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President Aznar. A tape was not available for verification of the 
content of these remarks.

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 69-74]
Monday, January 19, 2004
Volume 40_Number 3
Pages 53	89
Week Ending Friday, January 16, 2004
Remarks to Faith-Based and Community Leaders in New Orleans, Louisiana

January 15, 2004

    Thank you all very much for your warm welcome. Reverend Brown, thank 
you for your hospitality, your gracious hospitality. It's not easy to 
host a President. [Laughter] It seems as if the entourages are quite 
large. So I want to thank you for accommodating me and this cast of 
characters that travels with me. [Laughter] I'm here to talk about 
something vital to the future of the country, and I appreciate you 
giving me a chance to share with you my dreams and aspirations for all 
our citizens.
    I'm really not worthy to stand here, when I think about the fact 
that not only Reverend Brown preaches here on a regular basis, but this 
is the very place where Martin Luther King stood as well some 42 years 
ago. It's from this pulpit that he preached. Today would have been his 
75th birthday. It's important for our country to honor his life and what 
he stood for.
    Dr. King understood that faith is power greater than all others. 
That's what he knew. It's an important lesson for us to remember here in 
America, that God's word can humble the mighty, can lift up the meek, 
and can bring comfort and strength to all who yearn for justice and 
freedom. Those of us who are involved with public policy must not fear 
that philosophy as we all work together to save lives.
    I'm at this church to talk about the importance of what we call a 
Faith-Based Initiative. Really what I'm here to say is that in the land 
of plenty, we must recognize there are still people who hurt. In the 
land of plenty, there are people who search for the light, who simply 
want a chance to succeed and realize their God-given talents. And those 
of us who have been blessed with the opportunity to help must play to 
the strength of our country in order to help save lives. The strength of 
America is found in the hearts and souls of our fellow citizens. This 
country must not fear the influence of faith in the

[[Page 70]]

future of this country. We must welcome faith in order to make America a 
better place.
    So Reverend Brown, thank you, and thank your wife, Mary, and your 
son, Benjie, for your hospitality. I appreciate so very much the 
Governor being here. The Governor not only was kind enough to meet me at 
the airport, but she was kind enough to ride from the airport to this 
church. We had a good discussion about the needs of Louisiana. She's not 
a shrinking violet when it comes to describing what she would like to 
see in terms of responsiveness. I appreciate that. I'm glad you brought 
Coach. [Laughter]
    I'm honored that Congressman David Vitter has traveled today with 
me. Thank you, Congressman, for coming. The mayor was at our roundtable 
discussion, which, by the way, happened to be at a square table, but--
[laughter]--I appreciate working with the mayor.
    Traveling with me today from Washington, DC, is a longtime friend. 
He is the Acting Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban 
Development. When the Senate gets together, he's going to be the 
Secretary of the Housing--of the Department of Housing and Urban 
Development, Alphonso Jackson. Thanks for coming, Alphonso. I appreciate 
you being here.
    Archbishop Alfred Hughes is with us today. Archbishop, thanks for 
coming. I'm honored you are here.
    I know this will embarrass him, but I've got to mention him. One of 
the people that influenced me a lot when I was the Governor of Texas, 
influenced me in terms of what faith-based programs can mean in people's 
lives, was Kirbyjon Caldwell. Kirbyjon is from Houston. He's the senior 
pastor of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church. He is a true 
social entrepreneur. He has used his position as a pastor to change 
lives and communities in significant ways, ways that government couldn't 
possibly do. Kirbyjon, thanks for coming. I appreciate you being here.
    I mentioned a roundtable discussion. We just had a lot of people 
from the community, people who have been helped, people who are helping, 
neighborhood healers here to share their stories. I want to thank all of 
them for coming to talk about the influence of faith and their capacity 
to help change lives. I appreciate the choir being here.
    Not only was I met by local dignitaries and elected officials when I 
landed at the airport, I was also met by Tenisha Stevens. Where is 
Tenisha? Tenisha, there you are. If you're wondering why I would mention 
Tenisha, she is a soldier in the army of compassion. She's a soul who is 
interested in listening to a universal call and is a tutor. She's taking 
time out of her life to work in the after-school programs right here in 
this church, Pastor. She is a mentor. She's willing to help save a life.
    That's the spirit of America, isn't it, when citizens who are 
willing to sacrifice time on behalf of saving a life. We need more 
mentors in our society. If you're a citizen in this community or any 
community around the country who want to know what you can do to help 
America, mentor a child; teach a child to read; love a child.
    Tenisha, I want to thank you for serving. You're such a good example 
for other people around the country. Thank you for being a soldier in 
the great army of compassion here in America.
    Many of the problems that are facing our society are problems of the 
heart. Addiction is the problem of a heart--of the heart. I know I've 
told this story before. I was a drinker. I quit drinking because I 
changed my heart. I guess I was a one-man faith-based program. 
    Problems that face our society are oftentimes problems that require 
something greater than just a government program or a government 
counselor to solve. Intractable problems, problems that seem impossible 
to solve can be solved. There is the miracle of salvation in our--that 
is real, that is tangible, that is available for all to see. Miracles 
are possible in our society, one person at a time.
    But it requires a willingness to understand the origin of miracle. 
Miracles happen as a result of the love of the Almighty, professed, by 
the way, taught, by the way, by religions from all walks of life, 
whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu--people who have heard 
that universal call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved 
yourself, and then surround someone who hurts with love. Love is 
powerful. Love is soul-changing.

