Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley urged solution providers to "be ready for whatever's on the horizon" at Tuesday night's Everything Channel's VAR500 conference. Along the way, he offered observations on the state of the economy, education, energy and the environment.
Olympic gold medalist, Rhodes scholar, NBA champion, three-term U.S. Senator, presidential candidate and author -- Bradley provided his unique perspective to conference attendees at Cipriani, a dramatic and elegant location on New York's Wall Street.
After beginning with tales from his basketball days, Bradley stressed the importance of embracing change. "What were you doing 15 or 10 or 3 years ago? What was your company doing? Be ready for whatever's on the horizon," he said.
Specifically noting the role of organizations such as those in the VAR500, Bradley predicted, "We're going to have the economic growth [the country needs], in part because of the people right in this room."
Regarding the economy, Bradley said, with characteristic understatement, "We've been on quite a roller-coaster ride since last fall." He pointed out "bad decisions" under both the Clinton and Bush administrations that precipitated the crisis, along with mistakes by the Federal Reserve, which failed in its role to "remove the punchbowl from the party," when things got too wild. Specifically, Bradley pinned the crisis on the decision to not regulate financial derivatives. "Derivatives drove this economy to the edge of collapse."
Bradley stressed the need for increased savings from Americans, and, though he said, "we're going to get out of it," he offered a grim prescription for recovery, featuring, "reduced spending, and increased taxes -- that's the truth."
Bradley next turned to education, explaining that the education establishment needs to prepare both the "best and brightest" to create new opportunities, as well as to prepare "the broad masses" to take advantage of and implement those opportunities. "But if you look at our schools now, it's not happening," he warned. "The future of this country is being decided in the classrooms now."
Bradley promoted the use of national standards in education, and higher pay for teachers, though he criticized the current system of seniority, in favor of a more dynamic approach. "We have to be able to judge the quality of teachers, and encourage the best ones with the best pay," he noted, to applause from the attendees.
Bradley was more positive on U.S. energy policy. "There's hopeful news," he noted, with increased mileage standards for automobiles and efforts to reduce the consumption of imported oil.
Commenting on our political class, Bradley offered a few sardonic observations. "Some of the brightest people I've met are U.S. Senators. Then there were the other Senators..."
Bradley described the tension between the "cooperative" focus of Democrats and the "individual" focus of Republicans, and concluded "We need both," for the country to succeed. "Tell people the truth; and put country ahead of party."
Finally, Bradley offered an expanded vision of the world. "We need a new era of connectedness," both within the U.S., as well as globally. Referring to the iconic images of Earth from space, he observed, "you cannot but conclude that we have one global environment -- we are truly interconnected, and in a fundamental way -- we are each other's keeper."