The President's New Markets Trip:
|For Immediate Release||April 17, 2000|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN DIGITAL DIVIDE DISCUSSION
WITH THE EAST PALO ALTO COMMUNITY
East Palo Alto, California
9:07 A.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: You all sit down. Good morning. I want to thank Mayor Wilson for making us welcome today. And thank you, Magda Escobar for all you have done. I also want to recognize some other people who are here with us today. Reverend Jackson, thank you for coming. (Applause.) Carly Fiorina, the President of Hewlett-Packard; and Robert Knowling, the President of Covad, thank you for being here. (Applause.) Rebecca Lobo, thank you for being here. We're glad to see you. (Applause.)
I'd like to also acknowledge the presence in the audience of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo; the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Bill Kennard; and many members of Congress -- Representative Zoe Lofgren, Representative John Conyers, Representative Bill Jefferson, Representative Barbara Lee, Representative Silvestre Reyes, Representative Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, Representative Anna Eshoo -- I think that's all the members of Congress who are here.
I'd like to thank Gene Sperling and Maria Eschaveste. And I want to recognize especially the man who helped us avoid the Y2K problem, a distinguished Republican Senator from Utah, Bob Bennett. Thank you for coming, Senator Bennett. We're glad to see you. (Applause.)
I'd also like to thank all the civil rights leaders who are here, the high-tech CEOs, the foundation directors. And I'd like to thank Julian Lacey who is here for helping us kick off our national call to action for digital opportunity. I know that all of you know Julian. Thank you. (Applause.)
I want to thank AOL for web casting today's event live. And I'd like to say a special word of appreciation to one person who is not here who helped us to develop our entire approach to closing the digital divide, Vice President Al Gore. I thank him as well. (Applause.)
Now, I will be brief because I want to get on to the questions. But I want to tell you why we're here. This is a very fortunate time for our country. We have the strongest economy in history. We have the lowest African American and Hispanic unemployment rates our country has ever recorded, and the lowest female unemployment rate in 40 years. But we all know there are people and places that have not fully participated in this new economy.
I have been to a lot of those places on my digital divide tour -- I mean, my New Markets tours -- because I see these places as places of opportunity, places of new markets. If we can create new employees, new businesses, new jobs, new opportunities, we can keep the American economy going. This is one of those fortunate times when, by doing the thing that is morally right, we actually help to keep America's economic expansion churning forward. It's going to take the efforts of government, business and the community sector to succeed.
This is our third New Markets tour. When I leave you, I'm going to Northern New Mexico, to the Shiprock Navajo Reservation. And tomorrow I'll be in Chicago, meeting with representatives of every aspect of the high-tech industry in America. I wanted to begin here in East Palo Alto -- (applause) -- because even here in Silicon Valley, there are many people who could be left behind, and because you're doing so much to make sure you're not left behind. And we ought to be giving a helping hand.
I don't think there is a better place in America to show what can be done to reach out to our children who are at risk of falling behind. We can see that here at Plugged In, at the Silican Valley Project, at the new Cisco Sun Academy, where graduates are virtually assured of good jobs that pay up to $70,000 a year. In a few minutes, I will announce some other things that corporate leaders here today are prepared to do to help this city on the move, move even faster.
Let me just briefly ask you to remember the history of this community. One hundred and fifty years ago, East Palo Alto got its start as a community called Ravenswood. Ravenswood was a good candidate to become the last stop on the transcontinental railway, something that was very important in the Industrial Age. Unfortunately, plans changed, the railroad bypassed Ravenswood altogether, and it was a decision that had repercussions for the people who lived in this community for a century or more.
Today, we're in another time of fundamental economic transformation, but we can do it very differently because, unlike the railroads of the Industrial Age, the trade routes of the Information Age can run through every city, every town, every community. And, in fact, the more communities they run through, the better it works.
No one has to be bypassed this time around. The choice is in our hands. We can use new technology to extend opportunity to more Americans than ever before; we can truly move more people out of poverty more rapidly than ever before, or we can allow access to new technology to heighten economic inequality and sharpen social division.
Again, I say, the choice is ours. But I want to reiterate a point I made earlier. The truth is that doing the right thing will accelerate the strength of this powerful economic engine. (Applause.) Every economist knows that new technologies will continue to drive rapid economic growth only if they continue to spread to all sectors of our economy.
