2003 Urban League Conference
July 28, 2003
11:17 A.M. EDT
Thanks for the warm welcome. Thanks for your kind invitation. But, most importantly,
thanks for your service to your fellow Americans. (Applause.) The Urban League
has always stood strong for justice and hope and healing. It stood for opportunity
for all our citizens. I'm honored to be at such an organization.
I appreciate the chance, as well, to come to Pittsburgh. It's a city that's
rich in civil rights, the history of civil rights. In the 1800s, the Underground
Railroad here delivered thousands out of slavery and into freedom. In the
1930s and 1940s, Pittsburgh's Urban League led successful protests against
schools and department stores that refused to hire African Americans. And
today in this city, community leaders are showing what good people can accomplish
by working together. I now know why they call it the Renaissance City, and
I want to thank you for your hospitality. (Applause.)
The work of the National Urban League represents one of the basic commitments
of this country. See. we believe in opportunity for all, a society where
every person can dream, and work, and realize his or her potential.. We're
dedicated to bringing economic hope to every neighborhood, a good education
to every child, and comfort and compassion to the afflicted. And our nation
has come a long way, and we have a long way to go. And we will not stop,
we will not tire until we have extended the great promise of America to every
neighborhood in America. And that's what I want to talk about today. (Applause.)
I want to thank Mr. President, President Marc Morial for his kind invitation
and his willingness to lead this important American institution. He replaces
a good man in Hugh Price, who has ably led the Urban League for nearly a
decade. And there's no doubt in my mind that Marc Morial will do a great
job on behalf of America. Thank you. (Applause.)
As he said, we grew up right around the corner from each other. And I know
what he was -- what New Orleans was like when he was the mayor of that important
city. Bourbon Street was never more alive when -- (laughter) -- never mind.
I'm honored that the Secretary of Education is with us today, Rod Paige.
He is a good friend and a good man. (Applause.)
I appreciate so very much Michael Critelli, who is the Chairman of the Board
of the National Urban League. A businessman that understands corporate responsibility.
It means you've got to help somebody else, as well as watching the bottom
line. Mike, thank you for being here. (Applause.)
I'm honored that members from the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation
are with us today, Senators Specter and Santorum and Congressman Tim Murphy.
I appreciate them coming. A couple of them jumped on Air Force One. (Laughter.)
I'm not suggesting that's why they came. (Laughter.) There's not a lot of
air raids on Air Force One. (Laughter.) But I'm glad to have them.
I see Reverend Jackson is with us today. Jesse Jackson, it's good to see
Congressman Cummings, I'm honored to see you, Congressman. Thank you for
being here. (Applause.)
I appreciate so very much my friend, Mayor Jim Garner, who's the President
of the U.S. Conference of Mayors who is with us today. Mr. Mayor, thank you
for coming. (Applause.)
I know that Mike Fisher, the State Attorney General, is with us today. And
the Allegheny County Chief Executive, Jim Roddey, is with us today. And I'm
honored that they have come. I want to thank all the elected officials. I
want to thank the Board of the National Urban League. And I want to thank
the delegates for giving me a chance to come by and say hello. (Applause.)
Today, I had the honor when I landed at the airport of meeting a board member
of the Urban League of Pittsburgh, a fellow named Xavier Williams. He came
to see me because one of the things I try to do is herald the great strength
of the country, which happens to be the heart and soul of our citizens.
You see, Xavier works for a -- it's called Inroads. It's a nonprofit organization
which matches minority youth with successful businesses and corporations
to try to help them have the skills necessary to realize the entrepreneurial
spirit of America.
Xavier knows what I know, that the best way to serve your country is to
love a neighbor just like you would like to be loved yourself. And I appreciate
the example that Xavier Williams sets, for not only the good folks here in
Pittsburgh, but for people all around the country. Thank you, Xavier, for
your service to our country. (Applause.)
Every generation of Americans must rise to its own challenges, and this
generation is rising to meet ours. We will never forget the lessons of September
the 11th, 2001. Great oceans no longer protect us from dangers that gather
far from home. And the other lesson is that there are people who can't stand
what America stands for, and desire to conflict great harm on the American
people. In the 22 months since that day, we have put those who hate America
on notice: wherever they plot, wherever they plan, they will find no place
to hide from American justice. (Applause.)
The al Qaida terrorists still threaten our country, but they're on the run.
The regime in Afghanistan, the Taliban regime inflicted great harm on the
citizens of that country and protected the terrorists. But that regime is
no more. Afghanistan is now free.
And our current mission in Iraq is essential to the broader war on terror,
it's essential to the security of the American people. You see, a free, democratic,
peaceful Iraq will not threaten America or our friends with weapons; a free
Iraq will not be a training ground for terrorists, or a funnel of money to
terrorists, or provide weapons to terrorists who would willingly use them
to strike our country; a free Iraq will not destabilize the Middle East.
