Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS


President Remarks on USA Freedom Corps

Aired March 12, 2002 - 10:15   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: In the meantime, we want to go to President Bush. His event is now beginning in Philadelphia.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometimes, when the president shows up, we get a pretty august crowd of elected officials here.

I know the mayor is here somewhere. I want to thank the mayor for coming.

Mr. Mayor, thank you for being here .


Oh, yes.

Senator Specter, Senator Santorum, Congressman Borski, and Greenwood, Congressman Weldon, and Hoeffel, thank you all for coming.

I know the attorney general of the state of Pennsylvania is here, as well.

Thank you. Welcome, Mike.


It's good to see members of the mighty Pennsylvania congressional delegation, a fine lot.


I know they understand the proper role of government, and that is that government can't make people love one another. I wish it could. I promise you, I'd sign the law, and they would all sponsor it.

But we understand, Pennsylvania, like the other states in our union, are full of compassionate people. And the job of government is to serve as a catalyst to capture that compassion, and that's incredibly important as we fight this war on terror.

You know, we got a great military might in the Untied States. And I can't tell you how proud I am of our military. (APPLAUSE)

But another strength of the country is our compassion and our love for each other.


You know, I want to thank the Big Brothers and Big Sisters who are represented here.

I want to thank the Points of Light Foundation, the network for good.

I want to thank Gloria Guard (ph), who recently -- recently, it was just like a couple of minutes ago...


... led me on the tour of her beautiful place, where homeless women and their children are loved and cared for and given training to succeed.

What a successful program that's been. You know, if we'd had hearings on that in Washington about how to make that program successful, they'd still be meeting and will be meeting and would've been meeting for a decade.

But there are social entrepreneurs in our society who help define America, and one of my jobs is to herald those social entrepreneurs and to thank them on behalf of all Americans.

I believe, out of this evil, will come incredible good, and one of the good things that will happen is that Americans ask will the question about, "How I can help fight evil by doing something good?" That's what I think we ought to do.

I think we ought to say that if you're interested in fighting evil, love a neighbor. If you're interested in doing something for your country, help somebody in need: Write a check, give your time, volunteer. Societies change one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time. And government can hand out money, but cannot put hope in people's hearts.

And we're here to talk about how to put hope in people's hearts, because people love one another. One of the things I've asked the country to do is to think about 4,000 hours of public service for the rest of your life -- or two years. That's not hard for some. I understand that. I bet you've already done that.


Well, you've got another 4,000 to go.


People have responded. I mean, the response has been fantastic ever since my State of the Union when I said, "Serve the country." Let me just give you an example: 18,000 people have asked how -- if they can join the Peace Corps, and we're going to talk about the Peace Corps in a minute. Americorps is up by 50 percent.


The Citizen Corps numbers are up. The Senior Corps number is up by 500 percent. In other words, Americans have been asked to respond, and they are. And for that, we are a grateful nation.

Let me just talk about the U.S.A. Freedom Corps right quick. It is an op -- it's a chance for people to participate. It's an opportunity for people to join Americorps; it's a way to help strengthen communities; Senior Corps, which is a way to help strengthen communities, and/or join in the fight against terror by being a part of a neighborhood watch program, for example; the Citizen Corps as well, in order to help reinforce the first-responders in local communities; and, of course, the Peace Corps is an opportunity to spread American values throughout the world.

And if people are interested in joining the USA Freedom Corps, you can do so by calling 1-877-USACORPS -- C-O-R-P-S -- or on the Internet.

But serving America doesn't have to go through U.S.A. Freedom Corps. It's just an opportunity. You can serve America all kinds of ways. You can do so through a faith-based initiative. And one of the things we must do is get our faith-based initiative passed out of the United States Senate -- it's already passed the House.


You can do so through the United Way agencies. And by the way, they're not mutually exclusive.

And if you do, one of the things that I have asked our White House staff to put together is a booklet that will give you an opportunity to record your service. And if you're interested in picking up one of these, just dial up the web site.

If you're interested in recording not only for yourself, but recording for your family or a child, perhaps, what you've done to make America a better place, this is a good go-by (ph). This is a good opportunity to bring a little discipline into your volunteer service.

When I looked at this, I envisioned kind of a kind of interesting diary that can be passed from one generation to the next. I can't think of anything more interesting than a mom or a dad volunteering, recording his or her thoughts, giving it to a child or gives it to a grandchild, so somebody's sitting there, you know, reading about what it was like to live in the 21st century and how to help a neighborhood in need, for example, or how to help a person in need.

