Clinton to Address Lawton Chiles Leadership Corps

President Clinton to Address the Next Generation of Florida’s Leaders

Lawton Chiles Leadership Corps students to gather support for statewide “Worst To First” initiative



President Bill Clinton is scheduled to be the keynote speaker as more than 300 students from around Florida gather August 8-9 in Orlando to form the inaugural class of the Lawton Chiles Leadership Corps. The new student leadership program will launch in August to inspire and train the next generation of Florida’s leaders.


This exciting initiative, which is being organized by The Lawton Chiles Foundation and co-chaired by Sen. Mel Martinez, Sen. Bill Nelson, and former Sen. Bob Graham, will mobilize Florida’s high school and college students, harnessing their passion to improve the way Florida educates and cares for its children. After the conference, a highly motivated group of students will lead a yearlong effort to gather the signatures of one million Floridians on the “Pledge for Florida’s Children.”

The pledge declares that: “I believe that Florida can be a leader again by putting children first in health and safety, and by giving them an education for the future. I pledge to do my part in ensuring we make better investments in the success of our children.”


“This generation of young people has more power to change the world than any other in history,” President Clinton said. “As President, I was proud to create AmeriCorps, which has given more than 500,000 young people the opportunity to serve, and I applaud the Lawton Chiles Leadership Corps for empowering future leaders committed to making a difference in their communities, their state of Florida, and their country.”


“The people in Florida need to take action. Our state has become a national embarrassment on children’s issues, and today we’re at or near the bottom in most indicators of performance,” said Bud Chiles, president of The Lawton Chiles Foundation. “We’re energizing our youth to go out there and fight for a change in the status quo. If we have any hope of becoming a national leader, our students need to be inspired and mobilized.”

The Lawton Chiles Leadership Corps will work under the banner of the foundation’s Worst To First initiative, which was created to be a long-term effort to improve Florida’s performance in key indicators of children’s health, education and well-being. Independent research shows Florida lagging most of the nation in these indicators.


For example:
• Florida ranks 49th in the nation in the percent of children without health insurance. About 19 percent, or 763,000 children, do not have insurance, compared with a national average of 11 percent.
• Florida ranks 47th in the percentage of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in the first trimester, with 70 percent, or more than 71,000 women.
• Florida ranks 36th in the nation in the percent of low-birthweight babies, defined as babies weighing less than 5 ½ pounds at birth – 8.7 percent of all births, or nearly 21,000 babies a year.
• As a state, Florida spends only 3.1% of its resources on education – 42nd in the nation.
• Florida ranks 50th in per capita spending on education, but ranks 16th in the nation in spending on corrections.
• Florida ranks 43rd in high school graduation rates, with 60.8 percent of public high school students graduating with a diploma.
• Florida students rank 48th in the nation in average composite scores on the ACT, a standard college entrance exam.
• Florida ranks 48th in the nation in juvenile incarceration rates, with a custody rate of 451.8 per 100,000 children ages 10 and up.
• Florida ranks 41st in child abuse fatalities, with 2.9 child abuse fatalities per 100,000 children.


President Clinton will deliver the keynote address to students and other attendees on Sunday, August 9, at the University of Central Florida. Other speakers at the two-day event will include Rhea Chiles, wife of late Gov. Lawton Chiles; John Kelly, strategic advisor for the Corporation for National and Community Service; David Lawrence Jr., former Miami Herald publisher and chairman of The Children’s Trust; former State Representative Dick Batchelor, and former State Representative Loranne Ausley.


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