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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 20, 2001

President, Mrs. Bush Encourage Generosity
Press Briefing by Karen Hughes, Counsellor to the President, Peggy Conlon, Ad Council CEO, and Leslie Lenkowsky, CEO for Corporation for National and Community Service in Announcement of "Thanks for Giving" PSA
Presidential Hall

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11:36 A.M. EST

MS. HUGHES:  Thank you all for being here today.  We're here to preview for you a new public service announcement, which President and Mrs. Bush have filmed in cooperation with the Ad Council.  The public service announcement asks Americans to give, and thanks them, in fact -- the campaign is called "Thanks For Giving."  And so we thought it was appropriate to unveil it during Thanksgiving week, and it will continue to air throughout the holiday season.

As you all know, both President and Mrs. Bush feel strongly that out of the evil of September 11th has come a great deal of good.  And as President Bush said, we are a nation awakened to danger, but we're also a nation awakened to service and citizenship and compassion.

The President and Mrs. Bush delivered two speeches a couple of weeks ago in which both of the focused separately on that same theme, that out of evil has come good.  Mrs. Bush said in her speech to the National Press Club, "We are a kinder nation today.  People seem to take more time to ask about each other.  I notice more people hugging their friends, and even reaching out to touch people they barely know.  We're opening our doors to our neighbors and our hearts to strangers."

President Bush, that evening in Atlanta, talked about the same thing, saying, all of us can become a September 11th volunteer by making a commitment to service in our own communities.  He went on to say that one way to defeat terrorism is to show the world the true values of America through the gathering momentum of a million acts of responsibility and decency and service.

At the same time when we were planning those two speeches from the President and Mrs. Bush, the Ad Council approached us with the idea of the "Thanks For Giving" campaign, and we thought it fit in -- it was exactly in keeping with the spirit of the gathering momentum of the millions of acts of citizenship and service that President and Mrs. Bush are hoping to help lead and guide and inspire across the country.

And with that, I will introduce Peggy Conlon, who is the President and CEO of the Ad Council, to show us the new advertisement.

MS. CONLON:  Thank you, Karen.  I know I join many in extending sincere gratitude to you and your colleagues here at the White House for your tremendous leadership of our nation in this time of need.  As for the rest of us, we're doing what we can with what we have to help defeat terrorism.  And at the Ad Council, what we have is years of experience in harnessing the volunteer efforts of the American media, advertisers, and ad agencies on behalf of the nation's most pressing issues.

From Smokey Bear to drunk driving prevention and "a mind is a terrible thing to waste," Ad Council PSAs inspire many and create positive social change.  I'm proud to be here today to show you another example of our industry's good work.

The "Thanks for Giving" campaign offers thanks for everything Americans have done, and will continue to do, to give to one another.  As you know, since September the 11th, Americans have experienced great pain, but even greater strength, generosity and courage.  In the PSAs, President Bush and the First Lady inspire people everywhere to continue to come together to serve local communities; to find unique ways to give time, talent and share resources; to celebrate the generosity, selflessness and spirit of giving that is America.

The PSAs fulfill to, where visitors can go to learn more about how to give and to volunteer in their local communities.

But this is more than a single PSA.  This is the first step in a movement through which the Ad Council hopes to inform, inspire and involve all Americans in volunteer efforts that will strengthen our nation and help to win the war on terrorism.  The Ad Council distributed the PSA to thousands of media outlets nationwide, including television, print and the Internet.  And we requested that they provide donated media in support of this important message.

In a very short time, we've received tremendous support from the media.  And we have commitments from ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, A&E, Comedy Central, Court TV, Discovery Networks, MTV, Lifetime, PAX, TNT, USA and several others.  We expect that this PSA will receive a tremendous amount of support throughout the Thanksgiving weekend.

And now, let's take a look at this special PSA.

(The PSA is shown.)

MR. LENKOWSKY:  Good morning, I'm Les Lenkowsky.  I'm the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and is our website.  And I'd just like to briefly tell you what's going to happen when people click on in record numbers.

They're going to see that screen first, and you'll see on there that they'll be able to either click on "volunteer," or "donate," or both.  They could do either way.  Once they've done that, they will -- this will be the first one.  They'll see "thanks for giving" and then they'll move into "volunteer," "donate".  And then from -- if they click on "volunteer", they'll go into a page that will offer opportunities for people to volunteer through Volunteer Match, a Points of Light Foundation, our own full-time programs, AmeriCorps, SeniorCorps, and so on.  And they'll be able to find places to volunteer, either through zip codes or areas of interest -- if you're interested in helping young children or working in terms of events related to September 11, you'll be able to search those.

