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Roundtable on Reforming America's Schools

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The Briefing Room


Eastgate Elementary School
Columbus, Ohio

4:40 P.M. EDT

MS. BLAKE: Good afternoon. My name is Barbara Blake, and I'm theprincipal here at Eastgate Elementary School.

We're very proud to host this event on behalf of the Columbus PublicSchools. Like many other schools in this district, we have raised testscores dramatically over the last two years. Here are but two examples.

Two years ago, 10 percent of our 4th graders passed the readingproficiency test; last year, 45 percent passed. (Applause.) Two yearsago, 10 percent of our 4th graders passed the math proficiency test; lastyear, 30 percent. (Applause.) Two years ago, 10 percent of our 4thgraders passed the science proficiency test; last year, 33 percent.(Applause.)

We have accomplished this turnaround through good, old-fashioned hardwork. It is hard work through solid programs like our research basedreading program, direct instruction; we spend 180 minutes per day forreading; through our federal class size reduction program that allows forsmaller classrooms; and after-school programs; tutoring programs.

I'm pleased to be part of a district that is focused on children andacademic successes, as we are here in Columbus, Ohio. I am pleased to hostthis conversation here today on behalf of my colleagues throughout thedistrict.

I first became aware of President Clinton and his educational reformprograms while he was the governor of Arkansas. At that time, I wrote thegovernor and asked him for information on his proposed school reforms. I'mglad to report that he did send the information, as requested. (Laughterand applause.)

He has followed through with his beliefs about educational reform.President Clinton is truly a crusader for education. He is an advocate foreducation and he has made educating America's children his priority.

Eastgate Elementary School and many other schools in the district hasbenefitted from the resources he has made available to us, that help us doour work in the classroom on a daily basis. We are grateful for hisleadership and for the time he has taken today to help our community tounderstand the work of educating our nation's children.

President Clinton is the leader of the free world, Commander in Chiefof all our armed forces of the United States, the highest ranking publicofficial of our country, and a crusader for education.

I present to you the President of the United States, William JeffersonClinton. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Ms. Blake. I guess I shouldbegin by saying I'm certainly glad I answered that letter -- (laughter) --so many years ago. I want to thank you of welcoming me here. And thankyou, Mayor Coleman, for your leadership and for welcoming me also. Thankyou, Superintendent Rosa Smith; Representative Beatty;* City CouncilPresident Javas; House Minority Leader Ford.

I'd like to thank the leaders of the Columbus and Ohio EducationAssociation, John Grossman and Gary Allen,* who are here. And I'd like tothank all of our panelists who are here.

I have been on a tour these last two days to highlight the good thingsthat are happening in education in America; to highlight the reforms thatmake these good things possible; and, most important, to highlight thegreat challenge before the United States today to turn around alllow-performing schools and give all of our children a world-classeducation.

Yesterday morning I was in western Kentucky, in the little town ofOwensboro, which has had extraordinary success in turning around its lowestperforming schools. In 1996, the state identified 175 of them; just twoyears later, 159 -- over 90 percent -- had improved beyond the goals thestate set for them. In the little school I visited, where two-thirds ofthe children were eligible for free and reduced lunches, in four years theyhad recorded the same sort of improvements that you mentioned here, on atrend line.

Which proves that income and station in life are not destiny; that allof our children can learn; that intelligence is equally distributed -- andthat means the grown ups among us have a big responsibility to give everysingle one of these kids, like those beautifully, bright-eyed kids that Isaw in this school -- and I just shook hands with every one of them -- havea chance to live up to their dreams. (Applause.)

Then, after I left Kentucky yesterday, I went to Davenport, Iowa, andI visited a 93-year-old high school finally beginning to get therenovations it needs so that students have the learning environment theyneed. Some of those school rooms didn't even have electrical outlets inthe wall. And, believe it or not, it was even hotter in the gym there thanit is here today. (Laughter.) So I'm just as cool as a cucumber now.

This morning I was in the nation's first charter schools in St. Paul,Minnesota, which is providing an excellent education to students who werenot succeeding in other public schools. That was the first charter schoolin the country, established in 1992. They were basically schools withinthe public school system set up by teachers and parents and citizens with aspecific, definite mission, and schools that can be shut down if they failin that mission.

There was one in the whole country -- that one I visited today -- in'72. We've invested $500 million since then and there are now 1,700,providing excellence in education to special needs of the people and theircommunities. And while I was there I actually had a webside chat on theInternet with students all across America about the challenges ineducation. And in a matter of about 20 minutes, they sent me over 10,000questions. (Laughter.) So don't let anybody say the young people are notcurious, they could ask faster than I could answer.

I really can think of no better place to wrap up my tour than here inColumbus, which has had a long history of educational intervention andinnovation and excellence. In 1909, Columbus opened the nation's veryfirst junior high school.

And now, again, you're on the cutting edge of reform and improvement.I'm here today primarily not to talk, but to listen to the panelists hereabout what you're doing right. But I want to say for the benefit of thecountry and through the press who are here that this community hasimplemented high academic standards and assessments to see if the studentsand the schools are meeting those standards. They've given students helpto meet those standards -- from after-school programs to smaller classes.Their strategy, which is our strategy in the Clinton-Gore administration,of investing more and demanding more is working.

Now, you heard our principal talk about the advances. Just in thelast three years, the test scores have skyrocketed, and the test scoresthemselves have gone up more than 200 percent. But I don't know if youlistened to that -- the percentage of students doing an acceptable job --listen to this

-- in one year -- she talked about two years ago and lastyear, not this year -- in one year, went up almost 500 percent in reading,over 300 percent in math, and 300 percent in science. In one year. Allchildren can learn. (Applause.)

I want to say a special word of appreciation to the teachers who Ialso met outside, and to those of you who work to improve the quality ofthe teacher corps. Listen to this -- more than a third of these teachershave a master's degree and over 10 years' experience teaching. Iunderstand your peer assistance and review program is helping both new andveteran teachers to do better by learning from each other -- something Ivery much believe in.

And this is very important -- you have cut the attrition rate offirst-year teachers by 40 percent. This is terrifically important becausewe have so many teachers who will be retiring in America in the next fewyears, and we have the largest number of students in our schools inhistory. So reducing the attrition rate is a big deal and something youshould be very proud of.

