THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Knoxville, Tennessee) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release October 10, 1996 REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AND THE VICE PRESIDENT TO THE PEOPLE OF KNOXVILLE Knoxville Auditorium Coliseum Knoxville, Tennessee
11:30 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. You don't know how that warms my heart. It's great to be home. It's great to receive that kind of rousing welcome. And I'm just so grateful to all of you for being here and being apart of it.
Last night, Jack Kemp and I debated -- (applause) -- last night, Jack Kemp and I debated the future. This morning, Bill Clinton and I are building the future. (Applause.) I am so proud and grateful to the President for coming here to Knoxville, to the University of Tennessee. Especially so soon before the Arkansas game. (Laughter and applause.)
He said for me to let you in on our conversation in the car on the way over here. I was bragging on how Arkansas did in the first half against Florida, and I allowed as how, really, the point spread between us ought to be fairly close to even on this game. (Laughter.) He's not buying it. (Laughter.) He's telling me about all the freshman on the team and what scrappers they are. We'll see. We'll work that out later.
But I'm so proud and excited that the President would come here to the University of Tennessee to make this exciting announcement that he is going to make today. This is really one of the most important steps that any President has ever taken to build a bridge to the 21st century. You are going to hear about an initiative that may sound a little technical, may sound like it is in the future.
But, believe me, as someone who started talking about the Information Superhighway 20 years ago, who passed the legislation to finance the development of the Internet as it exists today, someone who has had a chance to work with this President over the last four years on his pledge to connect every classroom and library in America to that Information Superhighway -- I'm telling you, the step he is taking today will be looked back on in the next century as a true milestone on this road to the future. But more about that in just a moment.
Let me thank Lil Clinard for her kind words, and also Dr. Eugene Parker for his moving invocation and Mildred Buffler for the pledge. And I want to acknowledge two people here at the top, one of whom I will ask to come up here and speak in just a moment. And then when he concludes, I will return to the podium, say a couple more words in introducing the President. These two individuals are playing a key role in the President's announcement today, and he will spell that out. But I want to acknowledge them now because they have really decided to give so much of themselves to this effort: The CEO of Viacom, Sumner Redstone and the CEO of Netwave, Incorporated, Lynn Forester. And I'd like both of them to stand up, please. Sumner is here and where is Lynn? Is Lynn out in the audience there? I'd like to acknowledge both of them. Not now. Okay. (Applause.)
These others I want to thank profusely. I would like to suggest, since there are several of them, that you hold your applause until I complete the list. Al Trivelpiece, who is doing a fantastic job as Director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratories. And Oak Ridge is going to play a key role in the future of this country and in the development of this new initiative. Representative Joe Armstrong, Representative Wayne Ritchie, Representative Harry Tindell. Thomas Chumpert, Knox County Executive; District Attorney Randy Nichols; Knox County Court Clerk Mike Padgett, and most especially, Tennessee's House of Representatives Majority Leader, State Representative Bill Purcell. Let's give all of these individuals a hand. (Applause.)
Four candidates that I would like to acknowledge --and I'd like to begin with the candidate of the Democratic Party here in the Second Congressional District, Steve Smith. (Applause.) A candidate in the Third Congressional District of the Democratic Party, Chuck Jolly. (Applause.) Democratic candidate in the First Congressional District, Kay Smith. (Applause.) And candidate for State Senate, Mae Owenby. (Applause.)
I want to thank the students behind me from Jefferson Middle School and Halls High School. We appreciate them being here. (Applause.) This announcement really is all about them. I'm also mighty proud that my daughter, Karenna, is with me here today and I wanted to acknowledge her, too. (Applause.)
Twenty years ago, when I first had the opportunity to serve in the United States House of Representatives I dreamed of a time when a young school girl in Carthage, Tennessee -- my home town, 2000 people -- could come home after school and plug into the Library Congress and navigate through a whole universe of knowledge at her own pace, directed by her own curiosity. I dreamed of a time when the nation's children would be able to communicate daily with students in countries all over the world, to learn about other cultures, share experiences, broaden their horizons. I dreamed of a time when a doctor would have instant access to a patient's medical records instantly if an injury occurred and that patient's doctor needed to know the best course of treatment.
