Faith-Based Initiative with Urban Leaders
Dwight DC Eisenhower Executive Office Building
July 16, 2003
1:27 P.M. EDT
I thank you all for coming. I'm joined by some pretty distinguished company
up here. I want to thank my friends, the Social Entrepreneurs of America --
(laughter) -- for standing up here today. I want to talk about a couple of
First, I want to introduce Condoleezza Rice, my National Security Advisor
-- (applause) -- who, as I understand it, is going to stay afterwards and
answer some questions about our trip, which I appreciate you doing.
I'll talk about the values that make our country unique and different. We
love freedom here in America. We believe freedom is God's gift to every single
individual and we believe in the worth of each individual. We believe in
human dignity. And we believe where we find hopelessness and suffering, we
shall not turn our back. That's what we believe.
And there are -- in this land of plenty, there are people who hurt, people
who wonder whether or not the American experience, what they call the American
Dream, is meant for them. And I believe the American Dream is meant for everybody.
And when we find there's doubt, we've got to bring light and hope. And so
that's what we're here to talk about today. And the men up here represent
a representative sample of what we call the faith community in America. People
who first and foremost have been called because of a calling much higher
than government. (Applause.)
I say "social entrepreneurs" because, in many of our faith institutions,
we find people who are willing to reach out in the neighborhood in which
they exist to help those who hurt and those who are in need. They're willing
to take a new tack, a tack based upon faith, to heal hearts and provide hope
and provide inspiration, so that the American Dream is available in every
corner in America. And where we find those programs which are effective,
society ought to support those programs.
What I'm saying is, we ought not to fear faith, we ought not to discriminate
against faith-based programs. We ought to welcome what I call neighborhood
healers in the compassionate delivery of help so that people can experience
the greatness of our country. (Applause.)
Of course, that then leads to the question of public money, taxpayers' money.
My attitude is taxpayers' money should and must fund effective programs,
effective faith-based programs, so long as those services go to anybody in
need. We ought to focus on -- we ought to ask the question in our society, "Is
the faith-based program working," not focus on the fact that it's a
The government, as it gives support, as it provides help to the faith-based
program and in return asks for help for solving social problems, as it does
that it should never discriminate. It should never cause the faith-based
program to lose its character or to compromise the mission. (Applause.) That's
the basic principles of the faith-based initiative which you've heard a lot
Really what we're doing is we're signing up the armies of compassion, which
already exist, and saying, what can we do to help you fulfill your calling
and your mission? That's really what we're doing. I signed an executive order
banning discrimination against faith-based charities by federal agencies.
We waited for Congress to act. They couldn't act on the issue. So I just
went ahead and signed an executive order which will unleash -- (applause)
-- which says the federal agencies will not discriminate against faith-based
programs. They ought to welcome the armies of compassion as opposed to turning
I know you've heard from some of my key Cabinet secretaries. Within their
secretariat are offices designed to speak up for, defend, and empower faith-based
groups, specially created within the bureaucracy.
Look, I fully understand the issue, the frustration some face. And it's
a frustration based upon a long practice here at the federal level, and that
is there's no place for faith-based programs and trying to help people in
need. And therefore, we'll discriminate, shove out of the way, not deal with,
make it hard for, create barriers to entry. And my administration is absolutely
committed to reducing those barriers to entry. And we've created these offices
whose sole function it is to, one, recognize the power of faith and, two,
recognize there are fantastic programs all throughout the country on a variety
of subjects, all based upon faith, all changing lives, all making American
life better, and therefore, folks would be enlisted in making sure the American
dream extends throughout our society.
Let me give you some examples, particularly those who might be tuning in
to this moment. What do you mean by faith-based discrimination? Well, in
Seattle, there was an earthquake, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency
gave disaster relief funds to schools, but denied them to the Seattle Hebrew
Academy. In other words, schools -- public schools got the funds from FEMA,
but not a religious school.
