Thank you all for coming. Thank you all. Please be seated, thanks for coming. Thank you so much.
I want to thank you all for caring about your country enough that you are here to inspire others as to how to save lives. Welcome to Washington, D.C. I want to thank Tonja Myles, the director of Set Free Indeed, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for introducing me. Tonja is -- when I talk about people involved in saving people's lives, I'm speaking about people like Tonja and those on the stage with me. You heard their stories. I have, too. And on behalf of a grateful nation, I thank them and you for serving in the army of compassion.
By feeding the hungry, by healing the addicted, by loving and caring for refugees, you represent the true strength, the real strength, the genuine strength of the United States of America. And I am grateful for what you do.
We're here to talk today about the relationship between people of faith and government policy. I believe it is in the national interest that government stand side-by-side with people of faith who work to change lives for the better. I understand in the past, some in government have said government cannot stand side-by-side with people of faith. Let me put it more bluntly, government can't spend money on religious programs simply because there's a rabbi on the board, cross on the wall, or a crescent on the door. I viewed this as not only bad social policy -- because policy by-passed the great works of compassion and healing that take place -- I viewed it as discrimination. And we needed to change it.
So we've hosted regional conferences to raise the issue. I try to talk about the faith-based initiative a lot. Part of my job is to say to the American people, here is a fantastic opportunity to help America become what we want it to be -- a land of hope and promise and love and compassion.
And so we're -- and we're having regional conferences like this. I'm proud to report that we've reached more than 10,000 faith-based and community groups with the message that we want your help, that the federal government now welcomes your work. And do not fear being discriminated against by the government.
Listen, I fully understand there are people in the faith community who have said, why do I want to interface with the federal government? Why would I want to interface with a group of people that want to try to get me to not practice my faith? It's hard to be a faith-based program if you can't practice faith. And the message to you is we're changing the culture here in America.
And we're making progress. We're changing the attitude here in Washington, D.C. I want to thank the Cabinet Secretaries who are here. It should indicate to you that my Cabinet not only has gotten the directive from the President that I expect all Cabinets to be open to faith-based programs, but it should speak to the character of the people who I've called to serve the country. Secretary Ann Veneman, Elaine Chao, Rod Paige, Tony Principi -- thank you all for coming today. Hector Barreto, of the SBA, and Andrew Natsios, of USAID -- thank you all for coming. I see the Justice Department is represented by Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey. Thank you all for coming. This is a -- HUD is represented.
Listen, what I'm telling you is, is that I told our government, the people in my government rather than fear faith programs, welcome them. They're changing America. They do a better job than government can do. Thank you all.
I know Jim Ryan is here, the congressman from Kansas, and his wife Anne. Thanks for coming. There he is. My advice is don't go jogging with him.
I have to tell you, I came from a -- what we call a roundtable -- the table happened to be square, but it's one of those government things-- where I met with some healers, and doers, and community changers.
Mark Franken is the executive director of migration and refugee services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops -- is with us. Wintley Phipps is the founder, president, and CEO of the U.S. Dream Academy, from Columbia, Maryland. Archbishop Harry Flynn, of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis; Bishop Don Wuerl, the bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; my friend from the great state of Texas Tony Evans, of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship. There's a few Texans here, Tony, that know of you. Pastor Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California; Reverend Cheryl Anthony Mobley, is the founder and CEO of the Judah International, from Brooklyn; and from a local church here, Jim Sprouse, the pastor of Trinity United Methodist.
We talked about what they see, what they hear, the frustrations in dealing with the government. It's part of making sure -- this outreach is part of making sure that I hear as best I can firsthand from people whether or not the strategy is being properly implemented because I understand amongst our prosperity there is suffering still, and despair in America. And that troubles every American, regardless of their political standing or where they're from. Where there is despair, we must work to provide hope. Where there is loneliness, we must work to provide love.
There are men and women in our country who doubt, who have serious doubts about what we call the American Dream. And that -- as the President of a country who has heralded the American Dream, that's troubling to realize that some citizens simply cannot connect with that notion of dreaming about the future. There are -- there is loneliness, and you know what I'm talking about. There are people who are so addicted to alcohol and drugs that their vision is clouded, that they can't see a more hopeful tomorrow. These are the types of problems we face.
As well, our great nation receives tens of thousands of refugees, which is good, by the way that America be a welcoming society. These souls flee persecution and need help when they come to our country. Not only are there people in our neighborhoods who are addicted and lonely and homeless and hungry, there are people who've come from far-away lands that need the same concern and care and love that our fellow citizens receive. We've got teenage mothers in America who feel abandoned and in need. There are children in America, whose mom or dad is in prison, wondering whether or not there's any hope. In other words, we got problems in this society. And those of us who have been given the high honor of holding office must utilize every resource, every power we have to help solve those problems for the good of the country.
See, I understand the limitations of government. Governments can hand out money. But governments cannot put love in a person's heart, or a sense of purpose in a person's life. The truth of the matter is that comes when a loving citizen puts their arm around a brother and sister in need and says, I love you, and God loves you, and together we can perform miracles.
And miracles happen -- all the time -- in America. They happen because loving souls take time out of their lives to spread compassion and love. And lives are changing. Listen, our society is going to change one heart and one soul at a time. It changes from the bottom up, not the top down. It changes when the soldiers in the armies of compassion feel wanted, encouraged, and empowered. And that's what the faith-based and community initiative is all about. How do we gather up the strength of the country, the vibrancy of faith-based programs? The social entrepreneurs -- how do we encourage them?