THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
April 18, 1998
RADIO ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT
TO THE NATION
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Although Hillary and I are
in Chile, far from home today, our thoughts and prayers are with
the people of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Arkansas, who have suffered the
latest in a series of tornadoes that have swept through the south with
Yesterday I spoke with the Vice President, who was in his
home state of Tennessee to see the damage, comfort the victims, and
reassure the people of Tennessee that we're standing ready to help them
in this time of crisis.
It's often been said that when disaster strikes, the
things that divide us fall away, as neighbor helps neighbor, and stranger reaches out to stranger. We saw this just a year ago tomorrow in Grand Forks, North Dakota, when flood and fire nearly destroyed the entire city, but could not destroy the spirit of its residents, or stop its newspaper, The Grand Forks Herald, which just this week was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service. We saw it again this winter in New England, when ice storms isolated entire communities, but couldn't keep people apart. And we saw it in Florida and Georgia, Alabama and
Arkansas, as tornadoes have torn towns to pieces, but have not taken away people's hope.
These natural disasters have tested our faith, and
tragically, they have taken many lives. But they've also reminded us of the enduring power of the American people to overcome calamity, and
the commitment of our national community to help people rebuild
their communities. There are some challenges no individual -- indeed,
no community -- can handle alone. When faced with them, all of us
have a responsibility to act through our national government.
For more than five years, we've worked hard to make our
government smaller, but more effective, with less red tape and more
Under the leadership of Vice President Gore, we have reinvented
government so that it better serves the American taxpayers, more
effectively targets its efforts, and can respond more quickly to
There's no better example of what this new kind of
government can do than FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. I was governor of a state that had more than its fair share of natural
disasters for a dozen years. So when I became President, I vowed that the federal government would help communities respond to the ravages of
When I took office, disaster relief became one of our highest
priorities. And our efforts were led by the very able person
who had headed our effort in Arkansas when I was Governor -- James Lee
With the Vice President's commitment and James Lee Witt as
its driving force, FEMA has gone from being a disaster itself -- in
the eyes of many -- to becoming a model of disaster relief, recognized
around the world for its skill, speed, and dedication. It used to take
hours of waiting in line to register for assistance -- now it takes only
minutes over the telephone. It used to take over a month to receive
that assistance -- now it takes about a week. And our "one stop
shopping" disaster recovery centers are helping people to rebuild their
lives, their businesses, and their homes more quickly than ever.
We know every dollar spent on disaster preparedness and
prevention saves two or more dollars in future costs. That's why FEMA also has launched Project Impact, building disaster-resistant communities through partnerships with the private sector, volunteer groups,community organizations. FEMA has already started seven of these pilot projects and we're working to put a Project Impact community in every state by this fall.
I thank the dedicated public servants at the reinvented
FEMA and other agencies for restoring citizen confidence in their
government simply by doing their jobs well.
One year after the flood waters receded, the work of rebuilding communities continues in Grand Forks. And FEMA is still there to help, just as it is there to help in tornado ravaged Arkansas,
Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
In the worst of situations, we see the best in our
citizens and our public servants. As I work here in Chile with other
democratic leaders from our hemisphere at the second Summit of the
Americas, to bring the benefits of the modern world to all our people, it's reassuring to know that old-fashioned American values of
neighborly care and concern with be a constant in our lives, no matter what good fortune or new trials the 21st century brings.
Thanks for listening.