THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO STUDENTS AT KRAMER JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL Kramer Junior High School Washington, D. C.
10:50 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Give Carlotta another hand. Didn't she do a good job? (Applause.) She was nervous. I told her there was nothing to it. She did a great job. Thank you, Carlotta. Thank you, Mr. Poles. I'm very, very glad to be here.
I wanted to come here the day after I gave the State of the Union Address last week, but I lost my voice. And as you can hear, I haven't quite gotten it back. But I think I can at least say what I came to say and hopefully answer some of your questions.
Every year the President gives the State of the Union Address to report to our whole country on the accomplishments and goals of the country and of the government. But I came to Kramer this morning because I wanted to say something else. And that is that the future of our union depends not just on the President and the Congress, on what I do or don't do, it also depends on you -- every boy and girl in this school and every person like you all across this country, in the biggest cities, in the smallest towns and all the places in between, on how well you prepare for your life and how well you're able to lead it. That will shape what kind of country America is, and it will affect all the rest of us as well.
I think all of you know this, but this school has produced two graduates who are now part of what I do at the White House. And I want to formally introduce them. First, the Assistant Agent-in-Charge of my Secret Service detail, a person in charge of protecting me, Mr. Danny Sprigs. Stand up, Danny. (Applause.) He graduated from this school, went on to the University of New Mexico, and played football for the Dallas Cowboys, and then came back to the Secret Service and progressed through the ranks to his present, very important position.
Second, I'd like to introduce one of my very talented White House photographers, also a graduate of this school, Ms. Sharon Farmer. (Applause.) Sharon, where are you? There she is, down in front. (Applause.) She graduated from this school, went on to Ohio State University where she was elected president of the student body, then became a photographer, and is so good at what she does, that she is on the staff of the President.
I'd also like to tell you that the head of our Secret Service detail, Rich Miller, grew up in this neighborhood. So there was a lot of interest in Kramer.
The Secret Service agents every year who protect the First Family give the President and the First Lady a Christmas gift. I don't know what those gifts have been in the past, but this year I got a letter from my Secret Service detail saying that because I had emphasized service so much and worked so hard to pass a national service bill, which gives young people like you the chance to earn some money to go to college by serving in their community, that they
wanted their gift to me to be the adoption of this school. They wanted the people on the Secret Service detail to come into this school, to work with the young people, to try to make it a healthy, safe, growing place where you could learn more and where you could have contact with them -- some very good people who have led very interesting lives. I can tell you, for my money, it was the best Christmas present I got this year. And I am very, very grateful for it.
When these two people who work for me went to this school years ago, our country had some problems then, too - the bigotry, the racism that then existed in our country was more overt than it is now. And they had some hills to climb to achieve what they have achieved in life.
In the years since, some of that open injustice has gone away, but all of you know now we have a whole set of new problems -- are problems that were maybe there then but are worse now. There are too many neighborhoods where it seems that nobody has a job; too many places where families don't stay together and too many places where kids are literally at risk of being shot or beat up going to and from school and sometimes in school.
To correct this problem we've got to work together. I've got to do my part and you've got to help to create safe schools where learning occurs and to make sure that we have the kind of neighborhoods and the kind of futures that all of you deserve.
I know that a lot of you have lived with violence. I know you've seen it up close. I imagine some of you have people in your own family who have been hurt. And maybe you know people who have given up on themselves and given up on our country, who've dropped out and are just angry all the time, doing their best to live from day to day, not thinking much about the future.
The first thing I want to ask of you is not to give up. Don't give up on yourselves and don't give up on your country. I very much want you to go to school in safety, where you learn things and can look forward to a brighter and richer future. I want you to feel that you should that you must stay off drugs and graduate from high school and go beyond. I want you to believe that you can do as much with your life as Danny Sprigs and Sharon Farmer have; or for that matter, that if you work hard and you really care enough about it, you might someday be in the United States Congress like Eleanor Holmes Norton, or maybe even be running for President.
I came here more than anything else today to say I don't want you ever to give up on yourselves. I don't intend to give up on you as long as I am President. I'm going to keep working for better education, safer streets and a brighter future; but it's for your life. And no matter what I do, I can't live your lives for you. No matter whether we do the right or the wrong things in public life, we can't live your lives for you -- you have to do that. Every day you have to decide whether you're going to be here on time with a good attitude, learning as much as you can. Every day you have to decide whether the future is what happens to you 30 minutes from now or what happens to you 10 or 20 years from now. Every day you have to decide what you believe, what you care about, and what kind of person you're going to be.
