WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Warning of a future where America could trail other nations, President Barack Obama called Monday for more spending on education, innovation and infrastructure to ensure that doesn't happen.
Without detailing specific new proposals, the president told community college teachers and students it was time for an American "Sputnik moment" — referring to the 1957 Soviet satellite launch that jolted the United States into jump-starting its space and science programs.
"We need a commitment to innovation we haven't seen since President Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon," Obama said.
The speech at Forsyth Technical Community College was a preview of Obama's State of the Union address next year and his 2011 agenda as he grapples with a divided Congress, aides said.
"Right now the hard truth is this," Obama said. "In the race for the future, America is in danger of falling behind. That's just the truth. And if you hear a politician say it's not, they're just not paying attention."
The president set out a goal that no politician would dispute: for America "to win the future."
The disagreements will come over how to get there, with Republicans certain to be skeptical of any new program that costs tax dollars.
Obama acknowledged the reality of the country's fiscal woes, and said he'd look at recent proposals from his budget commission to find ways to trim deficits.
But, the president said, "I will argue and insist that we cannot cut back on those investments that have the biggest impact on our economic growth."
He said that cutting spending on education, research and development and green technologies would be like trying to reduce the weight of an airplane by removing the engine.