Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February 15, 1996
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
Christopher Columbus School
10:45 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Carol. Good morning, Secretary Riley. You look great long distance there -- (laughter) -- glad you're in the Cabinet. Good Morning, Bob Fazio, and thank you again for what you said and for the remarkable work you have done here.
I want to say hello to Senator Lautenberg and Congressman Menendez, who had so much to do with starting this technology effort in this school system; and to Jim Cullen at Bell Atlantic, and the others who are here from the private sector; and the teachers, the parents and especially the students who are here; and the students from the 65 schools in Hudson, Bergen and Morris Counties who are with us today. Thanks to technology, I want to say hello to all of you.
I have been looking forward to this for some time. And the Vice President and I have had some very exciting conversations about what we would see here and what all of you have done here. And I want to just begin by thanking all of you for making this kind of partnership work and by proving what I said in the State of the Union -- that we have an obligation if we want all Americans to have the opportunities that this new information and technology age offers; we have an obligation to make sure that all of our children have access to world-class education through the finest technology. And you are doing that. And I'm very, very proud of you and I'm very excited to listen to all of you and what you have to say today.
But I would like to talk a little bit about what we are trying to do. What we are trying to do from the White House is to work in partnership with everybody in America who is concerned about this to see that by the year 2000 every classroom and every library in the entire United States is hooked up to the Information Superhighway, that all our children have access to computers and the finest educational software, and all of our teachers have the kind of training and support that, obviously, you have provided here, and that there is a kind of connection that we see here.
I am very excited about the prospects that young people like those here at this table in this room will be able to learn things that I could never have even dreamed of as a child. And while I want districts like yours to be able to stand out and be proud, I think all of you want every child to have the opportunities that your children have.
And that's why I wanted to come here to announce what our next steps are. As I said in the State of the Union, when I outlined the importance of meeting the challenge of providing all of our children an education for the 21st century, one of the primary goals I set was making sure every classroom was hooked up to the Information Superhighway by the year 2000.
Today, I am proposing and will include in my budget to the Congress a $2-billion Technology Literacy Challenge that will put the future at the fingertips of every child in every classroom in the United States. Let me explain just briefly how it will work.
We'll basically do what you have done here in Union City on a national level. We will use the resources of state and local governments and school districts of the private sector, the schools, the students, the parents and the teachers. The proposal is part of the balanced budget plan, as I said I sent to Congress, and we will use these funds basically as Challenge grants to try to make sure that no school district, no matter how poor, no matter how urban or rural, will be denied the opportunity to do what your children have been able to do because of your vision and work.
I ask for all the people in this country who will support this effort to get active, to get involved. Companies like Bell Atlantic can do a great deal, but they can also use a lot more help. And, obviously, none of this will happen unless the schools and the parents support the endeavor.
So we're going to try to do our part. We want to support you. And we look forward to the day when we can have a conversation like this and every school child in America can be a part of it.
Now, I'd like to turn this over to our high-tech Vice President who has educated me -- between the Vice President and my daughter, I'm about to figure out this modern age. (Laughter.) And I want to thank them both, and introduce the Vice President and thank him for all the work he has done in this important area.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Mr. President, and to all the distinguished guests that you've already acknowledged here at Christopher Columbus and at the Bergen Academy hooked up by this video link.
You know, Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez can remember, as I do, what it felt like in the 1960s when President John Kennedy said, our nation will send someone to the moon and return him safely before the end of the decade. Once that goal was set, everybody who could play a part in reaching that goal did his or her part. And it all came together. And we watched the early launches and steady progress of the initiative. And then, as is often the case when America has leadership and a clear goal, we reached that goal. But I remember what it felt like.
Well, now, President Clinton has given our nation a goal of connecting every classroom and every library to the Information Superhighway by the end of this decade, by the end of this century. And we see here at Christopher Columbus some of the early experiments to demonstrate how it works, not just to make the connection electronically, but to the curiosity of these children. And you see a student body that was struggling now having the highest attendance and scores 10 percent above the state average, because your leaders here paid attention to the basics and then used this new capacity, the Information Superhighway, to rethink the way the classroom operates, to rethink the relationship between the teachers and the parents and the student. And the results are here to see.
