“Fuel Interest to the Fire of Genius”
This month marked the 207th anniversary of the birth of America’s 16th president. School kids across Iowa can tell you that Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin. Many also will know he learned the value of hard work splitting rails and performing other farm chores before becoming a lawyer and ascending to the presidency.
Widely known as the Great Emancipator, many people may not know another distinction that Abraham Lincoln holds among the nation’s 44 presidents.
He is the only president to hold a patent. In fact, seven score and 17 years ago, Lincoln received Patent #6469 on May 22, 1849.
Keenly interested in mechanics, Lincoln was an innovator. Using ingenuity to solve a problem when navigating boats down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, Lincoln crafted a new transportation technology that would buoy riverboats over sandbars and shoals.
So, in addition to his steadfast pursuit of equal justice under the law for all Americans, Lincoln’s passion for technology and education foretold America’s 21st century commitment to promote STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Even before Honest Abe, America’s founders understood the fundamental merit of intellectual property protections as a driver of economic growth, opportunity and prosperity.
Patent, trademark and copyright laws are integral to America’s exceptional system of free enterprise. America’s promise of prosperity and vast opportunity fuels the motivation and ambition of each successive generation. Our nation’s regulatory, tax and legal regimes need to follow suit and inspire innovation and creativity from one generation to the next.
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which I chair, has legislative and oversight jurisdiction over the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and intellectual property matters. Intellectual property protections encourage entrepreneurs to research and develop new inventions. Companies rely on proper enforcement of intellectual property laws for stability and certainty. The risks and rewards of our free enterprise system comprise the magic sauce that incentivizes entrepreneurs and big thinkers to invest in jobs, innovation and product development. A robust system of free enterprise that cultivates intellectual property is one that will stimulate competition, unleash creativity, solve problems and find cures.
Often, science, technology, engineering and mathematics are the fundamental tools for innovation.
And as Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator, I’m always looking for ways to help my home state strengthen its economy, workforce and reputation as the best place to work and call home.
That’s why I invited the director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to join me at Bettendorf High School with Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and the school’s principal and STEM leader. We led a discussion with students about the importance of studying the STEM fields and related career opportunities.
As this and future generations pave the way into America’s third century, we need to boost innovation in our hometown communities and factor into the nation’s long-term economic growth and leadership in the world.
For generations, Iowa has established high standards of educational excellence and scholastic achievement. Global competitiveness and dynamic changes in the 21st century require renewed focus on developing talent in classrooms and campuses across Iowa.
Strong collaboration among business, industry, civic and education leaders in Iowa is setting the table for STEM to take root and flourish in our schools. This foundation will help fertilize future breakthroughs in medical research and cures, produce a high-nutrition, weather-tolerant food supply for a growing population and foster sound environmental stewardship of Earth’s natural resources.
Iowans know we need to nurture seeds to harvest a bountiful crop. In this case, I’m talking about tapping the potential of our best and brightest minds. Unfortunately, too much talent has been left behind when federal education policies pursued minimum standards of achievement at the expense of raising maximum levels of skill. Too often, advanced ability goes unrecognized, especially from children from disadvantaged backgrounds. As a result, many of our best and brightest students fail to raise the roof on their maximum academic and intellectual potential.
To remedy this situation, I wrote the TALENT Act to correct flawed federal incentives that effectively sidestepped high-ability learners in federal education policy. My bill was included in the education reform package signed into law in December. It will help remove federal micromanagement from our classrooms so that teachers will be empowered to help more students to achieve at high levels.
The tech masterminds behind today’s popular social media platforms illustrate a point I like to make with younger Iowans. Age is not a barrier in America, so dream big. Put your mind to it and you can make a difference. Our youngest entrepreneurs have shown that a STEM-based education is a sure-fire way to job and economic security.
Abraham Lincoln is said to have praised the nation’s patent system for having “added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”
Just imagine the possibilities when the next generation cultivates STEM with the advantages of the nation’s patent system. America’s promise of prosperity will be refueled to fire up ingenuity and enterprise for generations to come.