I have made closing this digital divide a big priority. It is a big priority in our budget and a big priority for trying to enlist the energies of our fellow citizens. That's why I issued a national call to action, to enlist the support of businesses, state and local governments, community groups, foundations, schools and volunteers. Already, more than 400 organizations have signed on to our call.
To reach these broad national goals, all of us are going to have to do our part. In addition to our $2.25 billion e-rate initiative, which allows us to hook up every school and library in the country to the Internet, including those who can't afford it on their own -- (applause) -- and our new $450 million Technology Literacy Challenge, which helps to provide to poor areas -- the computers, the software, the teacher training and the Internet access that's so important. I'm asking Congress for $100 million for community technology centers like Plugged In --(applause) -- $150 million to help train all new teachers to use the technology and the Internet in the classroom -- (applause) -- and $2 billion in new tax incentives for computer donations and contributions to our schools, our libraries and community technology centers. (Applause.)
But the important announcement is the one I want to make today. Corporations in this area have committed over $100 million to help you do what you do best. Gateway will provide technology training to 75,000 teachers, including every single teacher here in East Palo Alto. (Applause.) Novell will donate $20 million in software for nonprofit organizations devoted to helping underserved Hispanic organizations. (Applause.) Hewlett-Packard will invest $15 million in a new digital village initiative to help three underserved communities, starting here in East Palo Alto. (Applause.)
Qualcomm is giving back to the city where it's based, San Diego, with a $25 million commitment, including $7 million -- this is important -- to improve math and science education among all of our young people. (Applause.) Power Up, a partnership of AOL, Gateway and several other companies that bring technology to young people in schools and community centers, is going to expand from 19 to 250 sites nationwide. AmeriCorps, a strong partner of Power Up, will assign 400 of our young volunteers to work at these sites. AOL is going to provide 100,000 accounts for use at these sites, a commitment worth $26 million every year. (Applause.)
Applied Materials has pledged a million dollars for projects such as a new high-tech job training center for the people of East Palo Alto. (Applause.) And they are going to be in partnership with the city and with Reverend Jackson's Rainbow Push coalition, which has an office right around the corner here. (Applause.) I promised Jesse, I would promote his job site too, you see, around the corner.
AT&T is committing $1.2 million to support the Academy of Information Technology, which is dedicated to helping high school students prepare for high-paying jobs in the high-tech industry. Cisco will invest $1.4 million to expand its Cisco Network Academy Program to 10 more under-served communities. People PC has agreed to donate 300 new multimedia computers to the East Palo Alto Schools. (Applause.)
I want to thank all these corporations and all their leaders for their new commitments and I want to thank Covad for leading an effort to increase minority participation in the high tech industry. We are nowhere near where we ought to be on that. (Applause.)
Now, the commitments of governments and corporations are only part of the equation. The rest requires motivation and that's what I want us all to focus on for the rest of our time here. Frankly, all the computers and software and Internet connections in the world won't do much good if young people don't understand that access to new technology means access to new learning opportunities, new job opportunities, new entrepreneurial opportunities -- access to the new economy.
That's why I am very pleased that the Kaiser Family Foundation is going to create a major public service campaign to inspire young people to get on computers and get on line. The ads will air on NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, BET, Univision, MTV, The Cartoon Network and other major channels. They will feature Magic Johnson and Rebecca Lobo, who will highlight new technologies and the fact that they're not only fun, they can open a lot of doors in life. Bet.com will also air their own PSAs, encouraging African Americans to use the Internet and participate. Let's give them all a hand. That's great. (Applause.)
Now, let me just say this. I want to thank the people at Plugged In again, Magda and all the others. Places like this can change lives forever. You come in, learn how to design web pages or set up networks or just how to use the Internet as a tool for discovery. That gives you the power to control your future.
I want to show you something. If you haven't done this, I want to urge you all to take a look at the classifieds from yesterday's San Jose Mercury News. There are 10,000 technology-related jobs advertised in this paper. If they could be held by every unemployed and underemployed person in East Palo Alto, this would be a better country today. (Applause.) So whether it's finding a high-tech job or serving as a teacher or just being a more effective parent, every young person needs to know how to use this technology. It will serve you well, no matter what you do.
Now I'd like to begin our discussion by asking Rebecca Lobo a question that I hope will help us to understand what's involved here in getting young people to actually commit themselves to becoming technologically literate.
