11/15/2005 12:51 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Here's an Idea

The United States owes its very existence to entrepreneurial ideas. Our Founders had confidence that they were part of change in the world, and they had great faith in the future. That confidence and their faith in the future are reflected on the Great Seal of the United States, where they included these words in Latin: "novus ordo seclorum" -- "A new order for the centuries." In answering that call to leadership in science and industry, America built the world's most vibrant economy and leads the world in scientific discovery and innovation. World economic and innovative leadership have continually been defined by American genius. Every advance once thought impossible has been achieved by Americans: splitting the atom; landing a man on the moon; mapping the human genome; and transmitting information around the globe in an instant.

Each of these discoveries and inventions launched new industries, created good jobs, and triggered even further innovation. We promoted an entrepreneurial culture, creating the most powerful public private partnership in the history of the world by investing in long-term, high risk ideas.

All of these factors made America the breeding ground for the innovations and inventions that increased our prosperity, enhanced our lives, and protected and advanced our freedoms. That dynamic and virtuous cycle of innovation is what secured our status as world leader, and that status has remained unchallenged...until now.

Today, the world has changed dramatically - in ways that pose unprecedented challenges to our economic well-being. The underdeveloped countries of yesterday can become the formidable competitors of tomorrow, or even today. Those countries are following what has been the United States' blueprint for decades, and which resulted in our pre-eminence. As others have copied our blueprint, we have departed from it.

They are investing heavily in improving their educational systems, and creating world-class universities, particularly in science and technology. We have fewer students studying math and science, and fewer qualified teachers of math and science than we need. We will graduate 70,000 engineers this year. India will graduate 350,000 engineers, while China will graduate 600,000. They are making a commitment to long-term research and development. We are allowing that commitment to falter. Our federal support of basic research peaked in 1987, and has been flat or falling ever since. They are utilizing cutting-edge technologies to propel themselves forward. South Korea is an incubator for new innovation and leads the world in broadband penetration. We now rank 16th in the world in broadband penetration. Even if the United States were following our blueprint for success, we would still face these challenges from abroad. But we aren't, and that only compounds the problem.

Democrats believe that together, America can do better. That is why, over the past several months, we've sought out the best possible thinking on how to secure America's place as the world leader in innovation. We went outside of Washington, and met with leaders and CEOs from many fields: academia, venture capital, and entrepreneurs from the high-tech, biotech, and telecommunications sectors who are creating the jobs of tomorrow. We held forums with these leaders in Silicon Valley, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Northern New Jersey, North Carolina's Research Triangle, and we will hold more.

In each of these forums, my colleagues and I were invigorated by the freshness of the participants' thinking, and the depth of their commitment to the future. They took pride in the amazing history, power, and creativity of America's economic model, and the inventiveness of the private sector. Many credited much of their success to public investment in education, infrastructure, university research, and institutions like the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and DARPA. But they warned that the commitment of the public sector has not kept pace with America's challenges in the global economy.

Today, Democrats challenge Congress and the country to renew our commitment to the public-private partnerships that will secure America's continued leadership in innovation, and unleash the next generation of discovery, invention, and growth. In addition to laying down this challenge, we're also laying out a series of specific goals, proposals, and timelines that, taken together, chart a clear path to a new era of American leadership and prosperity. This is our innovation agenda - our commitment to competitiveness to keep America number one.

I invite you to visit to learn about the Innovation Agenda and let us know what you think.