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Martin Luther King Day Celebration remarks of the President

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                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                     January 15, 2001

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                  University of the District of Columbia
                                     Washington. D.C.

12:32 P.M. EST

          THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Normally, I don't think
Presidents should get awards.  But I believe I'll accept these, if it's all
the same to you.  (Applause.)

          I want to begin by saying that I'm delighted to be here at this
university, in this great hall, with all the people who are here on the
stage.  I brought something to Mayor Williams and to Representative Eleanor
Holmes Norton -- he mentioned that we signed the -- that we passed the
Southeast Federal Center bill to spur community development with a
public-private partnership on federal property.  At the time it passed we
weren't able to do a formal signing ceremony, so I brought Mayor Williams
and Eleanor Holmes Norton a copy of the bill and the pens I used to sign
it, and I'd like to give it to them now.  (Applause.)

          I want to thank the D.C. City Council Chair Linda Cropp, Kathy
Patterson and the other Council members who are here who helped to make my
stay in Washington, along with my family's, so wonderful.  I want to thank
Robi Beatty and Shirley Rivens Smith from the King Holiday Commission.  I'd
like to thank the people who are here from my administration, present and
former.  I want to thank Frank Raines, former Director of OMB, and Jack
Lew, or present Director, for all the work they did, along with the
indomitable Alice Rivlin, to make sure that the federal government became a
better partner for the District of Columbia in the allocation of our money.

          On this Martin Luther King holiday, I want to thank my friend of
almost 20 years, the Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, who is
always serving.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank the present head of the
Corporation of National Service and the person who started our national
service program, first Senator Harris Wofford, then Eli Segal.  Thank you
for bring AmeriCorps to life.  (Applause.)

          And I know we have AmeriCorps award winners and their families
here, and members and alumni.  Thank you for your service.  And thank you,
Nancy Rubin, for your support.

          I also am proud to announce on Eli Segal's birthday that under
the leadership of Nancy Rubin, a group of people are creating a new Eli
Segal AmeriCorps Award for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and I thank you for
that.  (Applause.)

          And I want to thank the members of the new D.C. Commission on
National and Community Service.  I just came from the kick-off and I swore
in the first community service volunteers -- swore in, not swore at --
(laughter) -- the first community service volunteers.  And we did some
painting -- and I can prove it because I've got paint on my pants and shoes
to show it -- (laughter) -- not the ones I'm wearing now.

          I want to thank Mayor Williams for this award and for what he
said about our common efforts to make this great city even greater.  It has
been a real honor for me to live and work in Washington these last eight
years.  I went to college here, and I worked here when I was a young man.
And I love this city.  I loved all of its neighborhoods.  (Applause.)  Even
when I was in college, I spent a lot of time in all the neighborhoods.  I
was a community service volunteer in Northeast Washington, when I was a
student at Georgetown.  (Applause.)  And one of the first things I did
after I got elected was to take a walk down Georgia Avenue.  It looks
better today than it did eight years ago, I might add.  (Applause.)

          And I'm very proud of the work that we have done.  I'm also --
you might be interested to know that when Hillary was elected to the Senate
and we had to find a place for her to live, she absolutely insisted on
living in the District of Columbia; she wanted to be here.  (Applause.)  So
I'll be back from time to time.  (Laughter.)

          AUDIENCE:  Don't go!  (Laughter.)

          THE PRESIDENT:  Don't say that.  (Laughter.)  I want you to know
that while I think we have done a reasonably good job these last few years
of relocating government functions and getting more funds to the District
of Columbia and getting some of the burdens off your back that should be
lifted, I believe that you should still have your votes in Congress and the
Senate.  (Applause.)  I think that, maybe even more important, you should
have the rights and powers and responsibilities that statehood carries.

          ("Reveille" is played on a bugle.)  (Laughter.)  We practiced
that for an hour yesterday.  How did we do?  (Laughter.)  We did great.
It's okay.  It's all right.  It was good.  I mean, it -- (laughter) -- you
know, look, I've only got five days left, it's hard to hold your interest.
So we did the best we could.  (Laughter and applause.)

          And I want you to know that the Secret Service delivered to me
this morning, so I get to ride around in it for five days, the newest
presidential limousine, which I might add is an enormous improvement in
terms of the workability of the inner space.  But we still have the license
plates on it that calls for D.C. statehood.  (Applause.)  So I hope you'll
keep working on that and keep making the case.

