Tuesday, 28 April 2009



National Academy of Sciences
Washington, D.C.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you so much for the wonderful welcome. To President Cicerone, thank you very much for your leadership and for hosting us today. To John Holdren, thanks, John, for the outstanding work that you are doing.

I was just informed backstage that Ralph and John both are 1965 graduates of MIT -- same class. And so I'm not sure this is the perfectly prescribed scientific method, but they're sort of a control group -- (laughter) -- who ages faster: The President's Science Advisor or the President of the Academy? (Laughter.) And we'll check in in a couple of years. But it is wonderful to see them.

To all of you, to my Cabinet Secretaries and team who are here, thank you. It is a great privilege to address the distinguished members of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as the leaders of the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine who've gathered here this morning.

And I'd like to begin today with a story of a previous visitor who also addressed this august body. In April of 1921, Albert Einstein visited the United States for the first time. And his international credibility was growing as scientists around the world began to understand and accept the vast implications of his theories of special and general relativity. And he attended this annual meeting, and after sitting through a series of long speeches by others, he reportedly said, "I have just got a new theory of eternity." (Laughter.) So I will do my best to heed this cautionary tale. (Laughter.)

The very founding of this institution stands as a testament to the restless curiosity, the boundless hope so essential not just to the scientific enterprise, but to this experiment we call America.

A few months after a devastating defeat at Fredericksburg, before Gettysburg would be won, before Richmond would fall, before the fate of the Union would be at all certain, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act creating the National Academy of Sciences -- in the midst of civil war.

Lincoln refused to accept that our nation's sole purpose was mere survival. He created this academy, founded the land grant colleges, and began the work of the transcontinental railroad, believing that we must add -- and I quote -- "the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discovery... of new and useful things."

This is America's story. Even in the hardest times, against the toughest odds, we've never given in to pessimism; we've never surrendered our fates to chance; we have endured; we have worked hard; we sought out new frontiers.

Today, of course, we face more complex challenges than we have ever faced before: a medical system that holds the promise of unlocking new cures and treatments -- attached to a health care system that holds the potential for bankruptcy to families and businesses; a system of energy that powers our economy, but simultaneously endangers our planet; threats to our security that seek to exploit the very interconnectedness and openness so essential to our prosperity; and challenges in a global marketplace which links the derivative trader on Wall Street to the homeowner on Main Street, the office worker in America to the factory worker in China -- a marketplace in which we all share in opportunity, but also in crisis.

At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science, that support for research is somehow a luxury at moments defined by necessities. I fundamentally disagree. Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been before. (Applause.)

And if there was ever a day that reminded us of our shared stake in science and research, it's today. We are closely monitoring the emerging cases of swine flu in the United States. And this is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert. But it's not a cause for alarm. The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency as a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively. And I'm getting regular updates on the situation from the responsible agencies. And the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control will be offering regular updates to the American people. And Secretary Napolitano will be offering regular updates to the American people, as well, so that they know what steps are being taken and what steps they may need to take.

But one thing is clear -- our capacity to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community. And this is one more example of why we can't allow our nation to fall behind.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what's happened.

Federal funding in the physical sciences as a portion of our gross domestic product has fallen by nearly half over the past quarter century. Time and again we've allowed the research and experimentation tax credit, which helps businesses grow and innovate, to lapse.

Our schools continue to trail other developed countries and, in some cases, developing countries. Our students are outperformed in math and science by their peers in Singapore, Japan, England, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Korea, among others. Another assessment shows American 15-year-olds ranked 25th in math and 21st in science when compared to nations around the world. And we have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas.

We know that our country is better than this. A half century ago, this nation made a commitment to lead the world in scientific and technological innovation; to invest in education, in research, in engineering; to set a goal of reaching space and engaging every citizen in that historic mission. That was the high water mark of America's investment in research and development. And since then our investments have steadily declined as a share of our national income. As a result, other countries are now beginning to pull ahead in the pursuit of this generation's great discoveries.

I believe it is not in our character, the American character, to follow. It's our character to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. So I'm here today to set this goal: We will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development. We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science. (Applause.)

This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history.

Just think what this will allow us to accomplish: solar cells as cheap as paint; green buildings that produce all the energy they consume; learning software as effective as a personal tutor; prosthetics so advanced that you could play the piano again; an expansion of the frontiers of human knowledge about ourselves and world the around us. We can do this.

The pursuit of discovery half a century ago fueled our prosperity and our success as a nation in the half century that followed. The commitment I am making today will fuel our success for another 50 years. That's how we will ensure that our children and their children will look back on this generation's work as that which defined the progress and delivered the prosperity of the 21st century.

This work begins with a historic commitment to basic science and applied research, from the labs of renowned universities to the proving grounds of innovative companies.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and with the support of Congress, my administration is already providing the largest single boost to investment in basic research in American history. That's already happened.

This is important right now, as public and private colleges and universities across the country reckon with shrinking endowments and tightening budgets. But this is also incredibly important for our future. As Vannevar Bush, who served as scientific advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt, famously said: "Basic scientific research is scientific capital."

The fact is an investigation into a particular physical, chemical, or biological process might not pay off for a year, or a decade, or at all. And when it does, the rewards are often broadly shared, enjoyed by those who bore its costs but also by those who did not.

