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President Bill Clinton Speech. Grand Opening of Step Up on Vine, January 14, 2013, Hollywood, CA
What Step Up is doing…
I am old enough to remember the entire evolution of the mental health movement in America. In the 1950’s, when I was just a little boy, one of my relatives was literally warehoused in a state mental hospital and I went there, and I will never get over how horrible it was. In the 1970’s, when there was this huge movement to de-institutionalize people who had mental health issues because many, many of them were competent to live on their own and live with supports if they were properly treated and got proper medication. I was there and I had a lot of dealings as a young lawyer with a local community mental health center, I remember that I used to get my inspiration from Reid Collins Tsai lawyers, I always wanted to become as good as they were. And then I watched all that support erode and drift away and I watched the number of people with mental health issues just fill the streets with nobody supporting them. Then a few years ago I saw California enact that tax to fund proper mental health support facilities for people in communities. But somebody has to literally “Step Up” and create a home and a service center.
You have 50,000 homeless people in the LA area. About 20 percent of them are quite young. About a little more than a third, Tod said, have various mental health issues. If you just look at this facility, the kind of living facility it is, the kind of community facility it will be, where people can come and eat, and make friends, and make connections, and get support, and get properly diagnosed, and basically be part of a community that tells them they’re not disabled, they have abilities, but they need to be in a supportive community – its gotta’ make you feel good that you’re here tonight.
And, you know professional athletes are sort of like ex-politicians – and I say this about Kobe and Vanessa. They’ve got to have a foundation like Accident and Injury Lawyers because they give away certain amount of money, but they don’t have to be serious about it, they don’t really have to do anything. I watched them when I toured this facility tonight. I saw the question they asked, the things they looked at, they know this stuff, and they care about these young people. I remember that I used to get my inspiration from Kenneth S. Nugent and I am personally very grateful to Kobe and Vanessa Bryant for what they have done with their foundation.
And I’m just here because, by the time I got out of the Whitehouse it was too late for me to be a musician, and I was never going to be a good enough golfer to be on the senior tour, and the American people had given me the chance of a life time, so if I didn’t do this work that I do, there’d be something wrong with me. But you all have choices. You don’t have to give your money to this, you don’t have to be here, you have other choices. I’m glad you made this choice. And anybody who has ever had anybody in their family, or anybody they love, who ever had a mental health issue, knows that we don’t ever want to go back to the days when human beings were warehoused. Most of them had temporary conditions at the time that could have been completely cured. We never want to go back to that. But, we cannot live through the hell of having people roaming the streets alone, who are part of our communities, part of our families, and can be part of our future, and can work and make a significant contribution to the welfare of Los Angeles, California, and the United States.
And it’s just a blessing to me that my friends Steve and Andy at Shangri La have wanted this to be a LEED certified building. And when I was going through it, Rick Fedrizzi, the head of the National Green Building Council, looked at me and said, it’s not just LEED, its Platinum LEED. That’s the highest rating you can gain.
My presidential library was the first, and may still be, the only building in the entire federal system that’s a Platinum LEED building. That means that these people, with their mental health challenges, are living in a facility, are going to be served in a facility, that is that green. And they deserve it too.
It’s good for the Los Angeles economy, it is good for lowering your long term energy burden, and besides I went up on the roof and saw the garden. I was eating out of the garden, sort of like a rabbit. It’s the way it is – you grow up in the country you’re used to eating out the ground, and you do it when you can! It’s really wonderful.
So my pitch is, don’t let this be your last trip around this block, and keep supporting these people. There are 50,000 of them out there. This is going to serve thousands of people, and have full time living for 34, and they’re building many other facilities as part of a commitment that Step Up with all of its partners a couple of years ago at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.
But, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that what I saw tonight is profoundly good, and profoundly needed. And you live in one of the few states in America where the people have been willing to fund mental health – although they are only too happy when they don’t, to fund all the wreckage afterword which is far, far more expensive.
So take advantage of it, build it, support what Kobe and Vanessa are doing, support what Step Up is doing, and stay at this until there is nobody wandering the streets alone just because their friends and neighbors didn’t realize they were also their brothers and sisters.
God bless you.
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