THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Los Alamos High School Los Alamos, New Mexico
1:05 P.M. MDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Governor King, Senator Bingaman, Senator Domenici, Congressman Richardson, Congressman Schiff, Dr. Hecker, and the other directors of the other wonderful labs here present -- Dr. Narath and Dr. Ruckolls; and my distinguished Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary, who is celebrating her birthday with all of you here in Los Alamos today. (Applause.)
I want to say a special word of thanks to the students from Los Alamos High School here behind us. (Applause.) I love the tee-shirts, and I was so gratified to be invited to come to the high school commencement. I didn't make it, but this is almost as good, don't you think? I'm really glad to be here. (Applause.)
I want to say, too, a special word of appreciation to all those who spoke here before me today for what they said. I thought Senator Domenici did a pretty good job of gliding over our differences and getting right in there. (Applause.) I want to tell you how grateful I am for the national leadership that Congressman Richardson has given not only to the Congress, but to the efforts I made to become your President. And I can't say enough about the work that Senator Bingaman has done on the issue I came here talk about today, which is giving us a good highwage, high-growth future through the wise and sensible investment in technology. You should be very proud of these people, all of whom represent you in the United States Congress.
I want to say a special word of thanks to Congressman Schiff. Since he's not here in his home district, he actually gave up the opportunity to speak, which may make him the most popular person here today. You can't tell. (Applause.)
Bruce King told you the truth -- we were governors in the '70s, the '80s and the '90s. Made an old man of me, but he still looks pretty good. (Laughter.) He was the first governor to endorse my campaign, and New Mexico was the next to the last stop I made on Election Day, when I stayed up all night long. (Applause.)
I want to say I've come back here today in the light of day, and a beautiful day it is, to celebrate with the Los Alamos Lab the 50th anniversary of a genuine, remarkable American success story. For the first half century of Los Alamos's service, it was the leading edge of our nation's security. And now as we go into the next half century, Los Alamos will be, as Senator Bingaman said, the leading edge of our prosperity, developing and nurturing the technology that will put all these young Americans who are here in this great crowd today at the front of a new race, the race to compete and to cooperate in a world that is getting smaller, richer, more diverse, but very, very rigorous in its challenges.
New Mexico should be very proud to be the home of Los Alamos and Sandia. America, indeed the entire democratic world, owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Los Alamos, to Sandia, and to the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California. When we needed the military muscle to end a global war the answer was the Manhattan Project. When we needed the muscle to win the Cold War, the long and costly effort to contain and then to triumph over communism, the ideas that made that possible came out of these laboratories.
That struggle gave us a focus not just in how we spend our defense dollars, but how we invested in everything from our children's education to the interstate highway system. These labs were at the core of that effort, providing our nuclear deterrent. From the Berlin crisis in 1948 to the Berlin celebration in 1989 when the wall came down, the work of this laboratory helped to ensure America's might, America's security and, in the end, a total triumph for democracy and freedom and free market economics in the Cold War. You should all be very proud of that. That's a good 50 years of work if I ever heard it. (Applause.)
Now we are in the post-Cold War effort. Most of the young people here present will live more of their lives in the 21st century than they have in the 20th. And we need a new focus for our efforts. Our job today is to preserve the American Dream and America's leadership in the world that America has done so much to make. We have to prove that we can compete and win in this highly complex and rigorous world. We have to do it so that all the young people here will not be the first generation of Americans to grow up to do worse than their parents. We have to do it so that we can continue to be a beacon of hope, so that we can prove that freedom and free enterprise and democracy work.
We have to begin by putting our own house in order, by bringing down our enormous deficit, dealing with our health care crisis, which has produced a system that costs way too much and covers too few and leaves too many in the insecurity of daily living, knowing that any moment, they might lose the insurance they have. (Applause.)
We have to follow policies that enable us to educate and train our people for a lifetime and then promote economic growth so that they will have jobs that they're educated for. These are the things we have to do in this time to be worthy, worthy, worthy successors to the American legacy we have inherited.
I've asked the Congress to reduce the deficit by $500 billion over the next five years, with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, none of which are popular, especially in particular. Everybody's for deficit reduction in general. It's the details that swallows us alive. (Laughter.)
I have asked that all this money be put into a trust fund by law so that nothing can be done with it but to reduce the debt, so that the children of our country eventually will be able to get out from under the burden their parents and grandparents have left for them. (Applause.)
