On the heels of a moving speech honoring the victims of the Tuscon, Arizona tragedy and emboldened by high job approval ratings, President Barack Obama delivered a rousing State of the Union address in which technology and innovation reigned supreme in charting a new path toward “winning the future.”
“The rules have changed,” he said. “In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100. Today, just about any company can set up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever there’s an Internet connection.
“Meanwhile,” Obama noted, “nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science. They’re investing in research and new technologies.”
Though President Obama did not dismiss the dismal deficit the nation now faces, he was adamant about the importance of investing in innovation and education. He couched his remarks in terms of our need to be globally competitive, and acknowledged that America lags behind nations like China and India when it comes to transitioning our country to an innovation economy.
“The future is ours to win,” he said. “But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, ‘The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.’ Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.
“And now it’s our turn,” President Obama went on to say. “We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future.”
Obama identified American innovation as the linchpin of our future success; the key to our ability to “win the future.” And broadband – high-speed Internet – is the primary conduit for American innovation, through which we’ll be able to realize new economic opportunities, see entrepreneurial endeavors flourish, live more productive and efficient lives, and experience the benefits of a clean-energy economy.
“Within the next five years,” he said, “we’ll make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans. This isn’t just about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age.
“It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.
“All these investments,” said Obama, “in innovation, education, and infrastructure –- will make America a better place to do business and create jobs. But to help our companies compete, we also have to knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success.”