Lt. Gen. John Rosa expects a fine future for his Citadel cadets and their peers.

The retired Air Force veteran, dressed in his military best Thursday, made the prediction in a talk to business and civic leaders.

“These young men and women are amazing,” he said. “They’ll be our next greatest generation.”

Rosa was the guest speaker at the Small Business Lunch at Hall’s Chophouse on King Street, a luncheon providing 60 people with a three-course meal and an audience with civic leaders.

As president of a Southern university, Rosa’s speech turned to the state of education in the region.

Rosa noted a precipitous drop in funding from the state over the past decade as a challenge in continuing operations.

“This state has undervalued education, in my opinion,” Rosa said.

Tough decisions, he said, have had to be made at The Citadel to continue to best serve the students. “As we move forward, there are some definite challenges.”

Rosa asserted that a big push the United States needs to make is in the areas of STEM education — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — as the country begins to try to recover from the recent recession.

“STEM is where we’re falling behind as a country,” Rosa said. “Citadel’s leading that effort (against that).”

Toward the end of his talk, Rosa reached out to local business representatives in the audience to have them consider Citadel cadets as possible additions to their companies. A few members of the audience attested to the quality of the military college’s students as interns.

“These young people love to be in the community,” Rosa said, “and we need to get them out of the battalions and into the communities.”

Reach Nick Watson at 937-4810.