[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 16, 1998]
[Pages 380-383]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring
March 16, 1998

    Thank you very much. Mr. Durso, thank 
you for welcoming me here to Springbrook. Secretary Riley, thank you for bringing me along. I want to 
introduce the Secretary of Education, Dick Riley; the Secretary of 
Energy, Federico Pena. I thank Governor 
Glendening and Senator Sarbanes and Congressman Wynn and the Maryland State superintendent, Nancy 
Grasmick; your president of the school 
board, Nancy King, and all the other people 
from Maryland who have made us feel so welcome; the Governor of West 
Virginia, Governor Underwood; and the 
mayor of Los Angeles, Mayor Riordan; and 
other people who were on our panel are over there. I'd like for all the 
people who came from all over America to be with us to stand up--Rudy 
Crew, the superintendent of New York;

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many other leaders there. Thank you all very much, Bob Moses and the others.
    Those people came from all over America today to your school to 
discuss one very important thing for your future: How can we improve the 
learning of American students in math and science on the edge of a new 
century and a new millennium, where so much of the public welfare and so 
much of people's individual lives will be determined by whether they 
understand and can use and apply math and science? And I think you ought 
to give them a hand for doing that. [Applause]
    Now, you may know all this, but I want to give you a few facts to 
try to demonstrate to you why whether you know anything about math and 
science, no matter what you do with your life, is likely to make a big 
difference. For example, in 1993, when I became President, and all of 
you were in an earlier grade--[laughter]--in 1993, now, just 5 years 
ago, there were only 50--50 sites on the Web, on the World Wide Web--50, 
total. Today, millions of Americans and millions of organizations have 
webpages, up from 50 in 1993. The White House has one. Your school 
newspaper has one. My cat has one! [Laughter] One and a half million new 
pages are created every day; 65,000 every hour.
    Today, every one of you is just a click of a mouse away from some of 
the finest libraries in the world. And someday before long, you'll be 
able to reach every book, every symphony, every painting ever created, 
through the Web.
    I know that Bill Nye talked to you about 
science in ways that were probably infinitely more entertaining than 
anything I could say, but I'd like to say a couple of serious things to 
you. Our scientists are on the verge of making dramatic breakthroughs in 
the treatment of cancer, spinal cord injury, other serious diseases. We 
have just had a rover on Mars. We're about to put an international space 
station in the sky the size of three football fields for, in effect, 
permanent human residence in space.
    In the 1980's, it took 9 years for scientists to identify the gene 
that causes cystic fibrosis. Last year, because of improvements in 
genetic research, it took 9 days to identify the gene that causes 
Parkinson's disease. We're on our way to developing gene chips that will 
help us prevent illnesses in people even before they happen. A lot of 
you young people here today, by the time you have your first child and 
you bring your baby home from the hospital, you will actually be able to 
have a genetic map which will tell you what your child's genetic 
strengths are, and weaknesses, what the likely problems your child could 
have are, what kind of diet your child should follow, what kind of 
regime you should follow to guarantee your child has the healthiest 
possible future.
    Now, I guess what I'm trying to say is something you doubtless 
already know, but science and technology and mathematics are profoundly 
important to the way we live. But they will be even more important to 
the way you live, you work, you relate to other people, you relate to 
people all the way around the world.
    Now, I know here that preparing for that kind of future is a 
priority. You have more computers, more students taking computer science 
than any other school in the county. Congratulations. I hope more 
students around the country will follow your lead. I hope more of you 
will go on to college. And if you haven't thought of it, I hope you will 
decide to do it.
    I have worked very hard to make sure that when we start this new 
century, the first 2 years of college will be as universal as a high 
school education has been in the latter half of the 20th century. Why? 
Because we know from all of our census data that young people who have 
at least 2 years of college education are likely to get a good job with 
a growing income. Young people who don't are likely not to get a good 
job with a growing income. And we know that more and more people have to 
be able not just to know facts but to understand how to use them, how to 
solve problems, how to think creatively.
    That's why we've provided now a HOPE scholarship, a $1,500 tax 
credit, a reduction to help pay for tuition for the first 2 years of 
college, and tax credits for the junior year and senior year and 
graduate school as well. This is important. We've also simplified the 
student loan program; made interest tax deductible on student loans if 
your families or you can save money in an IRA and withdraw it to pay for 
a college education without having to pay any tax on it; we've increased 
the number of Pell grants and the number of work-study slots; and 
provided for more positions in AmeriCorps for people to earn money to go 
to college by doing community service. All of this is designed not only 
to help you individually but to make your country stronger, because we 
will need higher

