Remarks by President Bush on the American Competitiveness Initiative

Apr 19, 2006, 01:00 ET from White House Press Office

    WASHINGTON, April 19 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of
 remarks by President Bush on the American Competitiveness Initiative:
     Tuskegee University
     Tuskegee, Alabama
     12:20 P.M.  CDT
     THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Thanks for having me.
 Mr. President -- (laughter) -- got a nice ring to it. (Laughter.) I respect
 President Ben Payton for his commitment to education and his commitment to
 the United States of America, and I'm proud to be on this campus.
     I was telling President Payton that I knew about Tuskegee before I knew
 about most other universities when I was a kid. When I was growing up,
 believe it or not, in Midland, Texas, which is way out in the desert, I
 knew about Tuskegee. I knew Tuskegee was the center of excellence, has been
 for a long period of time. (Applause.) And I saw firsthand it is still a
 center of excellence. (Applause.)
     George Washington Carver -- you've heard of him; so did I as a young
 guy. (Laughter.) Booker T. Washington -- when you think Tuskegee, you think
 Booker T. Washington. And when you hear about Booker T. Washington, you
 think about Tuskegee. Ralph Ellison, or the music of Lionel Richie. I mean,
 Tuskegee has been a center for educational excellence and a place for
 opportunity for a long period of time here in the United States of America.
     When I was the governor of Texas-- governors are heads of the National
 Guard, and I had the opportunity and honor to name the person that headed
 our Guard. And I picked a fellow named Danny James -- General Danny James.
 It just turns out his father was a man named Chappie James. (Applause.) As
 a matter of fact, Tuskegee-- I was in the Chappie James Building a little
 while ago. You named the building after a fine person.
     I appreciate the role that Tuskegee has had in the 20th century to
 break down racial barriers, to provide hope and to help build a better
 America. What I'm here to talk about is the role Tuskegee will continue to
 play in the 21st century and to prepare our students and our kids for the
 jobs of the 21st century. Tuskegee is a really important part of making
 sure the United States of America provides hope and opportunity for all
 people. (Applause.)
     I want to thank Dr. Shaik Jeelani, who is the Director for the Center
 for Advanced Materials. I don't know if you have seen that facility before.
 I'm sure some of you have who work here, but if you haven't, I strongly
 urge you to go there. It's a really interesting center of the -- where
 you'll see the future being explored and developed. There's a lot of
 science going on there. (Applause.)
     I appreciate being joined by Governor Bob Riley. Riley is a friend.
 Riley cares deeply about educating every child. I'm going to talk about the
 No Child Left Behind Act as part of the foundation to make sure every child
 gets educated, but in case I forget, Riley is willing to set high standards
 and hold people to account, and provide help so no child gets left behind.
 And I want to thank you for your leadership. (Applause.)
     Margaret Spellings is with us. She's the Secretary of Education. I've
 known her for a long time. I know this: She's committed to the public
 school system and the higher education system of the United States of
 America. I look forward to working with her to make sure that every child
 gets a good education and every child has a chance to succeed.
     I appreciate being here with the Congressman from this district,
 Congressman Mike Rogers. Thank you for coming, Congressman. I appreciate
 your service. (Applause.) Although he's not here, we better say something
 nice about Senator Shelby. (Laughter.) The reason why is, is that he is the
 Chairman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Committees.
 And what I'm going to talk about requires appropriations. (Laughter.)
 That's why I'm being nice to him. (Laughter.) Plus I like him. He's a fine
 United States Senator -- as is Senator Jeff Sessions. (Applause.)
     I appreciate all the state folks who are here, and the local officials
 who are here. I want to say something about my friend, Johnny Ford. I'm
 proud that the Mayor -- there he is. (Applause.) City of Tuskegee Mayor.
 Thank you, Johnny. Thanks for being here. I know you didn't ask me -- my
 advice is, fill the potholes. (Laughter and applause.) If anybody can get
 them filled, it's Johnny. (Laughter.) He's a good man.
     Listen, I flew into Montgomery, I choppered over to the airfield. And
 what I found interesting was that is the airfield where the Tuskegee Airmen
 trained. Now, Tuskegee Airmen have led an important part of the reputation
 of this facility. A lot of people know about the Tuskegee Airmen. And more
 people are going to know about it when we finish that museum. (Applause.)
     With us today is Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Carter, Tuskegee Airmen.
 Where are you, Colonel? Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. (Applause.) Did you bring
 Mildred? (Laughter.) Oh, there she is. Hi, Mildred. Thank you for coming.
 (Applause.) And so is Major Carrol Woods, member of the Tuskegee airmen.
 Thank you for coming, Major Woods. Proud you're here. Thank you, sir.
     I appreciate the members of the Tuskegee Board of Trustees. I want to
 thank the university leaders. I particularly want to say something about
 the faculty. I thank you for teaching. (Applause.) Yours is a noble
 profession, and yours is an important profession, and I thank you for
 answering the call. And I want to say something about the students. I hope
 you're proud of this fine institution. And I know you'll bring honor to it
 by not only studying hard, but by going out and being people of
 accomplishment after you graduate. And so I thank you for having me. It's
 such an honor to be here. (Applause.)
     So here's the problem we face. The problem is this: Can we compete? Are
 we going to be a nation in which we can compete in a globalized world?
 Tomorrow, I'm welcoming President Hu Jintao of China to the South Lawn of
 the White House. Last month, I traveled to India to set the stage for new
 relations with that important country. These countries are emerging
 nations. They are growing rapidly, and they provide competition for jobs
 and natural resources. And it's really an interesting thought, when you
 think about it. The world has really changed, since at least when I was
 growing up, where competition might have been around, but it didn't really
 nearly affect the lives of our citizens as much as it does today.
     I'll give you an example of the effects of globalization. When India
 buys more fossil fuels, it causes the price of crude oil to go up, which
 causes our price of gasoline to go up. That's an example of globalization.
 As these new jobs of the 21st century come into being, people are going to
 hire people with the skill sets. And if our folks don't have the skill
 sets, those jobs are going to go somewhere else. That's one of the effects
 of the world in which we live.
     And there are several ways to look at the world in which we live. We
 can say, we understand the world the way it is and we're confident in our
 capacity to shape the future; or we don't like the way the world is and
 we're going to withdraw and retreat. Withdrawing and retreating is not the
 right thing to do, in my judgment. America has always been able to compete.
 As a matter of fact, America should not be afraid of competition; we ought
 to welcome it, and continue to be the leader of the world -- the world's
 economy. We ought to continue to be the leader in research and development.
 We need to continue to be the leader in higher education. We shouldn't lose
 our nerve. We shouldn't see the future and fear the future; we ought to
 welcome the future.
     And here are some things we need to do to make sure we shape the
 future. First is to make sure we're always on the leading edge of research
 and technology. I saw some amazing things happening today. I was a history
 major so maybe they were really amazing because I didn't know what I was
 looking at. (Laughter.) Seemed amazing. (Laughter.) I was at the Center for
 Biomedical Research -- I was really at the Center for Advanced Materials
 called T-CAM, a sister organization to the Center for Biomedical Research
 and for the Center for Aerospace Science Engineering. Isn't that
 interesting, those three centers exist right here in Tuskegee. I think it's
 a hopeful part of making sure we're a competitive nation and a confident
 nation, to be able to say out loud those three centers of excellence, the
 centers of science right here on this campus.
     We spent some time talking about nanotechnology. I don't know if you
 know much about nanotechnology -- (laughter) -- but I met some students who
 knew a lot about nanotechnology -- Ph.D. candidates who knew a lot about
 nanotechnology. By the way, Tuskegee produces Ph.D. candidates. I think you
 produced five last year. (Applause.) You're on your way to five more over
 the next year or so. That's important.
     But also as important is the research that's being done here. It's
 research that will keep the United States on the leading edge, keep the
 United States competitive. And that's important for our fellow citizens
 because, so long as we lead, our people are going to have a good standard
 of living. So long as we're the leader, people will be able to find good
 work. If we lose our nerve and retreat, it will make it hard for us to be
 able to provide those jobs people want. The more productive a society is --
 and by the way, research and development leads to higher productivity --
 the higher standard of living we'll have. And that's what we want. We want
 our people to be able to realize their dreams, to be able to get good work.
     So here's the first thing that I intend to work with Congress on to
 make sure that we're on the leading edge of change and technology, and that
 is to increase federal support for vital, basic research. I don't know if
 you realize this, but because of Defense Department spending in the past,
 and because of the research that the Defense Department was doing to
 enhance communication, to improve military communications, the Internet
 came to be. In other words, the Defense Department said, we need to figure
 out how better to communicate. And, therefore, they spent some research
 dollars at institutions like Tuskegee. And out of that research came the
 Internet, which has helped change our society in many ways.
     Here's another interesting example of where basic research can help
 change quality of life or provide practical applications for people. The
 government funded research in microdrive storage, electrochemistry and
 signal compression. They did so for one reason: It turned out that those
 were the key ingredients for the development of the Ipod. I tune into the
 Ipod occasionally, you know? (Laughter.) Basic research to meet one set of
 objectives can lead to interesting ideas for our society. It helps us
 remain competitive. So the government should double the commitment to the
 most basic -- critical research programs in the physical sciences over the
 next 10 years. I look forward to Congress to doubling that commitment.
     Secondly -- and by the way, those centers of excellence I went to are
 funded by -- some of them are funded by grants from the federal government
 on this type of research money. So, obviously, it helps your institution
 flourish, but, more importantly, it helps our country. It helps our country
 in two ways. There's no telling what's going to come out of this basic
 research. As a matter of fact, I saw nanotechnology applied to what could
 conceivably be the next airplane wing. Boeing is funding research into
 nanotechnology here at Tuskegee, which may end up yielding a lighter, more
 firm material which could become the basis for the new airplanes that you
 fly in. It's lightweight stuff, but it's really strong. It's right here on
 this campus that people are making research into this -- (applause.)
     But you notice I said "Boeing." See, the federal government has got a
 role to play, in my judgment, in basic research. But the private sector
 spends twice as much money on research and development that the federal
 government does. So I think it's important for us to put policy in place to
 continue that kind of research. If you were to ask the President and the
 folks involved with the scientific and the engineering departments here,
 you'll find that private companies are providing research and development
 money to help meet certain objectives. And one of the things we got to do
 is continue to provide incentive for corporate America to make these
 investments. They spend about $200 billion a year. If we want the country
 to be competitive, if we don't want to fear the future and shape it, then
 there needs to be incentive for corporate America to continue to make these
 research and development investments.
     We do that, by the way, through what's called the research and
 development tax credit. It's fancy words for saying that if you spend the
 money there's going to be a -- you'll get a credit on your income. That
 makes sense to me. It makes sense to a lot of other countries, too, by the
 way. A lot of countries, in trying to be competitive in this global world
 are doing the same thing to encourage research and development, because
 they know what we know, that if you come up with new products and are
 constantly on the leading edge of change and innovation, the standard of
 living for the people in the country in which these investments are made
 goes up.
     The problem we have is that the research and development tax credit
 expires every year. Now, if you're somebody trying to plan an investment
 strategy, and you're uncertain as to whether or not the research and
 development tax credit is going to be around for the next year, then you're
 less likely to be aggressive in your research and development spending.
 It's logical, it makes sense.
     So I think Congress needs to make sure there's certainty in the tax
 code, so as to achieve an important social objective -- by the way, and an
 objective which helps Tuskegee -- and that is they need to make the
 research and development tax credit a permanent part of the tax code.
