Office of the Press Secretary
(New York, New York)

For Immediate Release                                  February 15, 1996     


Christopher Columbus School
Union City, New Jersey

10:45 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Carol. Good morning, Secretary Riley. You look great long distance there -- (laughter) -- glad you're in the Cabinet. Good Morning, Bob Fazio, and thank you again for what you said and for the remarkable work you have done here.

I want to say hello to Senator Lautenberg and Congressman Menendez, who had so much to do with starting this technology effort in this school system; and to Jim Cullen at Bell Atlantic, and the others who are here from the private sector; and the teachers, the parents and especially the students who are here; and the students from the 65 schools in Hudson, Bergen and Morris Counties who are with us today. Thanks to technology, I want to say hello to all of you.

I have been looking forward to this for some time. And the Vice President and I have had some very exciting conversations about what we would see here and what all of you have done here. And I want to just begin by thanking all of you for making this kind of partnership work and by proving what I said in the State of the Union -- that we have an obligation if we want all Americans to have the opportunities that this new information and technology age offers; we have an obligation to make sure that all of our children have access to world-class education through the finest technology. And you are doing that. And I'm very, very proud of you and I'm very excited to listen to all of you and what you have to say today.

But I would like to talk a little bit about what we are trying to do. What we are trying to do from the White House is to work in partnership with everybody in America who is concerned about this to see that by the year 2000 every classroom and every library in the entire United States is hooked up to the Information Superhighway, that all our children have access to computers and the finest educational software, and all of our teachers have the kind of training and support that, obviously, you have provided here, and that there is a kind of connection that we see here.

I am very excited about the prospects that young people like those here at this table in this room will be able to learn things that I could never have even dreamed of as a child. And while I want districts like yours to be able to stand out and be proud, I think all of you want every child to have the opportunities that your children have.

And that's why I wanted to come here to announce what our next steps are. As I said in the State of the Union, when I outlined the importance of meeting the challenge of providing all of our children an education for the 21st century, one of the primary goals I set was making sure every classroom was hooked up to the Information Superhighway by the year 2000.

Today, I am proposing and will include in my budget to the Congress a $2-billion Technology Literacy Challenge that will put the future at the fingertips of every child in every classroom in the United States. Let me explain just briefly how it will work.

We'll basically do what you have done here in Union City on a national level. We will use the resources of state and local governments and school districts of the private sector, the schools, the students, the parents and the teachers. The proposal is part of the balanced budget plan, as I said I sent to Congress, and we will use these funds basically as Challenge grants to try to make sure that no school district, no matter how poor, no matter how urban or rural, will be denied the opportunity to do what your children have been able to do because of your vision and work.

I ask for all the people in this country who will support this effort to get active, to get involved. Companies like Bell Atlantic can do a great deal, but they can also use a lot more help. And, obviously, none of this will happen unless the schools and the parents support the endeavor.

So we're going to try to do our part. We want to support you. And we look forward to the day when we can have a conversation like this and every school child in America can be a part of it.

Now, I'd like to turn this over to our high-tech Vice President who has educated me -- between the Vice President and my daughter, I'm about to figure out this modern age. (Laughter.) And I want to thank them both, and introduce the Vice President and thank him for all the work he has done in this important area.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Mr. President, and to all the distinguished guests that you've already acknowledged here at Christopher Columbus and at the Bergen Academy hooked up by this video link.

You know, Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez can remember, as I do, what it felt like in the 1960s when President John Kennedy said, our nation will send someone to the moon and return him safely before the end of the decade. Once that goal was set, everybody who could play a part in reaching that goal did his or her part. And it all came together. And we watched the early launches and steady progress of the initiative. And then, as is often the case when America has leadership and a clear goal, we reached that goal. But I remember what it felt like.

Well, now, President Clinton has given our nation a goal of connecting every classroom and every library to the Information Superhighway by the end of this decade, by the end of this century. And we see here at Christopher Columbus some of the early experiments to demonstrate how it works, not just to make the connection electronically, but to the curiosity of these children. And you see a student body that was struggling now having the highest attendance and scores 10 percent above the state average, because your leaders here paid attention to the basics and then used this new capacity, the Information Superhighway, to rethink the way the classroom operates, to rethink the relationship between the teachers and the parents and the student. And the results are here to see.