While there is still more work to be done here, and indeed, in everyschool in the country, you have proved that with the right ideas and theright tools, you can do what needs to be done.

Since 1993, our administration has worked hard to make education ournumber one priority, not just in a speech, but in reality. And I must say,I don't know that I have ever been more touched by anything I have everseen in any school in my life as I was when I looked up, hanging from theceiling on the corridor when I came down here -- and you had put up ahistory of what our administration had done since January of 1993 ineducation. I was completely blown away. (Applause.) I dare say thatoutside of Hillary, the Vice President and Secretary Riley, you now knowmore about what we have done than anybody else in America. (Laughter.)

But let me just briefly review a couple of the things that I think areimportant. When I came in office we had a $295 billion deficit. Interestrates were high; unemployment was high; we had to get rid of the deficit.We had to keep doing things. We got rid of hundreds of programs. And aswe turned a deficit into three years of surpluses, now this year we willhave paid off $355 billion of the national debt -- well on our way togetting America out of debt entirely, for the first time since 1835 -- wehave doubled our investment in education and training. And I think that'svery important. (Applause.)

But we also said to people that got federal aid to education, if youwant this federal aid you have to have high standards for what yourchildren should know. We've given the states the resources they need tohelp schools implement those standards. We've required states to identifytheir low performing schools and come up with strategies to turn themaround. We've helped to reduce class size in the early grades with ourprogram, now in its third year, to provide 100,000 new, highly trainedteachers in the first three grades.

I'm happy to say that 55 of those teachers are now in Columbus, twohere at Eastgate. And this community has taken the average class size ingrades one through three from nearly 25 down to 15. That is, doubtless,one reason you're seeing these big improvements in students' performance,and again I applaud you for that. (Applause.)

When I became President there was no federal support for summer schoolprograms. All these studies would show the kids that were having troublelearning forgot a lot of what they did learn over the summer, and then theteachers would have to spend, four, six, sometimes as many as eight weeksreviewing what was done the year before, before they could even start onwhat they were being held responsible to teach in the new year.

We went from a $1 million program in 1997, to $20 million in '98, to$200 million in '99, to $450 million this year. And my budget asks for abillion dollars. If the Congress will give it to me, we will be able toguarantee summer school opportunities to every student in every lowperforming school in the entire United States of America. It is terriblyimportant that we pass this.

What you have done here -- I know that 30 4th graders in this schoolparticipate in such programs. I said summer school, I meant after-school-- although the funds can also be used for summer school. I just came fromMinneapolis, where a third of all their students are now in summer schoolprograms, in the entire school district. Why? Because they have so manypeople who are coming from other countries whose first language is notEnglish. They would never even have a chance to not only master thelanguage, but learn what they need to learn if summer school weren't madeavailable to them. So the after-school and the summer school programs areimportant.

We're trying to build or radically overhaul 6,000 schools and tomodernize another 5,000 over the next five years

-- 5,000 a year. Wenow -- when I became President we had only 3 percent of our classrooms and16 percent of our schools connected to the Internet. Today, we have nearly75 percent of the classrooms and 95 percent of the schools with at leastone Internet connection with the e-rate, which the Vice President pioneeredthat gives a $2 billion subsidy so that poorer schools and poorercommunities can afford to have their schools log on to the Internet.

So we're working on it. I have sent Congress an educationaccountability act that basically seeks to ratify what you're doing. Itsays, set high standards, enforce them, end the practice of socialpromotion but don't punish the kids for the failures of the system; giveafter-school programs, give summer school programs. The kids can learn.We see it here. Have a system that works. And I hope that this will passthis year.

And let me just make two final points. As you principal said, I'vebeen working at this a long time. I've been in a lot of schools and Inever get tired of going into them. I've shaken hands with a lot of kids,and I'll never get tired of shaking hands with them. They make us allperpetually young.

But I can tell you this: There is a world of difference between whatwe know now and what we knew in 1979, when Secretary Riley and I started ineducation reform. And there is a world of difference between what we knownow and what we knew in 1983, when the Nation At Risk report was issued andwhen Hillary and I passed our first sweeping reforms at home in Arkansas.

We know what works. You're seeing what works in this school. Whatdoes that mean? It means again that the adults among us no longer have anexcuse not to give these opportunities to every child in America. Becausenow we know what works.

The second thing I'd like to say is, with the strongest economy in ourhistory, the great test the American people face this year in theelections, and those of us who are elected officials and as citizens, iswhat is it that we mean to do with this prosperity? If we're not going todo this now, when in the wide world will we ever get around to doing it?We're in the best shape economically we've ever been in. We can afford todo it, no matter what anybody says. And I think we ought to get about thebusiness of doing it.

So that's why I came here, why I wanted to hear from all of you. Andwhat the purpose of this panel is, is to sort of fill in the blanks of myremarks here so that we will have a clear sense of how far you've come, howyou did it and what we need to do from here on out.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Now, I would like to begin by asking your superintendent to speak alittle -- maybe in a little greater detail than I did in my remarks, oreven than Principal Blake did in hers, and talk about how did you decide todo what you're doing and what exactly are you doing to turn aroundlow-performing schools? That's the big issue in the whole country.

And let me just make one other comment. I've been in hundreds ofschools and so many states. Nearly every problem you could ever dream ofin American education has been solved by somebody somewhere. The realproblem with American education is we never get our solutions to scale.That is, we don't take what we're doing really right for some people andkeep on at it until it's being done for everybody, for all the kids.

And there seems to me to be a real systematic effort here. So that'swhat I would like for you to talk about, Dr. Smith, in whatever way youwant.

DR. SMITH: Well, Mr. President, I was hoping you would ask thatquestion. (Laughter.) We think about this a lot. I think thatimprovement is multifaceted, and I think -- as I think about this often,that the single most important thing that happened during my tenure here assuperintendent is that our board of education approved three narrowlyfocused goals. And so that enabled -- it gave direction to us. It enabledthe entire district then to become focused in the same kind of way. And italso told our community what they could hold us responsible for in terms ofthe work that we do.

Secondly, I think that it is important that in Columbus now we areonly going to implement research-based, proven programs. We're only goingto do those things that we know have a real potential of working for us.

