[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[September 13, 1995]
[Pages 1355-1358]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1355]]

Remarks to the National Family Partnership in Elkridge, Maryland
September 13, 1995

    The President. Thank you very much. Terrell did a great job, didn't 
he? Let's give him another hand. Didn't he do a great job? [Applause] 
When Terrell was going up to speak, the Governor said, ``He seems so 
calm.'' And I said, ``Well, after all, it's his crowd.'' [Laughter]
    I am honored to be here with your Governor; with the Attorney 
General, Janet Reno; and with our Nation's drug czar, Dr. Lee Brown; 
with the National Family Partnership chair, Carol Reeves; with the 
members of the family who did a lot to inspire what we're doing here 
today, Myrna Camarena, who is Enrique Camarena's sister and a DEA agent; 
Dora Camarena, Enrique's mother; and Rick Evans, the executive director 
of the National Family Partnership; and of course, along with the 
Governor and all the other State officials who are here, Congressman 
Cardin. And to your principal, your superintendent, the school board 
members, and all the others who are here, I'm delighted to be in this 
wonderful school. And I thank all of you who work here and who send your 
children here for making this such a successful place. I'd also like to 
thank all the law enforcement officers who've come here from all around 
the country.
    Let me tell you why we're here; we're here to do two things: First 
of all, as the Attorney General has said, to observe the first 
anniversary of the enactment of the crime bill into law and to celebrate 
its accomplishments and, secondly, to reaffirm the elemental proposition 
that if we don't do something to keep our young people drug-free, we 
will never solve the crime problem, and that that begins first and 
foremost with an act of personal responsibility on the part of every 
American, personal responsibility on the part of the students, on the 
part of parents and educators and others, for self, for family, for 
community, and for country.
    Lee Brown has done an outstanding job in working with our high 
schools to reduce drugs and violence. Yesterday, he kicked off our 
national back-to-school ``stay drug-free'' public service announcement 
campaign, enlisting the involvement of prominent sports figures and 
other entertainers to tape radio and TV spots urging young people to 
stay drug-free and urging parents to stay involved. He's also passing 
out this wonderful little bumper sticker that I think could go very well 
with your red ribbon campaign. It says, ``Stay drug-free; you have the 
power''--you have the power.
    A year ago, when the crime bill was enacted, those of us who 
supported it, I believe, exercised our personal responsibility to the 
young people of America to do everything we could to ensure their safety 
and to provide alternatives to crime and violence. It was one of the 
proudest accomplishments of my tenure as your President.
    We broke 6 long years of partisan, rhetorical, political gridlock to 
put in place a crime bill that was both tough and smart, that actually 
holds out the promise of saving lives and increasing the quality of life 
and the safety of the American people. We put 100,000 more police on the 
street; made ``three strikes and your out'' the law of the land; banned 
assault weapons from our neighborhoods, our streets, and our schools; 
finally elected to do something about the terrible problem of violence 
against women, much of it, unfortunately, domestic violence, and we gave 
our young people some things to say yes to as well as to say no to, 
because these police officers said we had to have more prevention in 
education programs in our schools if we wanted a safe America for the 
next generation.
    Today, there are those who in the name of a balanced budget would go 
back on all this progress. They are the same people who said we would 
never put 100,000 police officers on the street. They said we couldn't 
even put 20,000 on in 6 years, over 25,000 in one year. We're going to. 
We're on time. We're ahead of schedule. We're below cost. We are keeping 
our commitments to the American people. So those who want to turn away 
from measures that have lowered the crime rate in almost every major 
urban and rural area in this country, I say, not if I can stop it--not 
if I can stop it.
    Let me be clear--the Governor mentioned it--this is not about 
balancing the budget. I am for balancing the budget. When I became the 
President, we had quadrupled the debt in 12 years and a bipartisan 
agreement to make out like it didn't matter. We had a $290 billion

