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Remarks by the President to the People of the Navajo Nation

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The President's New Markets Trip:
From Digital Divide to Digital Opportunity

April 17 - 18, 2000


Office of the Press Secretary
(Shiprock, New Mexico)

For Immediate Release April 17, 2000


Boys and Girls Club of Shiprock
Shiprock, New Mexico

5:50 P.M. MDT

THE PRESIDENT: Let me say yaateeh -- (applause) -- William JeffersonClinton yinishye -- (applause) -- Irish nishle. (Applause.) I amprofoundly honored to be here, within the Four Sacred Mountains --(applause) -- especially on Navajo Nation Sovereignty Day. (Applause.) Iwant to thank young Myra Jodie. Didn't she do a wonderful job up here?(Applause.) Thank you, President Kelsey Begaye, for your strongleadership. Thank you, Congressman Tom Udall. (Applause.) The VicePresident, Taylor McKenzie, Chief Justice Robert Yazzie, Speaker EdwardBegay, members of the Navajo Tribal Council, Shiprock Council Mayor WilliamLee. And we have with us today the President of the National Congress ofAmerican Indians Sue Masten -- thank you for being here. (Applause.)

To all the honored governors of pueblos and tribal leaders. And Ithank the people who have come with me today -- the Secretary of Housingand Urban Development Andrew Cuomo; the Interior Deputy Secretary DavidHayes; the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Carl Whillock; and the personmost responsible for working with you, Assistant Secretary of the InteriorKevin Gover. I thank him for all he has done. (Applause.)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Bill Kennard, andCommissioner Gloria Tristani. And I'd like to thank the people from theWhite House who are here, especially Gene Sperling, who put together thisdigital divide tour; and Lynn Cutler, who is my liaison to Indian countryall over the United States. I thank them. (Applause.)

I want to thank four members of Congress who made a long trip heretoday to express support for our goal. Senator Robert Bennett, who camefrom Utah. (Applause.) Representative Bill Jefferson, who came from NewOrleans, Louisiana. (Applause.) Silvestre Reyes from El Paso, Texas.(Applause.) And Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, who came from Cleveland, Ohio.(Applause.)

I want to thank my friend of more than 20 years now, your formergovernor, Bruce King, and his wife, Alice, thank them for being here.Thank you. (Applause.) I want to thank the renowned basketball star,Rebecca Lobo, who came with me today. (Applause.) And I thank ReverendJesse Jackson for coming. (Applause.) I thank all the high-tech leaderswho are here.

And there was one young man who meant to come with me today, who couldnot come -- a man I admire very much, not only for his success, but for theway he has handled adversity, Notah Begay. And I think we ought to givehim a big hand. (Applause.)

I also want to recognize two young women who are here, because theywere in the First Lady's gallery at my State of the Union address, membersof the Navajo Nation and former volunteers for AmeriCorps, Kristina andJustina Jones. Thank you for being here. (Applause.) I am very proud ofthem and all the other young Dine people who have served not only theNavajo Nation, but our nation as a whole as AmeriCorps volunteers.(Applause.)

Let me also express my deep gratitude to the Navajo Code-Talkers whoprovided our -- (applause.) Thank you, gentlemen. And I want to thankSenator Jeff Bingaman for working to ensure that you receive the nationalhonors you so richly deserve. (Applause.)

All Americans should know of the exploits of the young Navajo men,some as young as 15, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in World War II,helped to develop an ingenious code based on your language, and became thecommunications link to and from the front lines of the allies in thePacific War. One of our most enduring images of freedom is that of theMarines hoisting the American flag over Iwo Jima. (Applause.)

Well, there are many American military commanders from that conflictwho will tell you that the United States might never have taken Iwo Jima,or won countless other battles in the Pacific if it weren't for thebravery, the sacrifice and the unbreakability of the code of the NavajoCode-Talkers. (Applause.)

It is fitting that we begin this day by recalling their achievements.After all, there are few people in America who better embody the power ofcommunication. In fact, if you think about it, the system the Code-Talkersused has real similarities to the beginning of the worldwide network wecall the Internet. Both systems were developed for sending informationquickly, securely, and reliably during times of war. Both had the power tochange the course of history.