          Meanwhile, we have worked together to use federal resources to
help spark economic growth, housing development and job creation; over a
billion dollars in new tax incentives for businesses and home owners; $25
million to build the New York Avenue Metro station; $110 million for new
and better public housing in Anacostia; $17 million for the D.C. College
Access Act; 3,000 young people now taking advantage of that in its very
first year.  Congratulations.  (Applause.)  I want to thank all of you who
worked in the vineyards to make all these things happen.

          This is a day we celebrate not only the life, but the service of
Martin Luther King -- and not only the service of the famous, but the
service of those who are not known -- embodied in the famous statement of
Dr. King that everybody can be great because everybody can serve.  You
forget the rest of it -- "you only need a heart full of grace and a soul
generated by love."

          In 1992, when I ran for President, and Eleanor and I actually
jogged up Pennsylvania Avenue in the rain together, some people thought
that America had become so divided and cynical that somehow the spirit of
service was gone, especially among our young people.  I never believed
that.  Then I read all these articles about young people, this so-called
Generation X group and how self-absorbed and selfish they were.  I never
believed that.  I saw people serving together everywhere, and yearning to
be part of a higher calling.

          In 1993, in my Inaugural address, I challenged the American
people to a new season of service.  And I proposed national service
legislation to give young people in America the chance to serve in their
own communities or other communities across the country, and earn some
money for college while doing it.  Well, I think that what these young
people have done in the last seven years since we had the first AmeriCorps
class of 1994 has proved that what I saw eight years ago was right.  I'll
say more about that in a moment.

          In 1994, I signed the King Holiday and Service Act, sponsored by
then Senator Harris Wofford, and Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta who
worked with Dr. King.  They wanted to make this holiday a day on, not a day
off.  Today, as a result of what they did, hundreds of thousands of our
fellow citizens are serving in their communities today, including over a
thousand here in Washington.

          I've just come from the Greenleaf Senior Center, with some very
dedicated young people from four AmeriCorps projects including City Year, a
program that I found in Boston in 1991 that helped to inspire the creation
of the national service program we have today.  Today I swore in the first
new members of City Year here in Washington. D.C.  When I became President,
there were 100 of them around the country, 100 members; today there are
over 1,000 in 13 cities.  (Applause.)

          But listen to this.  When we created the AmeriCorps program in
1994, we wanted to give young people the chance to serve.  Obviously, we
didn't know how many people would do it.  The pay is modest; the
scholarship benefits are not inconsiderable, but they're not enormous.  But
listen to this.  Since the first class of volunteers in 1994, almost
200,000 men and women have participated, more than have served in the Peace
Corps in the 40 years since it was created.  (Applause.)

          I say that not to diminish the Peace Corps; I'm a huge supporter
of the Peace Corps.  We've dramatically increased enrollment there and I'd
like to see the Congress continue to do so.  But I just want to make a
point that people do want to serve in our communities, they do want to make
a difference.  (Applause.)  And today, the young people that I painted the
columns with over at the Greenleaf Community Center, three of them were
from the D.C. area, but one was a young woman from Seattle.  And the other
young AmeriCorps volunteers I swore in, they were from all over America.

          And that's the great thing about it.  You get all kinds of
people, all different races and ethnic groups and backgrounds and income
groups, coming together in all kinds of communities, dealing with all kinds
of other people.  And pretty soon, before you know it, you've got America
at its best just happening there at the grass roots level.  This is a big
deal.  And these 200,000 people have not only changed their own lives, but
the lives of millions and millions of other Americans.  We must continue to
do this.

          So far there have been 677 D.C. residents in AmeriCorps.  They've
earned a total -- listen to this -- of $2.5 million for college education.
(Applause.)  And I want to thank, by the way, since we're here, the
University of the District of Columbia, along with seven other of
Washington's colleges and universities for their participation in the
AmeriCorps Heads Up program.  AmeriCorps volunteers who are students here
work as reading and math tutors at Davis Elementary School in Benning
Heights, gaining valuable teaching experience.  And the young people they
are tutoring are gaining a head start on learning that will last a

          Citizen service changes people for the better.  I don't know how
many times I've heard volunteers in the classroom say they have learned
more than their students have.  And that makes every one of our young
volunteers a winner.  But today I want to congratulate some very special
ones, those who won this year's All-AmeriCorps Award -- 10 men and women,
selected for outstanding service to AmeriCorps.