President Clinton instructed his staff to make certain that this national initiative he's launching here today is modern in every respect according to reinvented principles, with flexibility to the states and local governments. It's an exciting departure. And it feels to me the same way it did when President Kennedy announced that goal of going to the moon and back. And because of the nuts and bolts details of this $2-billion Challenge initiative that the President is announcing here today, we are actually going to meet this goal.
Next month the President and I will be in California on what's called "Net Day." Twenty percent of the schools there will be hooked up to the Information Superhighway on one day. There will be other announcements, just as there were in the early years of the space program, one right after another, each taking us closer to the goal. But that goal again is not only the electronic link, it is the link to the students and their parents and the teachers. And that's what we want to hear about now.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Let me just say one other word and then we'll go back to the planned rotation. Bob Fazio said something that sparked a warm response in me and reminded me that technology is only as good as the people who are using it. And in the service of education, it's only as good as the educators who are committed to educating our children. And he introduced himself as the instructional leader of this school.
Having worked now for almost 20 years in the field of education reform and having had the opportunity as a governor to travel all across America, to go into many of our country's finest schools, it wasn't so many years ago that there were almost no principals in America who would have introduced themselves as the instructional leaders of their schools. They thought of themselves as managers, people who kept order and make sure the books balanced and did all kinds of things that were unrelated, almost, to what was going on in the classroom. And the reason this technology initiative is working here is because, from the principal to the teachers, people understand what the mission is. And I wanted to thank you.
That was a statement that people that haven't spent a lot of time in classrooms might not have even paid any attention to, but, to me, it meant more than anything else you said. And I thank you for that because it's important for all us who are trying to put this equipment at the fingertips of our educators to remember that what happens then is the magic between the teachers, the children and the parents. And I thank you for what you said.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Vice President, who is going to go next?
Q I'd like to call upon Ela Mesguer, who is a teacher, to tell us why technology is so important to us here at Columbus School. You can add the technology, but if you don't have the curriculum to go along with the technology and you don't have the support, we know that it can't work.
So, Ela Mesguer.
Q I think we have the successful formula at Christopher Columbus School, starting with a strong leader like Mr. Bob Fazio, where an open mind and the future vision is helping where we are going with curriculums that really connect and can be equally connected to the Internet and to CD ROMs and to interactive television, working with centers of science and museums.
We have the element of creativity and dedication on the part of the faculty. And our goal is our students. We want them to learn. And what is unique about our school is that our school is a school for all students, not a school for a select few. It is normal kids, multi -- (inaudible) -- from all socioeconomic backgrounds. And we have proven that with this formula of technology, creativity, dedication and allowing our students to be self-learners and self-researchers, it works. And that's what I'm most excited about. We are a school -- an urban school. I am so proud that we have you here. I am honestly nervous, and I'm not usually nervous. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You're doing great.
Q But I just want to say, hearing your plan is so exciting because it means a lot to Union City and the children here because they don't have the economic situation that other districts might have, so they can be connected at home with their own computers. So this will provide us an opportunity to continue on our quest to navigate beyond the -- (inaudible.) So I thank you so much for this opportunity.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Erika, did you want to add something to this?
Q Well, the need for technology -- (inaudible) -- you need a door to the mind. It prepares you for your future, because now colleges are urging people to be computer literate, and by starting in the grammar schools like this you're getting a further head start in high school right now. I think technology has come a long way and it's going to take us very far.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you something. Why do you think that students here are doing better now -- like on test scores and things like that -- than they would have done if there had been no technology here? What do you think the most important thing is about technology?
Q Well, I think the most important part about it is that it's, like you said before, right at your fingertips. You know that something will be there for somebody -- sometimes the information needs to get updated on the computer, it's always being updated and being changed. So I think by using computers everybody has more time to study and it's quicker and they're doing better. It has nothing to do with high class and lower class and things like that.
THE PRESIDENT: That's right. Do you think that having access to the computer makes all children believe that they're equal, that they can have equal aspirations because it's an equalizer across income, isn't it?
Q Yes, it is.
THE PRESIDENT: Is it also more fun?
THE PRESIDENT: Do you think that something to do with why people learn more, because it's more fun? (Laughter.)
Q Yes, I do.
