J.D. Vance returns to Ohio State to discuss solutions to challenges in Buckeye state
A packed Mershon Auditorium greeted J.D. Vance Tuesday night as the best-selling author and graduate of The Ohio State University delivered the Provost’s Discovery Themes Lecture.
Vance is the author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. The New York Times best-seller is the memoir of his childhood growing up in the rust belt of Ohio and in the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky.
A former Marine, Yale Law School graduate and now venture capitalist, Vance also is the head of Our Ohio Renewal, a nonprofit working to solve big problems in Ohio.
“How do we create the circumstances necessary for people to do well?” Vance asked, pointing to statistics that indicate many Americans believe their children will have fewer opportunities than their parents did.
Vance said some of these complex problems do lend themselves to policy solutions. He said reforming kinship guardian laws would make it easier for children in troubled homes to remain with family members rather than head to foster care. His early life informed his thinking on this issue.
“How do we give children a stable family?” he asked.
In his memoir, Vance wrote about growing up in a home where his mother struggled with addiction. Her alcohol and drug abuse upended his life. Vance would often spend months living with his grandparents or relatives.
Vance also noted too much investment capital is concentrated in Silicon Valley and Ivy League institutions. He said regulations in the tax code stifle investment in startup businesses, and that is hurting job creation.
“We are living in a country much less innovative than it was 20 or 30 years ago. This is a very stagnant period for new job creation,” he said.
More venture capital investments in cities like Columbus could help solve that problem.
“That means more kids able to claim their share of the American Dream down the road from where they grew up as opposed to 3,000 miles away,” Vance said.
Ohio State is well positioned to solve many of the critical problems facing the nation, he said, noting the challenges facing a workforce squeezed between globalization and rapidly advancing technology.
The university’s Discovery Themes Initiative is addressing some of the issues Vance raised.
And the Provost’s Office has recently launched The Ohio State University Opioid Innovation Fund. The program is fueled by $1 million for grants to better understand the opioid crisis in Ohio and to discover new and existing partnerships that lead to solutions to the crisis.
Vance said to solve these complex problems, new ideas and innovations are critical.
“We can’t just do the things we’ve been doing the last 30 or 40 or 100 years and expect them to continue to work.”