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Public Papers - 1991 - September

Remarks at the Minority Business Development Week Awards Ceremony


Thank you all very, very much. Please be seated and welcome to the East Room. And particularly, welcome to our Secretary Bob Mosbacher, our SBA Administrator Pat Saiki, right behind me here. I want to single out Maurice Stans who, years ago, took the real national leadership role in the minority enterprise approach that brings us together today. And I also want to thank two leaders of the Congress with us today, John LaFalce and Andy Ireland, who have been in the forefront of all of this for a long, long time.

I'm proud to take part again in this special week, as we turn the spotlight on men and women who have transformed the American dream into a series of all-American success stories. I like your theme, ``Building a Stronger America Through Minority Business Development.'' And it touches upon two principles dear to me.

First, we cannot build an America worthy of its people if we do not extend real opportunity to everyone regardless of race, creed, and background and give all Americans a chance to go as far as their abilities will take them.

And second, a strong and vibrant economy holds the key to our future as a Nation. And if we don't produce new products and opportunities, and if we don't give people of modest means a chance to become wealthy by virtue of their boldness and diligence and genius, then we lose the very foundation of democracy and our lives degenerate into a scramble for scarce goods, rather than in a march towards a better future.

Our free enterprise system cannot survive without the full participation of all racial and ethnic groups. And it cannot survive if it offers opportunity to some and not to others. And it can't survive if it doesn't produce new success stories, stories like yours that inspire young men and women to look up and say: ``I want to be like them.''

Too often we forget that hard work and success are also forms of public service: They address people's needs, they draw upon individuals' abilities, they provide role models for youngsters who too often draw their conclusions about life from television shows of brash hoods out on the street.

And your role in giving incentive to minority young people, and indeed all the youth of our country, simply cannot be overestimated. You're educators just by working to be successful. And you can do more. Seize every opportunity to give our young people the will to complete their education and to better prepare themselves to follow in your footsteps. This is one of the major goals, incidentally, of our America 2000 education initiative.

We rejoice that so much of our world now believes in free enterprise and the kind of enterprise demonstrated by the people that we honor here today. These awards celebrate the American spirit, a spirit that looks past obstacles and challenges, identifies goals, and then says, ``I can do it.''

Eleven years ago, college professor Richard Cheng founded Eastern Computers and said, ``I can do it.'' His company pioneered the business of producing multilingual computer systems. It occurs to me that if he now could produce a system that would enable parents to understand their kids -- [laughter] -- he would be taking things a quantum leap forward. [Laughter] But in any event, Eastern Computers today employs nearly 350 people. It generated sales of million last year.

Hugh Brown had an idea for a technical engineering service company, and he said, ``I can do it.'' And with the help from SBA, its 8(A) program, he did more than compete. He found his own place in our competitive economy, and today BAMSI employs more than 1,300 people, and its sales last year exceed million.

Raymond Haysbert had to overcome resistance to minority enterprise. He knew he could do it. And over the past 40 years, he has transformed H.G. Parks into a household name. Kids across the country call, ``More Park sausages, Mom, please.'' -- [laughter] -- thus proving that his customers even have good manners. [Laughter] His company consistently ranks within the top 100 black-owned businesses in America. Its sales under his leadership have risen from ,000 a year to more than million, and that's a great success story.

Gae Veit said, ``I can do it.'' In a business in which women form a significant minority, the construction industry, you see, she set out to create her own construction firm back in 1982. And roadblocks surrounded Gae. The doubters accosted her, but she knew what she wanted, fought for it, and got it. And she shaped her vision by naming her company ``Shingobee'' which means ``beautiful evergreen tree'' in her Sioux language. And Gae's beautiful evergreen tree has grown from a small sapling into a thing to behold, a company that expects to do more than million worth of business this year. These winners and many more like them show that all you need to make a difference in America is a fair shot at it, a fair chance. And your lives and accomplishments speak loudly and say, ``Take aim at an idea, and make it work.''

I'm impressed to hear you're hosting a Youth Awareness Day tomorrow to give young people the chance to meet successful business men and women. You can become their role models, their inspiration. And maybe one day, and here's the highest compliment of all, maybe one day they'll become your competition.

Each leader here today and others across this land bear witness by their presence to the truth of a statement that William Jennings Bryan made nearly 100 years ago: ``Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It's not a thing to be waited for; it's a thing to be achieved.'' And you've proven all of that.

So, thank you, congratulations to the winners. Congratulations to all of you, and may God bless the United States. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:31 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Secretary of Commerce Robert A. Mosbacher; Administrator Patricia F. Saiki of the Small Business Administration; former Secretary of Commerce Maurice H. Stans; Representatives John J. LaFalce and Andy Ireland; and award recipients Richard Cheng, Hugh Brown, Raymond Haysbert, and Gae Veit.

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