THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN "STRAIGHT TALK ON DRUGS" ABC RADIO TOWN HALL WITH CHILDREN
The East Room
11:06 A.M. EST
MR. JENNINGS: Good morning, everybody, and welcome to Washington, D.C., and the home of the President. We are in this special place today at the invitation of the President, in part because I think, as the people who are with us in the East Room know, a lot of people in the country are hurting as a result of drug abuse. More kids are using it; more kids appear to be tolerating drug abuse in the country. And so, wherever you are listening to this broadcast, we hope you will join us and stay with us for an hour, and perhaps we will all learn something from one another.
With us here in the East Room are a lot of kids who are drug-free, but also with us this morning are some kids who have tried drugs. But the point I think we want to try to make in this hour is that so many of our kids in the country are certainly at risk -- 2.4 million kids had some exposure, tried drugs this year alone.
So at home, on the radio, whether you're a parent listening to this, or whether by chance you're a kid not in school today, and you think you have a problem about drugs or you might face one, stay with us. And as I said, it's not an awful long time, an hour, but it's perhaps something for us to learn from.
Now, we're here, of course, because the President has been gracious enough to let us come into the East Room. Good morning, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, Peter.
MR. JENNINGS: Thank you for being with us, sir. The President has already had a chance to talk to the kids here just a little bit. Tell the folks at home why you think it's important for them and you to be here together.
THE PRESIDENT: I think it's important because we know that while overall drug use in America is still going down, drug use among people under 18 is, in fact, going up. And that's a very troubling thing because all of you represent our future. And I'm concerned about what happens to you as individuals and I'm concerned about what happens to your communities and what happens to our country.
And ABC has been good enough not only to do this little town hall meeting for us, but also to run a public service campaign with ads telling our young people and telling their parents and their friends and their mentors that, in effect, we have to talk about this, that silence about this problem is like accepting it. And I think that we all owe ABC a debt of gratitude for good citizenship here. And I appreciate what they're trying to do. We're here because the number one goal of our antidrug strategy is to persuade young people to stay away from drugs in the first place.
And I just want to thank especially our Olympian, Dominique Dawes, who is here with us today, who has agreed to be the spokesperson for our Girl Power campaign. And she's taped a lot of public service radio ads telling young girls to go for the gold, to stay off drugs, to make the most of their own lives. And that's why we're here and I'm glad we are. I'm glad you're here, too, Dominique.
MS. DAWES: Thank you, President Clinton. It's great being a positive role model for all of you youth. We just want to get you guys busy. I mean, it's going to be really hard to avoid drugs because they're everywhere, but get yourselves busy and prevent yourselves from getting on them because they're not going to help you in the future.
MR. JENNINGS: Thanks, Dominique. Glad you're here with us. Dominique, by the way, is a member of the U.S. Olympic Gymnastic Team of 1996, am I right?
MS. DAWES: And '92.
MR. JENNINGS: And '92. It's really nice to have you here.
MS. DAWES: It's nice to be here.
MR. JENNINGS: One of the things we've discovered, Mr. President -- I know you know all the statistics and I think the kids know them, too -- is that drug use among kids is going down in that a lot of kids who are younger -- we used to associate drug use with teenagers, but now it's getting into middle school level.
We have with us this morning, Mikisha Bonner (phonetic). Mikisha is in the 8th grade at Garnett-Patterson Middle School here in Washington. Mikisha, give us some sense of your own -- not personal exposure to drugs but what you go through at high school --or at school every day.
MIKISHA: Well, I don't really go through drugs, but we do have, like, this drug market across the street from our school. And when I come down that way in the morning, people, they be dealing with drugs or using or something. And when I come back to go home in the afternoon, the same people still be there. And I feel that I shouldn't have to go through that every day.
In our school we do have these dogs that come to our school and come, like, if there are drugs in a locker or anything, they will go and the person will get taken out of our school that have the drugs.
MR. JENNINGS: What do you think of that, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Mikisha, are these drug sellers in the same place every day?
MIKISHA: The same place every day.
THE PRESIDENT: And how long have they been there?
MIKISHA: Since I've been going to school there.
