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Clinton kicks off volunteer summit


April 27, 1997
Web posted at: 12:13 p.m. EDT (1613 GMT)

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PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- President Clinton arrived in Philadelphia Sunday to kick off a three-day presidential summit aimed at boosting volunteerism and community service efforts across the nation.

Standing beneath banners that said "Mentor, protect, nurture" and "Teach, serve," Clinton issued a call to action through service.

"We're still losing too many kids to crime, to drugs, to not having a decent income in their homes, and to not having a bright future," Clinton told the crowd at Philadelphia's Marcus Foster Stadium. "And we're here because we don't think we have to put up with it, and we believe together we can change it."


Vice President Al Gore, former Presidents George Bush and Jimmy Carter and retired Gen. Colin Powell also addressed the crowd to mark the first day of the President's Summit for America's Future.

Each leader emphasized that volunteer work would be essential in shaping America's future.

Powell: 'America cares'

"We're coming together because we care," Powell said. "We see young people in need -- young people who are wondering, 'Is there an American dream for me?'

"The answer we are going to give them is, 'Yes. America cares.'"

An estimated 5,000 volunteers were crowded in the stadium, ready to begin cleaning up an eight-mile stretch of Philadelphia's Germantown Avenue as part of the opening day's festivities.

To roaring approval, Clinton told the crowd after a motivational speech, "Let's go to work!"

Just prior to the dignitaries' arrival, Sesame Street characters danced across the stadium's stage; country musicians the Oak Ridge Boys and the pop group All For One joined together to sing the national anthem; and rap icon LL Cool J addressed the crowd.

"To he who much is given, much is required. That's the importance of this day," LL Cool J said.

Goals of the summit

Organizers of the summit hope the effort will improve the lives of at least 2 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.


Cisneros: Take time to volunteer

Cisneros said the volunteer work would come in many forms, ranging from Little League coaching to Girl Scout leadership. He acknowledged that finding time to volunteer in today's busy climate is difficult, but he urged people to get involved.

"You can always make time," he said. "The trick here is not to take a few people and engage them forever, but to get everybody to give some part of their time to volunteering."

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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