WASHINGTON—Last weekend the National Governors Association (NGA) held its 110th Winter Meeting in the nation’s capital. More than 40 governors and nearly 2,000 people attended the meeting, which focused on how elected officials can partner with other nations to strengthen American ties, as well as how emerging and future technologies will shape the world we live in.
The meeting started with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, only the second-ever head of state to address the governors, delivering the opening keynote address. The address commemorated America and Australia’s 100-year anniversary of “mateship”—the two countries have fought side-by-side in every major conflict since World War I. Turnbull brought with him the largest-ever Australian delegation to visit the United States, including all but two premiers from the country.
“American leadership in the world is in our interests,” Turnbull said. “But it is in yours, too. I stand with generations of American leaders who have seen its global alliance network not as a burden but as a force multiplier that, first and foremost, has enabled American prosperity and security.”
The session continued with a focus on international cooperation, NGA Chair Gov. Sandoval emphasized the importance of states having a global footprint. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne echoed that, saying, “There’s a freedom in subnational engagement” that leads to job creation.
“In times of uncertainty, it’s even more important to look at the subnational level,” Gov. Hogan also said.
The following day, another head of state addressed the governors. President Nana Akufo-Addo, the first-ever leader from Africa to join an NGA Winter Meeting, gave an inspiring speech about the relationship between Ghana and the United States.
“The time has come for a new form of relationship between Ghana and the United States of America,” Akufo-Addo said. “We want our relations with the United States to be characterized by a substantial increase in trade and investment co-operation. This is the way to develop healthy relations between our two countries, and thereby strengthen our economies, and raise the living standards of our two peoples.”
The Winter Meeting also addressed innovation through an armchair interview between Gov. Sandoval and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, where they talked about the effect emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain will have on the future, especially pertaining to job disruption. “It’s time to rethink the education system,” Rometty said. “We are now going to be in a lifelong learning model.”
Gov. Sandoval has chosen to focus on emerging technology through his NGA chair’s initiative, Ahead of the Curve: Innovation Governors. To learn more, click here.
NGA also convened governors, international officials and thought leaders for two consecutive roundtables at the Embassy of Canada on Friday, February 23 for discussions on international cooperation and emerging technology. (NGA has recently created two offices that center on these efforts, NGA Future and NGA Global.)
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval participated in the roundtables, along with officials from Canada, Mexico, Australia and Japan. Among them were Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton, Mexican Ambassador Gerónimo Gutiérrez and Swiss Ambassador Martin Dahinden, as well as several subnational leaders: from Canada, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard; from Japan, Totorri Governor Shinji Hirai; and from Mexico, Queretaro Governor Francisco Domínguez Servién and Tabasco Governor Arturo Núñez Jiménez.
Gov. Snyder attended the session focuses on emerging technology, where the topics of education and workforce were discussed. “Finding and fostering talent is the underlying foundation for promoting and creating innovation,” he said. “We need to think about helping people get the skills to be successful in the fields of technology and innovation.”
During a plenary session, governors also heard from the newly appointed Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, on the opioid epidemic. At the session, Secretary Azar spoke about how medication-assisted therapy could be used to help temper addicts’ cravings. Then NGA Health and Human Services Committee Chair Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Vice Chair Oregon Gov. Kate Brown helped facilitate a discussion on what techniques are working in their states, along with what else can be done to combat the epidemic, moderated by Los Angeles Times reporter Noam Levey.
The future of agriculture was also discussed in a session which included Ray Starling, special assistant to the President for agriculture, agricultural trade and food assistance, as well as American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall and Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture President Rod Snyder. NGA Vice Chair Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Natural Resources Committee Vice Chair Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead led the discussion.
Later on in the Winter Meeting, governors also heard about higher education and the evolving needs of the workforce, NGA Education and Workforce Committee Chair Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Vice Chair South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard led a panel with Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow and Michael Carey, vice president at New America, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research firm.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin spoke to governors as well at a session about how to better care for veterans through innovative treatment and rehabilitation. That discussion was led by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, vice chair of the NGA Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, and former NGA Chair Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.
Finally, NGA Economic Development and Workforce Committee Chair Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Vice Chair Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper helped foster a discussion on economic development and the future of work. Microsoft President Brad Smith and Walmart Foundation President Kathleen McLaughlin participated in the discussion.
Governors also had the opportunity to attend the White House for dinner and their annual business meeting with the President. In addition to the President, they met with Vice President Pence and other Administration officials, including Secretary Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma; Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt; Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney; and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Small Business Administration Administrator Linda McMahon, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Winter Meeting concluded with governors’ annual “Day on the Hill,” where they met with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and House committee leadership from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Agriculture Committee for discussions on workforce development, infrastructure and the Farm bill. In addition, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) hosted governors for a roundtable on the opioid epidemic. These discussions resulted in a commitment from both governors and congressional leadership to work together on legislation to address these critical issues.
For additional coverage from the meeting, including photos and video, click here.
The nation’s governors will gather next in Santa Fe, New Mexico on July 19-21 for the Summer Meeting.