Remarks at a Ceremony Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program

September 23, 1981

First of all, welcome to the White House. Nancy and I are most delighted that you're here, and we have a chance to say what a wonderful job that you and -- I think it's wonderful the initials for your title, RSVP, what you are doing, Retired Senior Volunteer Program. But we also know that RSVP means, kind of, come again.

But even though the ``R'' stands for retired, that's not quite the way to describe you. Someone said that the only true retirement is of the heart, and you certainly haven't retired in that regard. You've given not only your heart to volunteer activities but your minds and hands as well.

Some here today have been doing volunteer work for RSVP since its inception 10 years ago. And I know this anniversary is especially meaningful for those of you who have been in since the beginning. But it's also meaningful to this administration because it shows that voluntarism can work. There are some 300,000 senior volunteers right now who are proving it in a number of ways -- counseling runaway youth, juvenile offenders; giving disadvantaged children extra reading help; providing legal assistance in public defender offices. I'm told that you even have volunteers who counsel on how to fill out Medicare forms, which puts some of you in the genius category. [Laughter]

But wherever there's a need, you have the expertise to fill it. Now I, myself, have some volunteer work for you. When you return to your hometowns, would you tell your fellow volunteers that we intend to keep our promise to restore social security's fiscal integrity? In addition to that, the system can only be as strong as the economy, and we're attempting to make the economy strong so that social security will also be strong.

Thomas Carlisle said that the work of an unknown good man -- or woman, I might add -- is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green. Well, you are making so many things green and growing with your volunteer work. And I imagine your work has probably made your lives a little greener, too.

Someone else once said that life begins when you begin to serve, and I've found there's some truth in that, also. [Laughter] But let me also just add this one thing: that with all the hard things that we have to do to restore this economy, the cuts of many things that we wish didn't have to be cut, we at the same time are just embarking on a program where, from the White House, we are going to take action and form a task force throughout the country to mobilize volunteers and the force of the public sector -- or the private sector, I should say -- to contribute, to take up the slack in many of the things that government perhaps shouldn't have been doing in the first place, that should have been left to that kind of work. And we're going to see if we can't mobilize that kind of a voluntarism back in our society again.

So, thank you for inviting Nancy and myself to share in the RSVP celebration.

Note: The President spoke at 10:16 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. RSVP, the largest Federal volunteer program, is a part of ACTION.