THE PRESIDENT: That's not bad, that's okay. You can say that. (Laughter.) It doesn't have to be hard, it can be fun.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Mr. President, George Gonzalez has come here from Bergen Academy.
And what difference does it make in your work as a teacher?
Q Okay, like everybody answered before, it has been a process. It's a process that has lasted since 1982, starting in 1982. And somebody with a vision like Dr. Greco -- (phonetic) -- over there, he told us, we're going to create a high knowledge school of the future.
So that was the vision. And then he created a plan, and he said the plan is to create partnerships, number one, with corporations. We supply tools, technological tools like Bell Atlantic, Citicorp. Then, number two, the second partnership would be corporation, more businesses, more institutions that supply the context of where we're going to use that technology. Number three, educational institutions to share the resources. And number four would be the professional community in our area, to keep them up-to-date with the technological changes.
So I would say today, 1996, I think his dream became reality. And I don't think you have better opportunity than this one to congratulate Dr. Greco and thank him for the opportunity that he gave me.
Now, to answer your question how I feel as a teacher, the knowledge as a teacher, that's I think is one -- (inaudible) -- they want to be more excited and it changes every day. No one day is the same. I wake up every morning not knowing what's going to happen. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: It is like our job. (Laughter.)
Q I'm competing with maybe hundreds of thousands of developers, and they're developing something new every day, and I have to come out with the -- (inaudible.) So I gave up being a teacher about 10 years ago and said, I can't handle it anymore. So instead of being a teacher, I became a facilitator, a team mate. So we face the challenge, we're all going to work together, let's solve the problem. So for me, it has been the greatest thing that ever happened. And later on we're going to take you for a tour to the most amazing classroom that you're going to find in this country. I can guarantee you that.
And for this tour, it's created a great opportunity to, what you said, to bring to the service our best role is being able to display the work and compare with peers across the planet. So not only the classrooms here, it's everywhere on the planet. So I think that's one of the best things that ever happened to us.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Now, is Andrew one of your students?
Q We have two -- we have Kathy and Kathy, maybe you want to say some words on how we use --
Q At the Academy we stress the connection to -- and at each grade level we have a -- project. And that project usually has an -- so in 9th grade, all the students -- (inaudible) -- where we simulate corporations. We divide up into different groups and we do research and we produce a product, and we take it from the manufacturing state to finally to the advertisement and selling our product.
And after we do all that research, using now the Internet, we can think that the entire world -- because we like to present our work to each other, to our own Academy and the community. But now with the Internet we can share our work globally, and that kind of connection with other students across the world is helping us to get more information and kind of share what we've done.
Q Just to almost break the walls of our school, instead of being enclosed in the building, with the Internet we can almost go out into the community. And as Mr. Gonzales said, one of the goals of Dr. Greco was to allow institutions to come to our school and ask us for the -- content. One thing that students in our school can do is we can work with corporations, and we are presently working with corporations to solve real-life problems, giving the students a very unique experience.
Presently, a group, including myself, are working with scientists and engineers at the Smithsonian Institute to develop a biovisualization and 3-D gallery to display on the Internet. What these galleries will include are --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Did you say biovisualization and 3-D gallery?
Q Yes. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay, just checking. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Tell us what biovisualization is. For all of us mere mortals, we'd like to know what that means. (Laughter.)
Q Well, basically, what they include are specimens from the Smithsonian Archives that would be reproduced by the students in additional formats. And including all their background information, where the fossils may have been found, what the model may have been -- this information will be displayed in the Internet to be accessible throughout the world. And this allows the Smithsonian to sort of open up their whole entire archives which is more than a million specimens, instead of the minute percent that is presently on display. And all this is possible by the -- facilities in our school.
Q So that is what we -- we're going to take you for a tour. Before I make a mistake, I have to thank every one of my coworkers there for all the effort. And here is my colleague who is going to take you for a tour.
Q Thank you, Mr. Gonzalez. It's my pleasure to take you all on a virtual tour over here at the Academy. I'm standing beside students, Erika and Josh, who are currently part of the information technology class. They're creating pages that will be placed on-line on the Internet dedicated to SIC Kids, a special interest group for students interested in computer graphics and their applications.