And so, we've changed that rule. That's the kind of discrimination that
I -- that may make some sense to people who are not exactly sure what I'm
talking about. Another interesting example is in Boston, the old North Church
-- it's a famous historic landmark -- needed preservation funds, yet it was
denied federal help because it was a church. And that's not right. That's
not right. It makes no sense. And therefore, we're changing those kinds of
And we're also making sure that federal monies are available. It's one thing
to talk about a faith-based initiative, but there needs to be money in the
system available for the faith-based programs in order for it to make it
And that's money that's coming out of these agencies already. We spend a
lot of money here in Washington, and that -- monies ought to be accessible
to effective faith-based programs which heal people from all walks of life.
It's -- money is not going to proselytize; money is going to save lives.
And let me give you some examples of what is working today, maybe examples
that you already have heard about, particularly when you go to the White
House conferences as we try to describe how to access a system.
In Columbus, Ohio, St. Stephen's Community House, it's a faith-based program,
is using a -- nearly $1 million from the Department of Education to expand
its after school program. There's kind of an interesting use of education
dollars that will help faith-based programs fulfill their mission. (Applause.)
The Frederick Douglas Community Development Corporation, started by the
Memorial AME Zion Church in Rochester, New York, has received more than $5
million from HUD to build low-income houses for seniors. The AME Church decided
to do something about the housing issue as far as the seniors go in their
congregation, and accessed federal money, and put together a housing project.
Now a lot of people don't -- when they think about the AME Church, or any
church for that matter, they don't think housing. Except I know some social
entrepreneurs from my state -- right, Evans -- (laughter) -- who have used
their facilities, their skills, to go ahead and to build homes.
The Operation New Hope and City Center Ministries in Jacksonville, Florida,
and the Exodus Transitional Community in East Harlem went to the Department
of Labor, and they received labor funds for job training programs for ex-offenders.
A person gets out of prison, checks in at the church, and the church says,
wait, we want to help you get back into society, not only will there be some
lessons to be learned, but also, here's some training money, here's a training
course. So it's a practical application of taxpayers' money to meet societal
And one of the greatest societal needs is we have is to make sure our guys
that spent time in the pen, not only receives spiritual guidance and love,
but spiritual guidance and love can only go so far. And it's also helpful
to have him be trained in a job which exists. In other words, there's practical
application of taxpayers' money that we want to get into the hands of our
faith-based organizations all throughout our society.
The people said, well, we're already doing that. Now, what's happening is
that the same programs are being funded over, and over, and over again. In
other words, there's kind of a rut. And that doesn't encourage the entrepreneurial
spirit that we're interested in.
So one of the things we've done here in the White House to deal with this
issue is we've started -- and Jim Towey is -- we've got an office dedicated,
by the way, to this faith-based initiative. And we've started White House
conferences to explain to people how the process works. And Towey handed
me this book when I came in. These are the different pots of money, if you
will, that are accessible to the faith community so that you can help fund
Now, look, we've got to do a better job of making sure that we explain what
we mean by the faith-based initiative. I understand that. It requires education.
People can read everything they want into it when they hear "faith-based
initiative." That all of a sudden opens everybody's imagination in the
world to vast possibilities, some which exist and some which don't. (Laughter.)
And so therefore we're reaching out to explain to people the practical applications.
The Compassion -- Capital Compassion Fund, which Congress has funded, I've
asked for $100 million. They've -- $30 million and $35 million over the last
two years. But that money goes to help smaller charities learn how to fill
out grants, learn what it means to access federal monies.
It's one thing for people however to learn how to fill out a grant. It's
another thing to have the grant fall on deaf ears. So we're also changing
habits here in Washington, D.C. And that's what the office of the -- the
office within these departments are all designed to do, to facilitate, to
make it easier for people to access, to make sure that we really do tap the
heart and soul of our country.
Evans -- Tony Evans first kind of woke me up to this. We were in Greenville,
Texas, together. And he said, the best welfare programs already exist on
the street corners of inner city Dallas, in this case. They're open 24 hours
a day. They've got a fantastic guidebook. (Laughter.) Been around a long
time. (Laughter.) The model of the work force is clear: Love your neighbor.
And it dawned on me how true he is. There's no need to reinvent; we've got
it in place. And so therefore when I lay out an initiative that talks about
saving the lives of drug offenders, really what I'm saying is that I understand
that when you change a person's heart, you can change their habits. So let's
enlist the faith community on the goal of saving people's lives who happen
to be hooked on drugs. (Applause.)