President Clinton instructed his staff to make certain that this national initiative he's launching here today is modern in every respect according to reinvented principles, with flexibility to the states and local governments. It's an exciting departure. And it feels to me the same way it did when President Kennedy announced that goal of going to the moon and back. And because of the nuts and bolts details of this $2-billion Challenge initiative that the President is announcing here today, we are actually going to meet this goal.

Next month the President and I will be in California on what's called "Net Day." Twenty percent of the schools there will be hooked up to the Information Superhighway on one day. There will be other announcements, just as there were in the early years of the space program, one right after another, each taking us closer to the goal. But that goal again is not only the electronic link, it is the link to the students and their parents and the teachers. And that's what we want to hear about now.


Let me just say one other word and then we'll go back to the planned rotation. Bob Fazio said something that sparked a warm response in me and reminded me that technology is only as good as the people who are using it. And in the service of education, it's only as good as the educators who are committed to educating our children. And he introduced himself as the instructional leader of this school.

Having worked now for almost 20 years in the field of education reform and having had the opportunity as a governor to travel all across America, to go into many of our country's finest schools, it wasn't so many years ago that there were almost no principals in America who would have introduced themselves as the instructional leaders of their schools. They thought of themselves as managers, people who kept order and make sure the books balanced and did all kinds of things that were unrelated, almost, to what was going on in the classroom. And the reason this technology initiative is working here is because, from the principal to the teachers, people understand what the mission is. And I wanted to thank you.

That was a statement that people that haven't spent a lot of time in classrooms might not have even paid any attention to, but, to me, it meant more than anything else you said. And I thank you for that because it's important for all us who are trying to put this equipment at the fingertips of our educators to remember that what happens then is the magic between the teachers, the children and the parents. And I thank you for what you said.

Q Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Vice President, who is going to go next?

Q I'd like to call upon Ela Mesguer, who is a teacher, to tell us why technology is so important to us here at Columbus School. You can add the technology, but if you don't have the curriculum to go along with the technology and you don't have the support, we know that it can't work.

So, Ela Mesguer.

Q I think we have the successful formula at Christopher Columbus School, starting with a strong leader like Mr. Bob Fazio, where an open mind and the future vision is helping where we are going with curriculums that really connect and can be equally connected to the Internet and to CD ROMs and to interactive television, working with centers of science and museums.

We have the element of creativity and dedication on the part of the faculty. And our goal is our students. We want them to learn. And what is unique about our school is that our school is a school for all students, not a school for a select few. It is normal kids, multi -- (inaudible) -- from all socioeconomic backgrounds. And we have proven that with this formula of technology, creativity, dedication and allowing our students to be self-learners and self-researchers, it works. And that's what I'm most excited about. We are a school -- an urban school. I am so proud that we have you here. I am honestly nervous, and I'm not usually nervous. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: You're doing great.

Q But I just want to say, hearing your plan is so exciting because it means a lot to Union City and the children here because they don't have the economic situation that other districts might have, so they can be connected at home with their own computers. So this will provide us an opportunity to continue on our quest to navigate beyond the -- (inaudible.) So I thank you so much for this opportunity.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Erika, did you want to add something to this?

Q Well, the need for technology -- (inaudible) -- you need a door to the mind. It prepares you for your future, because now colleges are urging people to be computer literate, and by starting in the grammar schools like this you're getting a further head start in high school right now. I think technology has come a long way and it's going to take us very far.

THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you something. Why do you think that students here are doing better now -- like on test scores and things like that -- than they would have done if there had been no technology here? What do you think the most important thing is about technology?

Q Well, I think the most important part about it is that it's, like you said before, right at your fingertips. You know that something will be there for somebody -- sometimes the information needs to get updated on the computer, it's always being updated and being changed. So I think by using computers everybody has more time to study and it's quicker and they're doing better. It has nothing to do with high class and lower class and things like that.

THE PRESIDENT: That's right. Do you think that having access to the computer makes all children believe that they're equal, that they can have equal aspirations because it's an equalizer across income, isn't it?

Q Yes, it is.

THE PRESIDENT: Is it also more fun?

Q Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you think that something to do with why people learn more, because it's more fun? (Laughter.)

