The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 29, 2003

President Discusses Faith-Based Initiative at Youth Education Center
Remarks by the President at the Dedication of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Youth Education Center
Dallas, Texas

6:18 P.M. CST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all.


THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all.


Director Jim Towey — Progress
on the Faith Based Initiative
THE PRESIDENT: Zip it. (Laughter.) Thank you all for coming, it's great to be home. (Applause.) I'm glad to be with people who are transforming a community one heart and one soul at a time. That's what's taking place here and that's why I'm here.

I want to thank you all for supporting Project Turn Around. I want to thank you for supporting with your resources, with your time and with your prayers. I want to thank my friend, Tony Evans, for his leadership. He's what I like to call a social entrepreneur. (Laughter.) We've got business entrepreneurs, and this country has got social entrepreneurs -- those are people who use their wits and their talents as change agents, as positive change agents. (Applause.)

You can hear Tony on 500 radio stations. (Applause.) You can read 20 of his books. You can listen to his powerful sermons on Sunday. He is a busy man, and one of the advantages of being President is he'll take my phone call. (Laughter and applause.) And I'm glad he does, I appreciate his advice -- and he's got good, sound advice. I appreciate his friendship, he is a loyal friend. And I appreciate his prayers. The greatest gift American people can give a President and his family is prayer, and I want to thank you for that. (Applause.)

Tony and I married well. (Laughter.) I'm so honored to be with Lois Evans, thank you very much for your hospitality. (Applause.) And the Evans family, Chrystal and Priscilla, as well as Anthony, Jr. Anthony, Jr. was telling me -- actually, he's a modest guy, so his dad was telling me -- (laughter) -- that he just got back from cutting a record with Michael W. Smith. (Applause.) I think that's what he said, kind of like that. Well, he was with Michael W. Smith. (Laughter.) We'll see if the record happens or not. (Laughter.)

Some of my greatest memories was living in Austin, Texas, and showing up for work at the Capitol. Two members of the legislative branch are here, people who I remember fondly, people who I miss. Senator Royce West and Representative Helen Giddings are with us. (Applause.)

I want you to know that I'm aware that Reverend E.K. Bailey passed, and I send our deepest sympathies to his family and to his congregation. He was a great leader here in the great state of Texas. (Applause.)

I bring up -- I bring up a preacher because I want to thank all the preachers who are here, the pastors, those who shepherd. One pastor who is not here is my friend Jack Graham from Prestonwood Baptist. I bring that up because social entrepreneurs find out ways to leverage resources in a proper way. And what Tony Evans has done with Pastor Jack Graham, is to start an urban suburban and partnership. It's an opportunity for suburb and churches to participate in salvaging lives and making lives better in neighborhoods where most members of the congregation will never go. It's a chance for urban and suburban churches to work on racial reconciliation. Social entrepreneurs think about ways to make societies a better place. And I want to thank Tony, and I appreciate Jack, for having a vision about how to -- about how to make America a better place, one neighborhood at a time. (Applause.)

A President must set great goals, worthy of a great nation. We're a great nation. (Applause.) Therefore, a President must set big goals. I set a goal for this country to make the world more peaceful by spreading freedom. Freedom is not America's gift to the world, freedom is God's gift to each and every individual in the world. (Applause.)

I set a great goal here at home. I want the American Dream, the great hope of our country, to extend in every neighborhood in our country. I want every single person in this land to feel welcome and wanted and hopeful. It's a great domestic goal. And of course, when you think about setting goals, you've got to think about the tactics and strategies to achieve a goal. It's one thing to set a goal, it's another thing to actually meet the goal.

And one of the reasons I'm so thrilled to be here with Tony Evans is because he helped me understand how to best meet that goal. He probably didn't realize it at that time -- but there's something about mysterious ways. (Laughter and applause.) We were together in Greenville, Texas in 1996 -- it's an usual place for, you know, a governor and a famous pastor to meet. But we were there because we were worried about racial reconciliation as a result of some fires that had destroyed church.

