For Immediate Release
April 27, 1997
11:05 A.M. EDT
GENERAL POWELL: Distinguished guests on the stand with me, ladies and gentlemen, I just want to say to you, it's good to have an army again. I love it! (Applause.)
And it's going to be a great army. Just look around at the uniforms of orange and blue and yellow. Look at us as Americans, white and black, all coming together here in Philadelphia, the birthplace of this great nation. (Applause.) We're coming together because we care. We're coming together because we're a compassionate people. We are coming together because we can look out across America and see problems that we can do something about.
We see young people in need, young people who are wondering, is there an American Dream for me; can I achieve my dream; can I achieve my ambition; will people help me; will somebody reach and lift me up? I wonder about that. And the answer we're going to give them is, yes, America cares. Each and every one of us cares. (Applause.)
This is not the time to say, are you substituting for government? This is not the time to ask, is there more that government should be doing or less that government should be doing? This is a time for each and every one of us to look into our own heart, to look into our own community, find someone who is in need, find someone who is wanting, find someone who is looking up to us, and for each and every one of us to reach down, to reach back, to reach across, to lift up a fellow American and put him on the road to success in this wonder country of ours. We can do it. (Applause.)
For those who say, how far can you get, the answer is, not sure yet. There are 15 million young Americans in need, and we should not be satisfied until we have touched the life of every one of those 15 million American youngsters. (Applause.)
How can we fail if we get this kind of an outpouring in Philadelphia -- an outpouring that will be repeated in cities and towns across this nation? This has to be a crusade, a campaign, an alliance that goes on for months and years into the future. How can we fail when we have the kind of commitment we see from our Presidents and our political leaders and our public spirited leaders and all the leaders in every institution of America? How can we fail when we live in a country as great as ours? How can we fail if we are a people as great as we are? We are Americans. We can make it happen. We will make it happen. We must make it happen. (Applause.)
And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to introduce someone who has been supportive of this effort from the very, very beginning and whose counsel I have used to great value over the last several weeks, and that is our distinguished Vice President of the United States -- Vice President Al Gore. (Applause.)
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Thank you. Thank you very much. Hello, Philadelphia! (Applause.) Are you ready for service? (Applause.) Well, thank you.
And, General Powell, I'm going to have the privilege of introducing you tomorrow, but I want to take this opportunity right here and now, at the beginning of this tremendous weekend that kicks off a dramatic national effort -- if I can be so presumptuous, I'd like to speak for the entire United States of America in saying to General Colin Powell, thank you for leading this effort on the ground, being a point man. We appreciate it. (Applause.)
Tipper and I are so honored to be here with President and Mrs. Clinton. And I'm going to say just a word about them in just a moment. We're honored to be here with President Bush, a former Commander-in-Chief and current paratrooper -- (applause) -- and Mrs. Bush. And we want to thank the two of you for your life long commitment to volunteerism and service and for your leadership on this occasion.
And you know, President and Mrs. Carter were introduced early as America's first volunteer couple. They have been out there with hammers and saws, and we appreciate your leadership here. (Applause.)
And to Alma Powell, to Governor Ridge and Mayor Rendell and Judge Midge Rendell, all the distinguished members of the congressional delegation, Senator Specter and Congressman Borski and Fattah and Foglietta, and Secretary Cisneros and, you know, President Ford is going to be here a little bit later. And I want to acknowledge the daughter of former President Johnson, Linda Johnson Robb, who is also here, and all of the others who have played a part in this event. (Applause.)
I'm not quite sure how I feel about being surrounded by all of this star power. It reminds me a little of when championship sports teams visit the White House, like the Bulls did a couple of weeks ago. Maybe the next team will be the Philadelphia Flyers. You can't tell. (Applause.)
But when events like that happen at the White House, they're really great, but not necessarily for me, because people go crazy and they're so excited, I just get brushed aside, pushed to the back of the room and, if I'm lucky, somebody will see me alone in the corner and say, "Excuse me, Al, can you take a picture of me and Michael Jordan?" (Laughter.) And I answer, "Of course, Mr. President." (Laughter.)
Tomorrow is a wonderful day, the start of something big. Thank all of you for being here to kick off and participate in this truly historic summit. I've been listening, as maybe some of you have, to the overwhelming chorus of approval from Americans that come from every part of our country to say now is the time. Let's do it. Let's put all the divisions behind us. Let's all pitch in -- black, white, brown, yellow, red, Democrat, Republican -- every ideological combination. (Applause.) This is a good thing.
