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Public Statements

Remarks by John Kerry at Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA

December 08, 2003

Stanford, CA -

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you Bill Perry for that introduction and for your continuing service to a grateful country. And thank you to Stanford for the invitation to be here today and discuss on how we can create the jobs of America's future.

After spending as much time as I have campaigning in Iowa, I wasn't much surprised when I learned that I'd spending today on "the Farm." But I wasn't quite expecting this.

Of course, the days when horses instead of students roamed Leland and Jane Stanford's land have long since passed. And as this nation's economy has evolved from crops to include cars and then to include computers, the role of government in assuring economic growth has had to change as well.

This election is about whether America will have leadership ready to seize the possibilities of this new century. The decisions we make on the economy define our values as a nation. And I'm not just talking about values that can be counted and measured in dollars and cents, budgets and programs, the bulls and the bears. The decisions we now face go to the heart of a question that is fundamental to our character and our history: Will we have the courage to build the opportunities of the future or will we remain trapped in the economic debates of the past?

Americans have always wondered about the world around the next bend and across the next generation. We have been a questing, seeking people. The names ring out over the generations. Morse, Bell, Edison, Goddard, Fleming, Farnsworth, Salk, Varmus, Berners-Lee. And 100 years ago this December, two bicycle mechanics from Dayton took flight at Kitty Hawk - Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Our government has always managed to keep pace with the times. One hundred years ago, Teddy Roosevelt began the process of transforming a government built for an age of farms into one ready to deal with an era of factories. Today, to seize the potential of the revolutionary convergence of technology and communications, we need to change America again because that's the only path to create long-term prosperity and economic growth for all Americans.

Everywhere we turn brave new rules are taking the place of the old. Today, ideas and commerce move across the globe with greater ease than our grandparents traveled across town. Rapid technological advances are transforming our world not bit by bit, but byte by byte. The economy is no longer driven exclusively by machinery, but by minds - and the knowledge, innovation, and creativity they produce. The centralization and hierarchy of workplaces defined by the assembly-line has given way to the flexible, team-oriented atmosphere of many of today's modern enterprises.

Today, what Franklin Roosevelt called "the Machine Age" has been replaced by the Digital Age increasingly dominated by computers and communication. But the economic numbers this Administration has been bragging about in recent weeks can't paper over the fact that when it comes to building a 21st century economy, even the growth we finally have seen has left us with a jobless recovery. It is a wonderfully Republican Bush-league recovery. No other President since Herbert Hoover has brought a decline in the total number of jobs. Then - as now - government wasn't keeping pace with a changing economy. Then - as now - it was time for a new economic vision.

Imagine if we had a president with the broad vision and deep understanding of Al Gore right now leading America into a high-tech recovery. Al Gore's far-sighted policies and strong record on technology could have resulted in a very different history out here over the past three years.

Instead of building America's future, this President Bush has wasted away the largest surplus in American history on tax cuts we don't need and pork barrel spending that benefits the very few. He's spent $87 billion on Iraq without investing the funds we need here at home. He's turned his back on the fiscal responsibility and smart investments we need to succeed in a global economy and resorted to an economy fired up by hot checks. He's sacrificed our economic future in order to stoke short-term growth. His only goal is an economic recovery to get him through the election not a recovery to grow the economy of the future. And young workers will be paying the price - in the form of massive debt payments and in the new jobs America won't create.

We need an economic vision for the good jobs of tomorrow. We need a vision that gives Americans the skills to do more and earn more in the new economy. That means looking down the road and focusing on long-term prosperity.

As President, I will fight to strengthen important industries here at home, invest in our people not in corporate tax giveaways, and will lead in the technologies of the future so that we can grow the economy on a sustained and sustainable basis.

An economy based on innovation, ingenuity, and imagination is the only economy that can create and expand 21st century jobs. And we need a President who will work with you to make that happen. The old options of the last century - top-down hand-holding regulation or a hands-off retreat to laissez-faire - won't work now even if they ever did. Instead, we need a government that will act as a partner, that will strictly but fairly enforce the rules of the road, and that will work hand-in-hand with businesses that do right by their country and by their workers.