I also want you to know that you can do the same thing through an automatic tracking system on the U.S.A. Freedom Corps web page. And as well, I'm going to instruct the agencies -- the Cabinet of my government -- to figure out ways to reduce barriers for people to be able to get involved better in their communities.

I mean, sometimes we got a process-oriented world. We ought to be a results-oriented world. We ought to care less...


We ought to care less about rules and regulations, and more about how we're helping people help themselves.

And so, I'm looking forward to my Cabinet officers reporting back. And when we find barriers, we'll do everything we can to prevent them from inhibiting the love that exists in the neighbors around our country.

I believe that, in order to live in a free society, you need to give something back. In order to make a society vibrant, all of us owe something to America. And one way to provide that is either through the military or through loving somebody and showing it through actual deeds.

And I know that when you do so, I know that when you help a neighbor in need, it is a part of a complete life. It's a part of making sure that your life is not empty. It's a part of making sure that you are able to really understand the joys of a giving existence.

And so, thank you for coming by. Thank you for listening to an optimistic president. I am so optimistic about our future, not only do I believe that we're going to have lasting peace when we achieve our objectives in the war against terror, but I know that afterwards and during this period of trauma for many Americans, this country's strength, it's good and compassion will serve as a beacon for the rest of the world to see.

God bless you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. President, for your inspiring remarks.

QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. President.

BUSH: Thank you.

QUESTION: I'm currently a full-time AmeriCorps member. I work at Youth (inaudible) Charter School in South Philadelphia.


BUSH: Looks like you brought most of the school with you.


QUESTION: Yes. We have students and faculty here today. And what I do there on a daily basis is I work as a teacher of service learning to help our high school students earn their full high school diploma -- not a GED, but an actual high school diploma -- and also help them refurbish houses that are later sold to low-income families. So we work in education. We work in housing. We work in employability. We work on literacy. We work on youth empowerment.

BUSH: You also have a little after-school mentoring program...

QUESTION: Yes, we do. Yes, we do. We also, as part of the AmeriCorps team, wonderful team that we have, I help to coordinate an after-school program for a local elementary school. And our objective there is to try to facilitate their academic growth. A lot of them -- you'll hear about literacy later -- but a lot of them get through school without really being able to read. Their math skills are behind, and so we're trying to help our group of kids with that, as well.

BUSH: Well, thanks for doing that.


BUSH: You know, Americorps got 50,000 Americorians.


We hope to have 75,000; at least the budget calls for an increase of 50 percent in Americorps corps.


Thank you for your example.

QUESTION: Sure. I think that we need to get the word out to more youth.

BUSH: You bet.

QUESTION: I think that youth is a real strength in our community.

BUSH: Well, one way to do so is for people to see what joy you get in serving your community.

QUESTION: Absolutely.

BUSH: And how it's a part of a full life.

I think people are becoming a little less materialistic in America now.

One of the things the enemies thought we were totally materialistic. Obviously, they made a terrible miscalculation about the will and might of the United States and our drive.

But I think people are beginning to realize that there's more to life than just materialism.

You're a living example. Thank you.


QUESTION: Thank you for inviting me, Mr. President.

Let me describe what we do. I direct the Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania. And we establish mutually beneficial partnerships between Penn and the local community of West Philadelphia.

We do more than that; we focus, in fact, on a fundamental issue of why be engaged. Ad the first reason is, because Penn's future is tied to the community of West Philadelphia. Our future is tied to this city. And second, and maybe even more important, Penn's enormous resources of students, faculty and staff can, in fact, contribute to improving the quality of life of West Philadelphia. But even more than that, it is beneficial to Penn. It will help Penn better fulfill its core mission of educating students to be moral, contributing citizens of a democracy. And no task is more important than that for a university.

And how do we do that? We do that by connecting the work of our students to the academic core of the institution. We do it by something you've called for, Mr. President, service learning. By integrating the work of students by learning, learning for service by service. And we do that in a variety of ways. We do that in an anthropology course, where students work to solve the problem of nutrition in the community of West Philadelphia with the schools and with the community by growing fruits and vegetables, by selling fruits and vegetables to the community, to stores, and by developing community fitness nights as they solve the pressing problem of poor nutrition in West Philadelphia.

