[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 18, 1998]
[Pages 588-589]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 588]]

The President's Radio Address
April 18, 1998

    Good morning. Although Hillary and I are in Chile, far from home 
today, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Tennessee, 
Kentucky, and Arkansas, who have suffered the latest in a series of 
tornadoes that swept through the South with ferocious force.
    Yesterday I spoke with the Vice President, who was in his home State of Tennessee to see the damage, 
comfort the victims, and reassure the people of Tennessee that we're 
standing ready to help them in this time of crisis.
    It's often been said that when disaster strikes, the things that 
divide us fall away as neighbor helps neighbor and stranger reaches out 
to stranger. We saw this just a year ago tomorrow in Grand Forks, North 
Dakota, when flood and fire nearly destroyed the entire city but could 
not destroy the spirit of its residents or stop its newspaper, the Grand 
Forks Herald, which just this week was awarded the Pulitzer Price for 
public service. We saw it again this winter in New England, when ice 
storms isolated entire communities but couldn't keep people apart. And 
we saw it in Florida and Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas, as tornadoes 
have torn towns to pieces but have not taken away people's hope.
    These natural disasters have tested our faith, and tragically, they 
have taken many lives. But they've also reminded us of the enduring 
power of the American people to overcome calamity and the commitment of 
our national community to help people rebuild their communities. There 
are some challenges no individual--indeed, no community--can handle 
alone. When faced with them, all of us have a responsibility to act 
through our National Government.
    For more than 5 years, we've worked hard to make our Government 
smaller but more effective, with less redtape and more flexibility. 
Under the leadership of Vice President Gore, we have reinvented Government so that it better serves 
the American taxpayers, more effectively targets its efforts, and can 
respond more quickly to crises.
    There's no better example of what this new kind of Government can do 
than FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. I was Governor of a 
State that had more than its fair share of natural disasters for a dozen 
years. So when I became President, I vowed that the Federal Government 
would help communities respond to the ravages of nature. When I took 
office, disaster relief became one of our highest priorities. And our 
efforts were led by the very able person who had headed our effort in 
Arkansas when I was Governor, James Lee Witt.
    With the Vice President's commitment 
and James Lee Witt as its driving force, FEMA 
has gone from being a disaster itself, in the eyes of many, to becoming 
a model of disaster relief, recognized around the world for its skill, 
speed, and dedication. It used to take hours of waiting in line to 
register for assistance; now it takes only minutes over the telephone. 
It used to take over a month to receive that assistance; now it takes 
about a week. And our ``one stop shopping'' disaster recovery centers 
are helping people to rebuild their lives, their businesses, and their 
homes more quickly than ever.
    We know every dollar spent on disaster preparedness and prevention 
saves two or more dollars in future costs. That's why FEMA also has 
launched Project Impact, building disaster-resistant communities through 
partnerships with the private sector, volunteer groups, community 
organizations. FEMA has already started seven of these pilot projects, 
and we're working to put a Project Impact community in every State by 
this fall.
    I thank the dedicated public servants at the reinvented FEMA and 
other agencies for restoring citizen confidence in their Government 
simply by doing their jobs well.
    One year after the flood waters receded, the work of rebuilding 
communities continues in Grand Forks. And FEMA is still there to help, 
just as it is there to help in tornado-ravaged Arkansas, Tennessee, 
Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
    In the worst of situations, we see the best in our citizens and our 
public servants. As I work here in Chile with other democratic leaders 
from our hemisphere at the second Summit of the Americas to bring the 
benefits of the modern world to all our people, it's reassuring to know 
that old-fashioned American values of neighborly care and concern will 
be a constant

[[Page 589]]

in our lives, no matter what good fortune or new trials the 21st century 
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The address was recorded at 7:30 p.m. on April 17 at the Hyatt 
Hotel in Santiago, Chile, for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on April 18.