Six-hundred-million dollars over three years, I would hope that the faith
community gets very much involved when Congress funds this. And by the way,
part of this mission is for me to remind Congress they need to fund it. But
once funded, it's very important for the faith community to be involved.
The 10-step program is a faith initiative when you really think about the
-- how it works. And I know many of you who run churches and synagogues and
mosques in America are worried about addiction in your neighborhoods. And
we want to help because we believe, we know, that some of the most effective
programs are those that work when a heart is changed.
I've also laid out a mentoring initiative. I would love to have every child
who has a mother or dad in prison to have a mentor. The most vulnerable of
our population are those who may have a mom or a dad incarcerated. And they
need love. They need a lot of love. And the best way to provide love is to
find somebody who's willing to love them through a mentoring program.
I went to the Amachi Program in Philadelphia, perhaps you all know about
it, out of the Bright Hope Baptist Church, saw the program that works. There's
a lot of initiatives around from the faith-based program that track the child
who needs to be mentored. And the best place to find mentors, of course,
is you can find them every Sunday. But we need help to make sure the program
works. And so Congress, I've asked to get this program moving. My point is,
we've got some federal initiatives, job training, education, addiction. We've
got a housing initiative here, by the way, that I'm deeply concerned about,
what they call a minority gap in America. Too many, relative to the Anglo
community, too many minorities don't own their own homes. I believe in an
ownership society. I know when somebody owns their home, they've got such
a fantastic stake in the future.
The faith community can help in home ownership. The federal government's
got to help a lot here. We've got to make sure there is more affordable homes.
We've got to provide tax incentives for people to build homes in inner cities.
We've got to have downpayment help. And we've got to make sure that the contracts
-- I can understand somebody, a first time home buyer getting a little nervous
when they pull up the contract and the print's about that big, and nobody
understands what's in the print. And a lot of people don't want to sign something
they're not sure what it's about. And so we've got education programs through
our housing institutions to teach people what it means to buy a home and
how to help them access the downpayment help and also to make sure the contracts
are clear and understandable. (Applause.)
This is a mission at home, is to help people. And, you know, government
can help. I like to say, government can pass out money, but it cannot put
help in people's hearts, or purpose in people's lives. And that's why it's
vital for our country to count on those who can put hope in people's hearts
and a sense of purpose in people's lives. And that's our faith community.
You know, we will accomplish a lot here at home if we use all the resources
available to our communities. And I will tell -- continue to tell the American
people one of the great untapped resources for government is to work side-by-side
with the faith community. And I want to thank you all for your -- hearing
Before I end, I do want to also remind you that we will not turn our back
on people who suffer in the world, as well. I have just come from Africa
and I'd like to share some thoughts, if you don't mind.
First -- and Condi was traveling with me, of course. I don't dare go overseas
without her. (Laughter and applause.) At Goree Island, we stood at the Point
of No Return. And it was a moving moment for our entire delegation. I went
to Auschwitz earlier, and then I went to here, and it reminded me of the
capacity for mankind to be cruel.
But the interesting thing that I've come to realize, that I spoke at Goree
Island, was, those who were sent to America as slaves, and their ancestors
who lived in a segregated society stood strong, never gave up faith, and
in fact, helped America find her soul and her conscience. (Applause.)
It's an interesting historical twist, when you think about it. Those who
were chained, sent in those ships, separated from their families, those who
were really beaten down never lost their spirit, never lost their desire
for freedom and hope, stood strong in the face of the oppressor, finally
made the oppressor feel guilty, and in fact made us realize what it meant,
liberty and justice for all. (Applause.)
South Africa and Botswana and Uganda and Nigeria -- and by the way, it took
a long time to fly from Senegal to South Africa. (Laughter.) It took longer
to fly from Senegal to South Africa than it took from America to Senegal,
which means we're covering a lot of country. (Laughter.)
It's a continent of vast potential, is a way I like to describe it, a continent
of possibility. And it's in our national interest that Africa do well. Africa
has got to deal with a lot of issues. And first of all, the policy of this
government is to understand Africans are plenty capable of dealing with issues
themselves, they just need help.
