THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Boston, Massachusetts) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release January 31, 1995
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN MEETING WITH MAYOR'S YOUTH COUNCIL
Parkman House Boston, Massachusetts
4:11 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just begin by -- let me make a couple of comments, and then I'll answer your questions. First, I want to congratulate all of you and the Mayor on this remarkable project. I wanted to do this for a couple of reasons, but one is I think this might spread across the country as more people, through the news media, hear about it. I think this is a wonderful idea that every city in the country could profit from copying.
I also want to say I'm glad to be here with your Mayor, with Mrs. Menino, but also with Senator Kennedy and Senator Kerry, who flew up here with me from Washington. We're going to dinner tonight, but they wanted to come over here and see you. And I think that's a great tribute to you and what you're doing.
Let's talk about the drop-out rate a little bit, and especially as it applies to teen parents. This is a big issue. We've just been discussing this down in Washington now as part of what we call the New Covenant. You mentioned that. The New Covenant is, for me, the obligation that we have to create more opportunity and people and citizens have to exercise more responsibility. It means that we in government have to try to help give you the tools you need to make the most of your own lives, and then all of you have to do the most you can with your lives and help your fellow citizens. That's the big reason I wanted to come here today, because I think it's so remarkable that you're committed to doing this.
Now, we know that a lot of people who have children drop out of school -- and one of the things I said to the nation and to the Congress the other night in my speech is that as we reform the welfare system our goal ought to be to prepare people to go to work, to get them in jobs, to keep them in jobs, and to do it in a way that helps them be better parents. So what I'm trying to do is to work with the states all across the country to structure welfare systems where there are always incentives for young people to stay in school and, if they have little children, that the children should be given appropriate child care and other kinds of support.
And I think one of the things that you can do is to hammer home to people that if they can -- if they have enough to get by, they ought to stay in high school before they leave and go to work, because in the world that we're living in, all the people who live in Boston and all the people who live in Massachusetts are competing with people all around the world for jobs and for income. And there's been a huge decline in the earnings of younger workers who are high school dropouts. When you make adjustments for inflation and the cost of living going up year in and year out, younger workers without a high school education are making probably 20 percent less than they were just 10 or 15 years ago.
So you need to go out and tell people, look, I know it's hard right now, but you need to be thinking about the long run. One of the things we've got to do that you can do for your peers, for other young people, that I can't do as well as you can is say to people, hey, the future is not what happens in an hour, it's not what happens tomorrow, it's not what happens next week. It's what happens five years from now, or 10 years from now. And you'll always have to think about not just now, but the future. You've got to always be thinking about your future. That's what you have to do when you're young. And I know it's hard when you've got a lot of responsibilities and a lot of problems, but we have simply got to get more of our young people to realize that if they don't stay in school, then the future won't be what it otherwise could have been.
Q Good afternoon, Mr. President. As well as you already know, we need stronger laws to punish those people who are caught selling guns to our youth. Basically, what can you do about that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, in the crime bill that we passed last year we stiffened penalties under federal law for all gun-related offenses, particularly those that affect young people. And I see it already -- we get reports -- I get reports from the U.S. attorneys around the country that they're beginning to bring cases under all these new laws with stronger penalties.
What I think you need to look at is the fact that most laws that deter crime are passed in the state level, by the state legislature. And most laws then have to be implemented as a matter of policy by local police organizations. So what I think you need to do is to have someone who knows more about that than I do give you a report on what the laws are in Massachusetts and evaluate whether you think the laws are strong enough, and then look and see if you they're being properly enforced.
And let me make one other point, because this goes back to something you can do. I've worked in the area of law enforcement longer than most of you have been alive. I was elected attorney general in my state in 1976. I took office in January of 1977. And I have seen the crime wave rise and fall and rise and fall in my home area.
I lived in a neighborhood, a real old neighborhood in Little Rock when I was the governor of my state. And I saw the crime rate rise and fall and rise and fall. And the most important thing that drove the crime rate down was neighborhood councils like this council. If there were citizens groups working the neighborhood, working with the police, calling the police when there were strangers in the area, calling police when they said there are people here selling guns to kids, there are people here pedaling guns out of the back of their cars, it was amazing how much the crime rate could be driven down.