Well, today that dream is fast becoming a reality. Two years ago, President Clinton and I challenged America to connect every classroom -- inner-city, rural, suburban -- to the Information Superhighway by the year 2000. We challenged the nation to ensure that all of our teachers and students have access to modern computers and engaging educational software. We challenged the nation to provide all teachers with the training and support they need in order to help students make the most of these wonderful new technologies. We challenged the nation to make sure that our children will never be separated by a digital divide.
And America has responded to that challenge. Last March, the President and I rolled up our sleeves and worked alongside 20,000 other volunteers in California to hook up one-fifth of California's schools to the Information Superhighway in a single day. So far, 10 other states have held similar electronic barn-raisings with similar success stories. In fact, I'm awfully proud that our home state of Tennessee will soon hold its own Net Day, and I encourage all of you to sign up to help and be a part of it, pull that cable and make the connections. And it's amazing what community spirit comes out during a Net Day.
Well, none of this nation's technology initiatives would be possible without the tremendous support of volunteers, as well as hundreds of private businesses that have chosen to become involved. And today some of the angels of industry are going to ramp up their commitment to empowering every child in this whole country with our latest and best technologies. A select group of leaders from the information industries have stepped up to the President's challenge. I mentioned Sumner Redstone of Viacom and Lynn Forester of FirstMark Holdings and Netwave. They will be joined in this group by Gerry Levin of Time-Warner, Bob Allen of AT&T; Ray Smith of Bell Atlantic; Larry Ellison of Oracle; Brian Roberts of Comcast, and Steven Case of America OnLine.
This is a dream team of the information industry CEOs in America, and they are stepping up to the plate on behalf of America's children. We appreciate what they're doing. (Applause.) One key individual who has helped to make this possible is one of the finest men I've ever had a chance to work with, and I want you to give a special acknowledgement to the Secretary of Education, Dick Riley. We appreciate your leadership, Mr. Riley. (Applause.)
We're proud that Mr. Redstone, the chairman of this group and Lynn Forester, the vice-chair are with us today. In bringing Mr. Redstone to the podium, let me tell you that he's demonstrated a lifelong passion for education. When he was a student at Harvard he was so passionate, he completed his undergraduate degree in just two and a half years. More recently, despite his incredibly busy schedule, he has devoted a great deal of time to teaching courses at Boston University Law School, Harvard Law School, and Brandeis. How he does it, I don't know. But I do know that during World War II he was one of the key members of the team that broke the high-level military and diplomatic codes of wartime Japan.
Sumner Redstone knows what information technology can mean to a nation. He knows what information technology means for individual schoolchildren. And that's exactly why he is with us here today. So please help me welcome a great businessman and a great friend of American education, Sumner Redstone. (Applause.)
MR. REDSTONE: Thank you so much for those warm and generous remarks.
Among so much that all of us admire in our President and in our Vice President is their commitment to educate the children of America. And in that connection, to connect every school, classroom, and library in America to the Information Superhighway with computers, with software, and with well-trained teachers. And I really feel privileged to be able to assist the President and the Vice President in improving the education of our children and our grandchildren while making them technologically literate.
Sad as it is, we live in a world where economic realities mean that many students come from two-income households, leaving children with little parental supervision, parents with less time to read with their kids, let alone oversee their homework. And we live in a world where tens of thousands of students are struggling to learn to read English at the same time they're learning to speak English. And, sadly indeed, we live in a world where many students start the school day by walking through a metal detector, and school hallways are monitored by armed guards.
But technology can bring a child as many suitable, qualified, intelligent and competent teaching experiences as possible without regard to geography and without regard to socioeconomic status. The new technology can help teach a package of wealth of information in a compelling way -- to train young minds for the Information Age. Indeed, when the appropriate software and information are married to the new technologies, students can be motivated to embark on a world of self-discovery.
The global electronic network is beginning, just beginning to remake daily life. And today's generation must cope with a wholesale transformation of society that it brings. But nowhere could that transformation have more impact than on education. Properly used, the global network can increase access to education services, make teachers more effective, improve efficiency. And, most of all, motivate young learners.