And I'll never forget his speech, it's stuck with me to this day. As a matter of fact, what I'm telling you is it's helped formulate policy -- first at state level, now the federal level. Because he got up and he said, in speaking about programs meant to help people, welfare programs -- he said, you know, get rid of your welfare programs, think differently. He said, the best welfare programs are on every corner in America. They're open 24 hours a day. They've got a workforce that is guided by an ancient guidebook -- (laughter) -- who's tenets have stood the test of time. (Applause.) They've got a motto over the door that says love your neighbor like you would like to be loved yourself.

Tony went on to explain why faith-based programs, programs that emanate out of faith institutions work so well, he told the story, maybe he has told it to you. (Laughter.) If he has, I've got to repeat it because the TV cameras are here. (Laughter.) He said he's reminded of the time when a fellow had a house and he got a crack on the wall. And he went and got a painter or a plasterer, and a fellow came and covered it up. And two weeks later, the crack reappeared. And so he said, well, I better get another painter. And he did. And he repainted the crack. But it reappeared again. He finally got a wise painter who said, sir, you'll never fix the crack until you fix the foundation. (Applause.) Project Turn Around fixes the foundation. (Applause.)

That's what we're here to herald, programs such as Project Turn Around. It's got such a wonderful sense of mission. It says, to rebuild lives from the inside out. It's a powerful statement, isn't it? Really think about it -- to rebuild lives, that's a hopeful goal for our country. We want people to realize the great potential of America. Some lives have to be rebuilt. And it didn't say, from the outside in, it said, from the inside out. It's a faith-based initiative built from the inside out, not from the outside in.

Listen to what you do through this ministry. There's a thousand volunteers, who provide shelter, and food, and clothing. There's marriage counseling. It's vital that we have strong families in America and they provide marriage counseling. (Applause.) Job training. Somebody walks in this building and they want to work, they just -- there's human dignity that comes from work and they can find a chance to train for jobs right here, in Project Turn Around. Advice on starting a small business -- that warms my heart. If you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of our country. There's nothing better than somebody realizing their dreams by starting and owning their own business. It's uniquely -- not "uniquely," it's inherently American that people are able to do that right here. (Applause.) Who would think that in a church you would have a program to teach you how to start your own business? Social entrepreneurs think that way.

Project Turn Around is a complete program. A woman can find help during a crisis pregnancy. There's a tenderness and a practicality to Project Turn Around. This program is a beacon for Dallas. And this program is a model for the nation. (Applause.)

We just came from the dedication of the Education and Youth Center. If you haven't been there yet, you need to go take a look. (Laughter.) It's impressive. The brick and mortar is impressive. The architectural design is fantastic. What's more fantastic is what's going to take place inside the building. (Applause.)

I'm appreciative of the idea of the Fellowship Christian Academy taking root and taking wing here. This is a program which challenges the soft bigotry of low expectations. (Applause.) It raises standards, it believes every child can learn. See, that's important in education. We must challenge the mediocrity of a system. We must not let people just get shuffled through because their skin happens to be black -- you know, people can't quit on a child. No child should be left behind. This school and this building understands that. (Applause.)

But the building across the street not only houses the school, it also houses a mentoring program that gathers children from 60 schools. Five thousand children a week are mentored. That's powerful, that is a powerful program. (Applause.)

One of my passions -- and I spoke to the Congress about this at my State of the Union -- was to help the children whose mom or dad may be in prison. My hope is that -- and I know that Tony understands this -- the mentoring program for that child, those children are necessary for the country to be hopeful for every single citizen. What this program understands, and what I hope other programs around the nation understand, is that by mentoring a child, you shape the character of a child. And it's a high calling in life, because that influence reaches to eternity. (Applause.)

As I said, government can hand out money -- and we will, and that's an important aspect -- but it cannot put hope in people's hearts. (Applause.) See, that's the disconnect. It can't put hope in people's lives. We must understand that amidst our plenty, there are people who hurt, deeply hurt. And the deepest needs are oftentimes found in the human heart. In order to help that need, people need to know they're valued and wanted. People need to know a higher power that is bigger than their problems. (Applause.)

What the faith-based programs say, time after time after time, is that miracles are possible. When somebody puts their arm around a neighbor and says, God loves you, I love you, and you can count on us both. Faith-based programs work. (Applause.) They are able to address the deepest needs of our heart.

And so when I heard Tony speak at Greenville, I began to act. It touched my heart, what he had to say. I wanted everybody to realize the vast potential then of the state of Texas, now all across America. So I started to work on and think about faith-based programs. They're effective. They're so effective that it points to a new role for government, a new political philosophy.

But first, let me say, government has no business funding religious worship or teaching. They don't want the church to be the state, and we don't want the state to be the church. (Applause.) However, our government should support the good work of religious people who are changing America. (Applause.)

What does that mean from a practical sense, from where I sit? What does that mean? It means this, that when government gives contracts to provide social services, religious groups should have an equal chance to compete. That's what that means. (Applause.) And when we make decisions on public funding, we should not focus on the religion you practice, but on the results you deliver. (Applause.)

This has not been the attitude of government, let's be frank about it. The attitude of government, particularly in Washington, has said, religious groups need not apply. That's the way it has been. We're missing an opportunity to help change lives and to meet a major goal in our country, which is everyone should realize the great vast potential of America.

If you're allowed to apply for grants on that rare occasion, some are asked to change their board of directors, to remove the cross from the wall, to change the very things that make the faith-based program effective.

And I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about. There's the Orange County Rescue Mission in Tustin, California. It's a fantastic initiative. They applied for funding from the Housing and Urban Development. We call it HUD. HUD said, fine, but it had a few conditions to meet. In other words, there was access, perhaps, to federal money, but let me tell you the conditions. The Rescue Mission had to form a secular nonprofit. They had to ban all religious activities from their facility. They had to rename their chapel and auditorium.

It's hard to be a faith-based program when you're forbidden from practicing your faith. (Applause.) It's hard to change hearts when you can't use the power you've got to change the hearts. (Applause.) Government action like this is pure discrimination. And when government discriminates against religious groups, it is not the groups who suffer. The real loss is felt by the hungry who do not get fed, by the addicts who don't get help and treatment, by the children who drift toward self-destruction. For the sake of so many people in need, this country must support the armies of compassion. (Applause.)

I asked Congress to join me and pass what I called the faith-based initiative, which would help change the culture of Washington and the behavior of bureaucracies. They have stalled. So I just signed an executive order. (Applause.) The executive order says that the federal government will have a level playing field when religious groups apply for federal money. There will not be discrimination. That's what it says, pure and simple. Every bureaucrat in Washington who might be tempted to fall back to the old ways now knows exactly where I stand.

And we've set up faith-based offices. We're trying to change the culture, see. We're trying to change an attitude. So we set up faith-based offices in several important Cabinet departments. And that's important. This is important for people who are charged with good policy to have a faith-based office that will work directly with the social entrepreneurs of America, the Tony Evans' of the world, so they get a sympathetic ear and get help, not a cold shoulder.

And there's some changes. Slowly but surely, the culture is changing. Just last month, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized regulations that helped open up three programs to greater competition -- in other words, began to level the playing field. Programs in which religious faith-based programs -- by the way, I'm talking about Christians, and Jewish people, and Muslims, Hindus, people of all faiths. See, we've all heard that call to love a neighbor.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, now opening up for grants. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, TANF, is now opening up for grants. The Community Service Block Grant Program is opening up for grants from faith-based institutions. These are billions of dollars of money now available for new social spending. (Applause.)

Let me tell you, by new social spending, I mean spending dollars in a new way, in a way that's effective, in a way that will help change lives in a positive and constructive way. See, we want everybody in this country, every person -- we want the addict, we want the single lonely mom, we want the child, the dyslexic child -- all to feel a part of the future of this country. (Applause.)

Last month, HUD finalized new regulations that apply to aid programs covering $7.6 billion, so that now religious groups that build housing will no longer face discrimination when they seek HUD funds. That's important. (Applause.) We want churches in the middle of neighborhoods that may need new housing to be able to have a chance to access some money to provide new housing. We have a minority home ownership gap in America that needs to be closed. (Applause.) We've got a program in front of Congress to help people with the dow payment. HUD has got a program to help people understand the fine print. (Laughter and applause.) We're trying to simplify contracts. But in order to help close the home ownership gap, it seems to make sense to allow inner-city churches to become active builders of homes, affordable homes, so people can find housing in the neighborhoods in which they worship. (Applause.)

Remember, I told you about the program in Orange County, the Orange County Rescue Mission. It has now reapplied for a contract for HUD. It doesn't have to force to -- be forced to abide by those rules, those rules that make people nervous. Listen, nobody wants to apply for federal grants if you think you have to change your mission. Nobody in their right mind is going to say, look, let me -- let me access some of your money, but I've got to change the way I think. It defeats the purpose.

We're making changes of the culture in Washington, D.C. It takes awhile, but we're working on it. And the fact that I can come here -- (applause) -- and the fact that I can come here and herald this program as a successful program helps change the culture. There's nothing like success to change cultures. (Applause.)

We've got some other projects here in Dallas. The Builders of Hope in West Dallas is a faith-based group building new homes for low-income families, which HUD is supporting. HHS is supporting the Faith Walk Center in Dallas, a program which fights drug abuse amongst young people. You've got to understand that sometimes, and a lot of times, the best way to help the addict, a person who is stuck on drugs and alcohol, is to change their heart. See, if you change their heart, then they change their behavior. I know. (Applause.)

We've got initiatives I've been talking to Tony about, he knows about this, called the Compassion Capital Fund. Sometimes, entrepreneurs need start-up capital, whether it be a business or the social entrepreneur needs start-up capital. I don't think Evans needs start-up capital. (Laughter.) I think we're beyond the start-up capital phase here at this fantastic, fantastic church. But it gives programs start-up money and expansion money directly to the social entrepreneurs, and that's important. I'm calling on Congress to increase the budget to $100 million this year, they need to triple the amount of money available for this program. (Applause.)

And so what I'm telling you is, is that the best way to meet a national goal is to rally the strength of America. The strength of America is the people of America. (Applause.) And the people of America, a lot of people in America understand there's a higher authority than their government, and respond to that higher authority. (Applause.) All the levels of government -- and I can only speak for the federal government, but I might be able to affect the state government and local government by just speaking -- (laughter) -- but all levels of government, the federal government, the state of Texas and all states, the city of Dallas and all cities, ought not to fear programs based upon faith. All levels of government must understand the power of faith programs to make the communities and states and country in which we live a better place. It's the reality. This is living proof of it right here, at Project Turn Around. (Applause.)

I love our country. I love what we stand for. We're a strong nation. And in this world today, we need to be strong. We need to defend ourselves, and we will. And we need to promote the peace, and we will. And when we see suffering around the world, this country should not turn its back. We're strong. But we're incredibly compassionate as a nation. This proud country, America, is leading the world in incredibly important work, like the work of human rescue for those who are dying from AIDS on the continent of Africa. (Applause.)

And we need to be strong at home, too, strong of heart, and strong of soul. Project Turn Around and other successful programs around our country show the strength, show the strength that bends down to help the child and the stranger and the outcast.

I want to thank you all so very much for your welcome. I want to thank you for your compassion and your care. I want to thank you for laying those strong foundations which help those who hurt. Because by laying that strong foundation, you're changing America one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time.

God bless your work, and may God bless America. (Applause.)

END 6:47 P.M. CST

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