Podium: Al Gore - America's new economic divisions

From a campaign speech delivered by the Vice-President of the United States at Fort Dodge, Iowa
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The Independent Culture
IN AMERICA today there is a new kind of economic divide - a divide that can separate two businesses on the same block; two neighbours on the same street - even two members of the same family.

More and more, the opportunity gap in America has become an education gap; an information technology gap; an innovation gap. More and more, the future of your career, the future of your family and the future of your community depend on your ability and your employer's ability to keep up with the challenge of a changing economy.

The new forces of innovation and technology can help us create the most inclusive prosperity we have ever known - by creating millions of new high-paying jobs; by opening the doors to the world market-place at the touch of a computer keyboard; by opening new horizons for entrepreneurs, and by renewing our oldest, most cherished industries. But we will never achieve our full promise if we allow high skills and high technology to concentrate in the hands of the few. We will never build a shared prosperity if some companies stay stuck in the past, while others chase and embrace the future.

We will never make the most of the Information Age when the average black household is only two-fifths as likely to have home Internet access as a white household.

I'll tell you: if we do not work to close these opportunity gaps today, they will become the economic fault lines of tomorrow. Together, we have put this country back on its feet. Now we must reach for the America of our ideals.

Together, we have made America the land of opportunity once again. Now we must make opportunity available to every person willing to work for it. And so I pledge to you today: if you entrust me with the Presidency, I will use its powers to close the opportunity gaps that remain. I will work to make America first in the world educationally, so that we will remain first in the world economically.

I will work to bring the power of innovation and technology to every family and every industry, so that we close our digital divides and move together into a new economy.

I will work with American business, to channel investment and jobs to every neglected community - large and small, urban and rural - until opportunity knows no borders in America.

And I will make sure we move forward as a nation - filling in the gaps in our hard-won prosperity - instead of turning back to the trickle-down disasters of the past, and riddling our tax code full of special-interest loopholes.

As President, I will launch an unprecedented effort to close the innovation gap - so that every family, every community, every business, and every industry can master the job-creating technology of the future.

We must begin by making sure that every American can have the skills to take part in the information revolution. That is why we must close the digital divide in this nation - by finishing the job of wiring every classroom and library, and by the aggressive expansion of teacher training in technology. We should create new opportunities to use the Internet in communities across America. We must ensure that every American business has the greatest chance to move into the future.We must also help our oldest industries make new advancements.

By helping everyone have the education and the skills to succeed, and by helping every family and business become a part of the innovation economy, we will go a long way toward meeting the challenge of closing the income gap that exists in America.

When I see a child crammed into a classroom with 38 students, with holes in the ceiling and walls that can't even be wired to the Internet, I know it's not supposed to be this way.

When I see families that can't afford the job training they need to build a better future, I know it's not supposed to be this way.

Because we are Americans, we all know, deep inside of us, the way things are supposed to be. And the way it is supposed to be, we are a nation of jobs and opportunity for all our people. A nation where talent and virtue are cherished and rewarded. A nation where the only barriers to success are your own hard work and willing spirit. A nation where we keep our prosperity going - and also use it, to lift up the lives of every American.

That is why I am a candidate for President of the United States. That is why I need your help, and your support.

And with your hard work, that is the America we can leave for our children and grandchildren. Thank you.