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Remarks by the President and Vice President at Starbright Foundation Event

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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 30, 1997


Children's Hospital National Medical Center
Washington, D.C.

2:37 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: now, as you can hear, I'm a little hoarse, but I do want to say that was brilliant. (Laughter.) If you can shift the heat like that, you should go to Congress. (Applause.) I want to thank Ricky and Mikey and Lauren and Vanessa, thank my good friend, Steven Spielberg. Thank you, General Schwarzkopf, for your outstanding leadership. You've got a very important battle here on your hands, and I'm sure you're going to win it.

I'd also like to thank Congressman Lou Stokes and Congresswoman Pat Danner for being here. I thought I'd take and make a little fun of the Congress so they'll go back and tell it, and I'll be in trouble again this afternoon. (Laughter.) I'd like to thank Ned Zeckman and all the people from the Children's National Medical Center here.

As you can hear, I'm a little hoarse. The Chinese State Visit and the change in the weather have taken a little of my voice away, so I've asked the Vice President to come with me and give the speech. And I'm going to introduce him in a minute. but let me just say I cannot tell you how important I think what Starbright is doing, is. General Schwarzkopf and Steven Spielberg have already talked about it.

What we're trying to do in the government is to hook up every classroom and library to the Internet by year 2000. But we also want to make sure all the children's hospitals are there. These children deserve them And we need for them to be a part of this emerging network of learning and playing and growing. And, as the General said, it looks like it's a healthy thing to do as well. So we're glad to be here. Mostly we're here just to say thank you to the foundation -- to all of you, and to say we want to do our part.

I think it's appropriate that the Vice President is here to speak instead of me because he was talking about the Information Superhighway before I had even gotten a electric typewriter.

The Vice President. (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you very much, Mr. President. I was also admiring Ricky's introduction because, as some of you know, I get a chance to introduce the President probably more times than any other living human being -- (laughter) -- and I've never done a better job than you did just now, Ricky. So good job. Give me a high five. Okay. (Applause.)

I want to acknowledge -- the President acknowledged Congressman Lou Stokes, one of our great leaders on the Appropriations Committee, and also Congresswoman Pat Danner. I want

to also acknowledge Congresswoman Kay Granger who has arrived, and also Secretary Donna Shalala is here, who leads our administration's efforts in the Cabinet on health care. And there are plenty of other distinguished guests and we want to acknowledge all of you as a group.

But up here, in addition to General Schwarzkopf and Steven Spielberg, we have Ricky Adams, who just made that wonderful introduction, and Mikey Butler and Vanessa Gonzalez and Lauren Alexanderson, and out in the audience, Ned Zeckman, who is CEO of Children's National Medical Center. And my wife, Tipper and I are among the tens of thousands of families who have been able to experience the commitment here at this institution firsthand many years ago, when one of our daughters had some treatment out here. And families all across the United States of America who go to Children's Hospitals have the same experience that families have here. And so, God bless you to the staff and doctors and support staff and everyone here for what you do on a regular basis. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)

This is really such an exciting announcement today. And General Schwarzkopf and Steven Spielberg make up a pretty powerful team, you know, and they can do just about anything. And this announcement today illustrates it. And it's so needed, because as Ricky and these other kids here remind us, we're living in a new age of information that is completely and forever changing the way we work and the way we live our lives.

Today, a young girl in Anchorage, Alaska can visit the Library of Congress. A young boy in Mobile, Alabama can visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. And both children can talk with one another about what they're learning. That's pretty exciting.

Every day, tens of millions of Americans log on to the Internet. In fact, I just came from a school in Camden County, New Jersey, that is connecting every single classroom to the Internet this year, and they're excited about it. There are thousands of new Web sites put up every single day for them to visit -- including, incidentally, the White House Web site. We want to invite you to be among the 45 million visitors to the White House Web site this year, and every day technology speeds ahead rapidly, promising even greater benefits for all of our people.

A lot of people have observed this revolutionary new change and have tried to compare it to what happened in our country when the industrial revolution hit in the last century. There were all kind of things then that people thought would be good to do, and when they recognized the new tools that were available in the Industrial Revolution, smart people started coming up with great new ideas to do them and to accomplish things that were impossible before. And were seeing that here at the dawn of the Information Age, as well.

And often, some of the most exciting advances come because people like Steven Spielberg and General Schwarzkopf care. And their hearts are touched, and they want to see something done that will really bring joy to children or alleviate suffering or make it possible for families to enjoy life better.

It reminds me a little bit of how the telegraph was invented at the dawn of the Information Age. Samuel Morse was a portrait painter and was painting a president in the White House. President Clinton sometimes points out the portrait that's still hanging in the White House that he did there. And he was working in Washington, D.C. more than 100 miles from his home. And his wife died while he was at work, and he did not get the news until many days after the fact because news traveled slowly by foot and by horseback. And he was so overcome with grief at the experience that he began to think to himself, how in the world could we prevent others from experiencing that same grief and pain. And out of that desire to alleviate suffering on the part of others, he invented the telegraph. That's how the idea came to being.

Well, then Steven and General Schwarzkopf started thinking to themselves: How can these children who seem to get some respite from the pain when they're excited on a movie set or when they're absorbed in something that's really fun and challenging to them, how can we use that miraculous healing power to help thousands if not hundreds of thousands, if not millions of other children, even as they are in the hospital, getting the lifesaving treatment that they need. And so out of that heartfelt desire, pushing the limits of creativity, they came up with this Starbright idea. I think it's just a fantastic new innovation.

