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Barack Obama at UMass Boston

With the historic election this week of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama as the next president of the United States, some of the hallways on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Boston were abuzz recalling the president elect’s visit here in 2006.

At the June 2, 2006, UMass Boston Commencement, Sen. Obama received an honorary doctor of laws degree “for advancing and protecting the interests of the less fortunate, for adherence to a political credo that transcends both party and race, and for his thoughtful and farsighted contributions to the nation’s principal lawmaking body,” according to a press release at the time. Sen. Obama also gave the keynote address at the commencement, a video and transcript of which are available on the UMass Boston website.

Sen. Obama’s rise to the national stage took a dramatic step forward when he visited Boston in 2004 to deliver a stirring address at the Democratic National Convention. His visit to the UMass Boston campus two years later was equally memorable for the students, faculty, and staff who attended.

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  1. vdc said on Sat, Nov 08,2008:

    Are we now ready to answer Obama’s call? Yes we can, but will we?

    In his book, “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream,” he wrote of visiting Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., where he saw a map of the world with lights showing where Google searches were going on. Swaths of Africa and South Asia were dark, but so were portions of the United States.

    Many of the engineers Mr. Obama met at Google were from Asia or Eastern Europe. “As far as I could tell, not one was black or Latino,” he wrote. His guide told him that finding American-born engineers of any race was getting so hard that American companies were setting up shop abroad, in part for access to talent.

    During the campaign, according to the New York Times, Obama said: “If we want an innovation economy, one that generates more Googles each year, then we have to invest in our future innovators.”

    For decades, the United States dominated the technological revolution sweeping the globe. The nation’s talent produced vast gains in productivity, and made it the de facto world leader.

    Today, the dominance is eroding. In 2002, the nation’s high-technology balance of trade went south, and it never came back. By 2007, the annual gap between high-tech exports and imports had grown to $53 billion. The gap this year is expected to be the largest ever — approaching $60 billion.

    In 2005, the National Academies issued its influential report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm.” The report said the patent office issued most of its information technology patents to foreigners. The United States ranked 17th among industrialized nations in high-school graduation rates.

    Among other things, it proposed that the government finance 10,000 scholarships for math and science teaching careers and 30,000 scholarships for college-level study of science, math and engineering; increase the basic research budget by 10 percent a year for seven years; and establish programs to make broadband available nationwide at low cost.

    The next year, according to the New York Times, Obama joined other senators to introduce a bill that built on the recommendations of “The Gathering Storm.” It eventually drew 69 co-sponsors from both sides of the Senate aisle.

    Obama then offered amendments to the bill intended to increase federal support of science education, particularly among women and underrepresented minorities. “If we do not tap the diversity of our nation,” he said on the Senate floor, “we will diminish our capacity to innovate.”

    The Senate passed the bill 88 to 8. President Bush signed the bill, the America Competes Act, into law. But Congress has yet to finance its programs, estimated to cost about $43 billion for the first three years.

    Eventually, it will. And what a great opportunity for UMass Boston. Maybe its most significant ever. People have worked long and hard to raise the funds to create many worthwhile efforts underway on campus to increase underrepresented groups pursuing math, science and technology. Let’s get busy pulling together a collective effort on a much larger scale. Yes we can, and we will!

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