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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks to Hispanic and Corporate Leaders on Education

1989-12-06

I hope I didn't interrupt our wonderful Secretary of Education, Larry Cavazos. Every time I hear him speak, I learn a lot, and I'm just delighted that he's here. To Rod DeArment: Thank you for the ideas and inspiration. Alfredo Estrada, the publisher of Hispanic Magazine: I want to thank you and your staff for your suggestions. And I'm especially delighted to be among so many Hispanic and business leaders. Welcome to the White House. Barbara and I have both been looking forward to this meeting.

I, as you know, am just back, having spent several days on ships in the Mediterranean Sea. And I must say that I must have left my sea legs in the Navy because walking over here, I found myself tilting to starboard. [Laughter]

It was a good meeting, a wonderful meeting there, one that I hope sets the basis for future progress, building peace and advancing freedom for a new century. And yet no matter how far I travel, who I meet, or what I see, nothing can beat the thrill of coming back to the United States.

I asked you here today to thank you for what you've done. As you know, our growing Hispanic community will soon form the largest minority in our nation. And if this is to remain the land of opportunity, then all the citizens of America must be well-educated, must be well-prepared for the challenges of the future.

There was a time in this country when you could prosper without a high school degree or a special skill. But we're entering an age of specialization. And in the 1990's, those who do not learn will not earn. They'll find it hard to contribute. They'll find it hard to advance. And it's just as simple as that.

Sadly, almost 11 percent of Hispanic students drop out of high school each year. And more than half of all Hispanic-Americans over the age of 25 have not completed high school. And when it comes to higher education, too many Hispanics just never get the chance, never have a fighting chance to go to college.

Solutions are coming now from Hispanic America. Strong family support, the encouragement of learning and excellence: These have always been the most striking features of the Hispanic tradition. And now this tradition, though, is endangered by tensions -- the very tempo of modern life. And so, we've got to work together to protect this heritage, work together as leaders in government and business, as men and women concerned with the future. Nothing less than a national effort will suffice.

Secretary Cavazos heads the Working Group on Education for our Domestic Policy Council, and he is already addressing important education issues. And now I am pleased to tell you we are embarking on a new effort, one just for Hispanic-Americans, due in part to the advice that I've received from so many of you. I've signed a directive asking Doctor Cavazos to form an Hispanic Education Task Force to assess how well Federal education programs serve Hispanics, and then recommend ways to enhance the Federal role. The task force will complete its work and report by the end of February, and then I'll incorporate these findings into our broader efforts to improve American education, mandated by our education summit with the Nation's Governors.

The corporate leaders here today understand that supporting education and training is good business as well as good citizenship. Look at the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund, which has sent almost 10,000 young Hispanic men and women to college. This means 10,000 highly educated and highly skilled Americans will bring their talent and energy to American business and their leadership to a new generation.

By contributing to the many programs and funds that advance the cause of Hispanic youth, you have truly made an investment in this generation and in the future of our country. But education is more than an investment, and the cause of education transcends the many prosaic matters that I've discussed today. Education is, as Will and Ariel Durant wrote, not just ``the painful accumulation of facts and dates and reigns nor merely the necessary preparation of the individual to earn his keep in the world.'' It is the ``transmission of our mental, moral, technical, and aesthetic heritage as fully as possible to as many as possible.'' Let the next generation of Hispanic-Americans fully know their heritage -- the heritage of Benito Juarez, and Jose Marti, George Washington, Octavio Paz, and William Faulkner.

For advancing this cause, I pass on to you the gratitude of the Nation. Thank you, God bless you all, and thank you very much for coming to the White House. And now Barbara and I look forward, indeed, to having a chance to say hello to all of you. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 6:15 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Deputy Secretary of Labor Roderick DeArment.

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