[[Page 1356]]

a year deficit. That deficit today is $160 billion. We've cut it nearly 
in half in only 3 years. I am for balancing the budget.
    But the purpose of balancing the budget is to lift the burden of 
debt from these young people in this audience, to free up money in 
America to be borrowed by private business people to invest, to create 
jobs, to strengthen our economy, to improve the quality of life in the 
future. We cannot do that if we decide to balance the budget in ways 
that will undermine our economy or our quality of life. And that is why 
I have said repeatedly, we do not have to cut education, and we must not 
cut our efforts to reduce the crime rate, to reduce violence, and to 
give our children a safer, more secure future. It is not necessary to 
balance the budget, and it undermines the very purpose of doing it. We 
must not take that course.
    I just want to say one other thing. What we have done on the crime 
bill has worked because of the exercise of personal responsibility by 
other people in the criminal justice system. In Washington, we can give 
these fine police chiefs here and the people with whom they work the 
tools, but they have to use the tools, and citizens have to help them. 
Therefore, everyone in America who is a good citizen can justifiably 
claim some responsibility for the fact that the crime rate for all 
serious offenses, including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated 
assault, is down in almost every area in the United States. That is an 
American achievement, and we need to keep working until we bring it down 
to an acceptable level, where it ought to be.
    But just as we have made progress in certain areas, there are clouds 
still hanging over our future. And I want to talk about two of them 
today because they affect these young people in this audience.
    Last week, the Justice Department issued a report which showed that 
while overall crime is down, violent crime committed by juveniles, 
people under the age of 18, is still at an all-time high. Juvenile 
violence has now become the number one crime problem in the United 
States of America. We cannot rest, we cannot rest in our official 
positions, we cannot rest as citizens, we cannot rest as parents until 
we do something to change that.
    I am so sick and tired of picking up the newspaper and reading 
stories about honor students standing at bus stops being shot down by 
careless drive-by shooters. I am so tired of reading stories about a 16-
year-old boy shooting a 12-year-old boy and killing him because he 
thought he was treated with disrespect. Whatever happened to,`` Sticks 
and stones can break my bones''? What ever happened to,``Count to 10 
before you talk, much less act''?
    I couldn't believe it, the other day there was a survey of teenage 
gang members in which two-thirds of them said they felt justified in 
shooting someone who treated them with disrespect. If the President took 
that position, we'd be out of bullets in the country. [Laughter]
    Who ever heard of this kind of behavior? It's funny, but it's not. 
It's not funny. We have to take responsibility for the way the young 
people of this country look at the world, how they define right and 
wrong, how they define their dignity. The greatest human beings who have 
ever lived in the whole history of humanity were consistently abused by 
others, and they were great because they did not lash out. What is this 
madness that our children are being taught, that it is all right to take 
violent action against other people if they say something you don't 
like? We must do something about it.
    The second thing that bothers me, besides juvenile violence, was 
revealed in a report yesterday released by our Government through the 
Department of Health and Human Services, which showed that while drug 
use is down among people between the ages of 18 and 34 and cocaine use 
is down, marijuana use is going up again among young people between the 
ages of 12 and 17, nearly doubling in just 3\1/2\ years from 4 percent 
to 7 percent who say they've used marijuana in the last month.
    That's because apparently more and more young people don't think 
it's bad for you. Well, it's wrong; it's illegal; it's dangerous. It's a 
horrible first step, and we have got to turn that number around. And 
that's one big reason I am here today with young people who know it and 
who are prepared to say it.
    I have believed in and participated in the National Family 
Partnership's red ribbon campaign for a long time. When I was the 
Governor of my State, Hillary and I were always actively involved every 
year about this time. We were always proud to do it. And I believe every 
year I was Governor, we ranked in the top three States in America in the 
number of our young people participating. And since we only had 2.4 
million people, I was pretty proud of that.