I'm doing what I can to make the future better for you. Even as we are here today, the United States Congress is debating a bill that the Secretary of Education, Secretary Riley, introduced with my administration called Goals 2000. It embodies some ideas I have been working on for years and years -- ever since I was a Governor. And I think it's fair to say that I have probably spent more time in public schools like this one all over America, as well as in my own state, than any person ever elected President. I have
listened to teachers; I have listened to principals; and I have listened to students -- not for just a year, but for more than a decade.
What this legislation that Congress is debating does is to try to establish what kind of education every child needs in every school. It sets out some goals that will guarantee that if we reach them, all of our young people, wherever they are, whether they come from poor families or middle-class families or wealthy families, if their schools work right, they'll be prepared to compete and to win in the 21st century.
One of those goals says by the year 2000, every school in America will be free of drugs and violence and will offer a disciplined environment, conducive to learning. No one should have to go to school afraid, and no school should operate in a way that makes learning impossible. But the truth is that while we have some legislation up there to make our schools safer, you have a lot to do with what goes on in this school and whether the environment is good for learning.
Another goal says that by the year 2000 the high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent -- that's the international standard. Another says that every adult should possess the knowledge and the skills needed to get and keep a good job, a job as good as people have in other countries.
When I drive up and down streets in some neighborhoods in this country and I see grown people standing on the street without work, it breaks my heart. And I know a lot of them would like to go to work; and I know a lot of them don't get work in part because they don't have a good education. These goals -- all of these goals -- are critical to your future. I want to start with the last one.
When I was your age, the unemployment rate in this country was three percent, more or less. When I graduated from high school, I knew a lot of people who dropped out of high school. I mean, that was a long time ago. Lots of folks didn't finish school. But I didn't know a soul, black or white, with or without an education, who wanted a job who didn't have one. That's the literal truth when I was 17. That's the economy we had then. That was the reality then. Everybody I knew who was willing to work could find work.
Now, that's not true anymore, is it? It's just not true. Today, more than ever before, whether you have a job or not and how much you can earn at the job and what your future is depends upon how much you can learn. Not just what you know, but how much you can learn. People who graduate from high school make twice as much as those who don't. Those who get training after high school make more. Those who graduate from college make twice as much again. And those who are willing to learn for a lifetime can deal with the hard truth that the average 18-year-old today will change work seven or eight times over the course of a lifetime.
Now, that can be a good deal. You might, if you do it right, live in the most exciting time America has ever known, because the world is changing so fast. You'll get to know people all over the world. By the time you're my age, you'll be routinely calling people around the world with a television screen along with your telephone -- you'll be talking to people, and there will be instantaneous translation. It will be an exciting time. But it will change so fast that you'll have to be able to learn new things all the time. And you have to decide whether you're going to do that, just like we have to decide whether we're going to give you the tools to do that.
I also think that we've got to say, all of us, there's something wrong. I heard the Vice President went to one of the schools here in D.C. last week, and I don't know if you saw it on television, but one of the students asked him, said, "How can we send a person to the moon and we can't make our schools safe?" Pretty good question, isn't it?
What kind of country is it that can send somebody to the moon and can't make our schools safe? Well, we've got some legislation in Congress today designed to do that. Designed to take guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them; to restrict semiautomatic and assault weapons; designed to provide more security for our schools; and designed to give our schools the tools they need in high violence areas; to teach young people to find other ways, nonviolent ways to resolve their differences; to stop people from thinking about the future is what happens five seconds or 30 minutes from now and start thinking about what happens four years and 10 years and 20 years from now -- building a life, not acting on a violent impulse. We're working on that.
What the Secret Service did in adopting this school is also a wonderful thing because, you know, you can see me today and you can ask me questions. And then these good folks in the media, they'll report it all over the country. And a lot of young people like you will identify with what happened. They'll say, well, he didn't come to my school, but at least he came to a school like my school and talked to kids like me. But the President can't see everybody. So I hope that my Secret Service detail, by adopting this school, first of all, will make a difference in your life. I hope it will make your education more rewarding, more interesting, and I hope you'll get to know these people because they're good people.