For three years, George Bush has said "you're on your own." Some in my party look at the global economy and think we should run and hide. But that's not a real plan either. Today, I'm unveiling a jobs agenda to fight for our economic future. We shouldn't pick winners and losers or have the heavy hand of bureaucracy stifle innovation and entrepreneurship - but we do need a national strategy to compete and win in the 21st century economy.

This agenda starts with jumpstarting job creation. We've lost over 425,000 high-tech jobs under George Bush's watch. Certainly, Silicon Valley has been hit hard. And people here are hurting. California's high tech industry lost 123,000 tech jobs in one year, and your economy's been hurt by the loss of billions in high-tech exports. But all of us know that high-tech America stretches across our land. Places like New Hampshire thrived in the late 1990s as high-tech companies grew. New Hampshire lost 8,400 high-tech jobs in 2001 alone. That's 18% of its tech jobs! We need to bring back high-tech jobs - from Manchester to Mountain View and everywhere in between.

To restart the engine of high-tech job growth we need to break down the barriers to investing in the most innovative firms. Many of today's technology giants started as an idea in a graduate student's head and grew out of garages and basements where these minds developed products. Start-ups drive technology job creation.

These are issues I've worked on for many years. As the former Chairman and currently the top Democrat on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, I've fought time after time to promote small businesses growth, because it matters to our country. Small businesses make up 99 percent of all companies. They employ 60 percent of all our workers.

These businesses are anything but small to the men and women that start them - they embody our hopes and starting a small business is part of the very definition of the American Dream.

Over the past 30 years venture capital backed startups have created over 8 million jobs and have become a major percentage of our GDP. We need to open the floodgates of entrepreneurship and venture capital by eliminating capital gains taxes for new investments in small companies that are held for at least four years. The jobs of tomorrow depend on discoveries today - so we need to make the make the Research and Development tax credit permanent.

We need a President who will see and seize the possibilities of the Broadband Revolution. Economists have estimated that widespread, high-speed broadband will create 1.2 million new and permanent jobs. But while that's important, the potential of broadband is far greater. In the last century, the Rural Electric Administration brought isolated areas out of the darkness. Today a visionary Federal government can build a bridge across the digital divide and bring the promise of broadband technology to rural and inner-city America. That's why we need to provide a tax credit to foster the deployment of broadband in rural and underserved parts of America. Broadband can open doors for telecommuting and distance learning and telemedicine that can transform the way we live and work. In places like Silicon Valley choking with traffic, and in rural states like Iowa that are brimming with untapped potential.

We need to make Internet access available for all of America's families - and that, too, will create new jobs and new opportunities at the same time. And we need to update our spectrum rules for WiFi technology. The potential of the new industries this technology can create is limited only by our imagination.

A well educated workforce is essential to economic leadership. We need to start producing more scientists and engineers here at home. And we need to produce the scientists and technicians and engineers of the coming years so that their innovations will power our economy into the future. A decade ago, the United States led the world in the percentage of 24 year olds who had earned a degree in natural sciences or engineering. Today, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Canada, and Japan have a greater percentage than the United States. Today, there are more information technology engineers in Bangalore than in Silicon Valley - and we need to invest in our people if we want them to invent the products of tomorrow here at home.

In the nineteenth century, a manufacturing worker's knowledge and creativity were thought to just get in the way of the assembly line. They were seen as nuisances. Today, they are necessities. The manufacturing jobs of today require 21st century skills. I'll make sure America has a cutting edge workforce with grants to help manufacturing workers upgrade their skills and retrain for the jobs of the future. And we will encourage students to study subjects like engineering and computer science by helping them repay their student loans if they put their knowledge to work in the manufacturing sector.

If America is going to lead in the 21st Century, we need to make sure our kids are meeting their full potential from the start. That's why I am proposing a new Education Trust Fund that will guarantee we fully fund educational excellence in our public schools. This will ensure our children's future is not beholden to political whims and the changing tides of Washington. One out of every six children live in poverty. 11.7 million children! That's 16.3%! George Bush has left our children behind. He has mortgaged their future to pay for a wrong war. That's not the kind of country - the kind of America - we want.