In the back of all that, we have a 3-D laser digitizer. This machine allows us to digitize complex 3-dimensional surfaces and generate data points from them. These data points can then be imported into a CAD, or computer-aided design program, and edited and manipulated in 3-D space. The CAD model can then be imported into our stereo lithography machine where we can generate a prototype or it can print out 3-dimensional copy.
Our data can also be imported into our computer animation software that runs on our -- graphics machine. Here the student can apply materials and textures and also motion characteristics to enhance the 3-D visualization process.
Our data can also be imported into our virtual reality suite. Here our student is taking a virtual tour in a gallery in space. This is a project that was designed by another Academy student, Lester Vexy (phonetic), and it includes models, information and images to educate the user about the history of space travel.
Meredith Carr is currently analyzing a Smithsonian CAD model that was imported from our 3-D laser digitizer.
Meredith, can you explain a little bit about your project?
Q Good morning, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President. I've been working, along with Andy and some other students here, with researchers at the Smithsonian Institute. We've taken jaw fragments from monkey skulls that have never been found whole, and we're able to digitize them and bring them into programs where we can edit them and try to assemble the entire skull as it has never been seen before. Once that's done, we can take them into rendering programs and animate them so they can be visualized properly so anyone could really see it as if it were an actual model.
After that, as Andy mentioned, we can put it on the Internet, so that researchers and scientists and students all over the world have access to this information.
Q Thank you, Meredith.
We can collaborate directly with the Smithsonian Institute and other entities using our video-teleconferencing software. The benefit of this is that our students can communicate directly with other researchers and scientists around the world. Chris Greeley is hard at work providing contents on our Web Server dedicating a series of pages to environmental studies.
Chris, could you please explain a little bit about your project.
Q Good morning, everyone. Environmental studies is an interdisciplinary project that we're running here at the Academy, developed by the junior class. Basically, the purpose of this project is to allow students to gain an in-depth knowledge of the environmental issues concerning such topics as beach erosion and pollution, animal overpopulation, and the Superfund policy.
Students gain insight into their topics by going out into the local community and by talking with experts in their chosen field. Through this project we hope to be able to share everything we've learned with students everywhere all across the world.
Q Thank you, Chris.
Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, we hope this virtual tour has given you some insight as to the technological capabilities we have here at the Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology. I'm going to turn it over to you now at the Christopher Columbus School.
Q Mr. President, piggy-backing off the Bergen Academy, I'd like to show you a live demonstration -- one of our students, Danny, who is sitting at the roundtable, will show you a demonstration.
(A demonstration is given.)
THE PRESIDENT: That's great.
Q Well, as you can see, Mr. President, things have changed since you were last in the classroom, and three years ago when I walked into Christopher Columbus School, I didn't know how to turn a computer on. And I think it's important for us to talk a little bit about how technology has changed us all as professionals.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Luciano, what about from a parent's perspective? Is it true that this has enabled you to communicate with teachers about the students?
Q First of all, I want to make sure I am breathing, I want to make sure -- (laughter). It is true I want to thank you, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, and all of you from coming to Union City -- the town that I love like I love my country.
When I came in 1990 from El Salvador, we never expected, my wife and I, that our kid could have the benefits of high technology in education. (Inaudible.) It is a privilege for me to be with the President of the strongest nation around the world. I want to thank all the ones who made possible the -- Explore, especially Bell Atlantic, the Board of Education of Union City, the Mayor Mr. Menendez -- and everyone who made -- Explore possible.
With this program, we see education through -- light. We the parents, for us, the most difficult thing is how to motivate our kids to go to school. And this program is not only helping to improve education, but this program also brought the motivation and the possible change to the life -- (inaudible.)
As you continue, Mr. President, as our president into the new century as a bridge between this century into the next century, we are sure that we can count on your support to make this technology available for all the kids of our great nation. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I think there's a parent, Mr. President, from Bergen Academy, Louis Clements. Would you share your perspective as a parent on how it's changed the way the school there operates?
Q Good morning, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President.
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.
Q The Academy here has offered things to students, my son included, which I have never dreamed possible in a public high school. The technologies that they offer here are far-reaching in all disciplines. The students use computers in their daily life to perform homework tasks, to explore new avenues. the very rich technical and academic program here at the academy is unparalleled in other schools due to technology, largely due to technology, that is, and the dedication of the staff here.
