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Kemp lauds Ellison's NC donation

A gathering of famous Californians celebrate Oracle's donation of about 300 Network Computers to an elementary school in Silicon Valley.

What do Oracle (ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison, vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, and football legends Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott have in common?

Nothing obvious, except that all were on hand to publicize Oracle's donation of about 300 Network Computers to James Flood Elementary school in Menlo Park, California. The donation amounted to more than one computer for every student at the school.

Students and other observers were also given a demonstration of the NC, which Ellison has touted as a lower-cost way to give students access to a computer-based curriculum. Traditional PCs are too expensive to put on every desk in every school across the nation, he maintained. The NC is a relatively affordable, stripped-down box that uses Oracle software for its primary use of surfing the Internet.

The donation marks a high point in the four-year-old relationship between Oracle and the school. Oracle has donated equipment and provided funding to allow staff and parents to receive technical training, while Oracle employees have regularly participated in mentor programs at the school.

For their part, Montana and Lott were on hand to donate an autographed football for each teacher to award the most deserving student at the end of the school year.

Kemp, making a stop before a speech he was scheduled to give at Netscape Communications, praised the public-private partnership as a model for every school in the nation to follow.

Students today, he said, "have more access to more information than any king, leader, or potentate in the history of mankind at their fingertips. We've got to have an educational system that can keep up with this tremendous challenge [and] convey to kids what an exciting time it is to be alive and to be on the Web."

According to a company spokesperson, Kemp was invited to attend the ceremony because he had served on the corporate board of Oracle until recently. Later, outside the classroom where the presentation was made, Ellison insisted that the event wasn't a political endorsement of any sort.

"This was an endorsement of the idea of putting a computer on every student's desk. We want bipartisan support, and we think that this is something that everyone can agree on," Ellison insisted.

Ellison, who in 1992 was a supporter of Clinton, has since expressed reservations about that endorsement because of the president's positions on issues such as the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. But Ellison has not yet said who he is going to support this year.