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Turning to the substance of his 20-minute talk, Obama said that the kind of innovative energy research he had just seen in the labs is “a reminder that all of you are heirs to a legacy of innovation, not just here but across America, that has improved our health and our well-being and helped us achieve unparalleled prosperity.”

“It taps into something essential about America,” he added, referring to “the legacy of daring men and women who put their talents and their efforts into the pursuit of discovery … a legacy of a nation that supported those intrepid few willing to take risks on an idea that might fail, but might also change the world.”

The president issued a strong call for the nation to lead the world in developing clean, efficient new energy technologies. “Nations everywhere are racing to develop new ways to produce and use energy,” he said. “The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. I’m convinced of that. And I want America to be that nation.” Young people, he said, “understand that this is the challenge of their generation.”

Moniz commented afterward, “It was an honor to have the president here at MIT to advance his clean-energy vision. He was truly thrilled with the work he saw and the scale of the commitment he saw here.” The fact that he chose to come to the Institute is “a recognition of the place that MIT has taken in the energy and climate debate,” he said. “We’re having an impact.” Robert Armstrong, deputy director of the MIT Energy Initiative, said the visit illustrates that “MIT is becoming the go-to place for work on clean energy.”

Reflecting a few days later on the president’s tour, Bulovic said he was impressed with Obama’s “eagerness to absorb more information on what can science do for us.” The whole experience, he says, was “overwhelming and humbling.”

Chancellor Phillip Clay says the president’s choice of this campus for his speech “signals that the administration understands the very important leadership contribution that MIT is making on the energy problem” and shows his commitment to “applying science and technology to solving problems such as energy.”

Personally, he says, “I’m just so pleased and proud–there’s no place on my body left to pinch.”

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Credit: official White House photo by Pete Souza

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