Calls for Strong Work Requirements in Welfare Reform
May 13, 2002
10:30 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much for that warm welcome. Mr. Mayor, I'm
honored to be in your presence. This man is a great mayor of a great city. (Applause.)
I've learned one thing -- I'd rather have him for me than against me. (Laughter.)
And the good news is, he is for the people of Chicago. And that's important,
Michael, thank you very much for having us here. We're honored to be able to
come and to talk about how to make America a more compassionate and better place
for all people. I want to thank Rodney Carroll, who is the President of the
Welfare-to-Work Partnership, for being here. He has helped recruit thousands
of businesses across the country, which have employed over 1.1 million citizens
who were formally on welfare, who are now independent and free to realize their
dreams. Rodney, thank you for your leadership. (Applause.)
I want to thank my two new friends who are here, with whom we'll be discussing
their lives and how important work is for the future of their family. I want
to thank members of the congressional delegation who are joining us today --
Senator Peter Fitzgerald. Thank you, Peter, for coming. (Applause.) Congressman
Rod Blagjevich -- thank you, Rod, for being here. (Applause.) The Chairman,
Henry Hyde. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I'm glad you're here. (Applause.)
I'm looking forward to flying back to Washington with the Chairman on Air Force
One. I announced this morning at the South Lawn of the White House that we've
reached an agreement with Russia on a treaty that will substantially reduce
our nuclear weaponry, so that we can enter into a new era of relations with
Russia. I can't wait to explain it to you, Mr. Chairman, and I appreciate your
I want to thank Judy Biggert for being here. Judy, thank you for coming. I appreciate
Mark Kirk, as well, for coming. Thank you, Congressman. Jerry Weller -- thank
you, Jerry. I appreciate you being here. Finally, the Attorney General of the
State of Illinois, Jim Ryan. Thank you, Jim. (Applause.)
I want you to know that we're here to talk about how to make America better.
Before we talk about that, I want to remind you of one thing: My job is also
to make sure America is safer. And the best way to make America safe is to not
only have a homeland security strategy that will support our mayors and our
police and fire and EMS teams all across America, but to make America safe,
we've got to hunt these killers down, one by one, and bring them to justice.
And much to the chagrin of the enemy, we are a united country. The security
of America has nothing to do with our political parties, it has everything to
do with doing our jobs. We are a united nation, we are a patient nation. And
we're plenty tough when it comes to protecting that which we hold dear. And
what we hold dear is freedom. And we're not going to let anybody get -- (applause.)
I can't imagine -- I can't imagine what was going through the minds of those
people. They must have thought we were so materialistic, so self-absorbed, that
all we was going to do is maybe file a couple of lawsuits. But much to their
chagrin, they realized that we're tough. But also the world is learning we're
compassionate, as well. While we work to make the world more secure, we've got
to make the world a better place.
And it starts right here at home. Today I had the honor of meeting Adrienne
and Jerry Welenc. Would you all stand up for a second, please? These good folks
-- hold on, don't applaud yet, until you hear what they've done. They have fostered
over 90 children over the last 35 years. (Applause.) These good Americans didn't
need a law, they didn't need a government telling them what to do. They decided
to love a neighbor just like they wanted to be loved themselves. These good
Americans asked the question, what could they do to save one person's life.
If you want to join the war on terror, help somebody in need.
It's going to be hard to do what they've done -- 90 children over 35 years is
a fantastic feat. But it's a fabulous tribute to Americans making the decision
to help somebody. We can't do it all, but we can help one person at a time.
And as we do so, America will be a more compassionate place. As we work hard
to defy the evil ones through military strength, we must also do so with the
kindness and compassion that define America.
I want to thank you all for being here. God bless you for your work. (Applause.)
And we can continue to make America a better place, by helping people find work,
we can help America be a compassionate, decent land, where hope can penetrate
places of despair and despondency, by helping people find a job.
And that's what we're here to talk about, as we reauthorize the welfare bill.
It is essential that a central component of that bill be work. We must set high
standards. Over the next five years, the states, and working with the local
governments, ought to place 70 percent of the people into a job. It is important
not only for our society, it's important for the people. Because as you're about
to hear, a job is such an important part of a person's dignity, a person's future.
And so one of the things about welfare -- welfare to work is not only do we
need to encourage businesses to provide a place, we've got to encourage states
to get after it, to provide training and help.
Listen, the welfare budget we're submitting is $17 billion. That's the same
level it was when we had twice the number of welfare cases we had to deal with.
The welfare rolls have declined in half, yet the dollars are the same, which
ought to be ample money to help people with training or drug treatment, to give
them a chance so that they can work, and realize the dignity of a job. When
we reauthorize welfare let us always remember that a job is a central core to
someone's hopeful future. (Applause.)
