Remarks at the Dedication of the C.J. and Marie Gray Center for the Communications Arts at Hastings College in Nebraska

 

September 6, 1988

 

The President. Thank you Governor Orr; Senator Karnes; Congresswoman Smith; Dr. Reeves; Mr. Mayor, Hal Smith; and thank you, Bob Gray. Bob invited me here, and he certainly is a persuasive fellow. I bet he could even talk Sam Donaldson into attending charm school. [Laughter] But I was happy to be persuaded. It's no secret that I like this area of our country, and though as President I can't really favor any one football team, I'd just like to say there's no place like Nebraska.

 

But I'm delighted and honored to be here to dedicate the C.J. and Marie Gray Center of the Communications Arts. I understand that Marie is nearby today, at the Good Samaritan Village, a lover of life at the age of 96. Marie's brother, Bert Burchess, is here -- he's 92 -- and so is Marie's sister, Jimmie Walters, who's 82. And you know, one of the reasons I'm saying all this, it's so wonderful to have some people calling me kid. [Laughter]

 

But another Gray, the British poet Thomas Gray, who died in 1771 -- I know what you're thinking, but, no, I never met him -- [laughter] -- he wrote beautifully of the small towns of England, whose people lived, as he put it, ``far from the madding crowd.'' ``Along the cool sequestered vale of life,'' Gray wrote, ``they kept the noiseless tenor of their way.''

 

Well, he was talking about the kinds of people who don't make a lot of noise, whose lives aren't flashy or gaudy, God-loving, God-fearing people who believe in certain fundamental principles, principles like self-reliance, taking care of your own and your community, looking within yourself for strength and looking to God for your bearings. Those bedrock principles are at work all around this town, this campus, even this very communications center. I'm told that Hastings College operates on a balanced budget. And the Gray Center itself has, as you've been told by the Governor, raised all its funds in the private sector, not looking toward the Government for a special leg up or for a free lunch. That kind of self-reliance is inspiring and a model for our society to follow. It's a philosophy I hope the students who come here to learn will carry with them when they leave to ply their skills elsewhere in a profession that at times does not seem to appreciate the simpler virtues.

 

But this center also serves a special purpose as we come to the close of the 20th century. It will truly be a window on the world, an exhilarating and fast-changing world. In our day we've seen an explosion of communications technology unlike any humanity has ever known. It wasn't all that long ago that a man named Bell brought a new invention, the telephone, to the then-President of the United States. And the President looked at it and said it was interesting, but he said, ``Who would ever want to use one?'' [Laughter]

 

Well, not today. A Chicago stockbroker pushes a button on her desk, and in Hong Kong a million dollars changes hands. A top-40 radio station installs a facsimile machine so that its listeners can send in their requests for their favorite songs on paper.

 

And take the astonishing story of two writers living 340 miles apart, Stephen King and Peter Straub, who collaborated on a novel called ``The Talisman.'' They hardly ever saw each other while they wrote. Instead, they read and edited and went over every sentence by zapping chapters from one computer to another over telephone lines. Words and sentences and paragraphs were converted into electrical impulses for their journey through the telephone. The phone lines turned the electrical impulses into light pulses. And these light pulses were turned into electromagnetic signals, which were beamed 22,000 miles into space to a satellite. The signals were then relayed back to Earth, again converted into light pulses, then changed back into electrical impulses to go through another set of phone lines, until finally those impulses arrived in the memory of the second computer. And thus, in seconds, words composed in Maine by Stephen King appeared on Peter Straub's computer screen in Connecticut.

 

Breathtaking, isn't it? And it took nothing more at each end than two computers, two modems, and two telephones. That same technology, modified some and with more bells and whistles, may make it possible for students at Hastings College to be taught French via satellite by a teacher at the Sorbonne in Paris or for a television program made by Hastings students to be sent to the Armed Forces Television Network for our soldiers to watch in South Korea. Maybe you'll throw in a Cornhuskers-Sooners game. [Laughter] Or, in the years to come, this technology will give you the ability to act as town criers around the world for those whose governments substitute propaganda for news.

 

Yes, the communications revolution will allow those who by choice live far from the madding crowd to participate fully in the blessings that living with the madding crowd has traditionally conferred, blessings such as access to organs of culture and the ability to choose among the wide variety of professional and social options once reserved for city dwellers. The center is already receiving newscasts daily from countries as varied as Israel and Malaysia, giving the good people of Hastings an unrivaled ability at any moment to sample the sounds, sights, and goings-on many thousands of miles away.

 

And all of this is merely a prelude to a future in which shopping and jobs and education and culture will come to our doors and into our homes, courtesy of the technology that we see here today. Access to these bounties will be possible for the people of Hastings and other towns like it across America without having to sacrifice comfort in the soil and the commitment to home and hearth and community that have made places like Hastings the very heart of that which makes our nation a light unto the nations.

 

And now it's my pleasure to be the first person to say: ``Radio station KFKX is on the air.''

 

Thank you, God bless you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 3 p.m. at the center. He made the inaugural broadcast from the college radio station. In his opening remarks, he referred to Gov. Kay Orr; Senator David K. Karnes; Representative Virginia Smith; Thomas Reeves, president of Hastings College; Mayor Hal Smith; and Robert Gray, for whose parents the center was named. A tape was not available for verification of the contents of the remarks.