Full Transcript includes remarks delivered by Sister Mary Scullion, Jon Bon Jovi, President William Jefferson Clinton, Jonathan Reckford, Jill Lajdziak at the Press Event on October 5, 2006 announcing the launch of the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation and their partnership with Project H.O.M.E., Saturn and Habitat For Humanity.
SISTER MARY SCULLION: Welcome everybody to Project Home. We are a people from all walks of life who refuse to accept homelessness as an inevitable part of our urban landscape. Joan McConnon and I are thrilled to be here in North Philadelphia celebrating a truly remarkable homecoming with you and our very special and honored guest.
Jon Bon Jovi in his recent song sings “Who says you can’t go home.” In this neighborhood the sense of home has been diminished by decades of economic disinvestment that has left in its wake abandoned housing, high unemployment, families struggling to get by, youth with uncertain futures, residents cut off from the American promise of economic opportunity.
Many people may have given up on this community, believing that it was trapped in an unending cycle of poverty. But long-time residents like Helen Brown, Regina Major, Edwina and many others, along with philanthropists like the Connolly family and Linn and Harold Honickman, corporations such as Comcast and PNC and Lincoln Financial, and our public sector partners, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, the Redevelopment Authority, and the Federal Home Loan Bank believed in the enormous potential of the residents in this neighborhood. And they have fought long and hard to garner the necessary resources to empower this community to thrive.
We are here today to celebrate one more vital step on that journey home, thanks to Jon Bon Jovi.
It’s been a real privilege getting to know Jon and to recognize his deep passion for making this a more just and humane society. His presence here today is part of his long-standing commitment to community involvement and his bold civic leadership. Just as his life exemplifies the American dream, Jon leverages his status to empower others to succeed. While he has become an international star, he maintains his ties and unwaivering commitment to the Philadelphia community. He believes that all of us must use our talents and resources towards the common good. And he does so himself. And inspires others to do so likewise.
The commitment of Philadelphia’s very own Arena Football Team, the Philadelphia Soul, is amazing. Since their inception, they made their impact felt in our community and now have established the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation.
So much of Jon’s message carries a message of hope. In his song Bells Of Freedom he sings “When your world’s crashing down and you’ve lost every round, stand your ground.” This describes the reality of many families in this neighborhood. “The time has come,” he sings, “to rise back as one for love and one for truth.” These aren’t just lyrics. Jon has made a personal commitment to engage in the suffering of people and believes passionately that in the midst of human struggle comes the power of hope and transformation. Every nail that is hammered, every house that is restored, every child that is educated is a bell rung for freedom.
Today, Jon’s investment in this neighborhood brings all of us together as one for love and one for truth. We are enriched by his friendship and strengthened by his commitment. Please welcome the man who inspires us to ring the bells for freedom and he dares us to question, who says you can’t come home. It’s my honor and privilege to introduce to you, Jon Bon Jovi.
JON BON JOVI: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Sister. That was beautiful. I would like to say thank you to Joan McConnon and Jonathan Reckford from Habitat for Humanity, Jill Lajdziak from Saturn, our dear partners, my partner Craig Spencer, and of course Mr. President Clinton.
Thank you all very much for coming here today, and I’d like to share with you why we’re here. In 2003 I became the co-owner of the Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul, along with my partner Craig Spencer. And from the inception of our franchise the mission was to use the team as a way to give back to the community. Each season our directive to the staff has been to find local causes, the Father Flanagans, if you will. Help us to find the ones who fell through the cracks. Nothing was ever going to be too big and no one too small. Our desire was simply to help those in need. Now please understand, our team doesn’t make any money. Matter of fact, any money that we’ve ever had we’ve given away back into the community. But I’m proud to say that as we head into our fourth season, we have been able to give away over $2 million in the name of Bon Jovi and the Philadelphia Soul.
Now we may have started small but we thought big. Whether it was a playground for the Northern Home For Children, beds for Covenant House or starting a help line for kids, The Soul was always there. So today we’re very proud to announce the creation of The Philadelphia Soul Foundation, which is the natural extension of our philanthropic work.
In the last year and a half The Soul and I, along with the band, have become very involved with Habitat for Humanity. Between Houma, Louisiana and here in Philadelphia, we’ve been able to give 34 families a place they could call home.
