9:49 A.M. EDT
GENERAL POWELL: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
You look wonderful out there this morning. They were worried
last night that the rain would wash this out, and as early as
this morning there were calls flying around town at 5:00 a.m. in
the morning, should we move it. The answer was, it will not
rain, not on this parade, not today, not with what we've got
going on. And it did not and it will not. (Applause.)
Over 200 years ago, a group of volunteers gathered
on this sacred spot to found a new nation. In perfect words,
they voiced their dreams and aspirations of an imperfect world.
They pledged their lives, their fortune and their sacred honor to
secure inalienable rights given by God for life, liberty, and
pursuit of happiness -- pledged that they would provide them to
all who would inhabit this new nation.
They look down on us today in spirit, with pride for
all we have done to keep faith with their ideals and their
sacrifices. Yet, despite all we have done, this is still an
imperfect world. We still live in an imperfect society. Despite
more than two centuries of moral and material progress, despite
all our efforts to achieve a more perfect union, there are still
Americans who are not sharing in the American Dream. There are
still Americans who are not sharing in the American Dream. There
are still Americans who wonder: is the journey there for them,
is the dream there for them, or, whether it is, at best, a dream
The great American poet, Langston Hughes, talked
about a dream deferred, and he said, "What happens to a dream
deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun, or fester
like a sore and then run? Does it stink like rotten meat or
crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags,
like a heavy load. Or, does it explode?"
For too many young Americans, that dream deferred
does sag like a heavy load that's pushing them down into the
ground, and they wonder if they can rise up with that load. And
as we see too often in our daily life, it does explode in
violence, in youngsters falling dead, shot by other youngsters.
It does explode, and it has the potential to explode our society.
So today, we gather here today to pledge that the
dream must no longer be deferred and it will never, as long as we
can do anything about it, become a dream denied. That is why we
are here, my friends. (Applause.) We gather here to pledge that
those of us who are more fortunate will not forsake those who are
less fortunate. We are a compassionate and caring people. We
are a generous people. We will reach down, we will reach back,
we will reach across to help our brothers and sisters who are in
Above all, we pledge to reach out to the most
vulnerable members of the American family, our children. As
you've heard, up to 15 million young Americans today are at risk.
They are at risk of growing up unskilled, unlearned or, even
worse, unloved. They are at risk of growing up physically or
psychologically abused. They are at risk of growing up addicted
to the pathologies and poisons of the street. They are at risk
of bringing up children into the world before they, themselves
have grown up. They are at risk of never growing up at all.
Fifteen million young lives are at risk, may not make it unless
we care enough to do something about it.
In terms of numbers, the task may seem staggering.
But if we look at the simple needs that these children have, then
the task is manageable, the goal is achievable. We know what
they need. They need an adult caring person in their life, a
safe place to learn and grow, a healthy start, marketable skills
and an opportunity to serve so that early in their lives they
learn the virtue of service so that they can reach out then and
touch another young American in need.
These are basic needs that we commit ourselves
today, we promise today. We are making America's promise today
to provide to those children in need. This is a grand alliance.
It is an alliance between government and corporate America and
nonprofit America, between our institutions of faith, but
especially between individual Americans.
You heard the governors and the mayors, and you'll
hear more in a little minute that says the real answer is for
each and every one of us, not just here in Philadelphia, but
across this land -- for each and every one of us to reach out and
touch someone in need.
All of us can spare 30 minutes a week or an hour a
week. All of us can give an extra dollar. All of us can touch
someone who doesn't look like us, who doesn't speak like us, who
may not dress like us, but, by God, needs us in their lives. And
that's what we all have to do to keep this going.
And so there's a spirit of Philadelphia here today.
