As subsequent administrations have promoted new initiatives to keep the United States competitive in a globalized world, it’s worth noting this fact: Only one of the men running the five largest U.S. corporations is fluent in any language other than English.
Thanks to his time helming General Motors’ Brazilian operations, GM’s CEO speaks Portuguese. But he’s a corner office exception: the CEOs of Wal-Mart, ExxonMobil, Ford Motor, and General Electric — none of these highly paid executives can make a contact or negotiate a deal in another language.
Several presidents have spoken out to “keeping America competitive” by encouraging innovation through tax breaks for corporate research spending and promoting math and science study.
But some experts worry that the administration’s current push doesn’t do anything to address the USA’s globalization Achilles’ heel: Americans’ lack of foreign language skills and general global awareness. “Competitiveness is not just about training more engineers and scientists. That’s just part of it,” says Angel Cabrera, president of Thunderbird, The Garvin School of International Management in Glendale, Ariz.