So I think you should look at the laws at the state level, talk to the Mayor's people here at the local level about how they're being implemented, but also see whether or not the young people are willing to organize themselves in these neighborhood councils in the high-crime areas. I'm talking -- it does more than anything else I've ever seen to lower crime.
Q Mr. President, I notice that often it's the media that is responsible for the negative portrayal of young people in our society. And I realize that we need strong leadership to help convince the media that it is -- that there is a lot good news about today's youth. How can you help us get that message across?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't know that I'm the best one to ask about negative portrayals. (Laughter.) I tell you -- well, one thing about being here, I think it helps, and I came here because you're doing something positive and it's newsworthy and it's different. If you want some advice about it, I'll tell you -- I'll give you my advice. I think you have to follow the same advice that Senator Kennedy or Senator Kerry or Mayor Menino or the President has to follow -- you have to always be looking for new ways to manifest the idea that most young people are good, most young people are in school, most young people are obeying the law, most young people care about their friends and neighbors. And every time you do something to manifest that, then that's new. That is -- let me just give it to you in crass terms, because you can't blame them for this. If you start a program and it's a good program and you do it every day for two years, it's an important thing to do. But it may only be news the day you start it, and then when you have your anniversary. But every time somebody holds up a liquor store or shoots somebody on the street, that's a new and different story. See what I mean?
So you may -- you've got a lot more good people, but it might not be a new thing. So I think one of the things you ought to do is to think about, in this youth council, how many different things are now going on in Boston that are good news, that show young people in a positive light. And how many of them have been written about in the papers? How many of them have been on the local news? What can you do to get the positive story out there?
And you ought to have one person on your council who's job it is to always be thinking of some new thing you're doing that hasn't yet been portrayed. And what you will find is that over time -- you can't turn this around overnight -- but over time, if you're steady about it, you will slowly balance the scales, and people will say, hey, we've got a problem, but most of our kids are good kids.
Q Mr. President, programs like Protect -- they're very important to kids because they provide job training and -- and there are many kids out there that will benefit from these programs. So basically what I'm asking you, if you could prioritize more school-to-work programs and programs like that in your administration.
THE PRESIDENT: The answer is, I will. And you have to ask the Congress to do that same. We were -- Senator Kennedy and Senator Kerry and I were talking on the way up here -- we have cut a lot of spending from the federal budget; a lot. But we've tried to spend more money on education and on job training programs, starting with Head Start and including more affordable college loans, and these school-to-work programs, which train young people to move into jobs and get education while they're doing it. And we're just now -- we just started that program last year, and we're just now expanding it. And I'm really hoping that the new Congress will agree to this approach.
Cut the inessential spending, but put more money into education, because that's really the key to our economic future as a country.
Q Mr. President, all through the area are after- school programs to keep kids away from drugs and gangs, but too many times they seem to be sports-oriented or geared toward boys, where there are a lot girls planning for a field -- job training. So what kind of things do you plan to support these types of programs?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, most of those decisions have to be made by the local school districts and the local communities. What we do is to try to provide the funds, like, for example, in the crime bill, one of the more controversial parts of the crime bill, were the funds that Congress voted for and that I supported to provide cities, for example, monies that they could use in after-school programs and other preventive programs, to try to give young people something positive to do.
The content of those programs, exactly whether there are enough programs for girls and they're as good and fair as the ones for boys and all, all those are things that you have to work out here. So my answer to you is, that's what this youth council's for. You should -- if the city controls the programs, talk to city about it. If there are local groups who make the decision, but they don't work for the Mayor, call them into your council and ask them to come testify. Tell them what you don't like about the program.
In other words, use the power of this council. You're talking about making news, you've got a forum now. Next time you call a council meeting, these folks will come cover you. I won't have to be here. (Laughter.) The Mayor won't have to be here. (Laughter.) And bring them in and say, look, these after- school programs are fine, but they're not good enough. There's this preconception that only boys need it, and girls do, too, and here's what we need. And that's -- you ought to use the power of this council. You ought to think about everything you would change in here, in this community, if you could wave a magic wand, and remember that you have a public forum to do it. Now, that's what the Mayor's giving you.
Q Mr. President, I was just wondering if you -- I was recently accepted at Oxford, and I was just wondering if you could tell me what it's like over there. (Laughter.)
MAYOR MENINO: Tell him what high school you went to. Tell them the background of high school.
