Trying to get the U.S. economy back on track may sometimes seem a bit like reaching for the stars. Well, President Barack Obama today declared that America is facing a “Sputnik moment.”
Speaking at a community college in North Carolina, Obama said innovation, training and education were vital to economic recovery, giving clean energy technology as an example of a promising area for job creation. “If this is truly going to be our Sputnik moment we need a commitment to innovation that we haven’t seen since President Kennedy challenged us to go to the Moon.”
Obama, who was not born at the time of Sputnik, was trying to make the point that the country needs the same drive to tackle its economy that was used when it responded to the Soviet Union winning early challenges in the space age.
A “Sputnik moment” is generally used to describe a point when it’s time to wake up, catch up, and excel. It is derived from one of the milestones of flight when on Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1, beating the United States into space.
Sputnik prompted the United States to redouble its efforts in science, and as one colleague recalls it seemed like almost the next day every elementary school in the country was pushing science education.