Remarks on Television Job-a-thons to Promoters of Community Service Projects

April 21, 1983

Mr. Mechem. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, ladies and gentlemen -- I think you can all sit down, probably -- [laughter] -- my name's Charles Mechem. I'm the chairman of Taft Broadcasting Company. I'm really deeply honored today to speak on behalf of the 30 broadcast stations represented in this room, all of whom responded enthusiastically, Mr. President, to your call to help attack the Nation's number one priority, providing jobs for the unemployed.

In a very real sense, this was a grassroots effort, because it was undertaken by local television broadcast stations, the backbone of this country's remarkable system of free television news, information, and entertainment. I'm especially pleased that local broadcasters are receiving this recognition today, because day in and day out these dedicated, hard-working men and women contribute immeasurably to the quality of life in their respective communities.

It is, I believe, clear that the jobs fair efforts of these stations has succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. For example, to date, in the six Taft stations alone, almost 2,000 people have been placed in new jobs as a result of jobs fairs, and the placements are continuing every day. I know that everyone in this room could give exciting and heartwarming examples of the success of these efforts. Let me give just a couple.

In Kansas City a 35-year-old electronics technician who had been unemployed for 6 months was hired by an electronics repair service. He told our WDAF - TV reporter that finding a job took him from a state of desperation to one of optimism. In Cincinnati a 38-year-old unemployed Vietnam veteran is now working as a machine shop supervisor and earning $20,000 a year. That position had been listed with the State employment service for 8 months and went unfilled until WKRC - TV's job fair.

By the way, it's critical to point out that none of this could have happened without the tremendous support and cooperation of businesses, both large and small, who came forward with offers of jobs, and also without the help of the many State and local employment bureaus that worked with us.

Let me very quickly cite what I think are the three primary benefits of the jobs fair effort. First, and, of course, foremost were the people who were put back to work. Second, was the hope that was provided to unemployed people everywhere, the kind of hope that is generated when desperate, dejected people see concrete evidence that someone cares, that somebody's trying to help. And, third, the example that the job fairs provided of the strength and influence of local broadcast stations. It gave us a chance to reaffirm what we have always known and practiced: that local problems can best be solved locally by neighbors helping neighbors; that when the American people are given a chance through the initiative of the private sector to help, they respond unselfishly and enthusiastically.

Mr. President, we thank you for providing the leadership which challenged the private sector to pitch in and help and, specifically, for giving us a chance to help. It was exciting, it was rewarding, it was fun. And, Mr. President, it worked. From all of us, thank you.

The President. Well, welcome to the White House and thank you, Charlie Mechem, for describing what the Taft stations and your other colleagues in the broadcast industry have been accomplishing. And may I say, I have my own story also.

I'm sure some of you saw in the news recently in Pittsburgh when a young man approached me with a resume and asked if I would show it to someone and take it from him. And I took it from him, and this was in front of an audience that I had just addressed. And I have just received today a letter from him thanking me because he now has a new career and a job and the world looks very bright to him right now. He also said that he understood I couldn't do that with individual resumes for everyone. [Laughter]

But there are many fine people that I know have been helped by your efforts, and certainly they and their families are grateful. And we here at the White House are also grateful for all that you've done. And that goes for all of you who've been putting forth the time and effort to produce a job-a-thon, a community service project for which you can be rightfully proud. Many of you have heard me -- and many other Presidents before me, I might add -- tell you that they like to read the good news. Who doesn't like to read good news? But I think that the story here today really is a good one. We have all of you -- local television stations from across the country -- here at the White House to take note of your community service and to say ``thank you.''

Your efforts in creating job-a-thons have been examples of the finest tradition of community service. And let me just read to you from the clips. In Arizona it was reported that ``some 3,000 unemployed Arizonans are back at work this week not because of any government program, but as the result of an extensive effort made by the State's private sector.'' Jack Londen, who's a good friend of mine, was the moving force behind the job-a-thon televised by KPNX - TV. He persuaded Marcon Incorporated of Phoenix to donate $60,000 worth of material and computer time to create a jobs bank where employers and prospective employees are matched. This was a statewide effort, and I hope that we can see more of them.

In Providence, WLNE general manager Gary Chapman was quoted as saying, ``We believe there are going to be jobs created as a result of this program.'' Well, Gary, I hope so. I know that some were filled as a result of your effort.

In Cedar Rapids, KGAN - TV began the idea by preempting its local and network prime-time programing last summer. Before the show was over and the job-a-thon ended, some 319 jobs were netted. Sally Dale, a housekeeper-babysitter who'd been out of work for months, received a job offer within 60 seconds of her television interview.

There are many more examples of your good work. In communities throughout the country, these job-a-thons, job fairs, and other private initiatives have proven to be successful in matching skillful people with new jobs.

I want to be sure to point out to all of my friends from the networks and the big national news organizations that are here today, the good works of your local stations. You have acted in the finest traditions of American voluntarism. And you represent a fine example of local broadcasting initiative. I'm pleased to have you here at the White House to say ``thank you.''

I remember my call to KGAN - TV in Cedar Rapids, which sponsored the first job-a-thon. Since then, I've participated -- as has Vice President Bush -- with a number of other stations. Job-a-thons are the finest American traditions of neighbor helping neighbor. And we both thank you for letting us play a small part in that.

What you've done is one vital step in a process of helping some mighty fine people move through a very difficult period of transition. Last week a well-qualified, former steelworker in Pittsburgh -- was the one that I mentioned earlier about the letter, Ron Bricker -- and asked for help. And, as I say, I wish I could help everyone as we were able to help him. Jim had a hand in that, that did a couple of phone calls before it worked out.

We're trying to do that with an economic recovery program that gets to the root causes of our economic problems, and day by day, we're seeing mounting evidence that that program is working. In the meantime, however, there are hundreds of thousands of hard-working individuals like Ron Bricker who face immediate problems. Fortunately, in this case, we were able to direct him to a job interview. And he took it from there. And, as I say, he now has a job with the Tandy Corporation.

I'd like to be able to take more individual action. But realistically, I have to ask for your assistance and for that of other stations like yours to help fellows like Ron. These job-a-thons are difficult to do, I know. They take the work and coordination of many people. So, I want to add a word of appreciation to all the cameramen and the technicians and the reporters -- some of whom, I know are with us today -- who volunteered their time and skills to help make these job-a-thons a success.

The job-a-thon, of course, is only one of many tools that we have for connecting well-qualified workers with opportunities. We have also supported the creation of job-search clubs that are being organized by the National Alliance of Business in coordination with the Departments of Labor and Commerce. And technical experts and members of our soon-to-be-announced Advisory Council on Private Sector Initiatives will be working with employers to provide displaced employees with basic skills needed to find new jobs.

In short, while coming to grips with the causes of our economic difficulties, we also have to do our best to give individual workers, hurt by the economic downturn and technological changes, a fair shake. It's going to take all of us, in and out of government, to get this done.

Now that I've thanked you for what you've already done, let me leave you with a challenge to double your efforts and do it some more. The job-a-thon, an idea that was born out of the creative thinking and hard work of a few local stations, is just the kind of practical, positive, can-do approach that we need to make important progress. So, I hope you'll all go back and spread the message.

And I thank you again, and God bless you for coming here to the White House to be part of National Volunteer Week. And I know I'm going to get to say hello to each one of you individually down the hall in just a few seconds, so I'll get to that. And I could stand here forever and keep on saying ``thank you'' for all you've done.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 2:45 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.