Friday, January 24, 1997
New promise founded
on self-reliance

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Bill Clinton's ''new promise'' is already being kept in Cincinnati.

They're serving it with just-baked slices of pizza in Clifton.

Unemployed workers from the poor sides of town learn it while taking courses in how to get and keep a job.

On city streets festering with crack houses, it's heard in the chants of anti-drug protesters.

In homes all over the city, it's being taught by parents who put their kids on their laps and read books to our future.

From the pizza parlor to the living room, they're answering the president's call to live ''in a land of new promise.''

In his second inaugural address, Bill Clinton played the part of the stern father. Grow up, he said. Stop waiting for Uncle Sam to do everything for you.

''There is work to do,'' said the first Democratic president to be re-elected in 60 years, ''work that government alone cannot do.''

He mentioned teaching children to read and ''hiring people off welfare rolls.'' He talked about ''coming out from behind locked doors and shuttered windows to help reclaim our streets from drugs.''

He strongly advised everyone to ''assume personal responsibility.''

Kelly Burchfield did that in 1993 when she joined two partners to open their successful Clifton pizzeria, No Anchovies. She received no government seed money. And, she's glad.

''With a government loan, you get the government as your boss. I didn't go into business to work for someone else.''

She applauds the president's call for self-reliance. ''You just got to say to yourself: 'I can do this. I'm not going to let anything stop me.' People would be amazed what they could accomplish if they just said that to themselves.''

Talk and action

Councilman Charles Winburn's anti-drug marchers go into crack-riddled neighborhoods and chant: ''Down with drugs!'' Their 52 marches have resulted in 40 arrests and an immeasurable increase in civic pride in troubled sections of Evanston and Mount Auburn. All - so far - at no government expense.

''This only gets done when you get the people in the neighborhoods involved,'' the councilman says. ''The federal government is a bunch of talkers, not doers.''

Jenny C. Laster, executive director of Cincinnati Works, wants government to be both. Her year-old, privately funded program has an 80 percent hire rate for workers it has trained to take jobs that will lift them out of poverty.

She considers President Clinton's ''new promise'' to be ''a noble idea.'' But, for it to succeed, ''we need more than lip service from the government. We can take people off welfare and train them for jobs. But the government must do its part, for example, by providing the mass transportation to get to the jobs.''

The federal government works in a 50-50 partnership with hometown philanthropists Richard and Lois Rosenthal. To foster the love of reading in young Cincinnati Public School students, the partners provide matching grants to the Rosey Reader program.

Involving 2,000 students in 13 schools, the 6-year-old program covers kids from kindergarten through third grade and their parents. Students take a book home. Their parents promise to read it to them. For each book read, the kids get a Rosey Reader sticker or a pencil.

''After a while,'' says Janet Weingartner, the Midway Elementary School principal who helped set up the program, ''the kids don't care about the incentives. All they want to do is read books.''

Roll over, FDR

Bill Clinton's ''new promise'' could wind up dismantling Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.

FDR might not have minded that. He was a realist. During the Depression, he knew private enterprise could never get rid of the lines of unemployed, desperate men waiting for bread. America was out of work. Government had to step in.

Bill Clinton knows America is out of whack. Government must step back and personal initiative must come forward.

One solution is to change the rules of the federal gravy train. Everyone will have the same chance to get on board.

But, the ''new promise'' says Washington won't wait on you hand and foot. If you want something, serve yourself.

Who knows? You might even get a bigger helping.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.