A lot of people, Rebecca, across the country look up to you because -- you're tall. (Laughter.) And they also look up to you because you're a great basketball player, a great human being and, therefore, a great role model. They see the life you have; they'd like to have a career in professional sports. But a lot of kids have to find their stardom somewhere else -- there are only so many people who can make it in sports, but everybody can make it in life. So I'd like to know how you would speak to children to try to persuade them how to become technologically literate, why they should master computers and the Internet. What would your message be?
MS. LOBO: My message to kids all the time -- generally, they ask questions about basketball, but it's to follow their dreams, because whatever their dreams are, they can come true. Generally, all kids just want to be successful and they want to have an opportunity to be successful. And now the Internet is the way to be able to find the success that they want, to achieve the dreams that they want. And they just need the opportunities to be able to get on the Internet, to have access to the Internet, to have people showing them how to use it so that they can pursue whatever dream it is -- they can find information about whatever job or whatever career -- whether it's sports or anything that they want to pursue.
And one thing that's been exciting for me -- I'm on the Internet all the time -- through wmba.com, kids can ask me questions. And I try to answer all of my e-mails and I think it's a pretty cool thing when a kid is doing a report in school, and they're doing a report on me and they have a question. And so they e-mail it to me and they get it right from the source, the answer.
But you go out and you encourage these kids and let them know how much fun the Internet can be. And you want people to pursue their passions. I've been fortunate to be able to follow my dream and make a living doing what I love to do. And you want all people to have that opportunity and you want to encourage these kids, that they can find that opportunity and have that access through the Internet. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Is it on? I'm still technologically challenged, right? (Laughter.) I want to ask Reverend Jackson a question. You've been involved in the civil rights revolution all your life. We were just in Selma together. When Dr. King died, he was moving the civil rights revolution to a new stage, the stage of economic opportunity. And you have spent most of the last 30-plus years trying to extend that opportunity to people who have been left out and left behind. What do you think this new technology means to your prospects of succeeding at the work of the last 30 years?
REVEREND JACKSON: First of all, let me take the liberty to say, Mr. President, that you're taking the message to the people, taking light to dark places, coming to Selma, to Appalachia, to East Palo Alto. This is the quality of leadership our nation deserves. We must really thank you for that. Thank you for that. (Applause.)
When Dr. King looked at the Great Divide in 1955, he knew it was the enlightened energy of young America that could change the course. And so when Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus, he said better that we walk in dignity than walk in shame, young America came alive. At that time, the White House didn't move, the Congress didn't move. Young America came alive. In 1960, four students sat in to get hamburgers; they got handcuffs and they were threatened expulsion from school. They chose dignity over dollars and degrees. Young America came alive.
We now have a public accommodations bill, the right to vote, all because young America came alive. And thus, those who would be free must strike the first blow. Literally ,at that time, we were in a social revolution and we changed laws. We are now in a cultural revolution and young people must bring forth a new energy. I would say, to use one poet, Gene Sperling's language, shift from high tops to laptop, in terms of what's important. Because you can get your high tops from your laptop and you cannot get your laptop from your high tops, in terms of what is important to young America.
We are going to do a conference out here May 1st through 3rd, the Rainbow Push. And I must say the first thing -- we are going to meet with 3,000 youth from East Palo Alto and San Jose and energize them, and Carly Fiorina and Bob are here about computers -- so we must make this the mass, stylish, the thing-to-do movement. We are also going to organize a thousand churches. We want the churches to put laptops and computers in their Sunday school rooms, so churches can be after-school homework centers for our youth, and make this a mass movement for students and parents and preachers.
I am convinced, when I look at people like Magic Johnson and Isaiah Thomas -- when these young people grasp this -- and they are now -- I hope we're closing the gap real fast with those who have the energy to make it happen. And I see young America catching on. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I would like to ask a question of Carly Fiorina. One of the things that bothers me about being President is that I can -- I'm a fairly high energy person so I can go to a place like East Palo Alto and we can get everybody together and we can get all these commitments and people can follow through on their commitments. But I'm always worried that somehow there will be a gap between this moment and when people's lives really change. And I would like to know what you think it will really take for the investment revolution to permeate this community and others like it to the extent that we really will be able to guarantee equal opportunity to all these kids, if they master the fundamentals of the information revolution.
MS. FIORINA: Well, first, I would say, Mr. President, that you are correct. As wonderful as it is that you come here today, what it's really about is all of the commitments that preceded your visit and all of the commitments that will follow your visit.
