my Science Advisor. His ability to build bipartisan coalitions on contentious issues from nuclear testing to cloning to climate change has strengthened our nation immeasurably. And I thank him for those contributions, as well as for his work in our Initiative on Race. I know this afternoon he will chair a panel discussion on the ways we can diversify the science and technology community. I hope you will join me in expressing our appreciation to Jack Gibbons for his service to the United States. (Applause.)

To replace him and ensure that our work goes forward without a hitch, I intend to nominate a fellow of the AAAS, the Director of the National Science Foundation, Dr. Neal Lane, to be the new Presidential Science Advisor. Neal, please stand up. (Applause.)

Neal has placed the National Science Foundation at the center of our science and technology policy in many ways. And to maintain that momentum I intend to nominate as his replacement, Dr. Rita Colwell, the first life scientist chosen to head this organization. Rita, stand up. (Applause.)

I also want to salute your board of directors, which yesterday approved a resolution urging the Senate to provide its advice and consent as soon as possible for the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Thank you very, very much for that. (Applause.)

Today, at the edge of a new century, the dawn of a new millennium, at a sunlit moment of prosperity for our people, we see before us an era of unparalleled possibilities. Our restless quest for knowledge, which has been one of America's defining traits since we got started right here in Philadelphia, will quicken. And more than ever before, the strength of our economy, the health of our environment, the length and quality of our lives -- in short, the success of our continuing pursuit of happiness -- will be driven by the pursuit of knowledge.

We must seize this moment to strengthen our nation for the new century by expanding our commitment to discovery -- increasing our support for science, pressing our progress in the war against cancer and other diseases, protecting our children from public health dangers, most especially from the deadly addiction of tobacco.

We've come a long way in the last half of the 20th century. Fifty years ago, when President Truman addressed your 100th anniversary meeting, Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley had just created the first transistor; Mauchly and Eckert had recently powered up the seminal ENIAC computer right here in Philadelphia. Pauling and Franklin were developing techniques that would help to unravel the mystery of our DNA.

Things are moving much more quickly now. Today, the store of human knowledge doubles every five years. Soon, every child will be able to stretch a hand across a computer keyboard and reach every book ever written, every painting ever painted, every symphony ever composed. We'll be able to carry all the phone calls on Mother's Day on a single strand of fiber the width of human hair.

Now, where will be 50 years from now? By the year 2048, when a future President of the United States addresses your bicentennial meeting, fusion and solar power may yield abundant energy. In any case, I am absolutely convinced that by then we will have discovered how to grow the economy by restoring, not depleting, our planet. (Applause.)

By then, telephones may translate foreign languages in real time. We may well have a permanent space station on the surface of Mars. And some of the greatest victories in the next 50 years doubtless will be in the ancient battle against human disease -- its prevention, its detection, its treatment, and its cure. Sophisticated new AIDS therapies already have given HIV-positive men and women a new lease on life. And if this progress continues, I believe we'll have an effective vaccine within a decade.

New treatments are slowing the development of Alzheimer's and lifting people up from the dark depths of depression. Researchers have begun to regenerate nerve cells, raising the prospect that victims of spinal cord injuries will be able to rise up and walk again.

Within a few years the Human Genome Project will have traced the very blueprint of human life. And I think it is important to remember, as Americans tend to focus on the health miracles that can come from scientific progress, that advances in health research and prevention and treatment depend upon the entire scientific enterprise, including engineering efforts.

For example, the MRI, a diagnostic tool that has benefited many of us in this audience today, originally came from research in nuclear physics. Space research today has vast implications for human health, which is one of the reasons I am so excited about Senator John Glenn going back into space. (Applause.)

If we act now, we can catalyze the process of discovery and create even more dramatic progress. I have submitted the first balanced budget in 30 years. (Applause.) It is the result of five years of efforts based on a governmental philosophy that says we have to have fiscal discipline and greater investment in our people and our future by a government that is both smaller and more progressive.

