Question-and-Answer Session With Pioneer High School Students in Whittier, California

June 30, 1983

Mr. Garcia. Good morning, Mr. President.

The President. Good morning.

Mr. Garcia. It's a pleasure to have you here on our campus here at Pioneer High School.

The President. I'm interrupting something.

Mr. Garcia. No, you're not at all interrupting. Like to join us?

The President. Yes, I would.

Mr. Garcia. Are we ready? Today we are working on some material that has to do with application forms. And we're doing this to have a personal data sheet so when the students go looking for work they have this information with them -- so that it's readily available when they're seeking a job, or applying for a school, or going to college, or wherever they may be heading in the future. So, that's what we're working on today.

The President. And that's a pretty practical lesson -- oh, I guess I better use this, hadn't I? [Laughter] Well, I just said inside -- I was in there with the forum that's going on for a moment ago and told them I had to come out here because I was scheduled to be here. And I said that I thought that maybe you asked me to a remedial English class because you heard my speeches. [Laughter]

But, no, I'd just like to -- and I won't say too much here before we get into maybe some dialog that I would hope we could have. I know that summertime, and a summer class, is not -- is probably not the happiest experience, and you think that you could find a lot of things you'd rather do than that. But I think that one day you'll find that this was an awfully important thing for you.

You know, we may have all kinds of ambitions -- and this is fine that you're learning what you're learning here and something that would be helpful in work or in a job. And no matter what you want to do or how badly you want to do it, too many people will go single-mindedly at this particular craft or profession that they want, and they won't bother learning the ability to communicate with others. And you stop to think of how many great things that have occurred and great masters of science and engineering who've given us some of the benefits that we enjoy today -- if they hadn't had the ability to sell someone on that idea and convince them this was a good thing, we might not have some of those advantages. And all of that is based on what your class is all about here today: the mastery of the language, the ability to communicate with others. And if you've got something really to sell -- and it could be no more than selling yourself across a desk -- in order to get a job that you want very badly.

But I'm not going to go on talking that way. I said a dialog -- I think maybe you might have some questions that you'd like to ask. And I know that I don't have too much time here to interrupt your class. But you fire away. I know there's a microphone out there to be -- --

Mr. Garcia. Does anyone have a question for the President?

Q. Mr. President, how do you feel about coming to Pioneer High School?

The President. Well, I'm very proud and, I have to tell you, very excited. And you weren't inside, so I can tell you that we just presented a flag and a plaque to Pioneer High School as our first selection -- something we're going to be doing throughout the country -- of a school that had been decided, on a group of experts that we've chosen throughout the country to make these decisions -- this flag announces that this school has received the first award for excellence in education.

And I met with your principal and the superintendent of schools in there, and I must say, it was very inspiring. And I'm going to go away from here a lot happier about your generation and education in America as a result of what this school has accomplished.

Q. Well, I hope you enjoyed the trip over there.

The President. I enjoyed it very much.

Mr. Garcia. Does someone else have another question?

Yes.

Q. What do you think about their cutting down money? They're giving us money, to the district of Whittier. What do you think about it, because, you know, we have a six-period day. But now, we're going to a five-period day, because they're cutting down on funds. And we can't go on a six-day period. And, you know, they're cutting off some of our electives. What do you think of that?

The President. Well, I wasn't aware of that, didn't know about that. But I know that many of the things that the Commission on Excellence in Education is recommending are things that are not going to be affected by budgets or money. As you know, the bulk of budgeting for education comes from local and State governments. And the State government of California, I'm happy to say -- 51 percent of the budget is for education.

The Federal Government, from the beginning, when it first began contributing to education, has only -- only puts up about 8 percent of the money for education. And this is for a number of things -- programs that would not be affected by what you're talking about. And if more money is needed, we also have to recognize at times -- for example, California was in a pretty bad situation just recently. And they're trying to get out of the hole. So, everyone may have to be set back a little bit. But I don't believe that that is going to really cut back on the quality of education that you're getting in this school.

I also just heard Jaime Escalante, a teacher in mathematics here, and his plans for the improvement in that and the increase in classes in that. And he showed me that, when I was Governor of California, he showed me a copy of his teacher's certificate. I signed that certificate when he became a teacher, when I was Governor.

But there's no question about the importance of it. In California the tradition has it that the State splits 50 - 50 with local government on the cost of education. So, 51 percent makes them a little ahead.

When I became Governor here, the State was only putting up about a third, even though the tradition had it that they were supposed to do more. And we did achieve that 50-percent level. But there are things that need implementing, and that is more required courses, fewer snap courses that you can choose for yourself, stiffer requirements for graduating. All of those things, I think your school is engaged in and is doing right now.

Mr. Garcia. Okay. Anyone else? Are there any other questions? Okay, then give -- pass the microphone over to Robin -- Robin. Pass it down to Robin. There you go.

Q. Mr. President, how do you like living in the White House?

The President. How do I like living in the White House?

Q. Yes.

The President. Well, I've described it several ways and several different ways. I told them once when I was a kid and my father worked in a store, we lived above the store. It's a little bit that way in the White House. You go to work in an elevator -- [laughter] -- and go home from work in an elevator. No, it's very beautiful, and you're impressed by the history of the building and can't complain about the lack of comfort. It is a most comfortable place to live.

At the same time, there is a little feeling of being a bird in a gilded cage. You're rather restricted and limited in what you can do. Once you get upstairs there, that's about where you are until it's time to go to work again. And that's why I found why so many Presidents, including myself now, on weekends go to Camp David, where you can get back to a normal house and open a front door and walk out in the yard if you want to, take a hike, and do things of that kind. You are restricted there in the heart of the city.

But the history of it never ceases to impress you, the knowledge of all the people that have lived there. It used to be that the White House was also all the offices of the President's staff and Cabinet and so forth. And it was in the time of Teddy Roosevelt when -- --

Mr. Garcia. Mr. President?

The President. What?

Mr. Garcia. I think our time is pretty short now, and I see a signal coming over here. And it's -- --

The President. All right.

Mr. Garcia. -- -- been a pleasure to have you visit with us here at -- --

The President. Well, I've enjoyed it.

Mr. Garcia. Okay, so we want to thank you very much.

The President. I left Teddy Roosevelt way up in the air. And I was just going to tell that they had seven children, and his wife one day told him that he was going to have to get all those employees of his out of the White House or she couldn't raise seven kids. [Laughter] And that's when they built the Oval Office and all the places where we now have the offices that we go to in an elevator.

Well, listen, I've taken too much of your time. And let me just once again say, really, take seriously what is happening here. This is a course that can be as important as anything in the world to all of you and what your futures -- what you want your futures to be.

Mr. Garcia. I think that's about it.

The President. Sure. [Inaudible]

Mr. Garcia. No, not at all. We want to thank you very much. It's been an honor to have you here.

Note: The exchange began at 10:21 a.m. in the Pioneer High School courtyard. The students were participants in the high school's Limited English Proficiency Clinic, taught by Daniel A. Garcia.