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Remarks at a Ceremony Honoring Participants in the Job Training Partnership Program

July 25, 1989

Thank you, Elizabeth. Thank you all. Senators, thank you four for being with us today. Well, Senator Dole, thank you very much, and ladies and gentlemen -- [laughter] -- did I say Senator? [Laughter] Freudian slip. [Laughter] It's a good chance to thank Senator Dole for giving us one of the great Secretaries of Labor we've ever had -- I'll tell you -- permitting her to serve our great country. Somehow, I feel better about the United States Navy, too, Purtillia. I'm glad that you're over there.

Over the past few months, this marvelous Rose Garden has been the site for several ceremonies honoring victorious athletic teams. And today we're focusing on another kind of victory, a victory for all America: reducing youth unemployment. And what, after all, does employment mean? Income, yes, but also pride -- pride in self, pride in one's life. And our administration wants to bring this pride to every young person who wants to work. But desire without preparedness is like a sports car without an engine.

Well, since 1983 the Job Training Partnership Act has propelled America's engine, providing education and training for those lacking in basic skills or who are economically disadvantaged. And showing young people like Purtillia -- you've just heard that story -- how tomorrow can be brighter than today. I thought she did a first-class job. And she told me she was nervous, but you just couldn't tell it at all. She did a wonderful job there.

But already, this program has helped thousands escape dependency. And for that, let me thank our Vice President Dan Quayle, who I know was with some of you all this morning. And as a Senator, he authored and was one of the top leaders in the fight for the JTPA, the most successful job training program in American history. And you can all take pride in JTPA's winning percentage: Over 68 percent of the program graduates have found and held a job.

And I'm here today because I believe deeply in this program and because I want to salute the package of amendments that we've proposed to make the JTPA stronger and better. And these amendments can help give America's youth the skills employers need, youth like the 12 examples that you see with us here today.

And our package focuses on America's at-risk youth. It recognized that there's an urgent need for job training, but more than that, that we must provide basic remedial education, counseling, and -- as my Barbara advocates so well -- the literacy training that can open horizons and minds. These skills will prepare the kids of today for the jobs of tomorrow and provide not only hope but opportunity for the underprivileged. Our proposal will foster the dignity and the independence that come from work, and help reject ills like drugs and crime and teenage pregnancy that assault the spirit and starve the soul.

Purtillia -- she knows what I'm talking about; she's only 21 -- 22 on Friday, they tell me. And so do the other JTPA award recipients, men like Tony MacKinnon, 23, who graduated from a Job Start program in Buffalo. And today he works for the Erie County Bar Association, giving legal assistance to low-income people. Or women like Amy Logan of Yakima, Washington. In the 10th grade, she dropped out of school, had a baby, got lost in drugs. But through JTPA, she got straightened out, found a good job, and will soon begin courses at a local community college. Amy wants to be a juvenile counselor. And you know what? I'll bet her dream comes true.

And today Amy Logan is 18 years old. And when I think of her, I recall how at an age near to that I heard Sir Winston Churchill implore America: "Give us the tools, and we will finish the job." Well, Churchill was asking America for material to help England combat the forces of totalitarianism. And our task is to give kids like Amy and Purtillia and Tony MacKinnon the writing, reading, and reasoning tools to do the job of America.

To achieve that goal, let me say to Governors and mayors: Working together, Federal, State, and local governments can help JTPA overcome the roadblocks to economic opportunity. And to business and labor leaders across America, let me add: We need your help as well. Become involved in your local programs and your local school system. Give that first break, that first job, to a young person, just as someone once gave a break to you.

And last month I announced a Points of Light Initiative which calls on every American to bring this involvement and service to every corner of America, and today I want to renew that call. And in my Inaugural Address, I spoke of the era of the "offered hand" and urged unity in crucial things. Well, today turning young lives around is not a Republican or Democratic issue. It's bipartisan, it's crucial -- crucial to the future of our great country.

To prove that point, our amendments have now been introduced in the House and the Senate, and the Senate's going to begin the markup tomorrow. And I want to thank Senators Hatch and Paul Simon and Congressmen Gus Hawkins and Bill Goodling for moving quickly on this package and express America's appreciation for working cooperatively to aid America's at-risk youth.

Almost 90 years ago, one of America's great Presidents saluted the pride that springs from labor. "I wish to preach," he said, "not the life of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of strenuous life." And it was also Teddy Roosevelt who said, "The best prize life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." So, under our legislation, and with the support of the public and private sectors, we can ensure the well-trained work force that is vital to America's new millennium and ensure that each American has the chance to win the prize of belief in tomorrow and belief in self. These beliefs form the heart of our amendments to the JTPA and of these young people. And so, on their behalf, I now have the pleasure of presenting certificates to these 12 outstanding JTPA participants.

Thank you all for joining us today. God bless the young people of this country and their inheritance. Thank you all very, very much for coming, especially these four Senators who played such a key role in all of this. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:29 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Secretary of Labor Elizabeth Dole and program participant Purtillia Bryant.

George Bush, Remarks at a Ceremony Honoring Participants in the Job Training Partnership Program Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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