I’ve spent a lot of time here in Philadelphia over the last 25 years. And one night while I was looking out of my hotel window I saw a homeless man sleeping on the street in front of City Hall. I wanted to help him. I wanted to fix that. And I wanted to do it from my heart, because I’m a realist. I understand that homelessness, is a problem is, it’s immense. And I realize that no one man has all the answers, so I knew that I needed help. And that’s how I came to meet Sister Mary and Project Home.
It was Sister Mary who educated me to the need to provide not only shelter to the homeless, but education and job training. Because really it was all about breaking the cycle. Sister Mary is the one that opened my eyes and taught me to look at all the problems that combine together to form the bigger issue, which is homelessness.
Think about this. Job training. You can’t even get a job working as a cashier in a superstore unless you have basic computer skills. The difference between a minimum wage job as it stands today in Pennsylvania at $5.15, and even a $10-an-hour job, is immense. If you don’t think that sounds like a lot, think about $5 an hour, $40 a day, $200 a week. It’s quite simply the difference between the
quantity and the quality of food that you’re able to put on your table. It may be the difference between having heat and electricity, paying the phone bill. These things aren’t luxuries, they’re necessities.
Now Habitat for Humanity’s work speaks for itself, and it speaks in volumes. You’ve seen it. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami, for example, Habitat was there, rebuilding lives, rebuilding dreams. And that’s just in response to a disaster. As you well know, in Habitat’s 30 years they’ve built more than 200,000 homes and dreams by offering families a chance to be first-time homeowners. The program’s successes are undeniable.
But, if you’re eligible for a Habitat home, you’re really on the upper echelon of homelessness. What about those who can’t think about making the rent? What about those who think that that park bench is looking awful tempting? That’s where Project Home shines. By offering job training, education and social services, Project Home empowers individuals to break that cycle of homelessness. And they, in turn, can be put on the path to home ownership. So let me tell you why we’re here.
What you see is a new beginning. For the first time Habitat for Humanity has partnered with a local provider. And together with our support and the support of Saturn, we’re constructing 15 row houses as our first initiative.
This is going to be a new model. Here we have local service providers, Habitat and corporate America all working together to build communities. And it is my sincere desire to see these people become their community. They become the homeowners, the business owners, the investors in their own future by reshaping their own neighborhoods. Because it is my sincere and heart-felt desire not to let neighborhoods deteriorate any further. We have to remember what neighborhood is. We have to bring back neighborhoods.
Now the Arena Football League is about accessibility, it’s about affordability, and it is played for and by people who have a dream. That’s what The Soul is all about. That’s what this partnership is about. And I would like to invite you all to help us by joining our team. Because the greatest social good is assisting individuals to take responsibility for themselves. And together I do believe that we can make a difference even if it’s one soul at a time. Thank you.
Now, I haven’t opened for anybody in a long, long time. But in my eyes the biggest rock-and-roll star in the world is right over my right shoulder.
He was our President for eight years, and some of his most inspiring work happens on a daily basis. With the creation of the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative, he has brought together the world’s brightest minds, leaders of industry and problem solvers to identify the most pressing issues facing the world today. The mission is not only to eradicate poverty here in the U.S. and worldwide, but to create a global community of shared beliefs, responsibilities and values. This year’s summit alone raised $7.3 billion in commitments to tackle these challenges.
He once said, “All of us have an unprecedented amount of power to solve problems, save lives and help see the future.” The truth is this is the man who inspired me to become involved in philanthropy, and his work makes me want to continue to do so. Most of all, he never hesitates to help a friend. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my honor to introduce the forty-second President of the United States and my friend, President Bill Clinton.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much. I’m delighted to be up here with all the people responsible for this project. I thank Sister Mary, Joan McConnon, Jon Reckford and the people at Habitat. Jill, thank you and Saturn for your support. Craig, I appreciate what you and Jon and the teammates from Philadelphia Soul do for the community. I’m here for several reasons. First of all, I love this city.
It was very good to me and was the site of a lot of the most important things I tried to do for America when I was President. Congressman Chaka Fattah is here, your Congressman. He — (APPLAUSE) He got me to support a program called Operation Gear Up which, since we passed it, spent about $2 billion to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds know about their options and get prepared to go to college and access college aid. And it’s been a huge difference to hundreds of thousands of young people all across America, a program that started in Philadelphia.
When Governor Rendell was the mayor we did a lot of things in criminal justice that helped to lower the crime rate. I love this city. It is the birthplace of America and still in so many ways the heartbeat of America.
