Remarks by the President in Webcast with Students from Lake Valley School

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


Navajo Nation

7:09 P.M. MDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. That was interesting. You did a good job,and I think your Navajo is better than mine. (Laughter.)

Q Do you like working with the Internet?

THE PRESIDENT: I do. I especially like it when I don't have tothink, I can just talk to you. (Laughter.) I don't even have to click themouse. I've got it on you, though, right on your hand and microphone. Soask me a nice question. (Laughter.)

Q Mr. President, our police department is not connected to theInternet.

THE PRESIDENT: Your police department?

Q Yes. They do not have 911 services. People die because policeget their information late. If they had Internet, they could communicatewith other police departments better.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we are trying to get Internet service throughoutthe Navajo Nation and, indeed, throughout all of Indian country. And Iwill -- when I go back, I'm going to see whether we can do anything toaccelerate Internet access, especially for police departments. But I thinkwe ought to have it in as many homes as possible, as well. So we have toget telephone service out to everybody. And then we need to get theInternet connections.

But the law enforcement issue is a separate issue. And I will do whatI can to speed it up.

Q Mr. President, we are very thankful for getting the Internet atour school.

THE PRESIDENT: Could you ask the question again? I didn't hear you.

Q Mr. President, we are very thankful for getting the Internet atLake Valley School. How could you make sure the students keep the Internetfor future use?

THE PRESIDENT: Future use? You mean after you leave school?

Q For more than just a year.

THE PRESIDENT: Is that what you mean?

Q Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: I think the most important thing is to make sure thatall the students who have Internet access now will be able to go on tocollege, if they wish to go on, when they finish school, and will also beable to have access to the Internet in their homes. I think making surethat we have universal telephone service and that people's homes will beable to be connected is the most important thing. The cost of thecomputers will continue to go down, and the technology will become less andless expensive if the infrastructure is there. So I think that, to me, isthe most important thing that we can do in the government. And there are alot of companies that are helping us try to make sure that you will be ableto have access to the Internet.

The other thing I think we ought to do is to make sure that everycommunity which needs it has a community center where adults, people of allages can come in and log on and use the Internet for whatever they need.And we're trying to set up another thousand community computer centersaround the country right now.

Q Okay. Thank you. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I wish you were in the press corps. They never let meget off that light. (Applause.) That's great. You heard what she said --it was okay. (Laughter.)

Q Mr. President, what is it about the Navajo Nation that interestsyou?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, many things. I'm interested in the history. I'minterested in the culture. I'm very interested in the creative arts. AndI'm interested in the commitment I see from your leaders and your citizensand your young people to education and to using all this modern technologyto try to give Navajo people, especially Navajo young people, the chance tofulfill their abilities and live out their dreams without having to give uptheir culture, their language, their heritage.

It's very impressive to me and I'm very interested in it. I hope thatI'm able to help you. I'm certainly going to try.

Q Okay. Thank you. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you a question. What do you think the mostimportant thing about access to the Internet is for young people? Why doyou care whether you can use this technology or not?

Q To communicate and get more information, research projects.

THE PRESIDENT: How many of the students who are there -- not just youtwo, but all the others who are in the room with you -- raise your hand ifyou want to go to college. (Applause.) That's good.

One of the most important things about the Internet is it enables usto bring information that's available anywhere in the world to people, nomatter remote where they live is. So, to me, one of the best things aboutthis is the possibility it offers to give you a world-class education.

If you could change anything about your education and could get anyimprovement you wanted, what would you do? What change would you make, ifyou could do better?

Q Better schools, more equipment.

THE PRESIDENT: Answer again, I didn't hear you.

Q Better schools and more equipment.

THE PRESIDENT: More equipment and better schools. Anybody else wantto answer that question?

I'm sorry, I couldn't hear. Say it one moretime.

Q -- Internet access to all schools?

THE PRESIDENT: Internet access to all schools, that's good. Rightnow, over 90 percent of America's schools have Internet access. And whatwe're trying to do is to make sure that 100 percent do, including all theNative American schools in the country. And we have gotten the cost ofInternet access down low enough so that everyone can afford it now. So allschools should be able to get access within a year or so, we should bealmost to 100 percent of the schools.

Would any of you like to ask a question? Yes.

Q How old are you? (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I am very old. (Laughter.) I'm 53. How old are you?

