The White House West Wing, as ever, is very busy. It's nearly time for White House Press Secretary Jay Carney's daily press briefing, which today (April 22nd) will reveal that the Boston bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, won't be tried as an "enemy combatant." Just upstairs, the atmosphere is thankfully less intense. In the East Room and surrounding chambers, over 100 students -- STEM-based competition winners from 40 different states -- are making their best efforts to remain chipper while explaining projects they've no doubt discussed dozens (if not hundreds) of times before.
Later this afternoon, President Barack Obama will address the dozens of attendees -- accomplished students and educators, as well as folks like Bill Nye ("The Science Guy"), Levar Burton (of Reading Rainbow fame) and Kathryn D. Sullivan (the first American woman to walk in space). He'll characterize the students' projects as "really cool," and he'll call out some lucky winners by name while speaking to the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the United States.
Today is the culmination of years of work for many attendees, and it's an important day for the current administration as well. The White House Science Fair is an annual highlight of its "Educate to Innovate" initiative -- the Obama administration-led program that directs both public and private funds to a variety of programs, all aimed at bolstering STEM education in the US. It's a long-term, ambitious plan, and one that the White House is re-dedicating itself to in its proposed fiscal year 2014 budget: a planned reorganization coupled with $265 million, "redirected from within the Department [of Education] and from other agencies."
Beyond the occasional PR bump that events like the White House Science Fair bring, the Educate to Innovate initiative is largely one that won't reap dividends for some time. In 20 years, however, it may be the most important component of Obama's legacy.
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