I have committed to all the members of Congress and to the American people without regard to party that this is just a down payment, that reducing the deficit doesn't begin to bring the debt down until you get it down to zero. And we have to keep working until we do that. We owe that to the young people here. (Applause.)
But we also owe you something more. We have to think about the challenges that are here before us; and when they require us to invest in education and technology and new jobs, we have to do that as well, for we have to remember that the thing which enables us to bring our debt down is the economic strength which reduces working people and incomes from people who then can pay taxes, who can then deal with less government supports, who don't need the government spending as much money if they all have jobs and incomes in a strong free enterprise system. That is our obligation to you and to your future. (Applause.)
So the question I came here to discuss today for all of you -- and hopefully it will reverberate throughout the United States to people who have never been to New Mexico, and may not have even known of the existence of Los Alamos -- is what is the opportunity we have right here to revolutionize the economy not just for those thousands of you who are here, but for every American family, for every American young person? Can you affect the future of America as you have the past? I think the answer is a resounding yes. (Applause.)
If we are going to march confidently into the 21st century, we will have to do it on the minds and with the creativity and with the investment represented here in this laboratory and in others like it around the country. And with the spirit of partnership between government and the private sector that pervades so many of the efforts now underway here.
At Los Alamos alone, there are 100 partnerships with industry. Technology has led to the creation of 30 new companies. Before coming here today I took a look at some of the projects underway at a plant facility that handles -- listen to this -- plasma ion implantation. Now, that sounds like something a plastic surgeon would do, but it has nothing to do with the human body. Instead, it involves a steel vacuum chamber containing high energy ions which can be pumped in to metal surfaces or plastic surfaces and used to harden them so that they will last longer and do better work. This could revolutionize America's ability to manufacture automobiles and other machines to keep going and to have higher productivity longer and lower costs, so we can once again begin to grow high-wage manufacturing jobs. And if it happens, it will happen because of the ideas that started here in the kind of partnerships we need for America's tomorrows. (Applause.)
And this technology was a direct outgrowth of the research done on the Strategic Defense Initiative, the so-called Star Wars Initiative, which means that no matter whatever happens there and whatever happens to the final shape of that project, something good came out of it because people were looking to break down frontiers in the human minds and to explore unexplored territory.
This defense technology is now being used as part of a four-year partnership with General Motors. Another project involves GM in helping to build a clean car. Think of it: What if we could build a car that operated on energy sources provided here in this country, that reduced our dependence on foreign oil, reduced air pollution, increased energy efficiency, and helped us to become a partner in the effort to save the global environment, at the same time exploding American jobs and economic opportunities. If that happens, it will be because of what began here. (Applause.)
I saw biomedical technology, analyzing and sorting single biological cells using lasers, with valuable applications for AIDS and leukemia diagnosis, a technology that has already led to an $800 million a year business for three new companies. There are projects underway for efficient oil recovery, environmental cleanup, the analysis of air pollution. With these partnerships and others like them, we can find the technologybased answers for the jobs of tomorrow.
In this economic chain reaction, the result will be high-paying jobs here in New Mexico. I saw one project today which is projected to produce 2,000 jobs in New Mexico within the next three or four years. But there will be jobs all across this nation, in wide-ranging fields, ever more critical to our future.
Supercomputers developed to design nuclear weapons are now being used to improve the fuel efficiency of engines, to help the oil industry find more oil in less time here in the United States at lower cost. They're used to educate youngsters in ways we could never have dreamed of just a few years ago. I met some of those bright students earlier today. They were actually developing programs for energy conservation, using the world's largest supercomputer -- having won a contest in the use of computers sponsored statewide in New Mexico and held here at Los Alamos. You could be very proud that you have students like that who can use a facility like this. (Applause.)
We are counting on our nation's labs to make real contributions in these and other areas of needs that arise our of our energy and national security missions. In these tasks, that laboratories will be helping not only Americans, but our fellow citizens around the world. If we can find ways to make the American people healthier and lower health care costs, it will benefit us enormously economically, it will provide personal scurity to millions of American families. But we will not keep those things as secrets here in our own borders. They will spread around the world and make the world a better and safer and healthier place. (Applause.)
