[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1996, Book I)]
[January 29, 1996]
[Pages 111-113]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks Announcing the National Campaign To Reduce Teen Pregnancy
January 29, 1996

    Thank you, Secretary Shalala, Dr. Foster, to the distinguished 
American citizens who are here behind me, and all of you who are out 
here with them. I thank the Members of Congress who are here: Senator 
Pell, Senator Murray, Senator Chafee, Congresswoman Clayton, and 
Congressman Stokes. Thank you all for being here and for your interest 
in this important issue.
    In the State of the Union Address I said that I felt our country was 
facing seven great challenges that we had to meet together as a 
community, challenges that we could not solve if our people were simply 
left to fend for themselves. I do believe that we are moving into a 
period of enormous possibility for our people. I honestly believe that 
for Americans who are positioned to take advantage of the world that 
we're living in and the one toward which we

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are going, there will be more opportunities to fulfill their dreams than 
ever before in our history.
    But I also know that many, many Americans, indeed, millions of 
Americans will be blocked from that age of possibility unless we succeed 
in meeting all these challenges. And the very first one that I started 
with in the State of the Union is the one I want to talk about today, 
our obligation to cherish our children and strengthen our families.
    Secretary Shalala talked about the efforts we're making in welfare 
reform and how it relates to this. And we've talked elsewhere about what 
we're trying to do to discourage young people from smoking because that 
presents, by far, the greatest health damage that they face today.
    This morning we want to talk about teen pregnancy, because it is a 
moral problem and a personal problem and a challenge that individual 
young people should face and because it has reached such proportions 
that it is a very significant economic and social problem for the United 
States. The rates here, of course, are mirrored in many other countries 
in the world, but they're also causing the same kind of problems 
elsewhere, and that doesn't make it right.
    Teen parents often don't have the education they need, don't have 
the self-awareness they need, don't have the self-confidence they need 
to make the most of their own lives in the work force or to succeed 
themselves as parents.
    We know, too, that almost all the poor children in this country are 
living with one parent, that there are very, very few poor children, 
without regard to race, region, or income, living in two-parent, married 
households. We know that there are an awful lot of good single parents 
out there doing their best, but we also know it would be better if no 
teenager ever had a child out of wedlock, that it is not the right thing 
to do and it is not a good thing for the children's future and for the 
future of our country.
    We also know, finally, that we all have to work together to solve 
this problem and that the people who deserve the lion's share of credit 
are people like those who are behind me today, people who are giving 
their lives to try to give our young people things to say yes to, to try 
to give our young people a sense of self-confidence, a sense of 
identity, and a sense of the future so that they can make good personal 
decisions about their own lives.
    Members of our administration have been meeting with citizens like 
these folks from all sectors of our society and from all over the 
country to determine whether we could help to support the establishment 
of a new national organization that would expand upon and reinforce and 
elevate these community-based efforts.
    This is not a problem which can be solved in Washington. This is not 
a problem that can be dealt with by a politician's speech, no matter how 
statesmanlike. This is a challenge that has to be dealt with one-on-one-
on-one throughout this country. But there are things, as these people 
have told me today, for political leaders to do; there are things for 
business leaders to do; there are things for people in the media to do; 
there are things for the health care system to do. And I am very pleased 
that from the grassroots we have gotten input about how you ought to 
design the right kind of national campaign against teen pregnancy.
    And today I am pleased to announce that a group of very prominent 
Americans will agree to become the first leaders of a National Campaign 
To Reduce Teen Pregnancy. A dozen are ready to begin the effort, 
including leaders in the field of helping our young people, like former 
Surgeon General Dr. Koop and David Hamburg of the Carnegie Corporations. 
Others who have agreed to play a role include the president of Drew 
University and the former Governor of New Jersey, Tom Kean; former New 
Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman; Ogilvy and Mather chair Charlotte 
Beers; Whoopi Goldberg; former mayor of Atlanta, Congressman, and U.N. 
Ambassador Andrew Young, who is now the cochair of the Olympics in 
Atlanta; and the president of MTV, Judy McGrath.
    I'd like also especially to thank Dr. Isabel Sawhill who is here 
with me now, now with the Urban Institute and used to be a part of this 
administration, for her serious efforts and leadership in spearheading 
this and getting all these folks together and trying to make sure that 
this effort will be rooted in America's communities.
    This will be a serious bipartisan effort to address this issue. We 
all know it ought to be an effort that goes on year-in and year-out; it 
ought to be completely beyond partisan politics. Many of the people who 
have agreed to meet, to serve, will be meeting tomorrow in New York.

