Former U.S. Attorney General and Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh presented “Science and Technology and the Governing Process: A Focus on the Three E’s of Education, Energy and Economic Development,” during an A View from the Top event at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business on October 22.
The former governor noted that “18 other countries rank higher” than the United States in mathematic proficiency, saying this “must be a true priority for our future,” referring to the downward trend in science and technology achievement in our country. Forty percent of high school students receive science and math classes from teachers who are not qualified to be math or science instructors, Thornburgh said. “Funding for science and mathematic education” needs to increase — more science and math teachers between kindergarten and 12th grade are required if the United States wants to improve in the field of mathematics and science.
Thornburgh’s second E referred to energy dependency. He recalled the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear reactor accident, which occurred just 68 days into his term in office. During this time his staff was “tested to extremes unimaginable” because the fear of a nuclear disaster was spreading quickly. Since the accident, Thornburgh noted that “nuclear power has died,” but added that “nothing is forever my friends.” He said he believes that with the concerns of global warming and the oil crisis, nuclear power is now back on the table. He mentioned that Westinghouse, one of the leaders in nuclear energy in the United States, has plans of opening three new plants in the near future. With the coming elections the option of nuclear power is something that has to be considered as an alternate source of energy by the candidates running for office Thornburgh said.
His approach to economic development included a major focus on the development of technological centers to foster “knowledge and experience” in order to stir up the “entrepreneurial efforts” to boost Pennsylvania’s economy through technological innovation. He said he planned to produce new jobs and businesses through the creation of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners (now 25 years old). The program works with research colleges and universities to take advantage of “unused assets” in order to create high tech enterprises. Gov. Thornburgh launched this program when Pennsylvania could no longer depend on its “smoke stack economy” of the previous decades. He said he believed there weren’t any significant technology companies available for Pennsylvania to have a “knowledge-based economy,” and he aimed to change that. At the end of his term as governor, Thornburgh said approximately 500,000 jobs in service and technology were created as a result of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which he said has been the “best single-state economic development in the country.”
Gov. Thornburgh says there is still more to be done. His said he thinks the new administration “must rank these needs high,” and must aim to earn an “E for excellence in the three Es: Education, Energy and Economic Development.”