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Two weeks ago, I passed the gavel to my successor as chair of the National Governors Association, and today I’d like to talk about my year as leader of the NGA and the opportunity to work with other governors on some of our nation’s biggest challenges.
I accepted the gavel virtually in my office at the capitol a year ago during the NGA’s annual summer meeting.
This year, we met in Maine, so I passed the gavel in person to the new chair, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
My term as chair offered the opportunity to show off Arkansas and our Computer Science Initiative, which I declared as my Chairman’s Priority. By my final day as chair, 50 governors of states and territories, which was a record, had signed the computer science education compact.
By signing, governors were committing to establish plans to expand computer science in schools and to fund the expansion so that we can create new paths to success after high school.
At the NGA summer meeting, Patrick Gelsinger, the CEO of Intel, spoke about the value of our initiative. Mr. Gelsinger noted that modern life is becoming more digital, and everything digital runs on semiconductors. The manufacturing of semiconductors requires talent and money, which is why we must provide first-rate education for our young people.
He also discussed the federal CHIPS Act, which is the abbreviation for Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America. The CHIPS Act would provide about $50 billion in subsidies to support the manufacture of computer chips in the United States. Congress passed the bill, the goal of which is to decrease U.S. dependence on chips that are manufactured overseas. The CHIPS Act had bipartisan support from the governors.
On my first day as chair in July 2021, I reminded my fellow governors that states are laboratories of democracy. I challenged them to innovate, determine what works best, and to share what they have learned.
I suggested that we should lead with civil discourse, respect others in our debates, and rise above party differences to work together. Those words were as relevant today as they were a year ago.
As I reflect on my term as NGA chairman, I am grateful and amazed at the opportunities I have had to serve. I grew up on a farm. My dad was a farmer, and neither of my parents graduated from college. But they gave my siblings and me opportunities they never had. Because of their sacrifice, I’ve had incredible opportunities in life.
In the public arena, I served as United States Attorney under Ronald Reagan and in the United States Congress. In the Bush administration, I served as administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and undersecretary at Homeland Security. I’ve prosecuted neo-Nazis and criminal organizations. I helped guide the nation after 9-11. I returned to Arkansas, and then eight years later, I ran for governor and won.
I shared with the governors that I have attempted to follow my parents’ example and to live by their faith and work ethic. My hope is that as governors, we will inspire our young people to participate in our democracy and to understand the importance of public service.