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Public Papers - 1989 - March

Remarks at the Junior Achievement National Business Hall of Fame Dinner in Colorado Springs, Colorado

1989-03-16

Thank you for that warm Colorado welcome. Thank you all. I am simply delighted to be here. A wonderful day -- it started in the Oval Office about 8 a.m., when I talked to the astronauts up there in the space shuttle. And I listened to them very carefully as they shared with me their view from their special vantage point about the need of doing more for the world environment, and that meant obviously, more education -- then to Houston, Texas, which for Secretary [of Commerce] Mosbacher and I was returning home. And I'm delighted that he's with me here today. It's wonderful to have a Secretary of Commerce who knows what it is to take risks, build, succeed, and work to help others. Bob Mosbacher is doing an outstanding job, and I'm delighted he's with me. And then on out here tonight for this very special occasion.

In Washington -- you know the old saying: ``If you want a friend, get a dog.'' [Laughter] And Junior Achievement has a different motto. They say: ``If you want a friend, sign up Lod Cook.'' And what a job this guy's done.

And I, too, want to pay my respects to the six award winners, the six laureates honored tonight. And then when you look at that distinguished list, as Dinah and I were reviewing there in this program, you can't help but be impressed -- the achievements that they've made and then what they're doing to help others achieve. And if it wouldn't be too subjective on my part, I would like to say how thrilled I am to see -- perhaps he's the dean of the laureates. He's certainly one that the Bush family holds in great regard; we have him as a role model. And I'm talking about Mr. Erik Johnson, over here, from Dallas, Texas. And so, it's a special occasion for me to see him again.

I want to pay my respects to the great Governor of this State, Governor Romer, who is here with us tonight, and thank him for being with us. And to Congressman Joel Hefley who just arrived, but we're in his congressional district, and I want to thank him for being here as well.

And, Lod, thank you for the kind words in that introduction. I've been an admirer of Junior Achievement and all it's done to advance economic education for many years. And Lod has taken what is already a strong program and made it that much better. And going into that classroom to make the meaning of economics a little clearer is a tough assignment. I've heard about the volunteer who asked his class what the gross national product was -- the boy who said ``that's the most disgusting thing made in America.'' [Laughter] It's answers like that that make teaching a rewarding experience. [Laughter] But there's no doubt that Junior Achievement has a positive impact. In fact, based on what Lod's told me about the program, and others as well, I'm going to have to add a point or two to our GNP estimates as soon as I get back to Washington. [Laughter]

While all of you here tonight share in this success story, I want especially to commend Jim Hayes of Fortune. Jim, I know that you and a number of your staff have been actively involved in this Project Business -- Junior Achievement's Project Business, taking your skills and talents into classrooms throughout New York City. The work you're doing with those junior high students is opening their eyes to a whole new world.

And Junior Achievement is a phenomenally successful enterprise by any measure. The numbers alone tell the story. You reach over a million children each year, from 4th through 12th grades, in more than a thousand communities across the country.

And I've spoken many times about the Thousand Points of Light, the dedicated and diverse volunteer organizations that contribute so much to American life. Those of you involved in Junior Achievement know exactly what I'm talking about. In fact, Lod tells me that a Thousand Points of Light doesn't begin to describe your efforts and that the 100,000 men and women involved in Junior Achievement is a supernova of volunteers. Let's agree that the volunteer ethic is the North Star. As long as that sense of service guides us, we'll be strong, a self-reliant people, as ready to help each other as we are to help ourselves.

Our young people especially can bring an energy and enthusiasm and ability to the volunteer effort. That's the idea behind our administration's new initiative that I call YES, Youth Entering Service, a new concept for the Federal Government's participation that encourages young people to help those less fortunate than they are themselves. And it's a good concept, and we've selected Gregg Petersmeyer of Colorado, now back in the White House, to run this program. And when we get going -- it is, as Lod talked about, a public-private partnership -- we're going to ask your help. It is important that young people have inculcated into them early in life a sense of service. And I believe the program will be good in helping those kids who haven't had an equal place at the starting line.

Tonight I want to talk to you just a little about education, the issue at the heart of your mission. First, a word about the lesson in applied economics that are the hallmark of JA. In your creative hands, economics is anything but the dismal science, as some have called it. You give economics life, and you give our young people a real understanding of the stake that we all have in economic enterprise.

Like many in this room, I know what it means to have started a business and try to help build it. And I know the risk and the worries late at night, the responsibilities that you feel for the employees that are in it with you. And I don't need to tell all of you it's something you never forget. I also know the feeling that comes with some success: the pride; the exhilaration you feel when your business is on its feet and running; the feeling you get when you take an idea, something that exists only in your mind maybe, and turn it into something real, a common enterprise that meets the test of the marketplace, that carves out a little place in the larger economy. And all of you here today are helping people experience that same sense of accomplishment through their involvement with Junior Achievement. You're awakening the entrepreneurial spirit of a new generation.

All of you have heard me say that I intend to be the ``Education President.'' And let me say now, I can't think of any issue that is larger or more far-ranging in its impact than the education of our young people. Think about the great issues of the day. Do we want to talk about America's place in the world? Then we'd better think about education. Do we want to talk about competitiveness and how we can improve it? Again, we'd better think about education. About productivity -- how to keep it on the increase. Again, education. It's a matter of our horizons -- our ability to see how we can meet and master the challenges we face, now and in the future. Planning for today -- simply for tomorrow -- is a guarantee for stopgap solutions. Education is long-range planning at its best. It's a solution for the next century, for problems we haven't even begun to recognize.

