January 5, 1999
As we look towards the future, let's take a moment to turn back the hands of time.
100 years ago, automobiles were just beginning to be seen on our streets. Just think about this.
It was on January 3rd 1899 when the New York Times first used the word "automobile" in an article. In fact 100 years ago, President McKinley became the first President to use a car.
A century ago, there were no airplanes in our skies. No flights to the moon. No televisions in our living rooms. No cellular phones in our cars. No computers or fax machines in our offices. How could our forefathers even begin to imagine how far these discoveries could bring us?
100 years ago, Rhode Island was known for its cotton textile industry, for wool production, for tool manufacturing, and for being home to the nation's largest steam engine factory. How times have changed.
Now we're 360 days away from a new era, a new century, a new millennium. Rhode Island is ready to realize all the future has to offer.
As future generations look back upon this chapter in our state's history, they'll do so with awe, with wonder and with great pride.
Because they'll see a Rhode Island that had the will, the vision and the might to think big and to make big things happen for all of our residents.
They'll see landmark initiatives being implemented for newborns, for students, for working families, for parents and seniors alike to lead fulfilling lives.
They'll see a Rhode Island that's leading the nation in providing comprehensive health care to children.
They'll see a Rhode Island where child care is readily available to all working families.
They'll see a Rhode Island with innovative public schools and institutions of higher education that are second to none.
They'll see a Rhode Island where honesty in state government prevailed. Where seniors have the services they need to maintain their independence.
They'll see a strong, diversified economy where there is opportunity for all to realize the American Dream.
Rhode Island is on the move. Companies are expanding their operations in our state.
Tourism is booming. T.F. Green Airport continues to reach new heights and our plans for a train station there are on track.
Our capital city is undergoing a dramatic renaissance.
In a matter of months, we'll be celebrating the opening of Providence Place Mall.
We're investing in our roads. We're preserving open space and we're investing in our parks, our beaches and our recreational facilities for future generations to enjoy.
That's volume one. Today we're beginning volume two.
Just let your imagination take you to the year 2003. The Masonic Temple will be the site of a luxury hotel. Every corner of our state will have more and more open space preserved as a direct result of my plan to invest in our natural resources.
Rhode Island will become the first state in the Northeast to complete its segment of the East Coast Greenway.
We will see the America's Cup return to Newport. We'll see our seniors benefiting from a new Center on Aging.
We'll see our public schools and our institutions of higher education setting the example for other states to follow.
We'll see a new Performing Arts Center at Rhode Island College, and expansion projects at the Community College of Rhode Island which serves so many so well.
We'll see students benefiting from the latest technology installed at renovated academic buildings and dormitories at the University of Rhode Island. We'll also see a new Convocation Center and sports facility in Kingston. We'll see more and more Rhode Islanders working.
Our greatest opportunity for job creation is at Quonset. Many Rhode Islanders can remember when Quonset bustled with activity. I recall those days. Thousands of Rhode Islanders and military personnel worked there.
For decades, Quonset was solely dedicated to our nation's defense. Now it's contributing to Rhode Island's diversified economy. Under the leadership of my administration, a new era for Quonset has begun.
Just this fall we gained control of Davisville's destiny when the federal government transferred this land to the State of Rhode Island.
We already have a Master Plan for this property which includes preserving open space, demolishing structures, and building roads.
That's paving the way for us to market this land to encourage new businesses to open their doors there.
Let me just say that I will continue to partner with environmental leaders, with members of the business community, with the General Assembly, with labor and with local officials to build a port that will generate jobs and protect our environment. A port at Quonset has the greatest potential to boost Rhode Island's economy.
While we're growing the economy to ensure that our children secure gainful employment in Rhode Island, we're also giving our youth the tools they need to succeed in the workplace. With the help of the Goals 2000 panel, the General Assembly and the Board of Regents, we've set education reform in motion.
We've raised academic standards, and we are challenging our students.
We're assessing student performance, and we've strengthened accountability in our public schools.
Now with this framework in place, we can see exactly where our students' abilities are, and we can take the necessary steps to improve them.
I believe the first step of education reform begins with early childhood programs to prepare our children to enter school ready to learn.
The best way to achieve that goal is to invest in children the moment they're born. That means ensuring that health care is available to newborns and their mothers.
I want our children to have the best start in life. That's why we need to follow through with my Starting Right program which was enacted last year to provide affordable, quality child care to all working families.
That's why we also need to offer all-day kindergarten.
An educated workforce is a powerful one. Our children are the workers of tomorrow. I will do everything that is within my power to give students the tools they need to succeed in the next century.
Some believe the wave of the future is computers, science and math, and they're right. But we can not afford to overlook that all the preparation for the future comes down to the basics of reading.
We all know that children begin to learn how to read in preschool and kindergarten. By the fourth grade, students who are proficient in reading are well on the way to succeeding in school, in the workplace and in life.
We need teachers, school administrators, parents, social service agencies, and community leaders all doing their part to ensure that our fourth graders meet the required reading standards.
Over the next four weeks, I will be unveiling my plan to ensure that all 4th graders are proficient in reading. I've always said that I want our children to leave school ready to work. This plan will help us realize that goal.
Whether it's with education, whether it's with the environment, with the economy, or with tourism, the partnerships we've fostered and developed over the past four years have enabled our state to reach new heights. We've come a long way by joining forces. We can go farther still by continuing to work together.
We stand at the dawn of a new age. An age of even greater fulfillment, of even greater discovery, of even greater accomplishment. Rhode Island's best days are yet to come.
This is our time. Our time to thrive. Our time to shine. Our time to soar. As we journey into the 21st century together, you'll see all that's in store for our state come to light. To Rhode Islanders, let me just say that you have a special place in my heart. So does our state.
Let us move forward with confidence and with great enthusiasm, knowing full well that this is our time.