Q Seven.

THE PRESIDENT: I wish I could trade places with you. (Laughter.)It's going to be a very exciting life for you.

Any other questions? Yes?

Q What is your favorite childhood memory?

THE PRESIDENT: My favorite childhood memory? That's hard, I have alot of good childhood memories. I think going back to the little townwhere I was born and talking to all my older relatives, listening to themtell me stories of my family's life, the way they used to live; talk to meabout things in my past. I loved that. But I have lots of good memories.I had a wonderful childhood.

Q -- what inspired you to --

THE PRESIDENT: I think, first of all, I wanted to come to the NavajoNation and I wanted to come someplace that was a long way away from thecity, because I wanted to make the point that the Internet can bring us allclose together, no matter we live, anywhere in the world, and can makeavailable information. You've got those encyclopedias back there -- youcan now get all the encyclopedias, or at least I know one or two of themajor ones are completely on the Internet.

And so I wanted to come to a place in America where I knew there was acommitment to education, and here this school manifested that -- where Iknew that the tribal leaders were committed to giving modern opportunitiesto the children, and that was a long way away. I also always wanted to seeShiprock. (Laughter.) I wanted to see the big rock. But I got to -- Itook the helicopters that we came in today very, very close in. You can'timagine how wonderful it is to see it from the helicopter. So it was alittle indulgence on my part.

Q Why are computers important to the Navajo Nation?

THE PRESIDENT: Computers are important to the Navajo Nation becausethey will guarantee that children who go to schools that don't have a lotof money and, therefore, can't buy a lot of things that other schools canbuy, that live where they live in big cities or suburbs -- whatever theycan buy in terms of information can be given to you directly throughcomputers. So that for the first time in history, a child in a district --no matter how far away it is, no matter how rural it is, no matter howsmall it is -- can have access to the same kind of information anyone can.

Computers are important to the Navajo Nation because they can connectpeople who give you health care to very sophisticated medical centers. Andif someone here gets a strange, rare disease, you can figure out what to doabout it through the medical connections. Computers are important, as youheard from this question here, because if the law enforcement agencies areconnected to computers, if someone has an emergency they might have enabledyou to save lives that otherwise couldn't be saved.

Computers are important because they can enable people in the NavajoNation to start jobs and create businesses and earn incomes in a way thatwouldn't be possible. For example, look at all this lovely jewelry ourheroine here has on. Now, if you could go to a local travel store -- maybeI could do it while I'm here -- and buy some of these, with the computeryou can sell this jewelry without leaving here. You could stay right here,you could sell this beautiful jewelry in any city in America and in anyforeign country in the world that is also on the Internet.So that instead of having -- instead of being dependent on the customersthat happen to drive by your store -- which if you're up here may not bemany -- you can put, you can get on the Internet, you can make sure peopleknow about your website, you can make sure people can get pictures of allthese, they can see it. Then anybody anywhere in America or anywhere elsein the world that's on the Internet can be your customer.

Computers are important because they can give you pen-pals anyplace inthe world. You can write letters and have e-mail back and forth to peoplein Africa or Australia or South America. You could talk to native peoplesin Australia and find out how their experience is different from nativepeoples in the United States. It could change everything. Basically,they're important because they open the world of information to you in away nothing else ever has.

Do you have another question?

Q What's your favorite WNBA team? (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Rebecca's team. Did you meet Rebecca? Whenever sheplays, I cheer. (Laughter.) Actually, what I'm supposed to say is that Icheer for the hometown team, because we have a team in Washington.

Now, you ask a question and then we'll go back --

Q When is your birthday?

THE PRESIDENT: My birthday, is that what you said? My birthday isAugust 19th. So this August I'll be 54, and I'll be really old.(Laughter.)

Okay, do you have a question there, back in Lake Valley?

Q Yes, I do. Good afternoon, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon.

Q I'm a student at CIT, which is the Crownpoint Institute ofTechnology

, and I major in accounting. I wanted to ask you a questionabout the new administration that is going to be coming in. What are youdoing --

THE PRESIDENT: You ought to be asking -- go ahead.

