WHAT OTHERS SAY: Can young Americans rescue our economy?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 | 10:35 a.m. CST; updated 11:00 a.m. CST, Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jim Clifton, CEO of the Gallup polling organization, believes young people possess the entrepreneurial energy to get the nation going again. However, they need a sound education, and the key to better classroom performance rests with some business experience, such as internships.

"There is an enormous amount of economic start-up energy in our kids, enough for America to re-win the world's markets," Clifton wrote in a recent op-ed he co-authored with John Hope Bryant, chairman of Operation HOPE.

Bryant's organization is dedicated to what it terms "financial dignity," and the belief that all Americans should contribute to the nation's prosperity.

Clifton and Bryant disagree with campaign rhetoric that the United States somehow can buy, tax or legislate its way to a sudden world-changing economic boom. That won't happen because U.S. companies are operating cautiously. They're not taking the risks, making the investments or hiring people aggressively enough to create a vibrant economy.

There are 6 million small businesses in the United States, about 100,000 mid-sized companies, and only 1,000 really large enterprises. In total, they generate right around 100 million full-time jobs and just over $15 trillion in sales and production.

The problem is that the nation's economic engine is stalled.

Although existing businesses aren't compelled to risk capital on the expansions and hiring that could get the nation churning again, youths who lay a sound foundation in school possess the knowledge, attitude and energy to be successful in business.

Clifton's Gallup organization learned through extensive polling that young people's sense of hope, well-being and engagement in schools and communities is proportional to their financial literacy. They care more about succeeding because mentors and internships can show them the reasons they ought to study hard for good grades.

U.S. business leaders might not be in a growth state of mind, but regardless of the size of their company they can help lay the foundation for economic prosperity. Being mentors or hosting interns has a tremendous positive effect.

When young people understand why school and community service are important, the effort level rises dramatically because they are excited about learning what they'll need to become — hopefully the next generation of U.S. entrepreneurs.

Copyright Kearney Hub of Kearney, Neb. Distributed by The Associated Press.

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