Public Papers

Teleconference Remarks to the America 2000 Satellite Town Meeting


The President. Lamar, I'm here.

Secretary Alexander. Well, terrific.

The President. Delighted to be here. And I'm delighted you're willing to take this phone call from this very interested participant from the White House.

Secretary Alexander. We're honored that you'd take the time to call. We know you've had a very busy day.

The President. Well, let me just make a couple of comments butting into this wonderful program. But first a compliment, and then I do want to ask one question. But my compliments to the more than 2,500 communities out there who are working together on these national education goals.

When the Governors and I established the goals at Charlottesville at that education summit, we hoped to set a new direction for education in our country. But we also knew that the goals would not make much difference unless they were adopted community by community. And so I guess the way to say it is we had high hopes at Charlottesville. But I don't think any one of us envisioned anything quite like this, over 2,500 different communities working together on the goals at one time by satellite. I really just want to say that I hope you will all stick with it, join the town meeting every month, and become an America 2000 community, if you're not in there already.

There are no quick fixes. The change we're talking about is really fundamental. It is really enormous, literally reinventing education. And that'll require what we call the break-the-mold schools, higher standards and certainly better tests, getting government off the teachers' backs, and then giving families more choice in schools and academic programs. There's nothing more important than creating the best schools in the world for our children, and this is the way to do it.

So my compliments to all assembled for what you're doing. My compliments also to the U.S. Chamber and all the local chambers of commerce out there who are involved in these community efforts, and then, of course, to the wonderful Wal-Mart associates who are participating. I do know firsthand how important education was to Sam Walton. And he would be glad, he would be thrilled that you were participating tonight. So, congratulations.

Now for my question, and I want to place it to Len Sirotzki of Bensenville, Illinois. And I suspect that almost all of the participating communities have this question in mind because I've challenged each one of them to create a break-the-mold school. And now Len, if you're there, you've turned your entire community into a break-the-mold site. And my question is, how did you get started and how is it working out?

Mr. Sirotzki. Mr. President, thank you for asking that question. It certainly is wonderful of you to join us this evening. The way we started, very simply put, was that we started. I think that the number one message to communities everywhere is to start, and don't wait for some perfect time that may never come. But we looked for individual persons who were willing to go beyond personal agenda for the benefit of the community, all of the families in the community, and I mean all of them, not only school-aged children. And I think all of us want better communities, but they will not come about magically. It's going to take a very, very long-term commitment, and there will be a great deal of pain, bringing about the kinds of changes that are needed.

But we have five different taxing bodies representing all the wonderful people of Bensenville who are working together. And I know that I can speak for all of the people in Bensenville in saying that whatever it is that we do that is of interest to others, we would be more than happy to share, because that's the kind of place Bensenville is.

The President. Well, thank you, Len, very much. And I know everybody's experience can be helpful to the other fellow. And this experience in Bensenville, I appreciate your sharing it with us. And let me just say here in conclusion, it's been a long day. In fact, it's been a very emotional day for me. I've been out surveying the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in Florida and over in Louisiana. And let me just say that one of our participants tonight, I believe, is Connie Jones. She's the principal of Three Oaks Elementary School at Fort Myers. And she got her school turned into a shelter, taking in those who were stricken by the hurricane. May I just say at the end of this emotional day that I salute Connie and all the others across this great country of ours who reach out to help their neighbors. It's a marvelous thing when you see the spirit of the people in the areas that have been hit by this storm. But we see it every day in communities across the country as they face adversity.

So, congratulations to all, and I am proud, Lamar, that this America 2000 effort continues to be bipartisan. And look, we all know that we're in an unusual political season. But let me just say I am determined to do my part, as I know Lamar is and as I know everyone out there is, to keep this effort out of partisan politics and just in the arena of helping people. All the Governors, Democrats as well as Republicans, are a part of all of this, and it's been that way from the very beginning. And I just wanted to assure every participant that I'm determined to keep it that way.

So, thanks for what you're doing. God bless you all, and good night. And thanks, Lamar.

Secretary Alexander. Thank you for taking time to call. I know that was exciting for everybody that participated.

The President. Well, keep up the great work, to you and all involved. Goodbye.

Note: The President spoke at 9:25 p.m. via satellite from the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Len Sirotzki, project director, Bensenville Community Design Project, who was with Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce television studio in Washington, DC.