And then following that, we are building capacity in our districtthrough staff development and extra support for schools. So extra supportfor teachers and their learning, and also for schools -- the types ofthings they need in order to make it work. We also implemented anassessment system and an accountability system that addresses both studentsand the adults who work in our school district.

Each of our schools, each of our departments have a continuousimprovement plan that has an evaluation component. And our staff in everybuilding in every department is working very hard to achieve what they saidthey needed to achieve for that.

And I'd also say that then we maximized the opportunities that havebeen presented to us, like the National Science Foundation grant that we'vehad for five years, the opportunities with reduced class size, theopportunities that our state has given us with kindergarten help and thosekinds of things.

And I would lastly like to say that our community, this community,from the city to United Way to the faith community to the businesscommunity, are all lined up to support the work for Columbus's children.We put all that together, it starts to work. And I think that is much ofwhy it is working for us here in Columbus. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, give her a hand. That's great. Let me justemphasize one thing she said because, unless you've heard people say thesethings a lot, it would be easy to miss. She said that there were threeclearly defined goals, and then the second point she made I think is veryimportant. She said we are using a research-based approach. That means --that's a nice way of saying what I said in more crude language, that youdon't have to sort of fire a shotgun at this problem anymore. It's notlike we don't know what works. There is lots and lots of researchavailable today as a result of the serious efforts of the last 20 years.

And one of the reasons that we have not had the kind of systematicresults that we're seeing here around the country is that people don't takethe research and really act on it. And it's interesting, because there ishardly any other endeavor of your life that you would ignore that in. Ifyou were starting a business and 15 people had succeeded doing a certainthing, and three people had failed doing the reverse, you wouldn't say,well, I think I'll see if I can't make money doing what the three did. Ithink I can do it a little better.

So I think that Columbus deserves a lot of credit. I'd like to followup by asking your principal, Barbara Blake, you've been a principal for agood while. As you pointed out, you wrote me when I was governor, andasked me about some of the things we were doing. Why do you think whatyou're doing now is working so much better?

MS. BLAKE: One reason is smaller class size. That is very, veryimportant. The second reason is the power program. We have mentors thatcome in and work with our teachers, so when they need help they get itright then and there. If you want to have your students have excellence,the teacher also must be an excellent person. They need the support.

Back to smaller classes. They're able to work directly with thestudent. When you have a large class and the child has his hand up, shehas to wait until you get to them. They will be able to get to them rightaway.

Those folks who have said that smaller classes are too expensive, myquestion to them is, how much is a child worth? We can protect usphysically, with our armed forces, but who is going to protect our minds?And the ones who are going to protect our mind is our educational system.And we need -- as Dr. Smith said, the research base tells us this hasworked, so let's keep working it instead of trying something new all thetime. This has worked; let's keep working it. And high expectationsalways. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Just to give you some idea of what she said, I wentthrough those numbers a minute ago, but I can't think of how you couldpossibly explain a 500-percent increase in the percentage of kids readingat the appropriate level in a year other than more individual attention bysomeone who is a good teacher and knows how to do it.

And let me say, this little class I visited in Kentucky yesterday,this elementary school class, all the kids and I took turns reading achapter from the wonderful book, Charlotte's Web. And I made every childread a couple paragraphs. And some of those paragraphs are pretty toughfor kids in the 3rd grade, you know, and they all got through it.

In four years, they had almost a tenfold increase. And you'll do evenbetter than that at the rate you started. So I think this is veryimportant. I think the smaller classes really do amount to something.

I'd like to ask Heather Knapp to speak next. She is a teacher at EastLinden Elementary, and she was hired with the help of our class sizereduction funds as a 1st grade teacher. And she teaches a class of 18first-graders, along with a 25-year veteran of the Columbus Public Schools,Karen Johnson. And you, too, have, I understand, a large immigrantpopulation in your school. So I'd like for you to talk a little about whatthe impact of children whose first language is not English is and theeducational process and what you're doing.

MS. KNAPP: The grant has reduced our class size drastically, and hasenhanced our level of instruction. With the reduction, my team teacher andI are able to work with our students in small groups and on a one-to-onebasis.

We have the highest Somalian population that are falling behind. Weare able to give them the one-on-one and spend the time helping them toassimilate to the American culture. We have a strong administrativesupport from Lillian Richardson and instead of meeting our expectationsthis year, we're exceeding them in our classroom.

THE PRESIDENT: My notes -- and they're not always right, but theyusually are -- my notes say that if you didn't have these class sizereduction funds to hire more teachers, that you and your team teacher, Ms.Johnson, would be each teaching separately, 1st grade classes with morethan 30 students in them. And if that's true, there would be no way in theworld you could deal with all these children whose first language is notEnglish.


THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that's pretty straightforward. (Laughter.)

MS. KNAPP: As a first year teacher, I believe, no. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I think many Americans have no idea just how diversethese student bodies are now. Like I said, I just came from Minneapolis,St. Paul. We think about that as sort of the capitol of Norwegian America.And it still is. But there are children in the Minneapolis-St. Paul schooldistrict combined with native languages in excess of 100, counting all thepeople who come from the different African and Southeast Asian peoples whoare there. And the same thing is happening all over America.

Now, a lot of these kids, once they're here for about 18 months, ifthey good basic grounding, start to do very well, indeed. And since we'reliving in a global economy in an increasingly global society, this is agreat advantage for the United States. We should be thrilled by this.This is going to put us in a very good position to do very well when allthese children get out of school. Ten years, 20 years, 30 years from nowour country will be the best positioned country in the entire globalsociety if, but only if, we take care of these kids now.

Sometimes people back in Washington ask me why I spend so much time onthis -- you know, when Barbara introduced me she said, the Commander inChief of the Armed Forces and all that -- I think this is a nationalsecurity issue for America. I think it's an important part of ourlong-term security. (Applause.) So I want you to keep plugging.

I'd like to ask the President of the Columbus Education Associationnow to talk a little bit about your teacher development strategies.Everybody who becomes a teacher knows that he or she is not going to becomewealthy, but it's important to pay them enough so that they can afford tostay. But it's more than pay. People also want to feel that they're doingtheir job well.

Most people like to get up in the morning and look forward to going towork and believe that what they do is important and know they're doing itwell. And that feeling is more important for teachers probably than anyother single group in our society.

So I'd like to ask Mr. Grossman to talk a little bit about how thispeer assistance review program works and how it contributes to teacherquality.

