Presidential Radio Address - 28 November 1998
Good morning. This Thanksgiving weekend we gather in our homes with family and friends to share holiday meals and memories and to give thanks to God for our many blessings. But Thanksgiving is not only a day to give thanks; it is also a time when we renew our commitment to our deepest values and to the duty we owe to one another. Today I want to talk about an important step we're taking to help our neediest citizens.
This year Americans have much to be grateful for: grateful that our economy is the strongest in a generation, offering greater opportunity than ever before for every American; grateful that our communities are safer than they've been in 25 years, giving our families the security they need to thrive; grateful that our air and water are cleaner than they have been for decades, preserving the environment for our children; and grateful that America continues to shine as a beacon of peace, freedom, and democracy all around the world.
We're also grateful this Thanksgiving more Americans will spend this holiday in homes of their own than at any time of our history. But for millions of struggling senior citizens and people with disabilities, the peace and security of a decent home is a distant dream and the threat of homelessness an ever-present nightmare.
Too many of these hard-pressed Americans are warehoused in sterile nursing homes, not because they need to be but because they can't afford to live anywhere else. Too many are trapped in substandard housing, where broken plumbing, inadequate heat and hazardous hallways are a dangerous fact of life. And too many spend more than half of their very modest incomes on housing, often sacrificing basic needs like food and medical care just to pay the rent.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt entreated Americans to help the needy, recalling the steadfastness of those in every generation who fought to "hold clear the goal of mutual help in a time of prosperity as in a time of adversity." Today, at this moment of unparalleled prosperity, we must do no less.
Americans should never have to choose between putting a meal on the table or putting a roof over their heads. That's why I'm pleased that this month we're awarding nearly $700 million in Housing and Urban Development grants to make sure no one has to make that impossible choice. These grants will enable hundreds of nonprofit organizations, like the YMCA, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army, to build more than 8,000 new apartments for struggling senior citizens and people with disabilities and to subsidize their rents.
Today I'm also pleased to announce nearly $130 million for new housing vouchers to help people with disabilities in over 200 communities afford housing in the neighborhood of their choice. Together with our new housing grants, these steps will help nearly 30,000 Americans. And I thank HUD Secretary Cuomo for his tireless efforts to ensure that our neediest citizens have access to safe, affordable housing.
Let me give you just one example of the difference a home can make in the lives of Americans in need. Six years ago Helen Williams lost her husband to cancer and was losing her home. For 3 years she struggled to maintain her dignity and her health as she shuttled between friends' and families' houses, afraid to overstay her welcome but more frightened by the threat of homelessness. Fortunately, Mrs. Williams learned about one of the subsidized apartment buildings funded by HUD's housing program for the elderly.
Today, along with her dog, Mr. B, she's thriving there and giving back to her community. Just this week, at the age of 80, she's been busy working with her church to deliver Thanksgiving turkeys to families in need. That's the kind of Thanksgiving story we need to hear more of, all of us bound together across the generations in a cycle of mutual help, caring for one another, giving back to one another, thanking God for our blessings. With the steps we take today, we'll ensure the same spirit of Thanksgiving is alive every day of the year.
Hillary and I wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy time of thanksgiving. Thanks for listening.