THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE NATIONAL LEADERSHIP FORUM OF COMMUNITY ANTIDRUG COALITIONS
J.W. Marriott Hotel Washington, D.C.
10:55 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Jim -- my good friend, Jim Burke. Thank you for devoting your life to this cause. Thank you, Alvah Chapman, CADCA's founding chair, who first talked to me about this some years ago now. Thank you, Lee Brown, for your distinguished work for all Americans and all American children. Thank you, Marni Vliet.
I thank all the families who are here today who have sustained losses, and I want to say a special word of thanks to Lori Plank for having the courage to be here, just two weeks after she lost her husband, along with her husband's parents and her beautiful child. I thank them for coming, and for devoting themselves to the proposition that the best way they can honor Ed Plank is to do whatever can be done to stop this madness from killing more Americans.
Let me say to all of you that this issue is especially close to me. Most of you, because of what you do, probably know I grew up in an alcoholic home and I have a brother I love very much who could have been killed by the cocaine habit he had. This is madness, pure and simple. And we all have to do whatever we can to get it out of our lives.
We have to deal with the question of law enforcement and punishment. We have to deal with education and treatment and prevention. We have to deal with all those things that can be done by the President and all those things that can be done by legislators at the national, state and local level. But in the end, this problem will be changed when America changes -- when we assume responsibility for ourselves, our families and our communities. And, therefore, what you are doing -- what you are doing -- and what other Americans are doing in attempting to assert that sort of responsibility over their own lives for their families and for their communities is the most important thing that can be done in America today. And it is up to the rest of us to support you as well as we possibly can.
Of course, parents have a special role to play because we all know that the best crime prevention, the best antidrug program in this country always has been a good family with strong parents. We know that it is the government's job to uphold the law, to promote order, but parents must teach right from wrong, and we must all support that. And where the parents are not there or cannot do it, then the community must step in and do their best, which is what so many of you are trying to do.
I want to say again that I thank Lee Brown for the work he has done to get the urgent message out to our young people that they are wrong if they think that drug use is not dangerous as well as illegal, and that they have the power to do something about it. That message has to be repeated over and over and over again. It is one of the cruel ironies of this battle that drug use has stabilized or is actually declining among young adults, but casual drug use, especially marijuana, continues to go up among teenagers. We have to get that message out there. We owe it to the generation of young people, some of whom are in this audience today.
I also want to say that we know that here in Washington, there are things that we can and must do to try to deal with the problems of the drug supply as well as the law enforcement problems in our country. And we have developed a strategy to tackle this problem from top to bottom. We began by taking on the notorious Cali Cartel, the biggest drug cartel in the world. For years, the Cali Cartel pumped drugs into the American economy and then to the veins of the American people with impunity. But after years of operating largely untouched by Colombian law enforcement, I am proud to say that seven of the eight top drug traffickers in the Cali cocaine cartel were arrested by Colombian authorities with our support and cooperation in 1995. (Applause.)
Investigative activity by United States enforcement agencies provided much of the evidence against the Cali kingpins. We are also using our military and our law enforcement activities beyond our borders in other ways. We are working more closely together among ourselves and with other countries. We are beginning to have a real impact.
But we know that cutting off the supply is only half the equation. As long as the demand remains great in America, people will figure out how to provide some supply. We have to take more steps here in this country to reduce demand. We have to take more steps to punish people who are making a killing by killing other people. And we have to take more steps to empower people like you to -- the education, the treatment and the prevention work that will turn this generation of young people away from this madness. (Applause.)
A year ago with the enactment of the crime bill we attempted to give the American people the tools they need to do what has to be done here at home. We put more police on the street, and we did more to get guns and drugs and children off the street. (Applause.)
The 100,000 police commitment of the federal government is running ahead of schedule and under budget. The crime rate is down in almost every state in America, in no small measure because people are out there in uniform, walking the streets in the communities, doing what they can to help prevent crime. More and more law enforcement officers are in our schools through programs like the DARE program, trying to help educate children and prevent the drug problem from taking hold
Three-strikes-and-you're-out is now the law of the land, and more and more career criminals are being tried under it and convicted under it. We are taking steps against the terrible problems of violence against women. And the crime bill, together with the education bills that were passed in our budget, have increased our commitment to drug treatment as well as to education and other prevention strategies which is also important. (Applause.)
Throughout, there has been an emphasis on community empowerment. If you think about what your national government does directly -- well, we do the national defense directly. We do some law enforcement directly. We do some things directly through the mail -- the Social Security checks, the Medicare checks. But a lot of what we do -- in the form of education, in the form of protecting the environment, in the form of promoting law enforcement and safe streets, in the form of growing the economy -- a lot of what we do, we do in partnership with individuals at the community level. And we have tried to focus on that very sharply. So we've tried to bring down the size of the federal bureaucracy, but to increase the commitment of the federal government at the grass-roots level so you could do what needs to be done.