Q Yes, I do.

THE PRESIDENT: That's not bad, that's okay. You can say that. (Laughter.) It doesn't have to be hard, it can be fun.

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Mr. President, George Gonzalez has come here from Bergen Academy.

And what difference does it make in your work as a teacher?

Q Okay, like everybody answered before, it has been a process. It's a process that has lasted since 1982, starting in 1982. And somebody with a vision like Dr. Greco -- (phonetic) -- over there, he told us, we're going to create a high knowledge school of the future.

So that was the vision. And then he created a plan, and he said the plan is to create partnerships, number one, with corporations. We supply tools, technological tools like Bell Atlantic, Citicorp. Then, number two, the second partnership would be corporation, more businesses, more institutions that supply the context of where we're going to use that technology. Number three, educational institutions to share the resources. And number four would be the professional community in our area, to keep them up-to-date with the technological changes.

So I would say today, 1996, I think his dream became reality. And I don't think you have better opportunity than this one to congratulate Dr. Greco and thank him for the opportunity that he gave me.

Now, to answer your question how I feel as a teacher, the knowledge as a teacher, that's I think is one -- (inaudible) -- they want to be more excited and it changes every day. No one day is the same. I wake up every morning not knowing what's going to happen. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: It is like our job. (Laughter.)

Q I'm competing with maybe hundreds of thousands of developers, and they're developing something new every day, and I have to come out with the -- (inaudible.) So I gave up being a teacher about 10 years ago and said, I can't handle it anymore. So instead of being a teacher, I became a facilitator, a team mate. So we face the challenge, we're all going to work together, let's solve the problem. So for me, it has been the greatest thing that ever happened. And later on we're going to take you for a tour to the most amazing classroom that you're going to find in this country. I can guarantee you that.

And for this tour, it's created a great opportunity to, what you said, to bring to the service our best role is being able to display the work and compare with peers across the planet. So not only the classrooms here, it's everywhere on the planet. So I think that's one of the best things that ever happened to us.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Now, is Andrew one of your students?

Q We have two -- we have Kathy and Kathy, maybe you want to say some words on how we use --

Q At the Academy we stress the connection to -- and at each grade level we have a -- project. And that project usually has an -- so in 9th grade, all the students -- (inaudible) -- where we simulate corporations. We divide up into different groups and we do research and we produce a product, and we take it from the manufacturing state to finally to the advertisement and selling our product.

And after we do all that research, using now the Internet, we can think that the entire world -- because we like to present our work to each other, to our own Academy and the community. But now with the Internet we can share our work globally, and that kind of connection with other students across the world is helping us to get more information and kind of share what we've done.

Q Just to almost break the walls of our school, instead of being enclosed in the building, with the Internet we can almost go out into the community. And as Mr. Gonzales said, one of the goals of Dr. Greco was to allow institutions to come to our school and ask us for the -- content. One thing that students in our school can do is we can work with corporations, and we are presently working with corporations to solve real-life problems, giving the students a very unique experience.

Presently, a group, including myself, are working with scientists and engineers at the Smithsonian Institute to develop a biovisualization and 3-D gallery to display on the Internet. What these galleries will include are --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Did you say biovisualization and 3-D gallery?

Q Yes. (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay, just checking. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Tell us what biovisualization is. For all of us mere mortals, we'd like to know what that means. (Laughter.)

Q Well, basically, what they include are specimens from the Smithsonian Archives that would be reproduced by the students in additional formats. And including all their background information, where the fossils may have been found, what the model may have been -- this information will be displayed in the Internet to be accessible throughout the world. And this allows the Smithsonian to sort of open up their whole entire archives which is more than a million specimens, instead of the minute percent that is presently on display. And all this is possible by the -- facilities in our school.

Q So that is what we -- we're going to take you for a tour. Before I make a mistake, I have to thank every one of my coworkers there for all the effort. And here is my colleague who is going to take you for a tour.

Q Thank you, Mr. Gonzalez. It's my pleasure to take you all on a virtual tour over here at the Academy. I'm standing beside students, Erika and Josh, who are currently part of the information technology class. They're creating pages that will be placed on-line on the Internet dedicated to SIC Kids, a special interest group for students interested in computer graphics and their applications.