MR. GROSSMAN: Well, Mr. President, we're a little concerned that withall the negatives that have surrounded education that we don't have a poolof people going into teaching that we used to; and that as a result ofthat, it's become very imperative that we do the extra things to attractthe best and then maintain the best within our district.

Peer review really strongly emphasizes the first year because I thinkback to the days -- although it's history now -- when I started in theclassroom that we didn't get any supported. And now with this program wehave a core of full-time release teachers who come out, support, mentor,work with the people on a regular basis throughout the entire first year,to make sure they find their way through the system. And our statisticsshow that we're holding onto our beginning teachers at a much better ratethan we ever had before.

And once you begin to do that, you begin to build up a core ofqualified teachers that will be able to sustain the system through theyears. This is a partnership. This program is strongly run between theunion, the administration. And we have a third partner that is alwaysworking with us, too -- the College of Education at the Ohio StateUniversity, that has provided a lot of insight and training for our peoplethat's just fabulous.

And this -- is a basis where we make it clear that the teachers aregoing to be life-long learners -- it's sort of a cliche there -- but wetake it serious here and we've got a whole series of courses now actuallydeveloped between the school district, the union and the College ofEducation, that we're providing virtually to them 26 different offeringsthis year to produce sustained growth and development for our experiencedpeople throughout their entire people.

And the bottom line is this -- there is also a review part to it. Wedon't believe everybody has the right to teach, so we have to have a strongscrutiny of it. But we do believe in due process. And to make certainthat all of these people are fairly and solidly supported and evaluated.

THE PRESIDENT: Let me just follow up on that a little bit. Again,this is one of those issues, it's very hard -- for example, we've got allthese folks here who are reporting on this today. And it's very hard tohave a blaring headline across the Columbus paper tomorrow with anexclamation point, "Columbus committed only to use research-basedstrategies," or "Peer review and assistance the main thing" -- it doesn'thave the edge, like, "Clinton robs a liquor store" or something.(Laughter.)

As a result of that, we often overlook what matters most. But let mejust tell you this. We forget how much our teachers need support andtraining and the time and resources to do that. I think a lot of times wejust assume that, well, if you went through school and you got good gradesin math and you went to an education college and you took those courseswell, obviously, you can teach math. We forget -- unless we've actuallyseen how hard they work -- how much time it takes for these teachers justto get through the day, to deal with the children, give them as muchindividual attention as possible, give the tests, grade the tests, dealwith all the other stuff they have to deal with.

I can only tell you, most people believe the United States military isa pretty efficient operation. And we fought an air war in Kosovo anddidn't lose a single pilot. But let me tell you, we did lose pilots. Theydidn't die in that war. They were pilots that die every year in themilitary training of the country. And we spend a lot of your tax moneyjust training people relentlessly, over and over and over again. We don'tassume that some people are smart and some people are dumb, and some peoplecan do it and some people can't. We assume in the military that the peoplewe accept and the people we train are capable of doing the mission thatthey were assigned. We don't even assume that you're either a born leaderor not, and if you're not born one, you can't lead. We train people tolead, too, in the military, and they lead. And a lot of people who wouldnever be picked as leaders the whole time they're born until the time theyjoin the military wind up performing superbly.

If you look at the best-run companies, they invest huge amounts oftime and money in developing the capacities of their people. And we havenever done this for our teachers in the sort of systematic way that weshould -- setting aside the time we should, investing the money in it weshould. And again, it's a very hard thing for -- the mayor can run forelection, somebody can run for the school board or somebody can run forPresident, and it's the last thing you'll ever see them say because youcan't turn it into a headline with an exclamation or a 30-second televisionad. But it matters.

That's why I wanted John to talk about it. It is so important. Andit means something to the teachers. It's a way of reaffirming theirsignificance and their capacity to grow in satisfying their ownintellectual hunger. Any time you think training doesn't matter foreducation, suppose I would say to you, I've got a way to give you a biggertax cut; we'll cease all training operations in the military and we'll justtake smart people and see how they do? (Laughter.)

So this is very, very important. And I thank you for that.

Mr. Mayor, tell me, what has the mayor got to do with the schoolshere? (Laughter.) What is it you're trying to do?

MAYOR COLEMAN: I'm asked that question often, Mr. President.(Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: They ask me, too, all the time. (Laughter.)

MAYOR COLEMAN: Yes. Let me tell you. The mayor does not have anylegal or direct responsibility over our school system. But, Mr. President,I'm a mayor that believes that education is everybody's business, includingthe mayor. And what that means is that our city needs to step up to thetable -- and has, in fact -- to help.

I'm one that believes that after-school care is very important.That's an area where we can help. You talked about proven efforts, provenprograms. Well, after-school is proven, because I'm one that believes thateducation doesn't end when the school bell rings, learning continues afterkids get out of school. And in the city of Columbus, the hours between thetime that kids get out of school and parents come home, between 3:00 p.m.and 7:00 p.m., are the highest times of juvenile crime in this city, butthey are also the highest time for parental worry.

So what we are trying to accomplish in this city is a stronger, moresystematic, comprehensive after-school system where education can continue.And we've been working with our school system and Superintendent Smith inthat regard. In fact, Mr. President, even tomorrow we have this city'sfirst after-school summit where we're bringing the people together from allover the city to address how we get there and what kind of funding -- Mr.President -- (laughter) -- is necessary to accomplish that. And we'relooking forward to that.

I started this city's first Office of Education in the Mayor's Office,and as you know, I've been there four months. And we appointed a newmember of Cabinet by the name of Hannah Dillard, who is here thisafternoon, who was the director of the first Office of Education. Andwe're serious. We believe that the future of this city is dependent uponhow strong our kids are as it relates to education. It's the cornerstoneof this community.

And I can tell you here, looking out in this audience I see members ofthe Chamber of Commerce, people in our neighborhoods, people in this veryneighborhood, and I think that's good. At any rate, bottom line iseducation is everything to our city and it's the future to our city. Andafter-school is going to be our focus, and mentorship as well as many otherthings.

