October 9, 2008
This week, we launched a redesign of kirkwatson.com. There are a couple of new features, including a new, expanded biography and a re-vamped issues page.
Please go hang out, play around, and tell folks about it. I’m sure we’ll be playing with it a little bit over the next few weeks, so please keep checking in to see what’s new.
I gave a speech earlier this week during a panel discussion about leadership in a changing world. One of the other speakers showed this video, which has been floating around for a while but had somehow missed me.
The video lays out – dramatically and beautifully – the dynamics facing all of us as we move into a rapidly changing future, as well as the challenges that are so different from the ones that were there just a few short years ago.
I’ve written a lot about the need to invest wisely in education, health care, and infrastructure. And there’s no doubt that Texas needs to do much, much more to prepare for these challenges.
But what tends to be overlooked is the incredible opportunity that these changes represent. Technology and innovation are flowing at a speed that no one has ever seen before. The beneficiaries will be not only the scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs who strengthen this wave, but also everyone whose quality-of-life improves as a result of new industries and inventions.
It’s easy to look at the slides in this video showing educational achievements in India and China, and to worry or fear that we’ll lose ground. But to me, the investments that other countries are making are testament to the dramatic, world-changing opportunities that await us in coming decades.
There are really only two questions: are we ready to take advantage of this opportunity, and what is the path to achieving it? In fact, Texas has already created a compelling model to follow.
For years, the state has worked diligently and effectively to build a wind-powered energy industry from the ground up. We targeted investments in the technology, and we put basic requirements on utilities to provide this clean, renewable, native power.
Those first steps succeeded almost beyond anyone’s hopes, making Texas the top wind power-producing state in the country. Our success, in fact, created a new “problem” – there weren’t enough transmission lines to handle all of the new power.
But that success didn’t stop us or create complacency – quite the opposite. This summer, the Texas Public Utility Commission basically tripled-down on wind power and renewable energy. Texas will build transmission lines to move more than 18,000 megawatts that we’ll need as our state continues to grow.
This approach isn’t free – it will eventually cost nearly $5 billion to build these lines. But this investment will pay off for generations as Texans take advantage of this endless, home-grown power supply, and as the state becomes a world leader in this 21st Century technology.
Our approach to wind power stands out because it’s so different from the state’s approach to other critical issues.
Our transportation system, once the pride of the state, is now in such dire straits that some leaders are rushing to privatize it.
Our small businesses are struggling – and frequently failing – to provide health care to their employees, and Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the country.
We know intuitively that our schools must do much more to prepare our kids for the new economy, yet our leaders spend far too little time figuring out how to make that quantum leap.
The problem is that we’re struggling to maintain 20th Century models in the face of 21st Century needs. And the solution isn’t simply to throw money at a problem until we feel less bad about it.
What we must do is have a hard, honest discussion about what we’re doing in Texas – and what we need to be doing – to pass our prosperity on to our children. We need to prioritize our needs and be realistic about what things cost. And we need to be creative and careful about how we build the infrastructure and systems that Texas will need in the 21st Century.
None of this will be easy. God knows it will wreak havoc on the tendency in the Capitol to promise something for nothing. And the increasingly sobering news from Washington and Wall Street will make it that much harder to focus on long-term needs as we weather so much short-term turbulence.
But I have to say, I take great hope from one certainty: Texans won’t shy away from a challenge.