THE PRESIDENT: And have the school officials asked the police to move them?
THE PRESIDENT: Get rid of them, to arrest them? Have they ever been arrested?
MIKISHA: I don't really know. I just see them every day.
THE PRESIDENT: I'll see what I can do about that.
MR. JENNINGS: Talk to the President after the -- he's very good, I've seen him do this before. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I'll see what I can do about that. That's not right.
MR. JENNINGS: But even though this is radio, I want to try a show of hands. How many of you have seen drugs being traded --
THE PRESIDENT: Or sold.
MR. JENNINGS: -- or sold around your school? We've got maybe 30 kids with us here, for those of you at home, and we've had more than a dozen kids go up.
There are, by the way, so many drugs for kids to abuse it's almost mind boggling at times. But again for you at home, to get some sense of what we're talking about here, here briefly is ABC's Jim Hickey to tell us what is available for kids to abuse.
(Video is shown.)
MR. JENNINGS: Of course, Jim, the ultimate price -- Mr. President -- we all know this, is death. And I want you to meet somebody we've already met -- someone who came very close to losing his life a couple of weeks ago. His name is Brandon Power. He's right over there. Brandon, put up your hand for just a second so the President can see you. Brandon was at a high school or rather a middle school dance in Woburn, Massachusetts, where a classmate had stashed a large bottle of pills. Brandon and 13 of his friends ate about 80 of those pills -- enough to make them collapse into a coma. It made a lot of news around the country. All 14 kids, boys and girls, have recovered now -- right, Brandon? The pills were prescription muscle relaxants that one of the kids apparently stole from the mail of an ill neighbor.
I'm sure the President has a question for Brandon, but I have one. What on earth were you doing taking that pill and what were you thinking at the time?
BRANDON: Generally, I think it was everyone feeling very comfortable, being all friendly, friends in a big group. And it wasn't seeming to be anything real big like cocaine or something like that -- so feeling very comfortable taking them. And she said to take just a few, and nobody was feeling anything, so they kept on taking more and more at times.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me ask you this. Did you know they were muscle relaxants when you took them?
BRANDON: Nobody really knew exactly what they were, but not like anything big.
THE PRESIDENT: Was there one person who had them all when then gave them to the rest of you?
BRANDON: Yes, there was one girl that had a bottle of them.
MR. JENNINGS: Under some pressure, do you think, because the other kids were taking them?
BRANDON: I don't think it was really pressure, but in some cases -- I can't speak for everyone -- but there were other groups of kids that, like, I'm not totally friends with that may have felt pressure. But I didn't at all.
THE PRESIDENT: Do you believe that in this case that if people had understood how dangerous they were that they wouldn't have done it?
BRANDON: I don't really know, but I think that if they had found out about what would have happened and how they could have died and how close they came, they wouldn't have taken them.
THE PRESIDENT: This is a big problem for us. This is why it's so important that people talk about this and that we educate children at a very young age about what it can do, because it's not a bad thing to have legal drugs being shipped through the mail. It helps a lot of senior citizens, for example, who are not mobile, who have a hard time getting around. If they have a legal prescription and they can get it through the mail, that's a good thing, it makes their lives easier and better.
Inhalants -- virtually everything people inhale is legal and performs some sort of function in our society. And I think what you're saying is kind of another important piece of evidence for me that we need to have more conversations just like this in every home in America, in every school in America. We need to talk about it because those muscle relaxants are -- if you think about, I don't know if you've ever had a muscle spasm, but I have. If you ever had a muscle spasm, it takes something pretty powerful to unlock that muscle. And so if you -- even someone as big as I am, you can't take more than a couple of those pills within a period of time without having an adverse reaction.
MR. JENNINGS: You've got a question for the President, Brandon?
BRANDON: I wanted to ask him if he is going to be doing something about the mail and making it secure -- like security for it being like -- she just took them from the neighbor without any problems. And I think that he needs to do something about that.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know what we could do about that because she probably took it out of the neighbor's mail box. And so, once that happens, I don't know what we could have done. There may be something can be done to label them more clearly.
