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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks to Supporters of the Brainpower Coalition in Rochester, New York

1989-05-18

President Whitmore, thank you for that warm Rochester welcome. And to President Whitmore and Congressman LaFalce, Congressman for this district, Frank Horton, my friend of long time, I'm just delighted to be here. I want to especially thank the Governor of the State for the courtesy that he shows me, and I thank all of you for coming here today. And I appreciate his taking the time to come and join hands as we salute not just the program that Kodak has, the program of participation, partnership, but the program that we saw just a few minutes ago at the Wilson Magnet School. And I want to take this opportunity to thank all of them, too, for this welcome.

You know, some of you may remember, [former Senator] Barry Goldwater was a talented amateur photographer. And one day he took a picture of President John F. Kennedy and sent it to him, requesting an inscription. And back it came, dutifully inscribed: ``For Barry Goldwater, whom I urge to follow the career for which he has shown so much talent -- photography.'' [Laughter] ``From his friend, John Kennedy.'' Well, Barry didn't take his friend's advice. He fashioned a brilliant career in politics, not photography.

But today I am really delighted to be back in a city -- Rochester -- and at a company -- Eastman Kodak -- which has become synonymous with the career that President Kennedy alluded to. And it is a pleasure to join you. And I came here because Rochester and Kodak embody the notion that helping others through cooperation -- partnership agreements between all levels of government, private enterprise, voluntary organizations -- is America at her best. And locally, this kind of cooperation has made possible such landmarks as the Eastman Theatre and the Al Sigal Center and helped Rochester become a bastion of commerce and make the Flower City among America's highest cities in terms of corporate participation and corporate giving.

And your story, of course, is well-known locally. But I want this message to get out to the entire Nation. For in being here today, I honor the countless individuals and companies across America who are following your example. And I was telling Kay coming over here -- Mr. Whitmore, in the car -- that I hope that this visit will symbolize the importance that we place on these partnerships and that the message will be received across our entire country. For those not yet involved, I challenge you to get involved. And for America's public and private sectors, they can exceed the sum of their parts.

In a sense, this is what George Eastman had in mind when he founded Eastman Kodak in 1880. For he knew that cooperation begets productivity and that productivity would enrich America's standard of living and her standard in the world. As President, I intend to spur the partnerships which nurture that productivity. And that is why recently I unveiled a bipartisan partnership with Congress that will cut the Federal deficit by billion over the coming fiscal year. Productivity is the reason, too, that I favor the creation of urban enterprise zones, a partnership with business.

And each of these partnerships will help productivity propel America, and so will an even nobler partnership -- and I'm talking here about the one you're involved in -- education, a partnership with the future. For ultimately the greatest productivity stems from a creative mind.

Here at Eastman Kodak, you celebrate that fact. For you know what George Eastman said in 1924 is even truer today: ``The progress of the world depends almost entirely on education.'' Kay Whitmore is even more succinct in talking about your own company. ``Kodak's future depends on its work force,'' he said. And he's absolutely correct about that.

And some of you may recall the television series, ``Dragnet,'' and how Sergeant Friday -- remember him -- was fond of saying, ``Just the facts, ma'am.'' [Laughter] Well, the fact is that Rochester's education challenges parallel the Nation's. The challenges that you face in these school -- very much the same in many parts of the country. And the fact is that unless we act our children will be ill-equipped to read, to write, or understand new technologies -- to compete in the workplace. And the fact is that education partnerships can help us act boldly and urgently to keep America number one.

Let me share a story with you, a story about two ways to look at education. The master of the house was planning his garden and told his gardener to plant a certain kind of tree. And the gardener objected, explaining that the tree was slow growing and would take a hundred years to reach its full growth. The master's response -- that I found interesting -- he says, ``In that case, there's no time to lose. Plant it this afternoon.'' [Laughter]

And that's the way that Rochester and Eastman Kodak look at education. And that explains why a few years back your business and community and education leaders sat down, faced their problems head-on, and decided to act. And looking at your city's public schools, they didn't like what they saw: a dropout rate of -- I was told it was 30 percent; a third of all the ninth-graders dropped out before graduation from high school; and nearly two-thirds of all ninth-graders tested 1 to 2 years below the grade levels.

And these problems demanded the solutions that only partnerships can achieve. So, in 1986 a community task force, headed in this case by the Urban League, issued its report. It was called, ``A Call To Action'' -- to uplift the quality of the public schools. And to make that dream a reality, you came up with a great idea: a new partnership called the Rochester Brainpower Coalition, a partnership anchored by Eastman Kodak which understood that the private sector has the resources and responsibility to help make education better, to help education help America.

