i posted my amazing essay on facebook, so i thought i would post it here (btw, my editor HATES quotes from MS Word, so i replaced them with astrisk…so annoying) :
Can America Rise Again?
The central problem that author James Fallows identifies in his article, *How America Can Rise Again*, is that America*s success over the last two centuries has blinded us to the changes in our situation necessitating a change in our behavior. Yet, his solution is to fall back on what we have done correctly in the past. I can work with that. The 3 out of the 6 symptoms identified in our *failure to adapt* (15-17) center around excelling in science and technology. I believe this is the area that America will have to change current policy in order to remain *on top*.
Our success in the area of science and technology has been as a result of attracting the best and brightest, the government doing the heavy lifting of initial technology development, and the private sector taking the previous two items and creating prosperity for all. The jeremiad fear of immigration, congressional fear of allowing *experts* to distribute government funds, and rejection of support for pure research are eroding America*s ability to follow the previously successful model. This creates a huge risk to America*s ability to stay on top. Only by overcoming these areas of fear and correcting the corresponding policy errors will investment bankers continue to *look on in awe as you avoid catastrophe at the last moment * again.*
Let us first take a look at faulty immigration policy and its threat to American dominance in science and technology. In *America*s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs,* Duke University researchers reported that, *more than a quarter of the engineering and technology companies launched in the U.S. from 1995*2005 had at least one foreign-born founder.*Though it doesn*t seem likely that someone visiting a venture capitalist for funding is going to be asked to show *papers,* the new law in Arizona, and the nine States who signed a letter of support for the law (*9 States back Arizona Immigration Law against Feds*), are sending the wrong message to the best and brightest who might be considering starting companies in the US. Similarly, after 9/11 major research universities, such as Harvard and MIT, found it necessary to approach the US government to discuss the new incredibly difficult visa process. Star students were not even bothering to apply to our great schools because of the extremely complicated process they had to navigate to maybe get a student visa (*Closed Borders and Closed Minds: Immigration Policy Changes After 9/11 And U.S. Higher Education.*) If we do not change the direction of immigration policy we are at risk of losing the technological blockbuster start-ups that have made America so great in the past. Do we want to lose the next Yahoo, Google or eBay?
Next let us consider the congressional fear of letting experts decide where best to put research dollars. Though the Manhattan Project was primarily driven by a fear of the German*s getting *the bomb* before the US did, it put the greatest minds of science on the biggest problem facing the world at the time. And it was Robert Oppenheimer that made those decisions, not Congress. He focused on talent and dedication, because that is what mattered in saving the world by ending the war. Without focusing on the best science, without letting those who have the qualifications judge where best to put funding, our government-backed research will pale in comparison and likely never generate the great discoveries and advancements of yesteryear. When the Speaker of the House believes that identification of good science is so easy to determine, he would eliminate the Congressional Technology Office, America has lost its way and needs to remember what it does best. Only by allowing professional science and technology societies decide where best to focus limited research dollars will we get the best science and technology.
Lastly, a rejection of support for pure research will only limit our discoveries in the future. Just because the study name doesn*t say *Method to Cure Cancer* doesn*t mean its findings won*t lead there. Pure research has provided society with many of the building blocks that have eventually led to significant biological and technological advancements in the private sector. The ability to review an individual*s gene map in order to preemptively monitor the effects of gene mutations, which may lead to debilitating or fatal diseases, started with pure research into the human genome. Who would have known that by studying the effects of radiation on human cells would lead to promising therapies for cystic fibrosis, diabetes and cancer (*The Benefits of Investments in Basic Research*)? Many areas of the natural world are unknown to us. By focusing on a specific area or by going into a research project trying to answer a specific question, we risk limiting our insight. If we are not open to what the science tells us, and only focus on the answer we are looking for, we may miss the discovery that eventually leads to an unlimited energy source such as cold fusion or the key to how cells replicate DNA which would unlock the secret to killing cancer cells. Though John McCain felt it was a waste of government dollars to study the DNA of grizzly bears (McCain*s Beef with Bears?*Pork), it is possible that research could result in future discoveries in climate change or wildlife preservation.
America brought the world the Internet, mankind the human genome mapping and travelers the GPS network. We organized the response to the Haitian earthquake and work tirelessly towards peace in the Middle East. And yet, police stopped my fellow intern, Pedro, at Hewlett Packard (HP) in Corvallis, Oregon three times, in one week, because he was a young Latin male driving a new Ford Taurus. It was a company car. He was a star engineer from MIT. As a result of this blatantly racist treatment, his manager was forced to call the police chief and explain how the officers* actions had cost the company and the town an amazing talent. Pedro had, not surprisingly, declined the job his was offered at the end of the summer. Why does America both build a better world for all, and come to the aid of foreigners, while fearing the world*s visits? Our country was built on the backs of immigrants, with development money from the government. Our fear of foreigners and government spending only reduces our effectiveness and influence around the world. Only by consciously considering the impact to science and technology research and development when writing immigration and research funding policy will the US remain the immigration location of choice for the best and brightest scholars. In this way we will stay ahead of the pack, build a better future for all, and hold off the jeremiad, yet again.
Fallows, James, *How America Can Rise Again.* The Atlantic, January/February 2010.
Springer, Richard. *Indians Dominate Tech Sector in U.S.: Study.* India*West. New
America Media, Jan. 2007. Web
Runk, David, *9 States back Arizona Immigration law against Feds.* Associated Press.
Huffington Post, July 17, 2010. Web
Witt, M. Allison, *Closed Borders and Closed Minds: Immigration Policy Changes After
9/11 And U.S. Higher Education.* Journal of Educational Controversy,
Volume 3, Number 1, Winter 2008. Web
Lincoln, Peter, *The Benefits of Investments in Basic Research.* OSTI Blog. US Dept of
Energy, Nov. 02, 2010. Web.
Ballantyne, Coco, *McCain*s Beef with Bears?*Pork.* Scientific America, Feb. 08,