Speech at the Community Action Partnership Convention

September 3, 2004

In my vision of America, everyone is necessary, and everyone has the opportunity to participate.

"The War on Poverty is not going to be won from an office building in Washington, nor by a bureaucracy in any far-off city. It will not make progress under a narrow-minded strategy drafted in a distant headquarters and imposed upon hundreds of varied communities and rural areas. It cannot depend upon the resource of the federal government alone. If it is to succeed, it will demand the energy, the ideas, the resources, and the assistance of dedicated men and women and dedicated groups throughout the country."

I first used these words on March 16, 1964, the day President Lyndon Johnson sent his message to Congress calling for a "War on Poverty".

You, the members of The Community Action Partnership, are the dedicated men and women who have worked tirelessly to end poverty in our country. There is no one for whom I have more respect and admiration than each of you who work day in and day out in over 1,000 Community Action Agencies to serve the more than 13 million of our fellow citizens who live in poverty.

But, even as we celebrate your work, we realize that you have reached only a fraction of the 35 million Americans who live in poverty and the millions more who live in the shadows or are threatened by poverty. That is why during this 40th anniversary year we need "Community Action" more than ever before.

In my vision of America, everyone is necessary, and everyone has the opportunity to participate. We must create:--

An America in which the concept of "working poor" is an anachronism.

An America that allows an individual to work full time and earn the money to raise a family and live in safe, decent, affordable housing.

An America where an individual is able to afford access to the highest quality of health care this nation is capable of providing.

An America that strengthens our social safety net for children, the elderly and the most vulnerable among us.

An America of equal opportunity, and the strength to repair the errors of the past.

An America where neighbors help neighbors, and we seek a balance in our lives between our commitments to self, family, community, nation and the world.

We must build an America that reverses and eliminates the specter of increasing numbers of children being raised in poverty.

We must do it together.

Your work today is the work of all of us. It is a measure of the quality of our lives. It is hard work. It is not something we can do just in our spare time. It is critical work that is central to or lives, now, and in the future.