Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) called for an all-around "strengthening of America" last night at the Kennedy School of Government.
The veteran chair of the Senate armed services committee addressed the plans of a new Senate commission called "Strengthening America."
Nunn said the commission is charged with restructuring the education system, overhauling the tax system, improving health-care services and balancing the federal budget. The commission begins work in January.
Nunn told a standing-room only crowd of 450 that American government needs radical reforms.
"The government should be an inspiration to us all," he said. "But the federal government today is a source of disappointment and disillusionment."
Nunn said the commission's focus will be on meeting America's domestic needs in the long term.
"[The commission] could also be called `The Future of our Children,'" he said. "America's main problems lie at home."
Nunn said education was a main priority. "The front line of defense is the line of students in front of classes," he said.
He complained of an existing "paradox" in American education. "Students all over the world flock to our higher education, but our elementary schools are not first-class," he said.
Nunn said the country lacks enough competent teachers in math and science. "We must recruit the best and highest of the young people to teach our children," he said.
Another problem with the education system, according to Nunn, is the treatment of the "forgotten Americans," the 50 percent of young adults who do not attend college.
Nunn said educational reforms proposed in an initial report from the commission report include a 10-year plan for schools in every community, a national standard for core subjects and more flexible use of education funds.
Nunn also stressed the importance of improving the economy. The commission will propose, among other things, reducing the defense budget by 20 percent.