2000-10/24 President of the United States remarks at tribute to Governor Jim Hunt
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

Immediate Release                         October 24, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                      AT TRIBUTE TO GOVERNOR JIM HUNT

                              Jefferson Hotel
                             Washington. D.C.

1:25 P.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Well, first of all, to all our
friends from North Carolina, welcome to Washington.  I'm glad you're here.
The two previous speakers have been two of the closest friends I've had in
politics, and two of the best governors with whom I've ever served.  And so
I thank them both.  (Applause.)

     I want to start by saying a word about Governor Patton, and then get
into the tribute to Governor Hunt, and what all that means for what we're
doing as Americans right now in this election season.

     First of all, Paul Patton ran for governor and won in Kentucky after
Jim Hunt and I had been out working on a lot of this stuff for years and
years and years, going back to the '70s.  I have personally never seen
anybody learn so much so fast and have such an impact as Governor Patton
did in Kentucky.  Never seen anybody get up to speak so fast on things that
he had not previously lived with and worked with and have an immediate
impact.  And along the way, he found the time to help Al Gore and me carry
Kentucky in 1992 and 1996, against enormous odds, where we had absolutely
no right to think we could win.  And we sort of squeaked by both times.
And he has done a magnificent job.

     But let me just give you one example.  Several years ago, when
Secretary Riley, who also served with Jim and me as governor back in the
'70s, early '80s, was -- we persuaded the Congress to adopt a bill saying
that all the states ought to have academic standards.  Then we persuaded
Congress to say that states getting federal money ought to at least have a
system for identifying their failing schools.

     Paul Patton said, well, if we're going to identify them we might as
well do something about them.  And so when I was -- and I have been trying
to pass, with the support of Jim Hunt and Paul Patton, an accountability
measure that Vice President Gore has advocated in his campaign, that
basically says that the recipient is real accountability.  If Jim and Paul
and I had time, if we had another 30 minutes, we could explain to you why
the proposal of the Democratic nominee for accountability will work better
than the proposal of the Republican nominee for accountability, based on
our combined half-century of experience in this.

     Anyway, Patton says, we ought to have -- if we've got to identify
these failing schools, we ought to do something about them.  So he comes up
with this system.  I went to Western Kentucky with Governor Patton a few
months ago, to try to persuade the Congress to pass our bill, saying if you
get this federal aid, you must not only identify the failing schools, you
have to turn them around within two years or shut them down and reopen them
under new management.

     Now, Jim has done something very like that in the most comprehensive
way in North Carolina, and I'll come back to that.  So I'm in this school
in Western Kentucky, in this low-income area, where over half the kids are
on school lunch, where four years ago this is one of the worst schools in
Kentucky.  And they go through this system, and in three years, this is
what happened:  They went from 12 percent of the kids reading at or above
grade level to about 60 percent.  They went from 5 percent of the kids
doing math at or above grade level to 70 percent.  They went from zero kids
in the whole school doing science at or above grade level to 63 percent, in
three years.

     And what does that show you?  First of all, for those of us who have
been doing this for 20 years, we know something now we didn't know in the
late '70s, or we didn't know in '83 when the Nation at Risk report was
issued.  We actually know that you can identify failing schools and turn
them around.  And nobody, no state has done it any more systematically then
he has.  That school that was an abject failure is now one of the top 20
schools in the state of Kentucky.

     Thank you Governor, for your leadership.  (Applause.)

     I want to start with something personal.  When I was elected governor
in 1978, I got to serve with Jim Hunt, starting in '79.  And he was a big
deal, even then.  (Laughter.)  And I was 32 and looked like I was about 25.
You guys have taken care of that in the last eight years.  (Laughter.)  And
you know when you come to the end of a certain period in your life, as I am
coming to the end of my service as President -- and this is the first
election in 26 years where I haven't been on a ballot somewhere, and most
days I'm okay about it -- but you can look back over your life and see a
handful of people who did this, that or the other thing for you, without
whom you might never have become President.

