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Public Papers - 1992

Radio Address to the Nation on the President's Visit to Los Angeles, California

1992-05-09

Less than 24 hours ago, I returned from Los Angeles. And today I'd like to use this opportunity to report in on what I saw and what I heard.

By now, each one of us has seen images of hate and horror we won't soon forget. But what I saw during my time in Los Angeles, even in the hardest hit parts of south central L.A., should give us all cause for hope. Everywhere, the people I talked with told me about the acts of individual heroism, about the extraordinary courage of ordinary people. Some braved the gangs of looters to form bucket brigades to put out fires when the fire trucks couldn't get through. Some stood against the angry mobs, reached across the barrier of color to save lives. Many of these aren't the stories you'll see on the first 2 minutes of the nightly news, but they are the stories that tell us the power of simple human decency.

I went to L.A. to meet with community leaders, to get firsthand information as to how best the Federal Government could speed the recovery. Part of it is to provide, as we're doing now, Federal funds to help shopowners get their businesses open again, funds to help the people who lost jobs when the places they worked were burned out. But beyond this immediate emergency assistance, I set out a broader agenda, a means of bringing hope and opportunity to our inner cities.

First, we've got to preserve order, keep the peace, because families can't thrive, children can't learn, jobs can't flourish in a climate of fear.

Second, we must spark an economic revival in urban America. And that means establishing enterprise zones in our cities and reform of our welfare system to help people with individual initiative work and save.

Third, we've got to revolutionize American education. That's why we've built our America 2000 strategy around innovations like choice, competition, and community action. Children in our inner cities deserve the same opportunities that kids in our suburbs have.

Four, we must promote new hope through homeownership. And that's the aim behind my HOPE initiative, to give the least advantaged among us a stake in their neighborhood by turning public housing tenants into homeowners.

At every turn during my time in Los Angeles, I heard people talking about the principles that guide these initiatives: personal responsibility, opportunity, ownership, independence, dignity.

I can already hear some of the critics out there. They'll say, ``Well, you've proposed all this before.'' That's true. They're right. But now it's time to act on these proposals, time to try something new. My first order of business now that I am back in Washington is to build a bipartisan effort in support of immediate action on this agenda.

So far I have spoken about what Government can do. Now let me talk about what society must do, because Government alone cannot create the scale and energy needed to transform the lives of people in need. All over America, people have already found the answers for themselves, and they're taking action to make things better. You can find them everywhere, even in south central L.A. I met a man there named Lou Dantzler, a bear of a man who runs the Challengers Boys and Girls Club. He started it out in the back of an old pickup truck with a group of kids who wanted to get off the streets. And today, across from a burned-out block in south central L.A., the Boys and Girls Club stands unscarred. No, it wasn't a miracle that the building was left standing. The real miracle is what goes on inside. It's a place kids can go to get the concern and the love they need, a place where people care.

That's why guaranteeing a hopeful future for the children of our cities is about a lot more than rebuilding burned-out buildings. It's about building a new American community.

This I know: We have the strength and spirit in our Government, in our communities, and in ourselves to transform America into the Nation we have dreamed of for generations.

Thank you for listening. And may God bless the United States of America.

Note: The President spoke at 9:03 a.m. from the Oval Office at the White House. The address was broadcast live on nationwide radio.

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