You know, this is beginning to work. We know that for the first time in a long time, as I said, the crime rate is down. There is a greater responsibility ethic in the country. There's a stronger sense of family in the country. There's a stronger sense of community in the country.
In addition to the crime rate being down, you might be interested to know that over the last three years, the welfare rolls are down, the food stamp rolls are down, the teen pregnancy rate has come down two years in a row, and the poverty rate is down. Child support payments are up 40 percent, and the college loan delinquency rate is down by 50 percent. There is a real sense that this country is coming back together around core values, and that's very important. (Applause.)
Having said that, we know that crime, welfare, poverty, violence and drug abuse are still far too high. We know that random juvenile violence and casual juvenile drug use are both going up, even as the overall statistics seem to be getting better. There's still too many of our children out there raising themselves. There are too many kids out there who aren't a part of something wholesome and positive and bigger than themselves; that people are not taking responsibility for their future, and trying to help them take responsibility for themselves. And there is still way too much violence in this country, as the tragic example of the Plank family shows.
So let me say -- and Jim made a reference to it, but it is in this context that I want you all to see and make your own judgments about the budget battle now raging in Washington. We do have to continue to bring this deficit down, and we do need to balance our budget. I'm proud of the fact that it's gone from a $290 billion a year budget to $164 billion a year budget in just three years. And I'm -- you might be interested to know that as a percentage of our income, the United States now has the lowest budget deficit of any industrial country in the world except for Norway, in the entire world today. (Applause.)
Now, that doesn't mean that we don't need to do more. We built up such a huge debt in the 1980s and early '90s. We need to do more. But it means we have to do it in a way that it's consistent with our values. Why do we need to eliminate the deficit? Because we want to grow the economy and raise incomes and give our children a brighter future. But we have to do it in a way that looks to our values, give people a chance to make the most of their own lives, to strengthen families, to reward work and family, and to help communities solve their problems. That is the purpose of this.
That's why I have said repeatedly I think it is a mistake to balance the budget if we cut education, or if we harm the health care system, or undermine the environment, or weaken law enforcement, or raise taxes on working families. I don't think those should be options. If you look at the work at which you are involved, you are doing this work, but it makes a difference if the nation is contributing to law enforcement. It makes a difference if a nation is contributing to drug education. It makes a real difference if the nation is contributing to the treatment programs. All these things matter. (Applause.)
We simply cannot balance the budget in a way that puts our children at risk or that weakens our resolve to fight the drug problem. And we do not have to do that. We cannot walk away from the fight against drugs and violence. We have to walk right into it. If the Plank family, bearing the burden of their grief only two weeks old, have the courage to come here and stand up for making America a better place to live, a drug-free place to live, a violence-free place to live; if these other families that have sustained their terrible losses have the courage to come here, surely the rest of us can have the courage and vision and wisdom to say, we can deal with our budget problems in Washington without walking away from our values and our responsibilities. (Applause.)
Let me say that one of the things that concerns me most as President is to see the economy coming back and all these indicators that society is getting healthier, and then to see underneath it that juvenile violence is still going up and that casual juvenile drug use is still going up. If we don't turn that around, then all of these directions could be brought to a screeching halt as more and more of these juveniles become adults.
And I told the Attorney General that in terms of law enforcement we need to focus on the problem of juvenile violence more than ever before to see what can be done there. We can't tolerate the killing of an innocent child by gang members simply because her parents drove down the wrong street. We can't tolerate the killing of innocent children in schools, or what happened in Maryland not very long ago -- an honor student standing at a bus stop just happened to be in the way, in the cross-fire of two gangs that took a notion to shoot at each other. We can't tolerate the shooting of one youth by another simply because the killer felt that he was shown disrespect and, therefore, had a right to shoot another child. That is not the America I grew up in; that is not the America that won World War II or the Cold War, or that stood for freedom and opportunity for the whole world. And that is not the America we can afford to leave to our children.
We also have to deal with this whole problem of casual drug use. You heard Jim Burke talk about it; you heard Lee Brown talk about it. There's a lot of evidence that young people simply have -- starting in about 1991, began to believe that some kinds of casual drug use simply weren't dangerous and didn't have to be countenanced very seriously. That is not true. It is not true because as a pure medical matter, marijuana is more toxic than ever before; because people who do it are now mixing it with other things, like huffing all these dangerous fumes; because very often they get into other drugs. We have got to do something about it.