     Thirdly, and perhaps the most important way that this United States of
 America can remain the leader when it comes to economic development and
 opportunity is to make sure our education systems work well. And so here
 are some ideas as to how to -- as to how to set in motion a strategy that
 says we shouldn't fear the future, we ought to welcome it. We ought to be a
 nation that says we can compete. And the way to compete in the 21st century
 is to make sure that our children have got the skills necessary to fill the
 jobs of the 21st century.
     I said earlier -- and this is practical -- if we don't get the children
 the skills in math and science and engineering, those jobs are going
 elsewhere. That's just the way it is. And therefore, we've got to deal with
 it head on. We can't hope the world changes. We've got to be confident in
 our capacity to achieve an objective. And it starts with making sure
 younger children know how to read and write and add and subtract.
     I want to describe to you, if you don't mind, the theory and the
 strategy and the vision behind the No Child Left Behind Act. And here it
 is: One, I believe every child can learn. Two, I believe it is important
 for people to show us whether or not every child is learning. And three, if
 a child is not learning early, there ought to be extra help to make sure he
 or she does not get left behind. That's the theory behind No Child Left
 Behind Act.
     We spend a fair amount of money at the federal level, particularly on
 Title I students. It's money directed toward a certain segment of our
 population, as it should be. But I think in return for money spent, we
 ought to -- we have said to the states, you develop an accountability
 system to let us know whether or not a child can read, for example. All the
 talk about science and engineering and math matters nothing if the children
 cannot read. The first step toward making sure our children have the skills
 of the 21st century is to insist upon a solid reading program that works.
 How do you know whether a program works or not -- really depends on whether
 or not you're willing to measure.
     I was the governor of Texas; I remember the big debates over the -- how
 to properly teach reading. If you've ever been on a school board, I'm
 confident you were involved in that debate. And it was quite a
 philosophical argument. The way to cut through all the rhetoric is to say,
 let's measure and to see. I've heard every excuse why not to measure, by
 the way. I don't know if you've heard them, but excuses ranging from, "all
 you're doing is teaching to test." No. My attitude is, when you teach a
 third grader to read, he or she can pass the test. "All you do is spend
 time worrying about tests. It makes me nervous, tests." Well, what ought to
 make you nervous is a school system that simply shuffles children through
 without understanding whether or not they've got the basics. (Applause.)
     I remember being told that testing is discrimination. I said, no, the
 system that's discriminatory is one that doesn't care and just says, if
 you're so-and-so age, you belong here. I believe a compassionate society is
 one which says, let us find out early, before it's too late, and provide
 extra money for after-school tutoring, or help to make sure children get up
 to grade level.
     Now, if you believe certain children can't learn, then it's justifiable
 that you just pass them through. I believe every child can learn. And
 therefore, our school systems must make sure we focus on individual
 children. And so we're beginning to see some improvements, by the way, in
 the public school systems around America. How do we know? Because we
     In 2005, America's 4th graders posted the best scores in reading and
 math in the history of the test. That's positive. People are beginning to
 learn. (Applause.) African American 4th graders set records in reading and
 math. How do we know? Because we measure.
     The federal government, by the way, didn't design the test. I'm a
 "local- control-of-school" guy -- I don't think the federal government
 ought to be telling you how to run your schools. And one way to tell you
 how to run your schools is if the federal government designed the test. We
 said to the governor, design your test, but make sure you measure, make
 sure we know. It's in your state's interest that people know whether or not
 the curriculum is working, or whether children are learning to read and
     The Nation's Report Card showed that 8th graders earned the best math
 scores ever recorded. And that's a positive development if you're worried
 about making sure our children have the skills to fill the jobs of the 21st
 century -- 8th grade Hispanic and African American students achieved the
 highest math scores ever. In other words, there's improvement. It's
 positive development. But here's the problem: By the time our kids get into
 high school, we've fallen behind most of the developed world in math and
 science. In other words, we're closing the achievement gap, and there's
 improvement in the public school system around America, but what ends up
 happening is, is that there is a -- is we're beginning to fall off. And
 that's where the challenge exists.
