July 9, 1999

Clinton Ends Visit to Poor With an Appeal for Support

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    NAHEIM, Calif. -- Flanked by Magic Johnson, President Clinton wrapped up his four-day tour of poverty in America Thursday with a whirlwind visit to a job-training program at a high school in the heart of the Watts section of Los Angeles, then challenged corporate executives to provide more support for preparing disadvantaged students for jobs in the booming information economy.

    "Money is a big issue here," Clinton said at the annual meeting of the American Academy Foundation, a private group led by corporate chiefs that sponsors vocational training for public high school students at risk of dropping out, referring to his efforts to encourage investment in poor areas.

    But education and "human capital" are equally important, Clinton said, and unless the nation is prepared to nurture them, too, "even our best efforts to bring new investments to these distressed communities will be unsuccessful."

    A journey that took Clinton from the hollows of Appalachia to the Black Hills of South Dakota, from the sweltering Mississippi Delta to a sweaty tortilla factory in Phoenix, ended at a hotel ballroom here in the shadow of Disneyland -- and at times, the endeavor had a surreal air. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, once Clinton's frequent antagonist and later his spiritual counselor in the travails of impeachment, accompanied the President all week, lending his support to Clinton's self-described effort to "shine the spotlight on places still unlit by the sunshine of our present prosperity," and Clinton thanked him warmly Thursday.

    Still, it was Clinton's most extensive domestic trip in many months that did not involve political fund-raising among the rich and famous, and the President seemed energized by the effort, racing from stop to stop in campaign style, taking in a Memphis barbecue and a floodlighted Mount Rushmore with his customary appetite, sounding a bit tired only this afternoon.

    But he pledged to keep up the theme, announcing plans for another tour this fall, starting in Newark, where he will highlight efforts by the owners of the New Jersey Nets to re-invest in that long-suffering city.

    "It can't be the end of the journey," Clinton said of his trip. "It has to be the opening salvo in a battle to build a real economy in every community."

    As he has on each day of his national tour, Clinton sounded a flurry of notes Thursday -- warning of the growing gap between the rich and poor in access to technology and highlighting private sector sponsorship of job training -- all in service of a single theme: that the nation's pockets of poverty offer a great untapped market that can help keep the economy growing without inflation.

    "How can you keep it going?" Clinton asked a round table of students at Southwest Community College in long-struggling Watts, where the unemployment rate is three times the national average. "The easiest way to keep it going is to go to places where there aren't enough jobs and there aren't enough consumers and create more of both."

    But having spent three days emphasizing his proposals for $1 billion in new Federal tax incentives intended to encourage $5 billion in private investment in poor areas -- which he said he would send to Congress next week -- Clinton turned Thursday to the other end of the equation: training a work force to fill the jobs such new businesses would create.

    "We can put in place the financial networks," Clinton told the round-table group. "We can create a lot of jobs."

    But at a time when 60 percent of young people in the impoverished areas he has visited this week are neither in school nor at work, Clinton said, it is clear that "in the world we're living in, there is a high premium, in an information society, placed on knowledge, skills, what you know today and what you can continue to learn."

    To that end, the President chose to highlight the work of the National Academy Foundation, which sponsors special training "academies," special schools within schools, that prepare students for careers in finance and travel and tourism through a combination of in-school teaching and on-the-job training. The program, started in Brooklyn in 1982, already serves 20,000 high school students in 37 states, and today, Clinton joined the foundation's founder, Sanford I. Weill, the chairman of Citigroup, to announce $8 million in support from private companies, including Lucent Technologies and AT&T, to create a new academy program for information technology.

    The goal is to have 10 pilot sites, serving 350 to 400 students, in operation by September 2000, with 40 to 50 more sites to be added annually after that. The White House said the need for such training was clear, citing the Commerce Department's third annual study, released today, which found a growing gap in access to telephones, computers and the Internet between Americans at the highest income and education levels and those at the lowest.

    "If our country is going to be the leader 50 years from today, we have to include everybody, and everybody has to participate in it,"

    Weill said. "Education is what unlocks the key to one's future."

    Clinton was introduced here today by Hazel del Rosario, 22, who just graduated from the University of Hawaii, and is preparing for a career in the airline industry. Her family emigrated from the Philippines when she was a child, and though she initially spoke no English she was placed in a bilingual education program and later, in a special academy of travel and tourism sponsored by the National Academy Foundation at her high school.

    "Before I entered the program, I didn't know what I wanted to do," Ms. del Rosario said in an interview, wearing a fragrant lei of white ginger blossoms that she carried in a cooler from Hawaii on Wednesday. "We didn't only learn about classroom stuff, we also learned about real-life situations, and being able to speak to people in public."

    In Watts, which was scarred by riots in 1965 and 1992, during

    Clinton's first campaign for the White House, the President joined Johnson, the former basketball star who now operates a chain of inner-city movie theaters, to sound the need for job training in a neighborhood that was once overwhelmingly black but has been transformed in recent years by a surge of Hispanic immigration and fitful efforts at economic recovery.

    At Alain Leroy Locke High School, named for the nation's first black Rhodes scholar, Clinton, Johnson and Gov. Gray Davis toured a transportation training program and watched students use computers to demonstrate the aerodynamic effects of automotive design.

    "This one does better than this one," Clinton said, holding a yellow plastic car that trailed its competitor positioned in front of a jet stream simulator by Michael Delery, 17, and Jermaine Smith, 18. "Even I know that."

    When Ruben Garcia, 17, showed the President a sound-engineering machine that can change the pitch of a human voice, rendering an off-key singer on pitch, Clinton, a dedicated amateur saxophonist and hymn-singer, marveled, "So it's like a high-tech karaoke bar."


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