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Signature ’18: Unleashing potential

Condoleezza Rice talks global economics, immigration, and how the restaurant industry can help

The Signature ’18 session at this year’s National Restaurant Association Show both offered encouragement and issued challenges to the industry leaders who were in attendance.

Jay Stieber, 2018 Chairman of the National Restaurant Association, opened the session by remarking on the foodservice industry’s positive impact on society, from sponsoring Little League teams to aiding in natural disaster relief to enabling the American dream for so many small business owners. “I encourage you to go out and tell our industry’s stories,” he said.

National Restaurant Association President & CEO Dawn Sweeney also praised the industry, noting that as the country’s second-largest employer, it has 15 million employees, or about one of 10 U.S. workers. “Restaurants provide fundamental skills for careers and for life,” she said, adding that “people are our greatest asset.”

To help people continue to advance in the industry, Sweeney announced that the Association has developed a new ServSafe Workplace training platform to help create and sustain a positive work environment. The program will begin this summer with free webinars. Another new training program is ServSuccess, a three-pronged certification program to help train and develop high-potential employees.

Keynote speaker 66th Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice applauded such efforts. In her pointed remarks about how the international economic system has changed, she noted that the United States needed to gain confidence before it could once again take a leadership role. One solution is around education, and Dr. Rice said that America “can’t have 18-year-olds who don’t have a skill. And I know that your industry provides those skills.”

In discussing the uncertain international environment, Rice recalled the strength of NATO and other global efforts to encourage democratic capitalism, and the philosophy that an attack on one allied country is an attack on all. September 11 changed global security, because of the “threats from ungoverned spaces.”

Rice suggested that the rise of populism and nationalism came from citizens—“those coal miners and steel workers”—who didn’t see the benefits of globalism. Thus, we as a nation are not confident enough to lead the world in a global economy.

But, Rice says she’s confident that the United States will regain that confidence. She believes that it will take putting our expertise in technology and innovation, as well as our educational system, to use in equaling the playing field for all Americans, regardless of race, religion, or income level. “The crisis in K through 12 education is the greatest security crisis in the United States today,” she said.

Rice also challenged the industry when she talked about the middle-aged people who are not trained in digital tools. “Before you automate people out of the workforce, you should think about how to retrain them,” she said.

In the question-and-answer component of the session, Sweeney asked about the state of immigration. Rice related that one of her great regrets is that the George W. Bush administration did not pass comprehensive immigration reform that would have included both clear border protection and a path to citizenship for successful immigrants already in the country. Today, she said, “We need a more humane conversation about those who just want to better themselves.”

This post is sponsored by The National Restaurant Association®

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