For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 11, 2002
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Points of Light Foundation
Salt Lake City, Utah
Before I begin, I want to say to the family of Elizabeth Smart that the President and I have you in our thoughts and prayers. And we salute the hundreds of volunteers in Salt Lake City - the friends, neighbors, church members, and countless others - who have come to help search for Elizabeth and bring her safely home. God bless you in this important work.
The month of June holds special meaning for many of America's families, because it's graduation season.
In Salt Lake City and across the nation, the Class of 2002's senior year draws to a close with joy and celebration, and, as always, with some reflection.
Minds will inevitably turn back to the opening days of school, and to the events of September 11th. As people pause to consider how our nation has changed since that day, no doubt they will also think about the American spirit - the great, love of country that gives us a sense of pride, and calls us to service.
The message of service will resonate in many hearts and on many stages this month. In their commencement addresses, President Bush and members of his administration will challenge the class of 2002 to make serving their neighbors and their nation a central part of their lives.
In his radio address on June 1st, President Bush said, "Americans have always believed in an ethic of service. Americans serve others because their conscience demands it, because their faith teaches it, because they are grateful to their country, and because service brings rewards much deeper than material success."
Everyone here has played some part in helping America respond to the tragedy of September 11th by volunteering to serve in some capacity. Many of you have a long history of helping people find ways to give back to the places we call home...you help people overcome a sense of hopelessness with meaningful action.
Like you, President Bush and I want more Americans to become volunteers.
In his State of the Union Address, President Bush called on every American to dedicate at least two years - or 4,000 hours - to serving others. I join him in encouraging people to participate in one of the thousands of meaningful volunteer projects: building homes for the homeless, helping feed the hungry, or reading with children who are learning to read.
We ask Americans to consider being a part of the USA Freedom Corps, which John Bridgeland talked about yesterday. The Freedom Corps strengthens programs like AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, Learn and Serve America, and the Senior Corps. Freedom Corps is also helping people participate in the new Citizens Corps, and Americans can find local service opportunities online at: (www.usafreedomcorps.gov) or by calling 1-877-USA-CORPS.
So far, the response has been overwhelming. Since the President issued his call to service, more than 45,000 people have called the United States Peace Corps to request applications for only 6,300 open slots.
This summer, Peace Corps volunteers will arrive and begin working in the first new country of the 21st Century: East Timor. And 32 other countries have asked for Peace Corps help. President Bush has pledged to double the size of the Peace Corps in the next five years as part of the new USA Freedom Corps initiative.
During a recent trip to Afghanistan, the Director of the Peace Corps met with Dr. Sima Simar, the Minister of Women's Affairs. When he began to tell her about the Peace Corps, she interrupted, saying, "I already know about the Peace Corps. A Peace Corps Volunteer taught me how to speak English."
This is just one way we're "sharing the American spirit" around the world.
Here at home, major developments are taking place within senior citizens' communities.
Earlier today I visited Marriott Brighten Gardens - a senior living facility here in Salt Lake City - to celebrate a new alliance between Marriott Senior Living Services and Senior Corps - the first major partnership of its kind in the country. Through this alliance, Marriott will encourage all of its 22,000 senior residents to volunteer through the Senior Corps' RSVP program.
Senior Corps gives Americans age 55 and older volunteer assignments in their communities based on their experience, interests, and talents. Senior Corps includes three main programs: the Foster Grandparent Program, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (or RSVP), and the Senior Companion Program.
Through the Senior Corps' RSVP program, people can help tutor children, build and renovate homes, immunize children, prevent crimes and respond to disaster. Seniors can use their expertise on a huge variety of projects.
Marriott is using a great new Senior Corps online recruitment system, which makes it simple and easy to match RSVP volunteers with local programs that need help. Americans will be hearing more about this online program very soon.
And of course America has is another incredible resource - our young people. Students, especially, are a tremendous resource for volunteering.
Recently I visited Texas A&M University in College Station, where, at a football game last September, a handfull of students convinced 70,000 football fans to trade in their team colors and instead buy a red, white, or blue shirt, depending on their stadium seat level.
Fans responded, and the result was an incredible display of America's colors in the stadium - showing that we are Americans first and foremost. In that one day, A&M students raised about $200,000 for the New York Firefighters 9/11 Relief Fund and the WTC Police Disaster Relief Fund.
When I visited the university, I asked a group of students if they could remember when they were in second grade and their teachers asked them to draw a picture of someone or something they wanted to be when they grew up.
I said, think about what you drew as a child: a firefighter, a police officer, an athlete, a doctor, an astronaut, a teacher ... or sometimes even a president.
These are people whose actions make them heroes, and that's why children draw them. They want to be heroes like them.
But you don't have to walk into a burning building or wear a badge to rescue someone.
You don't have to score a touchdown to win points with someone. You don't have to go medical school to help a person feel better. You don't have to walk on the moon to change the earth....and you don't have to sign a bill to change your state or country.
Kindness and heroism can't always be drawn in a picture. Many acts of kindness never make the evening news or the morning paper.
I have seen many examples of kindness and compassion in our communities, and especially in our children who have helped make a difference in remarkable ways.
A 12-year-old named Olivia, who is in remission from cancer, heard that President Bush had established America's Fund for Afghan Children, and she wanted to do her share to help.
Olivia, it turns out, has an incredible gift for painting that she discovered during a year and a half of chemotherapy. By age 11, Olivia was featured in her first solo exhibit. Since then she has sold hundreds of original paintings.
For Afghan children, Olivia painted a picture titled "Let Freedom Bloom" and published it as a limited edition print. The picture is a red rose with petals in full bloom. Two of the many petals are striped red and white, and one petal is painted blue with white stars. She pledged all of the proceeds from the prints to America's Fund for Afghan Children. So far, Olivia has raised $33,000 dollars for the Fund.
With your leadership, and with Americans like Olivia, we can honor the lives lost, serve those in need and make our lives count even more.
We are fortunate to live in a time of great awakening...a time of realizing what it means to live in this country, and how good it feels to give something back to this place we call home.
We are a different country than we were on September 10th. We will not forget the images and events of the past nine months. I've seen people helping strangers; I've seen strangers becoming heroes; I've seen this country at its best.
Americans are proud; Americans are united; and Americans care about others. These are the qualities that make your jobs easier; and these are the qualities that will sustain this country through tough times.
Thank you...and God bless America.