In the back of all that, we have a 3-D laser digitizer. This machine allows us to digitize complex 3-dimensional surfaces and generate data points from them. These data points can then be imported into a CAD, or computer-aided design program, and edited and manipulated in 3-D space. The CAD model can then be imported into our stereo lithography machine where we can generate a prototype or it can print out 3-dimensional copy.

Our data can also be imported into our computer animation software that runs on our -- graphics machine. Here the student can apply materials and textures and also motion characteristics to enhance the 3-D visualization process.

Our data can also be imported into our virtual reality suite. Here our student is taking a virtual tour in a gallery in space. This is a project that was designed by another Academy student, Lester Vexy (phonetic), and it includes models, information and images to educate the user about the history of space travel.

Meredith Carr is currently analyzing a Smithsonian CAD model that was imported from our 3-D laser digitizer.

Meredith, can you explain a little bit about your project?

Q Good morning, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President. I've been working, along with Andy and some other students here, with researchers at the Smithsonian Institute. We've taken jaw fragments from monkey skulls that have never been found whole, and we're able to digitize them and bring them into programs where we can edit them and try to assemble the entire skull as it has never been seen before. Once that's done, we can take them into rendering programs and animate them so they can be visualized properly so anyone could really see it as if it were an actual model.

After that, as Andy mentioned, we can put it on the Internet, so that researchers and scientists and students all over the world have access to this information.

Q Thank you, Meredith.

We can collaborate directly with the Smithsonian Institute and other entities using our video-teleconferencing software. The benefit of this is that our students can communicate directly with other researchers and scientists around the world. Chris Greeley is hard at work providing contents on our Web Server dedicating a series of pages to environmental studies.

Chris, could you please explain a little bit about your project.

Q Good morning, everyone. Environmental studies is an interdisciplinary project that we're running here at the Academy, developed by the junior class. Basically, the purpose of this project is to allow students to gain an in-depth knowledge of the environmental issues concerning such topics as beach erosion and pollution, animal overpopulation, and the Superfund policy.

Students gain insight into their topics by going out into the local community and by talking with experts in their chosen field. Through this project we hope to be able to share everything we've learned with students everywhere all across the world.

Q Thank you, Chris.

Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, we hope this virtual tour has given you some insight as to the technological capabilities we have here at the Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology. I'm going to turn it over to you now at the Christopher Columbus School.

Q Mr. President, piggy-backing off the Bergen Academy, I'd like to show you a live demonstration -- one of our students, Danny, who is sitting at the roundtable, will show you a demonstration.

(A demonstration is given.)

THE PRESIDENT: That's great.

Q Well, as you can see, Mr. President, things have changed since you were last in the classroom, and three years ago when I walked into Christopher Columbus School, I didn't know how to turn a computer on. And I think it's important for us to talk a little bit about how technology has changed us all as professionals.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Luciano, what about from a parent's perspective? Is it true that this has enabled you to communicate with teachers about the students?

Q First of all, I want to make sure I am breathing, I want to make sure -- (laughter). It is true I want to thank you, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, and all of you from coming to Union City -- the town that I love like I love my country.

When I came in 1990 from El Salvador, we never expected, my wife and I, that our kid could have the benefits of high technology in education. (Inaudible.) It is a privilege for me to be with the President of the strongest nation around the world. I want to thank all the ones who made possible the -- Explore, especially Bell Atlantic, the Board of Education of Union City, the Mayor Mr. Menendez -- and everyone who made -- Explore possible.

With this program, we see education through -- light. We the parents, for us, the most difficult thing is how to motivate our kids to go to school. And this program is not only helping to improve education, but this program also brought the motivation and the possible change to the life -- (inaudible.)

As you continue, Mr. President, as our president into the new century as a bridge between this century into the next century, we are sure that we can count on your support to make this technology available for all the kids of our great nation. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I think there's a parent, Mr. President, from Bergen Academy, Louis Clements. Would you share your perspective as a parent on how it's changed the way the school there operates?

Q Good morning, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President.

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.

Q The Academy here has offered things to students, my son included, which I have never dreamed possible in a public high school. The technologies that they offer here are far-reaching in all disciplines. The students use computers in their daily life to perform homework tasks, to explore new avenues.