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Public Papers - 1990 - April

Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the President's Volunteer Action Awards

1990-04-27

Welcome, everybody. Please be seated. Well, welcome all. I'm just delighted to be with you. And I was looking around because I'm told that Senator Durenberger was going to be here -- I don't quite spot him. But in any event, I'm delighted that you all are here. Is Governor Kean here? There he is, way back there, and Deb -- I want to say hello to the former Governor of New Jersey, who I was told was going to be here -- uncharacteristically, in the back row, but nevertheless -- [laughter] -- welcome to the White House.

The famous broadcaster you all know, Paul Harvey, tells a story of a man named Vincent who lived in southern Belgium. And he was a very poor man who lived in a simple hut, dressed in an old coat, trousers made of sacking cloth. But Vincent embodied the spirit of helping others. For he knew that although he had very few possessions, he still had a great gift to give. When a mining disaster struck, many villagers injured, no one fought harder to save them than Vincent did. And for days on end he cared for the injured and helped feed and clothe the needy. And years later Vincent Van Gogh, today one of the world's beloved masters, painted his famous ``Starry Night.'' Though 100 years have passed since he put brush to canvas and created a masterpiece, the value of serving others has not changed.

I've often said that from now on any definition of a successful life must include serving others. The members of our Cabinet are taking the lead in their departments and in their trips around the country, and I'm grateful to all of them. I know that two are with us today -- Secretary Lujan and Secretary Mosbacher -- and if others are, I'm sorry I can't spot you right now. But we owe them a vote of gratitude for the way they're carrying this message as well.

Today it's my special honor to present the President's Volunteer Action Awards to 19 of America's Thousand Points of Light who embody that definition of success. Let me just tell you about a few of them and then we'll get on with the ceremony. There's Clarence Wilson of St. Louis, a 17-year-old high school student who watched the neighborhood where he grew up give way to crime, drug dealing, and condemned housing. And then a year ago, personal tragedy struck: a fire destroyed his home and killed his mom, his cousin, and his aunt. He decided it wasn't just a time to mourn; it was a time for action. And he began a neighborhood watch program, set up a citizens team to paint over the graffiti and encourage neighbors to cooperate with police to rid the community of drugs. Clarence, you are an outstanding example to the young people of this country. And I hope every single one of them will follow your example.

Providence House is a network of six residential facilities in New Rochelle, New York, that provide a home and a haven to women and children in crisis situations. Unfortunately, too many facilities serving women in trouble do not accept their children. Providence House is different, opening its doors to mothers and children, giving them the security they need. One of the homes in the Providence House network is creatively called My Mother's House. And it gives shelter to the children of incarcerated women, allowing them to tell their friends, truthfully, I live at My Mother's House with my mother's friends. [Laughter] Another one of the homes is a homeless shelter providing family and job counseling. Over 100 concerned volunteers are involved in the Providence House program. We appreciate your dedication to making a better life for these men and women.

And then there's a story -- the next one. Henry Gaskins, a supervisor at the Library of Congress, who holds a doctor's degree, a doctorate in education, and his wife Mary Ann who works at NASA and also has an education degree. And they began a youth club several years ago, but soon decided that young people in the inner city needed more than just a place to go. What began as afterschool recreation soon became afterschool workshops on education and jobs, so these young people could really go places. The Gaskins began tutoring young black children for free, 6 days a week in their own home. The Freedom Youth Academy, as the kids themselves named it, soon became a reality. And now over 80 percent of the academy students, from kindergarten to 12th grade, have earned academic distinction. In fact, the high school students' SAT [Scholastic Aptitude Test] scores have improved from anywhere from 50 to 360 points, with many students going on to the Nation's very top schools. Mr. and Mrs. Gaskins, you've done so much for these young people, and we are very grateful to you.

And among the many businesses pitching in across America is the Adolf Coors Company. Nearly half the total Coors work force in the State of Colorado, about 4,000 company employees and retirees, have banded together to donate approximately 35,000 hours of service to 116 separate projects in their communities. They've participated in winter clothing drives, food drives, community health checkups, low-income housing renovations, recycling programs, special olympics. You name it, all across the board, they've done it. Must be something in the water out there, but nevertheless -- [laughter] -- it sounds grueling, 35,000 hours, but what a wonderful example. The enthusiasm that these employees have for community service really is remarkable. And every company in America should follow that lead. To all the Coors employees: Thank you for opening your hearts to your communities.

Every award recipient here today really has an amazing story. For today's winners know that only in serving others do we find the fulfillment that everyone is seeking in life. Listen to every one of the men and women here with us today, and every one will tell you that serving others enriches their own lives at least as much as it enriches the lives of those that they touch. Each of these Americans holds the light of humanity in their hearts. And, like a candle in a steady hand, they share that light and inspire commitment in so many others. There is a bright path of goodness and love through the dark night of sadness and despair. I thank you, all of you, for what you've done. And God bless each and every one of you.

Now, Barbara and I will present the 1990 President's Volunteer Action Awards with the help of two other very special people who've devoted so much of their time and talent to helping others -- Jane Kenny, the head of ACTION; and my good friend, Governor George Romney, the Chairman of VOLUNTEER: the National Center. So, could I ask you all to come forward, and we will begin.

[At this point, the awards were presented.]

The President. Well, I am also pleased to announce that Mrs. Madrid is this administration's second recipient of an award named for a great President, a good friend, the originator of the President's Volunteer Action Awards -- the Ronald Reagan Award for Volunteer Excellence. This special award was created to honor the individual whose contribution to voluntarism is greatest among the winners of the President's Volunteer Action Awards. Awfully difficult choice, but, Mrs. Madrid, we'd like to present you the Ronald Reagan Award. To you, and to all of you, our warmest congratulations. And again thank you all for coming.

Note: The President spoke at 12:10 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening remarks, he referred to Debra Anderson, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

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