Remarks by the Honorable William Jeffrey
Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology
National Medal of Technology Dinner
February 13, 2006
Good evening. I would like to welcome our guests and to convey my congratulations to tonight's honorees.
When tonight's medalists were selected - I went back to look at their accomplishments. As I reviewed their work -- I tried to fathom the many ingredients - personal, educational, and societal - that interacted so productively and led to their achievements.
Just how did their achievements come to be?
As bright and ambitious as tonight's medalists may have been as children, I doubt whether they had any inkling that their minds held truly big ideas. . .
That some day, through the power of their thinking, the spark of their creativity, and the diligence of their efforts, they would stretch the horizons of science and engineering.
Or launch entirely new fields of investigation.
Or deliver technologies that are changing society and improving the quality of life.
I'd venture to bet, however, that many of the seeds of their achievements were planted early in life. Education and a diverse set of experiences - including failures - enabled these seeds to sprout and flourish.
Now, we hope that by their example, tonight's honorees will help to cultivate future generations of over-achievers in science and technology.
The laureates represent a special category of American Idols - deserving of our admiration, to be sure.
But more important, they are sources of motivation -- role models that can encourage America's youth to pursue new frontiers in science and technology.
As modern-day pioneers, they inspire us to aspire. Spanning the vast intellectual expanse that extends from mind to market, their collective accomplishments awaken us to new possibilities, encourage us to take risks, and remind us to be passionate and persistent in the quest for innovation.
The President noted this recently when he stated, "Generations of risk-takers, inventors, and visionaries have made America the world's most prosperous and innovative nation."1
In the global economy, where change is pervasive and unrelenting and where market success can be fleeting, the importance of innovation will endure. Commitment to innovation will be the competitive advantage for those who wish to scale new heights.
And the first steps on that journey are through excellence in education and in the fundamental quest for new knowledge. But it also takes visionaries.
And the visionaries - like tonight's medalists - the people who can see clearly through the fog of what lies ahead -will take all of us on a journey to new and marvelous frontiers.
Congratulations and thank you.