     And in 1979, Jim Hunt told the Democratic governors they should make
me the vice chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, which, in
turn, would entitle me to become chairman.  And I was, by nine years, I
think the youngest governor in the country at the time.  And nobody had --
it would never have happened -- the only reason it happened is because
everybody thought he knew what he was talking about, and so they said,
okay.  (Laughter.)

     And it was the first significant national position of any kind I had.
And in 1980 I did become chairman of the Democratic Governors Association,
and got involved in a whole range of things that I had never been involved
with before and might never have come in contact with.  So, for good or
ill, depending on what you think of the Clinton presidency, I'm not sure
I'd be here if it weren't for you.  (Applause.)

     And over more than 20 years now, Jim and Carolyn have been friends to
Hillary and me.  We always love being with them.  We follow the progress of
our families and the ups and downs and changes in our lives.  And I have
seen now that -- he is the only governor I know that served in the '70s,
the '80s, the '90s, and the 21st century.  (Laughter.)

     But as a result -- he was kind of like me -- if you really love being
governor, you don't get tired of doing it, because it's the best job in the
world in so many ways.  And there's nobody in my adult lifetime in the
United States who has served as a governor who has done more for education,
children's health or the long-term economic interests of a state than Jim
Hunt.  He has the most sweeping, deep, consistent record of public service
over the longest period of time of any governor in the United States in my
lifetime.  And the people of North Caroline should be very, very proud of
that.  It's an astonishing -- (applause.)

     Along the way, he's led your state through difficult times, like those
awful floods, and made sure that we here in Washington did our part to help
you recover.  You have not really been in politics until you have been
lobbied by Jim Hunt for something.  (Laughter.)  And if you don't want to
say yes, it's just like going to the dentist and having him yank your teeth
out without any kind of deadening on your gums.  (Laughter.)  It just never
ends, and his capacity to guilt-trip you kind of goes up by the day.
(Laughter.)  So eventually you say yes, and then after a while, you learn
to say yes the first time you're asked.  There's no point in going through
this.  (Laughter.)

     He really did a great job for you on that.  I've watched him with
these pre-school programs, and these early childhood health initiatives,
and the efforts he's made to turn around his schools that were
under-performing.  And along the way -- he's done a lot of things
nationally, but one thing in particular I want to thank him for, because he
introduced me to the idea of the master teacher and National Board of
Professional Teaching Certification -- the idea that we ought to have,
eventually, in every school building in America, somebody who has proved
not only that he or she knows the subject that they're teaching completely,
which is a big challenge today because we've got a teacher shortage, but is
also supremely gifted in the classroom, and good at teaching children.

     So Jim worked for years and years and years on this National Board for
Professional Teaching Certification, and a few years ago he came to the
White House, and we kicked it off, and we certified, within a short time,
the first 500 teachers.  Now we have about 5,000.  By the time I leave
office, we'll have almost 10,000.  And thanks to his leadership, we have as
part of our education budget the capacity to go to 100,000 master teachers
over the next three or four years.  And now we've got this huge backlog.
This is a big deal.  The teachers, the men and women who get national board
certification, have to prove they know their subjects well, that they are
extremely skilled in the classroom, that they understand how to relate to
children and families.

     And this is a huge professional distinction if they get it.  We see
that every time there's one of these master teachers, just in one school
building, he or she can change the whole culture of education in the
building and infect everybody else with a certain enthusiasm and sense of
possibility and learning.  This is something that's impossible to make a
headline out of.  It's impossible to make it an issue in the presidential
election.  You know, it sounds like something little; it's something huge.
You've all seen that new book that's out, called "The Tipping Point."
That's what these master teachers are.  They're not only good in their
classroom, they provide the tipping point of influence in school after
school after school.

     So long after Jim Hunt is gone from the North Carolina Governor's
Mansion, this passion that he nurtured for years, when no one else was
paying attention, to train, identify, certify master teachers, and then get
one in every school building in the country, will be revolutionizing
education and improving the futures of children not just in his native
state, but throughout the United States.

