Public Papers

Remarks to Students and Faculty of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville


Thank you, Lamar Alexander. You all may remember this, but when Lamar Alexander was the Governor, out of all the 50 Governors he probably did more to take action in the field of education than any other Governor. And now he's bringing his talents to bear at this great university system. I'm very proud of him.

And I'm very proud to be with Governor McWherter. And I noticed the enthusiastic reception to your latest addition to the educational scene -- latest support for it. I salute you. I'm very proud of my Secretary of Education, a former university president himself, Dr. Larry Cavazos, who's with us today -- doing a superb job. And of course, Admiral Watkins, bringing to the Energy Department as Secretary not only expertise in the nuclear field and certainly, based on his background in the military, military expertise, but a strong commitment to education. And both of them are doing a great job for our country. I'm pleased that Alvin Trivelpiece, the Oak Ridge National Lab Director, is here with us today; also four Members of the United States Congress -- Jimmy Quillen and John Duncan, Don Sundquist, Marilyn Lloyd. And I, of course, am very pleased to see another old friend, longstanding, your mayor, Victor Ashe; and, of course, Howard Baker. I don't believe we've had a public servant of his decency and honor in the arena for a long time. He is outstanding -- was, still is. And so, Howard, I'm delighted to see you again.

And I'm sorry we were a little late getting in here. But you know how it is on this campus. Even I couldn't find a parking place. [Laughter]

It's great to be back in Tennessee. I'm very proud of this State and this university. And I noticed that Lamar said some of you noticed the T-shirt that I had on while I was jogging down in Texas in December -- the Big Orange colors of the Tennessee Volunteers. Well, back in Washington, they debated which move took more guts, invading Panama or going to Texas wearing a Big Orange T-shirt. [Laughter] I got the shirt in Washington when Pat Summitt came to the Rose Garden last April with Tennessee's Lady Volunteers, the 1989 NCAA national champions. And it was a great day.

And when they came to Washington the Lady Vols had only one request. Not to see the Oval Office. Not to see the Smithsonian, the Wright brothers' plane. Not even Georgetown at night. What they wanted to see was Millie's new puppies. [Laughter] And that's a fact, too.

Of course, we said yes, but now it's my turn. And as long as I'm at UT, it seems I ought to get to meet Smokey, from what they tell me. [Laughter]

I'm proud of Tennessee and your great sports traditions. But the truth is what makes this university so special says a lot about what makes America so special. It's not the winner's trophy at the end of the quest: It's the quest itself. And in Tennessee, as in America, that means the quest for excellence. At UT, the quest for excellence starts not on the basketball court or the football field but in the classroom. Maybe you heard that at the White House I bragged as much about the Lady Vols' 14 years with a 100-percent graduation rate as I did about that fantastic basketball championship.

Earlier this week, I issued my first formal budget as President, a blueprint for the year ahead. And 2 days ago, I stood in the U.S. Capitol, stood before the American people, and reported to you on the state of the Union. Don't worry. If you missed the speech, you're not going to hear the two words that strike terror in the hearts of every college student: pop quiz. [Laughter] You have an excuse, because our timing was not exactly fortuitous. I understand that while I was orating there before the Congress the Vols were playing -- what was it? -- Vanderbilt in basketball, and some of you had your priorities all screwed up. [Laughter] So, I understand that.

But at the heart of the address, though, was a sense of confidence that America today is second to none -- and sense of commitment, a plan to keep America second to none in the years ahead. The foundation for our plan, the foundation for our future, is anchored by a cornerstone we call educational excellence. Education really is our most enduring legacy, vital to everything we are and can become. And my budget calls for record funding, reflecting this belief. But as I said Wednesday night, real improvement in our schools is not simply a matter of spending more: it's a matter of asking more -- expecting more -- of our schools, our teachers, our kids, and ourselves.

You in Tennessee know that goals and high expectations work. Five years ago, Governor Lamar Alexander told Tennessee's eighth-graders, ``If you want to go to State universities, you're going to have to take more math and science.'' And there was a good deal of grumbling -- a little grumpiness about that at first, but today almost all freshmen are meeting those requirements. And as a result, admissions scores are up; retention rates are up; and best of all, 41 percent more students are taking science and math in the high school than were taking those subjects 5 years ago. You expected more, so you got more.

I believe what worked for Tennessee will work for America. And Wednesday night, I announced America's education goals, goals developed in close cooperation with the Governors of the 50 States. And I thank your Governor for participating so actively in these deliberations.

Part of the answer means getting back to basics. Recently one kid was asked if he knew what the three R's were. He said, ``Sure. Reading, writing, and remote control.'' [Laughter]

Well, just as we're redoubling our efforts to boost education, so we've doubled the three R's, as well. We have six goals, ``six R's,'' for education in the nineties.

And the first: readiness. By the year 2000, every child in America will start school ready to learn. And we've called for a record increase, a half-billion dollars, to ensure a fair start through Project Head Start.

And our next goal might be called ``search and rescue.'' We will target America's most at-risk youth and get them the help that they need -- they deserve. Our 10-year goal: to raise America's high school graduation rate to at least 90 percent.

And third, it's time to reestablish excellence. By the new century, American students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency over the world in which they live -- the world of math, science, history, and geography.

And we're calling for a new renaissance in science and math, to make America's students first in the world by the year 2000.

And next: reading. A competitive America must be a literate America, where every man and woman possesses the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in a global economy.

