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National Archives

Public Papers - 1991

Remarks at the Daily Points of Light Celebration in Orlando, Florida

1991-09-30

Thank you very much. And let me just start by saying a special word of thanks to Michael Eisner and Ron Allen for bringing all of these Points of Light together for this very special occasion. Ever since this concept got started, Michael Eisner has been in the forefront of it. You could tell from his remarks how strongly he feels, how compassionately he views the work of every single one of the Points of Light here today. And we all owe him a great vote of gratitude.

And may I also pay my respects and thanks to the board of directors of the Points of Light Foundation and all who are doing such a superb job on this work. And I'd single out our own White House chief of all the operations there, Gregg Petersmeyer.

I'm very pleased that Congressman McCollum is with us. And let me just thank Sandi Patti for once again doing the honors on this magnificent anthem of ours. I want to thank Lee Greenwood and all who are making this a spectacular event. And there's one more special person that I want to point out right now. Today, I'm naming our 575th Daily Point of Light. She's a great kid. She's only 12, but she gladly helps students with multiple disabilities at her school. She teaches them living skills and reads to them. And she's a friend. And I want her to come on up onstage now and take her place among all our Points of Light, from Houston, Texas, Julie Harms.

Everything here at Epcot reminds us of the vision of the man who conceived this amazing place as an exploration of community. Walt Disney once said, ``The greatest moments in life are not concerned with selfish achievements, but rather with the things we do for the people.'' And he was absolutely right. And that creed brings us together in this extraordinary place, sharing this extraordinary day. We celebrate the American spirit, the greatest natural resource of this, the greatest Nation in the entire world.

We celebrate it in front of this tableau of American heroes: our 575 Points of Light. We've honored them for showing ``the better angels of our nature,'' for volunteering to help others in their own communities. They sum up the genius of this great and generous land; ordinary people but doing extraordinary things.

Today, we celebrate a service that comes from the heart. The people here remind me of the story Martin Luther King shared the night before he died, of a visit that he'd made to the Holy Land. And there, he'd traveled the road of the Good Samaritan. And he saw the path of robbers and realized that the others didn't help the man in need because they were afraid. They asked themselves, ``If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?'' But King said the Good Samaritan asked, ``If I don't stop to help this man, what will happen to him?''

Each of these 575 Points of Light had to defeat fear, suspicions, and even just plain old complacency. They didn't say, ``This is why I can't help.'' They said, ``This is why I can, why I must.'' And they said, ``Maybe I don't have technical skills, but I'm a good listener. Maybe I don't have money, but I have time. Maybe I'm not physically fit, but I care. And maybe I never finished school, but I have life experience. I have something special to share.''

Look behind me and out here, too, with other representatives. I think it's fitting to point out that Points of Light are one people or are they a group in a community. These 575 dedicated Americans show that Americans care about their Nation. They care about each other.

Look at these Points of Light for themselves. But also try to imagine something more. Imagine if all of them left their hometowns -- Mike Noyes of Maine, Mrs. Wurst's third-graders of Nebraska, Frank Lockyear from Oregon, all the others -- and moved to one community. What would happen? In a few weeks that place would be utterly transformed because everyone would explore their genius for helping others and enriching their own lives in the process. Ninety-one-year-old Julia Goldstein would go to an elementary school and tutor kids.

Richard McDonough would talk local hotels into giving rooms and training for the homeless. Reverend Eddie Edwards would get his neighbors to reclaim and refurbish crack houses. Dr. Floyd Seager would get his colleagues to give free medical services. Shadonica Cohnes would get other college students together; they'd be mentoring kids in housing developments. Imagine all 575 of these ideas, ideas that already are working somewhere, working to enrich one community.

A community like this, one in which a person, every group, every institution gave even a small part of their time in service to others would become a ``community of light.''

Every town has this potential already. Look around your neighborhood at the rich and varied tapestry you find where you live. You know a Julia Goldstein, an elderly woman down the street who could help kids learn to read. Like Richard McDonough, every day you deal with people who could help the homeless. You attend places of worship where leaders like Reverend Edwards could unite neighborhoods to renovate housing. You are doctors and college students and mothers and retired people and kids who could become Point of Lights in your own town. And yours, too, can become a community of light.

We've gathered together all of these Points of Light to show that you don't have to give up your job or throw off your family responsibilities to help people. Often, little things that take little time can make a huge difference. Each community has people of good minds and good hearts, people who can truly make a difference.

We know that all the world's woes cannot be solved through voluntary service. Our society can't survive without an efficient, compassionate government that can preserve people's liberties, that can establish a rule of law vital for civilized life, and that can do its part to help those in need in many, many ways. We also know the importance of a vibrant economy and the jobs and opportunities it creates.

But legislation and commerce alone cannot provide the soul that society needs. Real people also must be prepared to respond to real problems around them. And they must extend the hand of friendship to neighbors, offer their time and concern to those who have fallen upon bad times.

That's really what we mean when we talk about communities of light. We celebrate the potential for a nation whose goodness grows out of small acts of consequence made by many people.

George Washington's America had a common vision, one so inspiring that when Lafayette returned to France, he brought back with him American soil to be buried in. And we can recapture the feeling of purpose that gave birth to this Nation.

But first, we've got to cast off fear and laziness and engage in a little selfless work. We need to look at our toughest problems -- crimes, drugs, the breakdown of the family -- and realize that we can't ask government to do everything. And we can't wait for Washington to act every time a new problem arises on our own blocks. We must have the faith in ourselves to act. We must have the commitment of our ideals to act. And we must have the support of friends and neighbors to act.

When conflict raged in the Gulf earlier this year, we thought and felt and cared as one Nation. That sacrifice and common purpose showed us a glimpse into our better selves. Now, we must face the hard facts. Challenges confront us everywhere. So, we must embrace the thrilling opportunity to show what we're made of. The people gathered here prove that we possess the grit, the virtue, and the will to clean away many of the obstacles that stand between us and our ideal for a better America.

If, as President, I had the power to give just one thing to this country, it would be the return of an inner moral compass, nurtured by the family and valued by society. This compass would guide all people to value life, every life. It would show us that each life lost to despair devalues us all. It would remind us that caring and conscience make us human and make us free.

Long may our land be bright with caring's brilliant light, and with the glow of communities of light lit by our 250 million possible solutions. And may we be filled with the words St. Francis lived by nearly eight centuries ago, ``Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is despair, hope. And where there is darkness, light.''

Thank you all so very much for serving your Nation in this spectacular way. May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11 a.m. in the American Gardens Theater in the Epcot Center in Walt Disney World. In this public tribute, all 575 Daily Points of Light named by the President during the last 2 years were honored as part of the 20th anniversary of Walt Disney World. In his remarks, the President referred to Michael Eisner, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Walt Disney World Company; Ron Allen, chief executive officer of Delta Airlines; C. Gregg Petersmeyer, Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of National Service; Representative Bill McCollum; entertainers Sandi Patti and Lee Greenwood; and Points of Light Julie Harms, Mike Noyes, Dian Wurst, Frank Lockyear, Julia Goldstein, Richard McDonough, Eddie Edwards, Floyd Seager, and Shadonica Cohnes. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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