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Mikulski Speaks on Senate Floor in Support of Nominee for Maryland District Court Judge Grimm

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Coppin State University
May 13, 2011

Senator Mikulski gave the following speech at the Digital Literacy program announcement at Coppin State University.


"I'm so pleased to be, once again, here at Coppin State University. To be with you, Dr. Avery, and your talented team here, who do so much for our young people, and for our not-so-young people. I want to salute you for what you're doing.  

"We are all here today to make this exciting announcement. I'm so pleased to be here with Secretary Locke. In a few weeks, we will confirm him in the United States Senate to be our ambassador to China.  

"President Obama says, until you get that job, do the one you've got! And he said, well, I'm going to send you to be the ambassador to China, but as Secretary of Commerce, I want you to be my ambassador to the American people. And, to the private sector, on how do we create jobs in the United States of America, and get our people ready for the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow. He is Barack Obama's personal ambassador to you, and we're glad to be here at Coppin, in the Rosemont community.  

"He has chosen Coppin, and the Coppin Heights-Rosemont community, to announce an incredible empowering tool. The digital literacy empowerment site digital literacy dot gov. And it is meant to be a one-stop-shop, no matter where you live. No matter what zip code you're in. No matter what part of the country. You can go to a computer, and learn how to teach other people to use the computer.  

"This is fantastic because it will be a one-stop-shop available to teachers, who will use it to teach other people the empowerment tools that will get you to the 21st century. This is wonderful because it's a dream that President Obama had – that nobody should be left out or left behind in this new economy.  

"Now, this is part of a long journey that I began some years ago. When the Internet burst on the scene as a new thing for me, I tried to get a hold of it, I tried to learn it. But what I couldn't learn was a topic called the digital divide. If you were on one side of the divide, you had access to technology, and you had access to know how to use technology. Your future was going to be bright.  

"But, if you were on the wrong side of the divide, and you had no access to technology, and no access to learn how to use that technology, you would be locked into the days of yesteryear.  

"So, I reached out, and saw what this meant. And the great civil rights leaders, like our very own Kweisi Mfume, talked to me about this, because they saw this as a civil rights issue. We cannot have redlining that leads to the sidelining of certain parts of our population.  

"We were not going to be divided that way. So, we were not going to have a digital divide. And in Washington, we moved on a variety of things. But it was piecemeal. An earmark here to get some computer centers into Boys and Girls Clubs. Senator Kennedy and I worked on legislation for teacher training. We did what we could.  

"But then, Barack Obama came to town. And in the midst of the recession, he said, 'not only do I want to dig us out, I am going to get us ready for tomorrow.'   

"And that's when we went to work through the stimulus money. We took a big hit on this. We took a big hit on spending the money to create jobs, but also to lay the groundwork for creating the jobs of the future. And one of the biggest investments that the President insisted on putting in the bill – and I want to make this point, he insisted on it – was $4 billion to wire America. Four billion to get the United States of America ready for the future. Not to send jobs overseas, but to do it right here in our own country.  

"And then, Maryland went to work. Oh wow! The delegation, county executives, and Governor O'Malley put together this fantastic grant application called Digital Maryland. We went for it, and we got it. We got money from the NTIA, and right this minute, we are laying the foundation. We will be the only state in the United States of America where we will be completely wired.  

"No one will be isolated. No one will be redlined. We truly will be one Maryland, and ready to roll.  

"And you know, Coppin State is no slouch. You know, there are some of the other parts of the University of Maryland System that are the big dogs, but Coppin was sure they were going to bark.  

"And thanks to the excellent talents of Coppin State University, Dr. Avery and his team, we were able to bring $900,000 to open this computer center. And what was it meant to be? Again, an empowerment tool, here and on the ground, so that no matter who you are, or where you come from, at what age or what state you are in your life, you can come here to learn the tools that you need. These are tools that you can use to get the news that you can use to move you ahead.  

"Whether you're these wonderful boys and girls from these charter schools, whether it's seniors learning new skills to take them to a new job, whether it's other people who work the night shift crowd, who work at 3 o'clock in the morning as certified nursing assistants, they're coming in here to learn. Learn so that they can earn.   "We are closing the digital divide.  

"And I will say this is a poignant day for me. You know about the highway that put me into politics. It was east side – west side. You know that. You know the story of how we tried to stop the highway, and you know the story of where we are now. On the east side, it's Gucci neighborhoods. It's called the gold coast, with waterfront condos, down the street from Hopkins, and it's doing good. It's also where the digital harbor is.  

"Over on west side, the highway stopped. They call it the highway to nowhere. This has bothered me for so many years.  

"We had a group on the east side called SCAR, the west side had RAM, and we had a statewide coalition. Now, every time I look at that road to nowhere, this is the next step.  

"We might have stopped the highway, but unfortunately, we've got a road to nowhere. But now, right here, in Rosemont – Coppin Heights, we are rectifying that divide. We have the super information highway, and now, we have the driver's ed that teaches us how to drive on that highway. This is a happy ending to the story, and there are more chapters to be written because we'll work together, and I'll never forget you.  

"God bless you, and God bless America."