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Public Papers - 1990 - February

Remarks on Signing the American Red Cross Month Proclamation


Thank you very much, Chairman Moody, and all of you, ladies and gentlemen. It's a great pleasure for me -- long drive over -- [laughter] -- but I'm willing to make the sacrifice. [Laughter] Literally, it took us about 30 seconds. But what a pleasure to address the Red Cross. One reason is that if my speech is a disaster, relief is close at hand. [Laughter] Moreover, you prove what Emerson said: ``The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.''

Seventy-seven years ago it was, William Howard Taft began a great and generous tradition. And since then, every President has been privileged, as I am, to serve as American Red Cross Honorary Chairman and, since 1943, to proclaim March as American Red Cross Month.

To Franklin Roosevelt, the Red Cross embraced in its membership all races and creeds. To Dwight Eisenhower, it mirrored the warm heart of a free people. And another great President, Ronald Reagan, rightly observed that the Red Cross volunteers have proved equal to the challenges of the times. This spirit is crystallized in the three windows beside me, windows commissioned by the Red Cross in 1917, which represent the theme of ministry through sacrifice. These windows tell the Red Cross story, from collecting blood to combating disaster, and what this has meant to Americans and people throughout the world for generations.

Let me tell a story which illustrates that meaning. It's about a violent winter snowstorm and a remote mountain cabin all but covered by snowdrifts. I'm afraid most Red Cross volunteers have heard it. A Red Cross rescue team was carried by helicopter to these snowdrifts, within a mile of the cabin, and then struggled to the cabin, shoveling a path through the snow. Finally arriving at the door, the lead rescuer knocked. It was opened by a crusty mountaineer. ``We're from the Red Cross,'' the rescuer explained. To which the mountaineer responded by scratching his head. ``Well, it's been a right tough winter,'' he said at last. ``I don't see how we can give anything this year.'' [Laughter]

A few moments later, obviously, the mountaineer got the message that rescue team was there to help. Just as for millions of people in need, from that snowbound mountaineer to families made homeless by floods and hurricanes, the Red Cross is what I like to refer to as a brilliant point of light, part of that vast galaxy of individuals, businesses, schools, churches, synagogues, voluntary associations working together to solve problems.

A point of light, a star of hope across the globe -- for 109 years that star has shone anytime there has been a need, anywhere there is a need. And today it dazzles still, in 2,800 chapters, in thousands of towns and cities and at our military bases around the world, providing light at the end of the tunnel, a rainbow through the clouds.

Look, first, here at home. When forest fires seared the State of Michigan in 1881, or the Dust Bowl ravaged lives, the Red Cross star of light, if you will, helped millions of people. And that legacy continues from Hurricane Hugo in South Carolina to the earthquake in north California. Through CPR, AIDS education, and programs for the elderly, the Red Cross star casts a glow of love and caring, showing that any definition of a successful life must include serving others.

And look around the world. In the late 1800's, the Red Cross sent food and medical supplies to a starving Russia, and since then, has served from San Juan Hill to Hamburger Hill. In 1987, 1,200 Red Cross volunteers assisted when the tiny country of Bangladesh suffered from floods. In 1988, you sent the first international disaster relief to the Soviet Union in 65 years. And today, just take a look at Eastern Europe, where you're providing emergency food, clothing, and medical aid to new refugees. These efforts prove anew that a world without the Red Cross would be a terrible cross to bear and show how the Red Cross star of hope can shine forever by helping the volunteers of today become the leaders of tomorrow.

For evidence then, look at these men and women, each a star player honored by the Red Cross, or as you say, each playing your part: Dorothy Campbell-Bell of Nashville, teaching law in the classroom and the disabled to swim; or Rochester, New York's Joe Delgado, next here, father of the Organization of Latin American Students. In Philadelphia, Bill Gallagher is a Red Cross leader and full-time medical student. And in Cape May, New Jersey, Karen Maiorana started Operation Mail Call. Then there's Ben Robinson, of Hartford, Connecticut, one of Ebony's 10 Young Leaders of America; and then Debra Johnson, of Ashtabula, Ohio, the 1988 Volunteer of the Year.

That's some battalion, some lineup, I'll tell you. And today they're leading a cavalry charge of hope and healing. They're among the more than 1 million volunteers who grace settings from day care centers to inner-city schools and who are buoyed by the donors who last year raised nearly 5 million for the Red Cross disaster relief fund.

I began with a story about such service to others, and so let me close with another. It's about a man, President Woodrow Wilson, who so admired the Red Cross that he once told Admiral Grayson to gather up sheep and put them grazing on the White House lawn. ``He appointed me shepherd of the flock,'' Grayson recalled. ``When shearing time came, I reported to him that we had a little over 100 pounds of wool.'' With that, Wilson ordered him to send 2 pounds of wool to every State, telling the Governors to have it auctioned for the benefit of the Red Cross. The auction raised ,000, and in time, Admiral Grayson went on to become Chairman of the Red Cross. For like you, he believed that we succeed in life only when we make a difference in someone else's life.

You live that belief and have made the Red Cross a star of hope unto the world. This table was used by Red Cross Chairman William Howard Taft when he was President. So, it's my honor now to use it again as I sign this proclamation making March American Red Cross Month.

Thank you for all you do, and thank you for inviting me. God bless the Red Cross. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:42 a.m. in the Board Room at American Red Cross headquarters. In his remarks, he referred to George Moody, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Red Cross. The proclamation is listed in Appendix E at the end of this volume.

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