George W. Bush photo

Remarks on the Faith-Based Welfare Initiative in Milwaukee

July 02, 2002

Thank you very much for that warm welcome. I—it's great to be here in the midst of so many social entrepreneurs—[laughter]—people who are willing to think differently in order to provide hope for people who need hope.

Wisconsin—Tommy is right—it's kind of the heartland of compassionate conservatism. People decided, "We're not going to worry about process; we'll worry about results. And the result we want is for everybody to feel a part of the American experience." I'm glad I picked Tommy to be in my Cabinet. You all trained him well— [laughter]—and he's doing a great job on behalf of all Americans.

Bishop Patterson, I'm honored that you would travel here. Bishop Patterson is a leader. He is a person who has got a clear vision about the need for the private sector and public sector to join together to help people who need help. And the fact, sir, that you traveled all the way here from the great city of Memphis, Tennessee, to be with us today is a tribute to your dedication to finding ways to improve people's lives. I'm honored you're here.

And then Bishop Daniels, I'm sorry that we kind of muzzled him. I was hoping that he would unleash—[laughter]—if not in word, at least in song. I'm looking forward to listening to the Daniels CD that he gave me today. But I'm impressed by his vision as well. We had the opportunity earlier to see the building plans, and that's just the skeleton. The body comes from the works that are going to take place inside the building, based upon faith and compassion and decency, all aimed—those works all aimed to change people's lives. And Bishop, I appreciate what you're doing. I'm not kidding when I use the words "social entrepreneur." It's a word that's applicable to the bishop and the congregation and the church. The willingness for people to use the great power of faith to revitalize neighborhoods is inspiring. Mr. Bishop, thank you very much for having us here. I appreciate that.

I appreciate Members of the United States Congress coming today. I know Mark Green and Tom Petri are here—I'm honored you both are here—as well as the chairman, Chairman Sensenbrenner. Much of what I'm going to talk about in terms of the Faith-Based Initiative has—those accomplishments which have taken place in Washington, in other words, the bill that got out of the House—[laughter]—he is responsible for. I appreciate you, Jim, very much for your leadership.

I want to thank members of the statehouse who have come. Of course, the Governor's here. I appreciate Scott, and I appreciate his leadership, and I appreciate his willingness to carry on the vision of welcoming social entrepreneurs in the providing of aid and comfort to people who need help. I appreciate the speaker being here and the minority leader of the Senate in the State of Wisconsin. Thank you all for coming today as well.

I appreciate local officials—it seems like when the President shows up, quite a few people show up. And I'm honored that the mayor is here. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for coming. And County Executive Scott Walker, I appreciate you coming, Scott, too. Thank you.

And finally, the Bradley Foundation is represented here today. The reason that I'm so happy that my friend Mike Grebe is here and Mike Joyce and others from the Bradley Foundation is because foundation America must be a part of the revitalization of our communities as well. And the Bradley Foundation has always been willing to seek different solutions. They've been willing to challenge the status quo. They'd say, "Where we find failure, something else must occur." And the foundation not only has been kind and generous with its donation, the foundation also has been willing to help people think anew. And I appreciate you all coming. I'm honored you're here, and thanks for your good work.

As I travel the country, I get to meet the quiet heroes of America, those folks who were willing to give of their time and talents and their heart to help people in need. Today Linda Stephenson came out to see Air Force One, and I'm glad she came, because it gave me a chance to thank her for 36 years of volunteering her time and efforts to help causes ranging from Youth Leadership Academy to Public Allies to Goodwill Industries. You see, the reason I like to talk about the individual hero is because America can change one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time. And while a person can't do everything, a person can do something to be a part of that. And thank you for coming, Linda. I'm honored you're here. Please stand up. [Applause] Got you. Thanks for coming.

Listen, we've got some big goals for America. Somebody asked me today, "What should people feel like going into the Fourth of July?" I said, "You should be celebrating the fact that we live in America and the Fourth of July is our Independence Day. It is the day we honor our freedoms, and as we honor the freedoms, we're going to do everything we can to protect the freedoms."

There are people that hate our freedoms, that really can't stand the thought that people are able to worship freely or speak their mind freely or be able to realize their dreams regardless of who they are. They don't like that, and therefore they want to strike out at America again. And I want to assure you that we're doing everything we can to protect the homeland of America. We've got a lot of dedicated folks who work overtime, all the time, to run down any lead. Any hint, any idea of anybody trying to do something to America, we'll react to it, because protecting innocent life is my most important job and the most important job of government at any level.