And that's why the private sector generally under-invests in basic science, and why the public sector must invest in this kind of research -- because while the risks may be large, so are the rewards for our economy and our society.

No one can predict what new applications will be born of basic research: new treatments in our hospitals, or new sources of efficient energy; new building materials; new kinds of crops more resistant to heat and to drought.

It was basic research in the photoelectric field -- in the photoelectric effect that would one day lead to solar panels. It was basic research in physics that would eventually produce the CAT scan. The calculations of today's GPS satellites are based on the equations that Einstein put to paper more than a century ago.

In addition to the investments in the Recovery Act, the budget I've proposed -- and versions have now passed both the House and the Senate -- builds on the historic investments in research contained in the recovery plan.

So we double the budget of key agencies, including the National Science Foundation, a primary source of funding for academic research; and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which supports a wide range of pursuits from improving health information technology to measuring carbon pollution, from -- from testing "smart grid" designs to developing advanced manufacturing processes.

And my budget doubles funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, which builds and operates accelerators, colliders, supercomputers, high-energy light sources, and facilities for making nano-materials -- because we know that a nation's potential for scientific discovery is defined by the tools that it makes available to its researchers.

But the renewed commitment of our nation will not be driven by government investment alone. It's a commitment that extends from the laboratory to the marketplace. And that's why my budget makes the research and experimentation tax credit permanent. This is a tax credit that returns two dollars to the economy for every dollar we spend, by helping companies afford the often high costs of developing new ideas, new technologies, and new products. Yet at times we've allowed it to lapse or only renewed it year to year. I've heard this time and again from entrepreneurs across this country: By making this credit permanent we make it possible for businesses to plan the kinds of projects that create jobs and economic growth.

Second, in no area will innovation be more important than in the development of new technologies to produce, use, and save energy -- which is why my administration has made an unprecedented commitment to developing a 21st century clean energy economy, and why we put a scientist in charge of the Department of Energy. (Applause.)

Our future on this planet depends on our willingness to address the challenge posed by carbon pollution. And our future as a nation depends upon our willingness to embrace this challenge as an opportunity to lead the world in pursuit of new discovery.

When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik a little more than a half century ago, Americans were stunned. The Russians had beaten us to space. And we had to make a choice: We could accept defeat or we could accept the challenge. And as always, we chose to accept the challenge.

President Eisenhower signed legislation to create NASA and to invest in science and math education, from grade school to graduate school. And just a few years later, a month after his address to the 1961 Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, President Kennedy boldly declared before a joint session of Congress that the United States would send a man to the moon and return him safely to the Earth.

The scientific community rallied behind this goal and set about achieving it. And it would not only lead to those first steps on the moon; it would lead to giant leaps in our understanding here at home. That Apollo program produced technologies that have improved kidney dialysis and water purification systems; sensors to test for hazardous gasses; energy-saving building materials; fire-resistant fabrics used by firefighters and soldiers. More broadly, the enormous investment in that era –- in science and technology, in education and research funding –- produced a great outpouring of curiosity and creativity, the benefits of which have been incalculable. There are those of you in this audience who became scientists because of that commitment. We have to replicate that.

There will be no single Sputnik moment for this generation's challenges to break our dependence on fossil fuels. In many ways, this makes the challenge even tougher to solve –- and makes it all the more important to keep our eyes fixed on the work ahead.

But energy is our great project, this generation's great project. And that's why I've set a goal for our nation that we will reduce our carbon pollution by more than 80 percent by 2050. And that is why -- (applause) -- and that is why I'm pursuing, in concert with Congress, the policies that will help meet us -- help us meet this goal.

My recovery plan provides the incentives to double our nation's capacity to generate renewable energy over the next few years -- extending the production tax credit, providing loan guarantees and offering grants to spur investment. Just take one example: Federally funded research and development has dropped the cost of solar panels by tenfold over the last three decades. Our renewed efforts will ensure that solar and other clean energy technologies will be competitive.

My budget includes $150 billion over 10 years to invest in sources of renewable energy as well as energy efficiency. It supports efforts at NASA, recommended as a priority by the National Research Council, to develop new space-based capabilities to help us better understand our changing climate.

And today, I'm also announcing that for the first time, we are funding an initiative -- recommended by this organization -- called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E. (Applause.)

This is based, not surprisingly, on DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was created during the Eisenhower administration in response to Sputnik. It has been charged throughout its history with conducting high-risk, high-reward research. And the precursor to the Internet, known as ARPANET, stealth technology, the Global Positioning System all owe a debt to the work of DARPA.

So ARPA-E seeks to do the same kind of high-risk, high-reward research. My administration will pursue, as well, comprehensive legislation to place a market-based cap on carbon emissions. We will make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. We will put in place the resources so that scientists can focus on this critical area. And I am confident that we will find a wellspring of creativity just waiting to be tapped by researchers in this room and entrepreneurs across our country. We can solve this problem. (Applause.)

Now, the nation that leads the world in 21st century clean energy will be the nation that leads in the 21st century global economy. I believe America can and must be that nation. But in order to lead in the global economy and to ensure that our businesses can grow and innovate, and our families can thrive, we're also going to have to address the shortcomings of our health care system.

The Recovery Act will support the long overdue step of computerizing America's medical records, to reduce the duplication, waste and errors that cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

But it's important to note, these records also hold the potential of offering patients the chance to be more active participants in the prevention and treatment of their diseases. We must maintain patient control over these records and respect their privacy. At the same time, we have the opportunity to offer billions and billions of anonymous data points to medical researchers who may find in this information evidence that can help us better understand disease.

