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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                      (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
For Immediate Release                                     April 27, 1997     
                     THE PRESIDENT AND MRS. BUSH IN 
                            PRESENTATION OF
                       PRESIDENT'S SERVICE AWARDS
                   Exhibit Hall A, Convention Center
                       Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

9:10 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I like that version of "Hail To The Chief." Maybe the Marine Band could pick it up. (Laughter.)

Ladies and gentlemen, these President's Service Awards are traditionally presented at the White House every year, but Hillary and I are profoundly honored to be here this evening with President and Mrs. Bush, General Powell and all others who are part of this very important ceremony.

As all of you know, we're here along with President Ford, President and Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Reagan, here in Philadelphia where our great democracy began, for the first President's Summit for America's future -- to mobilize every community and challenge every citizen; to give our young people a chance to live up to their God-given potential; and to ask our young people to become citizen servants, too.

So tonight we're going to give these awards, very appropriately, in the categories that have been set out for the challenge to America, the categories that General Powell talked about in his moving opening remarks. And I'm going to have the honor of recognizing the caring adults. I'm pleased to be joined tonight by a man who has dedicated his entire life to meeting the challenge of service, Harris Wofford. (Applause.)

MR. WOFFORD: Thank you, Mr. President, and I salute you and Mrs. Clinton for all you have done to bring out the best in America through national service, student service, senior service, citizen service, and to define this new era of ours as the era of big citizens.

Now, in order to achieve the promise of America, we must go forth from this place here inspired by these award winners, like Olympic torch-carriers, and carry the challenge they have given to us here to our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities, from sea to shining sea. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: You know, you might have guessed that before he headed our nation's citizens service effort and the Corporation for National Service, Harris Wofford was in politics -- (laughter) -- the Senator from Pennsylvania. (Applause.) But before that, he was a college president; before that, a founder of the Peace Corps; a top aide to President Kennedy; a friend and ally of Dr. Martin Luther King. Hardly any American living today better personifies citizens service than Harris Wofford, and I thank him for that. (Applause.)

As I said, we begin by recognizing that every single child needs a caring adult in his or her life to teach and guide them. Every child needs to know that he or she is profoundly important to some grownup.

The three Americans we honor now have devoted themselves to meeting this challenge. Marjorie Klein knows that parents are our children's first teachers, and she's doing everything she can to help them. At 20 inner-city schools throughout the Philadelphia area, PACT, or Parents And Children Together, the organization Marjorie founded, brings parents into the classroom to read to the children and to help their children learn to read. At the same time, parents can improve their own literacy and tutoring skills, and they can even earn college credit.

We salute Marjorie Klein and PACT for their tremendous commitment to families and our children.

(The award was presented.) (Applause.)

Earl Phelan deeply believes that mentoring is the key to young people's success. Through B.E.L.L., or Building Enterprises for Learning and Living, the organization he helped to found, he has given hundred of African American young adults the chance to be role models and tutors to inner-city elementary school students throughout the greater Boston area. Under their tutelage those children are thriving, their futures are brighter and therefore so are ours.

Tonight we honor Earl Phelan for his remarkable contribution to our American community.

(The award was presented.) (Applause.)

Pat Esparza learned early in life that confidence and pride can make all the difference to a young girl's future. A single mother of three by the age of 19, she worked her way through school and devoted herself to helping at-risk girls. She founded Las Mariposas as a dance studio, but for the people of El Paso, Texas, it is a community treasure. At Las Mariposas hundreds of young girls have learned to dance and to value themselves and their culture.

We honor Pat for giving the young girls of her community the confidence and pride they need to succeed in life. Congratulations.

(The award was presented.) (Applause.)

All of them have helped to make sure that more of our young people do, in fact, have a caring adult to give them the support they need to build positive futures. Your work is an inspiration to all of us. I thank you for doing it and I hope all of us will now be more willing to follow your lead. God bless you. (Applause.)

