Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the ``C'' Flag Awards

June 14, 1985

Secretary Pierce and ladies and gentlemen, we're delighted to have all of you here today because this is the last formal event involving the Advisory Council on Private Sector Initiatives.

And I want to begin by expressing my deep personal gratitude to each of you for being a part of this tremendously important, history-making event. And a special word of thanks is in order to Bob Galvin, the Advisory Council Chairman; to Bill Taylor and the citation program sponsors who made these awards -- or this awards program possible; and to John Phelan from the New York Stock Exchange.

I know words like ``historymaking'' or ``historic'' get thrown around a lot in this city, but let me assure you that in this case those words are more than just Washington puffery.

Some of you've heard me talk about de Tocqueville's reflections on 19th century America and his astonishment at the extent to which Americans made their society work -- not by relying on government but by helping each other. You all know that this tradition -- one of the driving engines of social progress in our country -- was in serious jeopardy some years ago when the idea took hold that the only way to handle a social problem was a huge new Federal spending program, an army of functionaries and consultants to administer it.

And it was very successful for the bureaucrats. Government bureaucracy reached gargantuan size. And because nothing stifles initiative and imagination like bureaucracy, America's self-help tradition lost much of its force and energy.

But any modern-day de Tocqueville looking over America would see a return now to that tradition and a revival of the idea, which all of you embody, that compassion with ingenuity works, that the American people are anxious and ready to help each other. They just need to be asked.

I hope you'll forgive me if I tell a little story that I think has a special pertinence about some of these things. Back in my early days in radio, every studio had a sound-effects man. And he had a kind of a wagon there on wheels he'd bring in for dramatic presentations and so forth.

And he had experimented with all the things that you could do to make sounds that otherwise you couldn't get on radio. For example, he had, I know, in our own studio half coconut shells with which he would beat on his chest, and you would have a horse galloping. [Laughter] And, then, he had plenty of cellophane that he could crackle and crinkle, and that was a raging fire while the things were going on.

Well, one day we had a play that called for water falling on a board, and he got to work, the headphones on, and to listen and all during the rehearsals, he was working. He tried rice on a drum; he tried dried peas on a piece of cardboard; I recall. He tried everything, and nothing would give him the sound of water on a board.

And then, you know what? He tried water on a board -- [laughter] -- and it sounded just like water on a board. [Laughter] Well, in a way, then, that's what all of you have done -- the simple and obvious thing that somehow had been forgotten. You just went to people; you asked them to lend a hand. And you discovered that that's just the question they needed to hear. And because you did, you've helped change America.

Your projects have ranged from child-safety awareness to food banks, job training, neighborhood revitalization, and scores of other programs in art, ecology, and education and services for the elderly. I like that last one particularly. [Laughter]

There is a grassroots movement out there that just can't be stopped. Earlier this week, Tom Evans and his education committee sponsored a symposium on partnerships in education. Close to 500 people came to Washington to talk about creative ways for business and schools to work together. And because of your efforts, the New York Stock Exchange has identified private sector initiatives as an issue of great importance to corporate America and cohosted this morning's symposium on excellence in private sector initiatives.

In addition to being here today for this awards program, there is special significance in that it is Flag Day. And later I'll be out at Fort McHenry to salute the Stars and Stripes.

Flags have always symbolized important characteristics of the American people -- the Stars and Stripes for independence and the World War II ``E'' Flag for excellence. And now, as you look around here, in the Rose Garden you see the ``C'' Flag -- a symbol of private sector initiative that says, ``We can, and we care.''

Thousands of these flags are flying around the country, reflecting the ingenuity and compassion of people in organizations that are putting something back into their communities. That's the reason we have three mikes; every time they see me come out here, one of them flies over. [The President was referring to the noise of an airplane flying overhead.] [Laughter]

I want to thank each of the winners for their enormous commitment and dedication and patriotism. I think you all know that I could go on at some length about your achievements.

Safeway stores put pictures of missing children on their shopping bags, and within two weeks two of the eight children were found.

Last year over 5,600 hours of instruction time were donated to the schools that ARCO employees have adopted.

B. Dalton Bookseller has launched a 4-year national literacy initiative, already involving 375 communities and 30,000 volunteers.

Through LISC, the Local Initiative Support Corporation, BankAmerica Foundation has financed 27 different rehabilitation projects in distressed areas.

Last year the members of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce provided jobs for over 1,000 juvenile offenders that earned over $350,000 that was paid back to victims in restitution.

And through its youth leadership program, Westinghouse Broadcasting and Cable, Incorporated, recognize outstanding high school seniors who exemplify the innate will to win.

And the list goes on. I wish there were time to mention the contributions of everyone. I couldn't possibly do that, but what I can do is thank you, not just for myself, but as President for the millions of Americans who, if they had the chance, would want to personally express their gratitude to you.

You have made a difference for your country and for millions of your countrymen. You have helped renew and enrich America by awakening one of her oldest and most noble traditions. And now, given this marvelous start, I cannot help but feel that our work has just begun. The challenge is before us to make better use of all our resources. We can only do this by working together. No one sector can do it alone.

The crystal tetrahedrons that I am awarding today symbolize how the fusion on the private, public, and nonprivate sectors can form a solid base. Only by working together and finding some private solutions to public problems can we restore the strong balance needed for the future health of our Nation.

Our country is great because it is built on principles of self-reliance, opportunity, innovation, and compassion for the others. Private sector initiatives embody this spirit and are a vital part of the Nation's character.

To each of you here today who have taken a leadership role in helping to meet our challenge, I thank you, and all of America thanks you. God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:05 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. The President awarded citations to 100 businesses and associations for their outstanding private sector initiatives. The top 30 of this group received a special private sector initiative award. R. William Taylor, president of the American Society of Association Executives, was the Chairman of the Awards Committee for the President's Private Sector Initiatives Citation Program.