We value life; the enemy hates life. We say each life matters; they say innocent life doesn't matter. And so we've got a big task at hand.

The best way for us to secure the homeland, besides utilizing resources in an effective way to protect America, is to hunt this enemy down one by one and to bring them to justice. It's to find them where they try to hide and to bring them to—you notice I say we're not going to seek revenge. This Nation seeks justice because we love freedom.

It's going to take a while; it'll take a while. This is a different kind of enemy. These are the folks that hide in caves and then send youngsters to their suicide deaths. They don't march across land in formations. They—they're nearly invisible. But they're nothing but a bunch of cold-blooded killers. That's—you've got to know how I feel about it. And so they'll be treated as international criminals. We will get them on the run and keep them on the run until we bring them to justice.

But you need to know—you need to know that—and it's important that you tell your youngsters—Bishop, I know you'll tell youngsters who hear about war that this Nation longs for peace. That's what—we do what we do for peace.

See, I believe that out of the evil done to America can come some good. I believe there can come some good, and part of that good is a more peaceful world, not only for Americans but for people all across the globe. I believe if the American—I know if America stays steadfast and strong and resolute and speaks plainly about the values, the human values that are universal, we can achieve peace in places where the people don't dream of peace. And that's what I think can happen and will happen.

And as we work hard to secure America, we've got to work hard to make America a better place, and that's what I want to talk about today. You see, it's one thing to make sure that we are secure, but we've also got to understand that in our plenty, there are pockets of despair and hopelessness. In our plenty as America, in our strength, our military strength, we've got to recognize there are some people in our country who wonder whether or not the American experience is meant for them. And so long as there's that despair and worry and hopelessness, this Nation must do something about it. And I've got some ideas about how to do it, and that's what I want to speak about today, because it relates directly to what's happening inside the walls of this church.

It starts with making sure every child gets a good education, not just a few, not just the ones that are apparently easier to educate, but every child, every single child.

That sounds obvious, but it's not obvious in the way we address education, because in some parts of the world, there aren't high standards. If you have low standards and low expectations, you know what you're going to get? You're going to get bad results.

If you believe every child can learn, you set high standards. And that's what we've done in the new law we passed out of the Congress called the No Child Left Behind law. It says that we expect the best for every single child, and since we do so, we want to know whether or not the children are learning to read and write and add and subtract.

If you have low expectations, you don't measure, because you say, "Well, certain kids can't learn, why measure?" If you care about each child, you do measure. And the measuring system is important, because it helps indicate what's working and what's not working. It helps show whether or not a curriculum makes sense or not makes sense. It helps us judge whether or not the very faces of our future can read, for starters. And if they can't read, we as a society must do something about it. We cannot accept mediocrity.

And so the first time in history, the Federal Government has said, if you take Federal money—and we're spending a lot of it, particularly for Title I students, and that's good—that you've got to show us whether or not the money is making a difference. You, the people of Wisconsin, measure.

And finally, a final part of this bill is it says we trust the local people to chart the path to excellence for their children. In other words, we pass power out of Washington to the local level, and we encourage—by doing so, encourage any approach that works. See, we're not worried about the process; we're worried about the results.

That's why I am so appreciative of what Wisconsin and the city of Milwaukee has done in terms of providing choice. You call it whatever you want to call it—vouchers, choice, whatever it is. Freedom for parents is what I call it, and the results are better as a result.

I want to thank the bishop for having education as one of the cornerstones of this enterprise. You see, he understands what I know and you all know: If a child is educated, that child is more likely to be able to realize his or her dreams. An educated child is one much more likely to succeed. If you're worried about children going to prison, let's make sure that a child can read. That's the first step to making sure somebody can have a hopeful future. And the fact that this enterprise—what I call an enterprise—this fantastic operation has education within its building is a sign of clear vision.

And I want to thank the Supreme Court for making an important decision when it ratified the Cleveland voucher program. It said that—it was an important statement about let's focus on each child to make sure no child is left behind. Let's worry more about results and less about process.

In the bill that we've signed this year, there will be 3.5 million children who will be attending failing schools—that's the estimate. They will be given—their parents will be given different options, public school choice or after-school tutoring. It could be very likely that someone will come here into this building and find an after-school tutoring program, where the money follows the child, so that the parent and the child can escape from the mediocrity. And that's an important concept, very important concept.

