Remarks at a White House Briefing for the United States Delegation to the International Conference on Private Sector Initiatives
Thank you, Eddie, for that kind introduction. And I want to thank you, too, John Phelan, and my Board of Advisors for hosting this conference, and to welcome all the delegates here and to extend a warm welcome to all the distinguished ambassadors present and to Minister Francois Leotard.
am pleased to be here to help inaugurate a new era for private sector
initiatives. The Conference that you'll be attending involves the cooperation
of seven governments, especially that of Prime Minister Chirac and his cabinet.
And it's a fine example of a public-private partnership in action. Funding for
this Conference has come entirely from the private sector through such
donations as those made by American Express and the New York Stock Exchange.
The Conference plans have involved countless volunteer man-hours on the part of
those who are dedicated to promoting international voluntarism, like Jim
Robinson, Paul Sheeline, and Bill Walsh. Bill even
loaned his son, John, to the effort. And a number of organizations and
corporations have provided support, such as the
international conference is very important to me because it's a major
development in a program that has been close to my heart. You've often heard me
talk about growing up in a small midwestern town
where neighbor helped neighbor. From the barn raisings to the volunteer fire
department, I was able to witness the great strength of private sector
activity. When I became Governor of California, I sought to use the power of my
office to promote this philosophy throughout that great State. As a matter of
fact, I called on the private sector to come in and help me do some
reorganizing in government. And 250 of the top leaders in the State of
Then in 1981, when I became President, I decided that promoting private sector initiatives across this country would be a top priority of our administration here at the national level. And just look at the success we've witnessed. Over the past 5 years, charitable giving has increased 80 percent to last year's record high of nearly $80 billion privately given to good causes. In the area of voluntarism, more people are donating their time than ever before, and a recent survey estimated the annual value of the services these people have rendered is over a hundred billion dollars. In the area of public-private partnerships, we've seen thousands of new programs across the country committed to meeting human needs in health, education, nutrition, child care, and many other fields. And we've seen many American corporations take active roles in communities across the country in a new concept known as corporate social responsibility. As a matter of fact, right here in our own community -- and it's going on across the country -- many of them made themselves partners of local schools. And they chained us into it. The White House became a partner to one of the local schools here in town. And I have a pen pal in that school that was appointed by the school, and I correspond with him regularly.
now, I'm very pleased that the private sector initiatives program has spread
internationally. The good-hearted actions of individuals, of you and me,
promote the public good, the welfare of the Nation as a whole, in ways that
government never could. They ensure that the public-spiritedness of our people
is harnessed to its full extent. If we let government take its place entirely,
we would surely be wasting our most potent resource. Alexis de Tocqueville's description is as true of
know you've been briefed at length about the Conference, and you've heard the
excitement expressed by the ambassadors of the other participating nations. I'm
sure that your discussions with your foreign counterparts about how the
programs work here in
June I'll be in
just would have one last word maybe, because of us brash Americans and what
sometimes we might get out of line into other minds. I don't think that it's
we're different people; we couldn't be. We are inheritors of every ethnic and
racial strain from every corner of the world in this melting pot here. I think
the difference probably is because we're such a young country that we still
have that pioneer heritage, where people had to help each other, where there
was literally no government at a time to do things for them. And maybe that's
why we've done this and older countries down through the -- you -- perhaps
you're aware that
I remember one story that was told back when Americans first came to the point that they could begin to think about visiting their fatherlands and motherlands, the other countries, the heritage of their parents and grandparents. And we didn't exactly turn up as tourists over there -- as the most desirable kind. We were pretty brash. I remember the story of an elderly farm couple that had finally taken this tour, and a guide was explaining to them the great power of Vesuvius and the heat and everything that was involved. And then the old man was heard saying to his wife, ``We got a volunteer fire department at home -- put that thing out in 15 minutes.'' [Laughter] So, we'll all be tactful in this.
Thank you, God bless you, and good luck.
The President spoke at in Room 450 of the