In Congress, my first, second and third priorities will be getting Californians back to work. With unemployment higher in the Central Valley than anywhere else in the state, our representative in Washington must be focused on getting people back to work.
As a former small business owner, I know the important role that small businesses play in our community. When my wife, Adela, and I ran a family restaurant, we knew all too well the effect that government had on our business. In Washington, I’ll fight to ensure that small businesses aren’t over-burdened with regulations and that the tax code works for entrepreneurs. Small business is the engine of our economy and it is vital that Washington find ways to help small businesses create jobs.
The launch of Sputnik in 1958 forced us as a nation to confront our lack of investment in math and science. Congress responded with The National Defense Education Act, which significantly increased our focus on education and helped create a golden age in science. If it wasn’t for this investment, I may ever have had the opportunity to go into space myself.
We have spent the last generation as the world leader in technology, but we are losing this edge and the jobs that come with it. We need a comprehensive public and private sector approach that makes sure we train enough students be the next generation of inventors, but also helps the private sector thrive.
A good example of how a public-private sector partnership can work is the work I did at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. My partner and I were able to use the work we did on x-ray lasers for a military project to create the first full-field digital mammography system. This new device created better images and reduced the level of radiation exposure that women received while getting a mammogram. The Department of Energy partnered with a private company, Fischer Imaging, to help bring the technology to market.
In a few years, the Central Valley will see the first High Speed Rail (HSR) trains bring another alternative for Southern Californians and Northern Californians to move around the state. It is important that we follow through on our commitment to HSR here in the Central Valley as a way to improve our air quality and lower gas prices. Years ago, many Bay Area residents doubted the BART Project, but today most couldn’t imagine living without it. Even the Interstate Highway System met with fierce opposition in the 1940s and 50s before being signed into law by President Eisenhower as part of the Federal Highway Act of 1956. Committing to big infrastructure projects like those that President Eisenhower committed to will create jobs and opportunities for years to come.
When I was 9 years old, I sat down with my father at our kitchen table and told him of my dream to become an Astronaut. For the son of migrant workers, this was a big dream. My father told me that, if I studied hard enough, I could realize that dream. I worked hard and was given a chance to succeed. Because of the educational opportunities my country gave me, I was able to join NASA and travel aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station.
Those dreams must be available to this generation and to the generations to come. But instead of continuing our commitment to education, we’re cutting it, making it less likely that the next child with a dream will be able to succeed.
In the 21st Century, our kids are competing with children from every corner of the globe. We need schools as good as any in the whole world, but today we’re falling short. American 15-year olds rank 21st in science and 26th in math, falling behind countries like Hungary and Iceland. In short, countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow. We must invest in education programs that work and make sure that a child born today has the same opportunities I did.