By the time President Barack Obama delivered his second and final State of the Union address, he had already given the country a list of industry and career sectors that will matter greatly to the U.S. economy and security during and beyond his second term. Identified in the president’s second-term inaugural speech, these sectors have nothing to do with his personal preferences, or with the platform of any political party. Instead, they have everything to do with the demands of a world increasingly shaped by urbanization and rapidly strengthening emerging nations with young populations; everything to do with America’s determination to remain the safest, most powerful, most prosperous democracy. Here’s the president’s list, in alphabetic order, and their identifying language in the inaugural address.
• Compliance. “A free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.”
• Defense. “We will defend our own people … through strength of arms and rule of law.”
• Diplomatic service. “Engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.”
• Education/training. “A modern economy requires … schools and colleges to train our workers.”
• Entrepreneurship. “Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work… these are constants in our character.”
• Environmental science. “We will respond to the threat of climate change … None can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”
• Health care. “We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that build this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”
• Immigrant services. “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity.”
• Renewable energy. “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.”
• Research and development. “We must harness new ideas and technology… We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise.”
• Social services. “A great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.”
• Transportation. “A modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce.”
In its report “Urban America: US Cities in the Global Economy,” published last April, the McKinsey Global Institute noted that “the degree of economic vigor that the economy of the United States derives from its cities is unmatched by any other region of the globe,” and that “in the next 15 years [beginning 2010], the 259 large U.S. cities are expected to generate more that 10 percent of global (my emphasis) GDP growth — a share bigger than that of all such cities in other developed countries combined (my emphasis).” I would bet on that expectation if the requisite human, capital and political investments were made in the sectors on the president’s list, beginning yesterday.