We, I believe, have now established beyond doubt that we can have a smaller government, larger investment, and a stronger nation. We have worked hard to increase investments in education, to open the doors of college to all and, increasingly, to increase the quality of education at the elementary and secondary levels.

I take it that hardly anyone in this room would disagree with the proposition that we have the finest system of higher education in the world. It is America's great blessing. And my passion for the last five years, with more Pell Grant scholarships and hundreds of thousands of work-study positions, and education IRAs, and cheaper student loans that are easier to repay, and a $1,500 tax credit for the first two years of college, and tax credits for the junior and senior year and graduate school, my passion has been to be able to say with a straight face to every American family, if your child works hard, money will not keep your child out of a first-class college education. (Applause.)

Now we must prove that we can have the best elementary and secondary education in the world. (Applause.) And we're working on a lot of fronts -- more technology, better teacher training, smaller class sizes, more classrooms, higher standards, and greater accountability. (Applause.) But one of the most promising approaches that we have embraced that is also a part of our balanced budget is the one first brought to me by the Congressman from Philadelphia who is here with us today, Chaka Fattah.

Under our approach, which is part of this balanced budget, we want to have colleges go in and start working with children as early as the 7th grade, to be able to say to them and their parents, if you will stay in school, if you will learn, if you will perform, if you will be held accountable, we can tell you in the 7th grade how much college aid you can get when you get out. You can know right now you can go to college. You can know how much you can get. And we're going to help you for six years to make sure you are ready to succeed in the 21st century. And we thank you, Congressman, for your leadership. (Applause.)

But there is probably no better example of this new approach, this so-called third way, than the proposal we have in the balanced budget for a 21st Century Research Fund, part of our gift to America in the millennium -- providing for the first time a strong, stable, multiyear source of funding for research that will enable you to engage in long-term planning as never before. (Applause.)

This commitment represents the largest funding increase in history for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. (Applause.) It will provide substantial budget increases for basic and applied research at NASA, the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture. It will spur technological innovations that will help us to combat global climate change, a growing threat that the journal, Science warned us about more than 30 years ago now.

Perhaps most important to American citizens in the moment, the 21st Century Research Fund will give us the means to win the war on cancer. For the first time cancer death rates have begun to fall. The 21st Century Research Fund will build on this progress, with new classes of smart drugs that target specific molecules found in cancer cells. It will help those of you in this field to discover within a decade every single gene and protein that contributes to the conversion of a normal cell to a cancer cell. It will create new opportunities for prevent, new technologies for earlier and more accurate diagnosis.

Today we can cure 80 percent of the patients with certain kinds of cancer; let us work to ensure that within the next generation we will cure 80 percent of the patients with all forms of cancer. Thank you, Dr. Varmus, for your work in this regard. We appreciate it. (Applause.)

But let me say this. As I was reminded today when we swore in Dr. David Satcher, the public health responsibility must be more broadly shared among our people. It cannot be the sole province of medical researchers and medical doctors. The rest of us have a job to do, too -- on our own lives, the lives of our friends and neighbors and, most importantly, the lives of our children.

We can take one major leap forward right away. We have an historic opportunity to curtail the deadly epidemic of teen smoking. More than three decades ago, responsible peer review journals, including science, presented our society with a stark conclusion: smoking causes cancer. We now know it is also linked in a deadly chain with emphysema, heart disease and stroke. For years, our efforts to reduce smoking have been outmatched by billion-dollar industry ad campaigns targeted at our children. Now we have the opportunity to save millions of those children from a life of addiction and a premature and very preventable death.

I have asked the Congress to enact comprehensive legislation to raise the price of cigarettes by up to $1.50 a pack over the next 10 years, to give the FDA full authority to regulate tobacco products, to change forever the way tobacco companies do business, to further public health research and to protect tobacco farmers and their communities in the transition which will come.

Now, just today, the Treasury Department will release an analysis of the probable effects of this comprehensive approach. The analysis projects that the price increase and other measures we have proposed will cut teen smoking by almost half over the next five years. (Applause.)