     There's nobody like you.  And I love you, and I thank you for
everything you've done.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

     Let me just say one other thing.  What's all that got to do with this
election?  Let me just make a couple of points here.  I believe, and it's
already been said, that education is sort of at the center of this
presidential election, and that's good.  And then there are people that
view that cynically, because they say, well, Presidents can get up and talk
about education, but after all, what can they do?  It's only seven percent
of the total money we spend on our public schools.  Well, let me just say,
when I got elected, it was under six percent and headed down.  So at least
we got it back to seven.
     But it seems to me that we ought to say that education is a
constitutional responsibility of the state, the operational responsibility
of the local schools and the districts; but it still is a national
priority.  And what I have always believed is that we had a special
obligation, number one, just to invest more, because we've got the biggest
and most diverse group of school kids in our nation's history, and because
even though the school populations are bigger in many, many states, a
smaller percentage of the property owners who pay property taxes have kids
in schools.  I know that seems counter-intuitive, but that's happening in
state after state.

     So the states need more resources, number one.  And, number two, there
is now, as I said a moment ago about the failing schools, we now know
something we didn't know in 1983, when the governors were responding to the
national report called "A Nation At Risk."  We know things we didn't even
know in 1989, when the governors met with President Bush and articulated
these national education goals for the next decade, to try to be reached by
the year 2000, about how to do this.

     And our philosophy has been that we should not tell the states how to
do what they do, but we should fund those things that the research and the
educators tell us work.  For example, one of the things -- I wish you had
heard this and some of the discussions we've heard in this election, but
one of the things that I'm quite proud of is that under Dick Riley, who was
governor of South Carolina, as a I said, with Jim and me in the '70s and
the '80s -- the burden of regulations the federal government imposes on the
states and the school districts has actually been reduced by about
two-thirds, below what it was in the previous administration.  We have
nearly doubled funding for education and training, even as we have gone
from a $290 billion deficit to a $230 billion surplus, and shrunk the size
of government to its lowest point in 40 years.

     But we've tried to focus these money on what works.  For example, when
I became President, we were giving no support to the states for
after-school programs and summer school and night programs, to turn the
schools into community learning centers, nothing -- even though we knew
that we had all these latchkey kids and that they needed some place to go.

     Well, now, we're serving 800,000 of them and we want to go to 1.6
million of them in this budget.  And it's the best money we could spend.
And a lot of these schools have absolutely no capacity to afford things
like this unless we do it.  We started in '94, only 14 percent of our
schools and 3 percent of our classrooms were connected to the Internet.
Because of the leadership of the Vice President and getting the e-rate,
which allows even the poorest schools in North Carolina a 90 percent
discount so they can hook on -- we have gone from 14 percent of our schools
to 95 percent of our schools connected to the Internet; from 3 percent of
our classrooms to 65 percent of our classrooms connected to the Internet.
So we're moving this thing a long way.

     And our basic philosophy is then that we should not micromanage what
the schools do, but that we should target the funds, since it's only 7
percent, to the areas that the educators and the research says will have
the biggest impact.

     Now that's the real fundamental debate in this election.  And if you
listen to -- both sides say they're for accountability, and they are, and
as I've said, I think our accountability proposal that our candidate for
President, Vice President Gore, and the others have embraced is better.
And I believe Jim and Paul agree with me, but we don't have to argue that
out.  The point is, that's the good news, the good news that the American
people believe that there should be higher standards and accountability.

     But we believe it ought to be accountability-plus -- plus funds for
100,000 new teachers for smaller classes in the early grades; plus a tax
credit to help to cut the costs of raising bond issues to build or
modernize schools; plus funds to help repair 5,000 schools a year.  We've
got $100 billion school construction and repair deficit in America today.
I bet you there is -- no telling how many schools in North Carolina and
Kentucky, where the kids are going to schools in house trailers, or where
big closets have been converted to classrooms, or where old buildings are
so old they can't -- I've been in schools that are so decrepit they can't
even be wired for the Internet.

     So we have standards and accountability plus the tools to do the job.
And I think that is consistent with the stunning record of Jim Hunt.  If
you look at what he's done, he's gone out there and given local communities
the tools they need to give children early childhood education, access to
health care and strategies to turn around schools that aren't performing.
It works, and we ought to do more of it.

