Rust Discusses Education Efforts at the White House


President Barack Obama held a roundtable discussion at the White House with some of the nation's leading business leaders, including State Farm® Chairman and CEO Ed Rust Jr., to discuss how business partnerships can help improve the U.S. education system.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in former President George H.W. Bush's administration, said he told the CEOs at Monday's meeting that education is crucial for the United States because "these youngsters are your future employees and your future customers."

Also in attendance were U.S. Education Secretary Arnie Duncan and America's Promise Alliance Chair Alma Powell. Other corporate partners in attendance include representatives from the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Coalition for Student Achievement, the Business-Higher Education Forum, and the United Way.

"Our children are the future," said Alma Powell, who started the youth-advocacy group America's Promise Alliance (APA) with her husband. "If they are not prepared for the future, there is no future for this country," she said.

State Farm partners with the APA on efforts to reduce the nation's dropout rate and to ensure the personal and educational success of America's youth. (Visit America's Promise for more information)

"More important to me and to my wife and to the programs is that every State Farm agent, every State Farm office is involved in their community," Colin Powell said. "What we need is retail level connection between every aspect of the business community and the kids who are in those communities that are in need. We want your personal involvement; we want your human involvement."

In an interview with Fox News after the White House gathering, Rust said: "Our conversation was a continuation of the engagement of the business community around really driving the important intersection of education, workforce development and economic growth." Rust said our commitment is more than just money; it's the engagement of associates across the Enterprise to help people become better consumers of the education system.

Obama has said future U.S. economic growth depends on improvements in education. He has called for the United States to have the world's highest percentage of adults with college degrees by 2020.

"A world-class education is the single most important factor in determining not just whether our kids can compete for the best jobs but whether America can out-compete countries around the world," the president said.