TOPIC: Education and Technology
May 7th, 2005
Rockford Register Star Young American Awards
Thank you, and congratulations to all of this year's Young Americans.
Now that you've
each received your award, I have one question for all of you:
What are you going
to do with it?
I know that after
you wear it out of here, your parents will proudly hang it up somewhere
in the house where everyone can see it. And at some point you'll
go off to college and, against our best wishes, probably find a
way to use it to open certain beverages.
But my question
is - what are you going to do with it? What are you going to make
of this honor and this recognition? What will it mean in your lives?
who gave you this award, your parents, all of us - we hope that
it means you will go on to achieve great things, find immeasureable
success, and discover the job of your dreams.
But we also hold
You're all sitting
here because in each of you, someone saw a spark.
It's a spark that
goes deeper than tests and grades, varsity letters and service awards.
It's the spark that keeps each of you asking the questions, what
if, why, and why not? The one that keeps you always searching for
answers to those questions. The one that makes you say, "I
don't have to be content with the present, because I have a role
in changing the future."
What each of you
has is the desire to learn not just for the next test or even the
next diploma, but to learn for the sake of learning. To constantly
look around your world and seek new ways to improve it. To embrace
change as the inevitable engine of progress.
At the dawn of
the 21st century, when the world is changing faster than we could've
ever imagined, this spark, this skill - lifelong learning - is the
most important thing you can take with you when you graduate here.
Why, you're wondering.
What's he talking about?
Well, I'm talking
Some of you may
know that McDonald's headquarters is located over in Oak Brook,
But what you may
not know about is three very innovative McDonald's restaurants that
have opened around the state.
At these restaurants,
you pull up to a drive-through window to give your order. Nothing
new there. But while you're pondering which processed food to order,
your order's being processed by a voice that's sitting hundreds
of miles away at a call center in Colorado or even Canada. There,
they take a digital picture of your car, match it up with your order,
and send it back to the people preparing your food. This makes the
orders quicker, more accurate, and more profitable for McDonald's.
And just like
that, driving back to yell at the person who forgot your fries could
mean a 14 hour car ride.
So why am I telling
this story? What does this mean for all of you?
It means that
we haven't even begun to understand or feel the full impact of the
technological revolution that happened in the last decade. It means
walls between countries have been torn down and the global community
has become more connected through the internet, cell phones, video
phones, and other advances in communication.
And it leaves
all of you with this challenge:
If the miracle
of technology means that McDonald's can send its drive-thru jobs
across the country, just think of where other companies can send
theirs. And so while the first Young American Award winners in 1956
competed for jobs with kids in Illinois and Wisconsin and Iowa,
you'll be competing with kids from India, China, and all over the
world who are being educated more and longer than ever before.
So what do we
do? What can you do?
We can't stop
this, but we can be prepared for it. And as Young American award
winners, you've already taken the first step.
See, in this new
world, knowledge really is power. A new idea can lead not just to
a new product or a new job, but entire new industries and a new
way of thinking about the world.
And so you need
to be the Idea Generation.
who's always thinking on the cutting edge, who's wondering how to
create and keep the next wave of American jobs and American innovations,
who's figuring out how to out-compete the Idea Generations of Indias
and Chinas of the world.
sending drive-thru jobs across the country - what will you guys
To figure this
out, you'll need to graduate first. Then you'll need a college diploma
- and we need to make sure that everyone in America is afforded
the chance to get one of those.
Last year, 220,000
young people gave up on their dream to go to college for the simple
reason that they could not afford the price of tuition, which is
now rising at the rate of almost 10% a year. If we have any hope
of competing and winning in today's economy, we cannot let our kids'
college dreams be dashed because of a hefty price tag. In Washington,
I've been trying to do something about this by introducing the HOPE
Act, which would make college more affordable for 430,000 Americans
by increasing Pell Grant awards. But we must do more to make sure
that young Americans here and everywhere have a chance at a college
But even beyond
those diplomas, you'll need something else to succeed in the years
ahead. You'll need to keep that spark that's got this far. The one
that will keep you learning the new rules, solving the new mysteries,
and discovering the new answers of this brand new century.
It is this fundamental
character of the American spirit - the desire to move forward, look
around the next corner, and reach for the unreachable - that put
the first man on the moon, led to a cure for polio, and launched
the technological revolution of the nineties.
And if you Young
Americans keep that spirit alive, I think we'll be just fine.
to all of you on your achievements, and may God Bless you. Thank