History also teaches us the greatest advances in medicine have come from scientific breakthroughs, whether the discovery of antibiotics, or improved public health practices, vaccines for smallpox and polio and many other infectious diseases, antiretroviral drugs that can return AIDS patients to productive lives, pills that can control certain types of blood cancers, so many others.

Because of recent progress –- not just in biology, genetics and medicine, but also in physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering –- we have the potential to make enormous progress against diseases in the coming decades. And that's why my administration is committed to increasing funding for the National Institutes of Health, including $6 billion to support cancer research -- part of a sustained, multi-year plan to double cancer research in our country. (Applause.)

Next, we are restoring science to its rightful place. On March 9th, I signed an executive memorandum with a clear message: Under my administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over. (Applause.) Our progress as a nation –- and our values as a nation –- are rooted in free and open inquiry. To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy. It is contrary to our way of life. (Applause.)

That's why I've charged John Holdren and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy with leading a new effort to ensure that federal policies are based on the best and most unbiased scientific information. I want to be sure that facts are driving scientific decisions -- and not the other way around. (Laughter.)

As part of this effort, we've already launched a web site that allows individuals to not only make recommendations to achieve this goal, but to collaborate on those recommendations. It's a small step, but one that's creating a more transparent, participatory and democratic government.

We also need to engage the scientific community directly in the work of public policy. And that's why, today, I am announcing the appointment -- we are filling out the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, known as PCAST, and I intend to work with them closely. Our co-chairs have already been introduced -- Dr. Varmus and Dr. Lander along with John. And this council represents leaders from many scientific disciplines who will bring a diversity of experiences and views. And I will charge PCAST with advising me about national strategies to nurture and sustain a culture of scientific innovation.

In addition to John -- sorry, the -- I just noticed that I jumped the gun here -- go ahead and move it up. (Laughter.) I'd already -- I'd already introduced all you guys.

In biomedicine, just to give you an example of what PCAST can do, we can harness the historic convergence between life sciences and physical sciences that's underway today; undertaking public projects -- in the spirit of the Human Genome Project -- to create data and capabilities that fuel discoveries in tens of thousands of laboratories; and identifying and overcoming scientific and bureaucratic barriers to rapidly translating scientific breakthroughs into diagnostics and therapeutics that serve patients.

In environmental science, it will require strengthening our weather forecasting, our Earth observation from space, the management of our nation's land, water and forests, and the stewardship of our coastal zones and ocean fisheries.

We also need to work with our friends around the world. Science, technology and innovation proceed more rapidly and more cost-effectively when insights, costs and risks are shared; and so many of the challenges that science and technology will help us meet are global in character. This is true of our dependence on oil, the consequences of climate change, the threat of epidemic disease, and the spread of nuclear weapons.

And that's why my administration is ramping up participation in -- and our commitment to -- international science and technology cooperation across the many areas where it is clearly in our interest to do so. In fact, this week, my administration is gathering the leaders of the world's major economies to begin the work of addressing our common energy challenges together.

Fifth, since we know that the progress and prosperity of future generations will depend on what we do now to educate the next generation, today I'm announcing a renewed commitment to education in mathematics and science. (Applause.) This is something I care deeply about. Through this commitment, American students will move from the middle of the top -- from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math over the next decade -- for we know that the nation that out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow. And I don't intend to have us out-educated.

We can't start soon enough. We know that the quality of math and science teachers is the most influential single factor in determining whether a student will succeed or fail in these subjects. Yet in high school more than 20 percent of students in math and more than 60 percent of students in chemistry and physics are taught by teachers without expertise in these fields. And this problem is only going to get worse. There is a projected shortfall of more than 280,000 math and science teachers across the country by 2015.

And that's why I'm announcing today that states making strong commitments and progress in math and science education will be eligible to compete later this fall for additional funds under the Secretary of Education's $5 billion Race to the Top program.

And I'm challenging states to dramatically improve achievement in math and science by raising standards, modernizing science labs, upgrading curriculum, and forging partnerships to improve the use of science and technology in our classrooms. (Applause.) I'm challenging states, as well, to enhance teacher preparation and training, and to attract new and qualified math and science teachers to better engage students and reinvigorate those subjects in our schools.

And in this endeavor, we will work to support inventive approaches. Let's create systems that retain and reward effective teachers, and let's create new pathways for experienced professionals to go into the classroom. There are, right now, chemists who could teach chemistry, physicists who could teach physics, statisticians who could teach mathematics. But we need to create a way to bring the expertise and the enthusiasm of these folks –- folks like you –- into the classroom.

There are states, for example, doing innovative work. I'm pleased to announce that Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania will lead an effort with the National Governors Association to increase the number of states that are making science, technology, engineering and mathematics education a top priority. Six states are currently participating in the initiative, including Pennsylvania, which has launched an effective program to ensure that the state has the skilled workforce in place to draw the jobs of the 21st century. And I want every state, all 50 states, to participate.

But as you know, our work does not end with a high school diploma. For decades, we led the world in educational attainment, and as a consequence we led the world in economic growth. The G.I. Bill, for example, helps send a generation to college. But in this new economy, we've come to trail other nations in graduation rates, in educational achievement, and in the production of scientists and engineers.