And then last and most fundamental: In every school in America, we've got to create an environment conducive to learning; and that means disciplined schools, that means -- and it must mean -- drug-free schools. The solution to chaos in our classrooms is no mystery. Franklin had a word for it -- not Ben, Aretha Franklin. She calls it R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect. And kids need respect for our wonderful teachers, respect for learning, respect for themselves. And all six goals are important.

And, Lamar, I was thrilled to learn that Tennessee -- a major research university and a pillar of the science-rich Oak Ridge Corridor -- has already taken the lead in responding to our challenge to use science and technology to boost America's competitiveness. And thanks to Governor McWherter, again, and Norm Augustine, Martin Marietta, and Jim Watkins, the Department of Energy, you will have a new Summer School for Math and Science and a new academy for America's top elementary and high school teachers. And it will be a model for the entire Nation. Unbelievably, it was all put together in a week. And the speed of Tennessee's response proves what we've been saying since I first sent my Educational Excellence package to Congress last spring. The time for study is past; the time for action is now.

You know, building our competitive strength today also means that we need quick congressional action on our other proposals for investing in new capital -- intellectual capital. And that includes everything from reforming product liability laws to doubling the budget of the National Science Foundation. It means a record-high increase in funds for research and development, R D; new help for R E, research and experimentation, by making the R E tax credit permanent; and funds to improve education -- the Eisenhower Education Grants for math and science would grow by 70 percent to 0 million.

In science and technology, the United States is today -- and we should take great pride in this, and there are many men in this room and women in this room today who have made a significant contribution to this -- the United States today is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. We produce more scholarly works, more breakthroughs, more international prizes than any other country.

But like any champion, we cannot rest on our reputation. More than 30 years ago, ``Ike,'' Dwight Eisenhower, used his State of the Union speech to address a similar challenge. ``Our real program,'' said Ike, ``is not our strength today: it is rather the vital necessity of action today to ensure our strength tomorrow.''

And today I am taking action by appointing the members of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Indeed, my Vice President, Dan Quayle, who's doing such an outstanding job as Chairman of both the National Space Council and the Competitiveness Council, is swearing in the members of this new Council this afternoon. And it's comprised of some of the best scientific minds in the country. We'll meet tomorrow at Camp David to discuss ways to maintain U.S. supremacy in these fields.

One way to do that is by challenging the impossible. And that brings to mind another challenge that will probably mean more to strengthening the educational system and competitive edge than any other single endeavor -- and I am talking about space. For in the coming century, first in space will mean first on Earth. And America intends to stay number one.

We need to find ways to do things faster and more efficiently in space. And that's why NASA and our Space Council have called on America's great universities and research centers to put their brightest engineers and scientists to work on coming up with bold, innovative ideas -- new technologies for a new tomorrow in space.

Tennessee has already made important contributions to the space program. Rhea Seddon, one of America's first women astronauts, is a graduate of UT's College of Medicine. And researchers at UT's Space Institute in Tullahoma are working with NASA to develop advanced space propulsion systems for the next generation of manned and unmanned missions.

In the new century -- your century -- those new systems may help take Americans back to the Moon and beyond. Our goal: to place Americans on Mars, and to do it within the working lifetimes of scientists and engineers who will be recruited for the effort today. And just as Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to open the continent, our commitment to the Moon-Mars initiative will indeed open the universe. It's the opportunity of a lifetime and offers a lifetime of opportunity.

Yet some wonder if America has lost its competitive edge and ask if we must now look overseas for the answer. They point to last week's launch in Japan -- a new satellite sent to orbit the Moon. They forget 26 years ago today, long before some of you were born, America's Ranger Six landed on the Moon -- 26 years ago.

The United States is the ``defending world champion.'' But we have to defend our title day by day, week by week, year in and year out. The Tennessee of Bob Neyland and Johnny Majors, of Wade Houston and Pat Summitt, knows something about defending athletic dynasties. Here it's done the old-fashioned way, the Tennessee way, the American way. You can play smart, but there are no shortcuts. It takes hard work and grit. It demands the constant renewal of new talent and ideas, always tempered by veteran coaching. And it means sweating harder, reaching higher, and seeing farther than the other guy.

It's never easy keeping that number one ranking. Pat Summitt said it in 1984, just before bringing the U.S. Women's Basketball Team to an Olympic Gold Medal. She said, ``We're expected to win. That's a greater challenge than when you're expected to finish second.'' But she's right. Pat's right. We're going to need as never before that ``can do'' attitude that brought our ancestors to America and that brought America to greatness. In World War I, when they asked your own Sergeant York how he captured 132 enemy prisoners and 32 machineguns all by himself, he answered, ``I surrounded 'em.'' [Laughter] And that's what some might expect from a Tennessean. [Laughter] But really, it's that kind of spirit that is going to carry us into the 21st century and beyond.

And as we approach the challenges of tomorrow, in a world increasingly hungry for yesterday's values, I hope that you'll continue to give voice to this State's frontier virtues: hard work; loyalty; love of faith, family, and the Volunteer State.

And when we hear America singing, it is often the sound of Tennessee: bluegrass fiddling in the mountains; the gospel and country sound of Nashville; the jazz, the blues of Memphis. It's the stuff of legend, the spirit of faith and hope. And with spirit like that, America's going to do a Tennessee waltz all over our competition.

So, thank you for this warm welcome. Thank you for this welcome. And God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 3:25 p.m. in Alumni Memorial Gymnasium. In his remarks, he referred to Norman R. Augustine, chairman and chief executive officer of Martin Marietta Corp.; and Robert R. Neyland, John T. Majors, and Wade Houston, former head football coach, current head football coach, and head coach for men's basketball at the university. Following his remarks, the President traveled to Camp David, MD, for the weekend.