So for example, when it comes to helping deal with regional conflicts, one
of the things we've got to do is help train their militaries so that they've
got the capacity to move in and separate warring factions. One of the problems
Africa faces, of course, is there is -- every time there's a civil war, there's
a lot of hurt, death, displacement. It makes it awfully hard for a society
to function that is at war with itself, as you know.
In those countries, I was struck by its potential and struck by the issues
that are faced, education issues and health issues, of course. No bigger
issue, in my judgment, however, than the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. And we live
in an amazing world. And yet, in the midst of our world, there's a lot of
folks who are dying and will die. And it's time for the United States of
America to act and act in a big way, which is what we're going to do. (Applause.)
Reverend Rivers went over just to make sure that I fulfilled my promise.
He was watching my every move -- (laughter). I asked for $15 billion. Now
let me just give you a quick update, then Condi will be glad to answer any
other questions you have about the trip.
Some countries are prepared for our aid. As a matter of fact, a lot of countries
are. And that was a very important question to ask. If, in fact, we fund,
and we will fund, and I want to thank you for your help in convincing Congress
that they've got to fund the initiative. As you know, we have authorized
it. Now they've got to write the check. And we will. We will.
But it was very important for us to see whether or not the, for example,
the capacity to distribute anti-retrovirals was in place. Nothing worse than
stockpiling medicines that never get distributed to the actual people. We're
not interested in helping organizations; we're interested in helping organizations
actually get the medicine to the people.
And we saw a good infrastructure. The Catholic Church, for example, in Uganda
is fully prepared to pave the way for a distribution of anti-retrovirals,
at the same time help with education and prevention.
The first step, by the way, is for leadership to stand up and admit there
is an issue. You've got to admit there's a problem. And most of the societies
that we saw admitted there's a significant problem, starting with the leaders.
President Museveni of Uganda and President Obasanjo of Nigeria are very strong
in saying, we've got an issue. Forget stigma. We've got a health issue that
we must deal with as a society.
And so, in America, the first thing we do is look for willingness to participate,
and we saw some strong leadership, which is really important. The attitudes
are changing on the continent.
Secondly, we're looking for infrastructure, people who understand what works.
There's an interesting effect with the anti-retroviral drugs. It's called
the Lazarus effect. And if we can get those anti-retrovirals out, and people
begin to -- out in the country, and in the cities, of course, people begin
to improve. And all of a sudden, somebody sees a neighbor improving, well,
maybe I've got hope. So hope begins to rise.
And so, we've got to get these medicines out, and we've got to get a strategy
out and a plan out. And what I'm telling you is we saw some good strategies
and some good plans proposed by strong leaders, which is a very heartening
thing. Our taxpayers have got to know that when we spend that money, it's
going to go to save lives.
The other key component, interestingly enough, in Africa that's going to
make a huge difference, is the faith-based community. The faith-based community
-- (applause) -- from all religions, all walks of life, are interested in
being a part of solving this pandemic.
And the other issue is hunger. Our country puts $1 billion a year up to
help feed the hungry. And we're by far the most generous nation in the world
when it comes to that, and I'm proud to report that. This isn't a contest
of who's the most generous. I'm just telling you as an aside. (Laughter.)
We're generous. We shouldn't be bragging about it. But we are. We're very
However, one of the things it seems like we've got to do is help Africa
feed herself. There is no reason in the world why the great continent of
Africa can't be self-sustaining in food. And not only self-sustaining, how
about being -- the capacity to help others eat. And it's got a great potential.
So that's the mission. The mission at home is to help those who hurt, and
make the vast potential of America available to every citizen. The mission
abroad is to use our good heart and good conscience and not turn our back
away when we see suffering.
It has been a -- it's a huge honor to represent our country overseas. It
is a -- I am a proud American. I'm proud of what we stand for. I'm proud
of our heritage. I understand we've had tough times in our history. But the
thing about it is, we never get stuck in history. We always move beyond.
We're always trying to improve. And we base it, our history, and our decision
making, our future, on solid values. The first value is, we're all God's
May God bless you. Thank you for your time. (Applause.)