I’m here because I admire Project Home. But when Sister Mary gave that speech, she got back to, you know, came back and introduced Jon, I looked at her and I said, “I’m glad you never ran against me.” I honor this project. They’ve been working for nearly 20 years now to end homelessness. And they realize it’s not just a matter of sticking a homeless person in a house. You have to have healthcare and mental health services and job training. I was at the Learning Center earlier today, and I thank Comcast and all the people who support that. It’s about empowerment. I have been distressed in recent years that there’s been so much emphasis on giving people like me, who don’t need it, more tax cuts instead of spending the money in places like this who do need it, who might be empowered to move their way into the middle class and build a better and different life.
I’m here because I think that when you get corporations and nonprofit groups and committed citizens working together, they can make a big difference in almost any problem. And I don’t care who’s running the government and what the policies are, there will always be a gap between where we are and where we ought to be. And people like the people on this stage and those of you out here in the audience have to step into that gap. And there are very few places in this country that can point to a more successful, meaningful project than Project Home.
I’m here because I love Jon Bon Jovi. And that’s hard for me to say because for years I have gotten tired of hearing my wife and daughter saying he’s the most handsome man on the planet. But he’s more than a pretty face or a great voice. You know, when a person achieves a level of success that he and his wife Dorothea have, they don’t really have to do this. They don’t even have to own an Arena Football team. They can just take the money and invest it buy one more boat or one more house in the Caribbean or one more something else. He’d rather invest it with you and your future. He is a genuine patriotic American and I’m really proud of everything that he has done.
And I’m here because this is the kind of thing I’m spending my life doing. And I just want to make, if I could, a couple of observations. First of all, when I was President, in a sense, I went to a lot of places Presidents didn’t go. When I went to Africa I just didn’t go to the capitals and meet with a lot of people in suits; I might as well have been in Philadelphia downtown somewhere. I went out to villages, sat in huts and talked to poor people. I went to Turkey and sat in tents and talked to refugees from earthquakes, I went to Bosnia and Kosovo and met with the people who had been driven out of their homes by ethnic cleansing. I went to high mountain towns in South America where people could barely put body and soul together. I’ve been out into rural China where the economy is not bustling and the farmers can hardly grow enough to live on. And here’s what I’ve learned, same thing I thought when I was a kid growing up in Arkansas. When I was born there our per-capita income was barely half the American average. So by statistics most people I knew were poor. I was the first person in my family to get a college degree. But from the time I was a kid to the last trip I made to Africa until the time I got here I have learned one thing: Intelligence and the willingness to work and creative ability are pretty well evenly distributed throughout the world. What is not evenly distributed is opportunity, investment, education. And most of all, systems that work.
How many people are homeless because they can’t figure out how to access the systems that work for me? Everybody that’s here in a neck tie today, think about what led you from being a child to sitting in this chair? I don’t care how tough you had it. You always thought that there was some way you can make a connection between the effort you made and the result you could expect. And all over the world there are people who can’t make that connection. And sadly in this city and all over our country there are people who can’t make that connection. That’s why Chaka started the Gear Up Program so young people could make a connection between what they did when they were 13, 14 and 15 and the life they might have at 30 and 40 and 50.
That’s what I really like about this. Because America has this enormous untapped economic potential in its poor people, in its homeless people, in its people who could do lots of things if the structures of their lives were different. Sister Mary and all of her colleagues are changing that reality. And people could do this all across the country.
I want to say one specific thing that I love about this project that Jon talked about to build, renovate these 15 homes. They are committed, along with Habitat, to employ a bunch of green building strategies to make them more energy efficient. Now if you get to live in one of these places, what that means is your utility bill will be lower every month, and that means you’ll have more disposable income. That’s good. But what it means if America decided to do this to all its buildings is that we would be doing three great things. We would be creating millions of new jobs, when Lord knows we need them, good jobs, in building materials, in energy efficient glass, in lighting, in green roofs, in all kinds of things. And in so doing we would improve the national security of our country because we wouldn’t have to import so much energy from unstable places around the world, and we would be doing America’s part to fight global warming, which should be of concern to Philadelphia because you’re on the water. And if the sea level rises, which it will, dangerously, if we warm for the next 50 years at the rate of the last 10, lots of folks are going to have to move somewhere else, all over the world. And so I just want to say the one thing that I’m going to try to do to help Jon and all the rest of you succeed is to make sure you have access to the best materials, the best information at the best available prices to green these buildings. And hopefully you can do it throughout the entire city. Because it will create jobs, lower utility bills and send America in the right direction.