I do believe the Federal Government can do more. I know we need to work with local jurisdictions to help them develop a variety of options for parents—all aimed, by the way, at making sure our public school system works. See, the public school system is an incredibly important part of democracy, and we want it to work, and we want it to work for every single child. And so I think we ought to work for an education tax credit that will be a part of empowering parents to be able to make choices if they're dissatisfied with the status quo. We're going to make progress.

We're making progress on education. It's an important progress to make. It's an important way to make sure America is not only a secure country but a better country.

There's another initiative that I want to speak briefly about, and that is homeowner-ship. We've got a homeownership gap in America: 75 percent of Anglos or white people own their homes; less than 50 percent of minority own their homes. That's a gap that needs to change. And so my goal—my goal is that by 2010 we have 5.5 million additional minority homeowners.

There are ways the Government, obviously, can help. One is to help people with their downpayment. People think about owning their home, and they say, "I can't afford the downpayment. Forget ownership. I'll just continue to rent." And so we're going to have Federal monies available to help people afford the downpayment so they can make the first big step into home-ownership.

Secondly, we will work with the Tax Code to provide tax credits so that affordable new homes can be built, for example, in this neighborhood, so that people—lowincome and moderate-income people will be able to have a new supply of homes from which they can choose and purchase if they want to own a home.

Thirdly, the private sector must do more, starting with freeing up capital. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must, as part of their vision and mission, encourage minority ownership by helping more capital to be available. We're talking about over $400 billion available over the next 10 years for people to be able to purchase their own home.

And finally, in the budgets we've submitted, and I'm confident Congress will pass, there is money for education. I can see, for example, I know the bishop has got a vision for homeownership in this neighborhood. I can easily see a desk or an office here where people who have never bought a home can come and become educated about what homeownership means. I mean, you pull these contracts out—you pull the contracts out, the print is about that big. Old guys like me can't even read it with my reading glasses on. And people get worried about it. "Why am I going to sign all this paper? What does it mean for me?" And we've got to help first-time homebuyers understand what it means to own a home, the obligations, the opportunities in the future. And part of the money that is available for homeowner-ship education is—that would be administered by faith-based institutions.

Another initiative that Tommy mentioned that makes sense, in order to make sure America is a better place, is welfare reform. Welfare reform to me means liberation from dependency. It means we realize each person matters, and if we can help people find work, it means there's dignity. And this State has been fantastic about encouraging work and helping people work and providing services to help people work and recognizing that faith-based institutions can make a huge difference in the training, in helping people train to be able to find work.

Again, I want to thank the bishop. You're beginning to get a picture of why I've come here. I'm talking about education and homeownership; now I'm talking about job training—all of which takes place here within the fabric of this institution.

Thanks to efforts in States like Wisconsin, the percentage of single black mothers working is the highest ever, and poverty amongst black children is the lowest ever. That's because people have found work.

Today Tommy Thompson, Secretary Thompson, announced that the Department of Health and Human Services is awarding $200 million in bonuses to States that have performed best in helping people move from welfare to work. And Tommy's probably already made this announcement, but $14 million of the $200 million have gone to the State of Wisconsin, which shows that there's still a lot of good being done here in Wisconsin.

But as we reauthorize welfare, we've got to do more. We've got to do more. We've got to make sure that the progress made is not undermined. And one way to make sure that we continue to make progress is insist upon work and then help people who need help to find a job, either through training and/or job placement.

And today we saw what can happen. Today I met the recipients of the compassion in the building. One lady had been on welfare for a while, now owns her own business. Isn't that right? [Applause] There's story after story of people who have been helped, people who have come here not only to receive the Word but also have come here to receive a helping hand. And that's what I appreciate so very much about this program and faith-based programs all across the country. Our Government should not fear faith in our society.

Just ask Annette Williams, a mother of four who'd been on and off welfare. She's the owner—she's owned her own business for 4 years. Or Essie Lee, she'd been on welfare. She lost her job. She came here as a single mom. And by the way, being a single mother in America is the toughest job in America; it's the hardest work. And she came with a 12-year-old child. She got job training. She had counseling, and she's now gainfully employed in a catering business. In other words, the folks came here to obviously receive comfort from the Comforter, but they also came to receive a hand from people who want to help them.

Government can hand out money. We do a pretty good job of it. But what Government cannot do is put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in their lives. That's been the fallacy of the Federal Government-only approach to helping people help themselves. When we find programs that work, when we find a place that is actually effective at helping people, this Government ought to welcome such programs. That's why I'm here. We welcome this program.

