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Public Papers - 1991 - September

Radio Address to the Nation on the Daily Points of Light Program

1991-09-28

Usually when I speak to the Nation, it's to announce a new program or discuss some pressing national policy. Well, today I won't be talking about programs or policy, but about a vision for a better future.

Over the past 2 years, I've honored Americans who have shown the better angels of their nature by volunteering to help others. These individuals and groups realize that we build a better America not by protesting or demanding that others assume responsibility for our problems; we build better futures by taking on the problems we see in our own communities.

These people answered their own inner call for action. They illustrate our land's genius and generosity, a land where ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things. I call them Points of Light because they shine through the dark times of want or despair.

On Monday, the 575 daily Points of Light will come to Orlando, Florida. Barbara and I will take part in a national tribute in their honor. And when America looks at these heroes, it should see and cherish them first as individuals. They come from every State, range in age from 7 to 103, and cover the spectrum of faith, experience, and background.

But we should also look upon them as a group that can shine the light toward a better future. The 575 Points of Light form an inspiring portrait of our Nation's potential. They address the problems our Nation fears most. And they do because they want to, or because they feel they must.

Some offer friendship and advice to troubled teens, befriend the lonely, or simply hold drug-addicted babies. Others serve meals to AIDS patients, build housing for the homeless, reclaim crime-infested neighborhoods. Through the combined light generated by these acts of consequence we can dissolve the darkness, we can rekindle our own belief in ourselves.

Imagine if all 575 Points of Light lived in one place. When you realize that people like these live in your neighborhood, some just waiting for a chance to serve others, then it's easy to picture such a place. If every community in this land committed itself to sacrifice and action in this work, then each could become a ``community of light.''

In a community of light, people would discover the fulfillment that comes with helping others. In a community of light, each school, business, place of worship, and group would lead its members toward the light of service as equal partners in solving social problems at their root. In a community of light, people would use their ingenuity, experience, and passion to find solutions that work for their neighborhoods, their communities. They would adapt other people's successful programs in efforts to meet their needs or, if necessary, they would craft their own.

In a community of light, everyone will be sought after for their own gifts, for each person has something to share.

Walt Whitman celebrated this when he wrote, ``I hear America singing; each singing what belongs to him or her and to no one else.'' It's odd, but in many communities around this country neighbors don't know one another. Huge apartment buildings teem with strangers. City blocks teem with strangers. Suburban neighborhoods lie silent because people won't come to a front door to say, ``Hi, welcome to the neighborhood.''

We start building communities of light by creating friendships and bonds where we live. When we treat neighbors as friends, listen to their problems and concerns, and talk about ways of making things better, then we establish the foundation for a community of light.

No, voluntarism won't solve every problem. It won't fuel our economy. It won't establish and protect the rule of law. It won't supplant essential government services. But it will provide the equally essential heart and soul our communities deserve.

So starting today, I call on every city, town, and neighborhood in our country to accept this great challenge to become a community of light. And then, together, we'll find a way to unite this country, not through our fears but through our good works.

Note: The President recorded this address on September 27 at 3:45 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House for broadcast at 9 a.m. on September 28. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this address.

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