[[Page 71]]

Love doesn't happen because of government. Love happens because of the 
inspiration of something greater than government. That's what we're here 
to talk about, programs based upon faith.
    Right here in this church, there are faith-based programs. Any 
program emanating out of a church or a synagogue or a mosque is a faith-
based program. So when you hear some people talk about faith-based 
programs, those are programs that start as a result of a group of folks 
of faith deciding to do something about a problem. And the fundamental 
question in our society is, how does the Federal Government relate to 
programs of faith? ``The mighty check writer''--how does it relate when 
it writes checks to meet social needs with people who are solving our 
problems in spite of government? My attitude is, the Government should 
not fear faith-based programs. We ought to welcome faith-based programs, 
and we ought to fund faith-based programs.
    This church receives Federal funding for childcare. It must be 
comforting for a mom or a dad to drop off his or her child to a 
childcare center run by a church. It's a safe place, to begin with, but 
it's also a place where there's values. The handbook of this particular 
childcare is a universal handbook. It's been around for a long time. It 
doesn't need to be invented. Let me see your handbook there. [Laughter] 
This handbook is a good book; it's a good go-by.
    And yet our governments have, frankly, discriminated against faith-
based programs. It's the truth. How does it happen that way? Well, 
oftentimes a faith-based program that applies for Federal Government 
says, ``I want to help.'' And they say, ``Fine, you can help, but take 
the cross down from the wall. Take off the Star of David. Take down the 
crescent.'' And my answer to that is, how can you be a faith-based 
program if you can't practice your faith? It seems to be a contradiction 
in terms.
    Government policy said, ``On the one hand, perhaps you can help. On 
the other hand, you can't practice your faith.'' Faith-based programs 
are only effective because they do practice faith. It's important for 
our Government to understand that. Government oftentimes will say, 
``Yes, you can participate, but you've got to change your board of 
directors to meet our qualifications. You've got to conform to our 
rules.'' The problem is, faith-based programs only conform to one set of 
rules, and it's bigger than Government rules. The inspiration is not 
from bureaucracy, and that's what's important for Government 
policymakers to understand.
    I have asked Congress to not fear faith. See, the debate in 
Washington oftentimes is, well, the church will become the state, or the 
state will become the church. To me, that's never going to happen, and 
we won't let it happen. As a matter of fact, the separation of church 
and state is a vital part of our country. The freedom of religion is a 
vital part of our country.
    But on the other hand, when people are able to deliver results, 
people should not say--people shouldn't say, ``Well, the results are 
coming from the wrong source of programming.'' We ought to say, ``We 
want results. We welcome results, and we're willing to fund programs 
that are capable of delivering results. We want to fund programs that 
save Americans, one soul at a time.''
    In order to get beyond the debate of process, we must say--we must 
ask the question in Washington, ``Does the program work? Does the 
program to help the addicted work? Is the homeless program working?'' 
That's the question that must be asked.
    So I called on Congress to join me in passing laws that would allow 
the--open up the Federal Treasury to faith-based programs, and they 
balked. They got caught up in the process. So I signed an Executive 
order, an Executive order that instructed all Federal agencies not to 
discriminate against religious groups. Cabinet Secretary--soon-to-be 
Cabinet Secretary Jackson now knows the call. One reason he's the 
Cabinet Secretary is because he already heard it, however, and that is 
that we're not going to discriminate against faith-based groups when it 
comes to housing initiatives.
    We're spending a lot of time traveling the country. I've got a 
fellow that works in my office in the White House named Jim Towey. Towey 
is an interesting character. He is a--well, I shouldn't call him a 
character; he's a fine citizen. [Laughter] Believe it or not, Towey--
you're not going to believe this, but