The coming communications revolution about which you have heard is not about technology in the classroom, but is rather about using the tools of technology to redefine the classroom. For the first time, students can literally step out of the classroom and journey to places and speak to people around the globe in search of knowledge. The classroom of the future has no walls, just windows -- created through the use of television and satellites and computers.
Indeed, our children can travel across the globe electronically before we give them permission to cross the street. But with all of this, the role of the teacher cannot be overestimated, because a commitment to excellence cannot be instilled by a computer. It takes teachers with vision to help mold students with vision.
Today, my associates and I, Robert Allen of AT&T, Lawrence Ellison of the Oracle Corporation, Lynn Forester of FirstMark Holdings, Gerald Levin of Time-Warner, Brian Roberts of Comcast, Raymond Smith of Bell Atlantic and more to come, are launching a major partnership between the private sector and the government to make certain -- absolutely certain -- that this initiative doesn't fail.
And now, I am really honored to reintroduce the Vice President of the United States, another man working hard to make sure that the administration's educational technology initiative does not fail. Last night, we all saw again what Al Gore is capable of. It was a knockout, right? (Applause.) But what he showed us was his commitment to issues of importance. And, of course, he has made Tennessee, his home state, so proud. So now, it's my great pleasure to introduce our Vice President, Al Gore. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please. I didn't know that I was going to be reintroduced, but I'm very grateful for the honor. Thank you very much. And thank you for your kind words, Mr. Redstone, I appreciate it very much.
More than that, I want to thank Sumner Redstone for heading up this historic effort. Once again, he is doing a great service to this nation. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I want to express my personal thanks to President Bill Clinton, not only for his role in bringing these dramatic innovations to America's schoolchildren, but for all of his efforts to maintain this nation's proud position as the world leader in science and technology. Here in East Tennessee, so close to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, we know the importance of science and technology to the future of the United States of America.
President Clinton knows that one of the most important bridges to the future will be built on discoveries in science and advancements in technology. This President is unequalled in his devotion to promoting science and technology as the engine of our economy and as a means to improving our quality of life.
Now, the President's opponent has taken a different approach. The cuts in science and technology funding that were proposed and almost implemented by the leaders of this last Congress would have amounted to unilateral disarmament in the face of growing world competition in research, development, science and technology. They wanted to cut America's science and technology budget by one-third. This would have crippled both our basic research and the critical applied research needed to protect our health and to protect our global environment.
President Clinton, in stark contrast, has increased this nation's investments in world-class basic research within a balanced budget plan. He has increased support for medical research at the National Institutes of Health, helping them to find new cures for diseases. (Applause.) He has stepped up our commitment to developing innovative environmental technologies for the growing world marketplace to clean up our environment. (Applause.) He has opened up trade markets around the world for our high-technology exports. And the President has helped to reorganize and revitalize our nation's research agencies and laboratories for the 21st century.
Government laboratories, such as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have played a vital role in catalyzing this nation's technological development. Now, we have heard from the President's opponent that he wishes to completely eliminate the Department of Energy. When asked for a clarification of what that would mean, he said, well, we will keep the military part of the budget, but the civilian part of the budget is really on the chopping block. Well, Oak Ridge gets three-quarters of all of its budget from the civilian part of the Department of Energy. When asked for further clarification, he said, the laboratories in New Mexico are off the table. That's nice. I think that's a wise decision. But what about Oak Ridge National Laboratory? Don't give us the mumbo-jumbo about "this will all magically work out somehow." We want a commitment to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Applause.)
So to those on the other side who have proposed measures that would clearly shut down the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, I have a message on behalf of the President and myself in words that you've heard before: We won't let them. (Applause.) Oak Ridge is engaging in missions that are absolutely central to our current economic, environmental, health and national security future. Closing the doors of Oak Ridge National Laboratory would be a sad step backward for the United States of America. President Clinton and I will not let that happen.