Now, we do have -- the postal service is on the alert for illegal drugs being shipped in the mail. That also sometimes happens. But when you've got a legal prescription drug, about all I can think of you can do is maybe have the post office try to deliver it to the door. Maybe that's one thing you could do and maybe not leave it in the mail box. And I'll talk to them about it and see if there's anything else we can do.
MR. JENNINGS: Do me a quick show of hands again. How many of you can imagine yourselves being in the same position that Brandon was -- taking something you didn't know anything about?
Nobody, Brandon. I'm not sure whether they're all telling us the straight facts, but I gather it's something you ain't going to do again.
BRANDON: No, never.
MR. JENNINGS: All right. Now, Eric, you wanted to say something, I think. Do you think he's crazy?
ERIC: No, I do not think he's crazy, but I was thinking about what we can prevent from getting drugs -- the prescription drugs stolen from the mail. You can have maybe like special deliveries for prescription drugs to door to door, sort of like Federal Express or somebody that can deliver it straight to the door, so you know there won't be no interference during the mail. That should be --
THE PRESIDENT: I think that's a good idea.
MR. JENNINGS: Can I get you to save your answer for one half-second.
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
MR. JENNINGS: We've got to take a break. We'll be right back.
MR. JENNINGS: Welcome back to our conversation with the President, and at the moment a conversation between two kids -- because, Antoine, you wanted to ask Brandon a question, who took the pills.
ANTOINE: Right. If you didn't know what kind of pills they were, why would you think to take any of them?
BRANDON: I took them because, like, it was a friendly person that I had known and I didn't think that she would have been distributing anything like poison or something that could have harmed me in any way to the point of death.
MR. JENNINGS: Antoine.
ANTOINE: But you should have checked what kind of prescription they was, who did they belong to -- unless she tore the paper off. Even though she was your friend, you should still check and see what kind of drugs -- I mean, what kind of pills they are because you shouldn't just take no pills and don't know what you're taking.
MR. JENNINGS: Antoine, you raise a good question. The President picks up on it. Go ahead, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: I was just wondering -- I see someone has got a comment back there -- but I was wondering -- this raises a question about what obligations young people have to each other, because no matter how -- let's assume that we can fix this mail problem and say, okay, you'll have certain dangerous drugs, or potentially dangerous and they'll only be delivered direct to people. There will always be some opportunity -- you can't get all the inhalants off the market because they're legal. What obligations do you all have to each other? If you have a friend you know is doing drugs, what do you do about that? What are your obligations to each other?
MR. JENNINGS: That's a very good question.
Dan, let me try that question on you, if you know somebody is doing drugs.
DAN: Well, me, now as a recovering addict I feel I have the obligation to preach to them. And I tell him the ways, if he feels like stopping, because, in a way, to get off drugs if you're hooked you have to want to stop, you know what I mean? You have to show yourself if you don't stop on your own that I'm not getting anything -- it's not gratifying, you don't get anything out of drugs, and everything, the negative. So it depends on how long it lasts.
MR. JENNINGS: But how many if you're in a group think -- and drugs are being used, say, and thought it would be cool to go and tell somebody not to do it? A show of hands again.
Yes, Chris here in front, what are your thoughts?
CHRIS: Well, what I -- I would just tell, if I had a friend who was doing drugs, I would just tell him or her that they should get off it because they'll either get, like, serious brain damage or they'll die because of some lung-blackening deal.
MR. JENNINGS: Lauren.
LAUREN: I don't think when you tell somebody that they should get off drugs, sometimes they listen and sometimes they don't. Because they think it's cool and they think it just makes them special and they'll get more attention. And sometimes it's because of attention or lack of attention.
THE PRESIDENT: Do people believe it's dangerous? You had your hand up back there.
DAN: Some drugs that make people high, they -- you know, if they're driving or something, they actually can hurt other people. Whereas other drugs, like tobacco, they're really only hurting themselves except for secondhand smoke. So some drugs, you really do have an obligation to convince people not take them because they're going to hurt other people besides themselves.
MR. JENNINGS: But how tough is it at a party -- you're at a party and it's going on, and how tough is it to go and -- Alyssa, here in front, how tough is it to tell the kid next to you, you're not being cool?