And secondly, I hope they will set an example, and all over America now more people will say, well, maybe I ought to go out into the schools, maybe I ought to help, maybe I ought to do something for these kids. And if that happens, Kramer will have done a great service for young people all across the United States.
I want to ask you all, before I open the floor to questions, to think about what I said today. Yes, we need to do a better job in making the streets safer and the schools safer. Yes, we've got to do a better job of creating more jobs so you have some opportunity out there. Yes, we've got to do a better job of giving your schools the tools they need so that you can get the best possible education. But you've got to decide what happens to you. You have to decide whether you're going to give up on you or whether someday you're going to play football for the Cowboys and be in the Secret Service or go off to a fine school like Ohio State and come back and have a job at the White House. You have to make that decision. No President, no politician can make that decision for you.
I haven't given up on the young people of this country. I think you are as smart and as good as any generation we have ever produced, and you deserve better than you are getting. And I am going to try to make your streets safe, your schools better and the job future better. But you also have to say, I am going do the most I can with my life, I'm going to be what God meant for me to be. I'll try to keep up my end of the deal and I want you to keep up yours.
Thank you and God bless you all.
PRINCIPAL POLES: Thank you, Mr. President. At this time, we will have some questions from our student body before the President comes -- I would also like to take the opportunity to introduce to you our school board president, Ms. Linda Moody. It was
an oversight on my behalf. (Applause.) Thank you, Ms. Moody. We will proceed with the questioning period. You have a mike, okay.
THE PRESIDENT: Now, where are the mikes out in the audience? Where are they? Oh, okay. Now, how are we going to do this? The mikes have a long cord so that the ladies can go all the way up. If you've got a question or a comment, raise your hand and they'll bring you the microphone. Don't be shy. There you go. Take mine. Tell us who you are and what grade you're in.
Q I'm in the 9th grade. And I would like to know why Kramer ain't got coed lunches.
THE PRESIDENT: Coed what?
THE PRESIDENT: Lunch? That's one thing I don't know the answer to. I don't know why Kramer doesn't have coed lunch, but surely the principal can answer the question before I leave.
But if I were you, I'd want it, too. (Laughter.)
Go ahead, listen now. You all be quiet and listen to your classmates, one at a time.
Q I am in the 9th grade, and I would like to know, in respect to the crime bill, what happens on the first or second strike?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm sorry, I didn't -- what?
Q In respect to the crime bill, what happens on the first or second strike, since we're trying to avoid the third strike?
THE PRESIDENT: What are the strikes?
Q What happens on the first and second strike?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Well, on the first or second -- what happens -- he's asking -- the crime bill, there's a provision, there will be a provision which says if you commit three violent crimes, you can't be paroled. No parole after three violent crimes. You asked what happens on the first or the second crime -- it depends on, frankly, what the offense was. In other words, those people will go through the criminal justice system -- and let's suppose it's an armed robbery, and the maximum sentence is 20 years, and jury gives 15 years, then the person will go to prison under a 15-year sentence and will be eligible for parole after serving a certain amount of that time.
So then most states -- and the federal government has sentencing guidelines on this -- most states have laws which say if you commit a second crime, you have to serve a much longer period of time before you're eligible for parole. But under this provision we say if the crimes are violent, if you're really hurting somebody, then you shouldn't be paroled at all if you do it three times, because you've obviously shown that you're going to spend your life hurting other people and it's not worth the risk.
But the first two will be covered by whatever the law is now. And it depends on what the crime is and what the circumstances are.
Q Good morning, Mr. President. I'm in the seventh grade. In your State of Address Union, you mentioned the Safe Water Act. What are some of the specifics of this act?
THE PRESIDENT: It's a drinking water act -- safe drinking water act -- and what we have to -- we have to reauthorize it, but basically what it does is to set standards. It's important now in Washington, you know, because you just had some problems with that -- serious problems. What it will do is to set standards for the testing of water throughout the country and all municipalities, all cities, and the evaluations of the water systems and will have certain requirements to upgrade those systems, hopefully before something terrible happens like this; that the whole idea of it is to find out problems -- if the drinking water of a given community -- normally it will start to get bad and will slowly deteriorate. So the idea is to have a testing procedure so that the quality of the water can always be monitored. And if it starts to deteriorate, there will be a requirement that it be cleaned up so that people will always have a safe water supply all over the country.
Q Hello, Mr. President. I would like to know, what can I do in my community to stop crime?