There's a spirit of Philadelphia that we saw yesterday in
Germantown. There is a spirit of Philadelphia that will leave
Philadelphia tomorrow afternoon and spread across this whole
nation -- 30 governors will go back and spread it; over a 100
mayors will go back and spread it, and hundreds of others,
leaders around this country who are watching will go back and
spread it. Corporate America will spread it, nonprofits will
spread it. And each and every one of us will spread it because
it has to be done, we have no choice. We cannot leave these
children behind if we are going to meet the dreams of our
And so let us all join in this great crusade. Let
us make sure that no child in America is left behind, no child in
America has their dream deferred or denied. We can do it. We
can do it because we are Americans. We are Americans who draw
our strength from this place. We are Americans who believe to
the depth of our hearts that this is not a land that was put here
by historic accident, it is a land that was put here by Divine
Providence who told us to be good stewards of the land, but
especially to be good stewards of each other. Divine Providence
gave us this land, blessed it and told us always to be proud to
call it America.
And so we go forward. Let's go save our children.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
* * * *
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank
you very much. Thank you, Oprah. To all of the distinguished
guests; President and Mrs. Clinton, and former President and Mrs.
Bush; former President Ford; Mrs. Reagan; General Powell and Mrs.
Powell; to the governors and mayors and senators and congressmen
and Cabinet members; and most of all, the volunteers: This is an
historic day. And I want to thank you, Oprah, and once again
thank you, General Colin Powell, for organizing this project and
for standing strong for America's children. We're grateful to
you, the whole country is. (Applause.)
In the Bible, Proverbs counsels us, "Do not withhold
good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to act."
And later in Isaiah, we learn, "If you spend yourselves on behalf
of the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your
light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like
the noon day."
Today, in America, more and more citizens are
realizing that it is within our power to act. And across
America, noon day is spreading a warm light of compassion and
commitment, a new spirit of service in America. We're seeing it
right now in North Dakota, where tens of thousands of relief
workers and volunteers responded instantly and selflessly to
those terrible floods. President Clinton and I have seen these
quiet American heroes in action firsthand, and we have all been
inspired by what they are doing right now to help neighbors in
distress. That's the American way.
We saw this spirit of service six days ago on Earth
Day, Americans of today honoring their duty to Americans of
tomorrow by pledging to be good stewards of the environment -- to
make sure subsequent generations inherit air, water and land that
is clean, healthy and safe.
We saw it 10 days ago on NetDay, when tens of
thousands of Americans came together to pull cable, install
software, hook up computers and connect America's classrooms to
the Information Superhighway. And we saw it last year,
especially throughout the South, when neighbors, black and white,
joined hands to hold back the forces of hate and rebuild churches
and synagogues and other houses of worship that had burned to the
ground, and say, we won't stand for it here in the United States
of America. We're one nation, one community, under God and we're
coming together to help one another. (Applause.)
And we saw it yesterday here in Philadelphia on
Germantown Avenue. This spirit service is both rich with
tradition and fresh with possibility. It is as timeless as
Independence Day and as modern as NetDay, as old as America and
as young as AmeriCorps. And we, all of us, must do everything we
can do to keep this spirit growing.
The work of this summit is just beginning. Its
goal, of course: to provide 2 million young Americans access to
opportunity and opportunity and the fundamental resources they
need by the year 2000 -- 2 million by 2000. We can begin by
really hearing what others have to say. Indeed, sometimes the
greatest act of service we can perform is to listen carefully,
especially when we listen to our children.
So let's listen to them now. Two weeks ago, the
summit invited young playwrights and students from all over
America to create an open letter that would tell grownups how
they see the goal of this summit. Here now is a peek behind the
scenes at these young Americans wrestling with the same issues
that confront us all.
(A film is shown.)
* * * * *
PRESIDENT FORD: As we meet at this historic hall to
begin this crusade of giving, sharing and caring for the American
family across the land, especially the 15 million young girls and
boys who need our help, we should be optimistic, not pessimistic.
Sadly, every day the news media reports the growing
number of broken homes, inadequate single family problems, drug
problems rampant in our schools and on our streets, with gang
warfare loose in metropolitan communities. Should we surrender?
Should we capitulate to the worst elements and the challenges in
our society? The answer is, emphatically, no. (Applause.)
We in America, thank goodness, have the tools to win
this war. The solution is local and personal with generous
financial support across the land. Yes, in our hometowns, from
the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Canadian border to the
Caribbean, people and organizations can turn disasters to
I personally am optimistic because I've seen
firsthand a Boy Scout scoutmaster take a tenderfoot or a troop
from the worst circumstances and redirect their lives. The same,
of course, is true with the Girl Scouts, the Campfire Girls.
