Remarks at a White House Ceremony Launching the Summer Jobs for Youth Program

May 20, 1985

Secretary Brock and distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning, and welcome to the White House.

I know one young person that isn't lacking for a summer job. As a matter of fact, she has a permanent job daily on her radio station. Kelly is a sports announcer.

These past couple of months, as the trees have begun to leaf out and the flowers to blossom, spring has come to America -- an America that is in good economic health. For more than 2 years our economy has been growing steadily. And this morning at 8:30 a.m. the Commerce Department released some additional figures that indicate that very definitely.

Our basic industries have achieved new productivity while technological breakthroughs involving the computer and the microchip have produced entirely new fields of services and goods. And nearly 8 million jobs have been created and more than 200,000 last month alone.

As summer follows spring, inflation will remain low and our economy will continue to grow, creating still more jobs. Yet even in these good economic times, thousands of young Americans, as Bill has told you, have trouble finding summer jobs. Many live in parts of our inner cities where there are few employers. Some are black or Hispanic and suffer from higher rates of unemployment than other young Americans.

Ironically, the very young people who will find it hardest to get work will be the ones who need jobs the most. To them, a summer job means a chance to escape poverty and disadvantage, a chance to get the work experience that would enable them to climb the economic ladder.

I think many of us here remember summer jobs. I remember they taught me a great deal about the satisfactions of good, honest work. I was 14 when I got my first summer job. Before that summer was over, I was laying hardwood floor; I was shingling roof, painting, and using a pick and shovel to dig for foundation in house construction. I have to confess that pick and shovel work got a little heavy at times.

One day I was hard at it, swinging a pick, and I had that pick right up over my shoulder for another blow when the noon whistle blew. And I just said, ``That's it.'' And I didn't complete the swing, I just dropped the pick behind me and stepped out from under it. And then I heard a rather profane and angry voice behind me -- [laughter] -- and I turned around, and there stood the boss with the pick imbedded in the ground right between his feet. [Laughter] So, ever since that, I've kept in mind a simple lesson: If you start swinging, finish. [Laughter]

But I can't help thinking that those summer jobs might have been impossible for me to get if certain laws in place today had been in effect back then. And maybe in our effort to do good, maybe we haven't been as successful as we thought we were when we passed some of those laws.

Under the current minimum wage law, for example, many young people have been priced out of the labor market. To put these young Americans back in the market, we have proposed the youth employment opportunity wage -- legislation that would allow employers to hire young people at a lower minimum wage during the summer months. Our bill would increase summer employment opportunities, yet provide explicit safeguards to protect permanent employees and the young people themselves.

The youth employment opportunity wage has wide support, including the endorsement of the National Conference of Black Mayors. For thousands of young Americans, it would represent breakthrough legislation. Let's hope that Congress will act soon.

In the meantime, our administration will continue its work to provide summer jobs for young Americans. We firmly believe that the surest source of the real work, not make-work, is in the private sector. So, at the center of our efforts lies a partnership between the Government and the private sector.

As part of our Job Training Partnership Act this year, our summer youth employment program includes nearly $825 million in funding for State and local governments. And these governments have available some $100 million left over from the 825 million granted them last year for summer employment. So, these levels of government can use this over $900 million this summer to work with other nonprofit concerns as they provide work experience for more than 850,000 young people.

Private efforts in the summer jobs program can offer still more opportunities. Last summer, for example, television stations like WDAF in Kansas City aired summer job-a-thons. Newspapers like the Atlanta Journal/Constitution permitted youngsters to run a ``Jobs Wanted'' ads for free. Corporations like Walt Disney Productions hired thousands of young people and enterprises like Chevron, Sun Company, and Hewlett-Packard contributed facilities, personnel, and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This summer, as in years past, the White House Office of Private Sector Initiatives will receive help in overseeing the summer jobs program from the National Alliance of Business. Bill Kolberg and the other executives at the NAB have my deepest thanks.

This year's spokesmen for the summer jobs program will be the members of the American Sportscasters Association. Vin Scully, as representative of that association, you have my gratitude, and Vin, coming from somebody who used to do a little sports announcing himself, I'd like to say: You're one of the very best.

Finally, to the 170 representatives of corporations and private industry councils who have received summer jobs awards -- many present today -- our congratulations. You've already done much for young Americans, and I know that this summer, you'll do still more.

Together, we can provide summer jobs for hundreds of thousands of our young people. In so doing, we'll help to teach them the spirit of enterprise and to give them the most important kind of capital, not the kind that accumulates in banks, but that which, through actual work experience is stored up in the heart and mind.

Thank you, God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:42 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.