The parents work very closely with the Academy. Parents organization, we have probably 75 to 80 percent regular participation with parents and faculty and administration of the school trying to help supplement their program here with another dimension, if you will, in providing outside programs. But we work very closely with the faculty and administration to, again, bring additional programs for the students.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Lou, and thank you, Mr. Calles. I want to just comment very briefly. I think if every school in America had 75 to 80 percent parental participation, we wouldn't have half the problems we've got and we'd have a lot more computers in the schools a lot faster. I thank you for that.
And I wanted to say to you, Mr. Calles, one of the things that you said that meant a great deal to me personally was that you thought it had helped at home, too -- the atmosphere of education. I mean, I gather you feel that you have a higher level of security about your child's education and you feel more involved in it because of this technology project.
Q That's right because sometimes they start their homework in the school and then finish it at home. We can share the computer. They teach us, also, because I haven't had -- computer. And now I have a computer also, and my wife also, and by brother also. So it's a change in the family.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What do you use it for?
Q Well, my wife, sometimes she types some letters on it. And sometimes I want to type something -- and communicate with -- through the e-mail. So we are in touch.
THE PRESIDENT: Do you have a lot of parents who communicate through e-mail now?
Q Yes, Mr. President. It's really forged -- it's broken down the walls, and now it gives me the opportunity to go into their home. A lot of our parents work -- single-parent families -- they don't have time to come to school during the day. Now I'm able to go into their home at nighttime and say, guess what, Jose was a problem in school today and I want it to stop. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I'd like to call on Jim Cohen, the Vice Chairman of Bell Atlantic. Bell Atlantic has been an indispensable part in this project here at Christopher Columbus in Union City. I want to thank you, but I'd like for you to talk about your role, why you did it, and what you think the future holds.
Q Thanks, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President. I'm absolutely delighted and very proud to be here representing the hundreds of Bell Atlantic people who have worked directly on this project and the thousands in our nation's capitol on up to Northern New Jersey who have worked on these technologies.
I think what we have heard so far today and what we've seen is actually the product of four or five very important elements that form a strong partnership, an enduring partnership that in the end has a singular objective -- delivering improved education to our children.
From my perspective, it does indeed begin with a vision of people like Dr. John Greco from the Bergen Academy; people like Congressman Bob Menendez with whom we worked on the state level back in 1991 and 1992 for fiber optics investment; Tom Highton, superintendent; Bob Fazio, obviously, the education leader of this building; and hundreds and thousands of others. Step one, a genuine vision.
Step two, a plan. Now this is not a plan developed by Bell Atlantic or anyone else in the private sector. It's a plan developed by the community as a product of that vision.
Three, the plan and its implementation and all the commitment, the support and the participation of the community itself, of the education community here in Union City, and of the parents that we've heard from, and many others.
Fourth, as you've seen quite clearly this morning, it also involves as an absolutely key element, the energy and enthusiasm of the students who in fact do see the walls broken down, do see connections throughout the globe, are able to communicate, are able to compare their work, are able to access not just the text and the voice examples that we've seen here so far, but ultimately will be able to access live video, digital video and will be able to converse with one another, not just by voice or data or e-mail, but in fact by video. The -- suddenly becoming reality.
And, finally, in exactly this sequence the private sector is part of the partnership. The private sector, obviously, in the case of Bell Atlantic here, and as you suggested earlier, Mr. President, has provided some of the funding. We have provided some of the traning. But I think most importantly we have provided a very committed group of Bell Atlantic people here in the local and state community who have been part of their community in a long-term commitment and partnership to the success of this particular application.
And then, obviously, we have provided the technologies to make these connections so that students can be connected to data bases, to the kinds of applications that we saw earlier. And I would emphasize from a parental point of view, as Mr. Calles suggested, we've provided connections at home. And with everything that we're doing, it seems to me that connection through a high-capacity ISDN line to individual homes allows the kind of communication.
We're not only breaking through physical walls, we're breaking through the walls of time that say education ends at 3:00 p.m. and parents are not involved. This is a very, very important connection. And, of course, we've maintained that connection for three years so that the students who were originally in 7th grade now in 9th grade have the connections, have the computers and continue this education process.
