Beating Around the Bush
"Innovation--whether it's new technologies or new companies--innovation is why throughout the world people talk of "The American Miracle, a miracle of job growth, a miracle of entrepreneurship, a miracle of competitiveness." --George Bush Boston July 12, 1985
LAST FRIDAY, THE Vice President of the United States was in town to preach the gospel of free enterprise against a hi-tech backdrop. With 40 reporters and 20 television cameras in tow, George Bush toured the Teradyne Co. plant in South Boston and addressed several hundred employees. The buzzwords of the day were familiar ones--innovation, growth, opportunity and competitiveness. The omissions were just as predictable.
Free enterprises and its attendant benefits have a price, and the Reagan Administration has shown itself paradoxically unwilling to pay that price. Growth and competitiveness require investment. The most basic investment in America's future is the education of its youth, and that investment is now threatened by the Administration's desire to slash financial aid programs.
At Teradyne, Bush praised Boston's hi-tech industrial leaders, calling them an example for the national and the world. Teradyne, a $400 million operation, produces sophisticated automatic test equipment for the telecommunications and aerospace fields.
"Your competitiveness--and the competitiveness of everyone in the hi-tech community here in the Boston area--is America's competitiveness," Bush declared.
Boston is indeed a paradigm of American success. It's no coincidence that the city is a capital of both high technology and higher education. The region's many colleges and universities provide the technology and the technicians, the innovation and talent, to spur local industry beyond new horizons.
"Certainly this area is a successful center for industry principally because the schools are here," says Teradyne President Alex d'Arbeloff. D'Arbeloff, who received a small scholarship while attending M.I.T. notes that California's Silicon Valley has its roots in Stanford and Berkeley.
YET THE CRUCIAL link between education and competitiveness seems to have eluded the Vice President. In the past year, with President Reagan, the Yale graduate has lobbied heavily for deep and devastating reductions in federal aid for higher education.
The Administration's original plan would have denied assistance to students with family incomes exceeding $35,000. Those who still qualified for loans would remain grossly under funded, handicapped by new across-the-board caps on individual awards.
The aid cuts have stalled, but no; because the Administration suddenly saw the error of its ways. Congress blocked the path.
Last Friday, Bush came face-to-face with some of the people who would feel the impact of the proposed cost cutting measures. At Teradyne's assembly line, he posed for pictures with a select group of workers. Later, he cited their stories as living proof that the American Dream is a reality.
There was Moc Loi, who escaped from Vietnam with his wife and children and ultimately found a home in Massachusetts. Moc learned English at a Newton public school and gained a job at Teradyne three years ago.
And there was Tuan Nguyen, one of the Vietnamese boat people. Tuan was rescued by a U.S. Navy crew. Today, he collects a pay check from one of America's industrial leaders.
"These and others like them remind us how precious freedom, democracy and opportunity are," Bush said.
If Bush and Reagan were successful, the door of opportunity would quickly close on the children of these newcomers, depriving them of a higher education and depriving America of their creative potential.
Amid his rhetoric about growth and innovation, Bush also emphasized importance of risk taking. He told Teradyne of his entree into the work off-shore oil drilling. Bush and backers sank millions of dollars invasive rig. which promptly vanish a hurricane.
If the Administration's short-sighted financial aid policy ever prevails, George Bush's ill-fated oil rig could prove omen for education and industry alike lesson in miscalculated risk-taking Abandoning education is a risk America can't afford to run.
Before concluding his visit, the Vice President thanked the people Teradyne for contributing to his own education.
"You've told me that here Teradyne, almost a third of net sales to exports. You've told me that most what you export goes to the world's two toughest markets: Western Europe a Japan. And you've told me that Teradyne is successful because you so good at fostering new ideas and helping to make them work," he said.
Apparently, no one told Bush that percent of Teradyne's engineers are recruited directly out of college. Although he was introduced to a you employee fresh from Tufts University the Vice President might have missed one of Teradyne's--and Boston's more valuable lessons.