There are, however, I think three basic laws in the high-tech industry today -- laws that I think represent opportunity for those who will learn and have access to the technology. One fundamental law is that the high-tech industry is in a constant war for talent. We don't have enough people with enough skills. That will continue to be the case for many, many, many, many years to come because this is a growth industry and there is no end to that growth in sight.
So whether it is Covad or Novell or Cisco or Sun or Hewlett-Packard or any of the other companies that are here in Silicon Valley, all of us worry first and foremost about finding enough talent. That's the first law.
The second law is that technology -- information technology and the Internet can be the great equalizer. The Internet and information technology can erase the barriers of time and distance, and yes, the barriers of prejudice, as well, because if people have the tools, if people have the skills, if people have the access, they represent the talent that this industry needs.
And the third law is that without those tools, without that access, without those skills, the divide becomes greater and greater and greater. And so I really think it is about communities and corporations and government working together to make sure that people have access to the tools and the technology, access to training, access to skills. But rest assured, the industry needs people who have these skills. It's worth the effort to learn because it can change lives in dramatic ways, but the need for the skill is there and that need for skill will last for many, many decades to come. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Let me just say -- I just want to follow up on something. I want you to think about this. We're all sitting here talking about this -- with 10,000 job vacancies being advertised in the paper yesterday in this area. If we don't do this now, when are we ever going to get around to it? Do you think we'd be having this meeting if the unemployment rate were 10 percent in America, or 10 percent in California? This is the time we've got to do this.
We're back in Washington today debating legislation about how much -- not whether, but how much -- we have to raise the cap on visas to bring in people from other countries who are trained in these skills. And I'm pro-immigration. I'm all for this. We've got to do it, we've got to keep these industries going. We've got to do the right thing. But I'm also trying to make sure when we do it, we get more investments to train people here to do those jobs. Because you can do it. (Applause.)
And I just want to say something to the local folks here and to the kids who are here. You've got to decide whether you believe intelligence is equally distributed in this world; I do -- whether you believe ability is equally distributed; I do. I mean, not for everything. I couldn't play basketball like Rebecca. But everybody can do something, and everybody can learn this.
I just got back from India, a country with a per-capita income of $450 a year. And I was in a poor village where I saw women who were almost illiterate, never even been given a privilege of going to school, getting on computers, calling up their government's web page, getting information about how to take care of their newborn babies, in remote villages because they had a computer with a good printer to take the software -- give it to them, they could take it home.
This can change the way the world works, and it can save you and your children from having to wait 30 years to move into the mainstream. It can be done in a matter of months or a year. But you have to believe it, and you have to take advantage of it. And if we can't do it where there's 10,000 job vacancies in the paper, we will never get around to doing it.
I would like to ask Bob Knowling to talk a little bit about -- to be more specific here. What kind of job opportunities are available for minorities, for example, who may come from poor homes or poor neighborhoods or poor communities, if they get the skills and the training they need? And what do you think is the most important thing they could do and we could do to bridge this gap?
MR. KNOWLING: Thank you, Mr. President. The jobs, quite frankly, they cover the waterfront, and there are technicians that can design web sites become software developers; there are a number of IT personnel that are needed in the industry. The jobs truly, they scan the waterfront.
The issue, I believe, however is all the things that we've heard today. But there are some other issues that also need to be addressed. And I, for one, thank the President of this country for his leadership in terms of providing these forums and becoming a catalyst for change.
In some work that I've been doing with the ITAA, which is trying to at least address the issue of how come we don't have more women and people of color in these high-tech jobs -- if you think about the number of students that are taking the math and science courses, computer science courses, engineering, there is a disproportionate number of them that get through the educational system and the process, but they don't end up in the jobs. And you have to ask yourself the question, why not. And while there may be 10,000 jobs in the San Jose paper this past weekend, I'm convinced that the last, at least, frontier for this issue is that business must quit lip service and provide the job and give the access. (Applause.)
It seems to me that if you just look at this little scenario I painted for you, why don't they end up in the jobs? Is the issue they don't have the intellectual capacity? Is the issue they haven't had the right grades? Well, I am a firm believer, as the President just said, that this is not about genetics, it's all about environment. And we still live in a country where we don't value difference. We still live in a country where the open access is not there.
I just recently finished a meeting with Hydra-- where they were telling me they had over a hundred CEO jobs in the high-tech sector that they're trying to fill. Well, as we move down into organizations and get to the middle-level jobs and the entry-level jobs, this problem just mushrooms.