On the donate side, you go into the, which is put together by AOL, and they've been very helpful to us in getting all this up.  And there, too, you'll be able to search by zip code, by the kind of interest of a charity, for organizations to which you'll be able to make a contribution, and do it electronically, through e-philanthropy.

So that's how it will work.  And we have gone overboard to make sure we've got lots of capacity for the tens of millions of Americans we think will respond.

Thank you.

MS. HUGHES:  Thanks, Les.

One of the unique things, I think, about this, is when you pull up the website, you can type in your zip code, and you will be able to access a list of local charities.  And so it's a very user-friendly and helpful way for people to find out how they can try to make a difference in their own communities.

We'll be happy to answer questions.

Q    Karen, before we started the war, before really the war got active, there was all sorts of talk of doing special messages that would be going to Americans, and special messages overseas. Now that the war has gone so well and seems to be near its end, has that lessened the need for special messages that you would be sending to Americans, advertising messages, or overseas?

MS. HUGHES:  Before September 11th?  I'm not clear that I understand what you're asking.

Q    Just after September 11th, there was all sorts of using the Ad Council to do messages, "lose lips sink ships," other kinds of messages like that, that would go out to Americans in terms of what they said or what they should be doing.

MS. HUGHES:  Actually, I was asked about that once before.  I never was involved in any discussions about that.  That may have been a different agency.  We have different agencies of our federal government that are involved in different ways with the Ad Council.

Peggy, you might want to address that.  I know that Health and Human Services Department has talked with the Ad Council about helping to inform the public in the need, for example, of a bioterrorism attack.  I think they've had some discussions about that.

MS. CONLON:  We're working with HHS.  We're working with the Justice Department, through the National Crime Prevention Council.  That's probably the first campaign that we'll be launching, coming out of this strategy.

There will be many messages.  As Governor Ridge announced about a week and a half ago, we're working with the Homeland Security team, and we are crafting many more messages that will be coming out to help Americans understand what their role is in supporting the war on terrorism.

Q    My question is, now that, in essence, we're winning the war in Afghanistan, or mostly won the war in Afghanistan, has anything changed in terms of what you're doing to do?

MS. CONLON:  No, I think that what we're trying to do is find ways that we can communicate things to the American people that they're going to need to do.  I think that the President has been very clear that this war on terrorism will not conclude when we finish our business in Afghanistan. And I think that we all recognize that we're going to be at this for months and years to come.  And we believe that public service advertising can help to strengthen the resolve and the commitment of the American people to support this war.

MS. HUGHES:  Let me -- to follow up on that, one other point that, as the President said yesterday, while we're making great progress in Afghanistan, this is a lengthy process.  And the President reminds us of that on a daily basis, that this is a struggle to defeat a global terrorist network that exists in more than 60 countries.  And so, this is something that he expects we will be dealing with throughout his administration and into many future administrations.

Q    The President is appearing in another ad to promote tourism.  At the same time, the White House is going to be closed through the holiday season.  Is that a contradiction at all?

MS. HUGHES:  Well, the travel industry approached us and asked if we had any objection to them using excerpts of a speech that the President gave in Chicago to promote America as a tourist destination.  And we did not have any objection; in fact, we encourage people from around the world to enjoy and visit America.

Unfortunately, we are a nation at war.  And as we know, evil respects no holidays and no holy days, as the President said last night.  And so, unfortunately, we are taking additional security precautions, both here at the White House and on our airlines.

Q    Karen, where was the ad cut for the President and the First Lady?

MS. HUGHES:  At his ranch in Crawford, during a driving rainstorm. (Laughter.)  Last Thursday.  Last Thursday, right after President Putin left the ranch, that afternoon.

Q    What did you do with the rain?  It looks pretty nice there.

MS. CONLON:  The magic of cinematography.

MS. HUGHES:  I think it was inside the barn.  It was inside a barn at the ranch.  They had a little challenge with the tin roof, I think, and the rain.

Q    So then you put a backdrop behind it, is that how it worked?

MS. CONLON:  No, actually we just framed them against the open door. There were some bails of hay there.  It was quite natural, actually.

Q    Do you have any fears at all that there will be a drop-off, or at least some concern, in making donations, with reports such as the one that the Red Cross was either reluctant to give all the money where they said they were going to put the money to begin with -- does that at all hurt your effort?

