Out-Educating the Competition

February 18, 2011 | 27:00 | Public Domain

President Obama speaks about winning the future through enouraging education in science, technology, engineering and math during a visit to Intel in Hillsboro, OR.

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Remarks by the President on Winning the Future in Hillsboro, Oregon

Hillsboro, Oregon

11:53 A.M. PST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Everybody, please have a seat.

Thank you so much.  I am thrilled to be here.  I want to, first of all, thank Paul for that introduction, and I want to thank Paul for agreeing to be part of our administration’s new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.  I look forward to our continuing conversations when we meet next week.

I also want to acknowledge a wonderful governor, Governor Kitzhaber, who is here.  Thank you so much for all the work that you’re doing.  (Applause.)  And the mayor of Hillsboro, Jerry Willey, thank you for the great work that you do.  (Applause.)

And I want to thank everybody here at Intel for hosting us here today.  We just had an amazing tour.  One of my staff, he said, it’s like magic.  (Laughter.)  He did, that’s what he said.  (Laughter.)  

I had a chance to see everything from an electron microscope to the inside of your microprocessor facility, the clean room.  And I have to say, for all the gadgets you’ve got here, what actually most impressed me were the students and the science projects that I just had a chance to see.  It gave them a chance to talk about things like quantum ternary algorithms -- (laughter) -- and it gave me a chance to nod my head and pretend that I understood what they were talking about.  (Laughter and applause.)

So that was the high school guys.  Then we went over to -- (laughter) -- seriously.  Then we went over to meet some seventh graders, six girls, and it was wonderful -- all girls -- who had started a science program after school that involved Legos.  So I’m thinking, now this is more my speed.  (Laughter.)  I used to build some pretty mean Lego towers when I was a kid.  (Laughter.)  I thought I could participate -- only these students used their Legos to build models -- to build robots that were programmable to model brains that could repair broken bones.  So I guess that’s different than towers.  (Laughter.)  It’s not as good.  (Laughter.)  The towers.  (Laughter.)   

So I couldn’t be prouder of these students and all the work that they’ve done.  And in my State of the Union address, I said that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but also the winner of science fairs.  And since the Packers beat my Bears -- (laughter) -- I’m reserving all my celebrating for the winners of the service fairs this year -- the science fairs.  They deserve applause.  (Applause.)  They deserve our applause and our praise, and they make me optimistic about America’s future, just as visiting this facility makes me optimistic about America’s future.

I’m so proud of everybody here at Intel, not only because of what you do for these students or this community, because -- but because of what you do for the country.  A few weeks ago, I went to the Chamber of Commerce and I talked about the responsibility that American businesses have to create jobs and invest in this country.  And there are few major companies that take this responsibility as seriously as Intel.

In 1968, Intel started as one of Silicon Valley’s first start-ups.  And as you grew in leaps and bounds in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, you experienced the competitive pressures of globalization -- the changes in technology that made it cheaper for many computer companies to start hiring and manufacturing overseas.  And over the years, you’ve done some of this yourself.  And yet, by and large, Intel has placed its bets on America.

As Paul just mentioned, three-fourths of your manufacturing still happens right here in the United States.  This year you’ll hire another 4,000 American workers.  You’ll create good construction jobs upgrading your facilities and building new plants in Arizona and right here in Oregon.

And this kind of commitment has always been part of Intel’s philosophy.  The founder of this company, the legendary Andy Grove, has said that he’s always felt two obligations.  One obligation is to your shareholders.  But the other obligation is to America, because a lot of what Intel has achieved has been made possible, in Andy’s words, “by a climate of democracy, an economic climate, and investment climate provided by our domicile, the United States.”   

Intel is possible because of the incredible capacity of America to reinvent itself and to allow people to live out their dreams.  And so the question we have to ask ourselves now is, how do we maintain this climate that Andy Grove was talking about?  How do we make sure that more companies like Intel invest here, manufacture here, hire here?

In a world that is more competitive than ever before, it’s our job to make sure that America is the best place on Earth to do business.  Now, part of that requires knocking down barriers that stand in the way of a company’s growth, which is why I’ve proposed lowering the corporate tax rate and eliminating unnecessary regulations.  It also requires getting our fiscal house in order, which is why I’ve proposed a five-year spending freeze that will reduce the deficit by $400 billion.  That's a freeze that will bring our annual domestic spending to its lowest share of the economy since Eisenhower was President.

Now, to really get our deficit under control we’re going to have to do more.  And I want to work with both parties to find additional savings and get rid of excessive spending wherever it exists, whether it’s defense spending or health care spending or spending in the tax code, in the form of loopholes.

But even as we have to live within our means, we can’t sacrifice investments in our future.  If we want the next technological breakthrough that leads to the next Intel to happen here in the United States -- not in China or not in Germany, but here in the United States -- then we have to invest in America’s research and technology; in the work of our scientists and our engineers.

If we want companies like yours to be able to move goods and information quickly and cheaply, we’ve got to invest in communication and transportation networks, like new roads and bridges, high-speed rail, high-speed internet.

If we want to make sure Intel doesn’t have to look overseas for skilled, trained workers, then we’ve got to invest in our people -- in our schools, in our colleges, in our children.

Basically, if we want to win the future, America has to out-build, and out-innovate, and out-educate and out-hustle the rest of the world.  That's what we’ve got to do.  (Applause.)  

So today I want to focus on one component of that, and that is education.  That's what I want to talk about today.

Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree.  Times have changed.  It used to be if you were willing to work hard, you could go to a factory and you might be able to get a job that lasts 20 years, provide good benefits, provide decent salary.  These days those jobs are far and few between.  Many of the jobs that are going to exist in the future, that exist now -- like the ones here at Intel -- require proficiency in math and science.

