Remarks on Signing the Proclamation and Executive Order on Child Safety

April 29, 1985

Attorney General Meese, Governor Martin, Congressman Lewis, Senator Thurmond, Senator Hawkins, and ladies and gentlemen, welcome once again to the White House. I saw many of you just a few weeks ago. This time I ordered some good weather for this happy day. [Laughter]

I've read your plan for a public-private partnership to encourage child safety, and I concur with your proposals. And I am here today to sign both the proclamation for National Child Safety Awareness Month and the Executive order concerning the Child Safety Partnership. And I'd just like to say, before I put my name on these papers, that Nancy and I have been so moved, so touched by the recent efforts of the citizens of our nation in response to the sad problem of missing children, kidnaped children, exploited and abused children. There's a wonderful thing about Americans: They discover a problem; they publicize it; they talk about it; and they come up with plans to deal with it. And they always succeed.

Last year I challenged the private sector to assist us in combating the problem of missing children. Within a few short weeks the Trailways Corporation formed a partnership with the International Association of Chiefs of Police. They started a program called Operation Home Free. In less than a year over 3,500 children have been reunited with their families, and this was only the beginning.

Innovative private sector initiatives are surging up all over the country. As you can see from this wonderful display behind us here, there's no limit to what can be done to combat the problem of missing and exploited children.

The Woolworth Company is producing and posting pictures of missing children in their stores. K-Mart and the Guardian Corporation will put pictures in over 43 million photo-finishing bags each year. Pictures of missing children will appear on over 4 million tollway tickets in New York and on milk cartons around the Nation. And the Mobil Corporation is working to display photographs in their stations in the Washington, DC, area.

These efforts have been valuable in locating thousands of children. Safeway supermarkets have been putting pictures of missing children on their grocery bags. Last month two children were located within 2 days because of that effort.

Now, all of these companies are just part of a larger effort. Each week we find more and more organizations coming up with creative programs using their resources.

Recently I was able to visit the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, and there we launched one of the first Safe Kids Clubs that will now be found all along the route of the circus. All club members are fingerprinted and photographed and receive safety tips to follow.

The media has also become involved, not only to report on these programs but to participate. WVUE in New Orleans, for instance, just launched their child video print program, which will video tape any children in the New Orleans area.

It's important to note here that the Federal Government, too, is involved. The Department of Health and Human Services administers programs to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect as well as provide services to runaway and homeless youth. And the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect continues to work on this problem, with much cooperation from the private sector.

As a result of their good works, I believe that the public awareness campaign that is being waged will bring us that much closer to ending the scourge of child abuse and child sexual abuse. I could go on with what has and has not been happening. These private sector initiatives are tremendous. But it just occurs to me that even though the abuse and exploitation of children is a big problem, it is simply no match for the heart and the commitment of the American people -- of the people, you here in this garden today.

So, God bless you all. And I'm proud and happy to be here to sign the proclamation for National Child Safety Awareness Month of 1985 and the Executive order. And now I'll write instead of talk. [Laughter]

[At this point, the President signed the proclamation and the Executive order.]

There. Some days are happier than others. Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:57 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.