Public Papers

Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for a Donation to the United Negro College Fund in Palm Springs, California


The President. I'm delighted to be here today with Ambassador Annenberg; Adele Hall, a very active member of the UNCF family; Chris Edley, of course, the head of the United Negro College Fund; and our old friend Dr. Cook, the president of Dillard. And as many of you know, my own personal relationship with the UNCF dates back to my senior year at Yale University, 42 years ago. Bill Trent, who you all remember, was then the head of the United Negro College Fund -- went on to become a senior vice president at Time, Inc. -- but a dedicated individual. And he first got me interested way back then in working with the fund and the historically black colleges and universities. And I must say, on a personal basis, he and I remain very close friends to this day.

But this year I am pleased to serve as honorary chairman of the United Negro College Fund Capital Campaign. And I'm delighted to know that my good friend Walter Annenberg has set such a significant and marvelous example with his gift to this excellent cause. I also want to salute my friend Adele Hall, who has been so active in this important work. Although black colleges represent about 3 percent of American colleges, they enroll about 20 percent of all black students attending colleges and universities. And support for the UNCF provides precious opportunity for thousands of America's most promising students. It's an important effort. It's a noble effort. And our mission must be to strengthen our historically black colleges and universities to meet the challenges of the 21st century. This administration and the many supporters of UNCF around the country are committed to doing just that. And so, spectacular gifts like this one to the UNCF will enable these schools to continue to ensure the highest academic standards.

Walter, I just can't tell you how inspired I am by your generosity, exemplifying the very best of what I call the Thousand Points of Light. And, Chris, thank you for your inspired leadership of the United Negro College Fund. And, Dr. Dillard, thank you for your -- I mean, Dr. Cook, thank you for your hospitality at Dillard. I'll never forget that. And now I'm pleased to turn the podium over to Walter Annenberg.

Mr. Annenberg. Well, I'm indeed delighted to have an opportunity to participate in this very significant role of support for underprivileged human beings.

I'm not going to say a great deal, but I do want to point out that it is the obligation, the responsibility of those who have been fortunate in life to support those who are less fortunate. And if you don't understand that, you're not very much of a citizen. The Navy has a great expression -- I say the Navy because I want to comment on something that I was sure would appeal to the President. In life, you can reduce it to just a simple phrase: Shape up or ship out. That's it. [Laughter]

Mr. Edley. Ambassador Annenberg, Mrs. Annenberg, Mr. President, Adele Hall and Sam Cook, and ladies and gentlemen of the press: This is the most momentous occasion in the history of the college fund up to this point. And I know that this is a launching pad. Mr. Ambassador, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for this tremendous gift. I am sure that it will capture the imagination of the Nation -- the foundations, the corporations, other wealthy individuals who can make a difference.

As our country approaches the 21st century, we know that two-thirds of the entrants in the work force will be members of minority groups -- including blacks -- and that two-thirds of those minority groups will be blacks. And we know that as we approach the middle of this decade, a little over 4 years from now, that for the first time in decades, the number of black teachers in the public schools will drop below 5 percent. And even as we speak, there is a tragic decline in the number of blacks participating in all levels of education. We need a crusade not just to raise the money for the sake of raising money but to educate the people who will guarantee a prosperous America in the 21st century. We must not fall behind.

And that is the real significance of what we do today. And I sincerely hope that all Americans will watch to see what is the response to this magnificent challenge as we seek to raise 0 million to meet the challenge that Ambassador Annenberg has given us this day. I thank you all. And again, I thank Mr. and Mrs. Annenberg.

Note: The President spoke at 8:46 a.m. at the Annenberg residence. Following his remarks, he returned to Washington, DC.