THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release April 28, 1997
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT FORD, PRESIDENT BUSH AND PRESIDENT CLINTON AT LUNCHEON
Benjamin Franklin Ballroom Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1:05 P.M. EDT
GENERAL POWELL: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Ray, for those very generous words, but I've got to say to this audience that the two gentlemen you just saw, Ray Chambers and Stuart Shapiro, have been the real spark plugs behind this whole effort. It's my privilege to work with them and draw inspiration and energy from them.
This luncheon really is for two purposes: to celebrate the President's summit, but as Ray indicated, also to launch America's Promise. America's Promise is the follow-on program. And we'll say more about it a little bit later. But remember the words we've chosen -- America's promise. We're going to move away from commitments. We want you corporation leaders and nonprofit leaders and community leaders and individual Americans all over this land to make a promise to a child, make a promise that you will execute. And not just some bureaucratic commitment, but a promise.
And in the subtitle, "The Alliance for Youth" says we have a new enemy, and now we're creating a new great alliance to go after that enemy. And the enemy is the pathologies of the streets that are destroying our children -- indifference, fear among some of our youngsters that perhaps the American future isn't there for them. We're saying, yes, it is. We're making a promise to you that it is there. And we're creating an alliance to make it real for you.
And so, this is an exciting time in our nation's history. And it's going to be exciting for the next 24 hours, and I assure you for the months ahead.
We are very, very privileged to have enjoyed the support of our Presidents and our First Ladies. And it is my great privilege now to introduce one of them to you -- a man who gave us a most stirring set of remarks earlier today, and especially in that videotaped piece, President Gerald Ford. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT FORD: Thank you, Colin. (Applause.) Thank you. Won't you all sit down, please? Thank you very, very much. Thank you very, very much, Colin. Most regrettably, I could not be here last night. I understand a proper tribute was paid to George Romney, who was one of the initiators of the summit, along with Ray Chambers. I would be very remiss if I didn't make a comment about the role that George Romney had in initiating this summit.
I can recall very, very vividly his coming to my office in California not once, but several times. He was not only an outstanding governor of our state, George Romney was a totally dedicated person to the concept and the action of voluntary participation.
So, George, we all thank you for your contribution.
This morning in front of Independence Hall, where we had a magnificent gathering for a most outstanding cause, I couldn't help but think back 21 years ago on July 4, 1976, when this country celebrated its 200th birthday. I had the very high honor at that time to, first, that morning go to Valley Forge, and then to Independence Hall where we celebrated the Declaration of Independence, followed by the Tall Ship ceremony in New York Harbor. That was a magnificent day in the history of our country -- the dedication to freedom and liberty. It was a kickoff of a history of a country unparalleled in what's good about humanity.
But the meeting this morning gives us all an opportunity again at Independence Hall to show what we can do for the youth of America in the next decade. The goal of 2,000 by 2000, helping some 15 million young people, is a tremendous challenge. I hope and trust the coverage of our gathering this morning will inspire young people, adults and others to walk through that door Colin Powell has opened so they can participate in this tremendous effort to take our youth, so they can become the kind of leaders that we want for the next century.
So it's a high honor and a rare privilege for me to join President Clinton, President Bush, President Carter and others in kicking off this tremendous effort. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)
And now, it's a very special honor for me to introduce a long time very, very dear friend of my wife Betty and myself, the 41st President of the United States, George Bush. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, Gerry. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you all -- Mr. President, Hillary, distinguished guests. Thank you, President Ford. I can now call him Gerry. I called him "sir" for all the years we served in the Congress, and then when he became President even better than that.
Looking out at this group, I refuse to give advice to all the leaders assembled here. Remember when President Kennedy went to the group of business guys? He said, "If I weren't President, I'd be buying stocks right now." A guy in the back said, yes, "If you weren't President, I'd be buying stocks right now." (Laughter.) So I'm not going to give any advice to this crowd.
Seeing Tipper and the Vice President here, I remember getting advice from my mother once right after a State of the Union message. President Reagan was speaking and I get home to the V.P. house; phone rings; it's mother, who gave me advice until the day she died. And said, "George, I watched the State of the Union message, and I noticed that during the message, you were talking to Tip O'Neill." (Laughter.) I said, "He started it." (Laughter.)
So, you might say, what is that apropos of? Nothing, I know I messed up last night, and I'd like to blame the TelePrompTer guy, except everybody did it well with that TelePrompter Man. (Laughter.) So I will simply say, thank you to those who I know did a lot, and in doing this, I'm going to risk forgetting a lot of people here. I'm going to forget a lot of people which I shouldn't.
Of course, Colin, my friend and pal, with whom I was so proud to serve and who really has given of his heart. You know, you read all the political stuff and all of that -- this comes from his gut, from his heart. And I know it and I've been around him a lot and I have great respect. And if you don't believe he's been committed, ask Alma; she hasn't seen him in months. (Laughter.)