Sometimes reality is that sometimes faith-based groups are prohibited or discouraged from even applying for Federal grants. Last week, my Director of the Faith-Based Initiative met with the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty out of New York. It's a group of people who want to help. They feed the hungry for their community. They feed the hungry regardless of somebody's religion. They don't ask, "What is your religion?" They ask, "Are you hungry?" But because of their name and their identity, Federal officials have repeatedly discouraged them from applying for Federal funds.

That's not right. The Federal Government should not ask, "Does your organization believe in God?" That's not the question they ought to ask. They ought to ask, "Does your program work? Are you saving lives? Are you making a difference in people's lives?"

We'll ask for accountability—of course, we'll ask for accountability. We should ask for accountability whether it be taxpayers' money or donations in the plate. [Laughter] There ought to be accountability. And obviously, we're not going to use taxpayers' money to evangelic—to promote religion. But we should use taxpayers' money to help people change their lives, so that they can realize the American experience and the American Dream.

We've got to get our Federal agencies to remove regulations that discriminate against faith-based groups. I've told all my Cabinet officers that's what I expect to happen in Washington, DC. And I want to thank Tommy for leading the charge on this.

I mentioned what we call the "CARE Act," "Charity Aid Recovery and Empowerment Act." That's the act that passed out of the House, and let me tell you what this act will do. One of the key principles is there's equal treatment. Organizations that have a religious name or religious icons on the wall like a cross or Star of David should be welcome partners in providing for the poor. That's one of the principles.

It also encourages donations to charitable and faith-based organizations. Right now, nonitemizers don't get to deduct charitable gifts. I believe nonitemizers should be able to deduct charitable giving, which would encourage 84 million taxpayers—provide an additional incentive, beside their heart—to contribute to a faith-based organization or a charity.

I believe that we ought to have more resources available for the institutions which are struggling to cope with the Federal grant process. What we don't want to do is we don't want to stifle opportunity and stifle the imaginative process that takes place within our faith communities. We want to encourage it by providing what I call a compassion capital fund that will allow those who emulate the bishop, those who want to figure out how to get ahead to have a place to go to find out what works, how it works, what to do in order to realize the vision of expanding compassion to every neighborhood in America.

No, this piece of the legislation is very important, and I—and we've got supporters all over Washington on this bill, and that's good, both Republicans and Democrats. See, I don't view faith as a partisan issue. I view it as a universal issue, much bigger than party politics.

Let me read one quote for you that says, "The CARE Act isn't a Republican or Democratic plan. It's a bipartisan proposal that strikes the right balance between harnessing the best forces of faith in our public life without infringing on the First Amendment." I agree with that. "Most importantly, it is representative of what we can accomplish in Washington when we put partisanship and politics aside and focus on what matters. I look forward to working with President Bush to get this proposal signed into law."

The author of the quote was Senator Tom Daschle, and I appreciate his support for this initiative. I look forward to the Senate getting the bill out of the Senate as quickly as possible, any differences reconciled with the House, and get it on my desk so I can sign it and we can get forward with the goal of making sure America is better for every citizen who lives in this country.

When the enemy hit us, they didn't know who they were hitting. Out of evil will come some really important good. Good will come when neighbors love neighbors just like they'd like to be loved themselves. It is the acts of kindness and generosity and decency, which you find right here, is what define the true face of our country. We recognize that there are people who hurt, and we want them to be healed. We recognize people are hungry; we want them to be fed. We recognize people can't read, and we want them to read. That's our focus.

Out of the evil done to America can come incredible good, because this is a great nation full of decent and loving and honorable people. And it is my honor today to be amongst great leaders—two fine bishops and a congregation which cares about their fellow man. Thank you for letting me come by. May God bless you all, and may God bless America.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:36 a.m. at the Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ. In his remarks, he referred to Bishop G.E. Patterson, pastor, Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ, founder and president of Bountiful Blessings Ministries; Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, pastor, Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ; Gov. Scott McCallum of Wisconsin; Scott Jensen, speaker, Wisconsin State Assembly; Mary E. Panzer, minority leader, Wisconsin State Senate; Mayor John O. Norquist of Milwaukee; Scott Walker, county executive, County of Milwaukee; and Michael W. Grebe, president and chief executive officer, and Michael Joyce, former president and chief executive officer, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. The President also referred to Title I of the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994 (Public Law No. 103-382), which amended Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (Public Law No. 89-10). The Office of the Press Secretary also released a Spanish language transcript of these remarks.

George W. Bush, Remarks on the Faith-Based Welfare Initiative in Milwaukee Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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