And ladies and gentlemen, that is only one of the reasons that it is now my great pleasure and personal privilege to present to you a leader who has made unprecedented commitments to this nation's science and technology; a leader who is making sure that every student and every family in America will have the opportunity to participate in our limitless technological future. My friend, our President, President Bill Clinton. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you so much for that wonderful reception. It's nice for me to be in Knoxville, sort of riding along on Al Gore's coattails. I enjoy being here. (Laughter and applause.)
I want to thank everyone who has been a part of the program today. Dr. Parker, thank you. And Mildred Buffler, thank you. And I want to thank our great Secretary of Education, Dick Riley, my former colleague when we were governors together. And I think unquestionably history will record him as the most effective Secretary of Education our country has had to this point. (Applause.)
I thank the students who are behind this. I thank Dr. Clinard for her fine remarks and her fine work; Dr. Al Trivelpiece from the Oak Ridge labs is here. I thank you for being here, sir. I want to say a special word of thanks to Sumner Redstone and to Lynn Forester. Thank you, Lynn, and to all the other business leaders who have agreed to help us on this truly monumental but terribly important project.
I'm very, very glad to be here. The Vice President, last night I called to congratulate him on his debate, and I said that Mr. Kemp found out something that I found out a long time ago: It's just as well not to be on the other side of an argument with Al Gore. (Applause.) Although I did think it was rather ungracious of him to mention our annual bet on the Arkansas-Tennessee football game here in the backyard of the University of Tennessee. (Laughter and applause.)
Actually, we have a lot to be grateful to the University of Tennessee for. One of the most important members of our administration, Nancy Anmen (phonetic), I believe was the first female president of the student body here. (Applause.) The band came out to the airport to play for us, which was a wonderful thing; it woke us both up this morning, got us off to a good start. (Laughter.)
But, anyway, we always come back around to this football game, you know. And the last few years have been pretty good for Tennessee and not so good for Arkansas, and so I figured that Al's hubris would get the better of him, and since we were in Knoxville I could get more points on the game today. (Laughter.) And I'm lobbying. So you're proud of your football team, aren't you? (Applause.)
So what am I entitled to? Twenty-eight points on the spread? I mean, what do you think? (Laughter) We got to talking about Tennessee football players and I pointed out that one of the greatest football players Tennessee ever produced still has ties here in Knoxville, is still playing very well -- Reggie White of the Green Bay Packers. He's a good man. (Applause.) I visited Reggie and the Packers not very long ago and they are truly impressive. But as good as Reggie is, last night it was Al Gore who sacked the quarterback. (Applause.)
Let me say to all of you that the Vice President and I have worked very closely together, we've been a good team, we've worked hard for four years to basically change not only the way the national government works, but the way our country is thinking about the future. We want everyone in America to have a vision of what America should be like in the 21st century.
And I ask all of you to think about it when you leave here and you go about your business today, just think about it -- if you had to sit down in a paragraph, sort of say what you think your country ought to be like as we start a new century and a new millennium, in a time where we have radical, breathtaking changes in the nature of work and communications and how we relate to each other in the rest of the world, what would that vision be for you if you were writing it down? I encourage you to do it tonight when you get home. It would be a good exercise. Talk to your spouses, your kids, your parents about it. And think about what do you want for your country when we start this new century.
For me, it's this: I want us to take advantage of these changes so that the American Dream will be alive and well for everyone who is willing to work for it. I want us to be a country that is coming together, respecting our diversity and clinging to our shared values instead of being torn apart by our differences, as so many countries all around the world are. (Applause.) Now, who would have thought 15 or 20 years ago at the height of the Cold War we could ever see the threat of communism fade from the world, that we would see the ugly rise of old racial and ethnic and religious hatreds consuming people all around the globe. We can beat that rap here and we're determined to do it, and I think we will do it. (Applause.)
The third thing I want is for the United States to continue to be the world's strongest force for peace and freedom and progress and prosperity in the entire world. I think that is important for other people in the world who have their aspirations and who need to have the chance to grow up strong and free, the chance to develop the minds that God gave them and the spirits of their children.