A free Iraq can set a hopeful example to the entire region and lead other
nations to choose freedom. And as the pursuits of freedom replace hatred
and resentment and terror in the Middle East, the American people will be
more secure. Our men and women in uniform are serving our nation and the
cause of security and peace. We're proud of them. We appreciate their progress.
We appreciate their dedication to the country called America. (Applause.)
This nation has another great challenge. While we stand for freedom and
opportunity abroad, we must make those same values real in the lives of all
Americans. This nation has got work to do. There are citizens who can't find
jobs. There are citizens looking for homes for their families. There are
students, who go to school that are letting them down every day, and don't
seem to improve. There are children who need mentors in their lives, and
people struggling with addiction, who need to know they don't face that struggle
To make the promise of America real for everyone, we need active citizens
who help their neighbors, we need active churches and active communities,
and we need active government. We can make a difference in people's lives
with creative, innovative policies that focus on results. (Applause.)
Greater opportunity and hope begins with a growing economy. The stock market
started to decline in March of 2000. And then we had recession in the first
quarter of 2001. So we acted. We provided historic tax relief for families.
And then as the economy was beginning to come back, we found out some of
our citizens, corporate CEOs forgot what it means to be a responsible citizen
and they did not tell the truth to shareholder and employee alike. So we
acted, and we're now holding corporate criminals to account. (Applause.)
Last year, we saw too many Americans were still struggling find a job, so
we acted again. We brought the marriage penalty down. It doesn't make any
sense, by the way, to penalize marriage in the tax code. It seems like the
tax code ought to encourage marriage, not penalize it. (Applause.) We reduced
income tax rates. We expanded the child credit from $600 to $1,000 per child,
and we made the change retroactive to January 1st, so the checks are in the
mail. (Applause.) And as a matter of fairness, Congress should make the child
credit refundable -- low income families need help, as well, during these
economic slow times.
To add more jobs to the economy, we're also focusing a lot on small businesses,
because small businesses create the most new jobs in an economy. (Applause.)
Most small businesses are sole-proprietorships or sub-Chapter S's, so when
you reduce the income tax rates, you help small businesses. They pay tax
at the individual rates. We're also allowing a higher expense deduction for
small businesses, which will make it easier for small businesses to buy new
equipment and to hire new people. We're working through the Small Business
Administration and Minority Business Development Agency to ensure that minority
businesses get access to federal contracting, and financing and technical
assistance for start-ups. Because we understand small businesses are the
path to the American Dream, and this path must be more open to all our citizens.
You hear a lot of talk about tax relief. Let me tell you my belief. When
a person has got more money in his or her pocket, he or she is likely to
demand an additional good or a service. And when somebody demands a good
or a service, in our society, somebody is going to produce the good or a
service. And when somebody produces that good or a service, it means somebody
is more likely find a job. The tax relief we packaged is good for helping
people find work in America. (Applause.)
We've been through a lot: recession, war, emergencies and corporate scandals.
But I'm optimistic about the future. I'm optimistic about the future because
I see hopeful signs home sales are strong and people are refinancing their
mortgages to put more money in their pockets; inflation is low; retail sales
have begun to show growth; productivity is high. and the good news is, a
lot of the economists are beginning to forecast a better tomorrow, which
is important for making sure that people have hope in our society.
No, we're dealing with the economy. We saw a problem and we dealt with it
straight up. (Applause.)
And as the economy expands, we've got to help Americans who find the greatest
difficulty finding work. So I have proposed what we call re-employment accounts.
The job-seeker would have an account up to $3,000 for job training or child
care or transportation, or relocating to get a new job in a new city. If
a worker find a new job quickly, within 13 weeks, he or she gets to keep
the balance of the cash as a re-employment account. (Applause.) Congress
needs to put this plan in effect. Congress needs to help those who are having
trouble finding work.
Congress also needs to understand we need a sound energy policy in America.
We need to cut down on frivolous litigation, which inhibits economy growth.
We need a trade policy that opens new markets for American products. We also
need good housing policy. A good way to make sure this economy remains strong
is a housing policy which closes the minority homeownership gap in America.
We need greater tax incentives for people to build homes in inner cities.
I believe our government should provide down payment assistance to people
who want to buy a home, but need a little extra help. I understand there's
a lot of fine print when it comes to mortgages, so we need to help people
understand what's in the fine print. We need grant programs to help counsel
low and moderate income folks across our country, to teach them what it means
to buy a home and to make sure that the fine print is understood by all.
No, we've got a goal in America of helping 5.5 million more minority citizens
become homeowners by the end of this decade. (Applause.)
