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Public Statements

America Competes Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

AMERICA COMPETES ACT -- (Senate - April 26, 2007)

Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I congratulate Senator Bingaman and Senator Alexander for the passage of America COMPETES, legislation which they crafted carefully to enhance American innovation and competitiveness. I also thank them for accepting three amendments which I offered, which will help expand the range of innovative possibilities by which America faces its competitive challenges.

Let me explain this. The president of the National Academy of Engineering once said that innovation is a profoundly creative process, and that like other creative processes, it depends on the life experiences of the people involved. If we include a more diverse sample of our population, we will derive more varied and more innovative design options. We become more competitive by embracing our diversity, by involving a more representative cross-section of our populace in science, technology, and engineering endeavors.

To increase participation, I have offered three amendments that have been accepted into America COMPETES. The first establishes a mentoring program to support women and underrepresented groups as they progress through science and technology education programs, increasing the likelihood of their success. I also propose that groups representing women and minority scientists and engineers be involved as strategies are developed to increase America's competitiveness.

Also accepted was an amendment to increase the math and problem solving skills of young learners, by providing summer learning opportunities for students in elementary grades. This amendment springs from legislation I introduced earlier, with Senator Mikulski, the STEP UP Act, S. 116. This legislation responds to evidence showing that students may lose several months equivalent of math skills during the summer, if not provided learning opportunities when not in school. This is particularly important for children of poverty, for whom summer learning losses are greatest. Summer programs combat this loss in knowledge and skills, and well-designed programs can fuel the curiosity of children, helping them become active problem solvers and learners when they return to school in the fall.

I thank my colleagues for their support of these amendments.

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