ALYSSA: Well, it's probably really hard because they might think that you are -- you're not being cool and that it's just cool to do that.
THE PRESIDENT: What about these guys? Michael, what were you going to say?
MICHAEL: I think -- like, at my school -- I got to a school in the suburb of Springfield, and drugs like marijuana have become so accepted that it seems like they have more arguments against you that you can bring to them. And no matter what you say to them, they're going to fire something back to you like the medicinal use of marijuana. So it's like almost anything you can say, they come back twice as hard and they throw you back down with the information that they have.
THE PRESIDENT: You said -- this is very important because the biggest increase in drug use among children under 18 by far has been marijuana. You believe it's because they simply don't believe it's dangerous or they don't believe it will hurt them?
MICHAEL: They do not believe it's dangerous. They look at the generation before them who did it, and there was no problem. No matter what DARE program you put out, no matter how bad you tell them it is, they believe -- especially when California passed the medicinal -- when it was okay for it to be used as medicine, if you can use something as medicine, then that was the best thing in the world. And they come -- they tell the teachers, they tell the DARE instructors, it doesn't matter.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Brandon can prove that's not true.
MR. JENNINGS: Fred?
FRED: Well, I come from California -- from Los Angeles and my theory is -- we have a big drug problem, and it's like everywhere you go, if you look on the street corner you know who's, like, doing drugs. Even if you don't use them yourself, you already know, like, the stereotype where they stand on the corner. And it's not even that hard to find it. Like, ever since what he said about the law passing about for the medical use of marijuana, it's like everybody you know accepts them -- like, think, you know, well, I'm not going to go to jail for using. They think that just because the law passed that they could use -- some kids, like, all the way down to 13 they think it's, like, cool to use drugs.
MR. JENNINGS: You were a user, right, Fred?
FRED: Yeah, I also used when I was around 14. And I used up until when I was about 15-and-a-half and I went to -- they arrested me, the cops arrested me. And they were going to put me into jail and they gave me an option, if I wanted to go to counseling and be on probation. And at that point I got, like, I was scared because I didn't want to go to jail. Being from a gang -- well, I'm an ex-gang member now -- but I had known a lot of friends who went to jail and they spent a lot of their time, and when they came out all they did was go back to jail. And, you know, I think that jail might have hardened them up, so they wanted to come out -- like, if nobody cared about them.
So for myself I had to go to counseling. And at first I didn't want to go to counseling. But, like, the first time I went I thought it was dumb and everything, because my friends told my, oh, don't go to counseling. And at first I used to listen to them, but then that's when I almost got violated for probation. And I'd go. And I had to think about myself, that what I was going to do with my life. So when I went to counseling. That's what the counselors helped me with, realize that there's other things in the world besides just your immediate area.
THE PRESIDENT: Had anybody tried to talk you out of using drugs in the first place, before you did? At home, at school?
MR. JENNINGS: You ask a very good question. I know a little bit about Alfredo. Tell the President -- your parents were using, weren't they?
FRED: My parents used. Like, for me it was, like, an every day thing. Well, not every day, but I saw it around the house. In ways, you know, I kind of accepted it. I felt, like there was nothing wrong with it because my Dad, like, he wouldn't really hide it really, you know, on the weekends when he would do it, even though he did it on the weekends. And then my family, they're all from -- they were gang members, too. So it's like I kind of was grown up in the wrong environment in ways. I got like -- I had to accept it.
MR. JENNINGS: Matthew, I think you've probably got similar experience, don't you?
MATTHEW: Yes. Like, I think maybe instead of taking marijuana and the high and everything and having people in gangs and all that stuff -- like, we should have them resort to something. And if that doesn't work we should have them -- have their parents talk to them about it. Instead of that --
MR. JENNINGS: Matthew, tell the President about your own experience. Matthew is Matthew McGarry. He comes from Detroit.
MATTHEW: I overdosed on alcohol.
MR. JENNINGS: At how old?
MATTHEW: At 10. I tried marijuana. I've seen a lot of acid around my school, many drugs.
MR. JENNINGS: Why did you start?
