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Virginia got talent—and so must the American nation
Column by former governor and candidate for U.S. Senate.

Date published: 2/17/2012


RICHMOND—As our nation works to rebuild our economy and ensure our global economic competitiveness, we should look for ideas from a state that has transformed its economy into a national leader over the last 50—Virginia.

Many factors have contributed to our success, but

I contend that the biggest thing Virginia did to transform its economy was to embrace and develop our citizens’ talents. In the last 50 years, we invested in early-childhood education, opened our public schools and universities to women and minorities, and created

a world-class community-college network. As we developed our own talent, we became a magnet for talented people from across the country and the world. This concentration of talent in turn attracted private investment and major employers to our state.

This is a model that can produce results nationwide, and it is one of the key Virginia lessons I would like to take to Washington as a Virginia senator. In recent decades, U.S. young people have fallen from No. 1 to No. 16 in the world in higher-education attainment. More nations are poised to pass us by.

Simply put, if we do not address our declining achievement rates, we will not have the prosperous future we want. If we do commit to once again becoming the talent economy, however, I am confident we can emerge from this recession in an even stronger position than before.

At the federal level, we must consider, with every decision we make, what makes our nation more competitive and our workforce more talented. Development of American talent will involve many policy areas, but as a Virginia senator, I would focus on investments in education and workforce training and reforming our broken immigration system.

Extensive research shows that investments in early-childhood education ensure school readiness and contribute to a lifetime of success. By consolidating and streamlining the numerous federal agencies that now invest in early-childhood education and care, and demanding educational rigor from participating programs, we can get more bang for our buck even during a tight fiscal time.

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