Q Okay. What are you doing -- the new administration -- and how isthis going to affect the education of Indians here in the United States?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first, we have supported very strongly a tribalsovereignty relationship that would honor the principle of tribalsovereignty, increase the U.S. government's investment in education andhealth care, but would basically be committed to empowering tribal leadersand Native American people all over our country to lift themselves up, andtheir families, through economic and educational initiatives. And ofcourse, if Vice President Gore is the next President, I think he willcontinue that policy.

But let me just say this. What I have tried to do is to put thisbeyond party politics. And I have with me today a Republican Senator,Senator Bennett from Utah, who I appreciate coming here because he supportsthe idea of bringing the power of the Internet to tribal peoples throughoutAmerica. And what we ought to strive for is a relationship with our tribesso that you can vote in elections like all other Americans do, based onspecific issues and whether you like someone better than someone else, oryou agree with them on their general economic policy, or their generaleducation policy, or their general foreign policy.

And the reason I've spent so much time for over seven years now tryingto get this relationship right is because I would like it if it became --my policy became America's policy, and that every leader without regard toparty would follow the same path. That's what I really hope will happen,because I think that's what's best for you and what's best for us.

You can only know that as you ask people questions and listen to theiranswers as the campaign unfolds. I can't make that decision for you, and Ishouldn't try.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to ask you first -- mygreat grandfather is --


Q Mr. President, do you have any favorite hobbies?

THE PRESIDENT: Favorite hobbies? Yes, I like to read, I like to playgolf, I like to play my saxophone, and I like to go to the movies, and Ilike to listen to music -- all kinds of music.

Q Okay. Thank you. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I have so many hobbies, sometimes I have to remindmyself to work. (Laughter.) But usually, the people who work for me don'tlet me forget that I'm supposed to work. So I also do a little work everyday.

Do you all have any other questions, anybody else here?

Q How are you going to incorporate --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the first thing you have to do is to make surethat there's universal telephone service. You can use a computer, but youcan't be on the Internet unless there are telephones. At least now.Pretty soon I think wireless technology will -- But right now we have tohave universal telephone service. So that's what we're working on.

We made an announcement today that we would be able to providetelephone service to every household in Indian country for no more than adollar a month, for basic telephone service. So that's important.(Applause.) So then we have to make sure that the access charges for theInternet, that you can afford to do it. And that's what the so-callede-rate is about. That helps public institutions like libraries andschools. And then it's just a question of getting the equipment in andhaving access to the software. And that's what all these great companiesare doing. There are a lot of companies that are helping. And I'm tryingto get Congress to pass a bill to give big tax incentives to companies tobasically make Internet access universal.

And I think what our goal ought to be in Shiprock would be to haveInternet access as universal as telephone access. That's really what myobjective is. Ultimately, I think that it won't be very long anyway beforetechnology will cure all this because you'll be able to hold something inyour hand that will do this, that will give you -- that will be the sourceof the Internet and television and movies and telephone and your own filesand everything else. But that's what we've got to do.

The more we can make access to this technology universal, the more wewill be able to make equal educational opportunities universal. And then,from there, we will be able to move on to making people's economicopportunity more universal. That's my goal.

Okay, do you have a question? Go ahead.

Q In comparison to the youth of inner cities like Washington, howdo you perceive the Native American youth as you visit differentreservations?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, they have their own challenges. By Americanstandards, city standards, the unemployment rate in Washington is stillfairly high and there is a fairly high rate of poverty. But theunemployment rate is far higher on the reservations, mostly because ofphysical remoteness. The main difference here is physical remoteness.

And, yes, you have a different culture and a native language that isdifferent from theirs. But, basically, I find young people to have more incommon than you would imagine. Those kids want to learn, they want to haveaccess to the Internet. I've been at schools in Washington, D.C. that arejust now being hooked up to -- and where the number of computers and thenumber of trained teachers and the number of classrooms in the schoolbuilding have doubled, and it's still nowhere near what I would like tosee.

I think what I would like to see you do is to use this technology andhave this kind of conversation as we're having with Lake Valley Elementary,with a school in Washington, D.C. And then you could ask them questionsand they could ask you questions, and you could figure out for yourselveshow you're different and how you're the same. I think you would like it alot. And you might be surprised at what you find. (Applause.)

You know, when I gave the speech out here the young lady whointroduced me, who won a computer, but then couldn't hook up to theInternet in her home -- I don't know if you saw the speech, but sheintroduced me. When she was introduced, Congressman Udall introduced herand said that her favorite musical group was NSYNC. And I can tell youthat you could say that about a significant percentage of the children herage in Washington, D.C. So I thought, we're not all that different afterall.