MATTHEW: Experimenting. I didn't think it would hurt me. I didn't believe any of the commercials that I saw on TV.
MR. JENNINGS: How come?
MATTHEW: A lot of them overdid it, like, this is your brain, this is your brain on drugs -- you never believe that. I mean, you just -- I never believed that. I didn't believe that drugs fried your brain. I didn't think they would kill you. I didn't think they could do anything really bad and I didn't believe any of the commercials.
THE PRESIDENT: So how can we be more effective about this? Let me just give you one example, because you talked about this. We know a lot about marijuana, for example, we didn't know 20 or 30 years ago. We now know that it is roughly three times as toxic as it used to be, number one; and, number two, that it does have bad health effects on your heart, your lungs, and your brain. And specifically, for young people -- this is very important for young people -- sustained use of it makes it more difficult for people to concentrate, to learn, and to retain. It has a -- we know this now.
So how can we -- you may be right, Matt, maybe we've overdone it. But what can we do to communicate it in a way that's effective.
MR. JENNINGS: Very good question. We'll come back to that in just a moment. Mr. President, you already know, 90 percent of illegal drug use in America is marijuana. We'll be right back.
MR. JENNINGS: While we've been on a break, the President and the kids here in the East Room have been talking about advice to and from one another. And they've been talking -- you've were talking to the President about marijuana, and the President's been saying that one of the things that worried him about the referendums in California and Arizona recently about people approving of the medicinal use of marijuana was that if it's okay for parents, it's okay for kids.
Now, I want to come to this whole question of parents and kids, but a lot of you don't think you're getting a message from your parents accurately. Is that right?
Alyssa, do you want -- or Lauren?
LAUREN: I have heard a lot about it from TV and my parents, but we're also -- it's a health unit in school. And so, I think that helps a lot.
MR. JENNINGS: Who had some advice to the President about how to communicate this to kids a little better? Ryan?
RYAN: I think it's a lot easier if you have -- not to do drugs if you have someone to look up to that's not doing drugs, so that if you got caught or anything, then you would feel real bad inside because you have someone to look up to.
THE PRESIDENT: And tell me -- give me an example.
RYAN: Well, I don't have any examples because I don't do drugs. But a lot of my friends do, and they do a lot of pot. And they have -- that's the most -- the worst thing they've done. But they don't have anyone to look up to.
THE PRESIDENT: So like somebody in the Big Brother/Big Sister program.
Q Yes. Or a mentor.
THE PRESIDENT: Or a mentor of some other kind.
MR. JENNINGS: Kirsten.
KIRSTEN: Well, I think what he's saying is exactly right, and I think it's really important when you can actually look up to a peer, when it doesn't necessarily have to be an adult. I know ever since I've been in high school I've been struggling with how to be a clean person with friends who do drugs, with friends who I think are wonderful people who are involved with drugs -- but how to make myself a strong presence. And there are so many times I've turned the other shoulder when I've walked into a party and seen marijuana. And I regret that.
But now, I mean, I think that basically people who stay sober have two obligations. One is to -- and particularly who are teenagers. One is to make themselves -- is to demonstrate that you can be a strong person. Basically things like marijuana are easy. I mean, it seems fun but they're not necessary. And the second is that I always thought it just wasn't cool to preach. He was saying that now, after his experience, Dan was saying he would preach. And I was recently talking to a friend who's a recovering addict, and she said, as annoying as it was for you to preach to me, that's exactly what I needed because it was a reality check.
MR. JENNINGS: Mr. President, we were all talking with Chelsea before you got here. She recently turned 17. When did you start talking to her about drugs, and what did you talk to her about?
THE PRESIDENT: I think probably when she was probably 7 years old, 6 or 7, something like that, very young. And then she had -- she went through the DARE program at her school -- which is one thing I think Philip mentioned -- the DARE officer. She loved her DARE officer. He had a profound effect on the young people.
But we began when she was very, very young, talking to her, basically saying that this is wrong, this can cause you great damage, it can wreck your life, it can steal things from you. It costs money, it costs you your ability to think, it costs your self-control, it costs you your freedom in the end. So we talked to her about it quite a lot when she was very young.
