|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 24, 2006
11:40 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. Please be seated. I wish
Dan had said, a friend of longstanding -- (laughter) -- as opposed to
"an old friend." I knew him when he lived in Texas. You've got a good
one running Marshall University here. He's a fine fellow. He's doing
a fine job. (Applause.)
I'm proud to be back in Huntington. We're going to have an
interesting discussion about how to make sure people have an
opportunity to get the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st
century. That's really what we're here to talk about. We're going to
talk about how to make sure everybody's life is optimistic and
hopeful, as this economy of ours grows and changes.
A perfect place to do so here is at this community college, and
I'm so honored to have been invited. Thank you for opening up your
fantastic facility, and thank you for giving me a chance to come and
By the way, right as I walked in -- I want to thank the sisters.
One of them said to me, probably the most important thing a President
can hear, is she said, "Mr. President, I'm praying for you." Thank
I want to thank the state and local officials who are here.
Thanks for coming by to say hello. I think that when you finish
hearing this discussion, you're going to realize what an important
asset you have in the community college system of West Virginia, and
how the federal government and employers can work together with the
community colleges to make sure people get the skills necessary to
take advantage of an expanding job base.
I met a lady coming in named Robin Black. She was out there at
the airport. The reason I mention Robin is, a lot of times people
say, the strength of America is our military. And that's a part of
our strength, and by the way, it is strong and we intend to keep it
strong. (Applause.) Or they say, the strength of America is the fact
that we're a wealthy nation. And that's important, as well. But the
true strength of the nation is the hearts and souls of our citizens.
That's the true strength of America. And the reason I mention Robin
Black is that she's a volunteer. Robin's sitting right there, by the
way. She's a volunteer to help people going for a job interview to
look as good as they possibly can, to understand what to say. She's a
mentor to people who need help.
No, the strength of this country is the fact that we've got
citizens from all walks of life who are willing to love a neighbor
just like they'd like to be loved themselves, who are willing to work
to change America one heart and one soul at a time. If you're one of
those soldiers in the army of compassion, I thank you for doing what
you're doing. You're making a difference to our country, just like
you are, Robin. Thank you. (Applause.)
I'm an optimist, because I fully understand America's strengths
and I've seen what we've come through. I want to remind you right
quick what has happened to this country, what our economy has been
through, what the America people have had to endure over the last
three years. We went through a recession. That means things were
going backwards. That means three quarters of negative growth. Now,
if you're a small business owner, it's difficult to survive in a
recession. If you're somebody looking for a job, it's hard to find a
job during a recession. But we acted and we cut the taxes on the
people, which made the recession one of the shallowest recessions in
economic history. (Applause.)
And then, as we were recovering from the recession, the enemy
hit us. They attacked us. And it affected us. It affected our way
of thinking, for starters. See, when most of us were growing up, we
thought oceans could protect us, and we found out that wasn't the
case. We found out that America could be harmed by people who hate
what we stand for. We suffered for those who lost life. I vowed then
and there that the best way to protect America was to get on the
offense and stay on the offense and bring people to justice.
(Applause.) We resolved, as a nation, not to allow terrorists to
cause us to lose our optimism and our spirit. That's what we
resolved. And we still have that spirit and resolve, by the way.
And then we found out we had some corporate citizens who didn't
tell the truth. That affected our economy. It kind of shattered our
idealism about people in positions of responsibility. We passed tough
laws, by the way. We're not going to tolerate dishonesty in the
boardrooms of America. There will be consequences if you lie to your
shareholders and your employees. (Applause.) But it affected us. It
was a hurdle we had to cross. It was a challenge to our economy.
And then, as you know, I made the decision to remove Saddam
Hussein from power. Let me tell you -- (applause.) One of the
important -- one of the important lessons of September the 11th, and
it's important for people to understand, is that when we see a threat,
we cannot let it materialize. That's an important lesson. I saw a
threat -- I looked at intelligence and saw a threat. The United
States Congress looked at the same intelligence and it saw a threat.
