Sen. Kennedy visits Northeastern, speaks on global competitiveness

By Brendan Gupta

Of all the places he could have chosen, Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy spent his birthday right here at Northeastern.

Kennedy addressed students, community members and business leaders in Raytheon Amphitheater on his 74th birthday last Wednesday to discuss what he called the urgent need to revitalize America’s competitive edge in today’s shrinking global economy. Northeastern President Richard Freeland introduced the senator, who laid out his plan to put the country back on track.

Kennedy said part of the reason he chose to speak at Northeastern is the co-op program, which he said should be a model for other schools, because of its focus on career preparation.

“The 20th century belonged to Americans,” Kennedy said, “but the 21st century is up for grabs.”

He said the jobs most at risk in the U.S. are those in medicine and computers.

One of the main focuses of the speech was outsourcing, which occurs when U.S. companies use workers in foreign countries to work for cheaper pay.

“Foreigners are bankrolling our government,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy explained his plan for a more competitive America, which calls for incentives for science and math teachers. Kennedy said federal commitment to research and scientific development has declined.

The proposed plan supports investment within high job growth and high technology industries including nanotechnology and energy efficiency. Kennedy’s initiative is also based on supporting transportation, education and technology industries.

Kennedy condemned the current administration for the No Child Left Behind Act, saying Bush used it more as a slogan than a promise.

“Education is the engine of the American dream,” Kennedy said. “Slogans are not enough. The engine must be fueled.”

Curtis Bergh, president of the Northeastern College Republicans, said Kennedy’s message was unnecessarily hard on the Bush administration, and said Republicans are also working toward global competitiveness.

“Kennedy used the word ‘innovation’ a lot in his speech,” Bergh said. “President Bush has said recently, in his State of the Union address, that innovation is the solution to our energy issues.”

As for whether the administration is misusing funds, Bergh said, “Flat-out no.”

Heidi Buchanan, president of the Northeastern College Democrats, said she agreed with Kennedy.

“America definitely has to reinvest in the competitive global market,” Buchanan said. “In order to make us competitive we need to invest in higher education, which is one thing the Republicans aren’t doing anymore. … We need to redefine priorities as a nation.”

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