To do that, we have followed a simple strategy. We have tried to create as much opportunity as possible. We have tried to demand responsibility from all of our citizens and do things that would encourage more of that. And we've tried to build this American community and stand against those forces that would undermine it. We have tried to change the fundamental way the government works, and Al Gore has been our leader in that regard. We have downsized the government now by 240,000 people or so. It's the smallest it's been since President Kennedy was in office. But we have also tried to change the way it works, to make it less bureaucratic and more oriented toward working in partnerships with citizens to give people the tools they need to make the most of their own lives.
That is the context in which I ask you to see what I believe we should be doing with science and technology and basic research. It has to do with what I want America to look like when we start this new century, what I want it to look like when people like me, when our children are our age, and indeed when our grandchildren are our age.
If you have that vision, there is no better way to make it real than by continuing to preserve America's leadership in research and technology and science. Of course, as Al said, there could be a great digital divide. If we don't broadly share the knowledge and the technology that is developing, it could work to promote inequality, frictions, anxieties among people. But if we do it right, it can be a great force to help us meet our challenges and protect our values together.
Continuing to push back on the frontiers of knowledge has always been one of the measures of America's greatness. For the last half century, this state of Tennessee has been a living map of how those kinds of investments can produce growth and opportunity. Sixty years ago, the TVA lifted an entire region out of poverty. Today it is still shining its light, illuminating homes and communities. During the Cold War, the Oak Ridge Laboratory harnessed the power of the atom in the service of our nation's defense. Today it's nuclear science is yielding the isotopes that help doctors trace heart disease. Our interstate highway system, built with the leadership of Senator Al Gore Sr., literally remade the landscape of America and connected us all more closely. And today it is still bringing Americans together.
Technology is clearly transforming our world, and it is creating a range of possibilities for the young people behind me and the young people in this audience that are literally unimaginable. Many of you people who are students at the University of Tennessee who are here and the younger students from high schools and the middle schools and the elementary schools, you will be doing work that has not been invented yet. Some of you will be doing things that have not even been imagined yet. And it is up to us to see that every one of you has the best possible chance to develop your talents and to live out your dreams.
That is what has been happening -- change at a rapid rate. Again, even if you look back on it, it's almost unimaginable. Consider this: There is today more computer power in a Ford Taurus you drive to the supermarket than there was in Apollo 11 when Neal Armstrong took it all the way to the Moon. Isn't that amazing? Cell phone, faxes, laptop computers, pagers -- they were the stuff of science fiction a few years ago. They're now everywhere, and if you don't have one, don't know how to work one, you're sort of out of step. These days you can take notes on a computer pad which converts it into a typed text and sends it to the Internet and transmits to a computer all across the world.
The young people today will live out their lives, in short, in a century that will change like this constantly. And that's why I say they will do work that not only has not been invented yet, but some of it has not been imagined yet.
Our cutting edge industries like microchips, biotechnology and aerospace once again lead the world. I'm proud of that, and that's good news for Americans. When it comes to these new technologies, our nation is on the right track, and that's one of the reasons we're the world's leading exporting country again, one of the reasons we have as many jobs as we do, one of the reasons that more than half of our new jobs are in higher-wage categories -- because we are on the cutting edge of positive change. (Applause.)
So let me say again, we must stay on the cutting edge of positive change. I am determined that we will continue to invest in science and technology. More research in America -- most research is conducted by businesses and universities, but we all know that government has an important role to play.
Of the 12 Americans who won the Nobel Prize last year, all 12 had received government support for their research. This year, the Nobel Prize winners have just been announced in physics and chemistry. Of the three who won this year in physics and two who won in chemistry, all five received federal funding from the National Science Foundation. Cutting back on research at the dawn of a new century where research is more important than it has been even for the last 50 years would be like cutting our defense budget at the height of the Cold War. We must not do it and we will not do it. We must protect the future of the young people here in the audience. (Applause.)
One of the marvelous things we have learned about research is that it's not necessarily going to benefit just a particular category in which it was undertaken, that ideas don't stay in boxes anymore, that they all become more interrelated, the more you know and the more you learn.
For example, the Department of Defense has a dual applications program that makes military research available for commercial use. The Commerce Department has an advanced technology program that works with hundreds of high-tech firms to create jobs and new technologies, and let me just give you one example of this.