The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence and it
saw a threat. People were worried about Saddam Hussein because of his
past behavior. Remember, he had used weapons of mass destruction
against his neighbors and his own people. I remembered the lesson of
September the 11th as I looked at the data. I had a choice, either to
trust a madman or defend the country. Given that choice, I'll defend
America every time. (Applause.)
We've still got hard work in Iraq. The reason we do is there's
killers there who want to shake our will. They want the American
people to forget what it means to promote freedom. They want us to
retreat. See, a free Iraq is an historic opportunity. A free Iraq
will change a neighborhood that needs to be free. A free Iraq will
make the world more peaceful. But a free Iraq is something that the
terrorists fear. They hate freedom. They can't stand the thought of
a free society. So they're willing to kill. And they're trying to
shake our will. But they don't understand this country. We will
never be intimidated by thugs and assassins. (Applause.)
This country will stay the course and get the job done. We will
get the job done. (Applause.) Laura reminded me one time, she said,
do you remember what it was like in the summer of 2002 when you turned
on your TV sets and saw "March to War"? That's a hurdle that we had
to overcome. You see, it's not good for the economy to be marching to
war. It's good for our security, but it's hard for people to make
investment decisions if you think you're marching to war. It's a
So that was the fourth challenge we faced here in America. We
faced a recession, an attack, corporate scandals and a march to war to
make us more secure. But we've overcome all those challenges, because
the entrepreneurial spirit is strong, because the America people are
great workers, and because of good policy.
One of the things I think really did help, and I look forward to
continuing this dialogue on the subject, is, you see, when a person
has more money in their pocket, they're more likely to demand an
additional good or a service. And when they demand additional good or
a service, somebody's likely to provide the good or a service. And
when somebody provides a good or a service, somebody is more likely to
keep a job or find work.
The tax relief we passed is working. It's making a difference
for this economy. (Applause.) And the reason I say that is, for
example, the homeownership rate is the highest ever. That's really
important. We want people owning their own home. It's a vital part
of our economy.
Small businesses -- the spirit of the small business owner is
strong in America. Remember, when you cut income tax rates on
individuals, you're really affecting most small businesses in America,
because most small businesses are sole proprietorships or subchapter S
corporations, which means they pay tax at the individual income tax
rate. And in that most new jobs are created by small businesses, it
makes sense to have a vibrant small business sector in America. And
the small business sector of this country is strong, and it's growing,
and people are more optimistic about expanding their businesses.
Manufacturing is up. An important statistic besides the growth
statistics is the fact that after-tax income is up by 10 percent since
late 2000. That's good. If you've got more money in your pocket,
that's a good thing. (Applause.)
The economy is growing and people are finding work. Today, the
statistics show that we added 308,000 new jobs for the month of March.
(Applause.) We've added 759,000 jobs since August. This economy is
strong, it is getting stronger. You can understand why I'm optimistic
when I cite these statistics because I remember what we have been
through. We're getting better, and that's important.
There are other things we need to do. We need to make sure the
tax cuts are permanent. (Applause.) Congress doesn't need to be
taking away the child credit or the marriage penalty or the 10 percent
-- or the reduction -- or the increase of those eligible for the
10-percent bracket. We need to make these tax cuts permanent. Small
business owners need to have certainty in the tax code if they're
going to be confident about expanding their businesses.
We need tort reform in America if you're a small business owner.
(Applause.) If we want our jobs to stay here in America and want
people to be able to find work, we better make sure the legal
environment is fair and balanced. Frivolous lawsuits hurt small
business owners. They make it hard for people to expand their
business. We need less regulation.
I wish I could -- I wish I could tell you that every single
piece of paper you fill out is read at the federal level. (Laughter.)
I can't. (Laughter.) If I were to say it is true, a lot of people
would walk right out of the hall. (Laughter.)
We need to make sure that we've got good policies to help
control the cost of health care: medical savings accounts,
association health care plans, and real substantial medical liability
reform at the federal level. (Applause.)
West Virginia's unemployment rate is 5.4 percent, down from 6.4
percent a year ago. The policies are working. (Applause.) There's
more we need to do. There's more we need to do to make sure the job
base here is strong and people can find good jobs right here in
America. We need an energy policy that makes sense. (Applause.)
