REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE QUAD CITIES COMMUNITY
Central High School
6:27 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello. (Applause.) I think we should give Barb Hessanother hand. She did a good job on her speech. (Applause.) And yourprincipal, Mr. Caudle, give him another hand. (Applause.) And your greatGovernor, Governor Tom Vilsack, I'm glad to be here with him. Thank you.(Applause.) I also want to thank the Jazz Band and the Marching Band forplaying. You did a great job today. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
I am glad to be here. I want to say I appreciated meeting at leasttwo of your student leaders, Kelly Witt and Ricky Harris -- thank them for-- (applause.) And I want to thank Lt. Governor Sally Pederson, AttorneyGeneral Tom Miller, Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge, and the Directorof Education Ted Stillwell for joining us today. And, Mayor Arrington,thank you for welcoming us back to Davenport. And the other Quad Citymayors are here -- Mayor Leach, Moline Mayor; Mayor Ward of East Moline;and Mayor Mark Schwiebert, Mayor of Rock Island. I think I pronounced thatproperly, and if I didn't he can reprimand me later. (Laughter.)
I'd like to thank your Superintendent, Jim Blanche, for making uswelcome here. And since we're here for construction purposes, to talkabout better school buildings, I'm glad to be joined by the president ofthe building and construction trade union, Mr. Ed Sullivan. So thank youall for making me feel welcome. (Applause.)
I love this community. I came here in late 1992 on a bus with Hillaryand with Al and Tipper Gore right before our election. Then I came back in1993 after the terrible flood, and I watched you come back from that. Andtoday I want to talk about another kind of building.
I'm in the process of going around the country for two days -- we justleft Owensboro, Kentucky. And I want to do two things. I want, first ofall, to make this trip an opportunity to show America how good the youngpeople of our country are, and how much they are learning in our schools.(Applause.) But the second thing I want to do is to point out whatchallenges are still out there if every young person in America is going tohave a world-class education.
And one of the things that we know is that you are not the only groupof young people in school facilities that are either over-crowded, or tooold, or both. And if we want learning to occur, we have got to give all ofour students the facilities they need.
Now, this is a beautiful old school. It's even older than the highschool I went to, which was built in 1917. I've been to the top floor;I've seen the physics lab; I went into a biology class; I went underneaththe bleachers here, in the locker room. I saw where you have your meals inthe cafeteria, which was built in the '85 extension. And I have been givena briefing by your principal on how you're going to handle themodernization.
But what you need to know is there are people all over this countrywho are in situations even more severe. In the city of Philadelphia, theaverage school building is 65 years old. In the city of New York there arestill buildings heated in the winter with coal-fired furnaces, where peopleliterally shovel coal into them like they did a hundred years ago.
We have school buildings so old they can't be hooked up, they cannotbe wired to the Internet. The Vice President and I have worked for sixyears to connect every classroom in America to the Internet. When westarted, 16 percent of the schools were connected and 3 percent of theclassrooms. Today, 95 percent of the schools and almost 75 percent of theclassrooms are connected. (Applause.)
But believe it or not, there are some which literally can't take aconnection. And I saw some of your classrooms here today that have severelimits on what can be done in terms of electricity provision.
So what's all this got to do with what we're doing now? Well, when Ibecame President, we could never have thought of doing anything for schoolconstruction or school modernization or repairs because we had a bigdeficit. Today, we're in the midst of our third budget surplus. By theend of this year we will have paid off $355 billion of our national debt.(Applause.) And I'm proud of that.
We are in the midst of the longest economic expansion in history. Andthe big question before the voters this year, and all the adult citizens ofAmerica that you young people can have an impact on -- and some of you areold enough to vote now -- is what are we going to do with ourprosperity. So we've got the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, and thelowest welfare rolls in 30 years, and the lowest female unemployment in 40years, and the lowest African American and Hispanic unemployment everrecorded -- (applause) -- so what are we going to do with it?
A lot of times, in free societies, when times are good, people donothing. They just sort of hang around and enjoy it. that would be aterrible mistake, because we still have challenges. And one of thechallenges we have -- and everyone of you know it's true -- education ismore important than ever before. It's more important to you, and it's moreimportant to your country.
We live in an information economy where what you know and what you canlearn will determine in large measure the shape of your adult lives and thekind of lives you'll be able to give your own children. So one of thethings that we have to do with our prosperity is to ask ourselves -- let'stake an inventory -- where are we not giving our young people a world-classeducation? Why are we not doing it? And what are we to do about it?
Because if we can't do this now -- if we can't make uniformexcellence in education a reality in America now, at this time of historicprosperity -- we will never get around to it. So we have to do it now.
One of the things that we ought to do is to make sure that we can putall our kids in facilities that are modern enough that they can be hookedup to the Internet, that people can learn, that we can do what we need todo here -- not just the science classes, not just the labs, but all theclasses. (Applause.)
Let me just give you an example. I just talked to Senator Harkinabout this before I came in, because he got some money for Iowa to do this-- the first federal money ever to help in school construction he got onthe basis of a pilot project for Iowa. And now you heard the Governor saythe state's putting money in. But four years ago, when we started to talkabout this, the government said it would take $112 billion to modernizeschools for all of our kids. Today, they say it will take $322 billion.
The engineers of our country, the people charged with building things,a couple of years ago evaluated all of what we call America'sinfrastructure -- our roads, our bridges, our railroads, our ports, ourairports, our water systems. You know what? They said the worst system inthe world that we had, the worst one in our country, was our schoolbuildings -- that they are too old and not ready to meet the challenges ofthe 21st century.
I have been to schools, elementary schools, in Florida -- I went to alittle town, in Jupiter, Florida, and went to one elementary school. Therewere 12 house trailers out behind the school, because the kids were sonumerous, the school district had grown so much, that they couldn't go inthere. Even in this school, where you've got a lot of rooms, you have alot more students here than the school Washington built for. And it's oneof the things the teachers talked to me about today.
So, why am I here? Because I hope that America will see this problemand this opportunity through you and your school, thanks to our friends inthe media. And because I have given the Congress now for one more year, myproposal, which basically would say one of the things we ought to do withour prosperity is to help build or massively overhaul 6,000 schools, and weought to give the states enough money to repair another 5,00 schools everysingle year for the next five years. The students of this country andtheir families deserve it. (Applause.)
Back in 1907, this high school was called -- I quote --"a high schoolfor the future." Back then the population of Davenport was 39,000, about athird of what it is today, and Central High had half the number of studentsit does now. It was a high school for the future. You have some newrenovations planned over the next two years, which I hope will make it ahigh school for the future again. But I want every single school inAmerica to be a school of the future. You need it, you deserve it. And ifthe Congress will pass my proposal, we will help you get it.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 6:38 P.M. CDT
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
T H E W H I T E H O U S E