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

President Thanks Americans for Helping Victims of Sept 11
Remarks by the President to Martha's Table Volunteers and Board of Directors
Martha's Table

  Listen to the President's Remarks


Washington, D.C.

1:34 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, all.  It must be hard to describe how to cause people to love one another.  Which is precisely why this program is so meaningful and so real to people.  I'm here because I want the American people to understand the greatest gift they can give this holiday season is to programs such as Martha's Table.

We're such a generous nation, and after September the 11th, people gave very generously to those whose lives were affected as a result of the terrorist activity.  But, unfortunately, contributions to organizations, community based organizations all aimed at helping brothers and sisters in need have fallen off.

And so my wish for Christmas, for the holiday season, is for our country to be at peace, to be protected, that our men and women overseas are protected, but that the great generosity of Americans come to the surface again to help people whose sole purpose is to say, what can I do to help somebody?  What can I do?  How can I live the biblical admonition to treat somebody just like I'd like to be treated myself?

I want to thank the leadership of this great program.  It's a pretty strong leadership.  First of all, they got my mother to come.  (Laughter.) Who said, when you get up there, you make sure you go by Martha's Table.  I said, yes, ma'am.  (Laughter.)  And, by the way, I'm going to see her Saturday and I look forward to telling her you're doing great.  I got to see the expansion, the new addition to this program.  And I want to congratulate the members of the board and the hard workers who've gone out to raise the money to see that the expansion came to be.  I want to thank all the volunteers who are here.

You know, part of my vision for a better America is that our country understands the power of faith-based and community based organizations. And government should do everything it can to facilitate their expansion all around the country.  That a lot of times faith can do things that others can't.  And while governments should never promote a particular religion, governments should not fear faith and should welcome those programs based upon faith.

Because government couldn't possibly duplicate what goes on inside this building.  There is no way that our government could mandate love.  I used to tell people, I wish I could make people love one another, and I'd sign the bill -- but that's not the way life works.  What happens is, dedicated citizens decide they're going to do something to embetter the community in which they live and, without government, say, let's go, let's roll, let's make it happen.  And that's what's happened here at Martha's Table.

So I urge my fellow citizens to find ways to contribute not only time, but money.  Instead of giving a gift this year, for example, one of the things I hope people do instead of sending Laura and me something, if they choose to do so, I would hope they would figure out a way to help a community, a charitable based organization.  It would be the best gift you could possibly give us.  If they're trying to send Barney a gift -- they ought to send it to a charitable based organization.  That would make our hearts feel great and I know it would help people in need.

And while we're here in this joyous season, we've also got to remember people hurt in our society.  And as a result of September the 11th, people have lost work.  And I'm worried about that.  I've been working hard to try to get the Congress to take care of unemployed people, people who lost their jobs.

I thought we made pretty good progress yesterday when Republicans and Democrats decided to set aside the typical partisanship that takes place in Washington and put a pretty good package out there -- not a pretty good, a real good package -- that said that we're going to extend the unemployment benefits for displaced workers; that we're going to help people with health care needs in a significant way; over $30 billion to help unemployed people take care of themselves during this period of national tragedy.

As well, in the package that passed the House of Representatives, there are ways to stimulate small business growth.  And the truth of the matter is, we've got to figure out ways to create jobs in America.  A job is the best thing that you can do to help anybody.

And, unfortunately, that particular piece of legislation was declared dead before it even got to the Senate floor, even though I'm confident that if it was ever voted on it would pass.  I think we need to pass that bill. I think for the good of the American people, that bill ought to get out of the United States Senate and get to my desk so that we can help the unemployed people and help grow jobs.

And I hope, as well, next year when we come back that the faith-based initiative passes.  I think this -- again, this isn't a partisan issue, this is a good American issue.  This is an issue that will help people. And that's what I want to see.  I want to see people in need have hope; people who live with despair in their lives, have sunshine.  And I know how to get it done, and that is to encourage places like Martha's Table to flourish and grow.

My fellow Americans need to know that as we head into this time of joy, that our nation is doing everything we can to protect our citizens; that we'll be on alert during the holiday season; that if we have any hint anybody wants to hurt us, we'll respond, to make sure that the good citizens of our land are able to celebrate peacefully with their families.

I wish everybody a happy holiday season.  I want to thank you all for giving me the chance to come by a place of love and compassion.  I want to thank you for what you do, on behalf of all Americans.  God bless. (Applause.)

END              1:40 P.M. EST

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