What were you going to say?

Q I have a question. In the future, will the Navajo Reservation beable to connect to the Internet locally, rather than long-distance?

THE PRESIDENT: Anybody here who can answer that? Somebody backthere.

Q What's the question?

Q I'd like to know in the future, will the Navajo Reservation beable to connect to the Internet locally, rather than long-distance?

Q That's a very good question and something that we're working on.You see, a lot of areas like this, in order for you to make a phone call inremote areas, you have to make a long-distance call. So at the FCC we'reurging our colleagues at the state to redefine what is a local call, sothat when you make a call here in Shiprock to Albuquerque, which I'm sureyou need to do, then it will be a local call and you won't have to paythose long-distance toll charges.

This can be done. You just have to redefine what the borders are forlong-distance calls. And once we do that, it will make it a lot easier foryou to access the Internet.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm glad you asked that, because I never thought aboutit before. Good for you. We'll look into that.

Yes, ma'am. Go ahead.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I have a question on -- I teach also.I'm a 7th grade educator for the middle school. And we discussed yourvisit and a lot of the main concerns are that the Navajo families have foodand -- food, shelter -- food and clothing, that we are very -- that's ourmain -- for the family. And we have to think of, if we get -- $2,000 to$3,000 computers in the home and we do the calling, which is the priority-- (inaudible.) How would you assist the families in maintaining thistechnology in the home, where the monies are just going for the essential,the needs? Do you have a plan that can help us down -- 50 years down theroad or 100 years down the road, to where we will still need it?

THE PRESIDENT: I have two reactions. First of all, I think thebasics of life are still, obviously, the most important thing. And one ofthe things that we have done a lot of work on -- Secretary Cuomo is here,the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to try to increase thestock of housing in Indian Country. I think that is very important.

Now, the second thing is, obviously, to get computers in homes. Rightnow, we're trying to make them universal in all the schools, in all theclassrooms. To get them in all the homes in the short-term, we are goingto have to have the help of people who will donate them. And if we canmake telephone access, monthly telephone access available and affordable,then you will be able to have the computer. And then one of the things wewill do is we will create several jobs repairing them for people who livehere. It will create all kinds of new businesses.

The answer to the last question you raised is, I will be bitterlydisappointed if, 50 years from now, we have to worry about how to maintaincomputer technology. First, the stuff that we are putting in now will beobsolete within five or six years. And I really believe all the lines ofcommunication and all the sources of information are going to merge into acommon, user-friendly technology within the next several years, maybe nextfew years, that people will then be able to afford and access.

And what I am trying to do is to create an environment here where wecan get investment in so that we can start businesses, create jobs, raiseincome, so that within a matter of a few years the income and jobopportunities on a place like Shiprock -- in a place like Shiprock will bemuch more like the income and job opportunities any other place in America.

My whole premise is that the communications revolution is shrinkingthe meaning, the economic meaning of distance. We know it is shrinking theeducational meaning of distance because you've got the EncyclopediaBritannica on the Internet, for example. What we're trying to do is toshrink the economic meaning of distance, so that people can live here or inthe Appalachian Mountains, or in the remote Ozark Mountains, where I camefrom, or in little villages they grew up in in the Mississippi Delta, whichis the poorest part of America except for the Native American reservation,and still make a living.

So my whole -- you've got to understand, my whole goal is to make thisirrelevant. I will be deeply disappointed if two Presidents down the road,if a President doesn't come here to celebrate the fact that everybody is infirst-class housing, nobody worries about nutrition, the unemployment rateis no higher than it is anyplace else in the country, and the children arehaving a world-class education, and we're all on an Internet connectiontalking to people in Russia or China or someplace else. I mean, I will bereally disappointed if that doesn't happen.

The whole point of this effort is to tell people that the children ofNative America are intelligent and they deserve world-class opportunities,and the adults are able and they deserve a chance to make a living. That'sthe whole point of this whole enterprise. (Applause.)

Thank you. You guys were great. Thanks. (Applause.)

END 7:50 P.M. MDT


Back to New Markets Trip


From Digital Divide to Digital Opportunity

Motivating Young People to Get Connected

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

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