Top Story: Top leaders make their pitch for "big citizenship."
The General: Powell's high profile summit role fuels political speculation
Transcript: Colin Powell On CNN's "Larry King Live"
The Goals: Nation's most prominent leaders descend on Philadelphia to promote volunteerism.
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A Call For 'Big Citizenship'
'Let's go save our children!' says Powell
PHILADELPHIA (AllPolitics, April 28) -- In the shadow of Independence Hall, President Bill Clinton this morning convened the Presidents' Summit for America's Future, noting once again that while the era of big government is over, big challenges remain.
"So we need an era of 'big citizenship,'" Clinton said. "That is why we are here and that is what we should promise ourselves we will do." (192K wav sound)
Retired general Colin Powell spoke of the duty to help fulfill the deferred dreams of others. "To many young Americans, that dream deferred does sag like a heavy load that pushes them down to the ground and they wonder if they can rise up with that load. As we see, too often it does explode in violence and kids falling dead, shot by others. It does explode and has the potential to explode our society."
"So today we gather to pledge that the dream can no longer be deferred, and it should never become a dream denied, " Powell said.
"Let's go save our children!" Powell told the cheering crowd. (460K wav sound)
Vice President Al Gore said the spirit of service is "as timeless as Independence Day and as modern as Net Day, as old as America and as young as Americorps." (288K wav sound)
An all-star lineup fronted today's event. Former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush reflected on their experiences with volunteerism. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan, standing in for her Alzheimer's-stricken husband, borrowed a riff from her famous anti-drug crusade. She told the crowd how much she wished Ronald Reagan could have been there, and said, "For him and for me, I ask a special favor of everyone watching or listening today. From this day forward, when someone asks you to help a child, just say 'Yes.'" (288K wav sound)
But only Clinton arrived with the full power of the presidency behind him. He opened up his now-familiar grab bag of microproposals, including a proposal to forgive student loan interest for those who take a year off from college to work under the auspices of religious groups.
Clinton recalled the words of Benjamin Franklin, who, when asked outside the drafting session of the Constitutional Convention whether they had ended up with a monarchy or a republic, replied, "A republic -- if you can keep it."
"The most important title here today is not senator, vice president, general, governor or president," Clinton said. "It is, as Harry Truman reminded us so long ago, the most important title any of us will ever hold in this country is the title of 'citizen.' This is our republic; let us keep it."
Goals of the summit
Organizers of the summit hope the effort will improve the lives of at least two million of America's poor children by the year 2000. Through the program, organizers hope each child will have a stable relationship with at least one caring adult, a safe place to go after school, adequate health care, marketable skills and enthusiasm for volunteer work.
The summit was the vision of Michigan Gov. George Romney, who drafted an outline in July 1995 for a volunteerism summit. Four days later, Romney died of natural causes, yet his vision survived.
"Americans are a can-do people, an enthusiastic people, a problem-solving people. And when given a direction and given a plan, they'll sign on," Henry Cisneros, vice chairman of the summit, told CNN.
The summit will be financed by several charitable foundations and sponsored by the Bush-inspired Points of Light Foundation and the Corporation for National Service.
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