That's why my administration has set a goal that will greatly enhance our ability to compete for the high-wage, high-tech jobs of the future –- and to foster the next generation of scientists and engineers. In the next decade –- by 2020 –- America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. That is a goal that we are going to set. And we've provided tax credits and grants to make a college education more affordable.

My budget also triples the number of National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships. (Applause.) This program was created as part of the space race five decades ago. In the decades since, it's remained largely the same size –- even as the numbers of students who seek these fellowships has skyrocketed. We ought to be supporting these young people who are pursuing scientific careers, not putting obstacles in their path.

So this is how we will lead the world in new discoveries in this new century. But I think all of you understand it will take far more than the work of government. It will take all of us. It will take all of you. And so today I want to challenge you to use your love and knowledge of science to spark the same sense of wonder and excitement in a new generation.

America's young people will rise to the challenge if given the opportunity –- if called upon to join a cause larger than themselves. We've got evidence. You know, the average age in NASA's mission control during the Apollo 17 mission was just 26. I know that young people today are just as ready to tackle the grand challenges of this century.

So I want to persuade you to spend time in the classroom, talking and showing young people what it is that your work can mean, and what it means to you. I want to encourage you to participate in programs to allow students to get a degree in science fields and a teaching certificate at the same time. I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it's science festivals, robotics competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent -- to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.

I want you to know that I'm going to be working alongside you. I'm going to participate in a public awareness and outreach campaign to encourage students to consider careers in science and mathematics and engineering -- because our future depends on it.

And the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation will be launching a joint initiative to inspire tens of thousands of American students to pursue these very same careers, particularly in clean energy.

It will support an educational campaign to capture the imagination of young people who can help us meet the energy challenge, and will create research opportunities for undergraduates and educational opportunities for women and minorities who too often have been underrepresented in scientific and technological fields, but are no less capable of inventing the solutions that will help us grow our economy and save our planet. (Applause.)

And it will support fellowships and interdisciplinary graduate programs and partnerships between academic institutions and innovative companies to prepare a generation of Americans to meet this generational challenge.

For we must always remember that somewhere in America there's an entrepreneur seeking a loan to start a business that could transform an industry -- but she hasn't secured it yet. There's a researcher with an idea for an experiment that might offer a new cancer treatment -– but he hasn't found the funding yet. There's a child with an inquisitive mind staring up at the night sky. And maybe she has the potential to change our world –- but she doesn't know it yet.

As you know, scientific discovery takes far more than the occasional flash of brilliance –- as important as that can be. Usually, it takes time and hard work and patience; it takes training; it requires the support of a nation. But it holds a promise like no other area of human endeavor.

In 1968, a year defined by loss and conflict and tumult, Apollo 8 carried into space the first human beings ever to slip beyond Earth's gravity, and the ship would circle the moon 10 times before returning home. But on its fourth orbit, the capsule rotated and for the first time Earth became visible through the windows.

Bill Anders, one of the astronauts aboard Apollo 8, scrambled for a camera, and he took a photo that showed the Earth coming up over the moon's horizon. It was the first ever taken from so distant a vantage point, and it soon became known as "Earthrise."

Anders would say that the moment forever changed him, to see our world -- this pale blue sphere -- without borders, without divisions, at once so tranquil and beautiful and alone.

"We came all this way to explore the moon," he said, "and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth."

Yes, scientific innovation offers us a chance to achieve prosperity. It has offered us benefits that have improved our health and our lives -- improvements we take too easily for granted. But it gives us something more. At root, science forces us to reckon with the truth as best as we can ascertain it.

And some truths fill us with awe. Others force us to question long-held views. Science can't answer every question, and indeed, it seems at times the more we plumb the mysteries of the physical world, the more humble we must be. Science cannot supplant our ethics or our values, our principles or our faith. But science can inform those things and help put those values -- these moral sentiments, that faith -- can put those things to work -- to feed a child, or to heal the sick, to be good stewards of this Earth.

We are reminded that with each new discovery and the new power it brings comes new responsibility; that the fragility, the sheer specialness of life requires us to move past our differences and to address our common problems, to endure and continue humanity's strivings for a better world.

As President Kennedy said when he addressed the National Academy of Sciences more than 45 years ago: "The challenge, in short, may be our salvation."

Thank you all for all your past, present, and future discoveries. (Applause.) May God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

Thursday, 26 February 2009

On Climate

Nobel Lecture, Al Gore, 2007

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.

I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed longed that God someone would show me a way to accomplish it.

Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death. Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life's work, unfairly labeling him "The Merchant of Death" because of his invention – dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace.

Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name.

Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken – if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.

Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray wish what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, "We must act."

The distinguished scientists with whom it is the greatest honor of my life to share this award have laid before us a choice between two different futures – a choice that to my ears echoes the words of an ancient prophet: "Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."

We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency – a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst – though not all – of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.

However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world's leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler's threat: "They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent."

So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.

As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.

We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.

Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is "falling off a cliff." One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.

Seven years from now.

