Remarks By Senator Patrick Leahy Boys And Girls Clubs Of America Congressional Breakfast

All of us here this morning know that we need safe havens and healthy alternatives for young people to prevent them from being drawn into gangs, substance abuse and other crimes.  Boys and Girls Clubs have proven that when we show our young people that we care about them and their futures, they respond with positive and constructive actions in their communities, one boy and one girl at a time.


I know firsthand how well Boys and Girls Clubs work and what topnotch organizations they are. Whenever I visit the Boys and Girls Clubs in Vermont, I am approached by parents, educators, law enforcement officers and others who tell me, “Keep doing this!  It gives our children a chance to grow up free of drugs, gangs and crime.”  That is my ultimate proof.  If these folks are asking for more Clubs and more support, then we ought to do it.  I want to thank the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for supporting clubs throughout Vermont that improve the lives of young Vermonters each day.


Just this past spring during a hearing I chaired in Vermont about solutions to violent crime,Rutland’s Police Chief testified about the importance of programs for young people and the success of the Boys and Girls Club in Rutland. His comments reminded me of the police chief who approached me shortly after I joined the Senate and asked me to help fund a Boys and Girls Club in his community rather than helping him get a couple more police officers.  These law enforcement officers know that if we had a Boys and Girls Club in every community, prosecutors would have a lot less work to do because of the values that are being instilled in children from the Boys and Girls Clubs.  They deliver results and represent the best of what communities can do to improve the lives of their young people.


For many years now, I have worked with other members of the Senate – including this breakfast’s hosts, my friends Orrin Hatch and Steny Hoyer – to make sure Boys and Girls Clubs nationwide have increased funding to carry out their mission.  This year, as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I recommended $95 million in funding to help keep this organization a strong, from coast to coast.  When Senators Kohl and Specter joined with me in introducing a juvenile justice bill this year, we made sure to increase funding for programs—like the Boys and Girls Clubs—that aim to prevent youth from becoming involved in crime.  As the appropriations process continues, I will work with my colleagues to see that these funds are provided for this important work.


No one understood and believed in the value of Boys and Girls Clubs in our communities quite like Tim Russert.  His family’s support and advocacy on behalf of the Clubs has made an extraordinary difference in the lives of children around the country.  I am pleased the Boys and Girls Clubs will present Tim’s wife, Maureen Orth, with their highest honor this morning.     


This is not a Democratic or Republican idea; it is just an idea that makes sense.  It is also an idea that works.  I applaud all the work the Boys and Girls Clubs of America is doing to help our nation’s children become productive, law abiding teenagers and contributing adults.


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