I have — (APPLAUSE) Our foundation has agreed to work with 32 of the largest cities in the world, and a number of others, including Philadelphia, which just joined, to try to help lower greenhouse gas emissions. Dealing with this energy problem and the greenhouse gas problem is about two things. It’s basically about cities and cars. Cars use 70 percent of the oil, and we import most of our oil. But cities emit 75 percent of the greenhouse gas commissions. And I’ll just give you an example one thing you can do. Chicago is leading America in greening the roofs of all of its urban buildings, putting shrubbery, putting down grass, planting small trees.
Now, that may seem like a silly thing to do, except in the summertime in an American city a traditional roof like that that’s flat can reach a surface temperature of 160 degrees on a 90-degree day. If you green it, on a 90-degree day the surface temperature won’t go above 80. Think what that would do to air conditioning bills and energy usage and the profits it would bring to businesses who did that? I just talked to the chief executive of United Technologies, big American high-tech firm. And he told me that in the last few years they’ve doubled their business, cut their energy use by 20 percent and their water use by 80 percent.
So I say this to a city I love. I’m going to work for the city seriously on this. I will help Jon, and I hope we can get some other corporate sponsors to take other houses, and we’ll get you a model of the very best materials you can use. But this will create jobs for the people in this area. It will create jobs in a way that will make America more secure, and it will give our kids a better future.
So this is exciting. Every one of these old buildings here, or in Harlem where my office is, anywhere in America that we try to turn around is giving more Americans a chance to make a decent living so they can go home again. Thank you very much.
SISTER MARY SCULLION: Thank you, President Clinton. It’s truly an honor to have you with us today. I’d also like to recognize State Senator Shirley Kitchen who is also with us this afternoon and represents us so well in Harrisburg.
(APPLAUSE) It’s now my privilege to introduce to you two of our strategic partners. The first is Jonathan Reckford. When we often think of housing for people, Habitat for Humanity comes to mind. Since its humble beginnings in 1976, Habitat has built over 200,000 homes serving over a million people in communities across our world. Habitat works at the grass roots, affirming the dignity of every person while empowering people to become active partners in developing housing. Jonathan Reckford, who has served as the chief executive officer for Habitat since 2005, brings a wealth of experience both from the corporate sector as well as his own deep personal faith and passionate commitment to people in need. Project Home is pleased to work with Jonathan and his incredibly talented staff from Habitat to meet the housing needs of people here in Philadelphia.
And I’d also like to introduce to you Jill Lajdziak. Jill is the general manager of Saturn. And Saturn Car Company is one of the most innovative companies in America, with a tremendous track record of community involvement, as demonstrated by Saturn’s long-term relationship with Jon Bon Jovi and the Philadelphia Soul. Saturn has especially shown leadership in promoting environmentally responsible policies and practices. And we are pleased that thanks to them and their partnership we will be able to develop green eco-friendly, affordable housing while nurturing our environment. Jill Lajdziak serves as the chairperson for United Way. And since 1991 her leadership at Saturn has set a whole new standard of forward-thinking policies that have not only impacted the bottom line of Saturn, but have also demonstrated a positive impact on communities across our nation. So please join me in welcoming both Jonathan and Jill.
JONATHAN RECKFORD: Thank you, Sister Mary. It’s an honor to be with you today for this great occasion. Why are you here? That question came to me as I was building alongside a 13-year-old girl named Haaleen (phonetic) early last year. And we were building a home for her and her mother. The two of them lived with another family in a two-room shack. And we were in the process of realizing a dream for them, for the first time living in and owning a safe, decent and affordable home.
And I told her I was there for three reasons. First, I believe that God cares for every child in the world. Second, because I believe that every person should have the opportunity to live in a safe, decent and affordable home. And third, I was there because every time I have the chance to work alongside someone like her, it gives me just a glimpse of the person I aspire to be and a glimpse of the kind of community that I want to be a part of.
So why are we here today? Because individually, even with their heroic work, Sister Mary and her team can’t change Philadelphia by themselves. Habitat certainly can’t do it. And even with the incredible social and political capital they bring, and the private sector capital of Saturn and others, individually none of us can fix Philadelphia or change the world. But collectively, if we bring these forces together, community by community we really can make dramatic and significant long-lasting change.