THE PRESIDENT: Give her a hand. (Applause.) That's great. Well, I think there are several things that you can do as a young person in your community to stop crime. But let me just mention, if I might, two or three.
One is, people always talk today about gangs -- people joining gangs and how bad it is, right? But the truth is, everybody wants to be in some kind of gang. If you play on a football team, it's a gang, right? If you belong to a certain church, that's a group of people who believe like you do and you're with them every Sunday and they're part of your crowd and it's part of your identity. In other words, all of us want to be with other people who are like us who make us feel good and important because we're a part of their group. In a way, the Kramer school is a gang, right? It's a group of people who go here and there's a limited number of people and others don't go here.
So the first thing I want to say to you is, I think that the more you can do as a young person to get other young people to associate with each other in positive ways, the less likely they'll be to associate with each other in negative ways. You can't just tell kids no all day; sometimes you've got to have something to say yes about. There's has to be something to say yes to. And you can ask adults to do what they need to do -- if there needs to be more opportunity for recreation or something else that adults should do, provide for you, so that people can have positive associations, I think that counts, first thing.
The second thing I think is important is that we know crime goes down where police officers work in neighborhoods on a consistent basis, know the young people, know the adults and work to prevent crime instead of just to catch criminals. So the second thing you could do is to help organize people in your neighborhood to work with people in the police to stop crime before it happens -- that is to report suspicious things. If you think there is drug dealing going on, or you think there are people with illegal weapons, or you think there is something else going on, there's some risk that might be happening, to let people know in advance. And that really counts for a lot. I have seen cities in this country with very tough neighborhoods where the crime rate dropped dramatically because the people in the neighborhood got organized and worked with the police on the front end to stop things from happening.
The third thing you could do that I think is really important is to do everything you can to organize young people to keep each other in school, because most people who show up for school on time, stay in school, learn something when they're in school, and try to work out their problems in a positive way in school don't wind up getting in trouble with the law. Those are the three things that
I think you could do that would have the biggest impact on the crime problem.
Q Good morning Mr. President. Since family life has been breaking down for the last 30 years, what can my generation do to restore family values?
THE PRESIDENT: Did you hear what she said? She said, if family life has been breaking down for 30 years, what can my generation do to restore it? Good question. First thing you can do is make up your mind you're not going to have a baby until you're old enough to take care of it, until you're married. (Applause.)
I mean, that's the most important thing. You know, I gave -- how many of you all saw my speech the other night? Did any of you see it? I guess you knew I was coming, so some of you watched it. (Laughter.) Did they tell you to watch it? The principal told you to watch the speech. We spent all this time -- now, I'm trying to figure out how to help people get off of welfare -- good people who are strapped on welfare, who hate it, who don't want to be on it. And I've got some ideas, and I've learned a lot from people who are on welfare about it.
But one big problem is, people get on it because they start having children when they are children. And that's the first thing. The second thing that you ought to do is something you can't do alone, and that is that we need to organize, starting about this age, young men to start talking among each other about what their responsibilities are, and that they shouldn't -- they should not go out and father these kids when they're not prepared to marry the mothers, they're not prepared to take responsibility for the children, and they're not even able to take responsibility for themselves. This is not a sport, this is a solemn responsibility. (Applause.)
Look, it's hard -- then, once you get married, people have to realize they're going to have to ride through some tough times to keep the family together. There is no such thing as a trouble-free family. There's no such thing as a family where fights never occur, where differences never happen, where some days you think it wouldn't be easier to quit than to go on. There is no such family.
So the third thing we should be doing when young people are young is to say, look, the family is the most wonderful institution in society, but it's a human thing, which means it's full of fault, too. And you need to think about it. And when you make a commitment to it, you need to do everything you can to hang in there with it, all the way, because it makes life much more meaningful. Life is lonely enough as it is. And if you have a family and you have people that are helping you, it makes a huge difference and it makes life better.
I'm telling you, until we decide this is a -- this is a big, cultural thing. We've got to make a decision. Every one of you have to make it -- is it right or wrong if you're a boy, to get some girl pregnant and then forget about it? I think it's wrong. I think it's not only wrong for them, I think it's wrong for you. It's something you pay for the rest of your life. You carry that in the back of your head, somewhere there's some child out there you didn't take care of that's in terrible shape because of something you didn't do. And if you're a young girl, you've got to think -- being a mother is still the most important thing in society. It is the most important thing that any person can do. But when you do it, you ought to do it when it's right, when it's right for you, when it's right for the child, and when you can do it right.