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And within the next month this group will be up and running. When it 
holds its first board meeting the National Campaign To Reduce Teen 
Pregnancy, I hope, will be coming to the White House to discuss how we 
can work together and how we can all do our part to advance this 
important work.
    Because Government does have to do its part, again, as I said in the 
State of the Union, we don't have a big Government anymore; it's much 
smaller than it was when I took office. But we don't want a weak 
Government, and we don't want to go back to the time when the American 
people were left to fend for themselves. We need to go forward in a 
sense of the spirit of partnership. And I have asked Dr. Henry Foster to 
serve as my senior adviser on this issue and to be my liaison to this 
national campaign, to make absolutely sure that we have done everything 
we can do to support this effort.
    In his career as a doctor and through his ``I Have A Future'' 
program in Nashville, Dr. Foster has dedicated his energies to dealing 
with this complex, profoundly human problem of teen pregnancy, and he's 
had a remarkable amount of success. In this new role he will work in 
partnership with community-based organizations all across America to 
help give our young people the strength and the tools they need to lead 
responsible and successful lives.
    Ultimately, I believe what is needed on this issue is a revolution 
of the heart. We have to work to instill within every young man and 
woman a sense of personal responsibility, a sense of self-respect, and a 
sense of possibility. Having a child is the greatest responsibility 
anybody can assume, and it's still every American parent's most 
important job. I don't care what else they're doing. And it is not the 
right choice for a teenager to make before she or he is ready. This 
message has to be constantly enforced and reinforced by community 
organizations and by other groups who are in a position to help our 
children make good choices.
    The last point I want to make is that everybody can play a role. And 
those of us who are older and no longer subject to the drama that these 
children live with every day find it easier to make these speeches, 
perhaps, than young people do, but young people are more likely to be 
more effective in doing it. So I want to say a special word of thanks to 
one of the people who met with me today, the young gentleman here to my 
left, Collin Sears. He is demonstrating the kind of contribution one 
person can make. He has worked at Baltimore's Young People's Health 
Connection since he was in middle school, teaching other young people to 
make the right decisions and to take responsibilities for their lives.
    You know, he said--and when we were in the meeting, he was asked 
what was his most effective argument. And he said, ``Well, I really have 
three strategies that I use,'' and he laid out his strategies. Afterward 
I couldn't help thinking, if he'd been here helping me to lobby Congress 
on the budget, it might all be solved. [Laughter] I was absolutely 
carried away that he had, sort of, thought through how he ought to get 
inside the mind and heart of each young person with whom he was dealing. 
We need to lift people like him up. We need to lift programs up, like 
the Best Friends program here in Washington, DC, and I know we have some 
participants here. We need to lift these comprehensive efforts up, where 
these people are actually out there now literally giving their lives to 
help young people secure a better future for themselves, and we need to 
do it together.
    Let me say that there are a lot of things I would like to see done 
in this country over the next 4 or 5 years. But you just imagine what a 
difference America could make and what a different America we would have 
if we could cut the teen pregnancy rate in half. Just imagine how it 
could change the whole face of the country and the whole future of 
America and how our young people think about that future.
    That is really what this is about. It is an effort worth making. It 
ought to be completely bipartisan. We ought to commit ourselves to do it 
for as long as it takes, year-in and year-out, and we ought to root it 
in our communities and recognize that every one of us has a role to play 
and a responsibility to play it.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:53 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the 
White House. In his remarks, he referred to comedienne Whoopi Goldberg.