04 May 2010
The second panel of the day focused on the importance of not just work or jobs, but actual careers, to achieve the American Dream.The title of the panel was "Creating Opportunities to Achieve the American Dream," and began with an opening address by Michael Peevey, President of the California Public Utilities Commission.
"It's difficult to pinpoint one American dream," Mr. Peevey explained. "But there is a basic current of dreams that beckon to our ancestors: if you work hard and play by the rules you can succeed."
Peevey briefly discussed General Order 156, which governs the development of programs to increase participation of female and minority business enterprises in procurement of contracts from utilities. Mr. Peevey stressed that GO 156 was "not an effort of goodwill, but a smart business move" and not just cosmetic, but actually substantial.
Moderated by Stephanie Chen & Preeti Vissa of The Greenlining Institute, The panel discussion began with Claudia Viek, CEO of the California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity, stating "nothing is more emblematic of the American Dream than entrepreneurship."
She shared her optimism for the future in citing a statistic which suggests 80 percent of college students believe they will one day own their own businesses. "However, there are barriers to finding capital," she explained. Laura Chick, the Inspector General of the State of California, also commented on the tough economic climate.
"There's a lot of room for improvement in the government sector," she said. "We are in a manmade crisis. Government does not work well together, and does not move quickly. Shovel-ready is an oxymoron in government."
As one example of a way to make real change rapidly, she cited the city of Los Angeles.
L.A. relies upon 'good faith' to make sure contracts are awarded to minority and women-owned businesses, but does not follow up to make sure this 'faith' turns into reality. She also mentioned the need for a statewide small business certification. Abel Guillen, President of the Peralta Community College Board, believes change can best be achieved via community colleges.
"Community colleges are the key to rebuilding California's workforce. More so than CSU's and UC's, we can react faster," said Guillen. But, he admitted, community colleges face many issues: for example, tuition for a class may cost $60, but the book for the same class can easily cost $200. These books need to be digitized, he explained, so students can access the information they need to achieve the American Dream.
Allen Miller, President & CEO of COPE Health Solutions, was able to deliver the business perspective on achieving the American Dream.
"We have kids coming out of school right now who are not properly educated, and cannot be trained in healthcare jobs," he said. "If they receive the education, we will train and hire them."
He went on to further stress the importance of educating our youth.
"We as a country our putting our country at risk by not educating our children," Miller said. "It's an economic priority; we should be concerned with competing with the rest of the world," he said, speaking as an employer seeking qualified workers."Tim Simon, Commissioner for the California Public Utilities Commission, continued where Mr. Miller left off.
"We need to invest in our own public schools and students," he said. He then went on to address the negative impact of popular music on today's youth: "We have to address the effect hip-hop has had on our young people. Our air waves are flooded with a culture that's dumbing down our young people. If you're talking about slinging drugs and committing murder all day long, that's all you know how to do. Most of these kids can download Lil' Wayne within 30 seconds on their phones, but ask them to download the Smithsonian Institute," said Commissioner Simon.
Nearly 200 people, including entrepreneurs, government officials and civic activists were expected to attend the event, held at the Center at Cathedral Plaza in downtown Los Angeles.
More panel discussions were scheduled throughout the day. Visit www.hispanicbusiness.com for updates.
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