And we just have to make a decision -- if you really want to rebuild the family, then people have to decide: I'm not going to have a baby until I'm married. I'm not going to bring a baby into the world I can't take care of. And I'm not going to turn around and walk away when I do it. I'm going to take responsibility for what I do. (Applause.)
I wish there was some high-falutin' easy way to say it, but there's not. There isn't any way to turn this thing around except to turn it around.
Q My question was, what type of steps are you going to take to help the slow of AIDS in the community?
THE PRESIDENT: AIDS? The AIDS problem?
Q Yes. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: He asked what we were going to do to try to slow down AIDS in the community. How many of you know somebody with AIDS? A pretty good number, huh? I'll tell you what we're doing, then let's talk about what's happening.
Even though, if you heard my speech the other night, I talked about how we were reducing government spending in many areas to bring our debt down, our deficit down. We have increased government spending a lot in trying to improve research, to try to find a cure or at least a treatment for AIDS that will keep people alive, and to try to improve the ability of folks who care with folks with AIDS and continue their useful life as long as possible.
In addition to that, we've tried to promote more AIDS education and prevention. But this is kind of like the question you asked me about the family. Right now the only thing we know that works with regard to AIDS is not to get it. And we know that AIDS is spread primarily in two ways -- because of drug users using unsafe needles and because of unsafe sex -- primarily homosexual sex, but not exclusively.
Now, so what we're trying to do is be honest, brutally honest about that, talk to young people, tell them that you're life in on the line, and the only safe way -- the only way to avoid dying from AIDS that we know right now is not to get it. And that's the truth.
I think eventually we will, if not find a cure because it's a virus, but we'll at least find a treatment that will keep people alive. But we're not there yet. So I'm going to spend more money every year I'm President to do more on research and development, to more on care to try to lengthen the useful of people with AIDS. And of us who've ever had friends with AIDS, some of you probably even have family members, have been gripped by this. It is agonizing, and it is a terrible problem for the United States. And I have friends who have died with AIDS or who have it now. So it's something I care a great deal about. But I have to tell you again, it's kind of like this schooling that right now, as much as I can do about it, the most important person in determining what happens to you and AIDS is you. And I hope that you will do it. (Applause.)
Q Hello, -- and I'm in the eight grade. I would like to know what are your thoughts about privatization in public schools?
THE PRESIDENT: Private schools and what? Privatization?
THE PRESIDENT: Privatization of the schools. Well, first of all, you asked about the private schools. This country has always actually done pretty well because we've had private schools and public schools. Most people have gone to public school, but there have been private schools out there for people either who, for religious or other purposes, wanted to use them. And most schools, at least those that are religiously motivated, have always provided some scholarships for people who couldn't afford to pay the tuition. So I think it's provided some competition that on balance, I think, has been good.
There's a whole different thing going on about privatization, which I think is what you want me to talk about. Baltimore, for example, has nine or 10 schools now where the local school board has contracted with a private company and they've given them whatever the budget of the school was and let them organize the schools, try to improve the physical facilities, try to operate them well. Then they are responsible for the principal, the teachers, how the thing operates. I think school districts ought to try it if they have real problems in their schools.
I don't -- our bill -- those schools are mostly -- those schools are called charter schools, where the public school system turns -- gives a charter to a private group to operate the schools. If the schools aren't working, and if the schools board decides they can't make them work, then I think they ought to try this. If it works, great; and if it doesn't work, they're no worse off than they were. So I think they ought to have the right to try it. I think they ought to be encouraged to try it. Our legislation, which is moving through Congress, encourages this sort of experimentation.
Let me say this, in defense of our schools: Public schools and public housing projects -- let's put them in there, too -- they both work just fine -- when you had strong families, strong communities, and the people who lived in them had a job. Public schools and public housing projects didn't really start to break down until the family and the jobs and the community started breaking down. So we have loaded a whole lot on to our public schools.
Now, that means we've got to be smart and we've got to be creative because, still, the schools is the best hope that all of you have. But do I think it ought to be tried if a school's not working and the school board wants to try it? You bet I do. I don't see what we have to lose by trying it. If the school board wants to do it, I'm all for them.
Q Mr. President, how will the national information superhighway impact schools?