If you're a small manufacturing company, or big, for that matter
-- manufacturing company, and you're worried about where you're going
to get your electricity from, it's hard to expand your business. It's
hard to expand your business if you're worried about the reliability
of electricity, not just the cost, but whether or not electricity is
going to be reliable. Our electricity system is antiquated. It
wasn't all that long ago, last summer, to be exact, that we started
having rolling blackouts. That affects the ability for people to find
a job when that happens.
We've got a great, abundant resource in coal. And we need to --
(applause.) I came to West Virginia a while ago when I was seeking
the vote. I said, we're going to have a robust, clean coal technology
program funded by the federal government. My budget for this year has
got $447 million in it for clean coal technology. This nation must be
willing to use -- (applause) -- we must be willing to use the
resources we have in a smart way. We put out good regulations for
mining companies to make sure we don't shut down the ability to find
coal, and, by the way, to hurt people finding work. In other words,
we've been responsible, and the most responsible position is to make
us less dependant on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)
The job base is expanding. We've got a good strategy to keep
expanding. But you've got to remember that as the economy changes,
people need to change with it. Their skill levels need to change.
And one of the big challenges we have is how to make sure we match
people who want to work with the jobs that are available. And that's
what we're going to discuss today.
This is, as I say, this is a time of transition. That's what
the economists say. That's okay to use that word. The problem is, if
you're one of the people that are worried about the transition, we
need to make sure there's a plan to help you. That's what we need to
do. We need to stand with people who want to work and help them gain
the skills necessary so that they can do what they want to do, which
is to put food on the table for their families, to do their jobs as a
By the way, all job training starts with making sure we get it
right at the elementary and secondary school level. The No Child Left
Behind Act -- (applause.) The No Child Left Behind Act is really
important. It's an important part of making sure that people can read
and write and add and subtract. And we're going to stay on it, by
insisting that, in return for federal money, that we achieve high
standards. See, I believe every child can learn, and I'm against
these systems that just move these kids through and hope that they
learn. We've got a -- we'll say, show us whether or not a child is
learning to read and write and add and subtract early in life. And if
not, there will be the help necessary to make sure not one single
child gets left behind.
If you talk to the educators, they'll tell you, if we can get it
right at the elementary and secondary school level, we'll be able to
get it right at higher education, as well.
Now, the other thing we need to do is recognize that some kids
have been shuffled through and they need remedial help at the high
school level. And we've laid out a good strategy to deal with that.
But I think one of the most exciting strategies is the one I
started to detail in the State of the Union and will continue talking
about next week, which is to make sure the WIA Program, the Work Force
Investment Act, gets money into the classrooms, gets money to the
people so that they can get properly trained for the jobs which exist.
The community college system is an incredibly important part of
the education system in America because the curriculum are flexible.
That means that if an employee or group says, we need these kind of
people, that they're willing to adapt a curriculum to help train
people for the jobs which exist. Vicki Riley is going to tell us what
that means here in a second. It's important for us to make sure
there's collaboration, for example, for high-tech industries, so
people get the skills.
Listen, technology is changing, and it races through our
economy, but work skills don't change as quickly. And that's the
challenge we face. We've got to make sure we get people trained. And
that's what we're here to talk about.
I want people out there listening, to listen to the story of
some of the people who have gone back to school, to realize that that
option is available for you. If you're worried about the job you're
in and you feel like you need a new skill set in order to meet the new
jobs, there's some opportunity for you. There's Pell grants
available. There's scholarship money available. Government can't
make you make up your mind to seek new skills, but we darn sure can
help, and that's what we're here to talk about today.
And a perfect person to start the conversation is Vicki Riley.
She's the provost and CEO of Marshall Community College. She has put
in some very innovative programs.
And, Vicki, thank you for giving me a chance to visit this
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: I think what Vicki is saying is, is that there
are some fields that are begging for -- looking for workers, best way
to put it. The health care field is such a field. I mean, I have
traveled this country quite extensively and a lot of times I hear
that, gosh, if we only had more skilled nurses, or if we only had more
skilled technicians, we could meet the demands, our needs. And what
Vicki is saying is the community college here has got a curriculum
developed to meet the needs of the health industry here in West
Virginia. And I presume part of the curriculum was developed by the
people doing the hiring.