[[Page 1357]]

    What you are doing is important because the red ribbon chairs, the 
red ribbon parents, and most important, the red ribbon students are 
doing what no law, no government can do. They are assuming 
responsibility for their behavior, the behavior of their children, and 
in so doing, for their own futures. The red ribbon is the symbol now in 
America of our children's pledge to lead drug-free lives. The young 
people here are doing the right thing. Saying no to drugs is saying yes 
to life.
    In addition to the pledge by the students and the display of red 
ribbon, the red ribbon campaign also focuses on educating our young 
people about the dangers of drug use and mobilizing every community to 
develop its own solution. And I want to emphasize that. Every community 
in America needs its own plan, based on its own resources and its own 
problems, to deal with this issue. There is no cookie-cutter plan coming 
out of Washington that will solve all these problems. Every community 
needs people like you to chart the future and to hold up these young 
people as models.
    That's why I want to thank those of you in the National Family 
Partnership for choosing this day to kick off your Red Ribbon Campaign. 
It's a wonderful day. We're celebrating the first anniversary of the 
crime bill, its results, and a declining crime rate, the exercise of 
responsibility by adults in positions of authority. But more 
importantly, we're celebrating the future by the exercise of 
responsibility by these young people.
    We have to do something to make their future less violent. As the 
Attorney General said, the Justice Department in its youth violence 
initiative is going to help 10 communities establish partnerships 
between police departments and courts and schools, hospitals and civic 
leaders to reduce violence.
    In Maryland, in Baltimore, 24 community police officers will form 
curfew enforcements and juvenile violence crime teams to work with the 
schools to lower violence against young people, not to punish children 
but to demand responsibility from them and their parents.
    In Inglewood, California, the police department has made street 
terrorism a crime and intensified their community efforts to increase 
penalties for gang members who practice it. We cannot tolerate terrorism 
of any kind in our country. Why should we go to all the trouble to keep 
these terrorists from coming into the country if we're going to let 
homegrown kinds terrorize our children on their own streets?
    In Birmingham, police officers are working with schools to make sure 
that they get rid of guns in schools. No one should ever fear being shot 
in or around their schools. Similar efforts will be supported in 
Bridgeport, Connecticut; Cleveland; Milwaukee; Richmond; San Antonio; 
Seattle; and Salinas, California.
    But nothing we will do will work unless all of us who are adults 
take the time to teach our children what it means to be a good person 
and a good citizen. Our Secretary of Education has called this character 
education, trying to encourage our schools to teach basic values that 
make for a good life, like honesty and trustworthiness and respect for 
self, others, property, and our environment. These values make a 
difference. And that is what this red ribbon campaign is all about.
    I'd like now to ask the young people who are up here on the stage 
with me and all the young people in the audience who want to do it, to 
stand up and repeat the red ribbon pledge for the United States of 
America, so everybody in the country can hear it today. Stand up and I 
will say it, and you repeat after me:
    I pledge to lead a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. I will say no to 
alcohol. I will say no to other drugs. I will help my friends say no. I 
pledge to stand up for what I know is right and remain drug-free and 

[The participants repeated the pledge line by line after the President.]

    The President. Thank you very much.
    Now, I want to invite the students, starting here, as I finish, to 
come up here and sign this pledge with me. But as I do, I want every 
adult in this audience to think about this. We're proud of these 
children who made this pledge. Most of us who know something about this 
problem are sitting here thinking, gosh, I wish every child in America 
would make this pledge.
    We expect these children to keep their word. Well, if we do, why 
don't we set an example by keeping our word to them, to make this the 
safest possible country with the healthiest possible future for them by 
doing what we know works to reduce crime and to give them a chance to 
keep the pledge they just made.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

[[Page 1358]]

Note: The President spoke at 11:35 a.m. at the Mayfield Woods Middle 
School. In his remarks, he referred to student Terrell Brice; Gov. 
Parris Glendening of Maryland; and Myrna and Dora Camarena, sister and 
mother of Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique Camarena 
Salazar, who was killed while conducting an undercover investigation of 
drug traffickers in Mexico.