The truth of the matter is, the future of our economy and our country depend
upon good schools in all our neighborhoods. Equal education is one of the
most pressing civil rights of our day. Nearly half a century after Brown
versus Board of Education, there's still an achievement gap in America. On
the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, on the reading
test, 41 percent of white 4th graders were proficient and better readers,
but only 12 percent of African-Americans met that standard. That means we've
got a problem. Both numbers are too low.
I think too many of our schools are leaving too many children unprepared.
And so we acted. I worked with Congress to pass what we call The No Child
Left Behind Act. It says every child can learn. We must challenge the soft
bigotry of low expectations. And you know what I'm talking about. (Applause.)
And as Rod Paige will brief you, states are beginning to respond. We said,
in return for record levels of education spending at the federal level, we
You see, if you believe every child can learn, then you ought to be asking
the question to those who are spending our money: are you teaching the child?
That's what we ought to be asking all across America. And now there's accountability
plans being put in place in 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the District.
I know people are concerned about testing. I've heard this debate a lot.
They say it's discriminatory to measure and compare results. I say it is
discriminatory not to measure. I think it's important to know whether or
not our schools are succeeding. We simply have got to stop shuffling our
children from grade to grade without asking the question, have they been
taught to learn to read and write and add and subtract? (Applause.)
I believe it is those who believe certain can't learn that are willing to
shuffle them through. And the No Child Left Behind Act ends that, in return
for record levels of money, you've got to show us whether or not the children
can read and write and add and subtract. And when schools don't measure up,
parents must have more options. It's one thing to measure, but there has
to be consequences for failing schools. So in that Act parents are able to
send their children to a different public school or a charter school, or
get special tutorial help.
I also believe it makes sense to explore private school choices, so I'm
working with the leadership in Washington, D.C. This isn't a Democrat issue
or Republican issue, this is an issue that focuses on children. (Applause.)
I know setting high standards works. I know measuring and using the measurement
system as a way to diagnose problems so you can focus on the problems works.
In my state, 73 percent of the white students passed the math test in 1994,
while only 38 percent of African-American students passed it. So we made
that the point of reference. We had people focused on the results for the
first time -- not process, but results. And because teachers rose to the
challenge, because the problem became clear, that gap has now closed to 10
points. Because every child can learn, you've just got to focus the attention
and the resources when necessary. Accountability tells you what's going right
and it tells you what's going wrong and it shows you where the emphasis needs
We're having the same results in North Carolina. In states that measure,
you'll find that the achievement gap is closing dramatically. (Applause.)
Our opportunity in society must also be a compassionate society. As Americans,
when we see hopelessness and suffering and injustice, we will not turn our
backs. And one of the best ways to build hope is to recognize where some
of the great works of compassion are done. You see, a government can hand
out money -- and sometimes we do a pretty good job of it -- but what it can't
do is put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives.
That happens when people who have been called to love a neighbor interface
with a neighbor in need.
You see, every day across America, faith-based and community groups are
touching people's lives in profound ways -- give shelter to the homeless
and provide safety for battered women; they bring compassion to lonely seniors.
America's neighborhood healers have long experience and deep understanding
of the problems that many face. And many of them have something extra besides
experience. They have inspiration, as they carry God's love to people in
I like to call the neighborhood healers America's social entrepreneurs.
And they need the support of foundation America and corporate America. They
need the support of individuals and, of course, congregations. And, when
appropriate, they deserve the support of the government.
Government has no business endorsing a religious creed, or directly funding
religious worship. But for too long, government treated people of faith like
second-class citizens in the grant making process. Government can and should
support effective social services provided by religious people, as long as
those services go to anyone in need. (Applause.) And when government gives
that support, faith-based institutions should not be forced to change the
character of their service or compromise their principles.****
Neighborhood healers have not been treated well by the federal government,
so I signed an executive order banning discrimination against faith-based
charities by federal agencies. I created a special offices in my key Cabinet
departments to speak up for faith-based groups, and to help them access government
funding. I've asked the departments to report to me on a regular basis to
make sure the old days are gone, to make sure we challenge and harness the
great strength of the country, the heart and soul of our citizens. We're
changing the focus of government from process to results. Instead of asking
the question, is this a faith-based program? We're now asking the question,
does the program work? And if so, it deserves our support. (Applause.)
And the support is making a difference. Here in Pittsburgh, the North Hills
Community Outreach and Interfaith Human Services Agency uses about $76,000
from the Department of Health and Human Services to help people get through
tough times. In other words, we're using taxpayers' money to help support
programs that use the faith component to help change lives and save lives.
A fellow named Royal Patterson went to this program. He was a painter for
27 years. And then he was unable to climb up a ladder. So he goes to North
Hills. They gave him food. They gave him bus passes. They helped him to get
a new job. But what he said was, most important, he said it was so uplifting,
you figure nobody cares, but they care.