In the last few months, it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter. Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home. Unprecedented wildfires have forced a half million people from their homes in one country and caused a national emergency that almost brought down the government in another. Climate refugees have migrated into areas already inhabited by people with different cultures, religions, and traditions, increasing the potential for conflict. Stronger storms in the Pacific and Atlantic have threatened whole cities. Millions have been displaced by massive flooding in South Asia, Mexico, and 18 countries in Africa. As temperature extremes have increased, tens of thousands have lost their lives. We are recklessly burning and clearing our forests and driving more and more species into extinction. The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.

We never intended to cause all this destruction, just as Alfred Nobel never intended that dynamite be used for waging war. He had hoped his invention would promote human progress. We shared that same worthy goal when we began burning massive quantities of coal, then oil and methane.

Even in Nobel's time, there were a few warnings of the likely consequences. One of the very first winners of the Prize in chemistry worried that, "We are evaporating our coal mines into the air." After performing 10,000 equations by hand, Svante Arrhenius calculated that the earth's average temperature would increase by many degrees if we doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Seventy years later, my teacher, Roger Revelle, and his colleague, Dave Keeling, began to precisely document the increasing CO2 levels day by day.

But unlike most other forms of pollution, CO2 is invisible, tasteless, and odorless – which has helped keep the truth about what it is doing to our climate out of sight and out of mind. Moreover, the catastrophe now threatening us is unprecedented – and we often confuse the unprecedented with the improbable.

We also find it hard to imagine making the massive changes that are now necessary to solve the crisis. And when large truths are genuinely inconvenient, whole societies can, at least for a time, ignore them. Yet as George Orwell reminds us: "Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

In the years since this prize was first awarded, the entire relationship between humankind and the earth has been radically transformed. And still, we have remained largely oblivious to the impact of our cumulative actions.

Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth's climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: "Mutually assured destruction."

More than two decades ago, scientists calculated that nuclear war could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, causing a "nuclear winter." Their eloquent warnings here in Oslo helped galvanize the world's resolve to halt the nuclear arms race.

Now science is warning us that if we do not quickly reduce the global warming pollution that is trapping so much of the heat our planet normally radiates back out of the atmosphere, we are in danger of creating a permanent "carbon summer."

As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, "Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice." Either, he notes, "would suffice."

But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet.

We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war. These prior struggles for survival were won when leaders found words at the 11th hour that released a mighty surge of courage, hope and readiness to sacrifice for a protracted and mortal challenge.

These were not comforting and misleading assurances that the threat was not real or imminent; that it would affect others but not ourselves; that ordinary life might be lived even in the presence of extraordinary threat; that Providence could be trusted to do for us what we would not do for ourselves.

No, these were calls to come to the defense of the common future. They were calls upon the courage, generosity and strength of entire peoples, citizens of every class and condition who were ready to stand against the threat once asked to do so. Our enemies in those times calculated that free people would not rise to the challenge; they were, of course, catastrophically wrong.

Now comes the threat of climate crisis – a threat that is real, rising, imminent, and universal. Once again, it is the 11th hour. The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable. For now we still have the power to choose our fate, and the remaining question is only this: Have we the will to act vigorously and in time, or will we remain imprisoned by a dangerous illusion?

Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy on earth and forged a shared resolve with what he called "Satyagraha" – or "truth force."

In every land, the truth – once known – has the power to set us free.

Truth also has the power to unite us and bridge the distance between "me" and "we," creating the basis for common effort and shared responsibility.

There is an African proverb that says, "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." We need to go far, quickly.

We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action. At the same time, we must ensure that in mobilizing globally, we do not invite the establishment of ideological conformity and a new lock-step "ism."

That means adopting principles, values, laws, and treaties that release creativity and initiative at every level of society in multifold responses originating concurrently and spontaneously.

This new consciousness requires expanding the possibilities inherent in all humanity. The innovators who will devise a new way to harness the sun's energy for pennies or invent an engine that's carbon negative may live in Lagos or Mumbai or Montevideo. We must ensure that entrepreneurs and inventors everywhere on the globe have the chance to change the world.

When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us. The generation that defeated fascism throughout the world in the 1940s found, in rising to meet their awesome challenge, that they had gained the moral authority and long-term vision to launch the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and a new level of global cooperation and foresight that unified Europe and facilitated the emergence of democracy and prosperity in Germany, Japan, Italy and much of the world. One of their visionary leaders said, "It is time we steered by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship."

In the last year of that war, you gave the Peace Prize to a man from my hometown of 2000 people, Carthage, Tennessee. Cordell Hull was described by Franklin Roosevelt as the "Father of the United Nations." He was an inspiration and hero to my own father, who followed Hull in the Congress and the U.S. Senate and in his commitment to world peace and global cooperation.

My parents spoke often of Hull, always in tones of reverence and admiration. Eight weeks ago, when you announced this prize, the deepest emotion I felt was when I saw the headline in my hometown paper that simply noted I had won the same prize that Cordell Hull had won. I n that moment, I knew what my father and mother would have felt were they alive.

Just as Hull's generation found moral authority in rising to solve the world crisis caused by fascism, so too can we find our greatest opportunity in rising to solve the climate crisis. In the Kanji characters used in both Chinese and Japanese, "crisis 危機" is written with two symbols, the first meaning "danger 危", the second "opportunity 機". By facing and removing the danger of the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to gain the moral authority and vision to vastly increase our own capacity to solve other crises that have been too long ignored.

We must understand the connections between the climate crisis and the afflictions of poverty, hunger, HIV-Aids and other pandemics. As these problems are linked, so too must be their solutions. We must begin by making the common rescue of the global environment the central organizing principle of the world community.

