Richard Middleton. Good evening, boys and girls, and mothers and fathers. My name is Richard Middleton. I'm 11 years old. I adopted my father -- [laughter] -- at least a year ago. I love my father. And I'm very glad that the President and Mrs. Bush are helping more children like me to find parents to love. That's why it's such a great honor for me to introduce to you, boys and girls, moms and dads, the President of the United States.
The President. Richard, good job. Well, good afternoon. And thank you, Richard, a wonderful introduction. You only had to use your cards for one sentence, and I have to use it for the whole speech here, see. [Laughter] But you did a great job.
And to Secretary Sullivan, thank you, sir. It's always a pleasure to be with you. And thank you, everyone, for traveling here today -- especially the Orsi family, who drove all the way from Connecticut with their 21 children, 19 of whom are adopted. And I'm glad all of you could join me here in the White House. You know, in fact, this has got to be the most unique event ever held in the White House, I think. It's like a fishpond, moving around. It's very good, and I'm glad to have you all here.
You know, this time last year, when Barbara and I became the official caretakers of the White House for 4 years, the first thing we did was invite all of our children and our grandchildren to spend our first night here together upstairs as a family. And my family is very, very important to me, and I feel lucky to have been blessed with a wonderful wife and children and, of course, now 12 grandchildren. But all of you here today are just as lucky because you, too, are part of a family of your own -- to grow with you, share with you, and most of all, to love you.
Each of your moms and dads know just how special you are when they picked you out to go home with them. And now you've got some of the greatest parents around. And they have so much love to give you, and they feel the warmth and joy of your own love in return. The kids who are still waiting to be adopted don't have parents yet, but they're not alone. They have many friends, people who have spent their lives helping children just like you find families just like you all -- helping them find families of their own.
Let me tell you about some of them here with us today. First, there are business leaders, corporate leaders who have committed to helping children like you find loving homes. For example, how many of you watch cartoons? Quite a few. Do you know the Jetsons? Or the Flintstones? Or Yogi Bear? Well, the people who work at Hanna-Barbera created those cartoons. And now they're creating a new character who will encourage families to adopt children.
And some of you may be aware of a TV program in which children who want to be adopted go on television in cities across America. It's called ``Wednesday's Child,'' and it is very successful. Almost three-quarters of all the kids who appear on this show find families. And so, NBC network is going to work with us to get more kids on TV and more stations to show ``Wednesday's Child'' so more families will see these children.
There's a man here today who is very committed to helping other children just like you. He's a friend of mine for a long time, and his name is Dave Thomas, and he was an adopted child. And he grew up to be a successful businessman with a family of his own. Now he's the head of Wendy's Hamburgers -- and by the way, he really does have his own daughter named Wendy. Now, where is Dave? He was -- here he is, right over here. And he's going to make information available to help put loving parents together with special needs children in Wendy's all across the country.
And now I'd like to tell you about another man whom I've just met, and what an inspiring man he is. Taurean Blacque is a noted actor with an impressive list of credits. But he deserves even more credit for what he does in real life. He has adopted 10 special-needs children, 10 children. You know, single people and older Americans can be great adoptive parents. And Taurean's not married. He says that having 10 kids will probably keep him too busy to get married for a long time. [Laughter] I don't know if he qualifies as an older American yet -- [laughter] -- but I hear that his hair started going gray the minute he got all these kids. [Laughter] But he says he wouldn't change it for the world. He proves that love is something you do every day; love is something that takes hard work and commitment -- because he had to fight to get every one of those children. Taurean asked me to do a head count and make sure nobody got left behind in the Green Room. Are all 10 of you here? [Laughter] Okay, I can't take a count here; I'm too busy here. [Laughter] No, all 10 are, I'm sure. And you've got a very special dad.
You know, people like Taurean, who open up not just their homes but their hearts, are amazing people. And I know that we have a number of adoptive parents among us today as well. And you're a breed apart because, while so many people shout about how to make the world a better place, you quietly lead by example, changing the world in a very special way -- one child at a time. Truly, yours is a gift of limitless love.
This guy's got to go real bad here. [Laughter] That's okay, we're used to that around here. That's okay, big guy.
Okay, where were we? [Laughter] No, but seriously, not all children are as lucky as the ones here today. There are thousands of kids in America who still need a home and a family to care about them. This year, an estimated 30,000 children available for adoption spent their Christmas holidays waiting for a permanent home. And most of these kids, about 60 percent, are special-needs children. To find families for these kids, our administration has sent to Congress our Special Needs Adoptive Assistance Act to help individuals meet the financial commitment involved in adopting special-needs children. We've also taken steps to encourage Federal employees wanting to give loving homes to these children, who often wait for years to be adopted.
Every children in America deserves a loving home and a family, and they deserve something else: the chance to succeed in school and in life. Government cannot substitute for a supportive home. But some children do need extra help to prepare them for the challenge of learning.
At the education summit, the Governors and I agreed that through the Head Start program we are making real progress towards preparing disadvantaged children for school. And I am pleased to announce that my 1991 budget will propose the largest increase ever: half a billion additional dollars for Head Start. This new funding will increase the Head Start enrollment to 667,000 children and bring us to the point where we can reach 70 percent of this nation's disadvantaged 4-year-olds through Head Start. I urge the Congress to fund our Head Start proposal in full because every American child with special needs, whether physical, emotional, or material, deserves the opportunity for a full and happy life.
Our children are precious. And you're the reason all of us came together here today: to tell you how special you are to us and how glad we are that you are in the family. You know, our son Marvin and his wife, Margaret, just adopted their second child, a little grandson, our grandson Walker. And if I do say so myself, this guy is really something. And so is his sister, Marshall, who's also adopted. And they're an important part of our family, and we love them.
Through my wonderful experiences with adoption in the Bush family, I've learned something. I've learned this: Adoption is good for our country; and for the children who need a loving home; and for the birth parents, who want the best for their children; and for the adoptive parents, by giving them the joy of raising and loving a child.
See the sign behind me: ``Adoption Works -- for Everyone.'' And that is true. Adoption works because each one of you is so special, and because you adopted very special parents. And it works because everyone in this room loves you very much.
From my family to yours, Barbara and I say thank you, and God bless you. And now, Barbara, I understand we're going to invite this whole gang into the State Dining Room for cookies and lemonade, so why don't we go on in there. And thank you all for coming to the White House. Glad to have you.
Note: The President spoke at 2:39 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.