February 8, 1996
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN SIGNING CEREMONY FOR THE
TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT CONFERENCE REPORT
Library of Congress
11:34 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Mr. Vice
President, Mr. Speaker, members of Congress, and ladies and
gentlemen: I'd like to begin by thanking the Library of Congress for
hosting us here. It's my understanding this may be the only time in
American history a piece of legislation has been signed here, and
perhaps the first time in three decades when one has been signed on
Capitol Hill. If that is so, then this is certainly a worthy
I thank Lilly Tomlin for reminding us that the Internet
can be fun -- (laughter) -- and the students at Calvin Coolidge for
reminding us that the Internet can do a world of good.
I thank the Vice President, who fought for this bill for
so long on behalf of the American people. And I thank the members of
Congress in both parties, starting with the leadership, who believed
in the promise and the possibility of telecommunications reform. I
thank the vast array of interest groups who had sometimes conflicting
concerns about this bill who were able to work together and work
through them so that we could move this together.
This law is truly revolutionary legislation that will
bring the future to our doorstep. In the State of the Union, just a
few days ago, I asked the Congress to pass this law, and they did
with remarkable speed and dispatch. Even the years that were spent
working on it were a relatively short time given the tradition of
congressional decision-making over major matters.
This historic legislation in my way of thinking really
embodies what we ought to be about as a country and what we ought to
be about in this city. It clearly enables the age of possibility in
America to expand to include more Americans. It will create many,
many high-wage jobs. It will provide for more information and more
entertainment to virtually every American home. It embodies our best
values by supporting the kind of market reforms that the Vice
President mentioned, as well as the V-chip. And it brings us
together, and it was passed by people coming together.
This bill is an indication of what can be done when
Republicans and Democrats work together in a spirit of genuine
cooperation to advance the public interest and bring us to a brighter
It is fitting that we mark this moment here in the
Library of Congress. It is Thomas Jefferson's building. Most of you
know President Jefferson deeded his books to our young nation after
our first library was burned to the ground in the War of 1812. The
volumes that line these walls grew out of Jefferson's legacy. He
understood that democracy depends upon the free flow of information.
He said, "He who receives an idea from me receives instruction
himself without lessening mine. And he who lights his paper at mine
receives light without darkening me."
Today, the information revolution is spreading light,
the light Jefferson spoke about, all across our land and all across
the world. It will allow every American child to bring the ideas
stored in this reading room into his or her own living room or school
Americans have always had a genius for communications.
The powers of our Founding Fathers' words reverberated across the
world from the moment they were said down to the present day. From
the Pony Express to the miracle of a human voice over the phone line,
American innovations and communications have broken the barriers of
time and space to make it easier for us to stay in touch, to learn
from each other, to reach for a highest aspirations.
Today our world is being remade yet again by an
information revolution, changing the way we work, the way we live,
the way we relate to each other. Already the revolution is so
profound that it is changing the dominant economic model of the age.
And already, thanks to the scientific and entrepreneurial genius of
American workers in this country, it has created vast, vast
opportunities for us to grow and learn and enrich ourselves in body
and in spirit.
But this revolution has been held back by outdated laws,
designed for a time when there was one phone company, three TV
networks, no such thing as a personal computer. Today, with the
stroke of a pen, our laws will catch up with our future. We will
help to create an open marketplace where competition and innovation
can move as quick as light.
An industry that is already one-sixth of our entire
economy will thrive. It will create opportunity, many more high-wage
jobs and better lives for all Americans. Soon, working parents will
be able to check up on their children in class via computer.
Families heading off on vacation trips will be able to program the
fastest route in their car computers, thanks to the work the
Department of Transportation is now doing. On a rainy Saturday
night, you'll be able to order up every money ever produced or every
symphony ever created in a minute's time.
For those of us who like to watch too many movies and
listen to too much music in a single sitting, that may be a mixed
This law also recognizes that with freedom comes
responsibility. Any truly competitive market requires rules. This
bill protects consumers against monopolies. It guarantees the
diversity of voices our democracy depends upon. Perhaps most of all,
it enhances the common good. Under this law, our schools, our
libraries, our hospitals will receive telecommunication services at
reduced cost. This simple act will move us one giant step closer to
realizing a challenge I put forward in the State of the Union to
connect all our classrooms and libraries to the Information
Superhighway by the year 2000 -- not through a big government
program, but through a creative ever-unfolding partnership led by
scientists and entrepreneurs, supported by business and government
and communities working together.
