Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Ceremony Marking the Beginning of the President's Citation Program for Private Sector Initiatives

December 10, 1984

Thank you. And if you haven't been welcomed already—and I'm sure you have-welcome to the White House. We claim this building over across the street, too. [Laughter]

You know, when this grand building was built, volunteer effort was an everyday part of our national life. Farmers would travel miles to help out with a barn raising. Food was distributed to the needy by churches and volunteer groups. And when someone fell ill, he would more than likely be cared for by his neighbors. For decades this shining tradition of voluntarism helped to give life in America a sense of security and warmth.

Yet in recent years, I think we must admit that the focus on volunteer efforts began to fade somewhat. Too many began expecting big government to perform tasks that could have been done more efficiently and with greater humanity by the private sector. In many cases, billions of dollars were spent on government programs that failed to do any lasting good.

The American people saw what was happening, and when George Bush and I were elected they gave us a mandate which we interpreted as "end the waste and, wherever possible, shift the focus away from the slow-moving labors of the bureaucrats back to the caring and efficient efforts of the people themselves."

I treasure one story, an experience that happened before I came here. There was a gentleman whose social security payments stopped coming. And when he inquired, they said he was dead. [Laughter] He said he wasn't. [Laughter] You know, when a computer makes a mistake, it's a mistake. Finally he went in person and informed them that there he was, in the living flesh. And the computer said he was dead, and there wasn't anything that they could do.

He'd been without the payments; he was destitute. And they—at least, thank heaven, there was someone there that turned to voluntarism in a way—they temporarily solved his problem while they went to work to try and solve it permanently. They gave him the social security funeral allowance to tide him over. [Laughter]

Well, repeatedly I've tried to use this bully pulpit to stress the importance of volunteer efforts. And throughout government, we've urged the formation of partnerships between the public and private sectors. One of our most important steps was the establishment of our White House Office of Private Sector Initiatives, headed by our fine director, Jim Coyne, and the Private Sector Advisory Committee—or Council, a council that's made up of private citizens dedicated to encouraging volunteer efforts across the country.

The members of the Council and their Chairman, Bob Galvin, of Motorola, I know are with us today. And I want to thank you all for your outstanding work. Over the past 4 years, all these efforts have had a powerful effect.

Between 1980 and 1983, for example, total giving in our country rose by 35 percent to a record $64.9 billion. And that number happens to be greater than the gross national product of more than half of the nations of the world.

Last year alone, the United Way Campaign collected almost $2 billion, making 1983 the best year for that campaign in almost three decades. And last year was the third consecutive year that the increase in giving was higher than the inflation rate. And as Bob Galvin and his fellow members can tell us, the Private Sector Initiatives Advisory Council has found the American people are ready and eager to lend a hand.

The Council has been able to create outstanding programs—like partnerships in education, under which nearly 16,000 American schools have formed partnerships with businesses and professional organizations; the summer jobs program, which last summer provided hundreds of thousands of young people with their first employment; and a direct, dynamic initiative in Grenada, under which more than $1 1/2 million has been committed, in Grenada, by private American concerns since the people of that island were set free.

Over the past 4 years the American people have gained new confidence in themselves and a new optimism about our nation's future. At the same time, we've rekindled an old ember of openness and generosity. And now we Americans are giving our time, money, and skills to good causes with renewed joy and dedication. And today it's our privilege to highlight two initiatives that will help to carry the spirit of American voluntarism even further.

First, National Care and Share Day, December 15th. On this date, Americans from Maine to California will contribute food to be shared with those in need. Groups ranging from the Salvation Army to the Grocery Manufacturers of America have generously agreed to take part. And I understand that in thousands of grocery stores across the country, collection centers will be set up for shoppers who want to make donations.

I signed the proclamation naming this date in the holiday season National Care and Share Day so that we could help to make this part of the year truly a time of good will toward all. And I urge every American to participate.

May I add one personal thought? In light of the tragedy in Ethiopia, last week I signed an order releasing 300,000 tons of wheat to the developing countries of Africa and South Asia. I know that private American efforts have already done much to help the needy around the world, especially in Ethiopia, and I would hope that on National Care and Share Day Americans would once again remember those nations that are less fortunate than our own.

Second, we're here to kick off a major new awards initiative called the President's Citation Program for Private Sector Initiatives. Businesses and associations on my Advisory Council will be able to fly the new "C Flag" and let the world know the program's motto, "We can, we care."

Now, everybody from Chicago knows that "C" stands for Cubs. [Laughter] But in this case it stands for something else—commitment. Often when we discuss voluntarism we concentrate on the efforts of individuals. But each year, business and professional associations show just as much of that national quality—commitment—donating millions of dollars and thousands of hours.

The aerospace industry, for example, is assembling "Tech-net." That's a network of funding and personnel that helps to harness new technology on behalf of the disabled.

Safeway Stores, Incorporated, has long been involved in volunteer efforts, from support of Easter Seals to taking a major hand in promoting the National Care and Share Day and helping launch the Young Astronaut Program.

GTE has sponsored the Gift Program. That's Growth Initiative for Teachers, to help train math and science teachers.

And D.C. Comics, Incorporated, has produced comic books that teach children the dangers of drug abuse.

Permit me to give you one more example, and this one is a little close to my heart. Some months ago I devoted my Saturday radio talk to the problem of missing children. It so happened that Jim Kerrigan, chairman of the Trailways Bus Company, heard that talk and on the following Monday called the White House to say that Trailways would like to help. Working with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Trailways put together a program where once a missing child was identified by local police, the youngster could ride home on a Trailways bus for free.

Perhaps you're wondering how much time passed between Jim's phone call and the first child's ride on a Trailways bus. It was 10 days. You know, I can't help thinking how long it would have taken and how many millions of taxpayers' dollars would have been spent if the program had been put together by a Federal agency. [Laughter]

Again and again, America's business and professional associations have shown this outstanding level of commitment. And the "C Flag," modeled on the famous "E Flag" of World War II, has been designed for them.

Across the country, businesses and associations with community involvement projects will be urged to register them with our Private Sector Initiatives [Partnership] DataNet, and when the projects are registered, the businesses and associations will be able to fly "C Flags" with pride. Of the companies that qualify for "C Flags" each year, 100 with outstanding programs will be selected for Presidential citations. And of these, each year 30 will receive a Presidential medal.

Now, these citations and medals we hope will become sought after, spurring businesses and professional associations on to even greater efforts. And as more and more "C Flags" snap in the breeze across our land, all Americans will be reminded of the vital role that our private sector plays in helping so many.

To those representatives of the first companies to receive "C Flags," my heartfelt congratulations. You're helping to show that Uncle Sam is back and standing tall, and he knows how to bend over and lend a helping hand.

And now I would like to unveil the first "C Flag" and present it to Peter Ueberroth for his leadership in the Olympics, a private sector initiative of unparalleled success, and on behalf of all the businesses which made the Olympics possible.

So, thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:04 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. The ceremony marked the unveiling of the first major White House awards program recognizing the outstanding contributions made by businesses and associations to their communities.

In addition to Peter Ueberroth, commissioner of baseball and former chairman of the Olympics, who received the first "C Flag" from the President, 150 business and association executives also received "C Flags."

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Ceremony Marking the Beginning of the President's Citation Program for Private Sector Initiatives Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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