So, finally, I guess I would just point out that the obvious, that while this is a wonderful and striking example of improvement in education, it is literally just the beginning. And you have not mentioned this, but in the Communications Act that you signed last week, under the direction of Reed Hunt and the FCC there is a very promising new initiative to provide these kinds of services to achieve the objective that you outlined, provide services to education institutions and to libraries, and in the final analysis creating, I think, wonderful successes in education and the bottom line, as someone pointed out earlier, allowing students to learn, teachers to coach and facilitate, principals to be the education leaders, and allowing students to actually have fun learning.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: I just wanted to add a point here, because the President insisted that that language be added to the bill and be a part of the final bill, or else he would veto it.
THE PRESIDENT: Explain to everybody what is in it, though, so that --
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: The telecommunications bill, as Mr. Cullen just described, will complete the Information Superhighway much sooner than anyone thought was possible. And the President insisted on a provision in that legislation that allows for discounts to schools and libraries to connect to the Information Superhighway, and allows for rate-based designs that make it possible to connect schools very cheaply.
Now, this is really a one-two punch by the President. The first punch -- well, the goal -- outlining the goal was the main thing. But the first punch was getting the telecommunications bill enacted and signed into law after a long, long struggle. The second punch is here today. These Challenge grants make it possible, with $2 billion from the federal government already in the budget, to build the kind of public-private partnerships that Bell Atlantic has entered into with local government and others -- the school district here in New Jersey -- and to take this model that's produced this spectacular result here, the Bergen Academy, and take it nationwide.
Now, Jim, don't you think that your counterparts in the communications industry, and Bell Atlantic, itself, are going to be interested in rushing to form these partnerships, to get these schools connected one by one?
Q Absolutely. I think it's fair to say that we have been doing a great deal of that. I'm a New Jerseyan and former president here in New Jersey, and I can assure that we've done a lot of that here in New Jersey. But getting that into the communications law that was signed is a great additional stimulus.
And in addition to everything that you've mentioned, Mr. Vice President, it also brings more private participants in, because in order to create rates that are attractive for schools and libraries, it gets funding from all telecommunications providers in this marketplace. So with everyone in, and relatively small funding from each, this is a tremendous stimulus to achieving the objectives.
THE PRESIDENT: Jim, I want to hear from Congressman Menendez and Senator Lautenberg and the Mayor and Secretary Riley about their perspectives on this and their involvement with it, because they all have been involved. But just before I do, I'd like to ask you to just touch once more on something that has come up several times today that comes up in other places where I've been.
I was in Concord, New Hampshire, several days ago, two days after they connected all the schools in their community -- and that is the challenge of making sure that children have access and their parents have access, to computers and to being hooked in when they're at home. How important do you think that is? Could you say again very briefly what steps you took to do that, just to emphasize that for the people that are listening here because this is one thing that's going to require an extra amount of effort in several places in the United States to get this done. And so if you could just -- and maybe, Bob, you might want to comment a little bit -- but if you could just talk briefly about it and then we'll go to our public officials.
Q In a few words, Mr. President, the vision of the Information Superhighway is much broader and much bigger than what we see here today, but it is suggested by the involvement and the connection of parents. And the vision of the Information Superhighway is to do all of the things that we've just talked about -- targeting the schools, K to 12; targeting the libraries -- and, in addition, provide a reasonable set of long-term ground rules and incentives for companies like Bell Atlantic and others in the communications industry to invest in this country, in our networks, in fiber, in software platforms; and deliver it not only to the schools, as we're seeing today, but most importantly, as you're suggesting, deliver it very rapidly to homes, to small businesses.
Large businesses have this capability today. Obviously, we need it to homes, we need it to businesses, as well and, I would just point out, the benefits extend well beyond education. The benefits extend to health care services and many other things, as well. So that this, in the final analysis, will be bigger than we're suggesting here; will involve parents and will, in effect, leave people literally on-line for voice data and video 24 hours a day.
Mr. Fazio may have problems from midnight to 6:00 a.m. with some of that, but it is technically possible. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: But it's important to hammer that home. I mean, the ultimate vision of this is that the reach of the Information Superhighway will equal the reach of telephones and television here. It will be in every house.