We know the Information Age will bring blessings for our
people and our country. But like most human blessings, we know the
blessings will be mixed. We also know that the programming beamed
into our homes can undercut our values and make it more difficult for
parents to raise their children.
Children sometimes are exposed to images parents don't
want them to see because they shouldn't. A comprehensive study
released just yesterday confirms what every parent knows -- televised
violence is pervasive and numbing, and if exposed constantly to it,
young people can develop a numbing, lasting, corrosive reaction to
it. Televised violence in too much volume and intensity over too
long a period of time may teach our children that such violence has
no consequences and is an unavoidable part of modern life. Neither
In my State of the Union address, when I asked Congress
to pass the telecommunications law I mentioned in particular the
V-chip designed to strengthen families and their ability to protect
their children from television violence and other inappropriate
programs as they determine. I am very proud that this new
legislation includes the V-chip. It's not such a big requirement, as
you can see -- here is one -- but it can make a big difference in the
lives of families all over America.
I thank the Congress and the members of both parties for
giving parents who want to take more responsibility for their
children's upbringing an important tool to do so. I thank the
Congress for reducing the chances that the hours spent in church or
synagogue or in discussion around the dinner table about right and
wrong and what can and cannot happen in the world will not be undone
by unthinking hours in front of a television set.
Of course, parents now have to do their end of the job
and decide what they do or don't want their young children to see.
But if every parent uses this chip wisely, it can become a powerful
voice against teen violence, teen pregnancy, teen drug use, and for
both learning and entertainment. The responsibility of parents to do
this is something they deserve and something they plainly need. Now
that they have it, they must use it.
I want to acknowledge in this audience the activists,
the parents who pushed for the V-chip and thank you very much for
making it possible.
To make the V-chip as effective as it can be, I have
challenged the broadcast industries to do what the movies have done,
to rate programming in a way that will help the parents to make these
decisions. I invited the entertainment industry leaders to come to
the White House to work with me to improve what our children see on
television, and I'm pleased to announce that exactly three weeks from
today, on February 29th, we will convene our meeting and get to work.
I thank the leaders of the entertainment industry for coming and I
will look forward to working with them.
In 1957, President Eisenhower signed another important
bill in to law, another bill that was like this. It seized the
opportunities of the moment. It made them more broadly available to
all Americans. It met the challenge of change. It reinforced our
fundamental values and aspirations. And it was done in a harmonious,
The Interstate Highway Act literally brought Americans
closer together. We were connected city to city, town to town,
family to family, as we had never been before. That law did more to
bring Americans together than any other law this century, and that
same spirit of connection and communication is the driving force
behind the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
When President Eisenhower signed the highway bill, he
gave one of his pens to the father of that legislation, Senator
Albert Gore, Sr., of Tennessee. His son, the Vice President, in many
ways is the father of this legislation because he's worked on it for
more than 20 years, since he first began to promote what he called,
in the phrase he coined, "The Information Superhighway."
You heard him say today that he always dreamed that a
child from his little home town of Carthage could come home from
school and be able to connect to the Library of Congress. I'm proud
that the Vice President is able to be here today and to play the role
he deserves to play in this. And I thank all the others who have
done this. But two days ago, I asked him if he would give me the pen
that his father got from President Eisenhower to begin the signing of
this legislation. And so, that is the very nice pen you see.
Mr. Speaker, I don't know what we can do about this in a
bipartisan manner, I'm afraid that people would say that in the '50s
that's the time when people in Washington were real leaders and pens
were real pens. (Laughter.)
At any rate, I'm going to begin, in honor of Senator
Gore, Sr., and Vice President Gore, the signing with that pen that
President Eisenhower used to sign the Interstate Highway Act, and
then go on with the signing.
And again, let me say to all of you, I wish every person
here who has played a role in this could have one of these pens. I
am very, very grateful to you. And then after I sign the actual
bill, we're going to sign a copy of the bill over here and send it
into cyberspace. I believe that this is the first bill that ever
made that journey, and that will make me whatever it was Ernestine
said, a cybernaut, or whatever she said. (Laughter.)
Again, let me thank you from the bottom of my heart,
every one of you, for making this great day for America possible.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 11:48 A.M. EST