But there is a cruel irony here. For more than 50 years after theCode-Talkers were able to communicate with one another, over greatdistances in the Pacific, it is still hard to communicate between many partof the Navajo Nation itself. In much of America, it takes just a modestamount of money and time to get someone on the Internet. But here, anastonishing 37 percent of the households are without electricity; about 70percent without phone service; more than half without work.

I am here because I believe the new technologies like the Internet andwireless communications

can have an enormous positive impact in theNavajo Nation. They can help you to leap-frog over some of the biggesthurdles to develop your economic and human potential. They can make greatdistances virtually disappear. They can be a vehicle for job growth, foreducation, for health care, for employment opportunities. They can be thegreatest equalizers our society has ever known.

I know the Navajo Nation has already begun to see this potential, asPresident Begaye said. Here in Shiprock, the closest public library ismore than 30 miles away. Yet, thanks to your new PowerUP partnership,children and parents now are able to browse some of the great libraries ofthe world simply by going to the Boys and Girls Club. (Applause.)

On the western side of the Navajo Nation, rural health clinics are nowlinked through computers to the finest medical specialists at theUniversity of Arizona. Your new Navajo Able initiative, funded in part bythe Department of Education, is providing technologies to help childrenwith disabilities write and communicate on computers. At Dine College,even rural campuses have state-of-the-art computer labs, where studentssoon will conduct real-time teleconferences with professors all around theglobe. But this is just the beginning. (Applause.)

Almost 30 years ago, when I was a young man, still a student, with nomoney and no prospect reasonably of becoming President, for sure --(laughter) -- I first drove across New Mexico. I fell in love with theland and the people. I had my first opportunity to buy for my mother andthe girlfriend who became my wife some beautiful Navajo jewelry.(Applause.) Now, just imagine if all the remarkable silversmiths andweavers of the Navajo Nation could sell their work not only in localmarkets, but in national and global markets as well. (Applause.)

Just imagine if all remote health clinics were connectedelectronically to major medical centers. Imagine if then they couldcommute to high-tech, high-paying jobs in large cities just by getting on acommuter here in Shiprock. Imagine if all your children had access to thesame world of knowledge at the same instance as children in the wealthiestcommunities in America. The potential is staggering and we have to seizeit. (Applause.)

I am here today to pledge that the national government will do itspart in ways that honor your tribal sovereignty. Ever since I have beenPresident, we have worked to try to empower the tribes of our nation. Iwill never forget the day in 1994, when I had the chance to welcome leadersof more than 300 American Indian tribes to the White House -- the firsttime this had been done since President James Monroe's administration, in1822. (Applause.)

You know, when I was just a very young boy I used to go to the countypublic library in my hometown, in Arkansas. I can remember spending dayafter day reading histories of Native American tribes and biographies offamous chiefs. I remember once I read in the biography of Chief Joseph ofthe Nez Pierce that incredible statement he made, "from this day I willfight no more, forever." It was a noble, powerful, brave thing to do.

But as we all know, though many of your ancestors gave up fighting andgave up land and water and mineral rights in exchange for peace, security,health care and education, the federal government did not live up to itsend of the deal. (Applause.) That was wrong. And I have worked hard tochange it. There is nothing more important to me than getting thisgovernment-to-government relationship right -- but getting it right in away that will empower you to lift yourselves and your children, to fulfillyour potential and your dreams; not a patronizing relationship, but anempowering one; not a handout, but a hand up, a genuine partnership so thatyour children can live their dreams. (Applause.)

As Congressman Udall said, I did ask in the State of the Union addressfor the largest budget increases in history for new and existing programsto assist tribal nations. That is why I traveled last year to the PineRidge Reservation in South Dakota, the home of the Lakota Sioux. That iswhy I made Indian country an important focus of our New Markets Initiative.

Let me tell you what that is. I believe the only way to keep thiseconomy growing is to bring economic opportunity to the people and theplaces who have been left behind. (Applause.) More businesses, more jobs,more incomes means growth without inflation for the rest of America.(Applause.) People in New York City and Los Angeles and Seattle and Dallasand Atlanta and Miami, they all have a stake in your economic success. AndI am here to bring that message to you, and through our friends in themedia, to them.

I want to give Americans who have money the same incentives to investin under-developed areas in America we now give them to invest inunder-developed areas of Latin America or Asia or Africa. (Applause.) Iwant Americans to look first to people here at home, who need work andeducation, who need technology and opportunity. (Applause.)