THE PRESIDENT: Let me just say, I think that -- first, I think you'reto be commended and I assure you that I will be fighting as hard as I canto get the appropriation doubled again. But as I said, in 1997, I got amillion dollars out of the Congress to plan for a federal after-schoolprogram. And then we went from $20 million to $200 million to $450 millionin three years. And we estimate that if we can get up to a billion dollarsa year in federal support for after-school, at least we'll be able to givecities like Columbus enough money to target all the schools where eitherthe performance is the most disappointing or you have the highestpercentage of low-income kids.

But I think you will want to do more than that, and you'll probablyhave to make a case to the business community and others that it's a goodeconomic investment for the city. But again I'll say, particularly if youhave a lot of immigrant children, it's really important -- these kids needas much time as they can to master the language so they can begin to learnall the other things they need to learn. And they just cannot do it in theregular day, in the regular school year.

And I'll do what I can to help you. But I think you deserve it. Ithink you've made the right decision about what's best for you.(Applause.)

MAYOR COLEMAN: Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT: I would like to call on a parent now, a stakeholder inthis enterprise. Linda Hoetger -- is that right? I studied German incollege. (Laughter.) Linda and her husband, Ray, have four sons, all inthe Columbus public school system. Both of them volunteer to work in theschool system. And their nine-year-old son at East Columbus ElementarySchool got a federal, 21st Century Learning Center Grant to start anafter-school program. So I'd just like for her to talk to us about herwork in the after-school program at her son's school -- how does it work,how did it start, what does she do, what is your view of the role ofparents in this.

But I would really like to begin just by thanking you and your husbandfor your support for the schools and for your willingness to give yourtime. I'd like for you to talk about what you do.

MS. HOETGER: Thank you. I'm scared to death, but that's okay.(Laughter.) We are parent volunteers at East Columbus, and we were on thestarting of the 21st Century Learning Grant that was given to EastColumbus. And it's to get more after-school programs into the building andhave the kids more areas to learn with.

In the afternoon they come in and they have tutoring, if they needtutoring or whatever. They come in, just sit down and enjoy themselves.But with the grant is helping because there are kids that are havingproblems because they're not a two-house family, so they're trying to getthe people -- the families to be together, and work with the parents. And--

THE PRESIDENT: You're doing fine.

MS. HOETGER: We try to get the parents together to work with theirkids that have the needs to get more learning. A lot of them are behindthat need the extra edge and the grant is helping that a lot.

They do do the 4th grade proficiency tutoring, and my son was part ofthat and it helped him tremendously. With him doing the tutoring, I wasthere to be able to help him and know what the test was all about, becauseit's a very complicated test. And it gave them, I think it was five weeksto deal with this test and not be so stressed when the test came. We tryand volunteer wherever we can at the building and at the after-schoolprogram. It's been an enjoyment to be volunteering with all the programs.

THE PRESIDENT: Is all the after-school work at the school where youwork designed toward helping prepare them for the test or giving themhomework assistance? Are there any other kind of things --

MS. HOETGER: A little bit of homework assistance, preparing for theproficiency test. Also there is the parts where they have a mobil unitthat comes in that gives them the shots and stuff. And then there's also-- they just had a "break it down" session for the kids that -- stressed.And then the psychologist came in -- or the social worker came in and waswith the kids and had a little class with them, to tell you how to do your-- instead of fighting or arguing, how to solve it peacefully.

THE PRESIDENT: I think this is really important. If I might justsay, again, I've talked to a lot of young people in a lot of schools aboutviolence, obviously because of all the very high profile tragedies we'vehad in our schools.

But I think it's worth pointing out that in spite of those highprofile tragedies, gun violence in America is down 35 percent since 1993.And violence in the schools has declined. And I think one of the principlereasons is involving more young people in peer programs and training moreyoung people -- young people, like the rest of us, people model thebehavior they see, either at home or they learn on television or in someother way. People are not born knowing how to resolve their anger, theirfrustration, their conflicts in a non-violent way.

And if they don't have models, if they have either destructive modelsor no models at all, you run the risk of having a higher incidence ofviolence. So I wanted you to talk about this because I also think this isvery important.

Again, the more diverse the student body becomes, the more likelythere are to be moments when people who won't understand each other becausetheir backgrounds will be so different, their experiences will be sodifferent. And when those moments come it's very, very important thatyoung people at least have been given a chance to know that there's someother way to resolve their differences.

Also that they don't have to bury them, because that also becomes abig problem. I mean, a lot of these kids that do really bad things are toofar gone when the times they do it; but it's only after years and years andyears and years of internalizing things that, had they not been buried, thechildren might have been saved.

So I think that you deserve a lot of credit for that, too, and I thinkthat should be a part of every school's effort, and I thank you for it.(Applause.)

I want to now talk to Laura Avalos-Arguedas, who is an AmeriCorpsvolunteer with the City Year program in Columbus. She was born in CostaRica and moved to the United States when she was six years old. Shegraduated from Grandview Heights High School in 1998 and began a two yearvolunteer program in City Year, where she tutors four 1st grade students inreading at the Second Avenue Elementary School.

So I'd like for her to talk about that. And I just want to say, Idon't know that I have done anything as President that I'm any more proudof than establish the AmeriCorps program. We've now had over 150,000 --(applause) -- young people like Laura spend one or two years in thisprogram, working in communities, sometimes in their home communities,sometimes half a nation away, and at the process, earning money forcollege.

In the first four years of AmeriCorps we had more people than we hadin the first 20 years of the Peace Corps. And it's just been an amazingthing. So I'd like for you, Laura to talk about why did you decide tobecome a volunteer in the City Year program and how do you feel about thementoring you're doing and the relationships you're building with thestudents and do you think it's improving their learning?

MS. AVALOS-ARGUEDAS: I'm here to speak for the kids today. I heardabout City Year at an international fair when I we a freshman or sophomorein high school. I was like, wow, that's so awesome, I want to do that.Because we are made up of young people from diverse backgrounds. And whenI saw this group of people together, everybody was very much united and itdidn't matter what we looked like, how we talked -- it didn't matter. Wewere just united. And I was so impressed with that. I was, like, wow,that's really cool.

And then my senior year a couple years ago I was, like, wow, where amI going to go to college? And I was so stressed out and I didn't know whatI was going to be doing. And then I remembered City Year and what I reallywanted to do.

