Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric and member of the board of the Ronald Reagan Foundation, spoke to more than 4,000 Naval Academy midshipmen, faculty and staff about economic growth, job creation and leadership in a global economy Oct. 19 in Annapolis.
“I’m here as an optimist about America’s future,” Immelt said in his opening remarks.
Immelt spoke about restoring competitiveness through growth and job creation, stating the three greatest challenges of the future will be affordable health care, clean energy and building infrastructure.
“There’s only one economic path to the future, we need growth and job creation. What we don’t need is fear, populism and anger,” he said.
Immelt also spoke about the value of the Navy’s and military’s leadership training and global perspective of the world. Immelt said one of the beneficial aspects of military training is that military officers don’t fear globalization. One of the benefits of a Naval Academy education is the ability to put the global economy in context.
“One billion consumers will join the global middle class over the next decade,” he said.
Immelt spoke to the Brigade of Midshipmen about the lessons and successes of President Reagan’s vision and leadership as a part of the celebration of the centennial of President Reagan’s birth.
“Leadership is as much about listening as it is about talking. That was the hallmark of President Reagan, and what GE values in leadership.”
Immelt encouraged midshipmen to continue their education and focus on science, technology, engineering and math.
“We need a lot of engineers. Study, study, study hard,” he said, noting that China and India will produce about one million engineers in the near future, almost ten times that of the U.S. “The country with the most engineers is going to win.”
Immelt is the ninth chairman of GE, a post he has held since Sept. 7, 2001. He has been named one of the “World’s Best CEOs” three times by Barron’s. Since Immelt began serving as chief executive officer, GE has been named “America’s Most Admired Company” in a poll conducted by Fortune magazine and one of “The World’s Most Respected Companies” in polls by Barron’s and the Financial Times.
He has held several global leadership positions since coming to GE in 1982, including roles in GE’s Plastics, Appliance, and Healthcare businesses. In 1989 he became an officer of GE and joined the GE Capital Board in 1997. In 200, he was appointed president and chief executive officer.
He is the chair of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and a member of The Business Council. He earned a B.A. degree in applied mathematics from Dartmouth College in 1978 and an M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1982.
The Forrestal Lecture Series at the Academy was established in 1970 in honor of James V. Forrestal in order to enhance the education, awareness and appreciation of the members of the Brigade of Midshipmen in the social, political and cultural dimensions of the nation and the world.