And there is no better place to begin than by bridging the digitaldivide. Our e-rate initiative, to provide discount rates to schools andhospitals and libraries that could not otherwise afford them, an initiativepioneered by our Vice President, Al Gore, and championed by thisadministration for years, has helped to equip every classroom in theconsolidated school district with computers and the wiring to connect tothe Internet.

My new budget provides a major new initiative to prepare NativeAmericans for careers in technical fields. It provides $2 billion in taxincentives to encourage the private sector to donate computers; sponsorcommunity technology centers, available to adults as well as children; andprovide technology training for workers; $150 million to train every singlenew teacher on how to use this technology effectively in the classroom --(applause) -- and $100 million to create 1,000 community technology centersall across the country, to serve all the people of the community -- theold, the young, those in between, those with disabilities and those withouteducation, everyone who can benefit from tapping into this new technology.(Applause.)

And I want you to know that I am joined here today by private sectorleaders who are part of our national call to action. Hundreds oforganizations, including all 32 tribal colleges, have answered this pledge.And I want to highlight just some of the public and private commitmentsbeing made to benefit the Navajo Nation and Native Americans all across ourcountry. (Applause.)

First, and very important, our Federal Communications Chairman, BillKennard, is proposing to expand the Lifeline program to ensure that everyNative American who needs it will be able to get basic phone service for aslittle as $1 a month. (Applause.) In this day and age, when we want everyAmerican to have access to the Internet, we must first make sure that everyAmerican has access to a phone, so there will be a line to hook into.

Second, Native American Systems, headed by Robert Rutherford, aChoctaw, is committing $100,000 state-of-the-art satellite communicationsto the Red Rock Day School, to provide equipment to 30 other BIA schools inother parts of Indian country. (Applause.) Tachyon is providing satelliteInternet access to Dine College and the Lake Valley School. Give them ahand. (Applause.) Compaq will provide $500,000 to spur the TechCorpsschools partnership, which uses the Internet and TechCorps volunteers tohelp teachers make the best use of technology in the classroom. FourNavajo Nation schools participated in the pilot of TechCorps schools.Today I'm proud to say that this new commitment will make it available toall Navajo Nation schools and all K-12 schools nationwide for NativeAmericans. (Applause.)

Microsoft will provide $2.75 million in software and technical supportfor the American Indian Tribal College program, which will directly benefitDine College. (Applause.) Andersen Consulting has committed $100,000 tosupport small business in Indian country, something we need more of. Weneed access to capital, training, technological support. The capacity togrow small businesses in Indian country is far greater than anything wehave realized to date.

Healtheon/WebMD will provide valuable Internet sources to the medicalprofessionals at the Indian Health Service facility right here in Shiprock.

Let's give all these groups a big hand. (Applause.)

I began my remarks today by doing my best to introduce myself to youin the proper way, telling you my name and my family's clan in yourlanguage, as best I could. (Applause.) Well, it's true we are fromdifferent clans. Your ancestors were here on this continent, here withinthe Four Sacred Mountains, long before my ancestors even knew of theexistence of this continent and this land we call America. (Applause.)But, my friends, we are now all part of the same American family. We areall related, and it is time we acted like we were all related. (Applause.)

We have never had a better chance to build the right kind ofrelationship. We have never had a better chance to build new connectionsbetween people, between cultures, between nations. The Navajo Code-Talkersgave us one of history's most stirring lessons on the power ofcommunications. They showed us in the most concrete way that our culturaldiversity in America can be our greatest strength. (Applause.) And thatis why we must do everything in our power to allow all Dine to allow theirtalents and their skills to the great enterprise of building our futuretogether.

Aheehee doo hagoane. Thank you and goodbye. (Applause.)END

6:17 P.M. MDT


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From Digital Divide to Digital Opportunity

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The Clinton-Gore Administration's Record to Help Close the Digital Divide

Bridging the Digital Divide and Creating Digital Opportunity for All Americans

Highlighting Technology's Economic Opportunity At COMDEX

Remarks in Webcast with Students from Lake Valley School

New Markets Trip Photo Gallery

Remarks to the People of the Navajo Nation

Highlighting Technology's Economic Opportunity in Shiprock

Digital Divide Discussion with the East Palo Alto Community

Background on the Digital Divide and East Palo Alto, California