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Bush Urges Americans to Boldly Face Foreign Competitors

President Bush is traveling the United States, seeking support for the agenda he laid out in his State of the Union address. He focused on steps to make America more competitive in the world economy.

After the formality of the State of the Union, President Bush is reaching out to Americans on a more personal level.

His style was relaxed as he talked to workers at the 3M Corporation headquarters in Maplewood, Minnesota. He said he knows some people see booming economies abroad and worry about a loss of U.S. jobs.

"It is important for us not to lose our confidence in changing times," said Mr. Bush. "It is important for us not to fear competition but to welcome it."

The president seemed at ease, as he talked about the challenges posed by the rapid economic expansion of countries like China and India. He said America can retreat and be protectionist, or it can embrace the opportunity presented by growing markets, and strive to remain the leader in innovation and technology.

"I think the role of government is to shape the future, not fear the future. And I think the job of the president is to say to the people 'be bold, be confident, if we do the right things we will remain the leader in the world,'" he added.

The right things, according to Mr. Bush, are the components of his so-called American Competitiveness Initiative. They include incentives to encourage companies to invest in research and development and an increased focus on science and math education. In Minnesota, the president also called on Congress to raise the number of visas available for foreign workers with special skills, urging lawmakers to be "realistic and reasonable."

"We will educate our kids. That is the goal," he said. "Of course, we want every job that's ever generated in America filled by Americans but that is not the reality today. In order for 3M to remain competitive, in order for this job base to remain strong, in order for us to be a leader in innovation, we have got to be wise about letting kids come here who have the skills needed to fill the jobs and help us remain the leader in the world."

The president did not say exactly how many H1-B visas, entry permits for people with advanced university degrees, he wants Congress to approve. He will speak out about the need for America to increase its competitiveness in the world economy once again at events Friday in New Mexico and Texas.