I work with four young children, one kindergartener -- first gradersat Second Avenue. I work with them one on one. One-on-one work isprobably the most unbelievable work because I am lucky enough to see theirimprovement myself throughout a 10-month period. -- one last year, he washeld back. In the beginning of the year, he was reading at a level 3,which is kindergarten reading level. Now he's reading at a level 13 verywell, where he needs to be for 1st grade. I'm very proud of him; he's donegreat work.

Not only do we do very good literacy work, but we are also role modelsfor the kids because we're there every day. Many of these children don'thave people that are there every day for them, and we're able to be thereevery day. I'm asked to be people's moms; I'm looked at their sister. I'mvery happy and very lucky to be there.

And we also run an after-school program at East Columbus ElementarySchool. And there we -- right now we have a curriculum that is called"Kindness and Justice" where we teach about respecting others, aboutserving our community, about honesty, responsibility -- just everythingthat it takes to be a good citizen. And we make sure that these kids havea place to go. In the beginning of the year, we had 140 students show upat the after-school program, and only 7 corp members. And we were like,oh, no! So we had to cut it down a lot. But these children are veryhappy, the kids that we have right now.

I've learned a lot, too. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Mayor, I think if she had 140 kids show up with 7corps members, she just made the strongest case for your after-schoolinitiative. (Laughter.)

MAYOR COLEMAN: I think she has.

THE PRESIDENT: I think you need to make her witness A in your --

MS. AVALOS-ARGUEDAS: We have to cut down.

MAYOR COLEMAN: I might point out as well, there are 50,000 kidsbetween the ages of 6 and 14 years old that are in need of after-schoolcare here, but there are only 13,000 slots available in the city. So yourwork is to be commended.

THE PRESIDENT: I want to go now to a product of another program I'mvery proud of that I did not start. It existed in the government when Ibecame President, but we have dramatically expanded it. It's called Troopsto Teachers program, where people who have served in the military, whenthey retire or when they leave the military then move into teaching.And in an environment in which a lot of our kids come from difficult homesituations, I think that the Troop to Teachers program has made a bigimpact in a lot of places.

Eastgate Elementary has a teacher who came out of 20 years in the AirForce, Darrell Bryon. He's here with us today. And I'd like for him totalk a little bit about what made him decide to switch careers. He doesn'tlook old enough to have been in the Air Force 20 years. (Laughter.) Idon't know if he was honest about his age when he joined. (Laughter.) Andhe teaches a 4th-5th grade split class. I'd like for him to talk a littlebit about how his previous experience helps him in the classroom.

Mr. Byron.

MR. BYRON: Well, Mr. President, I think my previous experience justestablishing a work ethic -- because teaching, as any teacher knows, is nota 6-7 day job. Sometimes it turns into a 24-hour job. People don'trealize that. But I think the military established a strong work ethic inme, and with that I brought that to Eastgate. And my principal, Mrs.Blake, who I guess unlike my commanders in the military, is not the typewho would tell you, I want this in the morning, and they go home and get inthe bed and then expect you to deliver to them when they come back to workin the morning. Most times when she says, I need this, then she's rightthere with me.

And I think that with that it has helped me to learn, to deal with thechildren in a different way. Because each and every situation is not asituation that sometimes can be easily handled, and sometimes you want tocarry it over to the next day, but you have to stop and you have to thinkabout what has happened. And then when that child comes in, I think a hardthing for adults to do is to let go. Children let go. It's hard foradults to let go. And I think when the children come in the next day, youcan greet them and let them know that you've let go also. I think that'sbeen the easiest lesson for me to learn, because I guess my militaryexperience in dealing with different people, as you stated earlier, fromdifferent backgrounds -- children with different backgrounds -- and dealingwith people with different backgrounds, I think I've learned to acceptdifferences in people.

And one of the things that I had a hard time adjusting to at first wasthe attitudes of the children. In the military, if somebody told you to dosomething, especially if they outranked you, you didn't question it, youjust did it. (Laughter.) I remember the first day of school, I walked inand the children were lining up -- get in line. And they're like, why?(Laughter.) And I had to stop and think. And people, they so often saythat males make a big difference. I think they do make a big difference inthe schools, but I'm standing there, six feet tall, looking at these littlechildren, saying -- now, he's here questioning me, why. What am I going totell this little child?

And we had another teacher -- we co-teach or help each other a lot inthe classroom -- Ms. Lester -- and she's not even five feet tall. And shewalks over and she says, because he told you to. (Laughter.) And theyimmediately got in line. (Laughter and applause.)

But I think my military experience has taught me to expect a lot fromthe children, but being accepting of their backgrounds and respectful oftheir backgrounds. What I would like to see is one thing, but all thepieces of the puzzle have to be in place in order for that to happen. Youtalked about education becoming a national security issue now, and I reallybelieve it is, because even in my latter years in the military, I saw adrastic change in the quality of recruits -- the work ethic. I foundmyself sometimes wanting to take on more than I should have to take on.Span of control. There were issues that should have been dealt with by theyounger troops -- my younger troops -- that in order to get the job done Itook them on.

And it wasn't that their ability wasn't there, but a lot of it waswork ethic. And I see that in young children today, the ability, theintelligence is all there, but it's like you have to pull it out. And Ithink that's one of the things that the military has taught me, you justdon't let something go, but you do everything you can to get that maximumperformance from your troops at that time, but now I say my students. AndI think that that is what has taught me to try to pull out everything I canwith them. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: When you told that story about your student sort oftalking back to you, I thought to myself, his training in the military hasqualified him to be a teacher; his experience as a teacher may havequalified him to be President. (Laughter.) So I can really identify withthat.

Harry Truman once said that being President was a job in which youspent most of your time trying to talk people into doing things they shoulddo without your having to ask them in the first place. (Laughter.) But Ithank you for your dedication.

Let me now call on Shirley Goins, who is a teacher in the MonroeMiddle School, a 6th-grade teacher. And she has worked as a teacher for 30years. She's taught at Monroe the last 18. And Monroe recently instituteda school uniform policy which required the children to wear white shirtsand blue bottoms. And the parents of the students supported it.

When I started supporting these several years ago, some people deridedme as being for a "little idea" that a President shouldn't be payingattention to. But I was inclined to disagree. And I would like forShirley to talk a little bit about why her school adopted this policy andwhat its effect on discipline and academic achievement and the way thestudents relate to each other has been.

