[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[February 27, 1995]
[Pages 270-272]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the American Red Cross
February 27, 1995

    Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you, Elizabeth 
Dole. Thank you for your remarks, and thank you especially for the 
strong leadership you have given to the Red Cross. In my own experience, 
I have watched you give it through hurricanes and earthquakes, through 
fires and floods, and I am delighted to be the honorary chairman of the 
American Red Cross and to be here at the start of the 1995 community 
    You know, when I became President, I spent a great deal of time 
early trying to make sure that the Federal Government could do its part 
in dealing with natural disasters. There had been so much criticism of 
the Federal disaster relief program before I took office. And we worked 
hard, and I think that everyone in America would admit that the Federal 
Emergency Management Agency is doing the best job it has perhaps ever 
done. But I can tell you this: We

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never could have done what needed to be done for the American people had 
it not been for the Red Cross, in the floods in the Middle West, in 
California, all across the country.
    I also can't help saying that on the way in here, Elizabeth, who 
never misses a chance to get you to do something else for the Red 
Cross--[laughter]--said, ``Oh, by the way, on the way out, we're a 
little short in our blood drive, and would you mind making a public 
service announcement?'' [Laughter] And I said, ``No, I also wouldn't 
mind giving blood, and I think I should catch up.'' As a matter of fact, 
it occurred to me that I ought to--I could really require everyone--
[laughter]--I could really require everyone at the White House to 
contribute, since they give blood every day every way. [Laughter] They 
might as well give it to the Red Cross and do some good.
    I want to say, again, a special word of thanks to all of you who 
have been involved in the work of the Red Cross. I have, for several 
years now, said I thought what our country needed, in thinking about how 
we relate to each other, is the idea of a New Covenant, that we are 
entitled to more opportunity but we owe, each of us, more 
responsibility. We've got to build this country at the grassroots level, 
and that means we have to do it primarily as citizens, as private 
citizens with public spirits. That's what the Red Cross is all about. I 
have seen the Red Cross workers in Florida and in California and all 
those terrible States that were devastated in the Middle West.
    I'm reminded of the example of Debbie Blanton, the head of the Red 
Cross chapter in Albany, Georgia. When the floods struck last summer 
there, her home was literally buried by water. But she and her husband, 
Joe, went to work right away, and the very next morning after the floods 
struck, they had already opened the first shelter in their area, even 
though they couldn't get to their own home. When I went down to Georgia 
a few days later, I met a lot of people, but I didn't meet her because 
she was too busy working on relief work. I'm happy to report that she 
and her husband moved back into their home just 4 days before Christmas.
    Time and again I have seen the work of the Red Cross, as I said, all 
across the country. I remember what I saw in the flood-devastated areas 
in California recently. I saw the Red Cross there feeding families from 
mobile kitchens, passing out blankets and emergency clothes, running 
shelters for displaced families.
    As awful as they are, these natural disasters have a funny way of 
bringing out the best in us, neighbors helping neighbors to rebuild 
their communities and restore hope. If you go back to the beginning of 
our country or back to the wonderful writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, 
you see that the keenest observers of America have always said that our 
ability to associate with people different from ourselves to work for 
common purpose is the great strength of this country. For more than a 
century, the Red Cross has led the way in that endeavor. I only wish 
that we could find a way to do on a daily basis what the Red Cross helps 
us to do when disaster strikes.
    For service men and women the world over, the Red Cross means a 
helping hand or a word from home. For hospital patients, it means the 
world's safest blood supply. For people in need, it means a hot meal, a 
warm bed, a hope for a better future. So for many others, the Red Cross 
is terribly important not just in times of disaster but when problems 
strike them or needs plague them day-in and day-out.
    I want to take a moment, if I might, to recognize two young people 
who are here today who represent the strong partnership in disaster 
response between the Red Cross and AmeriCorps, our national service 
program. Johnny Jones and Beverly Beyer were trained by you, the Red 
Cross. They've worked side by side with the Red Cross when disaster 
struck in Idaho during fires and Houston after the flood. I'm proud of 
them and the spirit of voluntarism they represent. I'd like them to 
raise their hands and be recognized. There they are. Thank you very 
much. [Applause]
    Now I have to do what Elizabeth sent me here to do, the sales pitch. 
[Laughter] Because the truth is that for all the work the Red Cross 
does, none of it can happen without the generous support of the American 
people, without the million and a half volunteers, the millions of 
financial contributors, and yes, the blood donors.
    So I urge all Americans to keep up your support, to give your time, 
to give your money, to give your blood, because, as the saying is this 
year, ``Help Can't Wait.'' I hope the American people will continue to 
live out the ideals of the Red Cross and be good neighbors every day.

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    Thank you very much, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:26 a.m. on the lawn at Red Cross 
headquarters. Following his remarks and a tour of displays, he signed 
the American Red Cross Month proclamation, which is listed in Appendix D 
at the end of this volume.