THE PRESIDENT: Great question. If we do it right, what the national information superhighway will do is to set up a system in which if the schools can get the appropriate computer equipment, which I think will happen in the future, that a school like this one could be connected to schools all over the country, maybe all over the world, the libraries all over the country. You could interconnect with special television stations that were putting out certain information. You could -- in other words, you could have access in the school, in the classroom to worlds of information that now you have to go someplace to find. It would, in effect, bring instantaneously, literally, in theory, billions of pieces of information into the fingertips of students all over America in all schools. And it's very, very important in its implications for American education because if we do the national information superhighway right and we make sure that we get the kind of communications equipment, the kind of trained personnel we need out in the schools, it could go an enormous way toward vanishing or erasing the difference between wealthy school districts and poor
ones, between wealthy schools and poor ones, by giving everybody access to the same information at the same time.
You could also have special courses like interactive video to take courses that otherwise could never be made available in schools, immediately, everywhere. So, if we do it right it's going to be great for education, it's also going to be a great equalizer for us. I'm really hopeful about it.
Q Hello. I would like to know how much money was cut from government spending?
THE PRESIDENT: How much money does the federal government spend?
Q How much money was cut from government spending?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, how much had been cut. I'm sorry. Well, we spend every year -- let me tell you how much we spend so I can explain that. We spend every year about $1.5 trillion. When I became President we were taking in about $1.2 trillion, so our deficit was about $300 billion a year. Last year we cut $255 billion from last year's budget, and we increased spending in certain areas. We increased spending education and health and in high technology, and we raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans and we raised the gas tax some and we cut the deficit $300 billion. So last year there were $255 billion of spending cuts in the budget. This year, the Congress hasn't started work on it. I just sent a budget up there this year, this time. So the Congress hasn't started work on it, but we'll have to have a whole range of other cuts, and I propose that they cut 300-plus different programs and eliminate 100 altogether so that we can continue to increase our investment into things that matter, like these education programs.
Q Good morning, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.
Q I would like to know, in the year 2000, what level of technology should we have achieved? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: That is a great question. Let me say this: I don't think it's possible to answer that, because I don't think we know how fast technology will improve in the world. So I wish I could answer it, but I can't.
Let me try to give you an answer, however, by starting with where we are now. We know that there are seven or eight major areas of technology that will provide most of the high-wage, highgrowth jobs of the future -- that is, the good jobs. And that if we got a whole bunch of them, they in turn will create other solid jobs. One of those areas is civilian aviation. Another is biotechnology -- that goes back to Jesse's AIDS question -- biotechnology -- how are you going to solve all these problems of the human body and disease and everything. There's worlds of jobs there. Another will be telecommunications. Another will be computer software.
The answer to your question is, what we have to do is to educate our people well enough and to put enough money aside for research so that we achieve whatever level of technology anybody else in the world achieves. Otherwise, they will leave us behind. But technology is changing so fast -- I can't say -- I can tell you this: We know now that in order to have the assurance of having a job with a growing income right now in America, everybody that wants to have some assurance of a decent job with a growing income needs at least a high school education and two more years of training -- every 18-year old looking forward -- at least.
Q Good morning, Mr. President. I want to know how will NAFTA affect our job market in future generations?
THE PRESIDENT: How will NAFTA affect our job market in future generations?
NAFTA will create -- and, of course, you know I'm for it, so I have a -- my view -- you'd have to -- there are people who are against it who would give you something else. I believe NAFTA will create a lot more jobs for Americans because Mexico has almost 100 million people and is growing very rapidly. And most of the products the Mexican people buy that are made in other countries are products made in America. In order for us to create more jobs for the American people, we have to have more customers for our products and services. Obviously. You look at the unemployment rate today, you can see that we're capable of producing everything Americans want to buy and still not using up all the labor we've got. In other words, we can produce everything that Americans want to buy and there will still be Americans unemployed. So if we want every American who wants to work to have a job, we've got to have more customers. NAFTA gives us more customers and it will create more jobs.
It will also -- I don't want to gloss it over -- there will also be some things that the Mexicans sell to Americans that used to be made by Americans. So there will be some job loss. But I'm convinced there will be a lot more jobs gained than lost. And if I weren't, I wouldn't have supported it in the first place.