Q I go to ACC -- which is a --
THE PRESIDENT: And you're going to -- and you're to start over there next year?
THE PRESIDENT: What college will you be in?
THE PRESIDENT: Good for you. I know right where it is. I think you'll like it a lot. They're very nice people. The programs generally involve more reading and more essay writing and less conventional classroom work than the American programs do; so that young people coming out of American high schools, even out of very good programs, sometimes have to work harder to sort of discipline themselves to do more reading alone. So you'll have to find some friends and make sure that you do all that, because in general the system requires you to do more work on your own. But when you come back you'll be a greater writer. You'll be able to write real well.
MAYOR MENINO: Why don't you talk a little bit about what ACC is, why it's so special -- Oxford.
Q ACC is a program that -- it's a program for juniors and seniors in high school who wish to go to college. And -- (inaudible.)
MAYOR MENINO: Alternative --
Q It's -- yes, it's alternative to like a regular high school.
THE PRESIDENT: What do you want her to explain, Mayor? (Laughter.)
MAYOR MENINO: It's one of those special high schools we
have in the city with young folks like this young woman here. It's an
accomplishment, a real accomplishment for a youngster from that school
to go to Oxford. This is -- you're
really not talking about how much an accomplishment it is for yourself.
THE PRESIDENT: You're being very modest. That's what he's saying.
MAYOR MENINO: It's a real accomplishment. They always have -- Boston Public Schools always take a hit from the public, and we have a young woman here who's achieving a goal that most other young people will not achieve it coming out of a private high school even. You're an achiever.
Q Kristy also goes to it.
Q It's a college-bound program that you have to take a math test to get into and an essay. And the goal of the school is to prepare you to go to college. And you have take the SATs before you go, going into your junior year, you have to write a big, long paper before you get in -- (laughter) -- about a book that you don't know anything about --
Q (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: So they did prepare you well, didn't they? (Laughter.)
Q I would like to thank you from the federal assistance that you provide for our cities that has helped put more cops on the beat. But also, we need more police officers that are trained to deal with all other different cultures in the cities. And I'd like for you to know that when you go back to Washington.
MAYOR MENINO: We did get a million dollars from the President and two senators for bilingual police officers in the city of Boston. You've been helpful in that. And the diversity of Boston, as Boston changes the new police officers who come on the force have to also speak the language of the new individuals coming. Because of the action of the President and our two U.S. senators, we have money in our city budget now for that service.
THE PRESIDENT: It's a huge challenge, though, because a lot of our urban areas now have so many different racial and ethnic groups. Los Angeles County, our country's biggest county, in one county alone, have people from over 150 different racial and ethnic groups.
So it's going to be a big challenge for us to make sure we train our police officers not just in the language, but also in the ways of thinking of people, because it's so easy for people who have different ways of relating to each other to misunderstand one another. And it's very important that our police officers get that kind of training. We're going to have to work hard on that.
MAYOR MENINO: Another thing we've done in the city because of the diversity of the city, we have English as a second language on our municipal channel to try to get the newcomers in our city into a job. I mean, my grandparents came here. They spoke Italian, and they worked construction. They didn't have to speak English. But how many jobs do you have in the city now that you don't have to speak English? Now we have this on a cable TV network twice a day, and we have them in church basements and schools all throughout the city of Boston as we deal with the diversity -- just like you're dealing with this legislation to have 500 more police officers.
Now, perhaps some of these people, newcomers -- you have a job; when you have a job that job is the greatest equalizer you have in this country. And that's very important. I'll tell you, that's a point for cities now, especially as the country faces changes.
Q Mr. President, before I ask my question, my dad wants me to let you know about the November election -- this, too, shall pass. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I'm glad to hear that. (Laughter.) Tell your dad he can send me a message anytime. (Laughter.)
Q In Boston, Northeastern University has created a model of scholarships and other supports to help inner-city kids get to and stay in college. We want kids in other cities to have the same opportunities. As President, can you urge colleges across the country to do what Northeastern has done.
MAYOR MENINO: I'll explain what Northeastern has done. Last year when I gave my State of the City message I talked about anybody who maintained a B average through high school would get financial help from the Mayor's Office. And Northeastern University has come to in the last two months, to any student who maintains a B average for four years of high school will get a grant up to $2,000. If they need more, they'll give more. But also if they're in the top five percentile of their class, they maintain 1150 on their SATs, they'll pay for their full tuition. And that's what the young woman is talking about.