Again, as mentors we see identical benefits, from the Big
Brothers, Big Sisters, the Boys and Girls Clubs throughout
America. During the terrible economic Depression of the 1930s, I
witnessed firsthand the uplifting impact of an athletic coach on
a player or on a team when their families were on welfare or
actually in bread lines. Today, the parent coaches of Little
League teams do a superb jobs as mentors, teaching not only
teamwork, but athletic skills and healthy habits.
A pat on the back and sound advice can help a
troubled boy or a troubled girl in despair. A top-notch mentor
can combine winning the game and winning the life. Our churches
and synagogues, from the pulpit to the Sunday school teacher, can
reach out, embrace the youth in their congregation. I've always
admired the wonderful, unselfish work of the individual members
of the Salvation Army. Today they are successful mentors because
of their spotless dedication to helping America's youth.
A major goal of this summit is to recruit voluntary
mentors who are willing to listen to and stand by a youth through
joys as well as frustrations. Our mentors must have that unique
ability to help the child discover and develop his or her
talents. Right now, young Americans need 2 million volunteer
mentors who will be caring adults. We warmly welcome volunteers
from all walks of life in this great land to join in this
critical crusade. By stepping forward in this crisis, you can
have a tremendous impact and a tremendous benefit in the
challenge to save our youth. What we do here and what you do in
this decade can make a better America for the next century.
I say to all of you throughout the land, the door of
opportunity is wide, wide open. Please join Colin Powell and all
the others at this historic summit. This is truly a call to
national service. Thank you. (Applause.)
* * * * *
PRESIDENT CARTER: (speaking by videotape.) -- to a
child finding his or her way in the world, this should not be a
privilege, it should be a right. If your street isn't safe, fear
is your constant companion. If your school and playground aren't
safe, your focus is on surviving, not learning. If your home
isn't safe, you have nowhere else to go. This summit recognizes
this by designating a safe place one of the five fundamental
resources. Kids need a place where they can just be kids, where
they can play, learn, grow without constantly looking over their
At the Carter Center, we have a program called
Atlanta Project, founded on the bedrock of volunteerism. A
couple of years ago thousands of volunteers fanned out across
some of Atlanta's poorest neighborhoods. Going door to door,
these volunteers asked their neighbors to list their major
concerns and to suggest ways to improve their quality of life.
It will not surprise you to learn that the number one concern was
It's true in cities across our nation. Activities
that most of us take for granted, such as going out to play ball
or sitting in a school classroom are fraught with peril for
children and their parents. Let me share with you some of the
stories I heard. One woman said that she never goes out after
dark and doesn't allow her children to go out, either. "We are,"
she said, "prisoners in our home." Another mother told Rosalyn
and me that she has knots in her stomach from the time her young
son leaves for school until he returns. Because of the violence
of her community, she's waiting for the day when he doesn't come
home at all. "It won't really surprise me," she said.
That was one of the saddest statements I've ever
heard. Several young people, both boys and girls, talked about
the pressure they feel to join gangs. Without his gang to
protect him, one young man said, he was sure he would be dead. A
12-year-old boy said his ambition in life is to own a
semiautomatic machine gun. "I don't expect to live past the age
of 20," he told us, "so why does it matter what I do with my
Finally, we spoke with several young women --
children, really -- pregnant with their first, second, or even
third child, who are resigned to a life of poverty and fear.
These are children whose spirits have been broken, who feel
there's no hope for a brighter future. They and their parents do
not have confidence in the very institutions -- law enforcement,
the judicial system, schools -- that were set up to serve all
This summit can be the beginning of a renewed
commitment to our children. But the real revolution will take
place only if we carry this new spirit of Philadelphia back to
our own neighborhoods and turn it into action. The divisions
between those of us who have many opportunities and those who
feel they have none are growing deeper. Children are dying, in
body and spirit.
I urge you to reach out from the safety and security
of your life and extend a helping hand to someone who really
knows only fear. Hand in hand, we can create a network that will
ensure that our children will do more than just survive, they
will thrive. Thank you. (Applause.)