     And so, how do we make sure that our high school students are coming
 out of high school so they can go to a place like Tuskegee with a skill set
 necessary to even go farther, so we remain a competitive nation? Here are
 some ideas.
     First, one of the programs that works well is the Advanced Placement
 program. I don't know if you've heard of the Advanced Placement program --
 I hope you've heard of the Advanced Placement program -- it is a rigorous
 course study program. It basically says it's possible for children from all
 walks of life to meet high standards. I went to an AP school in Texas, in
 inner-city Dallas-- it wasn't one of these suburban deals, it was
 inner-city. And there's more children graduating from that high school with
 -- passing AP than any other high school in America-- at least, that's what
 they told me. Texans sometimes, you know, might -- (laughter) -- I believed
 the principal. (Laughter.)
     But, nevertheless, it is important to set high standards, particularly
 in math and science, and to have rigorous academia. And a good way to do
 that is through the Advanced Placement program. Therefore, the federal
 government needs to provide money to train 70,000 high school teachers on
 how to teach AP. In other words, take a system that's worked and see to it
 that it's spread all across the United States of America.
     Secondly, yesterday, Margaret and I went to a high school -- a middle
 school outside of D.C., in Maryland, and we met two NASA scientists that
 were there in the classroom exciting these kids about math and science and
 engineering. There's nothing better than having somebody in the classroom
 who actually knows what they're talking about in terms of the practical
 applications of science and math and engineering, to excite somebody.
     I don't know what it's like now, but when I was coming up, it wasn't
 too cool to be a chemist -- (laughter) -- or a physicist, or science wasn't
 exactly -- it just didn't ring. We need to make it ring for our kids in
 high school by having people who know what they're doing. Therefore, part
 of this program to make sure we're competitive is to bring 30,000 math and
 science professionals to teach in our classrooms. They're called adjunct
 professors. I think it's a smart way and a practical way to excite children
 to take the courses that are necessary to make sure this country is a
 competitive country.
     I want to repeat to you again, if we don't have the skill sets
 necessary to compete for the jobs of the 21st century, they'll go somewhere
 else. If our kids do have the skill set necessary to compete for the jobs
 of the 21st century, the standard of living of our country is going to
     And that's the challenge we face. So I set up -- recognizing that we
 need to do better in math and science, I set up what's called a national
 math panel. It's a way to analyze -- we got experts coming together, and
 they're going to analyze the best teaching methodology for math, the best
 curriculum for math. We did the same thing for reading, by the way. We set
 up a group of experts on reading. And they helped states and local
 districts understand what works, how best to make sure every child can
 read. And it's working. Just told you, it's working because we're
     We need to do the same thing for math. We need to make sure that our
 teachers, our school boards, our principals, our superintendents, our
 governors understand what works. You cannot set an objective and achieve
 that objective unless you have the tactics necessary to do that. And so
 we're going to call the experts together. They'll be presenting a report to
 Margaret and myself by January 31st of 2007. It will be a really important
 study, because, again, it will give -- it will help states and local school
 districts have the methodology, the teaching methods necessary to help
 achieve an important objective.
     And then we're going to implement what's called a Math Now program that
 will get those recommendations into the teacher's hands. But there's also
 another interesting aspect of Math Now, which I think is vital, and that
 is, when we measure and find a child slipping behind in math in the 8th or
 9th grade, that child gets extra help. We do that in the 3rd and 4th grades
 when it comes to reading; we need to apply that same standard of help for a
 child as they head into the high school.
