Michael Bloomberg

is the mayor of New York

As I have traveled around America, over and over, I have heard people speak of their desire for a president who will lead from the front, not follow what the pollsters say is politically astute at the moment.

People want someone who can break the death grip that partisanship has on Washington; who can stand up to the pandering on trade and reject the reckless diplomacy which, together, are destroying our relationships around the world; and who can mobilize both parties to confront the big, long-term problems they've been carefully avoiding - health care, immigration, Social Security, poverty, infrastructure, budget deficits, you name it.

Now, there are some signs that this year's crop of candidates might do just that. But they're not going to do that without us pushing them. It's going to take all of us, together, standing up and demanding more from Congress and those who would lead our nation, demanding real change - not words, but deeds, and demanding real results - not next year - or after the next election - but now.

Let me talk about what I think people should demand from those they elect. The candidates often talk about change and making a difference - but what does it really mean? While Ben Franklin once compiled a list of 13 virtues to live by, let me take a few minutes to share my four virtues to lead by. They've served me well in business, in government and in life.

It all begins with the virtue of independence. When you go to Washington now, you can feel a sense of fear in the air - the fear to do anything, or even say anything, that might offend the special interests. This is paralyzing our federal government - and causing our leaders to shy away from commonsense solutions. For example: Today, 34 Americans will be murdered with guns. And again tomorrow. And the day after that. America experiences the equivalent of a Virginia Tech massacre every single day!

The solutions are fairly obvious: Since most murderers purchase and possess guns illegally, we need to crack down on the black market for illegal guns. Pretty basic stuff and it has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. But try finding a majority in Congress who is willing to stand up and be counted. Democrats, Republicans - they're all terrified! And people die as a result. Let's put independence, and independent leaders, back on the map.

The second "virtue to lead by" is honesty. Ben Franklin said: "What you seem to be, be really." Less spin. More sincerity. Today, we see people at the highest levels of government manipulating the facts to fit their own agendas - especially when it comes to science. We should never - never - stifle scientific investigation or ignore the facts for the sake of ideology or short-term political gain.

The third virtue is accountability. Accountability means facing your responsibilities and never passing the buck. Anyone who works in the private sector understands this. But how often do we see accountability in politics? It's missing from our efforts to improve education, to expand health care, even to confront the urgent challenges of climate change.

And that brings us to the last of my four virtues that make for great leaders and successful individuals: innovation. Good leadership means having the courage to think outside the box - and never settling for the same old tired ways of thinking. As Franklin wrote: "Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure."

No one should feel sorry for me, but I've known failure, too. Not everything I've tried has worked. In 1981, at the age of 39, I was fired from the only full-time job I'd ever had - a job that I loved. But I have never let myself look back, and the very next day I took a chance and began my own company with the wild and innovative idea of making financial information available to people, right at their desktops.

By the way, for the record being kept by those who fired me: It worked out just fine. And make no mistake: I'll fail again - many times more if I stay active and try to push the envelope by innovating.

For America, the key to innovation boils down to one word. The key to innovation is

immigration

. Our nation's greatest historic strength is that we've always welcomed the best and brightest from every corner of the globe.

And yet every year, Congress shuts the door to hundreds of thousands of doctors, scientists, engineers and artists from around the world who want to work here. It's the greatest case of national self-sabotage and attempted suicide I can imagine. If our country's future is going to be as great as our past, we have to start realizing that immigrants have always been - and always will be - one of our greatest economic and cultural assets.

These remarks were excerpted from Mayor Bloomberg's speech Monday at the University of Pennsylvania's 252d commencement ceremony.