MRS. BUSH: All Americans hope and dream the best for our children. Every mother sees her child as marvelously gifted. And as watch them grow we wonder how these wonderful, unique qualities that we see in each of them will flourish. I remember thinking many years ago, maybe one of them would grow up to be a governor. (Laughter and applause.)

At the very least, we want our children to become independent, self-sufficient adults. We want our children to be able to support themselves, hopefully in a job that they really like. That's why every American child's access to marketable skills is one of the principles of the summit.

Right now, unless we all get involved, millions of our children are unlikely to require even the most basic of skills. And it's probably not too much of a surprise to you that in my opinion -- you're a little fast for me -- (laughter) -- I can't believe I'm doing this -- (laughter) -- the key to every skill is the ability to read and comprehend. (Applause.)

You know, one of our children had a learning disability which made reading very difficult. Thanks to some wonderful teachers, loving support from his parents and a determined young boy who worked twice as hard as anyone else, he learned to read and went on to earn a master's degree. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to the superb teachers we did. We need more teachers in our classrooms. And we need to allow them to teach. (Applause.)

We also need more literacy volunteers to help children and adults alike who are struggling to learn how to read and write. The best place of all, of course, to volunteer is in our own homes. We are, after all, our children's first teachers and the home is their first school. Read to your children every single day. (Applause.) There's nothing more important you can do to help prepare them for a life-long love of reading and learning. Sharing a book is also a wonderful way to spend quality time with your children.

Now, joining me to honor the winner's of the President's Service Award is a literacy volunteer who also happens to be one of all of our favorite actors, a decent and fine man and a friend, John Travolta. (Applause.)

MRS. BUSH: John, since you're a lot more familiar with award ceremonies than I am, would you begin?

MR. TRAVOLTA: Well, why not. Careers through Culinary Arts has helped thousands of students to make the transition from school to work and the food service in hospitality industries. For space, C-CAP depends on cooperation of school boards. For funds and equipment it depends on corporate sponsors. But the one thing it can always count on is the eagerness of kids to acquire a marketable skill. We recognize Richard Grausman.

MRS. BUSH: Right there.

(The award was presented.) (Applause.)

MRS. BUSH: Eight years ago, a group of employees of Lockheed Martin Vought Systems in Grand Prairie, Texas, decided to make a difference. They called themselves the In-Unity Incorporation, and began by tutoring 3rd graders at South Dallas School. Their numbers grew to include people from all walks of life and they were soon providing schools with pens, paper, notebooks and all the practical tools of the learning trade. Now they are mentoring college students, as well.

From In-Unity, Monroe Mays (phonetic). Congratulations. (The award was presented.) (Applause.)

MR. TRAVOLTA: Six years ago, the volunteer members of a program called Art Start began offering children in New York City's homeless shelters the opportunity to experience the creative process. Volunteers took kids on field trips to the city's museums and other cultural centers.

Today, Art Start also reaches out to hundreds at-risk highschoolers, challenging them to communicate and to shape their visions with all of us. Art Starts founder is painter and photographer Scott Rosenberg.

(The award was presented.) (Applause.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you very much. Well, thanks. I'd tell you about the parachute jump, but -- (laughter) -- as Dana Carvey would say, "Not going to do it, wouldn't be prudent." So let me -- (laughter and applause.) I just faked out the TelePrompTer, it went dead. I'm dead. Listen -- (laughter) -- I've been up here -- you know how I feel about volunteerism. And you know the respect I have for those who are one of A Thousand Points of Light. And you know the respect I have for George Romney, whose picture was on here earlier. So let me just say, I am very pleased to be one of the presenters of the Service Awards.

And joining me tonight to do just that is one of the great stars and one of the most wonderful ladies I know, Brooke Shields Agassi. We love her, and she's here to join me in presenting these awards. (Applause.)

MS. SHIELD: Five years ago, her church, the 100-year-old First Presbyterian, was considering moving out of the rundown Argenta section of North Little Rock, Arkansas. But Carolyn Ringer convinced the church and a 200-member volunteer boosters club that it was much better to revitalize than it was to run. So today, with the renovated homes and safer streets and the church itself as a center for the community, and all activities in the community, people are once again very proud to say that they're from Argenta.