The research we've done in defense and intelligence and in our space program on imaging, which is very, very important, knowing exactly where you are and what you're seeing, is playing enormous benefits in the medical research area, and it may help us to identify incipient cancers before they develop to a problem stage in a way that may drastically improve the cure rate for cancer and almost get the identification down to the point where cure and prevention become merely indistinguishable in the moment. This is the sort of thing we have to be thinking about all of the time. (Applause.)
I tell this story all the time, but I think it's important. We just formed a partnership with IBM to produce a supercomputer over the next couple of years that will do more calculations in one second than you can do at home on your hand-held calculator in 30,000 years. Now, that should give you some indication of how quickly things are changing and how we will be rewarded if we stay on the cutting edge, and how we can be punished if we don't.
I just talked a little bit about health care, but technology is really making enormous strides there and research is. During the time the Vice President and I have been in office, we've increased research on breast cancer at the National Institutes of Health by almost 80 percent. (Applause.) And just last year, an NIH scientist discovered two of the genes that cause breast cancer, giving hope for treating and preventing the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women.
We've increased NIH research on AIDS by 39 percent. (Applause) And I'm convinced we're in the process of helping to turn a relentlessly fatal disease into a chronic, manageable illness. The life expectancy of those with HIV and AIDS has nearly doubled since I took office because of medical advances in research. (Applause.)
We've come up with the first-ever treatment for strokes, the third biggest killer in America, something no one ever thought we would ever be able to do very much on. And just the other day -- well, a lot of you were moved, I know, by Christopher Reeves' speech at the Democratic National Convention. And he called for a recommitment to research. At almost the same time, either a couple of days before or a couple of days after Christopher Reeve gave that speech, for the first time ever, laboratory animals whose spine had been severed had movement in their lower limbs because of nerve transplants to the spine from other parts of the body. We can do things that we have never imagined if we continue to work and go forward. (Applause.)
Last week I signed budget legislation, increasing the NIH budget $2.4 billion over what it was the day I took office. These investments will make possible further advances. They will lead to sophisticated computer imaging systems to help us treat cancer, to help us deal with Alzheimer's. They will enable us to continue certain extraordinary initiatives going on there. One of my favorites is the human genome project, which is literally on the verge of mapping out a genetic code of life. It think it won't be too many years before parents will be able to go home from the hospital with their newborn babies with a genetic map in their hands that will tell them, here's what your child's future will likely be like. Therefore, if you want your child to live as long and as well as possible, here is the diet you should follow, here is the exercise program you should follow, here is the medical treatment you should follow. It will be an incredible thing.
I know that all of you believe in this, but I think it's important that we have -- that ordinary citizens have at their fingertips three or four examples that people can identify with of why these investments of your money -- because, after all, this is all your money, these are just things that we do together as a people because we couldn't do them individually --and I think it's important that you have these at your fingertips so that you can talk to your friends and neighbors about why this matters. I know you can make a good speech about it here because you've got Oak Ridge up the road and it's a lot of good jobs. But it's important to understand why it matters to everyone wherever they live and how it can change our common future for the better.
We all know that changes in technology are transforming the way we work, too. For a long time people were worried about that; we all were. Everybody wondered: Well, there's so much computer technology, all of the big organizations, the big bureaucracies can downsize, will there be more people dislocated than we can create new jobs; even if we create new jobs, will the new jobs not be as good a jobs as the ones we're losing.
These are legitimate worries that have plagued people in the past and it still troubles individuals in our country, but we now know that we are creating jobs that on average are in the higher-wage categories. We know we can do it right.
But there is another thing that we ought to look at, which is how we can use technology to help people who have children at home succeed at home and at work. When I became President -- I think it's still true, we don't have any updated figures -- but when I became President, there was a study that came out that said that people were working harder in 1994, the second year I was in office, than they had been 25 years earlier in 1969. The average working person was actually spending more hours a week at work.
And, yet, there were a higher percentage of parents in the workforce in 1994 than there were in 1969. That means that nearly every family, whether it's a family working for a very modest wage, a family with a solid, middle-class existence, even a lot of upper middle-class, better-off families are dealing with these competing pressures of trying to do a good job raising their children, which is our most important job, and trying to succeed in the workplace. (Applause.)
