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North Star Cities are a Beacon of Leadership in Democracy

June 21, 2012 By Héctor García, Fellow

Democratic principles and institutions, harnessing the energy, ambition and talent of immigrants, have always been one of the main drivers of the U.S. economy. At this time, when the U.S. is losing its position of preeminence, other nations are following our success formula while we are rejecting it out of fear over global economic uncertainty.

In a recent study, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated that “… we are quickly losing our edge as other countries adopt smarter economic-driven immigration policies.” Earlier this month in Minnesota, Jeremy Robbins, policy advisor to Mayor Bloomberg and Partnership for a New American Economy, moderated a discussion involving several of the state’s top business leaders on this subject. Ecolab CEO Douglas Baker, Carlson CEO Hubert Joly and Cargill Corporate VP Michael Fernandez formed the panel of the event titled “Immigration Leads to Economic Growth and American Jobs.”

They presented national statistics highlighting the contributions that high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants make in high-tech manufacturing, IT, agriculture, construction and other U.S. sectors. They noted that 45% of U.S. patents were registered by immigrants and that immigrants have been the founders of 40% of Fortune 500 companies.

They added that there are 3.7 million jobs currently unfilled for lack of skills. Still, many are opposed and create obstacles to immigration.

We must be cautious not to kill this formula—the American goose with the golden eggs. Those golden eggs have been produced across our history through an intangible process in which there was a prevalence of courage over fear, of enlightened over exclusive self-interest, of reasoned debate and negotiation over axiomatic adversarial confrontation, of planning over knee-jerk reaction, of willingness to invest and fail over ambition to collect while being guaranteed success. The golden eggs are not physically present in the belly of the goose; surface and tactical tweaks are not going to bring about the systemic and attitudinal changes we need to compete in this new world.

Decision-makers across the world must convey and implement a long-term vision of a better future, which inspires the committed engagement of all citizens instead of catering to voters' and investors' immediate gratification. This global challenge must be addressed locally; fortunately, Minneapolis and St. Paul have begun to do so.

The leadership exemplified by the above executives, by Mayors Coleman and Rybak and others behind the Metro Business Plan, which is attracting talent and investment to the Twin Cities, can lead our state and the nation towards a renaissance of American democracy and pioneering spirit.

It is the expansion of American democratic ideals, in the context of the new global paradigm of interdependence, to all communities within our society and to other nations, which will regain the world’s attention to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. That inscription is a truer version of the American Dream than the one of buying a larger home, which was exploited by those who helped bring about the global financial crisis of 2008.

Fox News Latino “Our American Dream” published the story of Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa. Alfredo came in 1987 to work in the fields of California as an undocumented migrant from Mexico. He also worked as welder and painter to pay for English classes and get a degree in a community college. He earned a bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley and a medical degree from Harvard University, where he graduated cum laude. He became a U.S. citizen and is known as Dr. Q at John Hopkins University, where he is associate professor of neurosurgery, oncology, cellular and molecular medicine and neuroscience.

Dr. Q is Director of the Brain Tumor Surgery Program and the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory, where 23 international researchers are working to find a cure for brain cancer. He wrote “Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon.”

As others join such courageous leaders and pioneers, when talent, entrepreneurs and investors around the country and the globe seek places where the American experiment and innovation live on... when the world’s young search for ways to ride the wave of globalization and build a better future for all, they will look towards the North Star Global Cities and they will come.

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