             So, everyone, please welcome Carolyn Ringer.
             (The award was presented.) (Applause.)
             PRESIDENT BUSH:  The youth program of the Union Temple

Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. reaches out with a meals program, with residential care, with counseling and job training to all young people in its community. And every young person who is fortunate enough to be a member of the church have the obligation and the privilege to participate from Union Temple, Lamont B. Mitchell. Lamont. Congratulations, sir.

(The award was presented.) (Applause.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: Not least among the organizations that are giving back to their communities are America's unions, working men and women. The Livingston-McLean County Building Trades Council in Bloomington, Illinois, in cooperation with the local Children's Foundation, have donated countless hours to constructing safe places for children. It includes a youth center and a terrific new park, which is called The Poetry Place. Here, representing the Building Trades Council, is John Penn. Congratulations, John.

(The award was presented.) (Applause.)

MRS. CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you, Oprah, and thank all of you for gathering here in support of this summit and, more importantly, in support of the summit's goals. I am very pleased that one of the summit's goals is to ensure that every American child has a healthy start. And that is something that all of us should be committed to. And that means many different things. It means, yes, guaranteeing insofar as we can that every family has access to quality, affordable health care for their children. (Applause.) And, that cannot be just left to the government and to the medical professionals.

There is a role for many of us to play. We can, for instance, make sure that our communities are free from environmental hazards, toxic waste dumps, areas where children and their families may possibly become sick or be injured. We can work to be sure that every pregnant woman has the prenatal care she needs and the support she requires to be a good mother. (Applause.)

We can work to make sure that every child is immunized, and we've made a lot of progress but we still have a way to go. And we can be sure that every child has access to the well child care and to the emergency care that we take for granted for our own children.

There are ways that we can enlist the volunteer spirit and the hard work that is necessary to reach out to every family so that in this area, which is so difficult for families to handle on their own, that when they have a sick child, when they face the terrible dilemma that many of us face of a child has been injured or come down with an illness, that there will be help. And that help will not just be in the finest medical care, but in a volunteer to sit by the bedside, to relieve the family, to provide that extra bit of nurturing and loving that families need in crisis.

So we are going to honor tonight and then make a commitment after this summit to do what we can in our own ways to ensure that healthy start for every child. And joining me to present the awards for people who are already doing that in their communities is Rob Reiner, who had committed himself to making it possible for every American to be aware of the new scientific evidence about what happens in the first three years of life so that we also can be helping our babies off to a good start by giving them the stimulation and the nurturing they need.

So I would like to ask Rob Reiner to join me for the presentation of these next awards. (Applause.)

MRS. CLINTON: Well, in Fayette County, Kentucky, Baby Health Service has been providing infant formula to those in need since 1914. But growing children have growing needs, and 16 percent of the children in that county have no health insurance whatsoever. So the service has shifted its focus to health care. And last year, 70 volunteers provided free immunizations, checkups and medication to 3,000 children.

Accepting the President's Service Award on behalf of the volunteer physicians is Alice Burkhart.

(The award was presented.) (Applause.)

MR. REINER: Spousal abuse is something that happens, as the news has finally made us all too well aware. In Glendale, Arizona, there is New Beginnings, a transitional home for abused women and their children. It provides not only safety, shelter and educational opportunities for the mothers, but most importantly, it keeps families together while they prepare to make a new start in life.

Here's New Beginnings founder, Cindy Silverman.

(The award was presented.) (Applause.)

MRS. CLINTON: Kids One, Inc. in Santa Rosa, California promotes just one essential issue -- child safety. Galvanized by the Polly Klaas tragedy, which proved that unspeakable horror can happen anywhere, Kids One is teaching kids and parents never to take safety for granted. With the support of community organizations and businesses, Kids One educates and saves precious lives. Its founder is Elizabeth Ecke.

(The award was presented.) (Applause.)

