[Briefing Room icon]

Office of the Press Secretary
Saturday, April 19, 1997

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The Oval Office

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Vice President Gore and I are here in the Oval Office on the second national NetDay, when citizens and communities all across America come together to help us meet the goal of connecting every classroom and library in the United States to the Internet by the year 2000. With us today are three AmeriCorps members, two local high school students and two Communication Workers of America volunteers, all of whom are contributing to this effort.

NetDay is a great example of how America works best when we all work together. It's like an old-fashioned barn-raising, neighbor joins with neighbor to do something for the good of the entire community. Students, teachers, parents, community groups, government, business unions -- all pulling together to pull cable, hook up our schools and put the future at the fingertips of all our young people.

Once we reach our goal of linking our schools to the Internet, for the first time in history, children in the most isolated rural schools, the most comfortable suburbs, the poorest inner-city schools, all of them will have the same access to the same universe of knowledge. That means a boy in Lake Charles, Louisiana can visit a museum halfway around the world, a girl in Juneau, Alaska can visit the Library of Congress on line.

Since the first NetDay just over a year ago, nearly a quarter million volunteers have wired 50,000 classrooms around our country. Today, NetDay activities are occurring in more than 40 states. In a few minutes, Vice President Gore and I will have a chance to use a new video and computer technology set up for the first time right in the Oval Office to meet with volunteers in South Central, Los Angeles, and children in Hartford, Connecticut. I want to thank them and all the NetDay volunteers for their service to our country.

We have to do everything we can to make technology literacy a reality for every child in America. That's why I asked the Federal Communications Commission to give our schools and libraries a discount -- a special "E rate," or education rate -- to help them connect classrooms to the Internet and to stay on line. On May 6, the FCC will vote on a plan to provide more than $2 billion in yearly E-rate discounts for schools and libraries. This can make all the difference for communities struggling to make sure their students are ready for the 21st century. So today, again, I call on the FCC to approve this plan and give our children access to this new world of knowledge. Now, more than ever, we can't afford for our children to be priced out of cyberspace.

But connecting young people to the Internet is not enough. We have to make sure that when they log on they have access to the information that will prepare them for the world of the future. And government has a vital role to play in all this.

For instance, NASA lets students talk to astronauts on the Internet. And Vice President Gore's GLOBE project gives tomorrow's environmental scientists a chance to interact with the scientists of today. Today I am directing every department and agency in our national government to develop educational Internet services targeted to our young people. With this action, we are one step closer to giving young people the tools they need to be the best they can be in the 21st century.

We owe much of our progress thus far to the efforts of the Vice President. He has led our national campaign for technology literacy, and I'd like him to say a few words now.

Mr. Vice President.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President.

One of the steps we're taking to connect America's schoolchildren to the future is to provide local communities the resources they need. Last year we launched the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, $200 million to do just that. Your balanced budget plan proposes to more than double these funds in the coming year.

Today we're awarding $11.8 million in Technology Literacy Challenge grants to seven states -- Alaska, Connecticut, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, and Tennessee. We're also making awards to two territories and to the schools of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. These grants represent seed money that states can use to connect all of our children to the 21st century.

Some states will train teachers how to incorporate the Internet into their lesson plans. Others will invest in cutting-edge software. Still others will purchase PCs, modems, and all sorts of computer hardware. Already this year, our Technology Literacy Initiative has awarded states $57 million, which is helping thousands more young people use the Internet to research school assignments and communicate with students all around the world.

I'd also like to say a special thanks to all of the Americans participating today in NetDay '97. President Clinton and I participated in California's NetDay last year, and we really had a great time, pulling cable, drilling holes, helping to connect Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord, California, to the Information Superhighway.

By the way, anyone interested in learning more about NetDay or what President Clinton and I are doing to connect classrooms can visit our Web site on the Internet. With your home computer, or the computer at your local library, just point your Web browser to this address: www.whitehouse.gov. Let me say it again -- these addresses sound funny if you haven't used the Internet -- www.whitehouse -- that's one word -- .gov.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

Both of us encourage all of you to visit the White House home page. And once again, let me thank all the NetDay volunteers. We are going to meet our goal -- we're going to get every classroom and every library in this country hooked up by the year 2000.

Have a great day and thanks for listening.