Now, some years ago, President Clinton and I challenged the country to connect every classroom, every library and every hospital. And the President went before the nation in his State of the Union address and said, we have the technology, it's possible to do this, let's do it by the year 2000.

Well, we've made great progress on the schools and classrooms. We've also made great progress on libraries. And, incidentally, we convinced the Federal Communications Commission to pass a special e-rate so that schools will be able to afford the Internet connections year-in and year-out. And that's a great advance. (Applause.)

You know, the amount of money involved there is quite extraordinary -- $2.5 billion per year will make these connections for the poorest schools virtually free, and on a sliding scale will greatly subsidize the connection for all schools in the country. And also, libraries will benefit from this as well.

And the FCC rule included about $400 million a year for rural health care providers -- hospitals and clinics -- to cover the monthly Internet charges and wiring costs. And we organized volunteers and public-private teams of people to go out and actually pull the cables through the ceilings and walls and make the connections in the poorest inner-city neighborhoods and distressed rural areas, and all over the country that's going on.

But what about the hospitals? What about the children's hospitals in particular? Well, the President repeated his challenge less than a year ago by specifically focusing on a challenge to the private sector to connect every children's hospital in America to the Internet so that a sick child need never be a child alone. And out of all of the wonderful things we can use the Internet to do, none is more important than helping to ensure our children's health and well-being.

We already know how important Children's Hospitals are to our families. And with this effort, they will be able to do even more for our children. By connecting the largest 100 Children's Hospitals to the Internet, Starbright will help thousands of children keep their spirits up and keep their dreams alive. And Starbright is helping to lay the foundation for a new era of telemedicine. Just as Samuel Morse's initial motivation paved the way for the electronic age, in the same way the initial motivation to connect these children to exciting games and a ways to use their minds in the hospital rooms and the ability to talk to each other -- one of them wrote about having a hilarious conversation about losing her hair -- who was that? The two of you? You were talking with each other in different cities? And you were being treated for the same condition, correct, and going through the same therapy. Well, you know, most people would think it's not very funny to lose your hair. What were you guys laughing about? (Laughter.)

They're laughing again. (Laughter.) It's evidently something that they shared with each other. Don't get the giggles up here on stage with the President right next to you now. (Laughter.)

Well, anyway, I think you get the point. And you know, some of the exciting new medical discoveries that are coming out actually show the very tangible scientific link between feeling great about yourself, being able to laugh, having fun and mobilizing the emotional, physical and spiritual healing power that God has given us human beings. And so, this makes this healing power more accessible to children who, in the past, might have been isolated and kept away from even their families on a regular basis. And so it's really so exciting.

Now, here's my point. Starting with this powerful connection right here, the pathways that are opened up will allow doctors to share data instantly about their patients with specialists around the country and around the world who might have a new idea about the medical therapy. Also, our children's medical records can be handled much more carefully and travel to a hospital away from home just a keystroke.

Well, the Starbright Foundation then reflects the very best in our country. And it also reflects the commitment that thousands of Americans made at the President's summit on service in Philadelphia six months ago, that we must marshal the resources of every sector of society to help our children.

So, on behalf of the President and the whole country, I would like to formally thank General Norman Schwarzkopf, Steven Spielberg, the Starbright Foundation and your partners at Intel and Sprint for leading the way on this important and crucial initiative. We're now looking forward to seeing how Starbright actually works. But to those who have created it, God bless you and thank you from the bottom of our hearts . (Applause.)

Q We would like to ask you some questions. (Laughter.)


Q What kind of food do you like to eat?

THE PRESIDENT: What kind of food?

Q Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: I like fruit. (Laughter.) I like granola. (Laughter.) I like chicken. (Laughter.) And I like all kinds of vegetables. And it would be easier for me to tell you what kind of food I don't like to eat. (Laughter.) It would be a shorter list. (Laughter.) Peaches are my favorite thing.

Q Mr. President, as you were younger, were your dreams ever to be a President, always?

THE PRESIDENT: No, not always. First, I wanted to be musician, then I wanted to be a doctor, then I actually wanted to be a journalist once. (Laughter.) But I was always interested in politics when I was younger, and I thought I might like to go into it. And I was very fortunate, so I got to be President. But I thought about it, but it wasn't like my lifetime ambition from the time I was 10 years old.

Q Did you always want to be Vice President? (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. (Applause.) You know, to children all around this country -- I've always wanted to be Vice President. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: It's not a bad job. (Laughter.)

GENERAL SCHWARZKOPF: We're really getting into some very dangerous ground here, so I think we better -- (laughter) -- better terminate this thing. Let me just say --

Q Mr. President --

GENERAL SCHWARZKOPF: -- you've just seen the power of Starbright --

Q Mr. President -- (laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: We always have trouble ending press conferences. (Laughter.)


GENERAL SCHWARZKOPF: But you've just seen the power of this system --

Q What's your favorite sport to watch or play?

GENERAL SCHWARZKOPF: We'll take one more from Fort Worth.

THE PRESIDENT: What's my favorite sport?

Q Okay, what's your favorite sport you like to watch or play?

THE PRESIDENT: My favorite sport to watch is probably basketball. My favorite sport to play is golf. I'm too slow to play basketball very well. (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: What's your favorite sport?

Q Basketball.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thanks for talking with us today. (Applause.)

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