MS. GOINS: Thank you, Mr. President. We decided to approach havinguniforms in our schools after so many styles of clothing had come out --with the sagging of the pants and tee-shirts saying anything you wanted tosay. And we felt that some of these things were distracting to learning.

Our school had a dress code anyway, whereas young men don't wear earrings, young girls don't wear nose rings. We had already been asking ourstudents to tuck their shirts in; if they had loops they should wear belts.So we already had our dress code in place that was unlike some of the otherschools. But we thought we needed to take it another step further, andthat is to help the students really get into that mode of thinking abouteducation.

When you all look alike, you don't have to point out the differencein, hey, did you see that skirt she has on today, or look at those pants hehas, and all the thousand pockets on them, or what have you.

I will never forget the very first day, because we've been doing thisfor three years now -- but on the very first day, the teachers greet all ofthe students as they enter the school building --

THE PRESIDENT: That's great.

MS. GOINS: -- and they all come into the auditorium. And on that daywhen they all walked in, with their blue and white on, it was just a momentthat is hard to describe, because they looked so clean and crisp and readyto learn. It was truly an experience.

The students have accepted the dress code. Of course, those who are8th graders now, they are looking forward to moving on to high school whenthey no longer have a dress code. (Laughter.) But I'm happy to say thatwe have students who follow this dress code 98 to 100 percent each day.Every now and then there are circumstances where they are unable to do it.I have a young man who, just this past weekend, there was a fire in hishome. And so his mom sent a note asking could he wear what he hadavailable until they could get back into the uniform area.

Students are focusing on their work. They are not distracted by thefrivolous types of clothing. They know that they can wear those things onthe weekend. We feel that it has cut down on behavior type problems. Youdon't have someone wearing a long chain that someone else wants to snatchand cause some type of hazard, or someone trips as they're going up thesteps. It's really made a difference in our building.

I truly believe in the uniform. I wear the uniform quite oftenmyself. I feel that when I do that, the students don't feel as thoughthey're the only ones that have to wear it. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: That's great. You know, when I started -- my wife isthe first person who ever talked to me about school uniforms. She's alwaysbeen for them. She's a fanatic supporter of -- now, I guess now that she'sa candidate for office, I shouldn't use the word "fanatic." (Laughter.)Subject to being used against her, I suppose. But we talked about it a lotfor young kids. And the first place I went to explore this was NewportBeach, California, which is the third biggest school district inCalifornia.

And when the junior high schools adopted it out there, the middleschools, they did it in self-defense, because they had a lot of gangs. Sothey picked colors to dress in that would protect the kids. All the gangswore red and blue, so all the uniforms were something other than red andblue. And then all the schools got to pick their own colors and dowhatever they wanted.

But I had two children talking to me about it --one young man who camefrom a difficult circumstance who told me it was the first time he feltsafe walking to school in two years. And one young woman who was in a muchbetter situation, economically, where she said she felt like she had beenliberated; that neither she, nor her classmates could look down on or feellooked down on as a result of the clothes they wore. They were no longerdistracted and they felt good. They were looking forward to going to highschool where they wouldn't have to do it anymore, but they thought it hadreally calmed the atmosphere in the school and that learning had increasedand discipline problems had decreased. I thought it was a veryinteresting.

Between Hillary and those kids, I've been pretty well sold on it eversince. (Applause.) Yes, one person agrees with me in the crowd.(Laughter.) Is this a school-by-school option in the Columbus schooldistrict?

MS. GOINS: Yes, Mr. President, it is not required, it is a schoolcommunity decision with parents.

THE PRESIDENT: Now, how many schools have uniform policies in this --

MS. GOINS: Mr. President, I cannot answer that question. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Does anybody know? Are there others? But there ismore than one?

MS. GOINS: There are others. There are several -- many, I would say.

THE PRESIDENT: I think, by the way, that's a good decision. I thinkif you have it district-wide, then you've got to -- there you go, good foryou, looks great. That looks great. I think you either have to -- if it'sgoing to be a district-wide decision it's got to be handled just the way itwould be school-by-school. It's a very delicate thing. It only works ifthe parents are for it. And if the kids buy into it; even if they havereservations, they've got to buy into it.

So it's better not something that somebody like me decides is theright thing to do. What we tried to do is to show people how to do it,including how districts have dealt with the families who couldn't afford tobuy the uniforms, where they got the money, how they did all that sort ofstuff. But I do think it has some merit.

MS. GOINS: Well, we keep extras in our schools so that if a child hasan accident during the day there are extra shirts or extra pants. Butbefore we approached this, we did have meetings with parents, students andteachers, so that we were all on the same page, that this is what we wantedto do.

THE PRESIDENT: Now, what school do you represent in your uniform?


I represent Columbus --

THE PRESIDENT: Good for you. That's a great looking uniform. Thankyou. (Applause.) I have been hissed and cheered by students talking aboutthis. (Laughter.)

MAYOR COLEMAN: You're only going to be cheered here in Columbus, Mr.President. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Is there anything else anybody would like to say? Isthere anybody in the audience wants to ask anybody on the panel a question?Yes, sir?


Mr. President, I was wondering if Al Gore, if he becomes the nextPresident, will be continuing your policies and ideals? Because they areexcellent.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, he actually -- he's been outlining his educationprogram, and I would say that there are a couple of areas, obviously,because he can look ahead four years beyond what I can argue for. One ofthe things that he believes in addition -- he has supported our EducationalAccountability Fund, that I just explained, and all these things I talkedabout. And he's going to have -- he's actually giving a whole speechtomorrow on teacher quality, which I hope you will follow. He's beenworking very hard on it, and talking to people around the country,educators and other.

In addition to that, in the primary, he came out for a program to addanother 100,000 teachers, federally funded, to the 100,000 that we'vealready provided. We're very concerned that over the next decade another 2million teachers will retire as the number of students continues to swell.And so we think it -- you know, I agree -- but he came and talked to meabout this. He didn't -- it was entirely his idea, not mine. But he said,I think I'm going to go out there and advocate that we take a certainpercentage of this surplus and just dedicate it to helping the communitieshire teachers. Once we get the 100,000 in there so we know we can get anaverage class size of 20 in the early grades, the rest -- we're just goingto be killing ourselves to get properly qualified teachers in the classroombecause people retire.

And so I think you could feel every confidence that he would supportthe things that have been done, but that he would build on them and dobetter. That's what I think will happen. (Applause.)