Q Good morning. I would like to know, how can we keep the drugs off the street?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think there are two or three things we have to focus on. How can we keep the drugs off the street? Your ideas are maybe better than mine. Maybe you ought to tell me how you think we can keep the drugs off the street. I've got two or three ideas I want to mention, though. One is, most cities do not have enough police officers to give the neighborhoods the kind of coverage they need. Thirty years ago, there were three police officers in this country for every violent crime reported. Today, there are three crimes, violent crimes, for every police officer. So most cities simply don't have the people they need to work in the neighborhoods, stay there and help keep the places safe and drug-free -- first thing.
Second thing is that schools should become drug-free areas. You ought to be able to get the drugs out of the schools, and then kids should be taught from a very early age about the hazards of drugs -- that they can kill you, they can take your life away.
The third thing is, we've got to bring another economy to the areas where people are doing drugs, because it's a business. People have to have other ways of making a living. We have to create an alternative future.
So I think there's law enforcement, I think there's drug education and treatment, which I know works, because I've had -- my own brother has had a drug problem, and I know that works. But I think you also have to create another future. We have to tell people -- keep in mind, the drugs got real bad in the places where the family and the community and the jobs were all disappearing. So I think we have to again create an alternative reality.
One of the things we're trying to do in our administration is to create some conditions in which people will go in and invest money and hire people in these areas where people have been making money off drugs instead of off honest jobs. But you all might have better ideas than that. If you've got any ideas for me
about what to do about drugs, stand up and give me one of your ideas. I'd like to have -- go ahead.
Q I'm in the 8th grade. Mr. President, how will the renewal reform reach out for the betterment of our children? In other words, how will the --
THE PRESIDENT: I understand now. I'm sorry. You have to forgive me, I'm a little hard of hearing. It comes with age for some people. Well, it will be tetter in several ways. First of all, obviously if we can keep creating more jobs, that provides more hope. Jobs and incomes help families to stay together; they help people to succeed as parents. Let me say one more thing about -- I got asked some questions earlier about what can be done to strengthen the family. For people who already have children, you've got to do the best you can and you can succeed. I mean, I was raised by a mother who was a single parent when I was born. So a lot of people do a good job. But the first thing we've got to do is to provide more jobs, and keep doing it until we can put our people to work.
The second thing we have to do is to give people a sense that they can take their streets back; that through this crime bill and through these other initiatives, people who are willing to obey the law can at least live in a safe environment and children can go to a safe school.
The third thing that we have to do, in my opinion, is to try to give people a leg up in life. That's what the education programs and the welfare reform programs are all about -- giving people a chance to see that they can always do better than they're doing if they're willing to work at it.
The fourth thing we have to do is to -- and this is why I want the health care program to pass so much -- is to give people the security of knowing that they can succeed in all these different ways -- that you can succeed as a student, you can succeed as a worker, you can succeed as a parent, and that if you work hard and play by the rules and you're trying to make something of your life, you will have a certain level of personal security. And that's what we're trying to do.
In other words, I think America should be seen as sort of an extended family, a big community. And I think we should look at all of our people, without regard to where they live or what their race is, as an enormous resource, as something precious, where everybody is equally important. And I don't think we can make it as a country unless we do that. I don't think we can make it as a country -- in my old age when I want to be retired and taken care of by somebody else unless all of you do well. And we are going to have reinvigorate our education system, our job system, our criminal justice system and our health care system at least if you all are going to do that. And that's what I work for all the time -- so that you'll have the freedom to make whatever you want of your life.
I mean, I don't like the fact that a lot of young people like you wake up every day and look in the mirror and don't believe that they could do whatever they want to do. The best thing that could ever happen to us is if tomorrow you and everybody like you got up and got ready for school and looked in the mirror and said: You know, whatever I really want to do, I can go as far as my God-given abilities will take me. I'm not going to be burdened by violence. I am not going to be interfered with by drugs. I'm not going to be interfered with by bigotry. I'm not going to do anything stupid to mess myself up. I'm going to hold on and make my life something. And it's never too late to get a second chance -- no matter what's happened before, I can do better. That would be the best thing that ever happened to this country, if all of you believe that and acted on it. And I'm just trying to create an environment where it's true enough so that all of you can believe it.
Are we done?
PRINCIPAL POLES: Thank you, Mr. President. This concludes are question and answer series.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. You guys have been great. Good luck. God bless you. Thank you.
END11:39 A.M. EST