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

 

July 23, 1987

 

Thank you all very much, and welcome to the White House. And since I understand that you've been in here for a couple of hours -- [laughter] -- you will bless me when you go out and find out that we refused to have this this morning in the Rose Garden. [Laughter] It's a little warm.

 

Well, on my desk in the Oval Office, there sits a plaque that says, ``It can be done.'' It's a belief that I deeply hold true. And there's no community, no problem, no individual that cannot be helped through private sector initiative. When individuals and organizations are willing to get involved, there's no limit to the good that can be done. It's a tradition as old as our country, that in America neighbors help neighbors. You here today are proof that this great American tradition lives on. The problems and challenges you've addressed are diverse; the solutions all share a common foundation: that of one man or woman reaching out to another.

 

When floods ravaged communities around Chicago, it was volunteers from the private sector who sat on battered boxes and listened to the tales of grief and helped the healing process and future begin. Their employer made it possible for this act of kindness to take place, releasing their employees from work and organizing efforts to aid those in need with cleanup assistance, replacement of household goods, and daily meals for over 1,400.

 

In the town of Yellowbud, Ohio, farmers and their families loaded trucks at midnight with their excess hay so that fellow farmers in drought-stricken North Carolina might feed their herds. A local supermarket chain provided two convoys with over 100 drivers to get hay to those in need as part of their Hay for Farmers program. And Bob Goodale, whose company provided the trucks and drivers, didn't seek any reward for his efforts. ``The farmers were the heroes,'' he said. ``We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.''

 

When it comes to the fight against drug abuse, the American Association of Advertising Agencies estimates that 9 out of 10 Americans over the age of 12 will be exposed to at least one of their many antidrug campaigns. The association has mobilized the creative resources of over 300 advertising agencies and multiple trade unions -- as they put it -- denormalize drug use over the next 3 years.

 

In Los Angeles there's a group called Share that's close to Nancy's and my heart. Each year the members of Share -- women in the entertainment community, including stars like Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and others -- put on a wonderful show to raise funds for mentally retarded children. Share has been so successful that, just this year, the organization has been able to fund a new wing at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles -- a wing devoted to research on retardation.

 

These are just a few examples of private sector initiative at work. You're here today -- or you here today, I should say, are the companies and associations who got involved and made it your business to be ``in the right place at the right time.'' You're not only examples for your fellow Americans but the world as well. You know, one night at a dinner, early in my first term, over in the White House there, an Ambassador's wife was my dinner partner on one side, and the conversation at the table had gotten around to things that were being done here by the private sector initiative. And very quietly, she said to me, ``Yes, but you're unique.'' And I said, ``Well, what do you mean?'' She said, ``Yes, in the United States you do it that way. But,'' she said, ``no place else.'' She said, ``All the rest of us over there just leave it to government.'' Well, I have never forgotten her story, and I started telling it around and have at every occasion that I could, on this subject, mentioned that.

 

And now that may be changing. It is changing, in fact. Last November the first International Conference on Private Sector Initiatives was held in Paris, France, and they had asked us if we would participate and tell them how it worked. And while I was in Venice just several weeks ago for the economic summit, I attended an Italian-American Conference on Private Sector Initiatives. And standing at a podium like this, I looked out and saw a few friendly faces from our own country who were there for that particular meeting. The Italian national task force, formed as a result of that conference, met 2 days ago in Italy to develop their own plan of action.

 

In 1984 my board of advisers on private sector initiatives developed the President's Citation Program for Private Sector Initiatives to recognize and showcase outstanding examples of community involvement. And the backbone of that program is the C-Flag -- the flag by which good-neighbor organizations can be identified. And people still ask what does the ``C'' stand for? Well, it stands for commitment, a commitment to respond to the needs of others. This year over 3,500 organizations proudly fly the C-Flag with its slogan, ``We can, we care.'' And today I'm proud to be here with the 100 winners of the Private Sector Initiatives Citation for 1987 and to bestow this crystal tetrahedron to the 30 top programs. I especially want to thank Bill Taylor of the American Society of Association Executives for all of the help his organization gives in administering this program. You do a fine job, Bill.

 

And now, I better stop talking, and we'll give out the awards.

 

Note: The President spoke at 11:48 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his closing remarks, he referred to R. William Taylor, president of the American Society of Association Executives.