* * * * *
MRS. REAGAN: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you
very much. Thank you, Christina, and thank you very much for
asking me here today to help begin this wonderful campaign.
I wish so much that my husband could be here. He
would remind us that we're celebrating the best of America, that
unique heritage that has always inspired us -- individuals and
organizations have banded together since our nation began to help
when there was a need. Some have been at it for years. For
instance, Save The Children began in 1932, and is continuing to
help all over the world.
You know, in my experience, whether it was the
foster grandparents program in California, or the private sector
initiative in Washington, or the Just Say No campaign to stop
drugs, I've always found that when I give I received tenfold in
Ronnie's dream remains that America will be that
shining city on the hill, and to make that dream come true we
must never fall short in our efforts to ensure that every child
in America can fly as high as his or her dreams will take them.
Ronnie is such a caring person. He's always been
moved by human kindness. So, for him and for me, I ask a special
favor of everyone watching or listening today. From this day
forward, when someone asks you to help a child, just say, "yes."
(Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)
* * * * *
PRESIDENT BUSH: The American Dream is one of the
most stirring phrases I know, and it means so many things to so
many people all over the world. It means the freedom to worship
your own God in your own way without fear of persecution. It
means freedom of speech and assembly, and, perhaps most
importantly, the freedom to vote. And these are wonderful
freedoms. But sometimes I'm afraid we all take them for granted.
And, yet, the American Dream also means something
else. It means the opportunity to go as far in life as your
abilities will take you. Anyone in America can aspire to be a
doctor, a teacher, a police officer or even, as Oprah said, a
President. But you can't get any of those important jobs if you
don't have the opportunity to acquire the skills you need. You
need to learn your job, whatever your dream, before you can do
your job. And that's why I believe that the key to the American
Dream is education.
And at the most basic level, it gets down to one "R"
-- reading. Barbara and I are deeply troubled to know that 2,300
teenagers drop out of school every day. And this is more than a
terrible loss to America, it's an epidemic. It just seems wrong
that 6.5 million American kids between kindergarten and the 3rd
grade are growing up illiterate. Something has gone wrong.
But I am thankful that something right is starting
to happen at this summit, because Americans are starting to take
it upon themselves to point our kids in the right direction on
the road that leads to the American Dream. And the commitments
made toward this end are simply terrific. Continental Cable
Vision is going to provide free Internet connections to 3 million
youngsters by the year 2000. Another great organization, the
General Federation of Women's Clubs, is establishing volunteer
tutoring and literacy centers in 6,500 towns and cities across
this country. (Applause.) And another, Scholastic Books, will
donate one million books to the American Reads project to help us
reach our goal of a hundred percent literacy for every child by
grade three. (Applause.)
You know, humanity has produced few documents more
beautiful than the one that Jefferson, Madison and the other
founding fathers sweated over here in Philadelphia some 220 years
ago -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are magnificent
words to live by. But you can't understand them if you can't
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
* * * * *
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you very much. Ladies and
gentlemen, I want to begin by taking Matthew and Teevee
(phonetic) and Christina and Jamil (phonetic) and Christy
(phonetic) for introducing the Presidents and Mrs. Reagan. They
reminded us of what this summit is all about.
I thank President and Mrs. Bush, President and Mrs.
Carter, President Ford, Mrs. Reagan, Vice President and Mrs. Gore
for their devotion to this endeavor. I thank Harris Wofford and
Bob Goodwin, the President of the Points of Light Foundation;
Henry Cisneros and Linda Robb; and all the others who have worked
for this day. I say a special word of thanks to all the public
officials who have come from all over our country -- members of
Congress, governors, lieutenant governors and others. But,
particularly, I want to thank General Colin Powell.
At our last meeting, when he was about to retire as
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I asked him if there was
another mission which might bring him back into public life. He
said he wanted to help children who didn't have what they needed
to succeed in life and who needed the chance to serve America.
Well, General, this may be your most important
mission, and I want to thank you for reenlisting. Thank you.
I thank my friend, Mayor Rendell, and the wonderful
people of Philadelphia; Governor Ridge and the people of
Pennsylvania who have made us feel so welcome.