How else do they do that, Mr. President? They do that also through active activity to bridge the digital divide. To deal with the major problem you've also identified and called for action on, and that problem, the digital divide, young people refurbish computers, distribute computers and engage high school students with members of communities of faith, teaching senior adults in those faith-based communities how to learn computer.

And we also do it by tackling the issue of literacy and reading. And, of course, with one of the most distinguished linguist in the United States, students focus on improving the reading of African- American and Latino youth. And they do it by using the science of linguistics, plus narratives from the neighborhood, stories from the community to improve the reading of young people in fundamental ways and in deep ways.

QUESTION: And this work that I've described at the University of Pennsylvania -- this connection to service learning -- is not unique to Penn. It is spreading across the United States, and it's spreading across the United States because it's good for the students. It helps them to become citizens of a democracy. It's good for the universities and colleges, it's good for the communities and it's good for this country.

Mr. President, I want to thank you for this very, very important initiative.

BUSH: Well, thank you.


Let me ask you: What's the attitude? Give us a read. You know, at Pennsylvania, are the kids involved, interested, asking for ways to help? Are they kind of complacent? Give us a read.

QUESTION: They're not complacent at all. In fact, young people come to Penn desiring to serve, and when they come to the university, they want to put their ideals into practice. So I think this is an extraordinary generation. We have to only give them the opportunity, and they will seize that opportunity in ways we can only dream of.

So this generation -- both pre-college and in college -- is a generation of extraordinary talents, idealism and ability and they want to serve and I'm convinced they'll respond to your call.

BUSH: Thanks. I appreciate that. Thanks for coming.


MODERATOR: Mr. President, you had an opportunity to interact very briefly with this extraordinary young woman that's going to talk to you next. She's one of many, many young people in our community that are doing extraordinary volunteer service.

QUESTION: Hello, Mr. President.

BUSH: Hello, Stephanie (ph).

QUESTION: I'm a 17-year-old senior at University City High School and I'm also a part of an extraordinary organization called Champions of Caring, which is a service-based organization where we have hundreds of students -- hundreds of young people from all across the area -- who do the exact same thing that I do and they've committed more than the 4,000 hours of community service throughout this...


... even before you gave your speech, we've been doing it.

BUSH: I better double it, hadn't I. It's about 8,000 hours.

QUESTION: And I'm also the founder of an organization called Project CARE, which stands for Children Achieving Reading Enlightenment, and Project CARE is an organization which is geared towards children who've been passed through school without learning how to read.

And I started this program in the fall of 1999 when I was 13 because I was volunteering during the summer and I'd seen a lot of children who'd been passed through school and during the summertime didn't know how to read and didn't know -- they were going to the fourth but still were reading on that first grade level and that really impacted me.

So I got together with my church and I got together with some of the volunteers in the area and we started this program. And so far we've served over 400 students in the area to help to increase their grade and their...


BUSH: I told Stephanie (ph) earlier that reading is the new civil right. And so far you've heard three speakers talk about reading, and we've got to get it right. We've got to get this right.

We've got a pretty good piece of legislation -- not a pretty good -- a really good piece of legislation -- education legislation -- a core component of which is to make sure that children learn how to read, using, as Ira (ph) mentioned, the science of reading -- you know, what works.

And so, thank you very much for focusing on that. You're what I call a soldier in the armies of compassion.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

BUSH: And it's pretty extraordinary that a social entrepreneur be so young.

QUESTION: Thanks. Thank you.

BUSH: But I want to thank you for that very much.

QUESTION: Thank you.

BUSH: I'll bet one of the things you've learned is that by serving as an example, you stimulate others to serve as well.

QUESTION: Well, yes, I have. I currently also teach two days a week at one elementary school, Powell Elementary (ph), and also on Saturday mornings I teach math to ninth and tenth graders. So when they come back to me and they say, "Thank you so much, Miss Stephanie (ph), for everything you do."

QUESTION: It really warms my heart. And then when I go back to Champions for Charity and I'm able to interact with other people who are doing the same thing and then also at my school, University City (ph), where we have a great service learning community, and they're also involved very much in their community.

We have a great principal, Florence Johnson (ph), who makes sure that we get out in the community and that we're very active. And currently we're working with the March of Dimes to help raise some more money because the March is coming up soon. So, it's very great, and I think that every young person should really be involved.

It's better than a job.

(LAUGHTER) Yes, the money is good, but it's more rewarding than a job can ever be.

BUSH: Thank you, Steph (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

BUSH: Love your spirit. Thank you.





Back to the top