Alex Azar, Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services


Washington, DC


Friday, July 29, 2005

Remarks at the 2005 National Youth Summit

On behalf of Secretary Leavitt and the entire Department of Health and Human Services, welcome to the general session.

I want to thank Assistant Secretary Wade Horn, Harry Wilson, Constance Miller, and the Family and Youth Services Bureau for hosting this Youth Summit. We’re also grateful to the other organizations and agencies that made it possible, including America’s Promise, Youth Service America, the Youth Planning Council, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Departments of Labor, Justice, and Education.

Most of all, it’s invigorating to have the participation of young people from every state in the Union.

It’s very tempting to think of the teenage years as years of preparation. They’re ideal years for education, obviously—for learning the skills and knowledge that allow us to be productive workers, wise parents, and good neighbors.

But focusing on preparation shouldn’t become an excuse for waiting to take action. Anyone who is old enough to identify problems is mature enough to help solve them. People who take responsibility for their communities and take the initiative to contribute can become active members of their communities at age thirteen. And people who wait to be asked or instructed can still be children at thirty.

That choice confronts every person, every day. And whether you are five or seventy-five, today is always a fresh opportunity to improve your health, your family, and your neighborhood.

The Boy Scouts have a slogan: Do a good turn daily. And that’s a great habit for all ages. So I challenge everyone here: between now and dinner, right here at this Summit, find a way to help someone. The more creative, the more spontaneous, the more undeserved your generosity is, the better. And then do the same again tomorrow.

Taking initiative to love your neighbor is a good habit. It’s good for your character. It’s good for your health. And, of course, it’s good for your neighbor.

Youth in action makes a difference, and that’s the theme of this Summit.

I’m honored this morning to introduce a lady who has inspired many people to take action and make a difference: First Lady Laura Bush.

Mrs. Bush is actively involved in issues of national and global concern, especially education, health, and human rights. As the leader of President Bush’s Helping America’s Youth Initiative, Mrs. Bush listens to the concerns of young people, parents, and community leaders throughout the country and drawing attention to programs that help youth avoid risky behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse, early sexual activity, and violence.

Mrs. Bush holds the most respected title in community leadership: Mother. She’s shared that leadership with neighborhoods around the world. And she’s stressed the importance of positive role models by serving as one herself.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mrs. Laura Bush.

Last revised: August 1, 2005