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Science, Yes. But Don't Forget the Poor | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Science, Yes. But Don't Forget the Poor

Editor's Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel's column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read all of Katrina's column here

In a speech to the National Academy of Sciences shortly after taking office, President Obama, while faced with a teetering economy, vast numbers of unemployed and uninsured, and two seemingly endless wars, nonetheless paused to embrace a vision of the future. He spoke of President Lincoln's commitment to science and innovation, even in the midst of great turmoil and uncertainty.

He said: "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.... Lincoln refused to accept that our nation's sole purpose was mere survival."

Lincoln was a believer in science, a believer in our capacity for innovation and the possibilities it represented. He saw our future prosperity tied to our ability, as a nation, to create. So does Obama. In many areas, the president has matched the rhetoric of his (and Lincoln's) speech with concrete action.

In April 2009, Obama created a President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which he has turned to nearly every month since to ask hard questions and demand science-based answers. He has fought for—and in a number of cases succeeded in—increasing science and new technology funding. He has appointed highly credentialed, public-spirited scientists to key agencies.

Editor's Note: Read all of Katrina's column here

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