Now, let me tell you what that means in real people. In Washington, in a different way we sometimes maybe do what you do -- we get into talking statistics and numbers and things that don't often grab people. Let me tell you what that means. That means if we act this year -- instead of having a year-long political debate and doing nothing -- if we act this year, by the year 2003 we can stop almost 3 million young people from smoking and save almost 1 million lives as a result. We ought to save those lives and you should demand that we save those lives. (Applause.)

On Wednesday, Senator Kent Conrad from North Dakota introduced a strong bill in Congress that meets all the objectives I just mentioned. I look forward to working with him and with other members to enact comprehensive and bipartisan legislation. But I ask for your support, as well. The scientific community can speak with a very loud voice. Speak loudly for our children. Tell people you're going to do all this research. Tell people we're going to do unbelievable things. Tell people there will be miracles they can't imagine in the 21st century. But tell people in the 21st century, parents will still have to take responsibility for their children and people will still have to take responsibility for doing sensible things if we want a healthy, strong America. Help us lead the way in this fight. (Applause.)

Let me say on one other point, the extraordinary promise of science and technology carries with it, as all of you know, extraordinary responsibilities for those who seek to advance the promise. It is incumbent upon both scientists and public servants to ensure that science serves humanity always, and never the other way around.

Last month, like most Americans, I learned the troubling news that a member of the scientific community claims to be laying plans to clone a human being. Now, human cloning raises deep ethical concern. There is virtually unanimous consensus in the scientific and medical community that attempting to use known cloning techniques to actually create a human being is untested, unsafe and morally unacceptable.

Two days ago, the Senate voted to take the time necessary to carefully craft a bill that will ban the cloning of human beings while preserving our ability to use cloning technology for morally acceptable and medically important purposes. Already, you have given us the scientific foundation for this debate. I thank you for that, and I urge you to continue to play an important role as the Senate, and then the House, considers this very significant issue in the coming year.

You know, in spite of the pitfalls and the perils, our nation has always believed that what you do in the end would always transform our world for the better. Benjamin Franklin, the father of our scientific revolution, once wrote -- and I quote: "The progress of human knowledge will be rapid and discoveries made of which we at present have no conception. I begin to be almost sorry I was born so soon since I cannot have the happiness of knowing what will be known in years hence."

I have been so struck by the contrast between Ben Franklin's vision and the depiction of the future now we see in so many books and on television and in these Road Warrior movies and other things that are made. The world is so often portrayed in the future as a terribly frightening, primitive, brutal place -- a world where science has run amok or where the community and government have withered away, where people have to wear a gas mask to talk around and the entire Earth has been completely devastated by craven greed; where life is once again, as Thomas Hobbes once said, it was in the state of nature, nasty, brutish, and short.

I don't think you believe that's what it's going to be like. And I think it's important that we all accept the responsibility to imagine and invent a very different kind of future, and then to tell our fellow Americans that that is the future we are working toward. We need never run away from the dangers of our work run amok. We need never run away from our innate fear of the abuse of power, whether political or scientific. Indeed the whole genius of our creation here in Philadelphia was the understanding that human nature is a mix of elements and all of them must be restrained. But we must never for a moment be afraid of the future. Instead, we must envision the future we intend to create.

Your bicentennial meeting can convene in a world where climatic disruption has been halted; where wars on cancer and AIDS have long since been won; where humanity is safe from the destructive force of chemical and biological weapons, wielded by rogue states or conscienceless terrorists and drug runners; where our noble career of science is pursued and then advanced by children of every race and background and where the benefits of science are broadly shared in countries both rich and poor. That is what I pray it will be like, 50 years from now, when my successors stand here before your successors and assesses how well we did with our time. (Applause.)

Let me say, I believe in what you do. And I believe in the people who do it. Most important, I believe in the promise of America, in the idea that we must always marry our newest advances and knowledge with our oldest values, and that when we do that, it's worked out pretty well. That is what we owe our children; that is what we must bring to the new century.

Thank you and God bless you.

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