So, no, but he's wonderful. And Colonel Smullen (phonetic), who works with him, unsung guy behind the scenes with whom my office has worked, I want to thank him. Ray Chambers you've heard about. Ray is an inspiration. I'm getting along in years, and I've got several inspirations yet to come, I'm sure; but one of them is Ray Chambers. He came up to see me early on up in Maine. We talked about all of this, and then he delivered. Active, busy in business and all, he's just carved out an awful lot of his life to helping other people -- long before this summit, I might add. And we owe him a vote of thanks.
And, of course, Stewart Shapiro, perhaps the unsung hero of all of this who we heard from in the beginning. And then Marion Heard and Bob Goodwin.
Harris Wofford, I hadn't known. But President Clinton, you chose a good one when you picked him. He has been fantastic and he's just done a great job for all of us. (Applause.)
And there are many others -- there are many others. I hope you would excuse me if I single out Gregg Petersmeyer, who if I ever got forgetful about this concept of A Thousand Points of Light when I was in the White House, Gregg was my conscience, and he did a great job for us. So I know I'm leaving out some, but I want to say thanks to all. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I've had a great time here and I want to thank all of you for being so patient while I lumber around with my temporary disability. Can you imagine how bad I would look if I had actually jumped out of an airplane? (Laughter.)
I'm looking forward to not being President. You know, if I can jump out of an airplane and look like Jerry Ford does in 30 years, I'll be one happy guy. That's a great thing. (Applause.)
I want to thank President Bush for all of the people that he mentioned and thanking them -- I join with that. And especially Ray Chambers and Stewart Shapiro and General Powell for their extraordinary efforts.
I'd also like to thank the leaders of the corporate and nonprofit sector who are here today, including my longtime friend, Millard Fuller, Bob Allen, Doug Watson and Gerry Greenwald and so many others. We've all been washed in the warm glow of lots of words and music and the powerful examples, and I must say I will live with the stories that the young people told last night at that event for the rest of my life.
I would just like to make two points here, because I really want this to make a difference. I think there are two keys to whether when people look back on this moment 10 years from now, they say these people really did something special, they changed America. The first is what General Powell and Ray Chambers and others are doing with the follow-up on America's promise. And everything you can do to support that, you should, making those promises. We're going to try to do our part.
I said yesterday that the Department of Defense will tutor or teach a million children in the next four years. The Department of Transportation and the contractors with whom it works have committed to reach another million kids with tutoring or teaching. We are going to go from 1,500 to 2,000 schools we've adopted.
Going back to what Eli said -- we'll have more to say about that later -- we're going to hire 10,000 people to move from welfare to work so they can support their children better. We're going to try to extend health insurance to 5 million kids and try to at least make the first two years of college as available as a high school education is today. We'll try to do our part, and we'll try to do it in very personal ways.
The last Christmas and the last birthday I had were some of the best I ever had in my life because my gift from the White House staff was a notebook of personal pledges for community service. My Secret Service detail adopted a junior high school in Washington, D.C., where those young people are getting the role models that they need. We'll try to do our part.
And the follow-up -- one reason I wanted to do this summit so badly was that I thought we could find a completely nonpartisan way to embrace this issue, and then I knew I could trust Colin Powell and Ray Chambers and the others to do good follow-up. That's the first thing.
Here's the second thing. Let me just tell you a brief story. Before I came to Philadelphia I asked a man in Washington, D.C., named Kent Amos, a lot of you know, to come in and see me. I met him when my friend Ron Brown died in a plane crash and he was Ron's next-door neighbor. And a lot of you know he and his wife, Carmen, kind of got into this volunteer work by just taking in kids that their children went to school with who came from dysfunctional backgrounds. And they wound up having 20 or more at a time that were, in effect, living with them. And now, he's tried to take the model that he -- I thought he perfected in his own home and kind of take it into neighborhoods and communities.
But I asked him to come see me. And I said, what do you want me to do now? What can I do to help you and what do we have to do now? He said, go to that summit and tell them the breakout sessions are the most important thing that's going to occur, because unless every community gets organized, community by community, we will not have the maximum benefit of this. Because, essentially, the problem is we have an unacceptably high percentage of people living in dysfunctional environments. And you can do a number of good things for them sporadically, but until you completely change the environment, we won't have the success rate we need.
That's essentially what General Powell said in our last conversation before he took his uniform off -- that all the troubled young people that he knew who came into the military had had -- had gone from whatever dysfunctional environment they had into a completely functional environment. Now, you can't guarantee that, any of you individually. But, collectively, community by community, we can. So, in that sense, the governors and the mayors who are here are profoundly important people. And the people who run community-based nonprofits are important people.
But the only other thing I would say is, let's really pay attention to these breakout sessions, and let's promise ourselves that in addition to running up the numbers that we all promised -- and since I've got a big organization, I can promise big numbers -- but we're, honest to goodness, going to promise ourselves that we will try to change the culture in these communities from dysfunctional environments to functional ones. You saw these kids. They're great. They're going to make it. They're going to do just fine if we just give them what they need in a systematic way, place by place.
Thank you and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 1:26 P.M. EDT