Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the All-America Cities Awards

July 16, 1987

Thank you, and welcome to the White House. And you know, I was getting set as to what I was going to say to you a few days ago, and then the weather doublecrossed me. And I'm going to go ahead, because what I was going to say was: And a special thanks for putting up with Washington in this heat. And it was that hot a couple of days ago. And then I was going to tell you that it reminded me of a Sunday morning in church back when I was growing up in Illinois. And talking about the wages of sin, the preacher said, looking out over the congregation -- and then he said, ``If you think it's hot now, just wait.'' [Laughter] Well, see, I got that in anyway, even if the weather did change. [Laughter]

Well, today we've gathered to talk about virtue -- the virtue of working together to solve local problems. It was more than 100 years ago that the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville traveled through our country, and he was struck by the way that Americans cooperate to solve problems. In his words, quote: ``I have often seen Americans make really great sacrifices for the common good, and I have noticed a hundred cases in which, when help was needed, they hardly ever failed to give each other trusty support.''

Well, for 93 years now, the National Civic League has worked to promote just that spirit, that distinctively American spirit of cooperation. And for 38 of these years, the League's All-America Cities Awards program has recognized outstanding citizen action in attacking local problems. Just think of the numbers involved: More than 3,500 communities representing some 100 million of our citizens have participated in the competition, and more than 350 communities have been given the coveted award. As we celebrate the bicentennial year of our Constitution, we're all especially aware of the need for good citizenship like that promoted by these awards. And so it is that I take great pleasure in making the following presentations.

Columbus, Ohio:

Through the Short North Business Association, Columbus undertook a neighborhood revitalization program that has overseen, in conjunction with the Columbus Neighborhood Design Assistance Center, $1.4 million in capital improvements in a formerly blighted inner city area.

Hickory, North Carolina:

With the help of 300 volunteers, civic leaders of Hickory transformed a decaying local historic landmark into the Arts Center, which has become one of the outstanding cultural facilities in the Southeast. In addition, local citizens are working to develop strategies and recommendations to make their area an even better place in which to live and work in the 1990's and beyond.

Olympia, Washington:

The League of Women Voters in Olympia led a coalition of 11 community organizations to reorganize the city government and was able to generate $44 million in public and private reinvestment funds that resulted in 90 new businesses relocating to downtown Olympia, creating 290 new jobs. An expanded job creation program pursued in cooperation with surrounding communities resulted in 390 volunteers recruiting 40 new companies that have hired 1,850 employees, reduced unemployment from 12.2 percent to 7.7 percent, contributed $400,000 to local tax collection, and added $10 million in retail sales.

Pensacola, Florida:

Pensacola citizens established a nonprofit community development corporation that began a revolving loan fund that has provided $840,000 over 2 years for the establishment or expansion of 17 small businesses, creating 103 new jobs. Several local banks work in a partnership with the corporation that has been so successful, and the State of Florida is now using it as a model.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

The Pittsburgh city government became a working partner with community groups and private investors through the creation of the city's first housing department. Since it was created, more than 15,000 loans have been made to help low and middle income owners renovate their homes, and almost 2,000 below-market-rate mortgages have been approved for first-time home buyers.

Prince George's County, Maryland:

A citizen coalition in Prince George's County championed a fiscal turnaround, a business-financed public relations and marketing campaign, and a privately led revitalization of county economic growth and development. Of particular note is the Advisory Council for Business and Industry, which undertook an aggressive advertising and recruitment campaign to highlight the achievements of the county school system and attract talented new teachers and received nearly 7,000 applications for teaching positions.

Richmond, Indiana:

In late 1984 Richmond community leaders began a project to help workers dislocated by recent plant closings. Within 6 months, 90 percent of the workers targeted were employed and a permanent career opportunities center was opened. At the same time, Richmond community schools initiated an incentive program giving $100 awards to students who achieved 100-percent attendance records. Perfect attendance jumped from 37 to 222 students, and expulsions dropped by more than 30 percent. The next year perfect attendance remained high, even without the rewards.

Vancouver, Washington:

Vancouver undertook a major citywide initiative to play host to an exhibition of world-class contemporary Japanese works in order to bridge a growing cultural gap in the Vancouver-Portland area. This project was a great success and helped create an awareness within the community of how much more there is to learn about the history, culture, and national character of their Pacific neighbor.

Well, congratulations to each of you once again. From our neighbors in Prince George's County, Maryland, to the other side of the continent and the towns of Olympia and Vancouver, Washington -- you're all demonstrating the spirit of initiative and cooperation that made our nation great and will keep her great. And on behalf of all Americans, I thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:35 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building.