President Barack Obama melded a long-term vision for more science research and education spending with the short-term need to secure a deal with Congressional Republicans to extend both tax breaks for higher-income earners and unemployment benefits for struggling workers.

I believe that right now there are bigger issues at stake for our country than politics, Obama told an audience during a vist to Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Monday, where he toured biotechnology classrooms, encouraging students and administrators.

The hard truth is this: in the race for the future, America is in danger of falling behind, he said.

Obama said the nation is facing a ‘Sputnik Moment’ similar to the situation in 1957 when the Soviet Union beat the U.S. into space by launching a satellite called Sputnik, and jolting a stunned U.S.into investing in science, education and technological development.

“So 50 years later, our generation’s Sputnik moment is back. This is our moment,” he said. “If the recession has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot go back to an economy that's driven by too much spending, too much borrowing, running up credit cards, taking out a lot of home equity loans, paper profits that are built on financial speculation. We’ve got to rebuild on a new and stronger foundation for economic growth.

With the possibility of Republicans calling for scaled back spending in the coming years, Obama signaled such expenses were needed.

There's going to be a debate in Washington, over the next year and over the next couple of years and maybe over the next five years, because I will argue and insist that we cannot cut back on those investments that have the biggest impact on our economic growth. Obama said

Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters aboard Air Force One ahead of the speech that Obama's comments Monday were looking ahead to 2011. 

“This is a framing speech to talk about what we should be focused on here, going into the next year. And you’re going to hear a lot more about this in the coming months,” Burton told reporters.

Obama’s comments come as Administration officials negotiate with Republicans in Congress to reach a deal on extending Bush era tax breaks to those earning more than $250,000 per year in exchange for passing Democrats’ plan for extending unemployment insurance payments to millions of people who have been out of work for months.

In Monday's speech, he also referred to the 2009 Recovery Act - also known as the economic stimulus package - which set aside billions of dollars for infrastructure spending on roads, railways, airports and the Internet. He noted U.S. investments throughout history for infrastructure, education and innovation that have historically commanded the support from both Democrats and Republicans. 

“If we're willing to put aside short-term politics, if our objective is not simply winning elections but winning the future then we should be able to get our act together here, because we are all Americans, and we are in this race together,” Obama said.

“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,” he added.