View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 9, 1994
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
              Prince George's County Correctional Center
                       Upper Marlboro, Maryland   

12:22 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Adele Hays, for this fine program we came here to celebrate today. And thank you, Mr. Saxton, for having us here.

I was a little uncomfortable about how hard you all laughed at the -- (laughter.) It occurred to me that this could be one of the great moments in American history for people who hate politicians. You've got the President, the Vice President, half the Cabinet, and a substantial portion of the Congress all in jail at the same time. (Laughter.)

I want to say a special word of thanks, too, to Juseph Mundo, because I know how hard it was for him to stand up here and give that talk. And I thank you, sir, for doing it. (Applause.)

We have introduced a lot of people here today, and I don't want to lengthen that. But there are two people that I think it's very, very important to recognize as I get into what our administration's approach to the drug issue will be, because it is clear to me and has been for some time from personal experience that we have to have, in order to succeed here, an enormous effort across this country that goes way beyond the federal government and way beyond law enforcement, that involves citizens supporting our common effort and involves some pretty sweeping cultural changes -- and there are two Americans who have done as much to try to fight the drug problem in that way as any people who live in our country. I'd like to ask them to stand and be recognized -- the former Secretary of what was then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the Director of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University Joe Califano. Thank you, Joe. (Applause.) And one of our country's most distinguished leaders and the Chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Mr. Jim Burke is also here. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, we came here for a real purpose, to announce our antidrug strategy. I do believe it is the most comprehensive one ever, but we wanted to come here to illustrate that this is an issue which must be dealt with person by person, one at a time. It's a very human problem and that it requires those of us who are trying to deal with it to take certain steps, and those who have already suffered from alcohol or drug abuse to take even stronger steps.

I believe very much in what we are doing today from two angles. One is the first job I ever had the courtesy of the voters was the job of attorney general. I started out in a law enforcement job. Second is that I have had the questionable privilege of living in a family that has dealt with both alcoholism and drug abuse. I know treatment works. I also know that it is important to be tough as well as caring.

And what we are trying to do today is to start our government on course that offers the promise of real results to the American people. When I asked Lee Brown to come and be head of the Office of Drug Policy, I told him that for the first time ever I would make the Director a member of my Cabinet; that I recognized that it was folly to believe that 100 or 125 or, for that matter, 1,000 people working in a federal office in Washington could change the habits and the policies of the American people that we had to enlist the entire government.

And I dare say this is probably the first time that we've ever had seven Cabinet members on a stage at the same time all manifesting their commitment to dealing with this issue. And there are many others -- we'll have a total of 10 just in the next two days who will be announcing their part of this battle to implement this strategy. (Applause.)

We also have here the Director of our AIDS effort, the head of the Internal Revenue Service, the head of the Secret Service. We have an enormous number of federal officials here who are not on this stage who have a big part of this endeavor. I say this to illustrate the fact that we have really tried to be very realistic, very hard-headed to try to take some time to think about what it is we can do and what it is the rest of America has to do to reinvigorate this nation's fight against the surge of drugs.

We know we have to build on the works of parents and community leaders who did so much to bring down casual drug use in the 1980s. We know we have to add to the staffs of law enforcement authorities who have proved there are things you can do that work. We know that where energies have been deployed effectively -- whether it was cracking down on pushers, cracking down on drug networks, or building up people like this man who spoke so eloquently today --that they can make progress.

We also know some pretty tough facts. We know that hard-core drug abuse in America has continued unabated. We know that its persistence represents the threat to the stability of our society and the economic future of our country. We know that no nation can fight crime and drugs without dealing honestly and forthrightly with the problem of drug addiction.

As I said in my State of the Union address, we need an approach to crime and drugs that is both tough and smart. We very often have one without the other and we pay the price for that, as well.

The crime bill and this strategy we announced today puts more into law enforcement than we've ever put before. It does more to keep drugs off the street. It does more than ever before to help hard-core drug users into treatment programs where they belong. It is a new national attack on drug addiction.