You'll hear a few voices, both on the right and on the left, saying they don't like this or they don't like that. Well, all of the other debates ought to be put to one side because this means we're coming together as a nation to help those who need help. Regardless of what the government does. We're going to pitch in as individual Americans and do what we can. Right? (Applause.)
I want to say that President and Mrs. Clinton and Tipper and I have had occasion -- many occasions during the last four years to put on work clothes and rebuild a church, or paint houses, or build houses with President and Mrs. Carter, and volunteerism is goof for the soul and good for this country. President Clinton has tried to embody that spirit in the AmeriCorps program, in the America Reads program -- (applause) -- and there are all different kinds of volunteerism and they all do a lot of good if they're organized correctly.
This kickoff is the time when all of it is brought together. Let's make sure that this is not just a volunteerism summit, but the beginning of a volunteerism movement that continues from Philadelphia all across the United States of America. Let's do it! (Applause.)
GENERAL POWELL: And now, ladies and gentlemen, it's my great pleasure to introduce President Jimmy Carter. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT CARTER: Thank you. (Applause.) No one can come to Philadelphia, the birthplace of freedom and equality in this nation, without thinking about the last more than 200 years of evolution of our great country. We have people here from every nation on Earth, totally different. It's not a melting pot, it's kind of like a mosaic with different people looking different ways, but forming a beautiful picture. But the thing that is constant for all of us is twofold. One is a commitment to freedom, and the other one is a commitment to equality.
I don't think there's much doubt that in this country we do have freedom. But I don't think there's much doubt that in this country we do not yet have equality. (Applause.) In many ways, we have two Americas. We have two Philadelphias. We have two Atlantas. We have two Los Angeleses. One of them is a rich nation with a decent home in which to live, with fairly good health care and education and a job opportunity, and a belief that the police are on our side and that the judicial system is fair, and that if we make a decision, it will make a difference at least in our own lives. Those are the rich people. But we have a lot of neighbors who don't have any of those things.
This summit is designed to correct that problem in our great country. (Applause.) What can we do about it? You tell me -- what can we do about it? Volunteer, right? What can we do about it? Volunteer. If we want to have a lot of adventure in life, we can --
PRESIDENT CARTER: -- volunteer. If we want to do something that's unpredictable, we can --
PRESIDENT CARTER: -- volunteer. If we want to make new friends, we can --
PRESIDENT CARTER: -- volunteer. If we want to have a gratifying experience, we can --
PRESIDENT CARTER: -- volunteer. If you want to shed a few tears of joy and happiness, we can --
PRESIDENT CARTER: -- volunteer. That's what we're here for. Let's do it. (Applause.)
GENERAL POWELL: And now, ladies and gentlemen, it's my great pleasure to introduce my fellow paratrooper, President George Bush. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, Colin. Thank you all very much. President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton, and Mr. Vice President, and President Carter, and, of course, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs who's now setting such a great example, Colin Powell -- what a joy it is to be working with him again.
Barbara are thrilled to be here, really. And today, we're just Americans -- not Republican, not Democrat; not Jew or Gentile; not rich or poor; not black or white. Today, we are Americans united by a common commitment to our country and to our children -- most of all to the children. (Applause.) And we're here because we want to give something back -- give something back to this nation which has given us our freedom, and the generation that is our future.
And so we've come together in Philadelphia to invite our fellow citizens across this country to get involved in making your community, the whole country a better place to live.
And, of course, this morning I'm privileged to share this stage with a prestigious group of leaders, coming from the world of politics and religion and the military. But looking out here today, I see another group of leaders who are more important when it comes to volunteering and contributing in the community. And that is thousands of citizens who care. (Applause.)
If there's one message -- if there's one message for the people of this summit, I hope it's that you don't have to be a President to be a leader, and you don't have to be a First Lady to touch the life of someone else. Barbara likes to say, what happens in your house is more important than what happens in the White House. And she is absolutely right. (Applause.)
And, you know, when you look at problems we face as a nation, it would be easy to get discouraged. Too many kids are going to be hungry at night, can't read or don't have someone who cares for them. But when you realize that there isn't a problem we face in America that isn't being solved by somebody, someplace, then this is our call to action.