Fifteen years ago, I made that case at the "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years ago, I presented it in Kyoto. This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions.

This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 – two years sooner than presently contemplated. The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself.

Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis. It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.

We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.

And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon – with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.

The world needs an alliance – especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they've taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.

But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters – most of all, my own country – that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.

Both countries should stop using the other's behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.

These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must. No one should believe a solution will be found without effort, without cost, without change. Let us acknowledge that if we wish to redeem squandered time and speak again with moral authority, then these are the hard truths:

The way ahead is difficult. The outer boundary of what we currently believe is feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. Moreover, between here and there, across the unknown, falls the shadow.

That is just another way of saying that we have to expand the boundaries of what is possible. In the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, "Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk."

We are standing at the most fateful fork in that path. So I want to end as I began, with a vision of two futures – each a palpable possibility – and with a prayer that we will see with vivid clarity the necessity of choosing between those two futures, and the urgency of making the right choice now.

The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote, "One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door."

The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: "What were you thinking; why didn't you act? "

Or they will ask instead: "How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?"

We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.

So let us renew it, and say together: "We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act."

General permission is granted for the publication in newspapers in any language. Publication in periodicals or books, or in digital or electronic forms, otherwise than in summary, requires the consent of the Foundation. On all publications in full or in major parts the above underlined copyright notice must be applied.

Two Space Shuttle Tragedies, Two addresses by USA presidents

Here are the text of two Space Shuttle Tragedies (Challenger on 28th January 1986 and Columbia on 1st February 2003) delivered by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush respectively.

Ronald Reagan The Space Shuttle "Challenger" Tragedy Address delivered 28 January 1986

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we've never lost an astronaut in flight. We've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, "Give me a challenge, and I'll meet it with joy." They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and, perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's take-off. I know it's hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.

I've always had great faith in and respect for our space program. And what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute.

We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.

I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA, or who worked on this mission and tell them: "Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it."

There's a coincidence today. On this day three hundred and ninety years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, "He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it." Well, today, we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

Thank you.

George W. Bush The Space Shuttle "Columbia" Tragedy Address delivered on 1 February 2003, White House Cabinet Room
My fellow Americans, this day has brought terrible news and great sadness to our country. At nine o'clock this morning, Mission Control in Houston lost contact with our Space Shuttle Columbia. A short time later, debris was seen falling from the skies above Texas. The Columbia is lost; there are no survivors.

On board was a crew of seven: Colonel Rick Husband; Lt. Colonel Michael Anderson; Commander Laurel Clark; Captain David Brown; Commander William McCool; Dr. Kalpana Chawla; and Ilan Ramon, a Colonel in the Israeli Air Force. These men and women assumed great risk in the service to all humanity.

In an age when space flight has come to seem almost routine, it is easy to overlook the dangers of travel by rocket, and the difficulties of navigating the fierce outer atmosphere of the Earth. These astronauts knew the dangers, and they faced them willingly, knowing they had a high and noble purpose in life. Because of their courage, and daring, and idealism, we will miss them all the more.

All Americans today are thinking, as well, of the families of these men and women who have been given this sudden shock and grief. You're not alone. Our entire nation grieves with you. And those you loved will always have the respect and gratitude of this country. The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand.

Our journey into space will go on.

In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see, there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power, and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."

The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home.

May God bless the grieving families. And may -- may God continue to bless America.Our thoughts are with the grieving families and may American continue to prosper.

You are all my reasons.

John Nash's Nobel Prize Acceptance Address
[link to a clip from A Beautiful Mind where Actor Russell Crowe delivers the speech in movie]
Thank you. I've always believed in numbers and the equations and logics that lead to reason.

But after a lifetime of such pursuits, I ask,

"What truly is logic?"

"Who decides reason?"

My quest has taken me through the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional -- and back.

And I have made the most important discovery of my career, the most important discovery of my life: It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reasons can be found.

I'm only here tonight because of you [wife, Alicia].

You are the reason I am.

You are all my reasons.

Thank you.

We will recover

Obama to the Nation, 24 Feb, 2009

Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the First Lady of the United States:

I've come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. If you haven't been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has - a friend; a neighbor; a member of your family. You don't need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It's the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It's the job you thought you'd retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that's now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:

We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

Now, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities - as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we'll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely - to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jump start job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that's what I'd like to talk to you about tonight.

It's an agenda that begins with jobs.

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President's Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government - I don't. Not because I'm not mindful of the massive debt we've inherited - I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. That's why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.

Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector - jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.

Because of this plan, 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut - a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.

Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college. And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm.

I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we've all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort - because nobody messes with Joe. I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend. I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new website called recovery.gov so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.

So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track. But it is just the first step. Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.

I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family's well-being. You should also know that the money you've deposited in banks across the country is safe; your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That is not the source of concern.

The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins.

You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy. The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education; how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.

But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many banks. With so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses, or to each other. When there is no lending, families can't afford to buy homes or cars. So businesses are forced to make layoffs. Our economy suffers even more, and credit dries up even further.

That is why this administration is moving swiftly and aggressively to break this destructive cycle, restore confidence, and re-start lending.

We will do so in several ways. First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans, and small business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running.

