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Gates testimony before Senate panel

March 7, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The following is the prepared testimony that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates delivered today at a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.

Chairman Kennedy, Ranking Member Enzi, honorable members of the committee, my name is Bill Gates and I am chairman of Microsoft Corp. I am also a co-chair, with my wife Melinda, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is an honor for me to appear before you today to share my thoughts on the future of American education, the development of our workforce and other policies necessary to ensure America's continued competitiveness in the global economy.

Any discussion of competitiveness in the 21st century must, in my view, begin by recognizing the central role of technology and innovation. Having spent the last 30 years as the head of one of the world's leading software companies, I am continually astounded at the tremendous potential for technology to improve people's lives. My faith that technology can help transform lives has only been strengthened through my work with the Gates Foundation, which focuses on funding innovative solutions in health care and education in order to reduce inequities in the United States and around the world.

When it comes to innovation, America has a great deal of which to be proud. Many of the greatest advances in computing originated in America's research labs, public and private. These technologies have helped America achieve unprecedented gains in productivity and real wage growth. American companies are global leaders in producing innovative pharmaceuticals, and our biotechnology industry is the envy of the world.

In these and other areas -- energy, transportation, telecommunications, financial services, manufacturing, agriculture and many others -- the achievements borne of American ingenuity and inventiveness have fueled unprecedented prosperity and improved the lives of people everywhere. America will need every ounce of this ingenuity as it confronts the challenges of this century: climate change, energy independence, national security, rising health care costs for an aging population and the emergence of new innovative economies in Asia and elsewhere.

When I reflect on the state of American competitiveness today, my immediate feeling is not only one of pride, but also of deep anxiety. Too often, we as a society are sacrificing the long-term good of our country in the interests of short-term gain. Too often, we lack the political will to take the steps necessary to ensure that America remains a technology and innovation leader. In too many areas, we are content to live off the investments that previous generations made for us -- in education, in health care, in basic scientific research -- but are unwilling to invest equal energy and resources into building on this legacy to ensure that America's future is as bright and prosperous as its present.

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