By Deborah Gage
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called upon Silicon Valley leaders on Monday to send Washington their ideas on how the United States can reverse global warming, improve education and health care and rebuild U.S. infrastructure.
'We have to pass this planet on to the next generation better than we found it,' she told a meeting of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in Santa Clara Convention Center with coffee and cake for several hundred people. 'I will compete with any initiative anyone wants to put forward for funding.'
The group was founded by David Packard in 1978 as the Santa Clara County Manufacturing Group. Packard wanted to improve the region's economy and quality of life, and the group started with 33 companies. It has evolved into a policymaking forum for 260 companies that tackle issues of global importance.
Pelosi, D-San Francisco, was one of a many speakers who talked Monday about how the country can stay competitive in the global economy. She got a standing ovation as she took the stage.
She called for 'a massive infusion of resources' into basic biomedical research, investment in electronic health records, preventive medical care and innovations in green technology to create American jobs.
She also called on Silicon Valley leaders to follow in the footsteps of Presidents Thomas Jefferson, who built roads and canals through the territories of the Louisiana Purchase, and Theodore Roosevelt, who established the national park system.
'We have a responsibility to build infrastructure in America ... and to do it in a green way and think in an entrepreneurial way,' she said. 'Our competitors are way ahead of us on this.'
The group also heard from U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who is working on a bill to help the United States retain talented immigrants who graduate from American universities. 'Why send them home to compete with us when they could be part of our team?' Lofgren asked.
Bill Watkins, chief executive officer of Seagate Technology in Scotts Valley Santa Cruz County, said the United States and California in particular has to improve its schools and provide health insurance for children. 'We have the best military in the world because someone sticks up and demands it,' he said. 'People in this room need to start demanding the best education system.'
Other speakers included Mike Splinter, the CEO of Applied Materials, and venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who called on companies to contribute to his Middle School Math Initiative, which trains teachers to teach math, by adopting at least one school in Silicon Valley for $5,000 a piece. 'If these kids don't have a math 'Aha!' moment, we're going to lose them,' he said.