Recently, I had one of the more surprising phone calls of my career. I’m honored to share that I was asked to attend and speak at a White House summit on higher education. This takes place today, October 5th. President Obama delivers the opening remarks at 12:15 PM ET.
The Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, is the chairwoman of the event. I’m one of several business leaders that are joining policy makers and education experts in helping President Obama achieve his stated goal for the United States: to have “the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world by 2020”. Some of the distinguished attendees include Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Melinda Gates, representatives from IBM, Intel and more.
Many of you know I’m a proud Tar Heel (UNC alum). My time at North Carolina (and Durham Tech Community College before that) helped me establish and refine the skills and confidence I would need to launch small businesses and non-profit organizations targeting technology and education for under-served communities. It was at UNC where I was recruited by Microsoft, which is where I met Steve Bjorg my co-founder of MindTouch. Clearly, I wouldn’t be where I am today, were it not for the options and skills higher education afforded me. Also, I can not help but recall how my scholarship with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation helped to make my education possible.
I believe all people should have access to higher education. I also strongly believe that education is what made this country great. In recent years statistics show the United States consistently performs at the bottom of industrial nations in standardized testing. Furthermore, options for higher education have been shrinking. Quality of education as a whole has declined. Access and quality of education has always been something I’m passionate about. I believe declining quality and access has contributed to the erosion of our county’s middle class. It also is a troubling signal for the long term viability of our economy.
Community College, specifically Durham Technical Community College (DTCC), was a crucial step on my path to receiving my degree in Computer Science from one of the top ten ranked Universities in my field of study. Were it not for the affordability and quality of DTCC earning my scholarship, attaining my education, and launching non-profit organizations and for profit businesses would be difficult if not impossible.
I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Jill Biden, the chairwoman of the summit I’m attending today, when she describes America’s community colleges as “one of America’s best-kept secrets”. As I mentioned before, President Obama has said he wants to use the summit as a “next step in our efforts to meet the goal of having the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world by 2020”. It’s humbling to be asked to lend my voice and ideas in helping to attain this goal. To be honest, the many opportunities I’ve been blessed with in my life often makes me feel a little like Forrest Gump.
For those of you interested in watching the live webcast of the summit, you can find it here: http://whitehouse.gov/live (starting at 12:15 PM ET) . Be sure to follow me on Twitter. I’ll do my best to tweet the event, and I’ll be sure to report back a summary later this week. You can find the MindTouch media alert on PRWeb.
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