Q Mr. President, our good Mayor Walter is in the process right now of giving us the public library next door to where you'll be visiting in a few minutes. In our vision here, to piggy-back off and replicate this school throughout our district, is to take that public library and give it accessibility to parents. We need to get computers in that library, keep it open until midnight, get these children off the street, working on-line, having a safe haven, a place where they can go and work in a safe environment. And that's our goal and we're in the process right now of putting that plan together.
THE PRESIDENT: Congressman and Senator and Mayor?
CONGRESSMAN MENENDEZ: Well, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, we welcome you here not only today, but we welcome your challenge and your vision for the next millennium. And that's what this discussion is all about. And we've only seen the tip of the iceberg of what is possible. The possibilities are only limited by our imagination.
And so the vision that you present for us today, and that the Vice President has worked so ably with you, is a vision understanding that we can make our students today be competitive in the global economy of tomorrow. The new millennium sounds so far away, but we are four short years away from it. And the fact of the matter is, is that a vision unmatched by action remains only a dream. Today we've seen some of the possibility. And here in New Jersey, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, at the Christopher Columbus School, at the Bergen Academy, we're not only willing to take a ride with you on the Superhighway, we're already on the way and we're willing to work with you to make sure that the rest of the country joins us.
THE PRESIDENT: Great. Senator?
SENATOR LAUTENBERG: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, obviously, you've enforced your view of what America ought to look like in terms of education over many, many occasions. And your being here today confirms that belief that we ought to continue to expand our -- for our young people now.
I come out of the computer business. Few in New Jersey realize that in the United States Senate we have two Hall of Famers: Bill Bradley, of course, is well known; but I'm a member of the information processing hall of fame -- (laughter.) Mr. President, I don't have a lot of young people chasing me for autographs, but maybe some day.
But what I saw in my first days in the United States Senate -- this was 1983 -- persuaded me to write a bill called the Computer Education Bill, that assured that every classroom would have screens and computers available for the student. Now, we're talking about something way beyond that, as this point. But I went to a school in Newark, New Jersey, where there was a terrible deficiency between the number of students and computer availability. And I saw one youngster who was a difficult behavioral problem in class, and this boy became engaged with the computer, able to move at his own pace, not feel left out because he was behind, able to accelerate past some of the other students in his particular specialty. And they said it changed his whole mode of being.
And it told me something, that the young people that we have today in America are as fine a group as this country has ever seen. They think, they're alert, they're way ahead of their counterparts at a period of time that I remember. The fact of the matter is, given the tools, the computer availability, the expanse of information will propel these young people into leadership roles, Mr. President. I can feel them almost breathing down my back for my job -- (laughter) -- I assume Congressman Menendez may even feel it there. But we have so much talent and so much ability.
Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, I want to thank both of you for your initiatives, for you vision about what America can be as we approach the next century. This Challenge grant tells it all in my view, because you've talked about Goals 2000 and other programs that enhance the educational opportunity in America, and that's where we're going to win out. It's more powerful than oil or mineral resources. It's the minds of our young people, and if we can continue as we have to provide the stimulation nutrition to develop those minds, Mr. President, you're going to be remembered for many things, but this will be among your crowning achievements. And thank you for being here.
THE PRESIDENT: Mayor, I'd like to let you speak last, so let me interject here and call on Secretary Riley out there in cyberspace to ask if he has any comments.
SECRETARY RILEY: Thank you, Mr. President. Let me say just a word about the role of government. I think government clearly has an important role in what we're talking about. One is a role of leadership, and then a role of support, and then a role of getting out of the way. I think it's so important for government to challenge this country as you're doing Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, just by this conference and other things, to share the vision that if we're going to have real education in the future it's going to have to involve technology, literacy and then some.
The other thing in terms of support, I think it's so important for government to play a role in pulling partners together. Other levels of government, private industry, as you discussed there, all of the other factors of the community with education, pulling those factors together and then providing what support we can. And then, as I say, getting out of the way. I'm pleased that all of the programs that have been started under your administration -- Goals 2000, School-To-Work, all of the reauthorizations of Title I, Safe and Drug Free Schools, challenge grants, whatever -- all of them have plenty of room for local people to use those funds for technology. I think that's very important.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. And thank you for your leadership to make sure that's exactly what we did.
