REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN ANNOUNCEMENT TO LAUNCH THE COALITION FOR AMERICA'S CHILDREN
The East Room
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank all those who have been
a part of this. Alex Kroll, thank you for what you said and for
reminding us that we're about the business of helping parents, not
disrespecting the difficulties they face. Christine Benero, thank
you. Eva Kasten, the Executive Vice President of the Advertising
Council, thank you. I thank the Benton Foundation, the AT&T
Foundation, the Packard Foundation.
I'd like to thank the people in our administration
probably most directly involved in helping our children who are here
today -- Secretary Riley, Secretary Shalala, and Harris Wofford, the
head of the Corporation for National Service.
But most of all, I want to thank Bradley Pine and Lonzo
Warren for coming here to share their story. Their relationship is a
powerful example of what could be done all over America if we move
from vague rhetoric to specific action directed at helping and
supporting all of our children.
Just think of what would happen in this country if every
single child who needed a mentor had one. Think of what would happen
if every person out there who is willing to volunteer to help knew
where to go and how to do it. The public service message we just saw
that Hillary and I were honored to participate in is simply designed
to remind every American that there are children out there who need
our support, and to tell every American who wants to serve that there
is a way to serve and we will help you do it.
We know that being a parent is the most difficult and
important job in the world. And we know that everyone has to help.
Hillary has been working on these children's issues since before I
met her, a long time ago now, and I think that the book that she
wrote did capture the image of the village raising our children. But
it should not be allowed to obscure the fact that what that really
means is that each and every one of us has a personal responsibility
to do our part. And also, thanks to this effort, it will be easier
for people to understand how to exercise that responsibility.
I'm especially fond of the work that we have done in
this regard. We've done all we could to encourage citizen service.
We now have more than 50,000 young people working in AmeriCorps,
earning money to go to college. Many, many of them are helping our
children in supportive ways.
Last summer, we launched our America Reads program to
try to mobilize one million volunteer tutors in America to make sure
that by the year 2000 every single 8-year-old in this country can
read independently and will have a chance to make the most of his or
her education. Today, I am pleased to announce that Scholastic Books
is donating one million books to help us reach that goal. We need
more companies like Scholastic Books to give more Americans the
opportunity to serve.
In January, I was proud to stand right here with
President Bush and General Colin Powell and former Secretary of
Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros to announce that we are
convening the first ever President's Summit of Service in April in
Philadelphia, to bring together business, religious, community
leaders committed to support citizen service with resources and
volunteers. With their help, I hope we can make the plea we make in
this public service announcement a reality for tens of thousands of
more people in the United States.
This public service announcement is just what it seems
to be. It seeks to help in mobilizing a volunteer force of
Americans. It reflects the wisdom that no impersonal bureaucracy can
ever replace the magic that we saw here between Bradley and Lonzo, or
the feeling that Lonzo expressed for his own family, who are here
with him today. What we can do is to make it possible for more
things like that to happen, and to give our children the basic
supports they need to make it happen. But in the end, we must make
this vast, big, complicated society of ours more of a society in
which we all feel that we should volunteer and, like Bradley, we know
we're going to be better off for doing it; we'll get more out of it
than we give. We have to create the networks to facilitate that kind
The public service announcement, as you saw, gives
people a number to call, a web site to visit, to learn about
organizations in their very own communities where they can volunteer
their time --to become a reading tutor or a math coach, or a mentor
to a child in need. Beginning today, anyone visiting the White House
home page on the Internet will be able to connect to the coalition's
web site with just a click of the mouse, and find out what they can
do to help.
The more people this message reaches, the more children
will be helped. So far, some of our biggest television, cable and
radio networks have committed to air this message during times when
it will have the best chance of inspiring the largest number of
people. Newsweek, The New York Times and People Magazine will also
run the message in their pages. And movie-goers will see it in
theatres all over the country, thanks to promotion slide and cinema
advertisers. This is a very good start.
But let me encourage other media organizations around
the country to help to make sure this message is heard by as many
people as possible -- to help to work with us to encourage the spirit
of service in America, to strengthen our families, to improve the
lives of our children one at a time.
Whenever you think about what else we can do, just think
of Bradley and Lonzo and multiply it by millions, and imagine the
America we can make together. Thank you. God bless you.