     If you want to deal with the problem of the United States of America
 falling behind in math and science, you focus on the problem, and you focus
 on it with what works and money and extra help. And that's exactly what we
 intend to do to make sure that we begin to lay that foundation for a
 competitive tomorrow.
     I also understand that the federal government has a role in helping
 people go to college, see. It's one thing to make sure the students have
 got the skill set, but if there's not the financial means to get to a
 university, then that skill set could conceivably be wasted. And we don't
 want to waste it. We want to make sure we've got a strategy that works in
 the early grades, and in the high school, and then make it more likely a
 child can afford coming to a place like Tuskegee.
     Of course, we have helped the Historically Black Colleges and
 Universities. I want to thank the good doctor for serving on the panel. I
 pledged a 30-percent increase of federal help to Historically Black
 Colleges, and we met that commitment. I also said that it's really -- the
 Pell grant system is a very important program. And since 2001, there have
 been 1 million additional students on the Pell grant program. So there are
 now 5 million students across the United States of America on Pell grants,
 which is an important part of making sure our students get to go to a
 higher education.
     I want to talk about a new program that I hope will interest you. I
 talked about the good president's fancy when I described it to him, and
 it's this. I've always believed that it's -- if you have an objective, like
 encouraging people to take rigorous courses, particularly in math and
 science, which lays the foundation for our engineers and our chemists and
 our physicists of the future, then there ought to be incentives to do that.
 And Congress this year listened and passed a bill which I signed into law,
 which Margaret is now going to implement, and it's this. There are two new
 grants associated with Pell grants. This will be a $4.5-billion program
 over the next five years, and here's the way it works.
     One is called the Academic Competitiveness grant, which will provide
 additional money to 1st and 2nd year students, college students, who have
 completed a rigorous high school curriculum and have maintained a 3.0 GPA
 in college. There will be up to $750 for first-year students, and up to
 $1,300 for second-year students. (Applause.) The idea is to encourage
 rigorous courses and to provide incentive. I'm not talking about
 impossible; I'm talking about raising the standard; saying to somebody,
 here's your chance, apply yourself in the fields that we know are necessary
 to be able to compete in the 21st century, and we'll help you more.
     And then we've got what's called Smart grants. Now, these grants are
 for college students, 3rd and 4th-year college students, who have
 maintained a 3.0 GPA and who major in math, science or critical foreign
 languages. What we're trying to do is to make sure that people have got
 that skill set, and it makes sense to provide incentives for people. And by
 the way, these grants will be up to an additional $4,000 per person.
     So the federal government needs to play a vital role. One, vital role
 is to set the goals and strategies, to make it clear to the American people
 we've got a choice to make: Do we compete or do we retreat; do we become
 isolationists and protectionists as a nation, or do we remain a confident
 nation and lead the world.
     The federal government has got a role in making sure that there's
 research dollars available for places like Tuskegee. The federal government
 has got a role to provide incentive for private corporations to continue to
 invest in research and development.
     I want to remind you that the research being done today in this
 university will end up somewhere in our society 10, 20 or 30 years from
 now. That's what's happening. And at the same time, that research is
 helping a young man or woman realize his or her dream, making sure that
 person gets the skill sets necessary to become the leaders.
     We should never cede any educational territory to anybody anywhere in
 the world. We need to be the centers of excellence all around the United
 States. And one way to do that is to continue to provide financial help,
 and to encourage people to take math and science through additional
 financial help. And another way to do it is to make sure the public school
 system provides excellent education early in a child's life, laying that
 foundation for children from all walks of life, all across our country, so
 that we can continue to be the country of hope.
     I am very confident about the future of this country. There's nothing
 we can't do if we don't put our mind to it. And this is a step in putting
 our mind to making sure the United States of America is the finest country
 on the face of the Earth. I'm honored to be at one of the finest
 institutions in the United States of America to talk about this initiative.
 Thanks for letting me come. God bless. (Applause.)
     END 12:51 P.M. CDT

SOURCE White House Press Office