MS. HUGHES:  Well, Jim, specifically, I think the Red Cross has now announced that they are going to, in fact, direct all of the money that was raised to the victims of the September 11th attack.  We are concerned by some reports that -- the Americans have responded very generously to the challenge of September 11th, but we are concerned, as the President mentioned this morning, that many local charities have seen a drop-off in their receipts and in their volunteer commitments.

And so, we want to encourage people in addition to making donations to September 11th funds and funds for the victims of those terrible attacks, to also make a difference in their own communities by supporting local charities and local efforts.

Q    One more quick question.  On the volunteerism front, your campaign rival, John McCain, has made a big push for increasing the amount of volunteers.  Has the President talked with Senator McCain, or are you working at all with his office in any sort of joint venture on the volunteerism front?

MS. HUGHES:  Jim, I don't know real recently whether the President has, but I know that one of the things that Senator McCain and I have talked about -- and I'm sure he and the President have talked about -- is, as you know, Senator McCain talked throughout his campaign about the need to inspire a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than self. And that is something that President Bush has talked about -- the need to change our culture to one of responsibility and one of service and one of compassion, ever since I've worked for him in 1994.  So I think it is a cause that both Senator McCain and President Bush both feel very strongly about.

Q    Karen, you said part of this is meant to show that out of evil comes good.  And we hear the word "evil" from the President almost on a daily basis.  How does the White House define that?  I mean, is that terrorism?  Is that some sort of broader definition that you feel like you're fighting?

MS. HUGHES:  I think any of us who saw an airplane fly into a building full of innocent people, including thousands of women and men and some children in the airplanes, themselves, saw evil.  It's hard to imagine a more vivid definition of evil than watching those airplanes fly into those buildings.  I think it clearly defines people who show no regard, no respect for any civilized notion that even something so basic as that the rights -- that innocent people should not be targets of such evil acts, such acts.

Q    If I could, I'd like to ask you a question about the Afghan women campaign, the other one that you're working on.  While you've been bringing to light some of the atrocities against women in Afghanistan, is there any type of implicit message there, or are you working with other Muslim countries, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries where women also don't have equal treatment?

MS. HUGHES:  Well, first of all, I would encourage you not to make a comparison.  No other countries, for example, don't allow nine-year-old girls to be educated or to learn to read.  And in many other Muslim countries, women are, in fact, greatly respected.  And women in most of those other countries have the opportunity to work outside the home and to be -- certainly, none of those other countries forbid women or little daughters at 9 and 10 years old from literally learning to read.

The United States feels an obligation to speak up on behalf of our values, and one of our values is human dignity, and the opportunity for all citizens to participate in a meaningful way in their society.

Q    Karen, is there kind of a twin message here during this season -- the giving at home, volunteerism at home; at the same time, rebuilding Afghanistan and humanitarian aid?  Is there kind of a twin administration message here?

MS. HUGHES:  I think, Bob, one of the things that the President talked about last night when we had the Iftaar dinner for the first time ever at the White House, was that during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims, while they fast during the day and pray, Ramadan is also a time where they encourage charity and encourage -- it's a beautiful visual image of literally setting a table of sharing.  And that's what happens in the evening feast; you set a table of sharing to break the fast of the day.

And I think that's clearly what the United States is conveying across the world during particularly this time of Thanksgiving here at home, that we are sharing and setting a table of our bounty to share it with the world, and specifically with the people of Afghanistan, to whom we are the largest donor of humanitarian aid.

Q    Karen, can you talk about what the Bushes are personally doing to sort of set an example on the charitable giving side and on the volunteerism side?

MS. HUGHES:  Well, Sondra, throughout -- ever since I've worked for President and Mrs. Bush, they have been very generous in donating to numerous charities.  As you recall, his autobiography, the proceeds were donated to -- I think they were shared between four different charities. They contribute to their church and to numerous community organizations.  I know they have been big supporters of the Boys' and Girls' Clubs.  They support -- I'm trying to think of some of the other -- we can get you a list of some of the other charitable organizations that --

Q    Do you know in terms of the September 11th tragedy, and then anything for this particular holiday season in their new neighborhood of Washington, D.C.?

MS. HUGHES:  I can check on that for you.  I know Mrs. Bush has encouraged across the country, for example, retired military officers to come in and volunteer and teach in classrooms, or to come back to work as teachers.  I can try to get you a list, Sondra, and get an update on that. I'd be glad to do that.

Anybody else?  Thank you all very much.  I'll let you go to your other -- I know you've got one other briefing.  These are back-to-back briefings today.  Thanks very much.

END        11:54 A.M. EST