MR. REINER: Twelve years ago, he was still an intern at Miami Hospital. Dr. Pedro Jose Greer, Jr. led teams of young doctors into the streets to make house calls to the homeless. Today, his Camillus health concern is one of the largest providers of medical care for the poor in Florida. He still makes his rounds, visiting his patients under the bridges and overpasses, in the abandoned buildings and decayed lots of Dade County. Here is Dr. Pedro Jose Greer, Jr.

(The award was presented.) (Applause.)

MRS. CLINTON: These are just four of the many examples that could be up here on this stage of people who are combining their professional expertise, their volunteer spirit to meet the needs of our families and our children who have health care requirements that are otherwise going to be unmet. And so, they should serve as a shining example to all of us to look for ways we can give every American child a healthy start. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you, Patti LaBelle, for giving us all a second wind. (Laughter.) I want to apologize to all of you for having to spend so much time tonight watching me walk up and down stairs. But, as you know, I need the practice. (Laughter.)

I want to say that this last award in some ways may be the most important, because we're recognizing young people who, themselves, are serving in an extraordinary way. And one of the elements of this summit is the proposition that every young person should serve, and that, in so doing, we hope to expand the definition of what it means to be a good citizen in this country so that when we ask young people in years to come, what does it really mean to be a good American, they'll say, well, you have to be in school or work, you have to obey the law, and you have to serve.

I'm joined now on stage by a young public servant, Jahi Davis, an AmeriCorps volunteer from North Philadelphia. (Applause.) Like a lot of high school students, this young man paid more attention to his social life than to his future. Then he nearly lost his life in a serious accident. He says now he wouldn't have finished high school without the guidance of a tutor who helped him keep his grades up while he was in the hospital.

When he recovered, he decided to do for others what had been done for him. He joined AmeriCorps in 1995, and since then, he has tutored children, started a mentoring program in his own neighborhood, and rehabilitated houses for low income families. He's planning to attend Temple University, where I know he'll continue to give back. Please welcome him up here with me. (Applause.)

When 21-year-old Na'Taki Osborne learned that Carver Hills, Georgia, a low-income African American community, was the most environmentally polluted area in Fulton County, she didn't just become concerned, she got involved. She got 200 community volunteers involved, too. And together, they spent hundreds of hours cleaning up Carver Hills, making it a safer and more beautiful place for the entire community to enjoy.

Thank you, Na'Taki Yatascha Osborne, for caring enough to change your community for the better.

(The award was presented.) (Applause.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Amber Lynn Coffman is only 15 years old, but she's been volunteering to help disadvantaged people since she was eight. Her mother taught her that even one person can make a real difference, and for most of her still-young life, she has tried to be that one person and to encourage her friends and schoolmates to do the same.

Working together as a group called Happy Helpers, they make over 600 box lunches every week for the homeless and the hungry. Thank you, Amber Lynn, for your wonderful commitment to your community. (Applause.)

Across America, more and more businesses believe that good citizenship is also good business. More and more, they're encouraging their employees to give something back. Target Stores is a perfect example. Through the Family Matters Program, started by Points of Light, Target Stores is the first national company to involve its employees and their families in community service.

Last year, nearly 5,000 Target employees and their families volunteered. Working alongside their parents, young people learned firsthand about the importance and the joy of giving back. We thank Target Stores for helping so many young children start early on a lifetime of service.

With us tonight to represent Target is Julie Hennessy (phonetic).

(The award was presented.) (Applause.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON: As Oprah said earlier, the 16 award winners with us tonight represent volunteers all over our country who are committed to helping us all build a better and stronger future. In honoring their contributions, we celebrate the spirit of service that has sustained America in times of trouble and united us with common hopes and dreams.

At the dawn of a new century, let us all resolve to join hands to do it more. Remember what this summit is all about. These people were doing all this before we gathered. Ninety-three million Americans already volunteer. What we're saying is that in every community in America, more people must do it in a systematic way and everyone must do it if America is going to have the future it deserves and our children are going to all be like those whom we honor here tonight.

Thank you and God bless you all. (Applause.)

END 11:26 P.M. EDT