Bush attends church block party to push youth programs
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush is focusing on alienated youth this Independence Day with a visit to a Philadelphia block party to encourage Americans to reach out to troubled children.
Bush and his wife, Laura, were going to the Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia on Wednesday to attend an ”urban block party” for children and families who participate in mentoring programs run by various churches or religious charities.
Afterward, Bush was delivering a Fourth of July speech at Independence Hall, where the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The building also houses the 250-year-old Liberty Bell.
In a holiday statement, Bush praised the document’s drafters for articulating the principles of independence so well that 225 years later, it still sets apart the United States as an example of ”freedom and opportunity unequaled in the world.”
”The declaration brought forth a new style of government, where democratic institutions gained their power from the consent of the governed,” Bush said. ”Our prosperity and strength stand as a testament to the ideals it embodies.”
Bush was using Wednesday’s events to highlight his plan to open government programs to religious charities and his administration’s efforts to help poor and disadvantaged young people. The president set aside $67 million in his fiscal 2002 budget to pay for mentoring programs for the children of incarcerated parents, and he said this week he supports efforts by five national groups to recruit 1 million mentors for children.
”We have a responsibility to encourage love all throughout our communities,” Bush told reporters Tuesday. ”Some babies are born where people just don’t love them like they should. And as a society, we’ve got to make up for that love.”
Those attending the block party participate in programs that help former inmates return to society or provide literacy services for children whose reading skills are at least three levels below their current grade level. One program, run by Mayor John Street’s Office of Faith-Based Services, provides mentoring and other support for children who are chronically absent from school.
Another program, Amachi, helps children who have a jailed parent and are themselves on the path to trouble. It enlists volunteer mentors from local church congregations and trains them with help from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
After his day in Philadelphia, Bush was returning to Washington to watch holiday fireworks from the White House South Lawn. He was leaving Thursday for an extended weekend at his family’s summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
On the Net: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America: http://www.bbbsa.org/
People for People Inc., project of Greater Exodus Baptist Church: http://www.peopleforpeople.org/
National Archives’ text of Declaration of Independence: http://www.nara.gov/exhall/charters/declaration/declaration.html
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