Tuesday evening, the President delivered the State of the Union address. His remarks laid out a blueprint for not only the next two years, but for decades to come.
While I did not agree with everything he outlined – I have some very serious concerns about the feasibility of a five-year freeze on discretionary spending while investing in our future and not harming underserved populations – I want to echo a few of the President’s core themes.
Noting that the world we live in requires us to compete globally, President Obama challenged the American people to invest in research and technology, saying “we need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”
Northern Virginia is a hub of innovation, an example of the best our nation has to offer in terms of technology. The area is home to the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and numerous Fortune 500 technology companies. We must replicate the success we have in this region across the country.
Virginia is fifth in the nation for the number of high-tech jobs and high-tech job creation. For the fourth straight year, Virginia led the nation in concentration of high-tech workers and in the DC area, high-tech firms employed 134 of every 1,000 private sector workers in 2009.
Not only are innovative technologies a catalyst for our nation’s economy, but high-tech jobs are often high-paying jobs. The average yearly wage for a technology-related job was $92,100- nearly twice as much as the average private sector job in Virginia.
The President was right to stress the need for increased and improved trade relations with countries across the globe if we are to quicken the pace of our economy. In the next Congress, I will work to ensure we develop a strong trade agreement with South Korea. Korea is the 15th largest economy in the world and according to the U.S. International Trade Commission, passing the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement would boost U.S. goods exports by up to $11 billion dollars and U.S. GDP by up to $12 billion.
Our public schools play perhaps the most critical role in securing future success for the nation. The real solution to our long term unemployment is massive improvements in our education system. If we do not invest in our schools now, our children will not be able to compete with those around the world.
Northern Virginia is home to some of the best public schools in the nation, but our schools represent the exception, not the rule. Time magazine reported that American students rank 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math – 17th in the world overall. We must afford every child in the United States the opportunity for a first-rate education.
Part of the solution to better schools is more qualified teachers. In South Korea, the top 10 percent of students become teachers. The President had it right when he stressed the importance of teachers and encouraged our young people to go into the profession.
Reworking No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is one of my top education priorities. This Congress, my colleagues and I will work to modify NCLB to embody the President’s demand that “when a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance.”
The President’s remarks were not overly political and left me feeling optimistic about the future. A great number of challenges face our country and I look forward to working with the Obama administration to improve the quality of the life for the people in Northern Virginia, and the rest of the country.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.