MS. RILEY: Absolutely. One of the things, again, that is a
strength of community college, is we're connected. We're connected to
business and industry. And those employers sit on our advisory boards
and they tell us what needs to be current; they tell us what they
need; they tell us what we may be missing. And we go back and fix it,
so that they're getting the types of employees they want to hire that
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, you see, that's an interesting concept,
isn't it, and it's something people have got to understand, that Vicki
goes out and says, who are you looking for, what kind of skills do you
need, what can we do to adapt our curriculum to your needs. And
that's very important . It's that flexibility which I think makes the
community college system such a vibrant part of the American
That's why I've asked Congress to put up an additional $250
million for collaborative efforts between the community college and
the local employer groups, so people can find the skills. I mean,
after all, it makes sense for government to help people help
themselves. And that's what we're talking about here.
The other thing we can do to make sure Vicki's job is better is
to make sure the paperwork requirements from the federal government
are more streamlined. I mean, they've got all kinds of programs
coming out of -- (applause.)
We have got a student with us named Rina Angus. Now, Rina --
first of all, what were you doing before you became a student?
MS. ANGUS: I was in administrative management at a local health
club in Huntington. And whenever the facility was coming under new
ownership, I decided that that was my time to leave.
THE PRESIDENT: So you made the decision. That's good.
(Laughter.) You're a mom?
MS. ANGUS: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Two children?
MS. ANGUS: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: How old?
MS. ANGUS: Eleven and 13.
THE PRESIDENT: Whew, yeah, I've been there. (Laughter and
applause.) You have a job, you decide to leave because of the change
in the business, and then what happens?
MS. ANGUS: My husband got laid off.
THE PRESIDENT: Then what happens? So far it's not a very
MS. ANGUS: Well, we prayed a lot and we found out through the
Parkersburg Job Service that there was additional training available,
that we qualified for a program called the Displaced Worker Program.
And when we went for the initial training and interviews, it just
happened that my husband lucked into another job and I qualified for
the program. So they showed me a list of skills that were needed in
the area, the in-demand jobs, and I saw one on there that I had
thought about when I was in high school, and decided to pursue it.
THE PRESIDENT: And what is it?
MS. ANGUS: Radiologic technology in the health field here at
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic.
Catch the story, listen to the story. I mean, I think it's a
wonderful story about a mom and a wife who, instead of getting, like
totally distraught with the circumstances, says, I'm going to go back
to school. And there's help for that. The Displaced Worker Program
is part of the federal monies that are available to help people go
back to the community college system.
Was it easy to go back to community college? Was it hard to go
back to school?
MS. ANGUS: Well, it was scary to go back, after being out of
school for 18 years. But with the help of Steve Brown with the adult
recruitment office here at Marshall, he made the transition very
smooth. He told me the classed I needed to get into, he helped me
sign up for them, he directed me where I needed to go. The staff at
Marshall is wonderful. I mean, if you have situations arise with your
children, or an illness, they work with you to let you get your job
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Do you think you're going to make more in
your new job, after having come here, or not? That's a loaded
MS. ANGUS: Yes. I mean, statistics show that I should double
the salary that I was making before.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Let me pick up on that. That's why the
kind of leading question, as we say. (Laughter.) And I'm not even a
lawyer. (Laughter and applause.) It's important for people who are
listening to realize that if you go back to the community college and
gain new skills for the jobs which exist, not only can you become
employable, you're likely to make more money.
I was at Mesa Community College and met a woman who had been a
graphic design artist for 15 years. She decided to go back to school
in a technological program, got out -- the government helped her --
got out, and she made more in her first year in her new job because of
the skills she had gained, than she made in her 15th year as a graphic
You hear a lot of talk about becoming -- productivity. That's
kind of the talk of the economists these days. That means that one
worker can produce more units now than they could have before. But
productivity also means having the skills necessary to work in the new
jobs. And if you're more productive, if the society is more
productive, wealth goes up. And in this case, when Rina gets more
productive, her personal wealth will go up.
