The Science Issues Barack Obama Made Sure to Include in His State of the Union
The president looked to the future in his last State of the Union address.
Science came up often in President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address tonight. Below are the science bits — you won’t find notes on allusions to other politicians or acts of terrorism, plenty of other sites will have that for you — but you will read about his proposals for advancing technology and invention, clean energy, curing cancer (hello, Joe Biden), and stopping climate change, among them.
In his opening, he touched “helping students learn to write computer code” but that was among the less-than-normal number of proposals he made during the speech that lasted a little more than an hour.
(Again this year, the White House put the entire text of the speech online about a half-hour ahead of the 9 p.m. start time.)
You can watch the full speech here:
Below are sections of his speech that focus on the fields of science and technology.
First, he mandates that every American student be offered computer science courses:
“In the coming years, we should … [provide] Pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.”
Obama later touched on science with challenging Americans to “reignite the spirit of innovation”:
“Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and 12 years later, we were walking on the moon.”
After a standing ovation, he continued, giving an abbreviated history, from the inventor of light bulbs to … Google:
“That spirit of discovery is in our DNA. America is Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. America is Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride. America is every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley racing to shape a better future. That’s who we are. And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit.”
“We’ve protected an open internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online. We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.”
America will also be the country that cures cancer, Obama said, before saying that he was putting Vice President Joe Biden “in charge of Mission Control,” for the project, after which Biden mouthed twice, once to House Speaker Paul Ryan to his left, “I didn’t know that.”
“Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade. Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past 40 years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.”
Obama brought up climate change early in the speech, calling it an “urgent challenge,” and moved all in it later:
“Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”
He then pivots to clean energy:
“But even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record — until 2015 turned out to be even hotter — why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?
Wind power, solar power, and a storing your own energy, cotinues:
“Seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal — in jobs that pay better than average. We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy — something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.”
“Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.”
Hear, hear, went a few gathered in the audience.
“Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future — especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. That way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.”
After a standing ovation from the the Democrats and seated silence from Republicans, he continued:
“None of this will happen overnight, and yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo. But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve — that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.”
Obama also forcefully called for passage of the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership, calling it the “right thing to do.”
“…[W]e forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia. It cuts 18,000 taxes on products Made in America, and supports more good jobs. With TPP, China doesn’t set the rules in that region, we do. You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.”
During his wrap-up, Obama mentions that proverbial science student pulling an all-nighter:
“I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because with some extra supplies he bought because he knows that young girl might someday cure a disease.”