I want to thank everyone who’s been here and is here to be a part of this. I certainly appreciate both President Clinton and Jon Bon Jovi for lending their support and visibility to making this possible. Thanks to Sister Mary and to Joan and all of their team for their work. I want to especially thank Tim Block and the great team at Habitat Philadelphia who are partnering in this project. And most of all, thank all of the homeowners and volunteers who are going to be part of taking this from concept into reality. And I know some of the families who live in this neighborhood are here with us today. This is your neighborhood and your projects and it’s a privilege to get to be part of it with you.
Jon Bon Jovi approached us a year ago offering to build here in Philadelphia in conjunction with the video of his very successful song that Sister Mary talked about, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home. ” Not only was it a great artistic success for both the song and the video, it introduced the country and the world to images of community coming together to build affordable housing. And for that we’re grateful. A long-time Habitat partner, I’m especially proud today to announce that Jon Bon Jovi has agreed to be our founding ambassador for Habitat for Humanity and launching our new Habitat Ambassador program.
Habitat Ambassadors will work with Habitat for Humanity to raise awareness of the worldwide need for decent housing by their visible involvement with Habitat. And Jon, both through his time, his support, and certainly lending his visibility to this critical cause, has already made a huge impact, and we are just thrilled to continue our partnership with him.
So my thanks to all of you who have participated, to the Philly Soul Foundation, the local community government here, and all of you for being part of believing that for a whole new group of families, they will have a place to go home. Thank you and God Bless You.
JILL LAJDZIAK: Well, I am certainly humbled to be on this stage. And I’m also fortunate to be in Philadelphia today representing Saturn, along with some very extraordinary people, people like Sister Mary and Joan, President Clinton, Jonathan Reckford, and Craig Spencer, and our good friend Jon Bon Jovi. I’m also fortunate to be representing the Saturn people everywhere that absolutely are driven to give back to the communities in which they work and in which they live.
You know, Jon and I started talking about this project a little over a month ago. We talked about the core values that are the foundation of his organization. And I shared with him the core values that we have that built the Saturn brand. They are very much aligned. Being successful in the marketplace is realized when you have the capacity to give back and give back with heart. Four weeks later here we are. And today I want to thank you for the opportunity to help kick off this project. In the days and months that follow I can assure you that Saturn people will be swinging the hammers right next to you. At Saturn giving back is just part of our DNA. It always has been and it always will be. Thank you.
SISTER MARY SCULLION: Thank you very much, Jill and Jonathan. The 15 homes that are being developed on the 18 and 19 hundred block of North 23rd Street will mean for the first time in decades this block will have 100 percent occupancy. The families who will move into and own their own homes will be pillars of a strengthened community. These homes are part of a comprehensive community revitalization strategy that includes economic development, environmental enhancement, healthcare, and access to quality education as best exemplified in the Honickman Learning Center and the Comcast Technology Labs.
Home is about more than bricks and mortar. It’s about relationships; it’s about bonds of responsibility and care between people; it’s about nurturing each other and helping each other grow. This home ownership project is only possible because of a remarkable web of relationships and a true public-private partnership. The transformation of this block and this community grows out of a vision of people who pooled their talents and resources with an endeavor of shared leadership. We are tremendously grateful to our partners, especially to the residents of this community, who are committed to making this community their home.
We are grateful to the incredibly committed staff of Project Home, Carolyn Placke, Jill Roberts, Crista Cobb, Helen Brown, Jen Trimble and Renee Murdock, who have worked tirelessly to bring this project to fruition. (APPLAUSE) We are also grateful to those who join us in this vital public-private partnership, to Brian Hudson from to PHFA, to Michael Kuns from the RDA, to Jon Bendel from the Federal Home Loan Bank. And of course to our newest partners, to Saturn, Habitat for Humanity, and the phenomenal Jon Bon Jovi.
We are grateful to the prospective homeowners. And I would like them to stand.
Those folks, along with other 18 residents in this community, will make this block and this neighborhood come fully alive. Who says we can’t go home? Who says we can’t build a neighborhood and a community? We are grateful to be here today with people who say yes. Yes, we can go home. We are grateful to be part of a community where homelessness and poverty is not the final answer and were we are blessed and privileged to be part of a community that walks together hand in hand on that journey home, because our motto at Project Home is, “None of us are home until all of us are home.”
So thank you again. And we’re going to take questions. But before we do, I would really like to thank President Clinton for taking the time out of his incredibly busy schedule to be here with us today, but more importantly, for the tremendous work he’s doing all over our county and our nation to put poverty and homelessness back on the agenda.
We will be happy to take questions from the press. If there are no questions then we thank everybody for coming and enjoy the rest of this beautiful day.
(Concluded at 3:36 p.m.)