I think you talked about in your State of the Union message about college kids.
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, let me say I applaud Northeastern for doing it, because the cost of a college education has gone up quite a lot in the last several years. And I'm doing what I can to make it more affordable.
Let me tell you the two things that we have done and what we've tried to get others to do as well. The first thing we did was to take the existing student loan programs -- and Congress passed a bill that enables us to let that student loan program be administered in a different way, directly by colleges like Northeastern, so that the interest rates would be lower, the costs would be lower and your repayment terms would be better.
A lot of young people don't want to borrow money to go to college because they think, gee, if I get out and I just make a modest wage, I won't even be able to repay the loan. So under the new rules, you can borrow money to go to college, and then you can limit the amount of your repayment every year to a certain percentage of your income. So we've made available more loans.
In addition to that, through the national service program -- you see a lot of these young people in the city or around here; some of them are affiliated with our national service program, and they're earning almost $5,000 a year for every year they work in the service program for their college education. Now, what we've done is to try to challenge the colleges and universities around the country to match that. And this year, I'm trying to pass, and I hope the Congress will pass, a bill that provides for the reduction from a person's income taxes for the cost of paying tuition to any institution of education after high school -- two-year or four-year.
So these are the things I'm trying to do to make college more affordable. When we do these things, that makes it more possible for colleges like Northeastern to go out and take their own initiatives and to do more. Like that has to be done basically state by state and college by college; because as the President, what I have to do is to try to set up a network of things that will work everywhere in the country.
MAYOR MENINO: We have many law firms in our state who have set up endowments to help with the financing also, which is a help to these young people as they go through their process of going into college.
THE PRESIDENT: It's the best money you'll ever spend.
Q Does anyone have any other questions?
Q In regards to colleges and scholarships and financial aid, I know we're all college-bound, and I'd just like to thank you from all of us what you're doing in helping us get financial aid.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I thank you. But let me just say one other thing about this. You know, I said this before in a different way. Having a college education has always been an advantage. When Senator Kerry and Senator Kennedy and I went to college, it was an advantage. But it's a much bigger advantage today than ever before, because in the information age, there are fewer jobs that you can perform with no education and just a willingness to work hard.
It's also true -- I want to emphasize this because one of you talked about this earlier -- even for the young people who don't go to four-year colleges, they need to be in the school-to-work program. There needs to be something that gives almost everybody, nearly 100 percent of the young people, incentive to get out of high school and then get two more years of some sort of education and training.
And meanwhile we'll keep doing everything we can to make college more affordable, because I think the great advantage this nation has, and Boston has certainly seen it because you have such a wonderful array of institutions of higher education, is that we have a higher percentage of our people going to these institutions of higher education than any other country in the world. And they're higher quality. And what we've got to do is figure out how to make it possible for young people to know about it, to believe in themselves, and then to have money necessary to go.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.
MAYOR MENINO: We have -- Marcos' birthday is today.
THE PRESIDENT: It's your birthday, right? Your 18th birthday?
MAYOR MENINO: You'll register to vote today, too, right? (Laughter.) We need you next time.
THE PRESIDENT: Good for you. Happy birthday.
MAYOR MENINO: This woman here has a question, Mr. President. Ask the question.
Q You just put me on the spot. Actually, I do have a question. Do you actually see letters -- well, besides the -- (laughter) --
Q She was worried all this afternoon --(laughter) --
THE PRESIDENT: The answer is, as you might imagine, with a
country with 250 million people I do not see personally all the letters
that come in. And we have so many letters coming into the White House
that it requires literally -- we have hundreds of volunteers working at
the White House who help to sort our mail, who help to read out mail. A
lot of retired military people come in every day and help us. We have a
group of people who know my positions on certain issues, who help to write our letters when people write us about certain issues.
But, what happened to your letter is this: I have -- I mean, before I was coming here, what happened to your letter is I have a -- in my correspondence operation, every week they pull out a certain number of letters that are either especially moving because of the personal stories involved, or that represent a large number of letters I'm getting on a certain subject, so that even though I'm President and I've got millions of people writing to me all the time, I have a good feeling for what's going on.
I also get a summary every week of how many letters came in, what the subjects were about, what people said, whether they were pro or con a certain issue. But the most -- the thing -- every week, I love reading the mail that I get sent. And I read the letters and sign them and in that way try to really stay in touch with what people are thinking.