MAYOR WALTER: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, welcome to Union City. I want to thank you for the initiative of talking about government getting involved in our Informational Highway. We in Union City a long time ago decided that a large corporation that needs to be tapped is local government. Local government has a major role in working with school boards. And you who travel our country need to remind every mayor that it is their job and their obligation to work along with the heads of the school board, like I did with Dave Anton, our president of our school board -- working together to meet the challenges to help get it going, and then pull away, because sometimes we in government find reasons why things don't work and don't spend as much time making it work.
Mr. Fazio just recently spoke about an initiative we hope to get going with our libraries. We talked about it with the president of the school board. We envision changing our libraries to a different concept, a concept open on a regular basis, as we've done with our schools, and letting everything from our youngest of children to our senior citizens to come and to enjoy that highway.
And how about the job creativity of having some of our students who obviously talk about teaching their parents, help teach our senior citizens and help other residents -- help me learn about what's out there on the computer? So I think if we start to work with our libraries and local government and see them as areas where we can bring in all of our people and tie everyone in -- and remember, we learn an awful lot from our children. And I thank you and the Vice President for caring about our children.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Mr. Vice President?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's an exciting demonstration that we've had here today, and it's a sign of things to come in the near-term future. And as the President said, not too long from now every school, every classroom, every library will be hooked up to the Information Superhighway. And then, not too long after that, every home will be.
We've been dedicated to a principle called "universal service" since the beginning of the telephone era. And almost all homes have telephone service. But that definition of universal service has changed over the years from a party line to a single line. And it's about to change again. Universal service in the future has to mean a connection that will make it possible to send pictures like the ones we've been seeing from Bergen Academy, and e-mail and the communication that makes possible parent-teacher conferences over the computer connection line.
The President made possible the legislation, signed it, that is going to lead this vision into reality. And today, with these challenge grants, he's facilitating the formation of these public-private partnerships in every state and in every community to hasten the day when every school can have the kind of exciting additions to their curriculum that we've seen from these students here at Christopher Columbus and Bergen Academy.
So, for my part, I just want to thank everybody for showing us firsthand the future.
Q Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, our friends from Bergen Academy would like for you to come join us in our auditorium across the street to continue on with this wonderful conversation.
THE PRESIDENT: We will do that. But before we get up from this table I want to leave you with one final thought to muse about, and I hope not only all of you, but all the people who will read or see about this -- as President, I have said repeatedly, I believe -- when it comes to the American people I have to great objectives, and that is to do everything that we can do to make the American Dream available to every person who is willing to work for it; and secondly, to do it in a way that brings the American people together instead of divide them.
Technology has been a big part of this debate. Technology clearly here is uniting us and moving us forward. Erika said it -- it doesn't matter where you come from, doesn't matter who your family is -- and Luciano said it -- you can be an immigrant family, you can bring a computer there, you can have access to the information. People, all people can have high expectations for themselves, no matter what their income background, no matter what their roots are, they can do that. This is bringing us together and moving us forward.
If you look beyond the schooling years, there are lot of people who are afraid that technology is doing the reverse. In our economy, where we have global information and global markets and breath-taking changes in productivity, you read every day -- and I have talked about it in my State of the Union address -- we have almost eight million new jobs, but half the country hasn't gotten a raise and a lot of people are wondering what will happen to them if their big company becomes a smaller company because of information productivity.
What I want the American people to see about this is that when we complete the work of bringing the Information Superhighway to all education and to all of our people. It will empower everybody and it will close the circle and it will enable us to use these great new forces of the modern world to bring all of America together and to move all of America forward.
You can't turn around and go back. This will carry us forward. And I think it's a very, very great thing for our country. And some day, when Erika is about our age thinking about her children and her grandchildren, we will look upon what you are doing as the beginning of great new era of American society that goes even far beyond education and proves that we can make this technology our friend and reinforce the American Dream and give everybody a chance to live up to their own dreams.
And you are real pioneers, and I'm very grateful to you. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)
END 11:45 A.M. EST
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore