PROVIDENCE – Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, stopped in Rhode Island Monday to talk about design and manufacturing with students, educators, entrepreneurs and other economic development stakeholders at the RI School of Design and to help raise money for Congressman David Cicilline by keynoting his third annual Women’s Conference at the Biltmore Hotel.
“We can have innovation, we can have creativity and invention, but a lot of the innovation springs from manufacturing,” Pelosi said at a roundtable discussion at RISD’s Chace Center. “You can’t just have an idea and someone scales up overseas and expect that we are going to retain our comparative advantage” in the world
“In order to get the benefit of the creativity, you have to make it in America,” she said, taking the phrase Cicilline uses for a package of bills intended to assist manufacturing in the United States and Rhode Island.
Rhode Island has a rich manufacturing history dating back to the start of the American Industrial Revolution and one of the most esteemed design schools in the nation, making it an appropriate place to take STEM, the education acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and turning it into STEAM by adding an A for the arts as an integral part of a plan for the country’s economic future.
Cicilline told the group “this is an opportunity for Rhode Island and the region to seize this occasion to look at the opportunities at the intersection of design and manufacturing.”
“Without incorporating art and design into the STEM fields, and promoting creativity,” 2nd District Rep. Jim Langevin added, “we know we are not going to realize our full potential.”
RISD President John Maeda said his school could be “a national resource to reignite American manufacturing.”
“One of the concerns we have is that there is opposition in the Congress, which we need to dispel, that one of the reasons they are negative on our investment in education is because some schools in America are teaching children critical thinking,” Pelosi said. “That may sound strange to you, but it is part of the argument about why we shouldn’t have a federal investment in education.”
The idea of “science or faith, take a choice,” she said, leads to “content restrictions” as to what type of federal dollars should go toward investment in creativity,” even though, she joked, “science is the answer to our prayers.”
“So just recognize, when you think ‘why aren’t they doing this?’ that there are some challenges you might not even suspect.”
Jack Templin, a founder of the start-up accelerator Betaspring in Providence said, “the rate of change is really speeding up. My biggest worry may be, as a country, we are trying to restore things from the past when we should really be embracing transformation. We really need to listen to the millennials, who I see in my interaction with them not only embracing technology, but whole new cultural models.
Pelosi also took a brief time to talk with reporters about national issues.
Asked whether partisanly divided Congress can become a functioning body once again, Pelosi said, “I certainly hope so. It was when President Bush was president and we (Democrats) were in the majority. We worked with him. They (Republicans) are obstructing President Obama, that’s just not right.”
With action on a U.S. Senate bill on immigration expected by the end of the week, the Democratic leader said the House has been working “in a bipartisan way, over the years, and have come up with a product that we can go forward with. It has some poison pills that I don’t like, but they’re not lethal. It’s a product we can move forward with. How it is treated in committee and on the floor of the House will determine how much support it will have in a bi-partisan way but it has been bi-partisan up until now and I hope it will continue to be.
“As a House leader, I want the House to have a bill,” she said. “It is important to who we are as a nation, by and large a nation of immigrants, it’s who we are in terms of respect for the dignity of the people who are here. It’s important to our economy as well.”
Pelosi reiterated her previous stand that Edward Snowden, who leaked information about National Security Agency spy programs “should be prosecuted because he broke the law and told other countries what we were doing in relationship to them, which is a far cry from saying I think the government should be surveilling the American people.
“The point is this: some right-wing organizations are saying “Oh, Obama is doing the same thing President Bush did. That is not true.”
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