Public Papers

Remarks at the United Negro College Fund Dinner


Well, welcome. Barbara and I are just thrilled to welcome all of you to the White House. And this will be short because I remember Billy Graham's famous story he tells at the crusade about the speaker that went on and on. The guy sitting next to him picked up the gavel, threw it at the speaker, missed, hit the woman next to him. And the woman said, ``Hit me again; I can still hear him.'' [Laughter] We're not here for all of this. Also, you'll forgive me if I'm a little nervous; it's a big election night out there. So, if you see these little slips of paper coming in, forgive me.

Now, first let me thank Bill Gray and Andrea. And I've tried it both ways, of being on the opposite side from this guy when he was in the Congress and being on the same side with him now that he's running the United Negro College Fund. And I like it better this way. He was tough, strong, and able.

To those of you who have benefited the United Negro College Fund and you don't know Bill Gray, you've got a wonderful leader. You've got a man of principle, a man of faith. And we are very fortunate to have him. I say ``we'' because I consider myself a part of this family, and so does Barbara.

I will say a word about Walter Annenberg in a minute because he has a very special role in all of this. I want to salute members of the Cabinet that are here: Dick Cheney, Lou Sullivan, Jack Kemp, and our newest member, the Secretary of Transportation, Andy Card. And I also want to thank Joe Williams, the outgoing chairman, for what he's done for this organization. And unless it smacks of a little too much family, I'd like to single out the incoming chairman, my brother John. I think having the United Negro College Fund to a dinner in the White House is perhaps long overdue. And my arm is just twisted out of the sockets, but now it's back and all is well.

Let me just mention some good news for the UNCF. Together, a goal was set for Campaign 2000 of 0 million. And to get this campaign off to a fast start -- and now I get to Walter Annenberg, who does so much for so many -- the Annenberg foundation made a million challenge grant. And since the kickoff, donations large and small have poured in. And I'm delighted to note this evening that we're about halfway there, 5 million raised so far.

I look around this room, and I see so many from corporate America, Points of Light all, who were asked day in and day out to support worthy causes, who respond overwhelmingly but have come through for the United Negro College Fund in a profound and wonderful way. And many of America's most successful corporations and business leaders are in this room with us tonight.

I've known many of you for more years than many of us care to count. And let me say to all of you what I've said to many in private conversations: Barbara and I really believe in the United Negro College Fund, and we want to help in any way we can. And that goes for two that aren't with us tonight: the Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander, and his able assistant, so well-known to many here, David Kearns, who is the Deputy at the Department of Education. They believe in this. They want to support it. And so, we've got a good team who believe in the work here.

The guiding mission of the fund has not changed since the days when Barbara and I first came to the cause in '47, under the leadership then of a guy named Bill Trent that some of you may know, now living in retirement in Greenville, North Carolina, I believe. But when so many despair about a bleak future, this organization gives tomorrow's great minds room to grow. And when so many repeat the all-too-familiar litany of crime and drugs and violence that does concern us all, the UNCF answers with education and opportunity and freedom for all.

So let me say tonight, may the noble aims of this organization guide this Nation always. And once again, may I thank all of you for your support and for joining us here this special evening. And now may I ask Bill Gray, the only other and the final speaker, to come up and just say a word in his defense.

Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:30 p.m. on the State Floor at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to William H. Gray III, president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund; publisher Walter H. Annenberg, president of the M.L. Annenberg Foundation; and William J. Trent, Jr., the first executive director of the fund. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.