The craving for drugs is an enormous factor in a lot of our problems -- the rise of violence, the spread of AIDS, the spiraling costs of health care. Every time I have one of my town meetings on health care, I tell the American people we have to do some things to provide health care to all Americans and bring down the cost, but we have to be honest. No health care proposal can solve all the problems that lead American health care to be more expensive than any other country. And one big one health care cannot solve is the fact that we pay more for violence because we've got our emergency rooms full of people who have been cut up and shot. We pay more to deal with AIDS. And both those things are the direct result, in large measure, of our very high rate of drug abuse. You know it and I know it. So if we want to deal with this problem, we have to face it. (Applause.)

You also heard Mr. Mundo say in such powerful terms that he lost everything. We know that drug abuse is a big factor in the breakdown of families, in the increase in joblessness, in the increase in homelessness. How many people -- every day when I go out for my run at the White House, I see what seems like an everincreasing number of people who are living homeless within three or four blocks of the White House. And you know every one of them has a personal life story -- many of them, a story that involves drugs.

We know if you go to any children's hospital in any sizeable city today, and you go to the ward where the little babies are, you'll see baby after baby after baby born with an addiction to drugs. We know that now many of our streets are too dangerous to walk and our schools even dangerous to attend. I met a young man about a year ago from Chicago, who was a big, strapping, handsome young fellow who wanted to really make something of his life. And he said that he knew he had to get an education to do it, but he was scared to walk from home to school to get the ticket out of his neighborhood. I've had that scene replayed many times just in the last year with other people.

If we want to, therefore, reduce crime and cut health care costs and reform our welfare system, if we want to rebuild our families and our communities, all these things require a serious effort to curb the use of drugs. Part of it is enforcement. The crime bill now before the Congress is part of that strategy. It would put another 100,000 police officers on the street. It would provide boot camps for juvenile offenders. It would provide dramatic increases in support for drug courts -- very successful drug courts, like the ones in Florida, New York, California, and the District, where court-ordered rehabilitation programs have cleaned people up and freed prison cells for truly violent criminals. The Miami drug court has treated 4,500 first offenders since 1987, with a rearrest rate of only 11 percent. (Applause.)

We know these kinds of initiatives will support the efforts of community grass-roots efforts, like the one sponsored by Monsignor East and his parishioners in Washington who started an orange-hat brigade, where community leaders patrol streets in bright orange hats, sending a message that drugs and drug trade won't be tolerated.

There are thousands of groups like this all across America who work with police to shut down crack houses and take the neighborhoods back. Last Friday the Vice President and the Cabinet outlined our new plan to help residents of public housing rid themselves of crime and drugs. We can't do that unless people at the grass roots participate and take the lead. But we have to also do our part. The most effective things mobilize all the resources of a community. And that's what our strategy seeks to support.

We also seek to support a new, more drug-free America through prevention. We need to reach people before they get started through prevention and early intervention, especially among our young people before they enter middle school, much less high school or college. The latest statistics show an increase in drug use among the young. Our children need a constant drum beat reminder that drugs are not safe, drugs are not good, drugs are illegal, there will be consequences for using them.

I know a lot of these programs work. I saw them work in the schools where my child attended when she was very, very young. I saw the impact that a law enforcement officer in a uniform, talking to children who had never before had a positive human personal relationship with an authority figure could have in these schools. I know we can do it. And our proposal provides a substantial increase in funds to support those kinds of activities. (Applause.)

We also know we have to do more in the workplace. Drugfree programs that work can be every bit as important and effective as drug-free programs at school. Our strategy supports programs like these and calls on everyone in a position of influence to do their part.

Finally, we have to have some more effort at treatment. This strategy recognizes that drug addiction is a disease, that it can and should be treated, and that treatment can work, as Adele said. We're letting hard-core drug users know that if you're an addict caught in the cycle of drug abuse, we can help you to get the help you need. Our goal is to get 140,000 more hard-core users into treatment in the next year -- 140,000 more. (Applause.) Targeting chronic hard-core users, including adults and juveniles under the supervision of criminal authorities, along with pregnant women and children.