Now, you almost through?
MS. ANGUS: I'm completing my first year here at Marshall, the
basic skills program. And I'm currently awaiting an interview at St.
Mary's School of Radiology, where, if I'm accepted, I would start this
summer and complete two years of clinical and classroom training. And
at that time, you take a board certification to become --
THE PRESIDENT: Do you need a recommendation? (Laughter.)
MS. ANGUS: Well, if you're willing to give one. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, you got one. Thanks. Great job.
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: Rocky McCoy is with us. Rocky, tell us what you
do. He's got a very interesting job and a great opportunity to help
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: That's good. Now, tell me about your board. Do
you have employers on your board?
MR. McCOY: Yes, we do. Yes, we do.
THE PRESIDENT: Like, how many? (Laughter.) Well, not exactly.
MR. McCOY: Our board is made up of -- it's a pretty large
board. There's probably 50-plus, and we're required to have 51
percent of the membership from the private sector.
THE PRESIDENT: Right, that's good.
MR. McCOY: So, we have -- we have several employers that are on
THE PRESIDENT: How many people do you see, would you say?
MR. McCOY: In the Huntington office, I'd say we see anywhere
from 400-600 people come through our door a month for one-stop
services. It's not necessarily job service; that is for all one-stop
services and all of our partners within our one-stop system.
THE PRESIDENT: Right, what else could people do at the
MR. McCOY: We have the job service, if someone's looking for a
job. We can go through the necessary paperwork, so to speak, to get
-- to find out what a person's skills are and we can refer them out to
jobs that are available. They can -- we also have the veterans
program so --
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
MR. McCOY: -- if we have any veterans that -- any special
programs for veterans, they can talk to a veterans officer there.
People with disabilities -- we also have the Department of
Rehabilitative Services there. The Department of Health and Human
Resources, if people need some support until they find a job. Senior
employment programs, adult basic education, if a person needs to work
on their GED. And also, the basic skills program, such as
remediation, job-seeking skills, interviewing skills, how to fill out
a resume, and job education.
THE PRESIDENT: See, these services, by the way, used to be
scattered all over. And now he calls it one-stop because you go to
one place. And I appreciate that. Who's hiring?
MR. McCOY: Folks in the health industry, folks in the IT
industry. And there are several smaller businesses that are hiring in
THE PRESIDENT: That's good. See, there are jobs. And a lot of
people say, I hear there's jobs available, but I don't have the skills
so I'm not going to go look. And Rocky's job and, truth of the
matter, all our jobs, is there's someone available to help you. And
you've got to want to help yourself, like this good lady did. You got
to say, I want to better myself, I want to take advantage of the
opportunity. But Rocky's job is to help steer people to the
opportunities, whether it be the community college, or the jobs which
exist that people don't feel like they need to enhance their skills.
And I appreciate you, Rock. I call you Rock.
MR. McCOY: That's fine. (Laughter.) You can call me whatever
you want. (Laughter and applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: All right, Sally Oxley is with us. Sally is a
small business owner. I love to be with entrepreneurs, people who are
willing to start their own business and dream big dreams; people who
-- and as a result, by the way, of dreaming a dream, gets in a
position, when successful, to hire people. That's one of the
dividends of the entrepreneurial spirit, is people can find work.
Sally, tell us about your business -- how did you get started;
why did you start your own business; how did you find the courage to
start your business; and anything else you want to say.
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: By the way, that's not easy. It sounds easy;
it's hard. It requires a good plan, a good strategy, and the
development of a product people need.
MS. OXLEY: And the reason I started my own business was I
wanted to do it my way, I wanted to do it the right way. And that
seemed to be what evolved.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. And are you looking for people?
MS. OXLEY: We are. We're always looking for good people.
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: And how is your business doing?
MS. OXLEY: It's growing. We're doing well.
THE PRESIDENT: A lot of old guys like me with kind of aches and
MS. OXLEY: A few. Birth to death, is what we say.
THE PRESIDENT: I like that beginning part. (Laughter.)