Second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and re-finance their mortgages. It's a plan that won't help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values - Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped bring about. In fact, the average family who re-finances today can save nearly $2000 per year on their mortgage.

Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times. And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.

I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions. But such an approach won't solve the problem. And our goal is to quicken the day when we re-start lending to the American people and American business and end this crisis once and for all.

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government - and yes, probably more than we've already set aside. But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade. That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.

I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and results that followed. So were the American taxpayers. So was I.

So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you - I get it.

But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment. My job - our job - is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility. I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can't pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can't get a mortgage.

That's what this is about. It's not about helping banks - it's about helping people. Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend, and if they can get a loan too, maybe they'll finally buy that car, or open their own business. Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more. Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover.

So I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary. Because we cannot consign our nation to an open-ended recession. And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system. It is time to put in place tough, new common-sense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation, and punishes short-cuts and abuse.

The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we're taking to revive our economy in the short-term. But the only way to fully restore America's economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren't preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America - as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we've inherited - a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber - Democrats and Republicans - will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

For history tells a different story. History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn't supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don't need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we've fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders - and I know you don't either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history - an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don't do what's easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

For that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care.

This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it's one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.

Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.

Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last thirty days than we have in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for eleven million American children whose parents work full-time. Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.

This budget builds on these reforms. It includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform - a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It's a commitment that's paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue. And it's a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.

Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform, and that is why I'm bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.

I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.

The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.

In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity - it is a pre-requisite.

Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.

This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education - from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.

Already, we have made an historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We have dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life. We have made college affordable for nearly seven million more students. And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children's progress.

But we know that our schools don't just need more resources. They need more reform. That is why this budget creates new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We'll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country - and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask this Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country - Senator Edward Kennedy.

These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children's education must begin at home.

There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children. And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down.

I'm proud that we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we're starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don't work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't need them. We'll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we're not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn't make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But let me perfectly clear, because I know you'll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut - that's right, a tax cut - for 95% of working families. And these checks are on the way.

To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come. And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.

Finally, because we're also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget. That is why this budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules - and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.

We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.

And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away.

As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support. To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.

To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend - because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists - because living our values doesn't make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture.

In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. We are instead called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.

To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort. To meet the challenges of the 21st century - from terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty - we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power.

And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe. For the world depends on us to have a strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of the world's.

As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us - watching to see what we do with this moment; waiting for us to lead.

Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege - one that has been entrusted to few generations of Americans. For in our hands lies the ability to shape our world for good or for ill.

I know that it is easy to lose sight of this truth - to become cynical and doubtful; consumed with the petty and the trivial.

But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.

I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn't tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ''I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn't feel right getting the money myself."

I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community - how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. "The tragedy was terrible," said one of the men who helped them rebuild. "But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity."

And I think about Ty'Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina - a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters."

We are not quitters.

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.

Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.

I know that we haven't agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

And if we do - if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, "something worthy to be remembered." Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America. My best wishes to you and may United States of America prosper.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Lincoln Made my Story Possible

Barack Obama on Abraham Lincoln and today's Union: 13 Feb, 2009
It is wonderful to be back in Springfield, the city where I got my start in elected office, where I served for nearly a decade, and where I launched my candidacy for President two years ago, this week –- on the steps of the Old State Capitol where Abraham Lincoln served and prepared for the presidency.

It was here, nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, that the man whose life we are celebrating today bid farewell to this city he had come to call his own. On a platform at a train station not far from where we’re gathered, Lincoln turned to the crowd that had come to see him off, and said, “To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything.”

Being here tonight, surrounded by all of you, I share his sentiments.

But looking out at this room, full of so many who did so much for me, I’m also reminded of what Lincoln once said to a favor-seeker who claimed it was his efforts that made the difference in the election. Lincoln asked him, “So you think you made me President?”

“Yes,” the man replied, “under Providence, I think I did.”

“Well,” said Lincoln, “it’s a pretty mess you’ve got me into. But I forgive you.”

It is a humbling task, marking the bicentennial of our 16th President’s birth -– humbling for me in particular, I think, for the presidency of this singular figure in so many ways made my own story possible.

Here in Springfield, it is easier, perhaps, to reflect on Lincoln the man rather than the marble giant, before Gettysburg and Antietam, Fredericksburg and Bull Run, before emancipation was....

...proclaimed and the captives were set free. In 1854, Lincoln was simply a Springfield lawyer, who’d served just a single term in Congress.

Possibly in his law office, his feet on a cluttered desk, his sons playing around him, his clothes a bit too small to fit his uncommon frame -- maybe wondering of someone's going to call up and ask him to be Commerce secretary -- he put some thoughts on paper, for what purpose we do not know:

“The legitimate object of government,” he wrote, “is to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they can not, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, by themselves.”

To do for the people what needs to be done but which they cannot do on their own.

It is a simple statement. But it answers a central question of Abraham Lincoln’s life. Why did he land on the side of Union? What was it that made him so unrelenting in pursuit of victory that he was willing to test the Constitution he ultimately preserved? What was it that led this man to give his last full measure of devotion so that our nation might endure?

These are not easy questions to answer, and I cannot know if I am right. But I suspect that his devotion to union came not from a belief that government always had the answer. It came not from a failure to understand our individual rights and responsibilities. This rugged rail-splitter, born in a log cabin of pioneer stock; who cleared a path through the woods as a boy; who lost a mother and a sister to the rigors of frontier life; who taught himself all he knew -– this man, our first Republican President, knew, better than anyone, what it meant to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

He understood that strain of personal liberty and self-reliance at the heart of the American experience.