In 11 short years, we'll stand on the threshold of a new century. We know now that the world is in the midst of a technological revolution. We can see the pace of change always accelerating. And what will our world look like in the century ahead? Who will lead America a generation from now? Who will hold the top positions in government and in the private sector? Who will be the new pioneers in the fields of medicine, science, and engineering? And who will display the creative genius that will challenge, excite, and inspire us?

We don't know their names, but I can tell you where to find them: from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., every day, in the schools all across this country. Look for that fifth-grader, who 40 years from now will find him or herself in the position that you're in today. Look for the 5-year-old, whose curiosity about everything is the first sign of a budding scientific mind. Look into the classrooms across this country today, where the spark of interest kindles a lifelong involvement in exploring, in expanding, and in advancing our knowledge. So, let's not make the mistake of underestimating education's importance on our national agenda. When it comes to our nation's future, education is the key. It is the best investment that we can make.

And now, we've all seen the studies -- discouraging, some -- that show American students trailing those of other nations in science and math skills. We all read the stories about the kid who can't even find America on a map. We all know the dropout rate, abysmally high. And it's high where it hurts -- some of these minority communities across this country. We all know that the level of literacy is too low. We know that we must do more to open the door to advancement for our disadvantaged youth by helping them, providing them educational opportunities they deserve.

And the answer isn't to sit and wring our hands. We need to roll up our sleeves and take an active part in making our schools better. And that requires a totally cooperative effort involving all levels of government, the public and the private sector. I understand and I believe it's right that in our Federal system education is a shared responsibility. Federal policy must never, ever, crowd out local control -- it's parents; it's local boards; it's PTA; it's State efforts. All have, themselves -- all of them -- important parts to play. All the primary responsibility rests with the States and the local school systems. The Federal Government can still serve as a catalyst for change -- fresh thinking about how to build the best possible education system.

And so, I have built into my first budget a number of education initiatives that I believe can enhance the quality of our schools. Let me just mention four.

First we must recognize excellence, and we must reward it because excellence breeds excellence -- reward it wherever it is found. And that's why I've proposed a 0 million dollar program, merit schools, it's called, and a Presidential Award for Excellence in Education for our best teachers. We must never forget the teachers who are out there on the cutting edge.

Secondly we've got to strengthen scientific education. My budget includes an initiative called the National Science Scholarship Program. Each year, beginning in 1990, a total of 570 American high school seniors, at least one from every congressional district across this country, will receive up to ,000 a year in scholarships to the college of their choice, renewable for 4 years.

And third, we need to remove the barriers that can keep talented teachers out of the classroom. Think of the knowledge assembled in this room this evening -- the business acumen, the hands-on economic experience that you all possess. I was thinking of unleashing my Third World debt program here. Ron? Lod, I've got you down for a billion. [Laughter] Erik, half a billion. We can solve it right here. No, but seriously, think of the experience in this room.

Look at that honor roll. Measure it in terms of success and creativity and innovativeness, the hands-on economic experience that you possess. Junior Achievement makes it possible for you to pass that on to our schoolchildren. But what about people with similar schools of knowledge? Their entry into teaching as a profession is barred in our country by the excessive requirements of certification, requirements that many in this room, the brightest here, could not meet. And you could be a Ph.D., a tremendous success in business, and yet the layers of requirements for teaching in our public schools keeps you from volunteering, sabbatical year basis, for helping the young people of this country. Regulations make it impossible for schools to hire people with the capabilities that are represented in this room tonight. Teachers-by-training aren't the only ones who can teach. I'm not saying you don't need some education courses, but I urge the State and local school systems to take a look at their certification systems and make sure we open up our schools to those with a lifetime of experience outside the classroom, who are ready and willing to share what they know with our young people.

This was driven home to me when I moved to Odessa, Texas, in 1948. And I had done reasonably well at Yale -- didn't bring my Phi Beta Kappa key along, but it's here -- and went to volunteer to teach in a community college. Couldn't do it; didn't need that kind of help because I hadn't passed enough of the formal education requirements. We've got to change this. We're in changing times. ``We've got to think anew,'' as Lincoln said.

And fourth, we must use competition to spur excellence in education. I support the use of magnet schools to introduce an element of choice into education. And I've requested 0 million to help with the startup costs of new magnet schools. We all know the value -- you all know it better than I -- the value of competitiveness in the business world. Challenging schools to strive to match the best among them can push them all to new heights. Competition might just provide the quality schools that we are all looking for. And where it's been tried -- parental choice -- it has helped not only the kids but it has helped the schools that were achieving at the lower rates. It's a good idea; choice for parents works.

America -- we're well positioned to remain productive and competitive in the world marketplace, but our strong suit is our abundant supply of the most inexhaustible resource on the planet: human ingenuity, and, of course, a system that gives that ingenuity free rein. We have the raw materials. We have the opportunity. What we need is a new sense of resolve, a commitment to shape our future by preparing today the children who will lead us into that 21st century.

Thank you all very much for what you are doing to lift the sights and give opportunity to the young people of the United States of America. Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 8:40 p.m. in the ballroom at the International Center. He was introduced by Lodwrick M. Cook, chairman and chief executive officer of ARCO and chairman of the National Business Leadership Conference. In his remarks, the President referred to entertainer Dinah Shore; Erik Johnson, founder of Texas Instruments; Charles G. Petersmeyer, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of National Service; and James B. Hayes, publisher of Fortune magazine. The President stayed at the Broadmoor Hotel overnight and returned to the White House, the following morning.

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