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Public Papers - 1991 - April

Remarks at the Points of Light Community Service Celebration


Please be seated. Thank you all. I don't know how you begin to thank all these people that have contributed to this very special day. Tony Danza, an old friend -- I think he was as moved as I was by that reading we had just a minute ago. Randy Travis, so generous with his time and his creativity; Patti LuPone. I don't know what to say about the Eagles there, but it's just beautiful. And Andrae and Saundra, and Larnelle, and the Ellington Singers, and of course, Peter Max. Just thank you so much for helping us honor this constellation of Points of Light across America, our community service volunteers. A handful of them were here today, and we salute them. There are many, many more -- thank God -- like them all across our great country.

I was very pleased to hear from sitting outside the Oval Office, our great Secretary of HUD, Jack Kemp -- not only is he pressing, giving hope in the area of housing, but he is out helping with this whole concept of Points of Light. Jack, thank you so much for being with us.

I want to pay special thanks to the Points of Light Foundation which, with the help of the United Way and many other organizations, has spent the past 12 days illuminating and celebrating community service initiatives all across our great country.

And special thanks to Jane Kenny, the Director of ACTION, and of course, to Governor George Romney and the National Center and local volunteer centers for all they've done to make this celebration of service such a success.

I'm proud to see this crowd of people of all ages who display the power of community service. This celebration honors you, those Randy Travis calls ``the dedicated army of quiet volunteers,'' the heroes and heroines who battle selflessly against drug abuse, homelessness, and hunger, and other plagues that ruin lives and shatter dreams.

You lead a great movement that's begun to race across this country. The Points of Light movement promises us renewed, strong America because it builds upon our natural yearnings to help one another. You already have been moved by the mighty spirit of voluntary service. Your labors have earned you something very special, something very precious: fulfillment. You do something good, you feel something real. Barbara and I proudly salute each and every one of you for these wonderful efforts.

Our nation faces a wide variety of challenges, but the solution to each problem that confronts us begins with an individual who steps forward and who says: I can help. Government can only do so much and should only attempt so much, but no limits can hold back people determined to make a difference.

Indeed, our domestic policies try to unleash the American capacity for good deeds. Our America 2000 strategy for reinventing the American school depends not just on the Government here in Washington but upon the support of communities -- parents, families, businesses, unions, schools, other groups and associations of determined individuals.

Consider Eve Dubrow, a Point of Light here in Washington. Eve started Project Northstar, a program in which she and other busy professionals tutor homeless children in reading and writing.

David Evans of Cambridge, Massachusetts, provides another example. David, a computer buff, designed and then donated to others a software program that makes learning fun for children and for adults.

We need cities filled with policemen like Al Lewis in Philadelphia. He and other officers create libraries in public housing projects and invite kids into the precinct house to learn reading and writing.

Eve and David and Al, you've shown the rest of the country that individuals working together do matter, that Points of Light really can brighten the lives and remake communities.

Or consider issues of crime: While we work with Congress to pass comprehensive crime package legislation, many of you've begun to defeat the scourges of drugs and violence and crime.

America needs more individuals like Van Standifer who formed this local group just across the line here, a Midnight Basketball League, a program that offers kids late night basketball and tutoring as an alternative to life on the streets.

We need more people like Mr. W.W. Johnson, who transformed a school basement into a thriving community center where young people learn to respect and cherish hard work and thrift and compassion and family.

Consider issues of economic opportunity: Secretary Kemp and I have proposed the HOPE program to encourage home ownership, enterprise zones, and capital gains reductions to stimulate more small businesses, more jobs. But others on their own are making a difference.

For instance, the Alpha Project. Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds -- young college students to retired carpenters -- are training homeless men and women for jobs in the construction industry. Alpha also gives trainees free food, clothing, and shelter until they earn enough money to live independently. America needs more Alpha Projects.

And here's the wonderful, truly remarkable thing. I could go on and on. There is no problem that is not being solved by someone somewhere in America. Together, in every community, we will renew the spirit of shared purpose that gave birth to this nation. We will embark upon the next century stronger and more unified than ever before.

This is not and never will be a miracle of government. It is a miracle of our people. Americans care. We gladly give of our time and our sweat and our souls.

As Marlene Wilson, the president of the Volunteer Management Association in Boulder, Colorado, points out, ``Caring must strengthen into commitment, and commitment into action.'' Someday soon all Americans will come to understand that America's most important resource is its community. The idea is simple: Just as a sailor can find his way via one shining star, a life can be changed by one dedicated, shining Point of Light. You see, that light burns within us, within all of us; we need only to share it.

God bless you, and so many thanks for the wonderful work you are doing. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:01 p.m. on the South Lawn of the White House. In his remarks, he referred to actor Tony Danza; singer Randy Travis; actress Patti LuPone; singer Andrae Crouche and his sister Saundra; singer Larnelle Harris; the Duke Ellington Choir from the Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC; artist Peter Max; Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp; Jane A. Kenny, Director of ACTION; George Romney, former Governor of Michigan and chairman of the board of directors of the National VOLUNTEER Center; Points of Light honorees Eve Dubrow, David Evans, Al Lewis, Van Standifer, and William W. Johnson; and Marlene Wilson, president of the Volunteer Management Association.

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