Remarks on Receiving the Report of the President's Child Safety Partnership

 

November 5, 1987

 

Thank you very much. And I appreciate this opportunity to receive the report of the partnership and to thank all of you who've contributed to this study. It was 2 years ago when I first appointed 26 of you, distinguished citizens who would not take this issue lightly, to examine the status of child safety in America. This effort was launched during a time of anxiety and frustration over an escalating number of reports about the abuse, molestation, and abduction of children.

 

What I asked for was more than just a reaffirmation that a problem exists. I'm looking forward, then, to reading your recommendations on how America should approach this issue and how all Americans can work together to prevent the victimization of children. Much care was taken to ensure that results-oriented, no-nonsense people were brought into this effort. Certainly, the last thing needed is a report predicated on the idea that government can solve this and every other problem, simply by spending more tax dollars or increasing the number of Federal bureaucrats whose official assignment is solving the problem.

 

Child safety is a broad and complex issue, as you have heard, and does not lend itself to easy answers and quick fixes. It's more than just abuse and neglect. It's also the exploitation of children through pornography and prostitution, the abduction of children, and the assault, robbery, and murder of children. It involves kids who run away from home or are turned out of their homes and youths who abuse drugs and alcohol.

 

You'll be glad to know that this month I'll be proposing legislation to Congress that will give law enforcement officials the help they need to crack down on child pornography and the exploitation of our children. The answer is not federalizing and bureaucratizing the problem. The answer is to bring into play the greatest force for good on this planet, and that is the active commitment of the American people. Your report will be another important step toward informing and mobilizing the citizenry.

 

First and foremost, we must be aggressive advocates of a simple, yet profound idea: It's a preeminent responsibility for the family to care for and raise its children and a preeminent responsibility of society to nurture and protect the institution of the family. We cannot make progress in this area without first admitting that many of the problems we face concerning the victimization of children stem from a breakdown of the family and the decline of certain moral values in America. These are problems that will require all of us to take a stand and to get involved.

 

In September I issued an Executive order requiring all Federal departments and agencies to review existing and proposed legislation and regulations to make sure they don't undermine family values. From this end, you can count on me and the other leaders of our administration to consider seriously what impact the decisions we're making will have on the institution of the family, and that includes our decisions as to who will be appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

 

Thomas Jefferson once wrote: ``The fortune of our lives depends on employing well the short period of our youth.'' Well, that's what this report and the effort we're making is all about. We want all of America's children to reach their fullest potential, to reach adulthood capable of living life to its fullest and taking advantage of the tremendous freedom of our country. As I said earlier, this is not just government's job; it's up to all of us.

 

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the individuals and companies who have been involved in private sector initiatives that attack the problem of child victimization in America. And I'd like to offer congratulations to those winners of the Child Safety Partnership Award: Parental Stress Services, KOMO-TV, Paulina Home, Texize Division of Dow Consumer Products, Housewise Streetwise, Robert L. Bearden, National Children's Advocacy Center, and the American Gas Association.

 

These are, of course, but just a few of the many wonderful examples of what Americans are voluntarily doing to better this country. Recently, it caught my attention that the Annie E. Casey Foundation will be giving $100 million to help America's children. One program being financed is specifically aimed at helping those kids at risk: teenagers who drop out of school and cannot find jobs, and pregnant young women.

 

Let me just note that this grant is coming from a foundation that was funded by one of America's great entrepreneurs, Jim Casey. The Foundation is named after his mother, who raised her children alone. Jim, in fact, had to quit school at the age of 11 to earn money to contribute to the family. He started delivering messages with a friend and eventually set up an office for his American Messenger Service in the basement of a saloon. With hard work and a commitment to excellence, Jim, starting from that humblest of beginnings, built one of this country's most successful business enterprises, United Parcel Service. He proved through his life that free enterprise is not only more efficient but that it fosters those human values which make this a good and a free land.

 

In his lifetime Jim Casey and his brothers and a sister, through the Casey family program, have helped a countless number of society's forgotten children. Jim died 5 years ago, and now a foundation that he endowed with hundreds of millions of dollars is a lasting tribute to this great American. He cared for kids he will never know. Jim is often quoted as saying, ``Determined people, working together, can do anything.'' Well, that is our challenge. So, thank you all for what you're doing to protect America's greatest national treasure, our children. And now Mario Machado will introduce the winners, and we'll present them with their awards.

 

Note: The President spoke at 11:41 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. Mario J. Machado was a member of the Partnership.