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Public Papers - 1989 - October

Remarks to Participants in the Prime Time To End Hunger Campaign

1989-10-25

Polly, thank you very much. What we want to do is get out and hear you, so it works out just perfectly. And I'm just so pleased you're here. Good afternoon and welcome to the White House. Polly referred to it, but we've got these stars from some of the most popular shows on television: ``thirtysomething,'' ``Roseanne,'' ``Head of the Class,'' ``Mr. Belvedere,'' and ``Knots Landing.'' And you represent a combined market share that any politician would envy. [Laughter] And there are plenty of top people from the networks here: Warren Littlefield, NBC; Philip Beuth, ABC; Peter Tortorici, CBS; George Bush, USA. [Laughter]

The serious fact is that, through your shows, all of you reach millions. And there is a lot of power in that. Think about the commercials that stick in our minds, the shows we watch every week and we'll never forget, and the way what happens on the screen can sometimes change our lives.

One story -- you may have heard it -- about the hit show ``Happy Days.'' The star of that show, the Fonz, was certainly not a fellow who led the life of the mind. But in one episode, in order to impress a potential girlfriend, the Fonz hit on a way to cultivate a more intellectual image. He took out a library card. There were quite a few Fonz watchers out there, and the first few weeks after that show, there was a 500-percent increase in the number of young people taking out library cards across the country. And that is just one small manifestation of the power of TV.

It's time -- prime time -- to end hunger and drug abuse and homelessness, as Polly was talking about. And that's why this new effort has such enormous potential. For the first time ever, NBC and CBS and ABC have joined forces. And you couldn't have chosen a worthier project than a campaign promoting community service. This past summer when I announced my Points of Light community service initiative, I said that my aim was to make community service central to the life and work of every individual and every institution in America, from the largest corporations right down to the neighborhood softball team.

Let me say today that network television is one institution that is really taking this challenge to heart. The days when TV and the movies glorified violence and drugs and crime are fading. And in place of these negative images, we're seeing a more positive message of caring, of compassion, and of hope. Prime Time to End Hunger is just the kind of media initiative that I'm talking about. Whether it's hunger or one of the many other challenges that faces us today, you're reaching out to help other people in need. And the first 3 weeks of December you're going to tackle some of our nation's most serious problems: hunger, homelessness, illiteracy, drug abuse. And we all know television can do more than entertain: it can educate. And your programs can help shape the way each of us thinks about the least fortunate among us.

Television provides a window into the homes of millions of Americans every single night. And all of you are part of this force that's shaping -- helping shape -- a new generation. From the comfort of our homes and the company of our families, your shows are going to make us think, and think hard, about people who are hungry, homeless, those without hope -- and how we can help them. That's a service to every community across America, a service of the highest kind. And I know you've heard me say many times before that from now on in America, any definition of a successful life must include serving others. Well, these shows can be catalysts to greater community involvement, shows that convince each person who is watching -- everyone -- that they've got what it takes to reach out and to help someone in need. I know this is one time we all hope that life will imitate art.

Today, I want to thank you and everyone associated with your programs and the Prime Time to End Hunger Network. You've got a message that we've got to get out to all Americans. And I wish you the best, and I hope that every TV set in America is tuned in to your shows those first 3 weeks in December. Thank you for your outstanding commitment, and God bless you all. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:14 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Polly Draper of ``thirtysomething''; Warren Littlefield, executive vice president, prime time programming, NBC; Philip R. Beuth, vice president and executive producer, morning programming, ABC; and Peter Tortorici, vice president, planning and scheduling, CBS.

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