Jeff Immelt ’78 Speaks About Jobs and Energy at Dartmouth


Visit the Leading Voices in Politics and Policy lecture series website for the most current news and schedule.

To get Americans back to work, GE CEO Jeff Immelt ’78 would streamline governmental regulation, retrain the unemployed, put out-of-work construction workers back on the job updating the nation’s infrastructure, and get financing to small business.


GE CEO and Chairman Jeff Immelt ’78 answers a question following his August 18 lecture in the “Leading Voices in Politics and Policy” series. At right is Visiting Professor Charles Wheelan ’88, who moderated the event. (photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

“You just very tactically, very specifically, in a very dogged way work those things, and I think you’d get jobs,” Immelt told a full house at Dartmouth on August 18.

He spoke as part of the “Leading Voices in Politics and Public Policy” lecture series, which this summer has brought national political and policy experts and presidential candidates to Dartmouth.

In the long term, Immelt, who was tapped by President Obama in January to head the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, also said the United States needs an education overhaul.

“We’ve got to get our mojo back as a country. Our confidence is such a big part of it,” he said. “You’ve got to burn with the fire of wanting to compete. And I think what’s been lost is education.

”We have lost this spark and desire to bring on all comers; we can compete with anyone in the world,“ he continued. ”My fear is what’s driven that is you can’t be number 26 in the world in math and number 27 in science.“

Immelt, a math major at Dartmouth, has been at GE since 1982 and has led the company since 2001. He’s been named one of the ”World’s Best CEOs“ three times by Barron’s. Since he 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.

In addition to his Leading Voices lecture, Immelt, who is also a Dartmouth trustee and delivered the Commencement address in 2004, earlier in the day taught the public policy class that is a companion to the lecture series.

He told students that he’s traveled the world for three decades for GE, a life that’s quite different from how he grew up. He hadn’t been more than 50 miles from his Cincinnati home when, in 1974, he arrived at Dartmouth. But, he said, the globalization of business has opened the world for today’s students.

”No matter what you guys do, you’re going to spend the next 30 years, like I’ve spent, on a global trajectory. And you will see competitiveness in every country in the world. It’s in energy, health care, education, and financial systems that promote competitiveness and entrepreneurship. So whether you are in Kenya or Russia or France or the United States or Canada or Brazil, those are the four things that count,“ he said.

Each Leading Voices lecture addresses a major topic shaping current policy and political debate at the national level. The issues include the federal deficit, health-care reform, public education, financial bailouts, and partisan politics.

In discussing energy and the environment, Immelt said much of the growth in energy markets is taking place in China. The United States hasn’t invested in energy in the past few decades. In addition, the current polarized political climate will keep legislators from coming up with a national energy policy anytime soon, he said.

The United States should lead the world in developing markets for its plentiful natural gas reserves, and should also drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, Immelt said.

His speech, along with others in the series, is available on Dartmouth’s YouTube channel. For the most current lecture series news and schedule, see the ”Leading Voices in Politics and Policy“ website.

The final Leading voices speaker is Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll, who will speak on Tuesday, August 23, at 4:30 p.m., in the Hopkins Center’s Moore Theater.

Other Leading Voices speakers have included Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ’83; former Senator Judd Gregg, (R-N.H.); former New York City schools Chancellor Joel Klein, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich ’68, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. ’68, and Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim.

In addition, diplomat Mara Rudman ’84, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Senator Rob Portman ’78, (R-Ohio), and Republican presidential candidates Jon Huntsman Jr., Buddy Roemer, Gary Johnson, and potential candidate Rudy Giuliani have visited campus as part of the series.

This summer isn’t the only time presidential candidates will visit Dartmouth. Republicans running for the presidency will be on campus for a debate on the U.S. economy, on October 11. Hosted by Dartmouth, Bloomberg Television, The Washington Post, and WBIN-TV, the event will be broadcast nationally and around the globe by Bloomberg Television and streamed online by

Susan J. Boutwell