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Is America Losing Yards on Field of Education?

Senator addresses economic, international implications of education in America.

U.S. Senator George Allen touted his allies, some of them unlikely, when he spoke to the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce at the Mount Vernon Country Club on May 25. The resident of the district elicited disapproving groans from his audience when he revealed his alliance with liberal California Senator Barbara Boxer to pass legislation that would increase the spectrum for wi-fi internet broadcasts so that garage-door openers and baby-monitors wouldn’t interfere with people’s internet surfing. When he mentioned that John Kerry had also been a co-sponsor of the bill, an even louder groan broke loose.

The crowd was more supportive when Allen mentioned two international allies of America: India and Pakistan. “We’re not going to attack either of those two countries,” Allen said. He cited Pakistan’s post-September 11 decision to ally with America in the war on terror. He added that America is in economic and scholarly competition with India.

Allen was speaking at the chamber’s Education Partnership Scholarship Night. Five area students were receiving $1,500 college scholarships: Naheeda Farhat from Bryant Alternative High School, Aisha Javed and Ryan Shapiro from Mount Vernon High School, Nithya Jayakumar from Hayfield Secondary School and Justin Wilson from West Potomac High School.

Jayakumar said she will attend William and Mary next year. She plans to major in both management and technology. “These days, to move forward in careers, you need to double-major in something,” Jayakumar said. She added that at Hayfield she was a member of Future Business Leaders of America, played tennis and belonged to “every single honors society possible.”

ALLEN said he was impressed by all of the scholarship recipients. He said that unlike them, “Most college graduates and people in college don’t have the focus, determination and guiding principles of what they want to do.” He went on to cite “faith, family and knowledge” as “important” elements that shape a person’s character. He called on the students to “secure our freedom Make sure this is a land of opportunity for all people [and] try to preserve our institutional values.” He also encouraged those students who planned to become lawyers to be business lawyers, not trial lawyers who would file “junk lawsuits.”

After mentioning Pakistan and India, Allen discussed the economic competition from China and India. He said these countries strong education programs in the sciences, particularly engineering, were going to give them an advantage in this competition. After several football metaphors, Allen said that focusing on educating more home-grown engineers was “vitally and urgently important to America’s future.” He proudly stated that last year Virginia made more money producing and exporting computer memory chips than tobacco products.

He praised the Mount-Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce for its efforts to improve the business climate in its corner of the state. “There are bigger chambers of commerce around,” Allen said, “but look at what you’re doing. I think you’re a model for every chamber of commerce in the country.”

CHAMBER president Kahan Dhillon, Jr., who’s father moved to America from the Punjab region of India in the 1960’s, said he agreed with Allen’s assessment of the relationship between the two countries. “I think it’s a partnership,” Dhillon said. “Both countries have strategic and natural resources that can benefit each other.”

He added that India offers an example to the U.S. with its exploration of different energy sources, including nuclear. “We have a huge problem with pollution that currently needs to be filled with alternate energy resources,” Dhillon said.

During his speech, Allen called for America to embrace nuclear energy production. He tried to elicit one more groan from the audience when he suggested that America could “learn from the French” and start using new nuclear reprocessing technologies. He also cited India’s commitment to building nuclear power plants and the pungent justification for this shift, the “smell of burning tires” in India’s air. But he added a source of pollution that nuclear power could not fix. “It seems a bit chaotic on [India’s] roads,” Allen said. “We’re used to that in Northern Virginia [as well], though we don’t have many oxen-drawn carriages on the road.”