And yet today as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school.  The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations.  As we just heard Paul say, companies like Intel struggle to hire American workers who have the skills that fit their needs.

So we can’t win the future if we lose the race to educate our children.  Can’t do it.  In today’s economy, the quality of a nation’s education is one of the biggest predictors of a nation’s success.  It is what will determine whether the American Dream survives.  And so it’s the responsibility of all of us to get this right:  parents, teachers, students, workers, business and government.  We’re all going to have to focus on this like a laser.

And over the past two years, my administration’s guiding philosophy has been that when it comes to reforming our schools, Washington shouldn’t try to dictate all the answers.  What we should be doing is rewarding and replicating the success of schools that have figured out a way to raise their standards and improve student performance.

And so here’s what we did.  Instead of pouring federal money into a system that wasn’t working, we launched a competition.  We called it Race to the Top.  To all 50 states we said if you show us reforms that will lead to real results, we’ll show you the money.

Race to the Top has turned out to be the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation.  For less than 1 percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states -- 40 -- to raise their standards for teaching and for learning.  And these standards weren't developed in Washington -- they were developed by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country.

Because we know that, other than parents, perhaps the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman who’s sitting or who is standing in front of the classroom, we've also focused a lot on teaching, on teachers.  We want to make teaching an honored profession in our society.  We want to reward good teachers.  We want to stop making excuses for bad teachers.  And over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math -- fields that will give the students the skills they need for the jobs that exist in places like Intel.

To ensure that higher education is within the reach of every American, we extended -- we put an end to unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that used to go to banks, and we put the savings towards making college more affordable for millions of students.  And this year, we want to make permanent our tuition tax credit, which is worth $10,000 for four years of college.

And finally, to make sure anyone can get trained and prepared for whatever career they pursue, we want to revitalize America’s community colleges.  Not everybody needs to go to a four-year college.  And so we’ve launched a nationwide initiative to connect graduates that need a job with businesses that need their skills.

And we've drawn lessons from Intel’s experience.  For years, Intel has recognized the value of these kinds of partnerships between schools and businesses.  This company understands that your success depends on a pipeline of skilled workers who are ready to fill high-tech jobs.

And so over the last decade, you’ve invested $50 million to support education in the state of Oregon.  You’ve started programs -- (Applause.)  That's worth applause.

You’ve started programs that get kids interested in engineering and technology as early as elementary school, like those six girls that I met.  You’ve sponsored mentoring and engineering competitions for poor and underserved high school students.  Your employees volunteer -- some of you probably here have volunteered -- as tutors in nearby schools and universities.  You’ve helped train 7,000 Oregon teachers over the last 10 years.

Your science fairs, your talent searches are some of the largest and most prestigious in the world, producing multiple Nobel Prize winners -- and I expect some of the students I met will qualify soon.  (Laughter and applause.)

And we were so grateful that Intel was one of the four companies that initially joined our administration’s nationwide campaign to boost math and science education here in America, as part of a new organization called “Change the Equation.”

So you guys have been pretty busy here at Intel.  (Laughter.)  You’ve given countless students the chance to succeed, and for that you should be very proud.  But you’re not just a good corporate role model.  You’re a corporation who understands that investing in education is also a good business model.  It’s good for the bottom line.

A lot of your employees were engineering undergraduates at Oregon State or Portland State, right?  (Applause.)  How many Beavers here, by the way?  (Applause.)  You know my brother-in-law is coach there.  (Laughter and applause.)  Just wanted to -- just wanted to point that out.  They’re a young team, but they're on the move.  (Laughter.)

But here’s what we know.  If you can spark a student’s interest in math or science who would have otherwise dropped out, you might not just change a child’s life; you may nurture the talent that one day discovers the breakthrough that changes this industry forever.

In fact, before I came here, I read a story about a young University of Oregon graduate.  His name is Nabil Mistkawi, and he joined Intel as an engineer in 1993.  After working with so many other employees who had doctorate degrees, Nabil decided to go back to school and get his PhD in chemistry at Portland State University.  And thanks to Intel, he was able to pay for his degree and keep his full-time job.

During that time, Intel was trying to find a faster, more efficient way to process their microchips, but nobody could figure it out.  And they asked at least eight other companies and research labs for help.  Some said it couldn’t be done.  Others worked on it for nearly a year with no success.  And so they asked Nabil if he wanted to give it a shot.

Within three days -- three days -- he came up with a solution that is now saving this company millions of dollars a year.  And I will not embarrass myself by trying to explain what his answer was -- (laughter) -- and most of you probably know how it works anyway.  (Laughter.)  The point is, an investment in education paid off in a big way -- for Nabil, for Intel, for the millions of workers and consumers who benefited from that discovery.

So for all the daunting statistics about our educational failings as a nation, for all the naysayers predicting America’s decline -- you’ve been hearing them lately -- stories like this give me hope.  Stories like these give me confidence that America will win the future.  We know what works.  We know how to succeed.  We know how to do big things.  And all across this nation -- in places just like one -- we have students and teachers, local leaders and companies, who are working together to make it happen.

When it comes to competing with other nations for the jobs and industries of the future, we are all on the same team -- the American team.  And if we start rowing in the same direction, I promise you, there is nothing that we cannot achieve.  That’s what you’re proving here at Intel.  That’s what you’re proving in the schools and colleges of this state.  That’s what America will prove in the months and years ahead.

Thank you, guys.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

12:11 P.M. PST

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