Let me also say that there is still a national defense mission for these labs. We have to continue to maintain the safety and reliability of our nuclear deterrent until all the nuclear weapons in the worl d are gone. (Applause.) We have to make sure that we can focus on new technologies to counter proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons by other irresponsible countries around the world. (Applause.)
There are still too many nations who have not learned the lesson of the Cold War and how much money was diverted by the United States and the Soviet Union from other important efforts. There are still to many nations who seem determined to define the quality of their lives by -- based on whether they can develop a nuclear weapon or a biological or chemical weapons that can have no other purpose than to destroy other human beings. It is a mistake, and we should try to contain it and to stop it. (Applause.)
And so, my fellow Americans, there is a peacetime commercial mission for these labs. And there is a national defense mission for these labs. And the line between those two missions is coming down fast, and there is a partnership with the private sector which will spread and grow and strengthen America's support for and understanding of what is done here.
These labs are our great national mine's treasure. The world's finest scientists and engineers, more PhDs per capita here in Los Alamos than any other place on the planet . (Applause.)
It's pretty humbling when you're a President and you walk into a room and you realize you're lowering the average IQ of the room just by going in the door. (Laughter.)
You have the world's most powerful computers and lasers and accelerators, some of the world's best materials facilities, the most sophisticated diagnostics. You are our crown jewels in technology and science.
Under the technology policy I have proposed, this lab at Los Angeles -- Los Alamos -- booo -- I'm going there tomorrow. And if I say Los Alamos, will you cheer when I'm in Los Angeles? (Applause.) I owe you one. (Applause.)
This lab will work with the Departments of Energy and Defense and Commerce to sustain constant innovation. We're going to have to reorganize a lot of things to get that done. We can't just have the money coming in for specific projects from -- some from defense and some from the Energy Department. We'll have all kinds of dislocations. And we had some great conversations today about how we can make a flexible and always available pool of funds there for the kinds of projects that need to be done. And our administration has pledged to do that. (Applause.)
So I say to you again, we must change the whole notion we have of the federal government. We're going to have to cut a lot of spending. We're going to have to change a lot of things we have taken for granted. But we will still have to find a way to invest in our future. Our competitors are investing in their futures. There is a race to tomorrow, which is partly cooperation, but make no mistake about it, largely competition. And if we want all of these young people to have the chance to go as far as their efforts and their God-given abilities will taken them, we have to do both -- we've got to bring this deficit down and sharply invest in things like these laboratories so we can grow the economy for tomorrow. (Applause.)
The reductions in the defense budget, made possible by the end of the Cold War, have presented some great challenges to the laboratories, to the defense plants, to the wonderful men and women who have served our nation in uniform. We owe all of them the opportunity to convert to success in the commercial private enterprise world of America. We have earmarked, this year alone, over $1.7 billion for defense conversion, and I propose to invest about $20 billion in it over the next five years. It is a good beginning. It is a good beginning. (Applause.)
I ask you today as I close to consider the alternative. If we refuse to bring our deficit down and we still continue to squeeze these areas critical to our investment future, the alternative will be: a rising deficit, a declining rate of investment, more unemployment and more stagnant incomes, longer work weeks for less funds and continued insecurity for America's working families. We must change our priorities, no matter how difficult it is. That is the challenge of this day, and we must meet it. (Applause.) As has already been said, President Kennedy stood in this very spot just over 30 years ago and saluted the great patriots of Los Alamos. He said in part -- and I quote -- "We want to express our thanks to you. It is not merely what was done in the days of the Second War, but what has been done since then, not only in developing weapons of destruction which, by irony of fate, helped maintain peace and freedom, but also in medicine and in space, and all the other related fields which can mean so much to mankind if we can maintain the peace and protect our freedom."
Well, today, maintaining the peace and protecting the freedom seem more secure than they did when President Kennedy uttered those words. And so, today I come here to thank Los Alamos, not merely for what was done in the Cold War and what has been done since, but for what you can and will do to secure a stronger, brighter future for all the American people. If we do our job, then perhaps 30 years from now another American President will be able to come to this very site, and some of you who are now children will be here with your children. And you can say, again, thank you -- thank you to the labs, thank you to the men and women who used their minds to advance the cause of learning. Thank you for the contributions you have made to the progress of the American Dream. May it never stop.
Good bless you and thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 1:27 P.M. MDT
/U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/