[[Page 72]]

it's true--he was Mother Teresa's lawyer. It's an interesting society 
where Mother Teresa needs a lawyer. [Laughter] But Towey's job is to 
educate people to what is possible, educate the social entrepreneurs, 
those who are on the frontline of saving lives, about what is possible, 
and to assure people who try to access Federal funds that you won't have 
to change your mission.
    In other words, we're changing a culture, and it takes a lot of 
work. And I appreciate you all giving me a chance to come and be a part 
of explaining what is taking place in Washington, DC. Cultures change 
because others will then go out and say, ``It's okay to try to access 
money to meet our need. The Government now is not going to thwart you.'' 
It's going to take a while to make sure that these faith-based offices 
which we've created in every Cabinet Department--or most of the Cabinet 
departments in Washington--are able to get out the word.
    But we want you to help spread the word. We want those of you on the 
frontline of saving lives to feel comfortable now of accessing the 
billions of dollars which are available at the Federal Government level. 
What we said is, ``The playing field is now level.'' You've got a chance 
to bid, right along with other types of organizations, to be a part of 
the grantmaking process without fear of discrimination. It's a 
significant change. I'm comfortable in pushing the change because I know 
the nature of the work that is taking place.
    Let me give you one example. Three months after HUD opened its doors 
to faith-based groups, 600 such groups have received $168 million to 
provide shelter for the homeless. In other words, we're beginning to 
change. I love the idea of religious organizations providing help for 
the homeless. What a comforting place for someone who is lost and 
looking for help to be able to provide that help.
    It is a--it's just the beginning, Mr. Secretary-to-be. And it's just 
the beginning of a lot of change. Health and Human Services Department, 
HHS, is now opening up its grantmaking process for faith-based programs. 
It's billions of dollars now available. And that's good for the society. 
And it's good for our country.
    Let me give you an example of some progress being made. Donna 
Blackburn--raise your hand, Donna. Donna's a--she's a good soul. She 
started a shelter for battered women and their children in Baton Rouge. 
First of all, thank you for starting a shelter. It's a noble calling. 
It's important for people like Donna to know there's a problem and 
respond to it. Donna didn't wait for a law to be passed, by the way. She 
didn't get permission from the President. She didn't say to the 
Governor, ``Can I do this?'' She just did it. That's what happens in 
America. People see a problem, and they move.
    And then the fundamental question is, when you find that spirit 
moving, what is the role of Government? She wanted to make the shelter, 
of course, a safe haven. But she also wanted to make a place where God's 
grace shines. She wanted the presence of the Almighty there to help her 
and her staff deal with the problems, the difficult problems that a 
battered woman and her children face. The problem was--and she applied 
for Federal money, housing money to take this donated warehouse and 
convert it into a house of love. The local government said, ``Yes, you 
can probably have some money, but you can't have prayer. You can't 
express faith.''
    Donna understands that the use of Federal money is not to 
proselytize. All comers are welcome. If a person of another faith walks 
in as a battered woman, she will be received. But Donna also understands 
that in order to make her program work, that they've got to be able to 
exercise their faith.
    We moved at the Federal level to say, ``No discrimination against 
faith-based programs.'' Last night, she reported to us that the Baton 
Rouge city council approved her faith-based grant, no strings attached, 
and now she's got $60,000 to help convert her shelter.
    Somebody said, ``Well, thank you for the Federal Government.'' Now, 
see, you've got it wrong. You don't need to be thanking the Federal 
Government. We're talking about the people's money, anyway. It's the 
Federal Government's job--the Federal Government's job is to thank the 
Donnas of the world, the social people--the social entrepreneurs, the 
people who are literally changing America, one heart at a time. That's 

[[Page 73]]

we're here to thank, and that's where our society must recognize and 
    Nicole Hilliard is here. Where are you, Nicole? There you go, okay. 
I embarrassed her. Nicole is a single mom. By the way, that's the 
toughest job in America, being a single mom. She's got a 15-year-old 
son. She was hurting. I shouldn't be giving her testimony for her, but I 
will paraphrase. She hurt, and she was worried, just like a mom would 
worry. She didn't have any housing. She was broke, stone broke, and she 
was worried as a mom, ``How do I take care of my child?''
    So she went to the First Evangelist Housing--went to the First 
Evangelist Church. This says, went to the First Evangelist Housing CDC. 
That's a little too technical. She went to the church, is where she 
went. She said, ``I hope to be able to get some help at this church.'' 
Her pastor is here, Pastor Taylor is with us as well. She said, ``I want 
some help.'' She was trying to escape not only an abusive relationship, 
she was trying to escape desperation and hopelessness. There's nothing 
better, by the way, than a faith-based program to provide hope. Again, I 
don't care what religion it is. Nothing more hopeful than the Word. She 
and her son moved into a one-bedroom apartment managed by First 
Evangelist. That apartment was supported by Federal money. Alphonso 
shouldn't worry about where that money goes. He just ought to be worried 
about whether or not that money is saving lives and providing a chance 
for people to find shelter.
    By the way, as a result of interfacing with this faith-based group, 
she went back to school. She found a job. She lives in a neighborhood, 
by the way, which has been transformed by the faith-based institution 
itself. She's talked about what it means to walk from the bus stop 
without fear of life.
    It's amazing what can happen when faith-based programs begin to 
influence entire neighborhoods. People change; the attitude of the 
people in the neighborhood change. Nicole's story is one that shows that 
individual lives are rescued on a daily basis. Our job is to help the 

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