MR. JENNINGS: A lot of people at home know we have a baby boomer President, and a lot of people in the baby boomer generation are nervous, apprehensive. Some even think it's hypocritical to talk to their kids because of their own experience. What did you tell her about yours?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I basically told her what I've told everybody in America, which is when I was 22 years old in England and I thought there were no consequences, I tried marijuana a couple of times. But if I had known them what I know now about it, I would not have done it. And I think that -- I feel the same way Dan does. I think that if you have done something that you're not especially proud of, but that you know more about it, you have almost a bigger obligation to try to prevent other people from getting in trouble.
I think this business about how the baby boomers all feel too guilt-ridden to talk to their kids is the biggest load of hooey I ever heard. They have a bigger responsibility to talk to their children. Most of us did not -- (applause) -- most of us -- first of all, most of us were much older when the experimentation started. And secondly, we did not know what we know now. We have no excuse. We have a greater responsibility, not a smaller one. So it hasn't bothered me to tell her that she shouldn't make the same mistakes I did.
I think all parents, by the way, hope their children won't make the same mistakes they did in many areas of life, not just this. And so that's part of what being a parent is all about.
MR. JENNINGS: You said something earlier, you mentioned very briefly earlier, inhalants. And all you have to do is look under the kitchen sink in anybody's house these days, and you're going to find something to inhale. I want you to meet George Marguaritas (phonetic) here. George is currently a patient at Baltimore's Manor Mountain Treatment Center.
George, I think we're only becoming really aware now of these inhalants. Tell us your experience, would you?
GEORGE: Well, with me, started off trying to be cool. Inhalants are really easy to get, you know what I'm saying. You can just go to the Western Auto store and just buy a spray can of spray paint or anything, or go to Hechingers and get some paint thinner.
I would have friends that would buy and I would go down to tracks with them and sniff. I noticed after a while I would start to slow down, you know what I'm saying. I couldn't remember stuff. I would have mood swings, you know. I would yell and scream at my parents and my little brothers. I wouldn't go to school. It was slowing me down.
MR. JENNINGS: Do you remember why you did it? What was going on in your life at the time?
GEORGE: Well, why I did it was because I had problems at home, you know what I'm saying, with my mother. She used to drink all the time. She used to take her anger out on me. I used to be hurt by that, so I was, like, well, I'm going to get her back, you know what I'm saying -- I'm going out and use drugs and stuff.
But now I know that I didn't need to do that, you know what I'm saying. I could have talked my problems out with her. Although, it might not have helped, but it could at least took something off my chest. I'm a recovering addict now, you know what I'm saying. I'm willing to help anybody who needs help. I know now that I've got to take my recovery one day at a time.
I been at Mountain Manor two times. The first time I come, you know, I got so used to it I just started playing around, you know what I'm saying. And I told everybody that I wasn't going to use any bigger or badder drug. Because when I first went in there I started out on marijuana and alcohol and inhalants. But then when I got out the second time -- I mean, the first time, I tried to change people, places and things, but the people, places and the things I was changing was even worse, you know what I'm saying.
I tried to go with the -- I was going with this girl. And at first, she was cool and everything, and then, I come in her house one time, and she was smoking crack. And it was like, man. And then, I was like, what are you doing? But then, in my head, I wanted to try. So I was like -- I was like, well, if she is doing it, I can do it. She ain't getting hurt by it. So I tried and then I got addicted to it.
MR. JENNINGS: What if somebody -- I'm sorry to interrupt -- what if somebody said to you at the time, it wasn't cool, would you listen to them? If one of your friends said, don't do this, you're going to mess up your mind?
GEORGE: No, I wouldn't listen to them. But now I would, though, because I know now that you don't have to use drugs to get by in everyday life.
THE PRESIDENT: Do you think that you can have an impact on other people because of what you've been through?
THE PRESIDENT: Can you talk to other people and get through to them in a way that someone else couldn't because of what you've been through?
GEORGE: Yes. We've got -- it's called H&R meeting where people from Mountain Manor, they come in and sometimes the people in Mountain Manor do a special meeting to talk to other people in their community and tell them your story. I think some people touche people. Just as long as I touch one person, I'm all right because I know that I share something with them that they have been through.
MR. JENNINGS: Mr. President, Dan -- is also here, right over here, from Phoenix House in New York who we heard from a little earlier. Dan was a crack addict.
How tough was it to get off it?
DAN: It was tough only because I made it tough. I didn't follow the techniques and rules that I learned in my first in-patient rehab. But after you apply it, it works. But it only works if you want to work it. So stress came upon me and I wound up relapsing, which is using drugs again. And it wasn't that hard to relapse because I wasn't in the right state of mind, I wasn't thinking clearly. I was doing the normal things that I normally did -- if I got mad at something or stressed out, I'd just go out and use, and that's what I was used to doing. So when problems came around I went out and used. And being on drugs, you can't think. So stopping right at that moment wasn't my first priority, it was just more, more, more. That's the only state of mind I had at the time.
MR. JENNINGS: Where's Michael? Michael, you come from New York, am I right?
MR. JENNINGS: Bayside Queens, I think?
MR. JENNINGS: I know you were talking to Dan earlier, and you also had a question for the President about this.
MICHAEL: Well, I just wanted to say I think the United States is so strong and so brave. And our biggest enemy, drugs, I think we're letting it kill our community and our whole United States. And I think we should put sanctions on the countries that sell drugs to the United States and not sell any of the goods that we sell to them ,and maybe they'll learn something to stop the bad guys from doing what they do.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me tell you a little about that. Let me just talk for a couple minutes.
First of all, I agree with that. We require countries where drugs are grown to cooperate with us in trying to destroy them and arrest the people who are selling them, if they want to keep getting any kind of aid or any help with trade from us. And I think that's a good thing.
But let me tell you what they say. I'll tell you what they say back. They say, okay, we have a poor little country here and I'm a little farmer and I can grow cocoa to make cocaine, or I can grow bananas and pineapples and I'll go broke if I do that, and I'll make money if I do the other thing. The police officers in these poor countries where the drugs are shipped through -- last year we know there was something like $500 million spent in Mexico alone to make payments to police officers that like tripled or quadrupled their annual salary. And so these countries that try to help us that are poor, where the drugs are grown, they say if the Americans didn't buy -- the American people have five percent of the world's population and buy 50 percent of the world's drugs. And if they didn't want the drugs and weren't willing to pay these outrageous prices for them, we wouldn't have a market and we'd have to go do something else for a living.
In other words, I think you're right. We have to be tougher on them. And last year we had record numbers of destruction of drugs in foreign countries and arrests and all that. But as long as there is as much money as there is, and as long as Americans are just dying to have it, it's going to be impossible to completely eradicate. And we need to do more.
But all of us have to take responsibility, too. If we didn't have a drug problem in this country, they would go broke and they would go do something else. Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't do more in other countries, but we have to take a lot of responsibility here, too.
MR. JENNINGS: A show of hands -- radio, again -- a show of hands from the kids only, is he convincing? Well, you didn't do too badly. Okay, we'll continue in a just moment.
THE PRESIDENT: It's better than I did in the election. That's great. (Laughter.)
MR. JENNINGS: We'll be right back.
MR. JENNINGS: By the way, I forgot to tell those of you at home, in case you've got a pencil handy, that you can raise drug-free kids. And we have a lot of people here today who prove that. And actually at ABC maybe we can help because we have a booklet which the network has produced called, "How to Raise Drug-Free Kids." And if you call the following number, you can get it: 1-800-ABC-3329, 1-800-ABC-3329.
Now, I'm not sure I'm right here, but maybe some of these kids might have some ideas about the media. There's a big controversy about whether they're all getting the right messages in the media or whether we're contributing to a sort of notion that drugs are okay. So I'm going to start with Eric and then come to Brandon.
ERIC: The media does play a big factor on young kids today because we tend to look at a lot of TV shows. And some shows play a big part in life, some doesn't. You have to have a leeway to know which ones play a real factor in your life and not the drug commercials. If you're serious about knowing and knowing knowledge about drugs, you will listen.
MR. JENNINGS: Do you think the President should do anything about that?
