For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
April 10, 2006
Mrs. Bush's Remarks to the Urban League of Greater New Orleans
The Marriott Renaissance Arts Hotel
New Orleans, Louisiana
11:50 A.M. CDT
MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. Thank you all very much, everyone out here, for being here. A special thanks to Mark Morial and to the members of the National Urban League who are here. Congratulations to the National Urban League on winning this grant.
I'm so glad to be back in New Orleans. President Bush and I hold a special place in our hearts for the people of this city, and for all Americans who were affected by the hurricanes. It's a privilege to be with you, and it's great to be able to witness your accomplishments as you work to help the Gulf Coast recover. And I will say that this is maybe my eighth or ninth trip here since the hurricane last fall, and that today I really did notice a lot of activity. I noticed a lot of houses being cleaned up and renovated, really more than any other time that I've been here, and that's very, very encouraging.
I also want to thank the young people who are participating in the Urban League Youth Empowerment Program who are here today, and those who are ready to start participating. Thank you for coming. I want to thank LaToya for sharing with me how much she's learned from this program and from her new job as a nurse assistant.
I also want to tell both LaToya and Jeremy how proud President Bush and I are of both of you for respecting yourselves and the people around you, and for working to build a successful life for yourself.
And thank you, Secretary Chao, for your kind introduction. Last week we had some great news about jobs in the United States: hundreds of thousands more Americans have found work this spring, and the U.S. unemployment level is at its lowest in the last four years. So congratulations, Secretary Chao.
These jobs mean more than numbers in the newspaper. A job means an opportunity for a person to realize his or her talents. A job means getting up every morning with dignity and a sense of purpose. And a job means self-reliance and self-respect. And for many young people, a job also means a second chance. So I'm thrilled to be here today with the National Urban League as you receive this $20 million grant for the Youth Empowerment Program.
Employment is critical for young people who are trying to turn their lives around. Employment helps young people help themselves, and it gives them the confidence and the skills they need to realize their dreams.
Last year in his State of the Union address, President Bush announced the Helping America's Youth Initiative and he asked me to lead it. The goal of helping America's youth is to guide our young people toward making wise decisions for their lives so that they can fulfill their potential and live a productive and a happy life.
And to help young people, adults across the country must take action in three important areas in children's lives: their family, their school and their community. America's young people face many more dangers today than children did just a generation ago -- drugs and gangs, predators on the Internet, violence in real life and on television are just some of the negative influences that are present everywhere today.
And as children face greater dangers, they often have fewer people to turn to for help. More children are raised in single-parent families, most often without a father. Millions of children have one or both parents in prison. Many boys and girls spend more time alone or with their peers than they do with a member of their family. Young people must have positive influences in their lives.
And so we want every child to be surrounded by caring adults who provide love, advice and encouragement and who can serve as good role models.
And one of the best places for young people to get encouragement and support, and to encounter good role models is on the job. Over the last year I've traveled to many parts of our country, visiting with young people and with the adults who are important to their lives. I've been to schools and to after-school programs. I've met with mentors and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. I've visited gang intervention programs where I met with people who are leaving gangs and finding jobs.
Recently, I heard from the directors of a program in Los Angeles that I visited last year. That program, Willpower to Youth, uses the performing arts -- performances of Shakespeare, actually -- to teach youth employable skills. They wrote to me about a young man, Jesus, who was on the verge of homelessness when I met him. Since then, with his experience building sets for these performances, Jesus is now working at Home Depot, and he was just named the Home Depot Employee of the Month. (Applause.)
Jesus is just one example of how a positive employment experience can help our young people break patterns of risky behavior. Each of the young people here today with the Urban League Empowerment program is another example. There are thousands more young people like them across the country, and in the 15 cities where the National Urban League is already working to help youth build the self-respect and the self-control to stay away from violence, gangs and drugs.
Your program is also an example of how important community involvement is to our children's lives. Under the Youth Empowerment program, the National Urban League forms partnerships with faith and community-based organizations to connect young people with career skills, on-the-job training and paid internships that lead to full-time employment. And under the Gulf Coast Employment Initiative, local businesses -- like Marriott New Orleans -- are reaching out to people to help their companies rebuild.
When local organizations work together to take an active interest in young people, it tells young people that the adults in their community believe in them and that they're needed in our communities. It's a powerful message, and one our children need to hear. When adults believe in children, children learn to believe in themselves. And when children believe that they can do something great with their lives, they're far less likely to engage in behavior that puts their success at risk.
That's why communities are so vital to helping America's youth, and why we're encouraging the formation of community coalitions, which are an important step in reaching children who need help. Community coalitions bring together everyone -- from teachers, to mentors, to pastors, to parents, to police officers, to substance abuse experts, to social service providers, to business leaders -- like Mark Sanders of Marriott. Anyone who has the ability and the desire to make an impact on a child's life should be part of a community coalition.
At the White House Conference on Helping America's Youth last fall, we introduced an online, interactive community guide. The guide allows communities to assess their unique local needs and then to find programs and resources to meet them. The information is available at the website, www.helpingamericasyouth.gov -- g-o-v, that's "gov." I urge everyone to look at the Community Guide to Helping America's Youth, and to learn about other opportunities to support our young people, because the benefits of helping America's youth don't end with America's youth.
Here in New Orleans, you're helping young people by providing them with opportunities -- but these young men and women are helping us, too, because they're doing the very important work of reviving the Gulf Coast. Young people want us in their lives, and young people need us in their lives. And as this partnership shows, we also need them. And as I've witnessed as I've traveled across the country, and here today, each one of us has the power to help America's youth.
So thank you all very much, and congratulations to the National Urban League on receiving this grant. I wish you the very best as you use these resources to help young people in cities like New Orleans and across America, and the very best as you all work here together to rebuild this wonderful city.
Thank you all very, very much, and congratulations. (Applause.)
END 12:00 P.M. CDT