Priya Kareddy, a student at Parkland
Magnet School in Maryland, was thrilled. After all she and her team got to show
President Bush how they use a robot to understand the Boyle’s Law and the basic
operations of a hydraulic system. In the process they helped the President
encourage innovation as part of his American Competitiveness initiative.
Competitiveness is deeply
ingrained in the American psyche. In 1986, the US was facing one of its most
dire economic challenges. Japanese were invading the mainland USA with their
sleek automobiles and electronic gadgets, Asians were coming in with cheaply
manufactured goods and Europeans were luring Americans away from high end
American autos. The US slid from being world’s largest creditor to its largest
debtor. So a couple of dozen leaders of industry, labor and university got
together to form a Council on Competitive to elevate the national
competitiveness to the forefront of national consciousness.
Fast forward 20 years. The USA is
again facing a dire economic challenge. The jobs of many of its high skilled
workers have been outsourced to Asian and Eastern European countries, the jobs
of its low end workforce has been usurped by immigrants from Latin America, the
Japanese automobiles and electronic gadgets are still ruling the roost and it is
still world’s largest debtor country.
This time the commander-in-chief
has become the chief-competitive-initiator. In a series of speeches and
appearances in schools and universities across the nation he has been
emphasizing the importance of expertise in mathematics, science, and technology.
Need to compete with a child from India or a child from China is appearing quite
regularly in his speeches. So do Indian and Chinese immigrant children in those
schools and universities like Kareddy, who demonstrate to him their readiness to
compete with kids from India and China.