Mr. President, I would like to share with the audience what thefirst-grader said to you this morning, and it may be a message for VicePresident Gore, and he said that you are a great President, and he wantedyou to know that whoever followed you was going to have a really toughtime. So that may be the answer -- (applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciated his saying that, but the truth isthat the country is changing a lot economically, and let me try to put thiseducation issue that we've been talking about here into the larger context.

When I became President in 1992, and the people of Ohio were goodenough to vote for me and the Vice President, the big issue was how couldwe turn the country around. The economy was in a shambles, the crime wasexploding, the welfare rates were exploding, things didn't seem to beworking. And so in the last seven years, I've tried to look to thelong-term challenges of the future, but first we had to get the ship ofstate righted. Things had to be working.

Now, you're not very cynical anymore about whether you can actuallymake things better. I mean, if you look at -- you know, we've gone from abig deficit to a big surplus, we're paying down the debt, we've got thelowest unemployment rate in 30 years, the welfare rolls have been cut inhalf, crime is down to a 25-year low, poverty is at a 20-year low, AfricanAmerican, Hispanic unemployment the lowest ever recorded, femaleunemployment the lowest in 40 years.

I say that to say nobody questions whether we have the capacity as apeople to improve. Nationwide, reading and math scores are up about agrade level. But in places where there's been a sharp focus on results,and on turning around low-performing schools

like Columbus, the resultsare much more dramatic. But they're up. We have 90 percent of our kidsare immunized against serious diseases for the first time, we've -- all theenvironmental indicators are better.

So the question that the country faces now is a very differentquestion than it faces in 1992. The question we face now is, what is itthat we propose to do with this moment of unprecedented prosperity? Thequestion, by the way, also is not whether you're going to change. Theworld is changing so fast, America will change. It will change just asmuch in the next four years as it has in the previous four, and the fourbefore that. So the question is not whether you're going to change. Thequestion is how you're going to change.

You know, if the Vice President were running for President and hesaid, vote for me, I'll do everything Bill Clinton did, I wouldn't vote forhim. Because the world's going to be different. That's not -- his messageis that, look, this approach works, so we ought to change by building onit. And here's how I'll build on it. I don't think we ought to abandonthe approach in economics and education and health care and welfare reformand all these issues, but we're going to have to change. And my take onthis as a citizen, as well as somebody with some experience now in theseaffairs, is that the way to decide what direction you want to take is tofirst ask yourself, where would you like to go.

I remember one of the funniest things Yogi Berra used to say is that,we may be lost, but we're making good time. (Laughter.) I mean, you'vegot to ask yourself, where would you like to go? Now, my opinion is -- andagain, it's not going to be on my watch, but my opinion is that for thefirst time in at least 35 years, since we had this kind of economy again,which basically came apart in the Vietnam War and the civil rights crisis,and a lot of other problems we had in the country in the 1960s -- this isthe first time we've had since then to say, okay here's where we want togo, and here's what we're going to do to get there.

So my view is, one of our goals ought to be to guarantee that everychild in this country will have access to a world-class education; thateverybody will be able to afford to go to college if they're otherwisequalified; that poverty among children can be eliminated within through thetax system and other supports; that every working family ought to be ableto at least have access to affordable health insurance; that we will dealwith the challenges that the aging of America -- when the baby-boomersretire and there's only two people working for every one person drawingSocial Security -- we will act now, not then, to save Social Security andMedicare, and add a prescription drug benefit that's voluntary for theseniors. Big challenges.

On the environmental front, we have to tackle this whole issue ofglobal warming. You're all in here fanning yourselves -- the truth is thatthe climate of this Earth is going up at a very difficult rate. Now, thatmay seem like an obscure issue, because Columbus is way inland, but it'snot going to be very funny if the polar icecaps keep melting, and theoceans rise, and the sugar cane fields in Louisiana, and the FloridaEverglades were buried, and the agricultural production of America startsto go north, and the whole framework of life here is changed -- and peoplein Africa start getting even more cases of malaria and children dying fromdehydration. This is a big issue.

So that's what I gave my State of the Union address -- but I thinkwhat all you need to decide as citizens is, what do you want for your kids;what do you want for your families; what do you want for your future; wheredo you want to go? Then you have to say -- eight years ago, I wouldn'thave believed that we could write the future of our dreams. But now I knowAmerica can work.

So again, it's kind of like school reform. We don't have an excuseanymore for not saying what would we like America to be like when ourchildren are our age. Because we know we can make America better now. Wedon't have an excuse; we know that. So every one of you -- I wish you'd gohome and take a piece of paper and say, what would I like America to looklike in 10 years? And then, how does America have to change -- notwhether, but how -- to get there.

That's how you'll know who to vote for. That's how you know whatideas you think work. To ask yourself, where do you want to go? And myearnest plea to the American people this year is to do that, so we can takeon these big challenges -- because that's what I've been working for. I'vebeen working for the day that when I left office, this country would haveboth the self-confidence and the capacity to build the future of our dreamsfor our children. And we can do it now. That's what I think we ought tobe doing. (Applause.)

DR. SMITH: Mr. President, on behalf of the Board of Education,everyone in this room, our entire community, we are pleased that youbrought this conversation to this school district in this community. Weappreciate that you have affirmed the work that we've begun. We appreciatewhat you're trying to do for children all over this country. We appreciatewhere you have brought this country to. We respect you, and we appreciateyour presidency. Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)

MAYOR COLEMAN: Mr. President, I, too, want to thank you for coming toColumbus to put a spotlight on education, a national spotlight oneducation. We're working hard in this city and we're committed. It'sgoing to take all of us -- the school system, every person in thisaudience, every person in our neighborhoods. But you've set a greatstandard and a great deal of leadership for this nation. We are better offnow than where we were eight years ago, and I want to thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

MAYOR COLEMAN: And I'm glad we had it here at Eastgate, too.(Applause.) Eastgate is historic. This is an historic school, not onlybecause my wife graduated from Eastgate -- (laughter) -- but because thefirst African American nurse was here at Eastgate; because so many teachershelped raise so many kids right here at Eastgate.

And, Mr. President, I'm glad you were here to, again, put thespotlight on Eastgate and this school system. God bless you. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.)

END 5:55 P.M. EDT

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