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WASHINGTON - Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon Communications, today stressed Verizon's commitment to be American's literacy champion and emphasized the strategic link between literacy and the company's future business success.
In testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Education Reform, Seidenberg emphasized that as the nation's largest communications company with 241,000 employees in technically demanding jobs, Verizon has a special interest in the literacy issue. He also explained how the company's size gives it a special ability to make a difference.
"Verizon's communications networks comprise a unique platform for sharing resources and forming partnerships," said Seidenberg. "Verizon's enormously committed employees and retirees have a long heritage of volunteerism and community involvement. And more than a decade's worth of commitment to the issue of literacy has given the company both the knowledge and the relationships with the literacy community to be effective."
Seidenberg reviewed the many facets of the company's long-term approach to literacy, which come together under its comprehensive "Verizon Reads" program:
- Literacy is a major focus of Verizon's philanthropic efforts. Verizon Foundation donated nearly $20 million to literacy organizations in 2001.
- Verizon enables its customers to become part of the fight through a unique program called "Check Into Literacy." By selecting a check-off box on their monthly telephone bill and adding $1 to their payment, customers can donate $1 a month to literacy organizations in their communities.
- Verizon has enlisted the time and talent of celebrities across the country to bring attention to the cause by becoming Verizon Literacy Champions. The list includes:
- James Earl Jones, noted actor and the "voice of Verizon." In testimony before the House subcommittee today Jones recounted how the struggle for literacy affected his own family, beginning with his ancestors more than a century ago;
- Al Jarreau, Grammy Award-winning jazz musician, who is donating a percentage of the sales from his new album, "All I Got," to the cause of literacy;
- Erik Weihenmayer, a renowned athlete who has climbed the tallest peak on each of the world's seven continents - including Mount Everest. Weilhenmayer, who is blind, is working with Verizon and the American Foundation for the Blind to promote transcribing textbooks into Braille.
- Verizon's 241,000 employees and many thousands of retirees also are crucial to the effort, and their involvement is encouraged through matching gift programs and other initiatives to promote volunteerism.
- Verizon is using its technology to build the infrastructure for learning and collaboration within the literacy community. The company has developed the Verizon Literacy Network on the World Wide Web as a one-stop resource for literacy information. Through its many features - including a search engine and a literacy directory - anyone can locate literacy organizations in their community, anywhere in the United States.
Seidenberg also explained that although Verizon has devoted significant resources to this effort, the company by no means tries to go alone. Verizon has closely aligned itself with the nation's leading literacy organizations such as the National Center for Family Literacy, the National Institute for Literacy and the National Alliance of Urban Literacy Coalitions.
Verizon's mission regarding literacy is highly focused, said Seidenberg. The company works to raise public awareness, create partnerships and generate financial support for local and national literacy organizations so they can do their jobs more effectively.
The company's experience with the issue also has makes it clear that it takes more than traditional corporate philanthropy to make an impact on a complex social problem such as low and very low levels of literacy. It takes collaboration, commitment and long-term grassroots involvement.
Seidenberg pointed to how Congress helps by supporting family literacy initiatives and providing funding for literacy research and studies that can better evaluate the state of literacy in America. He also pledged that Verizon will continue to attack the literacy issue with every resource at its disposal, and he urged the rest of corporate America - as well as Verizon's partners in government and education -- to join in the fight.
Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 135.1 million access line equivalents and 30.3 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. With more than $67 billion in annual revenues and approximately 241,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.