ERIC: I think he should keep on increasing more of those --
THE PRESIDENT: More of the antidrug commercials?
ERIC: Antidrug commercials.
MR. JENNINGS: But now somebody said earlier --
THE PRESIDENT: What about what Matt said --
MR. JENNINGS: -- there were too many of them.
THE PRESIDENT: -- that if you overdo it, people won't believe it? What's the answer to that -- Matt?
MATTHEW: A lot of kids are -- they don't believe it -- you know, it's just not the right message.
THE PRESIDENT: So what is the right message? Go ahead.
MR. JENNINGS: Kirsten.
KIRSTEN: Well, I think the media, a lot of TV shows, they promote drug use. Some characters might be into drugs and it drags on over the weeks. You see, sometimes there is a little bit of change in the character, but pretty much the character is the same as when they started out, so kids are like, well, oh, they're on drugs, but they haven't changed. I mean, well, I can use drugs, and I'll be the same. Nothing will happen to me.
MR. JENNINGS: Right beside you.
Q Yes, and I also -- I saw a show a couple of nights ago where somebody got high on -- I think it was like muscle relaxing pills or something, and I think that might send a message to kids that it --
MR. JENNINGS: That was sitcom or the news?
Q No, it was a sitcom. And I think that that might send the message to kids that it's okay or that something funny will happen because they made a joke out of it.
MR. JENNINGS: Brandon.
BRANDON: I think that the commercials that they have are sometimes false in many ways, because I know that they've got cartoon ones out saying, oh, it's dumb to do drugs. But most kids in my classes in the school that I know -- my grade -- would think that this is some joke. And they show them trying to give away marijuana to the kid, trying to get them started for free, but that's totally untrue.
MR. JENNINGS: Right behind Brandon -- Hillary.
HILLARY: As far as the media saying, "Just say no to drugs," I don't think it hurts anything, but really, I think most kids just ignore it. The most important thing would be to set an example. I think if kids see other kids and peers and other adults not getting involved in anything at all, and coming down harder in the community, then it would be more effective than the commercials.
MR. JENNINGS: All right. Now, I hate to tell you -- I told you at the beginning, an hour was going to go awful fast.
Mr. President, we're going to give you a couple of minutes here. It's your house -- it's our house, but you're living in it. Thank you for having us.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm going to give you back the two minutes. I'm going to give you two minutes to tell me anything specific you think I could do to help more kids stay off drugs.
MR. JENNINGS: Okay. You're going to have to make it very quick.
THE PRESIDENT: Very quick, though. Real quick. One line, everybody.
FRED: What you need to do is make more mentorship programs, more after-school programs where a kid could keep himself busy right after school.
GEORGE: There should be more treatment centers and more education.
MICHAEL: People who are in jail should have more learning while they're in jail, and not just getting out and learning more while they're in the system.
ANTOINE: You should have more police officers out on the street, make sure nobody is selling drugs.
DAN: I think you need more of a firsthand look from people who have experience with this problem to -- that's it.
CHRIS: I think you should cut back on the cartooning commercials and make there be more live-action commercials that get to the point about drugs.
THE PRESIDENT: Give evidence.
LAUREN: More education programs for kids and younger kids about the harmful effects.
ALYSSA: Well, I think that the cartoons they really don't believe because it's just -- if they do it then they think it's cool anyway.
PHILIP: I also think that you should open up more after-school programs where kids have sports to do after school, keep them active.
ALLY: I think the parents need to get really, really involved with their kids, not matter how many times their kids try to make them stay away from them.
MR. JENNINGS: Boy, don't you wish you could get such fast, cogent advice from your Cabinet members? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: It's great, and I think -- first of all, I agree with the after-school arguments, the mentoring arguments, the treatment -- all the things you have said. But I think it's a good thing that we ended with Ally, because we know that children that have parents who work with them and deal with this issue are much less likely to be in trouble.
MR. JENNINGS: Mr. President, thank you very much for having us here to the East Room in the White House. Thank you, kids, you've helped us a lot.
I'm Peter Jennings. Have a good day, everybody. Good-bye from Washington. (Applause.)
END 12:00 Noon EST