EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

January 26, 2014

Column: Education must be a national security priority

They are burning the midnight kilowatts in the West Wing. And they’ll probably be cutting and pasting until President Obama climbs into his limo next Tuesday night and drives 16 blocks to the gleaming-white, floodlit Capitol.

The president’s policy and message massagers are frantically making sure all the president’s must-keep themes are still in his 2014 State of the Union text. We can only hope they haven’t overlooked -- yet again! -- one bold national security priority that could become the capstone of Barack Obama’s presidential legacy.

Truth is, they’ve always understood the urgency. They even had the benefit of hearing an unscripted question that said it all, back in 2010, at a campaign town meeting at George Washington University.

“Mr. President, you have pointed out that U.S. students have fallen from the top 20 nations in math and science and test scores -- and jobs and contracts are going overseas,” said Francesca Yabraian, an Agriculture Department employee. “You’ve called education a national priority. But do you think it is time to label education funding a national security priority?”

Exactly! Today, education must be declared a national security priority.

Obama instantly got it and ran with it. “I think it’s a national security priority,” he said. “Look, there has never been a nation on earth that lost its economic edge and maintained its military edge. And the reason we have the most effective military on earth, in the history of the world, is first and foremost because we have unbelievable men and women in uniform who make sacrifices on our behalf every single day.

“But the second reason is that we’ve had the biggest economy in the world that can support this incredible armed forces that we have. And if we start falling behind economically, we will start falling behind from a national security perspective -- there’s no doubt about it. And the single most important determinant of how we do economically is going to be the skills of our work force. And you’re exactly right.

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