We come here before the house where America was
born. The place where we, the people, took the first step on our
centuries-old journey to form a more perfect union. On the last
day of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin walked
out of this hall and encountered a woman anxious to know what had
gone on inside. She asked him, "Well, Doctor, what have we got?
A monarchy or a republic?" Mr. Franklin replied, "A republic
--if you can keep it."
For more than 200 years, we have struggled to keep
this republic. It is an enduring and endless challenge, for
endemic in human nature and human frailty are successive
generations of problems. But we have always succeeded in making
our union more perfect. Consider how imperfect it was when we
had people in this country who weren't even treated as people,
but slaves. Consider how imperfect it was when children could be
forced to work long hours into the night in dangerous conditions.
Consider how imperfect it was when women, now more than half the
population of America, could not even vote.
So when you get discouraged, remember, we have
succeeded in over 200 years in forming a more perfect union.
(Applause.) We have succeeded because we've had a brilliant free
enterprise system. We have succeeded because we had flexible
constitutional, evolving, effective government at every level.
But we have succeeded mostly because in the gaps between what is
done by government and what is done by the private economy,
citizens have found ways to step forward and move our country
forward, and lift our people up. Citizen service is the story of
our more perfect union.
Now we live in one of the great moments of change in
our history, more full of promise, as President Ford said, than
any period of America's past. More of these children behind me,
and more of these children out here on these streets of
Philadelphia, will have more chances to live out the future of
their dreams than any generation of American children in history
if the citizens of this country step forward to fill the gaps in
their live and in our national life to form a more perfect union.
But let us not be blind to the facts. Even with all
the progress that together we have made -- with 12 million new
jobs and a record drop in welfare rolls and years of dropping
crime rates -- you and I know that millions of our children are
being left behind in lives of too much danger, too many drugs,
too little hope and not enough opportunity. You and I know that
too many people are out there doing the very best they can and
still not keeping up, much less moving forward.
Yes, there are things that the government should do.
None of us stand here, President and former Presidents, to say
that we must not do our responsibility. Of course, we should do
better with our schools. Of course, we should open the doors of
college to everyone. Of course, all our children should have
health care coverage. Of course, we can do more to make our
streets safer. But even if we do everything we should, you and I
know that a lot of the problems facing our children are problems
of the human heart -- problems that can only be resolved when
there is a one-on-one connection, community by community,
neighborhood by neighborhood, street by street, home by home,
with every child in this country entitled to live out their
God-given destiny. You know it is true. (Applause.)
I am proud of the fact that because of the computer
and microsolutions to problems we don't need big government
bureaucracies to do some of the things that used to be done. But
as I have said repeatedly, the era of big government may be over,
but the era of big challenges for our country is not, and so we
need an era of big citizenship. That is why we are here, and
that is what we should promise ourselves we will do. (Applause.)
Let me say one other thing, too. Look at these kids
behind me. They're America's future -- all of them. And when
you think of what is tearing the world apart today -- the racial,
the ethnic, the religious hatreds, from Bosnia to Northern
Ireland to the Middle East to Africa -- and you look at the
children behind me and you realize what a gift from God our
diversity is, you know that if we know each other, if we serve
each other, if we work with each other, one of the things that
will happen is, we will make sure that our diversity is a rich
resource to make our union more perfect, not an instrument of our
national undoing in the 21st century. (Applause.)
We cherish our citizen volunteers. There are
already more than 90 million of us, and after this summit there
will be more. Especially because General Powell, Ray Chambers
and others have organized a follow-up to this. And the really
important work of this summit will begin after my talk's over,
when you go into the workshops and the meetings and make a
commitment that in every community there will be a systematic,
disciplined, comprehensive effort to deal with the five areas
outlined as the challenges for our young people. That is what
really matters here.
Young people, above all, however, have the time, the
energy and the idealism for this kind of citizen service. Before
they have their own families, the young can make a unique
contribution to the family of America. In doing so, they can
acquire the habit of service and get a deeper understanding of
what it really means to be a citizen. That is the main reason,
perhaps, we are here.
