- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

Tom Ridge shed his jacket, dropped to his knees and talked about homeland security issues yesterday with Americans who have known the pressures of living in the nation’s capital all their lives.

The Bush administration’s homeland security secretary spent more than an hour with elementary students attending classes in a school from which they could see the Capitol on the skyline.

“We hope to convince thousands and thousands of kids to help us,” Mr. Ridge told a student who asked how many students he wants involved in community safety efforts. The secretary has designated this a “national week of caring” for the 180,000 men and women employed by federal agencies under his jurisdiction.

In an effort to encourage Department of Homeland Security staffers to get involved in their communities, Mr. Ridge visited Burrville Elementary in Northeast. He told students they could not only prepare themselves for emergencies, but that they could also help their families and neighbors in a time of disaster.

“Whether it’s a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, people can get hurt,” said Mr. Ridge, who urged the school’s 330 students to talk to their families about safety and security issues. He also urged them to follow recommendations contained in materials provided by the American Red Cross.

“These highly motivated, very dedicated kids will go home and talk to their parents about having an emergency kit in their own homes and getting a little training,” said Mr. Ridge, a former Republican governor of Pennsylvania. He told the children that Homeland Security Department staffers are committed to backing up millions of firefighters and local police officers involved daily in homeland security efforts nationwide.

The Ridge event was designed to promote volunteerism and financial support of the Combined Federal Campaign, an annual fund-raising effort on behalf of charities and other nonprofit groups supported by federal employees.

Later this week, some of the 10,000 Homeland Security Department staffers working in the metropolitan area will volunteer in local food bank projects. Others will help construct a home in the District for the nonprofit group Habitat for Humanity.

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