There's a lot of programs around based on faith that care for people. And
our government must recognize their potential in our society if we want to
heal lives all across America. (Applause.)
I've asked Congress to fund $100 million for the Compassionate Capital Fund.
That's a fancy word for providing money for organizations like the Urban
League to teach some of these small faith programs how to apply for grants,
how to help manage and train their staffs. In other words, I fully recognize
that some of the programs in some of the neighborhoods need management help.
They need guidance. And I would hope that Marc would take advantage of this
program to help some faith programs all around the country be fully prepared
to do what they're called to do, which is love somebody in need.
I've asked Congress for $600 million over three years to extend drug and
alcohol treatment to 300,000 Americans, and that faith-based providers must
be allowed to compete for these funds. (Applause.)
Sometimes when a person changes their heart, they change their habits. (Applause.)
And our Congress must recognize that and provide opportunity for faith-based
programs such as the Sojourner House, named after Sojourner Truth right here
in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is a program which helps mothers with drug
and alcohol problems. A child can live in a loving environment while a mom
works to break free from addiction. They help the people get on their feet.
They help people see themselves as a worthy child of God. (Applause.)
That may not sound like your average government program. But we're no longer
asking, is it a faith-based program? We're asking, does it work? The Sojourner
House works, and this country of ours ought to support programs like the
Sojourner House. (Applause.)
It's important for our nation to recognize that too many young people are
growing up without enough caring adults in their lives. Too many people wonder
whether anybody loves them. We need more mentors, committed adults to serve
as role models to help shepherd children through the early years of their
Congress -- I called upon Congress to spend $450 million over three years
to bring more mentors to more than a million disadvantaged children. We've
got a goal: mentors for a million children -- junior high children, who are
making life decisions, as well as the children of prisoners who face so many
problems through no fault of their own, and they need somebody to surround
them with some love.
Faith communities are a great source for mentors, and we must make sure
that faith-based groups have a chance to participate in this program, as
well. More Americans volunteer through their houses of worship than any other
organization, and Congress must recognize that. Our government should not
fear faith, we ought to welcome it as an equal partner in helping people
who need help. (Applause.)
We believe in the value and possibility of every life. And we'll help those
who need help here at home, and we must help those who need help abroad,
I have recently seen for myself the great possibilities of Africa and the
great needs of Africa. That continent's economic future depends upon trade.
We'll continue to help African countries become full partners in trade and
prosperity. Many African people struggle with hunger. You need to know your
government and your country is the most generous country in the world for
providing aid and help for those who are hungry. America's progress -- Africa's
progress is threatened by terrorism and civil wars, and so we're working
with African governments to rid that continent of regional conflict and terrorist
They're suffering in Liberia today. I directed the Secretary of Defense
to position appropriate military capabilities off the coast of Liberia in
order to support the deployment of an ECOWAS force. We're committed to working
with ECOWAS to create the conditions in which lives can be saved and aid
can be delivered. (Applause.)
We're also helping Africa overcome one of the deadliest enemies it has ever
faced, the spread of HIV/AIDS. Over the next five years, the United States
has pledged $15 billion to fight AIDS around the world, with special focus
on nations in Africa and the Caribbean. (Applause.) We are working with governments,
and private groups, and faith-based organizations to help with prevention
and to provide much needed anti-retroviral drugs for treatment. We are determined
to turn the tide against AIDS in Africa. (Applause.)
Recently, on my trip to Africa, I visited Goree Island in Senegal, where
for centuries, men and women were delivered and sorted and branded and shipped.
It's a haunting place, a reminder of mankind's capacity for cruelty and injustice.
Yet Goree Island is also a reminder of the strength of the human spirit,
and the capacity for good to overcome evil. The men and women who boarded
slave ships on that island and wound up in America endured the separation
of their families, the brutality of their oppressors, and the indifference
of laws that regarded them only as articles of commerce. Still, the spirit
of Africans in America did not break. (Applause.) All the generations of
oppression under the laws of man could not crush the hope of freedom. And
by a plan known only to Providence, the stolen sons and daughters of Africa
helped to awake the conscience of America. The very people traded into slavery
helped to set America free. (Applause.)
The moral vision of African Americans and of groups like the Urban League
caused Americans to examine our hearts, to correct our Constitution, and
to teach our children the dignity and equality of every person of every race.
Our journey toward justice has not been easy and it is not over. Yet I am
confident that we will reach our destination. We have been called to great
work in our time, and we will answer that call. We will defend our freedom,
and we will lead the world toward peace. And we will unite American behind
the great goals of opportunity for all, and compassion for those in need.
I want to thank each of you for serving this cause in your own lives. May
God bless your work, may God bless the Urban League, and may God continue
to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)