And earlier today, as I mentioned, and as Kay said, we were over at the Wilson Magnet High School, where I saw just how much progress has been made. It's hard to choke back a tear or two when you see the commitment of those children and the spirit of the teachers over there. Ten years ago, that school was beset by crime and plunging grades and urban flight. But today, helped by Rochester Brainpower, Wilson is the ninth-ranked school in the State of New York by the Department of Education.

And what made such progress possible? Teamwork between students, parents, and teachers to raise standards and increase accountability, and Rochester's Brainpower support -- creative and monetary -- of your school district's pioneering plan, which U.S. News terms ``a model for educational reform.'' And some of you -- I had a chance to talk to some of your colleagues that are over there helping these kids. And that was inspiring as it could be.

You know, in 1988 Rochester Brainpower received the President's Citation for Private Sector Initiatives. Well, seeing Wilson firsthand today, it is easy to understand why that happened. For it, like other schools, has benefited from the coalition's programs which blend creativity and just plain common sense. One program, for instance, says to the kids: ``If you excel now in school, we'll give you a job when you graduate from school.'' And another program vows: ``If you hit the books, local companies will offer college scholarship aid.'' A third program helps the teachers -- God bless the teachers -- and helps them hone their skills. And through another, business provides management help to local schools. And a huge media campaign perhaps says it best, as two billboards urge: ``Stay In School. You're Too Good To Lose,'' and ``Help A Teacher Help A Child.'' What marvelous sentiment is reflected on those two billboards. I hope that we see those springing up all across the United States.

And, yes, already Rochester Brainpower has united the community. In the future, its impact will lift the community. And its heart will be Eastman Kodak, not only in 1989 but well into the 21st century -- you know, not only in this community but in communities across the country, if they learn the Kodak partnership message and then execute.

Like the wise man planting a tree for future generations, Kodak is planting its own seeds. For it is you who are lending people and equipment, at company expense, to teach kids engineering and robotics, and providing other long-term financial aid to help at-risk youth discover the meaning of an education. It's Kodak which has given some 5 million to more than 1,000 colleges and universities and which is now more involved than ever at the precollege level, enhancing the academic excellence so central to America.

My administration supports that goal. And accordingly, last month I sent a major new education package to the Congress which demands excellence. We will achieve excellence through greater accountability -- and I heard that today from the teachers at Wilson -- and by spurring local flexibility and parental choice. And I saw that today at Wilson -- the concept of choice in action. And above all, our program, like yours, says that if excellence breeds achievement, then excellence should be rewarded.

We're asking the Congress, for instance, to create a program to recognize and reward the schools that have demonstrated substantial educational improvements and a new Magnet Schools of Excellence program to encourage more schools like Wilson. We're proposing to create urban emergency grants to help school systems hit hardest by drug abuse and trafficking. And through scholarships, we want to give America's youth a special incentive to excel -- science, math, and engineering.

No, our program isn't a be-all and an end-all. We're living in times of complicated resource allocation. But it is a commitment, a commitment to help business and academia make America much more productive, a commitment to partnerships, a commitment which you obviously share. And for that, I thank you. And I'd like to think that George Eastman is proud of you, too, looking down, no doubt, through the latest telephoto lens from wherever he may be. [Laughter] For he knew that giving -- he exemplified this in his life -- he knew that giving was a two-way street.

One day in 1924 -- year that I was born -- George Eastman gave away million to the University of Rochester, M.I.T., Hampton, and Tuskegee -- a rather amazing gift, I'd say. That was when million was million -- [laughter] -- but all in 1 day. But he began giving to nonprofit institutions -- this is the key point -- when his salary was a week. Even then he knew that profit and philanthropy were not mutually exclusive.

And I've said repeatedly that from now on in America, any definition of a successful life must include serving others. For while few of us can give away million, all of us can help -- can take pride in helping -- an inner-city child overcome, perhaps, poverty, to become a productive citizen. Giving means more than money: It means making a commitment to someone else's life. And that is how George Eastman defined success. And that is why when he died the New York Times proclaimed, ``George Eastman was a stupendous factor in the education of the modern world.'' And he showed that productivity could nurture generosity and that generosity could help us all. And then, through the promise of partnerships, let us, too, increase America's productivity so that America's generosity can enrich not merely our age but generations to come.

I salute Kodak for your looking into the future. I salute Wilson for coping with the problems of the present so those kids will have a great future. I salute the farsighted school board that encourages this kind of new thinking. I salute the Members of Congress who have been helpful in pushing forward these objectives. It's a great pleasure for me to be here, and I thank you for inviting me and for this wonderful occasion. I won't forget it. God bless you all. God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:01 p.m. in Building One of the Elmgrove Eastman Kodak facility. He was introduced by Kay Whitmore, president of the coalition. In his remarks, the President referred to Gov. Mario Cuomo. Following his remarks, the President attended a luncheon in the facility's lunchroom and then traveled to Kennebunkport, ME.

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