In Philadelphia, the Superintendent of Schools is
working to make service the expected thing in elementary and
middle schools. Maryland has required it in high school. And I
challenge every state and every school in this country at least
to offer in a disciplined, organized way every young person in
school a chance to serve. A recent survey said if they were just
asked, over 90 percent of them would do it. We ought to be
ashamed of ourselves if we don't give them the chance to do that.
Let me also say, of course, that we need some of
them to serve full-time. They do, you know, in the Peace Corps.
And -- (applause) -- we have some former Peace Corps volunteers
out there applauding. But we should all applaud them because
they have helped to change the world for the better. (Applause.)
And they do in AmeriCorps, the national service program that was
started in our administration. (Applause.) The idea behind
AmeriCorps was to instill an ethic of mutual responsibility in
our children so that young people could improve their own lives
in return for improving the life of America.
Since its creation, 50,000 young Americans have
earned college tuition by serving their communities in many ways.
And we know that the typical full-time community servant recruits
at least a dozen more volunteers. I saw that in North
Dakota when I went to see what the Red River had done to Grand
Forks and to the rest of North Dakota and Minnesota. I saw our
young AmeriCorps volunteers and I knew that because they were
able to serve full-time they'd be there when the waters receded,
the mess was there, the people had to put their lives back
together and the cameras were gone. I saw it again yesterday
when we were working on the streets and on the stadium and on the
The will to serve has never been stronger and more
of our young people want to serve full-time. But there's a limit
to what we can do now. And, yet, there is a solution --
ironically, one I came to right here in Philadelphia. For here
in Philadelphia a minister who is a friend of mine, Reverend Tony
Campolo, is helping to organize a movement among churches to get
churches to sponsor 10,000 full-time youth volunteers to take a
year off from college or defer a year from college under the
sponsorship of their churches.
The churches will do what we do in AmeriCorps,
helping to provide for the living expenses of the young people.
But I think we ought to say to them, at the very least, it
shouldn't cost you any money to serve. And so if you've got a
college loan and you take a year off to serve under the
sponsorship of a religious organization, I'm going to propose
legislation to say during that year no interest should accrue on
that college loan. It should not cost you any money to serve
your country. (Applause.)
But we can do more. We can double the impact of
AmeriCorps with the help of our religious and charitable
institutions. I want to challenge every charity, every religious
group, every community group and their business supporters to
give young people the support they need to do a year of community
service. If you do that, then in our budget now we will be able
to give every one of them the scholarship that AmeriCorps
volunteers get for their year of community service. Work with
your churches, work with your community organizations, and we can
provide that to young people. (Applause.)
Put them to work as mentors, as teachers, as
organizers of other volunteers, and we can double the number of
full-time youth volunteers by adding another 50,000. By the year
2000, that would mean that in eight years, more children will
have served full-time on our streets than have worked in the
entire history of the Peace Corps around the world. We can
change America, folks, if we'll do it together, hand in hand,
community by community. (Applause.)
The same thing is true of the police corps, which
offers young people a chance to pay for their college education
if they'll be police officers for four years. We can triple the
number of young people who do that, and I intend to try. We need
more young people going as teachers into our schools. And we
must support them in that.
We have to understand that we need a balance between
volunteers on a part-time basis, volunteers on a full-time basis,
and there is no conflict between the two. We have to understand
that we value America's free enterprise system, we know we need
our government, but there will never be a time when we need
citizen servants more than we need them today, because these
children have got to be saved one by one. (Applause.)
And let me say to all of you, the most important
people here today are not the Presidents or the General or the
governors or the senators. The most important people are those
who teach the student to read; who save the health of the infant;
who give help to families when all help seems gone. The most
important title today is not Senator, Vice President, General,
Governor or President. It is, as Harry Truman reminded us so
long ago, the most important title any of us will ever hold in
this country is the title of citizen.
This is our republic. Let us keep it. Thank you.
And now, I would like to call upon Mrs. Reagan and
my fellow Presidents to join me in signing this Summit
Declaration, "A Call to Citizen Service to Fulfill the Promise of
America." We do this in the hope that in the weeks and months to
come, millions and millions and millions of you will join us in
putting your names to the declaration, devoting your lives to the
mission and beginning the era of big citizenship for the United
Thank you and God bless you all. (Applause.)