Our children's future will be founded on the best education we can offer - one that has reforms matched by resources, opportunities matched by a means to achieve those opportunities. I want to make four years of college as universal as a high school education is today. In a Kerry Administration, we will make all four years of college more affordable with a single, easy-to-use "College Opportunity Tax Credit" of $4,000 for each and every year of college. And my "Service for College" initiative will pay for college for students who give two years of service to their country or community.

We must also use technology to improve the quality of life - starting with our health. Over and over again, this President has put partisan politics above scientific and medical advancement. Whether it is global warming or stem cell research, President Bush has appeased his party's right wing by ignoring scientific fact, slowing medical progress, and threatening the preeminence of our scientific economy. Ideology should not trump cures for millions of Americans suffering from deadly diseases.

Never before in our history has there been an Administration with a recessive gene of pessimism about progress and people.

Past Presidents - Democrat and Republican alike - have looked toward new discoveries with hope, not fear. Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark out to explore the continent. Abraham Lincoln who created the National Academy of Sciences.

Dwight Eisenhower expanded science education in our schools. John Kennedy set our sights to the moon and Bill Clinton helped lead us to a map of the human genome.

But this President has acted like a modern-day luddite presiding over an anti-science Administration. His Administration sought to bury a report on climate change and has had White House political appointees edit out uncomfortable information from official EPA documents.

Nothing illustrates this Administration's anti-science attitude better than George Bush's cynical decision to limit research on embryonic stem cells. These tiny cells are the great and perhaps only hope to find treatments and cures for Parkinson's disease, cancers, Alzheimers, diabetes, Lou Gehrig's disease, and spinal cord injuries.

As many as 100 million Americans now living could benefit from the discoveries possible in these stem cells. But faced with a basic decision on America's health, George Bush chose the right wing instead of the right way.

America needs a President who will lead us to a new era of scientific and medical breakthroughs, who will help break down the barriers to discovery so that Americans can live longer, happier, and healthier lives. As President, I will end George Bush's block on stem cell research. And while I oppose reproductive cloning, I will support research in therapies that allow an individual's own cells to treat or cure that person's disease. With Alzheimer's and diabetes on the rise - with 40 percent of Americans likely to get cancer in our lifetimes - we need to be pushing the boundaries of research, not letting partisan politics hold us back.

At the same time, basic civilian non-health-related research hasn't kept pace either. It's time to change that too. Federal research was central to development of the web browser and the computer mouse. Even the founders of Yahoo honed their computer skills at Stanford's federal research labs. We need to foster the next generation of discovery and ingenuity with increased funding for important programs and agencies such as the National Science Foundation and NASA. And we need to set America on the path to energy independence. We can't drill our way out of this challenge; we can only invent our way out.

Energy independence is critical to our national security. And cyber-security is indispensable. We need a President who will devote the energy of the White House to making our networks - our 21st century infrastructure - stronger and more secure. That means an intelligence system ready to detect these threats. Global standards and best practices so that weak links are strengthened. And a real partnership between the public and private sectors. Most of the infrastructure we need to protect doesn't belong to government - and neither government nor business can fix these problems alone.

As we move forward, we need to seize the promise of the global economy - while we enforce our trade agreements and crack down on intellectual piracy. It's said that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" - well, whether it's software piracy or flagrant patent violations, our creative communities could be doing with a little less flattery from abroad. We need to restore investor confidence and ensure that corporate America lives by American values. And we need to restore fiscal discipline and set America on course toward a balanced budget. Under George Bush, our government is spending $1 billion a day more than it takes in - and that number is heading north. This is fiscal insanity - and to stop it, I will cut the budget deficit in half in four years.

The new economy that took off a decade ago is our hope for the future. Today, an agenda for high-tech is a strategy for prosperity. The promise of the Information Age was not a bubble; it was a breakthrough from which we can never turn back. This Administration is trapped in the policies of the past - trickle-down, walk-away, and roll-over for the right wing. I am ready to wage the battle for America's economic future - and working together - that is a battle we will win for America.

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