     The only other thing I would say that's highly relevant to this is,
you can't get blood out of a turnip.  If you're going to spend money,
you've got to have the money to spend.  And that's the other big issue in
these election.  I don't want to get into a political debate about the
structure of tax programs or even how the Social Security should be
reformed.  I have my own ideas, but someone else will have to make that
decision.  But I just want to make a basic point here that I think is
fundamental to this.

     People ask me all the time, we have such a great economy and you and
Bob Rubin and Lloyd Bentsen and Gene Sperling, you've got all these wizards
coming in -- what great new idea did you bring to economic policy?  And I
always give a one-word answer:  arithmetic.  I brought arithmetic to
Washington.  That's the great thing I got out of living way out there in
the hinterlands.  I still thought two and two was supposed to add up to
four.  And a rosy scenario was not any good until the money came in.  That
old Cuba Gooding line, "show me the money" is still a pretty good line when
you're making -- (laughter.)

     So what does that all have to do with this election and education?  If
you want states to be able to progress in education, they have to have the
funds to do it, which means you have to have continued prosperity --
because when people are prosperous they send tax money to the state.  And
if you want the federal government to do it, you have to continue the
prosperity.  And the most important thing we can do, I believe, is to
continue a formula that says, find new markets for American products and
services; keep investing in America's productive capacity, education and
technology and science; and keep paying down the debt down and make America
debt free.

     Why?  Because it keeps interest rates lower.  In a global economy,
where a trillion dollars crosses national borders every day, the interest
rates people pay for homes and college loans and car payments in North
Carolina are affected by whether or not this nation is a fiscally
responsible nation.

     So whatever you think about the details of these competing tax cuts or
Social Security plan, here is the bottom line:  You cannot have a one and a
half trillion tax cut, a $1 trillion Social Security privatization program
and several hundred billion dollars worth of promises unless you go back
into deficits.  The big argument for our side, for Vice President Gore and
Senator Lieberman is, we say, look, we're going to have a smaller tax cut;
we think it's better because we try to target it to education and long-term
care and child care and retirement savings; but it can't be much bigger
than this because we've got to invest in education and health care and the
environment and defense, and we've got to keep paying off the debt.

     Now, that's the big issue.  It's not -- I promise you, it's more
important -- the arithmetic issue is more important than the details of
who's got the better Social Security plan or the details of who's got the
better tax plan -- even though I think our side does, and I'd be happy to
debate it -- the arithmetic issue, the big thing here.

     The other thing you need to remember is -- and we've shown it for
eight years -- you can say, well, I'm going to spend this much money over
the next 10 years, but if the money doesn't come in, you don't have to
spend it.  But if you give it all away in a tax cut on the front end or the
privatization program, on the front end, it's gone.  And you're certainly
not going to go get it back when the economy turns down.

     So you're going to have a big governor's race in North Carolina.  The
ability of the next governor -- and you know who we all hope it will be,
and believe it will be -- but his ability to follow in Jim Hunt's footsteps
will rest not in no small measure on the success of the North Carolina
economy, in generating jobs, generating opportunity, in generating revenues
turned around, and put in education.

     So that's my pitch to you.  I think accountability-plus is better than
accountability-minus in education.  And I think arithmetic still works in
economics.  And I know if we just keep interest rates one percent lower a
year over the next decade, which is what I believe the difference will be
in paying off the debt and going back to deficit so you can't pay off the
debt -- let me just tell you what that is.  That's $390 billion in lower
home mortgages, $30 billion in lower car payments, $15 billion in lower
college loan         payments, plus lower credit card payments, plus lower
business loan costs, which means more new businesses, more employees,
higher profits and a bigger stock market.  It's a tax cut for everybody.
Getting this country out of debt is a tax cut for everybody.

     So that's what -- when you go back home in North Carolina and people
talk to you about -- the next two weeks -- about how this fits into the
decision you have to make in North Carolina, talk to them about arithmetic
and economics, and talk to them about accountability-plus, and tell them
that Jim Hunt deserves a worthy successor.

     Thank you, and God bless you.  (Applause.)

                               END             1:47 P.M. EDT

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
Privacy Statement


Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E