MAYOR MENINO: Why don't we have Kristy read the letter.
Q "Dear President Bill Clinton. Hello, my name is Kristy Foster. I recently saw you on tv talking about your health care plan. I really feel that you are trying to do a good job. It's just that some people really don't understand you." (Laughter.)
MAYOR MENINO: That's why it was a special letter.
Q "I think it is an excellent idea. Keep up the good work.
"Now, the real reason why I am writing to you. I wrote you a letter January 15, 1993. It was on violence. About five of my friends have been murdered in the past two years. I wrote you asking if you could find some way to stop violence and get most of the guns and knives off the streets.
You then wrote me back June 2, 1993, telling me that you are concerned about violence as a President and a parent. You told me that we all have to work together to fight this. 'Together you and I could make a difference.' Those were your exact words.
I know you mean me and the rest of the young kids out in the world, but when I heard the President of the United States took time out of his busy schedule to write to me and tell me that he cares about what is going on, that touched me. Ever since I received that letter, I decided to do positive things in my community. Your letter inspired me to sign up for the Mayor's Youth Council in my city. And you know what? I'm on the Youth Council. I represent Mission Hill's youth. We meet with Mayor Thomas Menino every month starting in September.
Well, I just wanted to say thank you. Your letter made me realize (even though one of your staff wrote it) that even the President --" (laughter) -- "even the President cares. If he cares then the teenagers of America should start caring. I feel if everyone knew that President Bill Clinton really did care, takes time out to write children letters, then maybe they would start listening knowing someone higher up really cares for them.
Thank you again. I hope to be hearing from you again. Sincerely, Kristy Foster" (Applause.)
Q (inaudible) -- and I hope this can happen in other cities throughout the nation. And I would like to ask you if you could videotape a message for the youth of Boston to be played at our youth summit in March --
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
Q if there's any way possible.
THE PRESIDENT: Were you trained in Senator Kennedy's office? (Laughter.) Yes, I'd be happy to. We'll do it while we're here, maybe.
MAYOR MENINO: Is there any other -- you have the President now. (Laughter.) How many young people of America have the President in front of them? What's the other -- any other question you have to ask, really would like to ask?
Q I have really a general question.
THE PRESIDENT: What's your name?
MAYOR MENINO: Catch up with this guy here.
Q He wants your job. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Some days I'd like to give it to you. (Laughter.) But not most days.
Q As President of the United States, most of us know and we've heard the story of how you waited to shake President Kennedy's hand. What advice would you offer to other young adults that are aspiring to become involved in politics?
THE PRESIDENT: I would recommend that you do three things. You're probably doing all three of them already. I would recommend, first of all, that you do everything you can to develop your mind, that you learn to think, and you learn to learn. That is, some of you may be strong in math, maybe you're strong in science, maybe you like English, maybe you like history. There's no -- contrary to popular belief, in my view, there is no particular academic discipline to get to be a successful public servant. But it's important that you learn to learn because you have to know about a lot of different things that are always changing.
The second thing I would recommend you do is more what you're doing here. I don't think over the long run, people do very well in public service unless they like people and are really interested in people who are different from you. Find out what you have in common, what your differences really are.
And the third thing I would recommend that you do is look for opportunities to be a leader. Working in this group, working in your school, working for people who are running for office, working in the Mayor's next campaign.
These things really matter. That's what I did. I mean, I came from a family with no money or political influence, particularly. I had a good education. I had a lot of wonderful friends. I was interested in people. I had a chance to work in campaigns and to do other things that gave me a chance to get started. This is a great country that is really open to people of all backgrounds to be successful in public life. But you need to learn, you need to care about people, and then you just need the experience.
MS. KIU: Thank you, Mr. President. At this time, we would like to give you a token of our appreciation.
Q On behalf of the Mayor's Youth Council of the City of Boston and -- we'd like to present you with this cap. And Kristy is also going to present you with a sweatshirt. (Laughter.)
Q Oh, I have something to say. I would like for you and Mr. Menino to sing me "Happy Birthday."
THE PRESIDENT: Let's do it.
(Everyone sings "Happy Birthday.)
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) Well, it wasn't the sweetest sound I ever heard. (Laughter.)
END4:40 P.M. EST