WASHINGTON – President Bush has called upon America's children to donate $1 each to help provide medical help and food for the children of Afghanistan.
"I want to make a special request to the children of America. I ask you to join in a special effort to help the children of Afghanistan. Their country has been through a great deal of war and suffering," the president said Thursday night in his first prime time news conference.
The president made the point again Friday during an appearance at the 63rd annual March of Dimes leadership conference. The group got its name back in the 1930's when 2.6 million American children contributed a dime each to combat the disease polio, for which a vaccine debuted in 1952.
The president said he wanted to repeat that success, and documented the plight of Afghan children with sobering statistics.
"One out of every four children dies before the age of five, in Afghanistan. It is estimated that one in every three children in Afghanistan is an orphan; almost half suffer from chronic malnutrition; millions face the threat of starvation. The situation is so bad, so bad, that we read about three year old children in Afghanistan who weigh less than the average newborn in America," Bush said.
Other presidents have also called on America's children. During World War I, President Wilson and U.S. Food Administration chief Herbert Hoover asked American children to conserve food and "clean their plates."
They were even asked to take the "Child's No Waste Pledge."
"I pledge my allegiance to my flag, in service true I will not lag. I'll not despise my crusts of bread, nor make complaint, whatever fed. On wheatless days I'll eat no wheat, on other days eat less of sweet. I'll waste no pennies, spoil no clothes, and so I'll battle against our foes."
In his Thursday night appeal, Bush also asked parents to help their children contribute. "This is an opportunity to help others by teaching our own children a valuable lesson about service and character," he said.
The president asked children to send their dollars to the White House. The Red Cross is supervising the relief effort and will make use of the money. The White House address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW; Washington, D.C. 20509.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.