That's why the Vice President and I worked so hard for the Family and Medical Leave Act, why we believe it ought to be expanded, why we think there ought to be more flex time in the workplace. (Applause.) But, again, I think technology, if we keep working on it, we'll bring it back around to us, and a lot of people will be able to benefit from it. The number of Americans who are now working from their home at least part of the week and telecommuting has doubled over the last five years to 12.1 million.
The Small Business Job Protection Act that I signed this summer included an increase in the minimum wage for 10 million working Americans. (Applause) But it also did something else: It completed a job the Vice President and I started in 1993. We have, since 1993, increased the amount of capital a small business can expense from $10,000 a year now to $25,000 a year. And I believe more and more companies should use this expense to buy computers and other equipment for their employees to use at home, especially if the employees have young children. We have to work harder to make our businesses work well, our employees succeed, and people be able to be good parents. (Applause.)
Finally, let me say the explosion of information has changed everyone's life, nowhere more than on the Internet. Now, think about the Internet, how rapidly it's become part of our lives. In 1969 the government invested in a small computer network that eventually became the Internet. When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of what is called the Worldwide Web -- when I took office, January of 1993, only high energy physicists had heard of it. Now even my cat has its own Web page. (Laughter and applause.)
The number of people on the Web has been doubling every eight months. Think about that. The number of people on the Web has been doubling every eight months. Today there are at least 25 million people on the Internet. By 1998 that number will reach 100 million. The day is coming when every home will be connected to it and it will be just as normal a part of our life as a telephone and a television. It is becoming our new town square, changing the way we relate to one another, the way we send mail, the way we hear news, the way we play.
Every citizen can now read the Congressional Record. If you have insomnia, I recommend it. (Laughter and applause.) Every citizen can get the text of what's in a new law the very day it passes. Art lovers can go to the Louvre. Baseball fans can pay an on-line visit to Cooperstown. Everyone can find a passage in the Bible or in Shakespeare with the click of a mouse. Most of all the Internet will be the most profoundly revolutionary tool for educating our children in generations.
I want to see the day when computers are as much a part of a classroom as blackboards and we put the future at the fingertips of every American child. (Applause.) That sounds great, but think about the implications for our American democracy. If you want to go into the 21st century with the American Dream alive and well for everyone, everybody has a chance to live up to the fullest of their abilities and, I might add, to be less shackled by whatever disabilities they have, if you believe we can create a community where everybody has a role to play, think about the implications for this.
What does this mean, hooking up every classroom? It means if you have the right computers and the right education equipment, software, the right educational software and properly trained teachers, and then all of these connections are made to the Internet and the World Wide Web and all of the other networks that will be exploding out there, think what this means. This means for the first time ever in history, children in the most rural schools, children in the poorest inner-city school districts, children in standard, middle-class communities, children in the wealthiest schools, public or private, up and down the line, will have access in real time to the same unlimited store of information. It will revolutionize and democratize education in a way that nothing ever has in the history of this country. Think about what it means. (Applause.)
In the State of the Union Address, I challenged the American people to make sure that all of the libraries and classrooms in the country were hooked up to the Information Superhighway by the year 2000. I am very, very grateful for the work that has already been done. Businesses, communities, governments, schools have worked all across this country, thousands of schools have been hooked up on net days from California to Florida, and today we are taking three more steps to make sure we achieve that critical goal.
First, the announcement that has been made by Mr. Redstone. The business community is committed to taking the lead in putting educational technology into our classrooms. CEOs from our top telecommunications firms are joining together to help us achieve that vision. Sumner Redstone, Lynn Forester, also Robert Allen of AT&T, Larry Ellison of Oracle, Gerry Levin of Time-Warner, Brian Roberts of Comcast, Steven Case of America OnLine and there will be many more -- they're going to make sure that we have the computers in the classrooms, that the teachers are properly trained, that the educational software is the best available, and that all these connections are made to democratize education. They will help to raise private sector contributions to match the technology literacy challenge fund that we have created.