But he also understood something else. He recognized that while each of us must do our part, work as hard as we can, and be as responsible as we can -– in the end, there are certain things we cannot do on our own. There are certain things we can only do together. There are certain things only a Union can do.

Only a Union could harness the courage of our pioneers to settle the American west, which is why he passed a Homestead Act giving a tract of land to anyone seeking a stake in our growing economy.

Only a Union could foster the ingenuity of our farmers, which is why he set up land-grant colleges that taught them how to make the most of their land while giving their children an education that let them dream the American dream.

Only a union could speed our expansion and connect our coasts with a transcontinental railroad, and so, even in the midst of civil war, he built one. He fueled new enterprises with a national currency, spurred innovation, and ignited America’s imagination with a national academy of sciences, believing we must, as he put it, add “the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discovery…of new and useful things.”

And on this day, that is also the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth, let us renew that commitment to science and innovation once more.

Only a Union could serve the hopes of every citizen –- to knock down the barriers to opportunity and give each and every person the chance to pursue the American dream. Lincoln understood what Washington understood when he led farmers, craftsmen, and shopkeepers to rise up against an empire. What Roosevelt understood when he lifted us from Depression, built an arsenal of democracy, and created the largest middle-class in history with the GI Bill. It’s what Kennedy understood when he sent us to the moon.

All these presidents recognized that America is –- and always has been -– more than a band of thirteen colonies, more than a bunch of Yankees and Confederates, more than a collection of Red States and Blue States.

Michelle Obama's hands hold the Lincoln Bible for her husband Barack to take the presidential oath Jan 20 2009

We are the United States of America and there isn’t any dream beyond our reach, any obstacle that can stand in our way, when we recognize that our individual liberty is served, not negated, by a recognition of the common good.

That is the spirit we are called to show once more. The challenges we face are very different now. Two wars, and an economic crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime. Jobs have been lost.

Pensions are gone. Families’ dreams have been endangered. Health care costs are exploding. Schools are falling short. And we have an energy crisis that is hampering our economy, threatening our planet and enriching our adversaries.

And yet, while our challenges may be new, they did not come about overnight. Ultimately, they result from a failure to meet the test that Lincoln set.

To be sure, there have been times in our history when our government has misjudged what we can do by individual effort alone, and what we can only do together; when it has done things that people can - or should –- do for themselves. Our welfare system, for example, too often dampened individual initiative, discouraging people from taking responsibility for their own upward mobility.

With respect to education, we have all too frequently lost sight of the role of parents, rather than government, in cultivating a thirst for knowledge and instilling those qualities of a good character -– hard work, discipline, and integrity -– that are so important to educational achievement and professional success.

But in recent years, we’ve seen the pendulum swing too far in the opposite direction. It’s a philosophy that says every problem can be solved if only government would step out of the way; that if government were just dismantled, divvied up into tax breaks, and handed out to the wealthiest among us, it would somehow benefit us all.

Such knee-jerk disdain for government -– this constant rejection of any common endeavor –- cannot rebuild our levees or our roads or our bridges. It cannot refurbish our schools or modernize our health care system; lead to the next medical discovery or yield the research and technology that will spark a clean energy economy.

Only a nation can do these things. Only by coming together, all of us, and expressing that sense of shared sacrifice and responsibility –- for ourselves and one another -– can we do the work that must be done in this country. That is the very definition of being American.

It is only by rebuilding our economy and fostering the conditions of growth that willing workers can find a job, companies can find capital and the entrepreneurial spirit that is the key to our competitiveness can flourish.

It is only by unleashing the potential of alternative fuels that we will lower our energy bills and raise our industries’ sights, make our nation safer and our planet cleaner. It is only by remaking our schools for the 21st century that our children will get those good jobs so they can make of their lives what they will. It is only by coming together to do what people need done that we will, in Lincoln’s words, “lift artificial weights from all shoulders [and give] all an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life.”

That is what is required of us –- now and in the years ahead. We will be remembered for what we choose to make of this moment. And when posterity looks back on our time, as we are looking back on Lincoln’s, I do not want it said that we saw an economic crisis, but did not stem it. That we saw our schools decline and our bridges crumble, but did not rebuild them.

That the world changed in the 21st century, but America did not lead it. That we were consumed with small things when we were called to do great things. Instead, let them say that this generation -– our generation -– of Americans rose to the moment and gave America a new birth of freedom and opportunity in our time.

These are trying days and they will grow tougher in the months to come. There will be moments when our doubts rise and our hopes recede. But let’s always remember that we, as a people, have been here before. There were times when our revolution itself seemed altogether improbable, when the Union was all but lost and fascism seemed set to prevail.

And yet, what earlier generations discovered –- what we must rediscover right now -– is that it is precisely when we are in the deepest valley, precisely when the climb is steepest, that Americans relearn how to take the mountaintop. Together. As one nation. As one people.

That is how we will beat back our present dangers. That is how we will surpass what trials may come. And that is how we will do what Lincoln called on us to do, and “nobly save…the last best hope of earth.”

Thank you, God Bless youWishing you happiness, and may God Bless America prospers.