September 9, 1988

The President. Secretary McLaughlin; Secretary Bowen; and Bill Kolberg, president of the National Alliance of Business, I thank you all. And let me give a special welcome to representatives of the Denver Nuggets, who next week are going out on the "Fastbreak for Life'' tour, and also to the dancing drill team, the Kansas City Marching Cobras. You know, I used to be in the entertainment business, so I'm always delighted when a group of young stars comes to visit.

Well, Youth 2000 Week helps remind us all that the 21st century is just around the corner. Now, I still remember when they said that the 20th century was just around the corner -- [laughter] -- and before that it was the 19th century that was around the corner. When you get to be my age, you notice that every 100 years they start talking about the next century being just around the corner. But in one sense the 21st century has already arrived.

You see, I did a little arithmetic before this ceremony -- I figured I might as well set a good example -- and what I calculated is that the children entering first grade this fall should graduate from high school in the year 2000. Now, America's next century will be an exciting time. There will be new technologies, new industries, new jobs. It'll be a period rich with opportunity. And what Youth 2000 is all about is giving each of our children the greatest chance to take full advantage of those opportunities.

Men and women like you here today are reaching out a hand, showing young people that you care about them, and asking them to care about themselves. America will spend over $300 billion this year on education, but for children facing tough odds, what ultimately will make the difference is the time, concern, the love that people like you are willing to give them just because you care. In Indianapolis, you're helping to link what children learn in school to the jobs being offered by area employers. In Pueblo, Colorado, the Girls' Club is helping to enroll troubled youth in a work experience program. And across America, people like you are working together and making a difference, one child at a time.

Now, what's good for the children, not surprisingly, is also what's good for the country. In the year 2000, we'll need a work force that is ready to meet the challenges and reap the rewards of a competitive world. America cannot afford to waste any of its precious potential. Our children have to learn to read and write and reason. They must know math and science. But above all, they must realize their own worth and know the simple respect that is their birthright. I want them to feel proud of themselves, every one of them. And I want to get that plane out of the way so I can be heard. [Laughter]

But since our administration began, it's been our vision that to create a better future for our children we need, as a matter of policy, to defend and strengthen the family, the bedrock of our society. We need to reform our welfare system so that it encourages work and is profamily and does not perpetuate poverty from one generation to the next. Our schools must teach basic skills and sound values. They must provide discipline and be free of drugs. We need a criminal justice system that makes neighborhoods safe places to live and work, that punishes criminals instead of shackling police officers. Now, these may be old-fashioned and simple ideas. But they worked yesterday. They're working today. And they'll work tomorrow. And they offer hope for a future in which none of our children get left behind.

Technology will change a lot in the future, but the permanent truths that built America and that govern our lives won't change. We can help our young people by showing them that education and hard work have always paid off and will always pay off. We can show them the way by helping them to stay in school, by helping to prepare them for careers and to be self-reliant, and to rid our communities of the menace of illegal drugs and to keep those drugs from robbing us of our future. We need to ask each child to make a personal commitment to just say no to drugs. Altogether, it's a vital task and a tall order. But that's what all of you are doing in your communities across the Nation. Business people, religious leaders, educators, community leaders are working together to help our young people and to help America in ways that will enrich our people and our nation for decades and decades to come.

So, I want to thank you and congratulate you all for what you're doing. And now, before I sign the proclamation, I understand that Ann and Otis have some introductions to make.

Secretary McLaughlin. Thank you, Mr. President. I'd like to begin by saluting the young people here today and all the American children who started school this past week. This country's role on the world stage, as the President points out, in the 21st century will be determined by their preparation today.

Youth 2000 is about opportunity, and opportunity is based on education. By the year 2000, as our economy continues to expand, every qualified young person who wants a job can have one. But Youth 2000 is also about challenges. The job market and society in general is becoming much more demanding. In terms of education and skills required, today's youth will have to be better prepared than any previous generation. Teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, functional illiteracy, and other problems confronting our young people will place them at risk and perhaps they will miss out on the benefits of tomorrow's society. But if we prepare our young people for these more demanding jobs being created, I say they will be in demand. The sky will be the limit.

So, Youth 2000 is based, importantly, on five priorities: employment and economic self-sufficiency; improved literacy and education; reduced teenage pregnancy; lifestyles free from drugs and alcohol; and reduced violence, accidental injuries, and death. The life of every young person growing up in this country today can be an American success story if we bring employers, service agencies, young people, and their parents into the discussion.

Now, let me end by speaking directly to the young people with us here today: You matter. As Secretary of Labor, I know very well the important role that you will play in the future of our country. Now, we're all depending on you. We believe in you. We're proud of you. But if you work hard at whatever you decide to do, you will meet with a success beyond even your highest expectations. There is no more worthy goal than a bright future for our young people of this country. So, to all of you who are helping, who are working, I say: Good luck! You have our full support and my heartfelt congratulations.

Thank you very much. And I'd like now to turn it over to Secretary Bowen.

Secretary Bowen. Thank you very much, Secretary McLaughlin. Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, it's a real pleasure for me to take part in this recognition of the Youth 2000 project. Mr. President, I'd like to introduce to you some of these young people who are what this program is all about.

First, there is Annette Pino, of Boulder, Colorado. Annette became a parent at the age of 15 and dropped out of high school. But she later completed her high school education and is now in a work experience program with the Girls' Club of Pueblo.

Then we have Ed Lucero, of Denver. He has begun a Youth 2000 program and fundraising effort for young people at Elitch Gardens Amusement Park in Denver, which is a summertime employer of a great many teenagers.

Next is Peggy Lee Rogers, of Denver, one of nine children raised by her mother alone. Thanks to a local school-to-work action program, she adjusted to a new school, decided not to drop out, and now has her sights set on becoming a teacher.

And finally, we have Andrea Taylor, of Kansas City, Missouri, who is here representing the 121-member Cobra drill team, which will be performing later. Andrea was chosen Miss Cobra this year because she sold the most tickets in the annual fundraiser for the 20-year-old organization, which is designed to build character, self-esteem, and scholastic achievement among young people.

These are all fine youngsters, Mr. President, and we believe they represent millions of others who, by the year 2000, will be the backbone of this country.

Thank you.

The President. Now, I have a proclamation to sign.

Ms. Taylor. Mr. President, we would like to present you this present.

The President. Thank you very much. I think it's a little too big for me the way it is there. [Laughter] But, gee, never had a cap that said "The Gipper'' before. [Laughter]

Thank you very much.

Ms. Taylor. Now, we'd like to present you with the Marching Cobras.

Note: The President spoke at 11:30 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening remarks, he referred to Secretary of Labor Ann McLaughlin and Secretary of Health and Human Services Otis R. Bowen.