And such is the spirit of Philadelphia, epitomized by your enthusiastic Mayor. And today and tomorrow and Tuesday and beyond, there's something for each of us to do. And Barbara and I look forward to rolling up our sleeves and joining each of you in doing it -- in volunteering. Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)
GENERAL POWELL: Thank you very much, President Bush.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we put this summit together, we had the full support, encouragement, championship of our next speaker -- a man who has devoted his life to service and has been very, very aggressive in putting the mark of national service back on our national agenda. And he and his wife have a lifelong record of service to youth issues. It is now my great pleasure to present to you our President, President William Jefferson Clinton. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Good morning!
AUDIENCE: Good morning!
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Are you ready to go to work?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Are you warmed up?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Have you heard all the speeches you want to hear? (Applause.)
I want to just say -- let me say, first of all, how grateful I am to be here with all this people who have made this possible and with all of you. I thank the people of Philadelphia for being so good to me since 1992 and for being my friends and for giving me a chance to work with you to bring Philadelphia back. Thank you so much. (Applause.) I thank all your officials. I thank your wonderful Mayor.
General Powell told me when he retired from the United States Army as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the one thing he wanted to do more than anything else was to find a way to give every child in this country a chance at a good future, and I thank him for doing that. (Applause.)
I thank Colin and Alma. I thank George and Barbara Bush for their examples -- Mrs. Bush with her literacy program; President Bush for A Thousand Points of Light. (Applause.) I thank President and Mrs. Carter for caring about the children of this country, for the work they've done with Habitat for Humanity and for -- (applause) -- for going all over the world to rid the children of the world of dread diseases, to give them food to eat and a decent, humane place to grow up in. I thank all of you.
But let's face it. I want everybody to face it. Why are we here? We know that a lot of us would be doing a lot of this anyway. There are a lot of wonderful volunteers in America. Here's why we're here. This country has produced a lot of jobs in the last four years. The crime rate is going down, the welfare rolls are going down. But we're still losing too many kids to crime, to drugs, to not having a decent income in their home and to not having a bright future. And we're here because we don't think we have to put up with it, and we believe together we can change it. Isn't that right? (Applause.)
I'm here because I want the young people out here to grow up in an America that is even greater than the America I grew up in. That is the eternal dream and promise, and every one of you deserves that. I'm here because, frankly, I believe that as children of God, we can never fulfill our own ambitions until we help our brothers and sisters to fulfill theirs. (Applause.) our brothers and sisters to fulfill theirs. (Applause.)
I'm here because I want to redefine the meaning of citizenship in America. I want the children here, starting next week, and all over America -- if you're asked in school, what does it mean to be a good citizen, I want the answer to be, well, to be a good citizen, you have to obey the law, you've got to go to work or be in school, you've got to pay your taxes and, oh, yes, you have to serve in your community to help make it a better place. (Applause.)
And, General Powell, since we're going to keep this going and we all have to make an account of ourselves, I'll go first. Here's my commitment to you and your project.
In the next four years, the Department of Defense will mentor, tutor and teach one million children. (Applause.) In the next four years, the Department of Transportation and the private businesses who work with them will do that for one million more. (Applause.) We will adopt a total of 2,000 schools in the federal agencies of this country. (Applause.) We will find one million reading tutors in the America Reads program, to make sure every child can read independently by the 3rd grade. (Applause.) And our AmeriCorps volunteers will go across this country to recruit at least a dozen more volunteers for every one of them, to make sure that all of the items on your agenda succeed. That is our commitment. (Applause.)
Are you ready to keep your commitment?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: After today is over, do you promise to keep working tomorrow?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: And next year?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: And the year after that?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Until the job is done?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I promise. Say it!
AUDIENCE: I promise!
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Let's go to work. God bless you. (Applause.)
GENERAL POWELL: All right. The speeches are over. We've had a great morning, but now it's time to get to work. Remember what you've heard here today. Let's go out and take care of our fellow citizens. Let's be volunteers for a better America. Let's be prepared to serve. Let what's happening here today spread across the country to every city, to every town.
Are you ready to go, Philadelphia?
GENERAL POWELL: Well, we're going to get it on! And now I would ask Rabbi Fuchs to come forward and give us a benediction so that we can get on with our work.
11:37 A.M. EDT