Tribute to Ernie Allen of Kentucky

Date: Sept. 15, 2004
Location: Washington DC

Sept. 15, 2004


Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I rise today to pay tribute to a friend of over 40 years-a fellow Kentuckian who has had a national impact. It is an honor and a privilege to congratulate my good friend, Ernie Allen, on winning the Henry Clay Distinguished Kentuckian Award from the Kentucky Society of Washington. Ernie's work as President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children makes him a most worthy recipient. As I mentioned, I've known Ernie for over 40 years, dating back to our days at Manual High School in Louisville. On the same day I won election as president of the high school, Ernie was elected president of the junior high school. We both went on to attend the University of Louisville, and were fraternity brothers.

Knowing Ernie so well, I can assure you that his dedication to rescuing missing children runs deep. Over twenty years ago, when I was the Jefferson County Judge-Executive, Ernie was the Director of the Louisville/Jefferson County Crime Commission. That Commission was the first of its kind to bring police officers and social workers together on behalf of kids. Just one innovation Ernie came up with back then was to make a fingerprint card for as many Kentucky kids as possible, and send that card home to the child's parents to hang on to in the awful event their child ever went missing. A young man on my staff today still has his card, two decades later.

Ernie's work in Kentucky established him as a national leader for his cause as early as 1981. At that time, no nationwide organization existed to share and distribute information on missing children. If a child was abducted and taken over a State line, or even a county line, the chances that law enforcement in the new jurisdiction had all the information necessary to save that child were small. Ernie led the effort to lobby Congress to establish laws so that police could talk to each other across boundaries about missing kids. His work and patience bore fruit in 1984, when President Ronald Reagan signed the bill creating the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as a public-private partnership.

Under Ernie's leadership, the Center has created the CyberTipline, an online reporting service that former Vice President Al Gore has called "the 911 for the Internet." They created the AMBER Alert System, notifying citizens statewide when a child has been kidnapped. They've worked on over 98,000 cases, and have been involved in the successful recovery of over 83,000 kids. Last year they had an astonishing success rate of 95 percent.

Mr. President, Ernie has labored for 20 years to save children from ghastly fates, and parents from horrible nightmares. It's a heartbreaking job at times. It provides a window into the ugliest parts of the human soul. But thanks to Ernie and the Center, there are a lot of success stories. Last month, a woman in Oklahoma City left her four-month-old baby in the back seat of her running car to pick up her other child from school. When she emerged a minute later, the car was gone. The police issued an AMBER Alert. They quickly tracked down the car and collared the kidnapper. Thankfully, the baby was still safely strapped in his car seat. We can all imagine his mother's relief. Multiply that feeling by 83,000 children saved, and you begin to see the good Ernie and the National Center do.

Twenty years ago, it was literally easier to find a stolen car than a missing child. Now because of Ernie, that is no longer the case. Parents across America owe Ernie thanks for the peace of mind they have every day, knowing that should the unspeakable ever happen, an incredible man is running a fine organization dedicated to rescuing their child. Kentucky, America, and the United States Senate pay tribute to Ernie Allen, and hope he will be on the side of justice and mercy for many years to come.

Mr. President, I ask my colleagues to join me in honoring this American hero whose roots run deep in the Kentucky Bluegrass.

I yield the floor.