So what I hope that will happen because, basically, what the President just said is this is sort of like Sunday service -- we go to church on Sunday, and when he comes here it's sort of like the Sunday morning message and we all feel good, we all leave here very pumped up, committed, et cetera. But then Monday morning comes, and by the time we get to Friday we forgot everything that he just told us and we're right back to Sunday, needing some more renewal.
So my hope is that when he will leave here today, we will stop the lip service about access and we will open the doors and embrace -- because the people are out there. Covad Communication -- this is not a commercial --is filling jobs. We are filling jobs at every level. We need more talent.
And I guess at the end of the day it surprises me somewhat, but coming from a family of 13 and being poor all my life, I never thought I'd get to the day where I would not consider myself a role model. But I am extremely encouraged that folks like Rebecca and Magic Johnson are going to go on the public service airways and show kids that it's cool to be high-tech. Because when they see folks who they admire, they see people that they've looked up to -- if they can see them embracing technology, you will get a kid who's in the 3rd and 4th grade saying, you know what, maybe I should go to class, maybe I should study the math, maybe I should become plugged in. Because I believe if they can see the right kind of role models, kids will want to stay in the discipline and I do believe the jobs are there.
So let's hope that we cannot disappoint the President and the next time he comes here there's not 10,000 jobs in the paper, but there's only a few jobs in the paper. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Good deal.
Q Mr. President, we have a question from a child in the audience.
THE PRESIDENT: All right. There's somebody in the audience? Okay.
Q Good morning, Mr. President. I am nine years old. My question is, what do you use your computer for and what do you use the Internet for. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Let me tell you what, you know what I did? At Christmastime I actually ordered Christmas presents with the computer. I confess, I don't use it much for e-mail, but that's for very personal reasons. When I want to talk to my daughter, for example, I get on the phone and call her. If you work for the government, you don't use e-mail very much unless you want it all in the newspaper. (Laughter.)
So I mostly use -- and the other thing I do is I try to find new sites. When I hear about something new, I try to get onto it. For example, when I learned that now up to 30,000 people were making a living off e-Bay -- I'm always reluctant to give one company a free commercial here -- and that a lot of them had once been on welfare, I wanted to look at it and figure out how were these people making a living.
So, for me, I'm almost like you, I'm still trying to learn about all this and I'm so interested in what its possibilities are. But the only thing I get personal benefit out of is shopping, because it's hard for me to move around very much. (Laughter.)
Let me say, I also wanted to thank -- I forgot to say something -- I wanted to thank the Costano Elementary Choir. They sang before I got here. So let's give them a big hand. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Q Our event is also being broadcast live over the Internet courtesy of AOL. Internet questions are being submitted by young people from 17 locations across the country.
The question is from Jefferson Elementary School, we have Christine. What can we as students do to help attract high-tech industries into our area?
THE PRESIDENT: You should answer that.
MS. FIORINA: Well, high-tech industries go where there are a couple fundamentals. They go where there is a pool of skilled labor. They go where the education system will continue to develop that pool of skilled labor. They go where the tax systems encourage their participation and they go where transportation systems can enable their growth. And if those enablers are there, high-tech industries in search of talent will come. But it starts with education and talented pool of labor.
REVEREND JACKSON: Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead, Jesse. Let me just answer that question real quick, though, because this is important. People ask me this all the time.
The truth is, everything Carly said is right. Therefore, if you really want high-tech jobs in your area and you don't have them, you need to examine your school system and then get someone who understands all these factors that she just mentioned, to come into your community and help you develop a specific plan for all the changes you need to make to get it done. This is not something that can be done in a speech. I used to do this for a living when I was a governor.
This is about having a specific plan -- what are you going to do, what's the list of people you're going to contact, who's going to do the work. So if the students who asked me this question are really interested in it, your community needs a plan and then somebody needs to be charged with carrying it out and then somebody else needs to be checking on them to make sure they're doing it. It is like every other endeavor, you've got to have a plan and then you've got to execute it.
REVEREND JACKSON: I also think, Mr. President, it is also fair to say that, while motivation is important and attitude is important, Bob kept hammering at access. There are still many pockets in the country like Appalachia and like East Palo Alto, really, here, an island in the ocean of high-tech, fundamentally disconnected. We opened our office here two months ago and did not have enough lines -- wasn't big enough to get enough telephone lines in this island for the schools here, for the seniors who need the e-medicine here.