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levels of education among all our young people in the new century.
    Every one of you--and I wanted to be able to look at every young 
person in America dead in the eye and say, I don't care what your 
family's income is, I don't care what your racial or ethnic background 
is, I don't care how many struggles you've had to overcome, you will be 
able to afford to go to college because we have created a system which 
makes it possible for you.
    Now, here's the problem that we face today. Here's why all of these 
people came here. Not everybody in America has access to the same level 
of science and math and technology opportunities you do. And not 
everybody in America--and I'll bet you not even everybody in this school 
who should be taking these courses--is taking them. And that has given 
us a huge national headache.
    Earlier this month, we learned that in the Third International Math 
and Science test, which compares performance of American students with 
students around the world, that our seniors ranked near the bottom, 
ahead of only 2 other countries out of 21, in math and science 
performance. Now, by contrast, we ranked right at the top in math and 
science performance at the fourth grade--right at the top. We ranked 
second in math and tied for second in science. By the eighth grade, we 
drop to about the middle of the pack. By the 12th grade, we're ahead of 
only two other countries.
    This country is still the science and mathematics and technology and 
research capital of the world. But how long can we go on doing that when 
we need this knowledge to be more widely shared, and we know that only a 
few people have it? That is the challenge. So I say to you, it's not 
just important for you to know more math and science personally; it's 
important for your country and your future that people like you all over 
this country know more as well.
    So what are we going to do about it? Listen to this: half of all 
college-bound seniors in America--forget about the people not going to 
college--half of all the people that are going to college have not taken 
physics or trigonometry. Three-quarters have not taken calculus. 
Students around the world have to take these courses to get out of high 
school, in country after country after country. So I say to you, whether 
you have to or not, you should take trig; you should take calculus; and 
you should take physics. No matter what you do for the rest of your 
life, it will help you, and you should take them.
    Now, let me also say that we have some things to do. We have to make 
sure that all of our teachers have the chance to be properly trained. 
Let's face it--you know, there are almost 400,000 openings right now in 
America in computer science. The average entry-level salary is $48,000 a 
year. That ought to get you interested in taking them in college. 
[Laughter] The average teacher's salary in America--for all teachers, 
including those that have been teaching 30 years--the average salary is 
well below $48,000 a year, what a 22-year-old or a 23-year-old person 
can earn coming out of college with this kind of background.
    So I want to say something else to you. You've got a good teacher, 
and you know your teacher is doing this. I've just told you that your 
teacher could leave, walk out tomorrow, and go make $50,000 doing 
something else. You ought to thank your teachers for being here and 
educating you and supporting you.
    And I'll tell you what we're going to try to do. We are going to do 
our best to make sure that schools and school districts and States have 
the resources to train teachers properly. We're going to challenge all 
the States to require that the teachers who are teaching courses have 
real adequate academic preparation in the courses they're teaching. I'm 
going to urge more and more States and school districts to require you 
to take more math and science, just to get out of high school in the 
first place.
    But before all that happens--well, you're seniors, it's too late--I 
don't mean we're going to impose something on you. I don't mean you have 
to stay. But you think about this. You think about this: if you have a 
little brother or a little sister in the ninth grade or the eighth grade 
or the seventh grade or the sixth grade, wouldn't you like to know that 
when your brother or sister gets out of high school if they want to go 
to college, they can? And wouldn't you like to know that everybody who 
gets out of high school 6 years from now will be able to compete with 
every body else in the world when they get out of high school 6 years 
from now? Isn't this something we owe each other, to make every 
succeeding year better and better and better?

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    So I say this, even though--if you're a senior and you think, ``Oh, 
my goodness, I'm so glad that Bill Clinton didn't come to my school and 
give this speech 5 years ago--[laughter]--because they might have 
changed the rules and made me take all these courses,'' even if you 
think that, you should want your brothers and sisters coming up behind 
you to take all these courses, because it will be better for our country 
and for your future if we do it.
    I've been told that the motto of this school is, ``We expect; we 
believe; we achieve.'' Well, when I look at you, and I think of where 
we're going in math and science, I expect America to lead the way. I 
believe in you to be on the forefront of that. It's up to you to 
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:15 p.m. in the auditorium. In his 
remarks, he referred to Michael A. Durso, principal, Springbrook High 
School; Gov. Parris N. Glendening of Maryland; Nancy S. Grasmick, 
Maryland State superintendent of schools; Nancy J. King, president, 
Montgomery County Board of Education; Gov. Cecil H. Underwood of West 
Virginia; Mayor Richard Riordan of Los Angeles; Rudy Crew, chancellor, 
New York City public schools; Robert Moses, director, the Algebra 
Project; and William S. (Bill) Nye, host of the PBS children's 
television program ``The Science Guy.''