I want to make three other points -- and then I promise, Mr. Mayor, I'll be
quiet -- for a brief period of time. The best way to help people avoid welfare
is education. Mr. Mayor, I want to thank you for setting high standards for
the public schools of the city of Chicago. (Applause.) Washington doesn't know
everything, believe it or not. That may be a horrible admission for somebody
who lives there temporarily to say. The best way to help people get off welfare
is to empower local folks; is to recognize one size doesn't fit all; is to recognize
that the more options there are at the local level, the more opportunity it
is for people to succeed.
And finally, in order to make sure welfare works, we've got to welcome faith-based
and community based programs into the compassionate delivery of help. (Applause.)
We shouldn't fear faith in our society. We ought to welcome faith. We ought
to welcome the programs that come out of our inner-city churches or synagogues
and mosques. Our government ought to say, you ought to be able to access federal
money to help people in need, without losing your mission. In order to make
sure that welfare works, not only do you encourage jobs, but we need to welcome
those programs that can fundamentally change people's lives by changing their
Mr. Mayor, I want to thank you for letting me come here to Chicago. (Applause.)
I've been talking too much. So what I'm going to do is ask Rodney Carroll, who's
in charge of this Welfare to Work partnership. One of the things I preach is
personal responsibility. There's also such things as corporate responsibility
in America. CEOs have the responsibility not only to make sure that we all understand
fully their assets and their liabilities, that there's full disclosure, but
they have the responsibilities of helping the communities in which they live.
Mike has done a fabulous job doing that for Big Brown, and Rodney's in charge
of lining up corporate America to do that, as well. Welcome, Rodney. (Applause.)
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: I believe the thing that's interesting to note is, a beneficiary,
of course, is UPS. (Laughter.) You talk -- for a person who has never worked
a day in her life until UPS, you're one articulate soul. And that's a really
Q Thank you, very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Congratulations. And your oldest daughter?
Q She's 17.
THE PRESIDENT: What's she fixing to do?
Q She's about to graduate from the Firefighters Police Academy, tomorrow night
at 6:00 p.m. (Applause.)
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: I think the -- what we're trying to say here, most eloquently
by these two ladies, is that in this country, if you give somebody a chance,
they can succeed. Now, it takes extra help sometimes, and we've got to provide
that help. It takes a little extra education. We've got to provide that education.
If we don't get it right the first time, we can't quit. We've got to get it
right the second time.
But the key is, is that when this country puts its mind to something, like making
sure every child gets educated, or making sure everybody gets a hand, businesses
cooperating, local government cooperating, we can succeed. And here are two
prime examples of what we're talking about, people who now have hope, children
who see their Mom -- and by the way, being a single mom, raising children, is
the toughest job in America, it's the toughest work. (Applause.)
And that's what makes these two stories even more courageous and successful.
I told them, when we got it back there in the back -- they said they were nervous.
I said, there's not going to be many people out there. (Laughter.) But I thank
you for sharing with us your hearts and your story.
For those people who are watching, and realize that -- and maybe wondering whether
you can succeed, just look at these two ladies. They're great examples of what
is possible, what is possible.
Mr. Mayor, one of the things you do is you run a great city, and you care deeply
about the lives of the citizens here. In the city of Chicago, the welfare rolls
are down by 70 percent. (Applause.) I'm proud of your record, Mr. Mayor, and
we've love to hear from you. (Applause.)
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank you all for giving us a chance to come and visit
with you. There's a lot of issues that we face in Washington, or here in Chicago.
But there's no bigger issue than all of us remaining united to show the world
what we're made out of; that people from all walks of life, all backgrounds,
political parties, can come together to defend our country, and at the same
time, elevate the spirit of this great land. To defend common values that are
bigger than any single individual, and to serve a nation by helping somebody,
is really what we're talking about today -- people willing to help themselves,
as well as corporate America, willing to provide an opportunity, so people can
I want you to know that you live in the greatest country on the face of the
Earth. (Applause.) The stories we hear here today speak to our greatness, and
speak to the fact that we will not rest as a nation when we see and find pockets
of despair and hopelessness; that in order to make this country complete, everybody
has got to feel a part of its future -- not just some, but everybody. Oh, I
know that's a high goal, but it's a goal we can achieve. Working together, it's
something that this nation can do.
Out of the evil done to America will come incredible good. And part of that
incredible good is that the promise of America extend its reach into every single
It is an honor for me to be here today. And it is an honor for me to be the
President of the greatest country on the face of the Earth.