So we have these pockets where we have under-served markets and unutilized talent and untapped capital. And just maybe what your tour is doing, not only is it bringing light to East Palo Alto, but around the country as we visit we see virtually every city fully wired jails and unwired schools. Now, the move has been made to address that now, but we need some combination of structural universal access as well as motivation and access to capital for entrepreneurship. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with that.
Any other questions in the audience there? Go ahead.
Q My name is Maria. I am nine years old. My question is, what will technology be in the future? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I certainly can't answer that. Who wants to answer that? Bob, you want to answer that question?
MR. KNOWLING: The technology of the future, I guess if I really did have a crystal ball and I gave you the right answer I might be able to retire tomorrow, because I will be a genius. Five years ago, could any of guess that we would be so eccentric, that literally the Internet is changing our lives, the way that we work, the way that we play, et cetera.
But I believe the technology of the future is that things that we take today, in terms of our manual mechanization of things, I think money will become passe. I think we all will be going around with smart cards and smart chips. The Internet access that we traditionally sit down at a hardwired device today to reach out to e-mail and to other people around the globe, it will become a very mobile technology, where -- literally, through handheld devices. And, as you've seen the migration of cellular technology, where devices went from bulky things to very sleek things. I'm always marveled when I get on an airplane and I see people with things that look as small as a credit card. It's going to become very, very mobile in terms of the access and I believe that the other thing that will happen is that you will see a globalization in terms of the ability to transact and communicate through these devices will be sort of the future.
At the end of the day, though, the Internet and this whole revolution that we are seeing in front of us, 200 years from now when they write the history books, these will become the new Harvard business case studies. This will make the industrial revolution pale in comparison.
MS. FIORINA: I guess the only thing I would add is we hope people about your age help us figure that out, what technology will be like 20 years from now.
But I think to Bob's point, fundamentally I believe -- and everyone in the high-tech industry believes -- we are moving to a point where technology will become so pervasive, it will become both intimate and nonintrusive. Today, technology is intrusive, it's not everywhere. Technology will move to the point where it is friendly and intimate and personalized, where everything is connected and everything is intelligent. And it will work for you instead of you having to work for it.
THE PRESIDENT: I also think what you will see is that -- two things -- I think all communications, information and entertainment systems will merge. So people will be carrying around things that are telephones, are faxes, are televisions, you know, calling up movies and everything else in one little thing they can carry around with them. I think you will have that.
And the other thing I think will happen is there will be a radical alteration in the relationship of energy to work, which will enable us to dramatically improve the protection of the global environment and generate a whole different kind of jobs than we've ever had before. I think those are the two things that will happen over the next 20 years.
There was one other -- I promised the lady over here --that young woman, yes, I promised her.
Q -- I'm with the Girls Club. And our question is, are you going to help our community's youth to receive internship in the Silicon Valley, since we also live here? (Applause.)
MS. FIORINA: I think that question was directed at companies. I hope so. But Hewlett-Packard has been providing internships to people in East Palo Alto and communities, frankly, all over the world for many decades. And I know other companies do so, as well. But internship for us is a way of getting access to talent; it's a way of us getting to know a potential future full-time employee. So our internship program has been very successful for us over decades, and we believe has been a great experience for the interns who have shared some time with us.
THE PRESIDENT: How old are the interns? When do you start?
MS. FIORINA: Most of them start at the end of their high school years and in their college years. I don't think we have interns much younger than 15 or 16.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just say this. Maybe one of the things that the Mayor could do is to sort of scout the interest in the high schools of the community and then talk to some of the companies about it. I'll bet you could arrange for some intern or intern-like programs for kids in their high school years so at least they could be exposed to these companies and see what it is they need to do. And we could come out with something good here. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, we have time for one last question from on-line. This is from Leadership Education Athletics in Connecticut, from Maya Watts: How do you plan to help children from poor neighborhoods get access to the Internet?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, right now, what we are trying to do is to make sure all the schools are wired. And when we started, only about 3 percent of our schools were, 1993. Now, we're up to 95 percent of the schools in the country have at least one Internet connection, including 90 percent of the schools in low income areas. Surprisingly enough, some of our schools, believe it or not, can't be wired because they are so dilapidated, which is why I've been trying to get a school construction initiative passed through Congress. (Applause.)
