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This chapter provides an overview of why science, and in a broader context STEM, are of fundamental importance to the progress of nations and their citizens in the twenty-first century. We will return to some of the topics in subsequent chapters, but here they provide the foundation and rationale for the fundamental importance of science and STEM in society. The focus of this chapter is the context of science and STEM in the United States, primarily during the second half of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first century. Nevertheless, in a globally connected world, much of what is described here also pertains to other STEM-enabled countries as well.