And let me say again to Sumner, to Lynn, to all the others: We owe them our thanks, and we need more to follow their lead. This is the only way we can get this done in a short time. (Applause.) Thank you.
The second thing we have to do is to make sure that all of the schools and the libraries in the country can afford to hook up to the Internet. (Applause.) Today, the cost of using the Internet can price some schools out of cyberspace. Fees can be inconsistent with the highest rates, often hitting places with the fewest resources.
Soon, all this will change. Under the new telecommunications law I signed a few months ago, the Federal Communications Commission will require the telecommunications service providers give to schools and libraries affordable rates for Internet access. The FCC will vote on how to do this on November 8th -- how to provide what we call an "E-rate," an education rate.
Today, I call on the FCC when it votes to give every elementary, middle and high school and every library in the country the lowest possible E-rate free basic service to the Internet. (Applause.) More sophisticated services like teleconferencing, the FCC should require discounted rates with the deepest discounts going to the poorest schools and areas. (Applause.) I urge the FCC and the state regulators who have a say in this to make the E-rate a reality for our schools. And again, I want to thank the Vice President and Secretary Riley, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Larry Irving, who has worked with us on this, and there are a number of members of Congress. The Senators that I would like to mention are Dorgan, Exon, Kerry*, Rockefeller, and Senator Snow, and Congressman Markey. They have all helped us on this.
This is a big deal. Wouldn't it be a shame if we did all this work and there were schools that literally could not access the Internet, if there were libraries in little rural communities that couldn't do it. It is not necessary. This will pay for itself over and over again by increasing the users, the knowledge, it will explode, and we have to do this.
Finally, let me say, to keep going we have to keep the Internet itself up to speed. I know it's hard to imagine that the Internet could be getting too old. I find that about myself from time to time. (Laughter.) But believe it or not, everything ages, and the Internet is straining under its growing popularity. Like any other piece of critical infrastructure, it has to be repaired and upgraded to meet all our education, medical, and national security needs. It is now time to invest in the next generation of Internet. Today I am pleased to announce our commitment to a new $100 million initiative in Fiscal Year 1998 to improve and expand the Internet, paid for under out balanced budget plan line by line, dime by dime.
America must have an Internet that keeps pace with our future. So let's give America Internet II, the next generation Internet. (Applause.) We have to keep it big enough and fast enough to connect all of our people. Now, this initiative will help universities and research institutions expand the amount of information that Internets can carry through ultra-fast fiber-optic networks. It will develop software to eliminate bottlenecks. It will expand the number of addresses on the Internet. It will create powerful new switching computers to create power -- to enable universities to communicate with each other 100 to 1,000 times faster than they can today.
It will develop the software to carry sound and video from one end of the world to another in real time. It will be capable of transmitting the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in less than a second.
These improvements will make the Internet a more important and remarkable part of our own lives. They will enable our Defense Department to send intelligence instantly to our troops on the ground anywhere in the world. They will let doctors in rural areas scan their patients for cancer by tapping into supercomputers at university hospitals a long way away. They will allow Americans to take any class anytime, anywhere, in any subject. They will expand the reach of education programs right here, like the Oak Ridge Education Network and Adventures in supercomputing.
So let us reach for a goal in the 21st century of every home connected to the Internet, and let us be brought closer together as a community through that connection. (Applause.)
Let me close with a word of caution that I know I don't need for anybody in this audience in East Tennessee. We cannot idealize technology. Technology is only and always the reflection of our own imagination, and its uses must be conditioned by our own values. Technology can help cure diseases, but we can prevent a lot of diseases by old-fashioned changes in behavior. And we know that as well. (Applause.)
Technology can give us a lot of information about why we should act rationally in certain cases. But continuing to hate our friends and neighbors because of their religious, racial, tribal, or ethnic differences, that is an affair of the human heart. And we know that as well. (Applause.)
So today let us resolve to keep faith with our future by passing on to our children an Information Superhighway that will help them to live out their dreams. But let us also resolve to make sure that their dreams are the right dreams so that when we get to this great, brand-new century and this remarkable age of possibility, the vision we all share for our future can become real.
Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 12:30 P.M. EDT