Every dollar we spend on treatment will save seven dollars America is losing today. It will make up for lost productivity. It will safe money we are using now to fight the problem instead of to prevent it. This target is a significant start that allows us to expand programs as the effectiveness of service and research findings grow.

One of the most important parts from your perspective of our health care proposal is that it would include drug treatment as part of health care coverage. This is a very important thing. We have to recognize that until we have the appropriate level of treatment on demand without delay we will continue to pay for a problem that we can reduce.

You know treatment works. It's time for the Congress to recognize it in the form of the budgets we have presented, and for America to aggressively embrace it in the way you have at this institution. (Applause.)

We also recognize we need to try to do something to control the supply. Strategy calls for what we strongly believe is an improvement of our international drug control program, shifting away from a policy that was focused largely on interdiction -- that is stopping the drugs when they were on the way to the United States -- to a three-pronged approach: working with countries in which drugs are grown that have the political will to go after the kingpins in those countries; -- (applause) -- destroying the cartels that grow rich from supplying our people with drugs; -- (applause) -- and continuing our interdiction effort, hopefully with better technology and smarter efforts that allow us to interdict even more drugs. That is very important. We should not stop it, but we must supplement those efforts so that we can be more successful. (Applause.)

Dr. Brown has said, yes, we want to continue our presence at the border to interdict drugs, but we don't want to wait for people at the border anymore. He says he's tired of swatting hornets, he'd rather go after the hornet's nest. And that's a pretty good line. (Applause.)

I might say our friends and neighbors beyond our borders should welcome this. We have seen in nation after nation how international drug trafficking is a threat to democratic institutions. It fuels human rights abuses and terrorism against the innocent. It undermines legitimate, broad-based economic development. It contributes to regional instability. Many of the countries that deal with this problem will never become what they want to be until they're able to be rid of it. We ought to help them -- for ourselves and for their own people as well.

This is an important part of our foreign policy, toward major source countries and major transit countries. We have to make it an important part of our commitment to promoting democracy,

economic reform and human rights. None of that's going to happen in countries dominated by people who dictate events because of the profits of the drug trade.

Finally, let me end where I began. From my own personal experience, in my family as well as my work in law enforcement as an attorney general and a governor, I believe still that once it occurs drug addiction has to be overcome one person at a time. In the past year, as President I've spoken about drugs on 85 separate occasions. And I can keep talking about this until I, once again, lose my voice. (Laughter.) But you and I know that we're not going to make a dent in this problem except by having it happen -- one person at a time. If this man had not chosen to take some responsibility for his own life, then this fine program would still be just another expenditure of taxpayer money. (Applause.)

The newly-inaugurated Mayor of Detroit, Dennis Archer, offered a challenge to his city when he was sworn into office. I'd like to quote it for you now because it equals what I think we're facing. He said, and I quote: "To the people of Detroit, stand with me when I tell the dope man to get off our streets, to leave our children alone, to get out of our way. We're taking back our streets, and we're taking back our children."

Well, Mayor Archer can't do it alone, Monsignor East can't do it alone. But this administration and the entire weight of state and local government can't do it alone either. The people of this country have got to take responsibility for themselves, their children and their neighbors. If we work with them -- if we say we know hard-core drug users can't do it alone; the help they need is treatment, the help they need is support -- then I think we can make a real profound difference.

I want every American, every member of Congress, every state official, everybody who works for a mayor or a city government to join me in putting this strategy to work. This is a national strategy, not a federal strategy. I don't want it to become partisan in any way, shape or form. This should unite us in America -- people in the private sector, people in government, people at the local level, people at the national level, Republicans and Democrats, people who are inside this institution and people who are beyond its walls. We have a common interest in saving our country. And all of us have a personal responsibility to pursue. This drug strategy we announce today is our attempt to be your partner and pursue our personal responsibility. And together, together we can do it.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END12:42 P.M. EST