          And I want to talk about it a little bit to try to illustrate
that this is not just about numbers.  Yes, we've got 200,000 people in
AmeriCorps in seven years of classes, more than 40 years in the Peace
Corps.  Yes, they've gone all across this country and had a transforming
effect.  But that's the key.  It's not the numbers, it's the impact.  The
adult literacy programs, the community learning centers, the volunteer
programs -- that these award winners are getting today are still going
strong, in some cases, years after their service has ended.

          One young woman is a former migrant worker, who used the skills
she learned in AmeriCorps to teach 2,400 farm workers about pesticide
safety.  One man has been elected mayor of the community in which he
served.  Shoot, I wish we would have had this around when I was a kid.

          Right here in Washington, Carey Hartin, started a diversity club
to help the many cultures at Roosevelt High School understand one another
better.  The kids in that club were so inspired, they went out and got a
grant to expand Carey's program to other D.C. schools.  Carey is now
studying for her masters in education and student teaching at Cardozo High
School.  (Applause.)  Where are you, Carey?  Stand up there, give her a
hand.  Good for you.  (Applause.)

          She also has with her today another success story, the young
woman who was the first President of Roosevelt High's Diversity Club, and
is now in college studying music education.  Stand up -- where are you?
Give her a hand.  (Applause.)

          Now I want all the award winners to stand up.  Let's give them
all a big hand.  Thank you all, and bless you.  (Applause.)

          Let me say, when you see their numbers you should multiply in
your head times 12, because studies show that every full-time AmeriCorps
volunteer generates on average a dozen more volunteers.  Now, all across
America, you should also know that 1 million students are doing public
service as a part of their school curriculum.  And I might say, I would
like to see every state in America follow the lead of the state of
Maryland, under Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and require
as a course community service as a condition of graduation from high
school.  I think it would be a very good thing.  (Applause.)

          The United Nations has named 2001 the International Year of
Volunteers.  Americans have a lot to be proud of on that score.  Our
citizens are volunteering more and giving more to charitable causes than
ever before.  And the most generous donors by percentage are families with
incomes of less than $10,000 a year.

          I came here today, on Martin Luther King's holiday, to talk about
citizen service and AmeriCorps because it is the embodiment of my dreams of
one America.  An America in which we not only tolerate, but respect and
even celebrate our differences, but in which we work together and live
together knowing that our common humanity is even more important.

          Part of Martin Luther King's dream was that somehow we would
learn to "work together, pray together, struggle together, go to jail
together, stand up for freedom together."  If I could leave America with
one wish as I depart office, it would be that we become more the one
America that we know we ought to be.

          Today I'm sending a message to Congress -- you can read about it
in the papers; I won't go through it all -- but it follows up on the work I
have done on this one America initiative over the last several years.  And
I wanted to basically inform the Congress and the incoming administration
about where we are in dealing with our racial issues, our opportunities and
our continuing difficulties; about what progress we have made in the last
eight years and what still needs to be done to build one America.

          I advocated some things that will doubtless be somewhat
controversial, but I have been working on them -- improvements in the
criminal justice system; restoring voting rights to people when they
complete their sentences, so they don't have to get a presidential pardon
-- (applause) -- a national election commission headed by President Ford
and Carter to look into why some Americans have so much difficulty voting
and how we can ever avoid -- always avoid having another election like the
last one, with all the controversies that we had there -- (applause) -- and
new steps forward in closing the disparities in health and education and
economic development.

          But what I want to say to you is that building one America is
like life -- it's a journey, not a destination.  And the main thing will
always be whether we're still making the trip.  Did any of you see the jazz
series on TV this week?  (Applause.)  It was fabulous, wasn't it?  My
favorite line in the whole thing -- my favorite line was uttered by that
great Washington, D.C. native, Duke Ellington.  When he was asked, what's
your favorite jazz tune, he said, "The one coming up."  (Laughter and

          Well, believe me, that's what I believe about our country.  I see
these young people, I see these volunteers, and it's been an honor for me
to serve.  It's been an honor for me to help make Washington stronger and
better.  But when somebody asks you what the best day is, think about these
young folks and say, the one coming up.

          Thank you very much, and God bless you.  (Applause.)

                            END         12:54 P.M. EST

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