WASHINGTON, D.C. | January 25, 2011 -
Good morning. Let me begin by welcoming the Members of the Committee, staff, and guests to our first meeting of the 112th Congress. There are many new faces in the room, and with those new faces comes a new degree of eagerness and excitement to get to work. I also am pleased to welcome back a number of members who bring invaluable experience from their years of distinguished service.
There is an old saying about this committee that while we don’t agree on everything, we disagree without being disagreeable. It has been our tradition under both Republican and Democratic leadership. I want to thank Mr. Miller for abiding by this principle and pledge to do so as well.
Our committee has a long history of facing tough issues, and I have every reason to believe we will be challenged to do so again. More than 14 million Americans are unemployed, and employers remain reluctant to expand and hire new workers. The national debt continues to break new and alarming ground, recently exceeding $14 trillion. Far too many schools are failing to prepare students to succeed in the 21st century, and many young adults are ill-equipped and can’t afford higher education.
When considering the committee’s broad jurisdiction, people often ask what the classroom has in common with the workplace. The answer is fairly simple: both are vital to the economic success of our country and the future prosperity of its people. And both require constant innovation to remain competitive with a world that is growing at a rapid pace. Jobs and American competitiveness will be at the forefront of the committee’s work.
Over the last several months I have noted on numerous occasions that Washington cannot legislate or regulate our way to job creation or economic recovery. However, it can help create an environment of certainty that gives consumers, employers, and entrepreneurs the confidence they need to spend, hire, and invest. And we continue to realize that however well-intentioned they may be, federal mandates are no substitute for the creativity and ingenuity of local school leaders, dedicated teachers, and engaged parents.
While the best solutions will come from our state and local partners, Congress does have an important, if limited, role to play. To begin the work of improving the nation’s schools and workplaces, we will begin by thoroughly examining the costs, benefits, and consequences of current federal programs, mandates, and interventions.
That is why tomorrow we will hold our first hearing to examine broadly the state of the American workforce. And when we return from our upcoming constituent work week, we will start a series of hearings that will take a hard look at the nation’s education system and consider what reforms we need to better equip students for success. I am confident these hearings will be part of an ongoing bipartisan discussion that began a year ago and is critical to advancing meaningful education reform.
It is my hope that over the next two years, the committee will rise to the challenges we face and address the concerns of the American people in a manner that reflects well on this institution and the constituents we are elected to serve. We oversee a wide range of policies, programs, and agencies that affect the American workforce and our classrooms. We need to harness the energy and experience of all of our colleagues if we are to complete the work the American people sent us here to do.