National Medal of Technology and Innovation Remarks
Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for IP and Deputy Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea
February 1, 2013
National Medal of Technology and Innovation
Good evening, everybody. It is such an honor for the United States Patent and Trademark Office to play a part in this annual event, and for me to be here today with so many innovators with bright minds and generous spirits. As we toast your inestimable contributions to society, I would like to take a moment to also thank our partners who have made tonight’s gala possible: John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy; Subra Suresh, Director of the National Science Foundation; Steve Burrill and Robin Rathmann-Noonan of the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation; and the USPTO’s own John Palafoutas.
Now, the venue where this afternoon’s ceremony was held—the White House—is a tough one to top…but tonight’s dinner is quite the affair in its own right! So please join me in another round of applause for all of the folks who helped in making this gala possible.
It is a sincere privilege to join you in commemorating the work of a select group of remarkable women and men whose unrelenting research and fearless ingenuity in their respective fields have unlocked new frontiers to the benefit of all mankind. We have already seen a few of their inspiring stories in these compelling video profiles, and I am really looking forward to viewing the rest of them as well with all of you.
USPTO examiners carefully review thousands of patent examinations every day. There is no way for them to know at the time which ones will truly change the world. The National Medal of Technology and Innovation allows us to look back at those innovations that were truly revolutionary. The medalists and their accomplishments remind us that our nation continues to be built by those willing to challenge traditions—willing to push the boundaries of convention and willing to test new limits in design and thought.
Today our new laureates join the esteemed ranks of the creator of the refrigerator, the visionary behind the LED, the inventor of the microphone, and even the late Steve Jobs—the pioneer of the personal computer. These medal winners do not just boast historic scientific contribution and achievement—their endeavors fundamentally reimagine the way we interact with one another.
Now this country is indebted to all of you in a way no medal can sufficiently recognize. But the true beauty of the innovative spirit on display tonight is that your breakthroughs have paved the way for other creative thinkers to build on your accomplishments.
Sir Isaac Newton—no scientific slouch in his own right—put it best in a letter to his intellectual peer and sometime rival, Robert Hooke. The man who developed the theory of gravity—which changed the way we viewed our own place in the universe, said this: “If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
You have now been recognized as giants in your own fields. Your innovations have paved the way for innovative minds to build on your insights. If we were all to fast forward a few years from now, to a future awards ceremony at the White House, it is reasonable to think that some of the individuals receiving medals around their necks that day would say they were standing on your shoulders.
Thank you for leaving no stone unturned in your research. Thank you for the incredible legacy you have left science and society. And thank you for inspiring us all to continue embracing a sense of wonder in the name of humanity.
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