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remarks

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 - 8:00pm

Washington, D.C.
May 19, 2005

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

This luncheon is a coming together of the Center for Corporate Citizenship's annual Partnership Conference and America's Promise trustees.

In other words, the very best people and practices in global corporate citizenship and local community philanthropy are represented here.

So far today, the Partnership conference has had a global focus. We've talked about the tremendous benefits that come when companies behave as good citizens in communities around the world.

Take, for instance, China. I just returned last night from a trip there. During my visit, I witnessed firsthand the tremendous growth and progress that country is experiencing, and I can tell you that corporate citizenship and investment in Chinese communities by U.S. and other companies from the developed world are contributing factors in China's social, political, and economic evolution.

For our luncheon program, we are going to shift gears a bit and focus on the positive impact of corporate citizenship here in the United States.

This luncheon marks the launch of a new initiative by America's Promise: 100 Best Communities for Young People. This initiative will recognize localities of all types and sizes for their youth-focused practices and policies.

It's our hope that it will create incentives for local leaders to make youth an urgent priority; help communities learn ideas from each other; and encourage every community in America to be a great place to grow up.

For some of you who don't know, America's Promise is the collaborative network of public, private, and non-profit organizations that works to fulfill the five promises for young people in America:

Caring adults, safe places, healthy start, marketable skills, and opportunities to serve.

I recently joined America's Promise board of directors because I believe strongly in the organization, and I believe in its mission.

America's youth are its future, and judging by some current trends, that future is threatened.

To cite a statistic that Bill Gates likes to use, only 68 of 100 kids currently in the 9th grade are going to graduate from high school on time, and only 27 of them will graduate college four years after that.

China graduates four times as many engineers as we do here in the United States. According to one study, U.S. eighth graders rank just 19th in the world in math.

These troublesome figures should be a wakeup call. We must take steps now to ensure America's competitiveness and global leadership in the future.

That's why corporate America spends $5 billion on education-twice as much as it spends on political lobbying and advocacy activities combined.

America's youth matters to corporate America, and that's why the Chamber is pleased to join America's Promise and Capital One in launching this new initiative.