Public Papers

Remarks to Students and Faculty at Robert A. Taft High School in Cincinnati, Ohio


Thank you, Mr. Henderson. You know, no matter where I go or how old I get, it still makes me a little nervous to be talked about by a principal. [Laughter] But thank you, sir. And thank you, Superintendent Powell, and all of the students here today for such a kind welcome. As a ball fan, I'm sorry I didn't hear Tommy speaking and all. But I understand he did a first-class job. May his won-and-loss record go just up -- ERA and all of that. But good luck to you, and thanks very much for being here. I want to particularly salute your two Congressmen: Congressman Luken and Congressman Gradison. Where are they? Here they are modestly standing in the back. I mentioned Superintendent Powell. Most of all, I want to thank the band. You know, I hear -- [applause] -- they had only a few days to practice that ``Hail to the Chief.'' With talent like that, I expect to see them on MTV any day now. [Laughter]

It is great to be here. It's not often, frankly, that a President gets to stand in a gymnasium literally full of success stories. And Taft High School and the city of Cincinnati are showing the rest of the country what's possible when students and people in a community strive for excellence, but doing it together. And I don't mean just the Senators -- though your Senators are racking up a better record than ours back in Washington, I might add. [Laughter] You've got students, parents, schools, business and religious groups all united in one great enterprise: the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. It's a partnership that builds brighter futures every day -- one kid at a time.

I'd like to recognize a very special person who's brought this concept -- this whole CYC [Cincinnati Youth Collaborative] -- brought it to life, a local heroine, Sister Jean Harrington. And let me offer congratulations to her and best wishes to the man who's taking over, Mr. John Bryant.

You know, you may not know this as a part of it because you're so close to everything, but you've got something truly unique going on here. On January 29th, I understand that every television station in greater Cincinnati, all six broadcasting companies and two cable channels, will be launching a 2-hour program called a Future-Thon. It's like a telethon for the schools of Cincinnati. But Future-Thon is asking for something even more precious than money. It's asking people to volunteer their talents and their time to be role models, to help Cincinnati students get the future they deserve. And the kids of Cincinnati deserve the very best.

If you've ever thought that school was a waste of time, then you ought to think about talking to one of the students in the CYC. They'll tell you better than I can what this program means. It means scholarships that add up to more than a quarter of a million dollars. It means skills that you can count on -- take a job the day after you graduate. It means classes for college entrance exams that have sent scores soaring up by 25 percent, a new child-care center opening next fall, and training in computers for every student who goes to Taft. Here is an example for the entire Nation.

But it offers something even more important, because with every friendship you build with a CYC mentor and with every hour you spend with a tutor you're getting something more than skills: You're gaining power, purpose, a friendship you can count on, somebody to lift you up when you're a little bit down. And once you have that, you can never be stopped, never denied the potential that's yours and the success that's waiting for you.

Let me offer special thanks to those adults who are giving of themselves, who are serving as CYC mentors. Every adult in America can gain so much by developing a special relationship with a young person. When you lift the spirits of the young, you raise their horizons to the stars, you give them the promise of a future bright with possibility. I hope the adults here today are just the first of what will soon be thousands like you, helping the young people of your community.

One young woman, Loretta Englemon, recently said, ``I know what I want out of life, and I know where I'm going.'' Every student here at Taft is at a point in life when there are a lot of choices to be made, important choices. And if life is the sum of the choices you make, whatever challenges you're facing, you understand that drugs only make them harder to handle. You already know how drugs destroy lives, and a few of you have seen it happen. Maybe you lost a good friend. Or maybe you see or hear about drug dealers making that big dough. But in the drug trade there are no benefits, no security, no retirement plan.

And sure, people have different ideas about success. Some think it's measured by what's parked in your driveway or hanging in your closet. But real success is something else. An educated man or woman gains so much more. With just a pen or a pencil and a desire to learn, there are no limits to success. Maybe it has to do with the finding of one's own talents, using them to reach your fullest potential -- whatever path you choose, working to make a difference for yourself and those around you. If you stay in school, you'll find that the key to success is right next to you. And if you keep struggling to live up to your own expectations, you'll find the strength to succeed right deep in your heart.

So, let me congratulate every one of you. I hope by coming here I highlight the magnificent spirit that I see here. Congratulations for what you're doing. You're proving to yourselves and those around you that you have potential, that you are someone, that you can succeed.

That's why I'm pleased to announce today that the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative is the 40th White House daily Point of Light. On behalf of the Nation, thank you for showing that from now on in America any definition of a successful life must include serving others.

You go to a great school in a wonderful town, in the greatest nation on the face of the Earth. Your dreams are within your reach. And so, may every single one of them come true.

It's been a wonderful experience here for me today. And I feel motivated. I feel I understand a little bit better what one person can do in helping another. It's been well worth it, I'll tell you. Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very, very much. Thank you all. Thank you all. Good luck to you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:25 p.m. in the school auditorium. He was introduced by Orlando Henderson, principal of the high school. In his opening remarks, the President referred to Lee Etta Powell, superintendent of Cincinnati public schools; Thomas Browning, pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds baseball team; and Sister Jean P. Harrington, director of the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative.