- Obama highlighted the accomplishments of a few lesser-known American innovators
The "spirit of discovery is in our DNA," Obama said, naming seven men and women, some more familiar than others. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, stood out among her exalted peers.
There was Thomas Edison, the dynamic inventor
of, among other things, the long-lasting electric lightbulb. Then the Wright Brothers, those Indiana and Ohio-born aviation innovators
who made their mark in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Obama named George Washington Carver, born into slavery in the years before the Civil War, but known today as a world-famous botanist and cultural giant who changed the face of American agriculture. A champion of new, sustainable crops, he discovered hundreds of peanut-powered derivatives, according to the National Peanut Board
, "including chili sauce, shampoo, shaving cream and glue."
The president also singled out the late Grace Hopper, better known as "Amazing Grace,"
a leading computer scientist who specialized in programming before joining the Navy Reserve during World War II, and going on to achieve the rank of Rear Admiral before retiring in 1986.
And then there was Katherine Johnson. The recipient of the 2015 National Medal of Freedom, Johnson, an African-American woman who grew up in West Virginia, entered high school at age 10 and became a distinguished mathematician. She would go on to join NASA
, helping make delicate calculations ahead of the first moon landing before retiring in 1986.
"We're every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley racing to shape a better world," Obama said after running through the names. "And over the past seven years, we've nurtured that spirit."