Richard W. Riley, U.S. Secretary of Education,
at MCI Cyber Rig Send Off

Washington, D.C. (April 17, 1996) — I am very pleased to be here to introduce Gary Beach, the President and CEO of Computer World, Inc., and the founder of TECH CORPS.
I was in North Carolina for the last two days visiting schools and participating in Governor Hunt’s “emerging issues forum.” I can tell you that the people down in North Carolina — including the children at Daniels Middle School — have made the connection between technology and America’s future.
I believe this is a very important time in the life of this country – a rare historical moment — where we really do have the opportunity to jump-start American education into the future if we are only bold enough to have a vision of what we can actually accomplish.
And my vision — and this is something I told the FCC last Friday – is that every school and library in America should have “free” access to the Internet and all the other aspects of this new telecommunications world. I believe the idea of free access for the purpose of teaching and learning or, at the very least access, with very deep discounts (either free or affordable access) — is an updated and logical extension of the principal of free public education. More important, I believe a total national effort to make the many benefits of technology available to all of our young people can — in one bold stroke — lift the level of the American work force and lift the level of public education. This is something that American business leaders have been asking us to do for over a decade.
This is why this Administration has made technology such a high priority in our efforts to improve public education I had the good fortune to be in California for “Net Day” with the President and Vice President. It was very exciting. But I can also tell you that Net Day is only one part of very broad and deep commitment to make sure America’s classrooms get connected as quickly as possible to this exciting technological revolution.
Our very exciting Challenge Grant process that is bringing so many schools together around technology — our proposal to create a new $250 million Technology Literacy Challenge Fund — and the new work of our various regional technology consortia are all part of this effort.
All of these many efforts have one great goal — to make sure that every classroom and library in the Nation is connected to the Internet by the year 2000, and that our nation’s teachers are ready to teach using this new technology, up-to-date computers, and effective software. And there is no area where access to this new technology is more important for public education than in our new “empowerment zones.” These neighborhoods were almost redlined out of existence. This should never happen again. This is why I have asked my experts in the Regional Technology Consortia to dig in for the long term and make technology happen for better teaching and learning. Universal service and affordable connections for schools and libraries, then, have long-term implications for educational quality and equality. Both are important national objectives.
This is why this good effort by MCI, TECH CORPS, and many, many other good corporate citizens is so needed I am absolutely certain that this cyber rig will enthrall and engage thousands of young people as it travels around the country.
Now, I have the great pleasure of introducing to you Mr. Gary Beach, the Chairman and CEO of Computer World, Inc. and the founder of TECH CORPS. Gary has worked closely with others in the computer industry to promote social responsibility and computer literacy. He has been a leader in assuring Americans that we will have equity in technology.
Thank you.