[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[January 9, 1998]
[Pages 21-24]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at Mission High School in Mission, Texas
January 9, 1998

    Thank you. Good morning. Well, first of all, weren't you proud of 
Elizabeth? Did she do a great job or 
what? [Applause] And she looked so tall standing here. [Laughter] Thank 
you, Elizabeth.
    You know, there's been a lot of exciting things in Mission in the 
last couple of weeks. The valley got its first snowfall in 40 years, 
and, you know, all these limousines and cars descending on the area--to 
get an unexpected visit from Koy Detmer.
    Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here. I have so many 
people to thank, but I want to start with Congressman 
Hinojosa, who has been a great friend of 
yours, a great Representative, and a great ally of mine to expand 
economic opportunity and trade and to improve education and to reduce 
the dropout rate especially among young Hispanic students. He represents 
you very, very well, and I thank him for helping me to come here today.
    I'd like to thank Congressman Solomon Ortiz and Congressman Ciro Rodriguez and a native of Mission, Mission High School class of 
1946, the former chairman of the Agriculture Committee in the House of 
Representatives, Congressman Kika de la Garza, and his wife, Mrs. de la Garza. Thank you for being here.
    I'd like to thank the education commissioner, Mike Moses; the land commissioner, Garry Mauro; members of my administration who are here, including 
White House aides Mickey Ibarra, Janet 
Murguia, Cynthia Jasso-Rotunno; and the head of the Overseas Private Investment 
Corporation, George Munoz. All of them came 
down here today to meet with community leaders before I came out here to 
talk about the economic future of the valley and what we could do to 
help to accelerate the growth of your area.
    I want to thank the legislators and the mayors who are here: Senator 
Carlos Truan, Representative Ismael 
Flores, Representative Miguel Wise, Representative Roberto Gutierrez; Mayor Ricardo Perez of 
Mission; the McAllen mayor, Leo Montalvo; the 
Edinburg mayor, Joe Ochoa. I thank the chairman of 
the Democratic Party, Bill White, for 
coming here. And as an old member of the band, I'd like to thank the 
high school bands from Mission, Edinburg, Weslaco, and Hidalgo for 
    I thank the college students from South Texas Community College and 
UT-Pan Am, high school students from Hidalgo, Willacy, Bee, Brooks, and 
San Patricio Counties, and I thank the other AmeriCorps volunteers for 
being here.
    This morning I talked with some community leaders about economic 
opportunity. Today, to this great and happy crowd, I want to talk with 
you about educational opportunity. And I want America to know about this 
school district. The Mission school district may not be the wealthiest 
one in the Nation, but it is rich in results. Attendance is up; dropout 
rates are down. Ten years ago, only about a quarter of Mission's high 
school seniors went on to college. This year, thanks in part to the new 
opportunities at the South Texas Community College, almost two-

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thirds of the high school graduates will go on to college.
    I am trying to see that every high school classroom, every middle 
school and elementary school classroom, and every library in this 
country are hooked up to the Internet by the year 2000. Let me tell you 
what that piece of paper says that just blew away--it says that just 2 
days ago, every classroom in Mission High School was hooked up to the 
Internet, well ahead of schedule. Congratulations to you. Now some of 
the classrooms will become laboratories for the Nation as you begin 
using state-of-the-art video conferencing to take advanced college 
courses, as well as virtual field trips all around the world. 
Congratulations. I want America to see you and know that all children 
can learn and every school can improve. You have proved it, and I want 
you to stay on the course.
    I want America to have an educational system where every 8-year-old 
can read, every 12-year-old can log on to the Internet, every 18-year-
old can go to college, and every adult can keep on learning for a 
lifetime. We have to have high standards and proven reforms, the best 
use of new technology, help to the children who need it, and a real 
commitment to the proposition that every child can learn.
    We have to work to reduce the dropout rate. We have to convince many 
of our students, interestingly enough, especially in Latino communities 
throughout the United States, that what used to be a good thing to do, 
to drop out of school and go to work to help your family, can now in 
fact hurt your family and hurt your future because there is so much 
difference today between what someone with an education can learn and 
what someone who leaves high school before graduation can learn. That 
message has to be hammered home. And again I say, together we can do it, 
and you are setting an example here in Mission. And I thank you for 
    I also came here with a guarantee, one that is embodied in the sign 
that I stand in front of, for young people and for adults who work hard 
and achieve in the classroom, the results will pay off. Just a week ago, 
we began a new era in American education. Thanks to brand new HOPE 
scholarships and other initiatives, money is now no longer an obstacle 
to any American going to college. For the first time in this country's 
history, we can literally say we have opened the doors of college to 
everyone who has the desire and who has the preparation to go. That is a 
signal, important achievement for the United States.
    Ladies and gentlemen, I loved it, and I think you did, too, when 
Elizabeth said that I was the first sitting President to come here not 
running for election. But I did come here in 1992 running for election, 
and I saw good, hard-working Americans, patriotic Americans, people who 
always answer the call of service when their country needs them, people 
who love their families and believe in their children and desperately 
want a better future for their communities. And I said I wanted us to 
take a new direction to the 21st century to make the American dream 
alive for every person who was willing to work for it, to make every 
American, without regard to race or background, part of our American 
community, and to do what is necessary to keep America the world's 
leading force for peace and freedom and prosperity.
    And the bargain I offered the American people was opportunity for 
everyone who is responsible, but we must have responsibility for 
everyone if we want opportunity, and a community in which everyone was 
part of our national family. The Government's job in that kind of 
America is to create the conditions and give people the tools to make 
the most of their own lives. That is what we have tried to do with the 
economy, and we must do more. That's what we talked about this morning 
in our community leaders meeting, and that is what we must do with 
    Right now, our approach looks pretty good. Our Nation is on a roll. 
Just this morning we learned that the economy added another 370,000 jobs 
last month. That means 14.3 million new jobs for Americans in the last 5 
years. The deficit has been reduced by 90 percent, and next year, for 
the first time in three decades, we will have a balanced budget. Wages 
are rising for ordinary working people for the first time in 20 years. 
Hispanic unemployment is dropping. Record rates of small business growth 
are occurring. Hispanic-American new small businesses are being started 
at 3 times the national average rate. There are hundreds of thousands of 
new Latino homeowners in America, and we have over two-thirds of the 
American people in their own homes for the first time in our history.
    Despite these gains, you and I know that Hispanic family income is 
not yet on the rise, and