Most of our children are busy building good lives. Most of our kids are more than happy to show up for activities like this. They're not involved in violent activities. They're doing well in their schools. They, I would say, should be applauded. I think that we forget sometimes -- (applause) -- what we need to ask these young people to do is what these young people are doing here. If the kids are doing well -- and the vast majority are -- if the kids are emphasizing the importance of staying in school and staying drug-free -- as the vast majority are -- we need to ask more of them to do what these young people are, to be an example to their peers, because many of them can have far more influence over young people their age than the rest of us old fogies can. (Laughter and applause.) And we need to applaud them and give them encouragement.
The other thing I want to say, just to reemphasize what Jim Copple said and what Jim Burke said, we need every community in America to be a part of this alliance. Every community in America should have a group that's a part of this alliance, because we know that we can make a difference. It is simply not true that you cannot whip this problem. And a lot of you are living evidence of that.
The citizens of Pierce County, Washington, for example, who have the Safe Streets Campaign to combat illegal drug and gang activity and violence that accompanies these problems, they know their efforts are making a difference. They have closed down over 600 drug dealing locations in 12 communities, and reduced calls to 911 by 23,000. (Applause.)
Not just an urban problem, Hamilton, Missouri, citizens are banding together, using such innovations as a Youth Peer Court in conflict mediation beginning in the 4th grade to educate and empower young people. There's a lot of things you folks are doing that are working. And as I look out at this whole array of energetic, wide-eyed, upbeat, positive people, I think to myself: the real problem we have in America is that we have not learned yet to figure out how to take a solution that works in one community and put it into every community which is not doing anything. So I want to say to you, I want you to keep up the good work, but we have to find a way to say to every community in America, if something is working somewhere else, you're really doing your children a disservice if you haven't done it in your community. Every community in America should be a part of this alliance. (Applause.)
In an attempt to facilitate greater progress in dealing with the progress of juvenile violence and juvenile drug use, I will convene a White House leadership conference on adolescent drug use and violence in January. (Applause.) We want to bring together people like you to highlight successes in local communities, and we want to help you build a true, national coalition to combat drugs and violence. You'll be hearing more about that in the coming weeks.
One of the things we want to highlight is the positive role the media can play in the fight against drugs. Every day, as many of us have said, the children of this country are bombarded with messages that tell them it's cool, sexy, attractive to drink and smoke and do drugs. But conversely, let's not forget, that the media can also play a very positive role in influencing the attitudes of our young people about the harmfulness and the unacceptability of using drugs.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which Jim Burke has led so ably, has proven that over and over again. The media has donated over $2 billion in support of partnership antidrug messages on television and radio, in print and outdoor billboards. Lee Brown has been able to enlist the support of a number of sports and television celebrities in new TV and radio public service campaign spots aimed at our nation's youth, telling them they do have the power to stay drug-free.
So these messages are working to change attitudes. They can make a difference. So what I want to say is, just like I want every community in the country to have an organization that's a members of CADCA, and I want you to go out to all them and get it down, just as -- (applause) -- just as I want the vast majority of our young people who are doing the right thing with their lives to do what these young people are doing and reach out to other kids and help them. We ask the media across this nation, when it come to the fight against drugs, turn up the volume. (Applause.)
I also ask you not to forget that the media is not a national thing entirely. Lee Brown and Bill Clinton and Jim Burke and Jim Copple and all the rest -- we can go to the networks and to the large media centers and say, will you help us do this. But the media in America is a many-faceted thing. And there are things that can be done in your community by people who are more than willing to help if you ask them to do it.
Oftentimes, too many of our young people spend too much time relating to the media as opposed to other people. They don't have enough time for a lot of things that time ought to be spent on, and too much time sitting in front of the television. We need to ask for help to turn up the volume. I have been profoundly impressed by the number of positive things that our media has done to help us in this battle. We need to come up with systematic plans in every community to do more. (Applause.)
So that's it. I feel pretty good about the future of this country, and you should, too. (Applause.) This is a very great country. We go through difficult periods from time to time. We will always have some bad people, as any society does. There will always be a measure of tragedy, as is the lot of human nature, as the Scripture teaches us. But America is coming back together. America is moving forward economically. But America dare not forget that our children are the future of this country. And if we want America to be the strongest, greatest nation in the world in the 21st century, we have got -- we have got to stamp out this madness.
And you have to do your part; I have to do mine. In the end, we know that what you do to get people to take control of their own lives, their families' lives and their community lives will tell the tale.
I think we are moving in the right direction. We know we've just got too many kids out their that are still raising themselves, and we have to help that. But if we do it -- if we do it -- we can make the service and the sacrifice of people like Trooper Plank a shining memory in the life of our country. We owe it to them. Let's deliver.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 11:21 A.M. EST