This may be hard for you to believe out here, but there are schools in New York City that are still heated by coal-fired furnaces. In Philadelphia, the average school building is 65 years old. And there are literally some of our poorest schools in our poor neighborhoods that we are physically unable to wire. But apart from them, by the end of this year, we should be at 100 percent of the schools.
Then what I think we need to do is to look at some of the things that have been done, for example, by Lucent and others in Union City, New Jersey, where they are trying to put more computers and Internet connections into the homes of first generation immigrants so that they can -- the parents can e-mail the principals and the teachers and learn and actually having -- my goal is -- it can't be done while I'm still President, but I'm going to keep working on it -- my goal is to have the penetration of computers and Internet access in this country to equal the penetration of telephone usage. That's what our goal ought to be. We ought to not quit until we get there. (Applause).
Q Mr. President, we actually have time for one last question from the audience.
THE PRESIDENT: No, let this lady go and then I'll take yours. No, this lady first and then you. Okay, go ahead.
Q Hi, Mr. President. My parents both voted for you. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
Q My name is Weslina Ford (phonetic) and I used to work for Plugged In Enterprises. And my question is, what kind of programs and education would you encourage to help promote more access to science and engineering to me as an African American female?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I mentioned one of them in my announcement, but I think that beyond what we have talked about here, I think generally there needs to be a greater emphasis among young female students and among minority students on science, engineering, mathematics education. And we actually have some initiatives to invest in that, to do more outreach, do more recruitment, get more people involved in these programs; to encourage more people to go on to college to major in these programs in the 21st Century Science and Technology initiative that the Congress has. And I think it's about a $3 billion initiative. I think it has very broad bipartisan support and I expect it to pass.
But I think we need to continue to just work on recruitment, and then make sure that the kids that are interested in it take the courses in high school they need to take to get into the college majors. But I hope -- that's one of the things that I was talking about. You know, we don't have enough women or minorities in a lot of these technology fields. But there are a lot of other fields related to science and engineering where we need more.
I was talking to a young woman yesterday, who is a classmate of my daughter's at Stanford, about that, in the engineering area. And I think a lot of it, too, is making people believe they can do it. You know, in that sense, there is a parallel to the -- a few years ago, we had a lot of talented women basketball players, but they didn't imagine that they could have a pro league that could work, but it does now. And so Rebecca has got a whole different life than she would have had if she had been an all-American college basketball player 20 years ago. She wouldn't have had the life she now has. And that's -- someone imagined it and then they went around putting it together.
And I think it's even easier if we can just get more talent into the science and technology and engineering fields. And I think the main thing is recruitment and then making sure the young women and other people who have been left out actually do the preparatory work they need to get into the majors. I think the companies will recruit them coming out of college if they get there in the first place.
Now, I promised this lady she could ask her question.
Q I rise to a point of privilege. I'm a septuagenarian and I've been here for 40 years. The thing that I was going to say I'm not going to say. I'm just going to welcome you here on behalf of the community of East Palo Alto, welcome Reverend Jackson back again, and Mr. Conyers and the rest of the distinguished people. (Applause.)
Q We have received hundreds of e-mails from students across the country, and once the President gets back I understand he will be responding to them.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we want to respond to all the e-mails.
Q Great, wonderful.
THE PRESIDENT: Anything else? Let me say to all of you -- I'd like to ask you to give a big hand to Senator Bennett and all the members of the House of Representatives that are here. I thank them for coming. (Applause.)
One of the things I've noticed after seven years of being President is that the President gets to give the speeches, but if the Congress doesn't appropriate the money, it's just a speech. So I think their interest in being here is very encouraging, indeed. I want to thank all the chief executive officers of all these companies who are here because much of the work that will be done and much of the commitment that has been made today comes from them. So give them a hand as well. (Applause.)
And let me urge you again not to get discouraged, to work on this, and to remember that as big as the challenges seem, there are other people for whom the challenges are greater. I will just give you one example. When we get to the Shiprock Reservation today, we will be at a place where only 20 percent of the residents have telephones. Now, you can't be on the Internet if you don't even have a line. The last Indian reservation I visited, the unemployment rate was 73 percent.
The one thing you have here is physical proximity and you ought to make the most of it. I'm out there trying to figure out how to help other people overcome physical distance from Appalachia to the small towns of the Mississippi Delta to these Native American reservations. You've got the proximity. These people showed up here today for you. And now, to some extent, the community, the schools, you've got to make the most of this. They want to be here to help you and you can do it. Thank you very much and God bless you.
END 9:55 A.M. PDT