By Ángel Cabrera and Callie Le Renard, Innovations, Sept. 2013, 27-34.
“Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.” This quote was made popular by 19th-century American newsman and politician Horace Greeley. At a time when the East Coast was plagued by unemployment and economic stagnation, the West offered plenty of land and opportunity to those with ambition and a willingness to work. Two centuries later, the economies of many developed countries are also plagued by unemployment and economic stagnation. Unlike the American West, however, in these countries opportunity is no longer tied to land but to human talent, productivity, and innovation. It is knowledge, not geography, that will make or break an economy—and a young person’s economic future. Universities are by no means perfect and clearly are not the only places a person can acquire knowledge. However, although there is much today’s universities need to do to respond to society’s new demands, they remain the surest, most effective path for most young people who want to pursue a prosperous and impactful career.
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