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Public Papers - 1990 - June

Remarks to Members and Supporters of MAD DADS in Omaha, Nebraska


First, thank all of you for that warm welcome, and thank you, John Foster. And to the Governor of this State, Governor Orr; and to the mayor of this great city, P.J. Morgan; and of course to Eddie Staton and Robert Tyler, George Garrison, Lafayette Nelson, and all of you wonderful, inspiring MAD DADS, MAD MOMS, MAD KIDS -- MAD everything -- I'm glad to be here with you today to meet you. And we've just had a wonderful visit with these men, these MAD DADS that I've just clicked off their names, right next door here, briefing me on how this organization is coming together and what it's doing to help the kids of Omaha, not just this neighborhood but, through its example, the kids of America -- all the kids across this country.

And so, I will carry back with me to Washington the story of this extraordinary war for decency waged in a parking lot and on this street and across the streets of this community. And you are truly what I call a Point of Light, a beacon for others to turn to in the grim and lonely darkness of their despair. And we are grateful to each and every one of you that are involved in this program.

Your Reverend Tyler put it this way about drugs and gangs and emptiness: ``Used to be,'' here's what he'd call it, ``a cancer festering in the heart of north Omaha.'' Well, you've done some radical surgery, my friends, on that cancer. And you've ripped it out, and you've replaced it with the healing balm of love -- caring about the other guy.

And of course, I'll take back with me to Washington, in a few minutes, the lesson of how this revolution began, how you transformed tragedy into hope. And I'll tell others of last May, when Sean Foster, a college student with no ties to gangs or drugs, was beaten viciously by the member of a gang; and of how his father, John, took one look at his bloodied son and something inside him exploded. He took to the streets to find his son's attackers. He never did, but what he did find serves his community, and all of us, much better.

He found that the streets belonged not to the families but to the gangs, not to hope but to the drug dealers, not to a bright future but to a brutal cycle of violence and crime. And John Foster found that voice within him to shout: ``This madness must stop.''

So, this angry father and his friends formed MAD DADS. In the last year, along with more than 550 others who have joined them, they have become the dominant presence on their previously devastated streets. And they're father figures who take a hard line against the drugs and the gangs which are the predators, but speak softly, put their arm around and hug the kids who are the victims.

Your MAD DADS logo behind me tells the story: the outstretched, caring hand of the loving father who embraces positive change, and the fist of determination of the strong father who resolves to be the force behind that change.

And these good, strong men who talk with pain in their hearts about pain on the streets take action. They paint over gang graffiti to proclaim that they're reclaiming the city. Nightly, they patrol the killing grounds of their streets, going out, as one said, with nothing but ``a radio, a conversation, and a prayer.'' They speak to schools, they provide protection from gang threats, they sponsor events, counsel, and I guess most of all, they care. They are fathers to a neighborhood desperately in need of family. In the shifting shadows of midnight streetcorners, they reach out to the lost sons of other men. But most importantly, they're there. They are simply there. And they care. And they are voices crying in the dark: ``See us and fear; see us and believe; see us and hope.''

The handful of determined neighbors who formed MAD DADS were those voices. They shouted out against this meaningless violence that they saw leading today's young men and women into self-destruction, and one by one, others joined them in their cry of protest. And now their world is filled with a lion's roar, supremely strong, fiercely proud, challenging, and redeeming.

And so, we are today witnessing the wonder of a rebirth. It's more than a rebirth of community: it is a rebirth of hope, of respect for life, and of the future. And so, MAD DADS, for the inspiration and the example you set, I am proud to have honored you as our nation's 126th daily Point of Light.

If every community could band together as you have, we could see the MAD DADS' spirit of caring spread, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city. Crime, drugs, and hopelessness can be and will be banished from the shadows of our great land when each individual cares enough to add his or her voice to the growing chorus of outrage.

The government wants to help: the Federal Government, the State government, the city government. But far more important -- and we will do our level best -- but far more important is that spirit exemplified by the men that we honor here today.

Thank you for all that you do in the name of love. God bless you, and God bless these wonderful children. Thanks for giving them a chance, and God bless the future of the United States of America. Thank you all very, very much. Thank you. Good luck to you, kids. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 2:16 p.m. in a lot at 30th and Spencer Streets. In his opening remarks, he referred to John Foster, Eddie Staton, Robert Tyler, George Garrison, and Lafayette Nelson, chairman of the board, president, secretary treasurer, vice president, and director of field security of MAD DADS, respectively. Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington, DC.

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