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: I'm glad you're doing well. Thanks for starting
your own business. Thanks for putting people to work. I think it's a
very interesting story, isn't it, that a small business in the health
field connects with the community college in order to do two things --
one, lay out the requirements necessary to hire people, but also
provide an opportunity for on-the-job training.
I appreciate your contribution to the community. It's a great
MS. OXLEY: It's a great community.
THE PRESIDENT: It is a great community. Thanks for coming.
THE PRESIDENT: Bryan Johnson.
MR. JOHNSON: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm glad you're here.
MR. JOHNSON: Glad to be here, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: They ever call you Red? (Laughter.)
MR. JOHNSON: On several occasions. I haven't figured out why
just yet. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I'll be the funny guy. (Laughter and applause.)
MR. JOHNSON: If we're going to do the act then, sir, I'll sit
over there on your lap --
THE PRESIDENT: That's right. (Laughter.) Whew! Anyway --
Anyway, Bryan, changing subjects rapidly -- (laughter) -- no longer
verbally dueling with Bryan. (Laughter.) He is the chief information
officer of Mountain State Centers for Independent Living. Tell us
your story, please sir.
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: What did you get? What degree did you get here
MR. JOHNSON: I got the IT degree. And they actually offer --
THE PRESIDENT: Explain what IT means, just in case --
MR. JOHNSON: Yes. Information Technology, which basically
covers computers and networking, and whatnot.
THE PRESIDENT: Now, that sounds like a pretty big leap from a
guy in a restaurant business to the IT business. Was it a big leap?
MR. JOHNSON: You better believe it. When I started -- when I
started in 1998 into the program, I couldn't even tell you how to turn
the computer on. Okay? Now I'm a network engineer.
THE PRESIDENT: That's good.
MR. JOHNSON: Thank you, thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: By the way, did you have to pay for the -- how
did you handle the cost?
MR. JOHNSON: I got student loans, and I also received some
assistance through WIA, as well.
THE PRESIDENT: Right, Work Force Investment Act. A lot of
times, with government things, we talk in initials.
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: And so what is your -- with the degree you have,
not only do you provide a -- you're an important employee for the firm
for which you work, you're also now a consultant.
Are you making more money now than in the restaurant business?
MR. JOHNSON: Oh, yes.
THE PRESIDENT: That's really important for people to understand
that, if you come back to Marshall Community College, for example, and
get new skills -- how long did it take you to get them?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, it actually took me four years with this
program, because there are four specializations on the degree, and I
went for all four, because of portability. I will be able to go
anywhere and do anything.
THE PRESIDENT: So you went for the full Monte. (Laughter.)
Most programs don't take four years, I don't think.
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: It's very important for people to understand
that, one, the job base is growing in different sectors. You know, I
know workers are worried that, I wish my son or my daughter could have
worked in the same industry I've worked in for all my life. But this
is a changing economy. It's a different economy. It's an economy
that provides great opportunity. However, people are going to have to
seize the moment. And that's what we're here discussing. We're
discussing this sense of providing -- so that people can provide for
And there's two great examples here of people that could have
decided, well, I don't think I'm going to improve myself, and just
stayed doing what they were doing. But instead, I sense a great deal
of excitement in their voices about having made a decision that was an
important decision, a decision that probably seemed pretty darn hard
at first. But now that you've made it, and you're in the middle of
it, you can recommend it, I suspect.
I love being with an entrepreneur, a job creator, a
compassionate soul who is interested in expanding the work force in a
smart way. I want to thank the local government providing for the
one-stops. Appreciate you running it, Rocky. Or Rock. (Laughter.)
And finally, I'm so honored to have been here at this community
college. Madam President, thanks for opening it up. Thank you for
doing what you're doing. Thank you for providing hope for people,
providing an opportunity for people to take advantage of this exciting
year in which we live.
Finally, I want to conclude by telling you that I talked about
the challenges that faced our country. We'll have other challenges,
too. There's no doubt in my mind this great country will overcome any
challenge put in its path, because this country is great because of
the people of this country.
Thanks for coming. God bless. And God bless our great land.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 12:21 P.M. EST