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here in the valley and other areas of America, the unemployment rate is 
still unconscionably high. One of the biggest reasons is that too many 
young people who live here drop out of school. Many leave for good 
reasons, as I said earlier; they want to help their families by working. 
But in a global economy, the best way for a young person to help his or 
her family is to stay in school, set yourself on a college path early, 
and complete at least 2 years of college. People who at least have a 
community college degree have a very good chance of getting a job with 
stability and prospects of a growing income. People who do less than 
that in a global economy where we depend more and more on what we can 
learn every day and the new skills we can apply, are playing Russian 
roulette with their future. That is why we have worked very hard with 
dedicated Members of Congress like Mr. Hinojosa to reduce the dropout rates and to reward people who 
stay and learn.
    And let me tell you what I meant when I said there's a guarantee for 
people who go on to college now. Last year in the balanced budget, we 
put in place a college opportunity agenda that literally had the largest 
investment in helping people go to college since the GI bill was passed 
when the soldiers from the valley came home 50 years ago.
    Here's what it means to the people who live here. First, we created 
HOPE scholarships and an education IRA; they started on January 1st. 
HOPE scholarships will basically use the tax system to reimburse 
families for up to $1,500 a year to pay for the first 2 years of 
college. That means schools like South Texas Community College will be 
virtually free to virtually all Americans. With education IRA's, parents 
will now be able to set money aside for their children's college 
education and let it grow, and then withdraw from the fund later without 
paying any taxes on it.
    The second thing we've done is to create lifetime learning credits, 
tax cuts worth up to $1,000 a year to students who go to the 3d and 4th 
years of college or who go to graduate school, and those are available 
to adults who go back to school or to training programs because they 
have to change careers or they need to upgrade their skills.
    The third thing we did is to increase Pell grant scholarships for 
nearly 4 million low and moderate income families. And finally, we made 
student loans easier to get and easier to pay off as a percentage of 
your income, so that no one ever has to fear borrowing money to go to 
college because they're afraid they will go broke trying to pay the loan 
back. Now you can get the loan at lower cost and less time and pay it 
back as a percentage of your income when you get out of school.
    We are also offering young people more opportunities to do community 
service through the AmeriCorps program and earn money to go to college; 
100,000 have taken advantage of it.
    Now, there is one other thing I want to talk about. A lot of people 
have to work their way through school, like I did, and usually those of 
us who do think we're the better for it. Sometimes, if you have to work 
a little, you even are more disciplined with your time and you wind up 
studying a little more. The balanced budget I will submit to Congress 
next month will include a record 1 million work-study positions for 
college students. That represents an increase of nearly 50 percent 
during the last 3 years alone. It's not just about increasing financial 
aid, that's about increasing the circle of community service and the 
winner's circle of opportunity for the future.
    For example, work-study students at more than 800 colleges in 
America today are helping to make sure that we reach one of our 
education goals, that every 8-year-old can read. Through the America 
Reads challenge, tens of thousands of college students are earning money 
for college while going into our schools to tutor young people to make 
sure that they don't get out of the third grade without being able to 
read independently; and now we'll have a million people doing that kind 
of work.
    Let me just say this to all the young people here in this audience: 
We can create opportunities, but you have to seize it. I am determined--
whenever I come to South Texas, I leave more determined than ever to 
find some way to better reward the energy, the patriotism, the 
commitment, the vision of the people here. We can do more to build on 
the empowerment zones and to do other things to help you to grow your 
economy, to preserve your environment, to create more jobs. But 
nothing--nothing--will matter in the end unless the young people who 
live here are committed to developing their own minds and keeping their 
visions high and believing in themselves and their futures. That is the 
most important thing. You have to believe that.

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You have to make sure that you have raised your sights as high as you 
    And let me just say, I don't want to embarrass him, but I'd like to 
compliment the principal here at Mission High School, Mr. 
Ahmadian. He came here in the late seventies 
from Iran, without being able to speak a word of English. Now, as the 
leader of this remarkable school, he's helped thousands of people go on 
to careers in education, in medicine, in law enforcement. He's helping 
them to do what he did with high standards for higher education. Whether 
you're the son or daughter of a migrant laborer, or a doctor, the same 
formula applies: high standards and higher education; taking 
responsibility; sitting down with family, teachers, guidance counselors; 
committing to work hard to learn, to do the homework, to think about the 
    We're going to do our part in Washington to make sure that those of 
you who are prepared for the future can go on to college. We've removed 
the obstacles. There's an open field ahead, but you have to reach the 
goal line. Take the ball and run with it. Your future is bright; the 
future of the valley is bright; and the future of the Nation is in your 
    God bless you. Gracias. Viva el valle. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:05 a.m. in Tom Landry Stadium. In his 
remarks, he referred to Mission High School student body president 
Elizabeth Gonzales, who introduced the President, principal Masoud 
Ahmadian, and alumnus Koy Detmer, NFL Philadelphia Eagles player; 
Lucille de la Garza, wife of former Representative Kika de la Garza; and 
William H. White, chair, Texas State Democratic Party.