Can there be a North American Century?

In one way or another, the free flow of ideas, culture, trade and people is at the heart of this year's national debate. Not surprisingly, the debate comes with its fair share of divisions, most of which revolve around an economic populism, a resurgent nativism and a growing isolationism.

The debate also involves many corners of the world. One of the most critical is North America, the neighborhood where Americans reside with their contemporaries in Mexico and Canada.

In the spring edition of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute, a number of contributors, led by President George W. Bush, look at this neighborhood and its potential.

Can there be a North American Century? Are the forces too great to make that happen? Or can the three nations of North America enact policies that will make for a stronger continent? And what would those policies entail?

President Bush kicks off this edition with a conversation exploring how he became interested in the potential of North America, why relationships across the United States, Mexico and Canada matter and how North American leaders can work together even when they have differences.

Of course, border security is its own hot topic, one that challenges the growth of North America. Yet it need not always be a divisive one.

Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin and Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso come from two different points on the political spectrum. But in a Catalyst interview, the two Texas congressmen find common ground on border security. That common ground has to do with making it possible for commerce to flow smoothly for the good of the United States, Mexico and Canada.

International trade, of course, does not sit so well with some Americans. Nor does immigration. Mark McKinnon and William Galston, two leading political thinkers, examine the roots of resistance to trade and immigration reform — and what can be done to counter the pushback.

Pia Orrenius of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank and SMU’s John Tower Center for Political Studies explains why the contributions immigrants make remain an economic boost. Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza, who grew up along the Texas/Mexico border, writes about how North America expands not only our economy but also our culture. And Matthew Rooney, director of the Bush Institute’s economic growth initiative, makes the case for how the North American neighborhood can grow stronger.

North America is ultimately about its people, especially its many young people who give the continent a demographic advantage.

Alfredo Corchado, the longtime Dallas Morning News Mexico City bureau chief who currently directs the Borderlands Program at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, reports on Mexico’s young innovators — and what stands in their way. Dean Fealk, a San Francisco attorney and 2015 Presidential Leadership Scholar graduate, describes how the progress of North America especially matters for millennials across North America. And Raja Moussaoui, an architect who is a graduate of the Munk School Fellowship in Global Journalism at the University of Toronto, details how Toronto became a dynamic city through the power of its neighborhoods.

Compelling conversations and essays are what you will find in each issue of The Catalyst, a quarterly digital publication that operates from the belief that ideas matter. They shape public policies, spur action and lead to results.

Each edition asks contributors to address a central question or theme. Along with Bush Institute directors and fellows, The Catalyst convenes leading experts and writers, as well as new and rising voices, to address each topic.

This being a non-partisan journal, we hear from people of different political persuasions. We simply ask that they present ways for America to become a stronger, more prosperous and more caring country. We hope their ideas will lead to freer societies around the world, open markets that promote growth and opportunity, compassionate institutions that serve individuals and a vigorous yet respectful American role in the world.

William McKenzie, The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute

William McKenzie is editor of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute.