Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks on Signing the National Safe Kids Week Proclamation

May 13, 1988

The President. I'm sorry for the delay. We were waiting for one very special person, who apparently is not going to be able to get here. But I want to thank you all very much, and I'd like to welcome everyone gathered here at the White House for the National Safe Kids Campaign.

Being here in the Rose Garden reminds me of the story of another President, Teddy Roosevelt, and his son Quentin when they were living here. Quentin was on stilts, walking through one of the flower gardens. And President Teddy Roosevelt said, "Quentin, get out of there." And Quentin, from up on his stilts, looked down at his father and said, "I don't see what good it does me for you to be President." [Laughter]

But seriously, I'm grateful for the contributions that the Children's Hospital National Medical Center, the National Safety Council, and Johnson & Johnson have made to save our most precious resource: our children. And seeing all of you young people here today reminds me of a story of my youth. Well, it was even more than youth. It was back to when I was 3 years old in a little town of Tampico, Illinois, where I'd been born.

We were living in a house, and in front of the house across the street was a park. And on the far side of the park was a railroad track, and the depot. And my brother, who was 2 years older than I—we were out there one day. And you children—would be hard to realize that there was a time when you didn't have ice cream wagons and things like that coming around. And so, the morning tour of the ice wagon—we didn't have refrigerators either, so the ice wagon would come and deliver to each house some ice. And we who were young thought the greatest thing in the world was to be able to intercept that ice wagon and get a chunk of the ice that chipped off when they were getting the ice ready for the ice boxes and to suck on those pieces of ice. Well, my brother, the 5-year-old, saw the ice wagon pull up over there on the other side of the park and the railroad tracks, and he called to me. And the two of us started across the park. And before we got there, a train pulled in and stopped between us and the ice wagon. Well, upon my brother's cue, I followed him, and we crawled under the train, came out the other side, and barely gotten out and on our way to the ice wagon when the train pulled out. My mother had come out on the porch and seen all of this. We got our ice— [laughter] —but about halfway through the park we met our mother- [laughter] —on the way through, and we got something else beyond the ice that let us know we were never to crawl under trains again.

Luckily my pride was really the only injury suffered that day, but for many others physical harm is altogether too personal and too real. With me are-or with all of us here are several families whose stories I'd like to share with you.

On a hot August afternoon—now, this is the individual we've been waiting for and is apparently not yet here—Nancy Dunning was on the phone with her husband when she heard a loud thud. And as Mrs. Dunning ran into the backyard, she saw her neighbor rushing toward the street, where her 4-year-old son, Chris, lay bleeding. He'd been hit by a car. As the neighbor comforted Chris, Nancy ran and called the telephone number 911. Suffering serious neck and leg injuries, Christopher could easily have been paralyzed had any of the people who treated him made the slightest mistake. But fortunately his paramedics had completed a pediatric trauma course. And today he is fully healed. His mother Nancy Dunning describes herself as a much more cautious mother now. "I know that the worst can happen, and I'm doing everything I can to make sure it doesn't happen again," are her words.

Joan and Jerry Langdon consider themselves conscientious parents who've taken much care to make their home safe for their baby daughter, Heather. Yet one evening Heather's natural curiosity led her to grab a hot, bright light bulb. At such a tender age this little girl's reflexes didn't tell her to pull away from the scorching heat. Her scream attracted Jerry's attention, and he pulled her hand off the light, but only after she'd been badly burned. Heather has received several skin grafts and, thank goodness, will heal completely.

Kristin Godown is a 12-year-old student who's being honored by the National American Automobile Association for saving the life of a kindergartner. On March 18th, 1987, Kristin was the lead school safety patrol member riding with kindergartners on their way home from Hybla Valley Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia. At one of the stops, Kristin got off the bus to make sure the children exited safely. And just as the bus was about to pull away, a schoolchild ran under the vehicle to retrieve a piece of paper. Kristin shouted for the bus driver to stop, and because of her quick action, Anita Murphy is alive today. Next week Kristin will be honored, along with other children who've made similar heroic efforts, with the Triple A School Safety Patrol Lifesaving Medal at an awards luncheon here in Washington.

As these experiences show, many childhood accidents and, yes, sometimes death, resulted from situations which should be and are avoidable. Tragically, preventable accidents are the leading causes of death among our children every year. This means 8,000 children die in one year from accidental drowning, poisoning, and auto accidents in which kids were not wearing seat belts. As Surgeon General Koop has recently said, "If a disease were killing our children in the proportions that accidents are, people would demand that that killer disease be halted."

Well, today we're taking action to stop this needless waste. By proclamation, I am designating the week of May 16th through May 22d, 1988, National Safe Kids Week. As the President of the United States and a concerned parent and grandparent myself, I urge everyone in America to please protect our children. And once again I thank you all for coming here today, and I'd like to leave you with one last thought. It's an old proverb that says simply, "There is only one pretty child in the world, and every parent has it."

Well, I thank you, and God bless you. And now I'm going to ask if a few people would come up here with me. I guess Chris Dunning hasn't yet arrived. No, he's not here. So, now would Heather come up and Kristin.

Well, now I'm going to sign the proclamation and the joint resolution that have been passed by the Congress.

And now it's official; we're all going to be careful.

Mrs. Langdon. President Reagan, the Safe Kids would like to present you this T-shirt.

The President. Well, thank you very much. And I promise you, I'll be a safe kid. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 11:56 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks on Signing the National Safe Kids Week Proclamation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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