THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Little Rock, Arkansas) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release January 24, 1999
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE LOCAL COMMUNITY Parking Lot of Harvest Foods Little Rock, Arkansas
1:10 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, James Lee. Ladies and gentlemen, let me thank you for coming out today. I want to thank Governor Huckabee for his response to this terrible, terrible tornado, and Mrs. Huckabee. I thank them for joining us on this walking tour today and welcoming me back to the Governor's Mansion. It's still -- it's very beautiful inside and it's had a little radical surgery in the backyard, as I'm sure that a lot of you have seen.
I thank Secretary Slater, the Secretary of Transportation; also, obviously, our native Arkansan, for coming down here with me. And they will be helping us on the rebuilding. I thank Congressman Snyder and Congressman Marion Berry from East Arkansas, who has had some communities hit; and representatives of our other congressional offices who are here today. And Lt. Governor Rockefeller, Attorney General Pryor, Secretary of State Priest, Treasury Jimmy Lou Fisher -- I thank all of them for being here.
And I want to thank Mayor Pat Hays for coming across the river and lending a friendly, neighborly hand. James Lee Witt's regional director here is Buddy Young, who lives in Texas and who, as many of you know, was in the Arkansas State Police for many years before that.
This is a tragedy we all take very personally. When I was -- I got out this morning at 25th and Gaines and sort of wended my way down Arch and Spring toward the Governor's Mansion. And I thought about how many hundreds of times I had run on those streets. And all these folks kept coming out and said, the last time I saw you you were running by here. And I had a roof on my house.
And then we went over -- we crossed Roosevelt and went down toward Martin Luther King Drive and saw a lot of those homes, large numbers of homes have been completely destroyed there. And I just wanted to say to you because Arkansas always had a lot of tornadoes and two huge floods when I was Governor, I asked James Lee Witt to run the National Federal Emergency Management Agency so that it would not be political and so that it would be competent, professional and highly personal. And we've dealt with everything from a 500-year flood along the Mississippi River to a massive earthquake in California, and all kinds of other natural disasters. This is a trip, I'm sure -- I know I, and I'm sure both James Lee and Rodney never wanted to have to make.
I'd like to give a word of personal encouragement to my former neighbors up here in the Quapaw Quarter not to give up on it. I hope everyone who possibly can will rebuild those homes -- (applause) -- will rebuild the homes, fix the roofs, re-plant the trees and keep the spirit of the place alive. And I want to say to the folks in all the counties in the state -- and I've got a list that includes not only Pulaski, but also Independence, St. Francis, Saline and White Counties -- we've already declared individual and local governments eligible for assistance there. The state has been declared a disaster area as more counties may become specifically eligible. I want to encourage all of them, as well.
These things happen, as Governor Huckabee reminded me, that Arkansas had the largest number of tornadoes in one day moving through here the other day that have ever been recorded. And we grieve for the loss of life.
I'd like to say, especially, that this is a landmark for me, this store here. And I'm so glad that the people who own it are going to rebuild it, because it used to be our family store. And Hillary and Chelsea and I used to come down here. We think of the fine pharmacist here who lost his life, and the others here in Arkansas. And when we survey the scope of the devastation, I think we can all be grateful to God that the loss has not been greater.
And so this is a day when the sun is out, and a lot of people have offered their helping hands. I want to thank these young people from the AmeriCorps program, our national service program, for being here. They've come in to help. We're glad to see them. (Applause.)
And so I ask you to redouble your resolve, and help your neighbors. And we'll do everything we can to be good neighbors. Thank you, and God bless you. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 1:15 P.M. CST