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Gingrich helps honor Habitat program

February 06, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL

by Richard Meagher / staff photographer

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Gingrich helps honor Habitat program

FREDERICK, Md. - Newt Gingrich, speaker of the House of Representatives, traveled to Frederick on Friday morning to speak in support of U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, but first he took part in dedicating six homes built by a cause he's close to.

In a small ceremony at 9 a.m. before a dozen people at the Holiday Inn at Francis Scott Key Mall, Gingrich paid tribute to volunteers and businesses who helped build six homes in the area in eight weeks.

"I believe in Habitat for Humanity myself," said the 54-year-old Georgia Republican known for wearing a button emblazoned with the organization's logo on the lapel of his suits every day.

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Gingrich has helped build nine Habitat for Humanity projects around the country and has personally raised money for five of the homes.

"If you've never gone out and worked on a Habitat house, it's terrific therapy," he said.

More than 100 people worked on the two projects started last October including a single family home in Buckeystown, Md., and five, two-level townhouses on East Fifth Street in Frederick.

"This was really, I think, a phenomenal outpouring of support," said Bartlett, Md.

After the special dedication, Gingrich, flanked by a half dozen security agents, was greeted with a standing ovation in the hotel's main room by nearly 400 Bartlett supporters attending a breakfast as part of his re-election campaign.

Bartlett, who represents the 6th District of Maryland and is seeking his fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, introduced Gingrich as one of two most influential Americans - next to former President Ronald Reagan - who has helped shape the country in the last half century.

"At an early age, he showed that one man can make a difference," Bartlett said, after telling the crowd the story when, at the age of 10, Gingrich presented a plan for a zoo to Harrisburg, Pa., city officials.

Speaking on the theme, "we the people, not we the government," Gingrich said the achievements realized since the Republicans became the majority in 1994, known as the Contract With America, will help provide for the country's future generations and lessen government involvement.

The country has moved from a projected deficit in 2002 of $322 billion to a projected surplus of $32 billion which will allow the government to focus on saving, primarily putting money away for social security, Gingrich said.

Ensuring that every generation has a safe, personal retirement is one of four goals Gingrich outlined in his speech to "help build a better America for our children and grandchildren."

Gingrich said the top priority is to create a drug-free country by reinstating former first lady Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" program, getting tough on professional athletes who are found to be using drugs, and focusing on the United States instead of Latin America, he said.

"We need to set a social sanction. We need to make it economically expensive and socially unacceptable," he said.

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