[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[December 11, 1997]
[Pages 1747-1749]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the Coast Guard in Miami, Florida
December 11, 1997

    Thank you very much, Lieutenant Britton, for your service and for 
that very thorough account of your activities. I hope that none of the 
Coast Guard will ever have to engage in ice-breaking in this area. 
    Admiral Kramek, Admiral Saunders, Admiral Rufe, the men and women of 
the Coast Guard; Secretary Slater, thank you for your remarks and your 
work. General McCaffrey, thank you for the extraordinary job you have 
done in such a short time in focusing our Nation's attention on the drug 
problem and, even more importantly, coming up with a strategy with which 
to approach it, a strategy that is beginning to show significant 
    Acting Customs Commissioner Banks, SOUTHCOM Commander General 
Wilhelm--I noticed that a lot of people laughed, General, when General 
McCaffrey said that you had a higher intellect than your two 
predecessors. One of them was General McCaffrey--I can understand him 
putting himself down--[laughter]--I don't know what General Clark thinks 
about it. [Laughter]
    Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, 
and my good friend Lieutenant Governor MacKay, thank you all for being 
here and for the support that you give to the United States in the work 
we have to do here to deal with the drug problem. Thank all of you for 
coming. I see a lot of my friends out in the audience, including State 
Senator Daryl Jones--I'm glad to see you. And of all the men and women 
of the Coast Guard here, I can't help noticing that my immediate past 
Coast Guard military aide is now a deputy group commander in St. 
Petersburg, Lieutenant Commander June Ryan, and I'm glad to see her over 
there with General Wilhelm, earning an honest living for a change after 
escaping the political life of Washington. [Laughter]
    Before I get into my remarks about what you're doing here, 
Lieutenant Britton mentioned the fact that the Coast Guard is not 
involved in ice-breaking, but with El Nino, who knows. [Laughter] Now, 
we all laughed about that, but the truth is, as many of you know better 
than most of our fellow country men and women, there is an enormous body 
of evidence that the climate of the Earth is warming at a more rapid 
rate than at any time in the last 10,000 years. Many, many scientists 
believe in the next 100 years the climate will go--the average 
temperature will go up someplace between 2 and 6 degrees. To give you 
some idea of what the consequences of that kind of change were in the 
last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago, the average climate--average--climate 
temperature was only about 9 degrees lower than it is now.
    If it were to happen that we had a significant increase in 
temperature within a brief period, huge lowland areas in the United 
States, including big portions of south Florida, and island nations in 
the Pacific could be completely flooded. That is why the nations of the 
world have been meeting in Japan to try to find a way to reduce 
greenhouse gas emissions, to reduce global warming in a way that permits 
us to continue to grow our economies and work together in a responsible 
    Yesterday, at the eleventh hour, the nations reached an agreement. I 
think it's of great relevance, especially to south Florida. It is 
environmentally strong, and it's economically sound. There's still a lot 
of challenges ahead. I believe we have to get the developing countries 
more involved because this is a global problem, not an American problem 
or a rich country problem. But this is a huge first step.
    And I would urge all of you--I see already the papers are full of 
people saying, ``The sky is falling; the sky is falling. It's a terrible 
thing.'' Every time we've tried to improve the American environment in 
the last 25 or 30 years, somebody has predicted that it would wreck the 
economy. And the air is cleaner, the water is cleaner, the food supply 
is safer, there are fewer toxic waste dumps, and the last time I 

[[Page 1748]]

we had the lowest unemployment rate in 24 years. So don't believe the 
skeptics. Give us a chance to make the case. And I just don't want the 
Coast Guard to be out there riding on any higher seas than we have 
already. And I think it's the right thing to do.
    Let me also say that I want to express sincere thanks to all the 
people in the Coast Guard who do this work. I thank the crew of the 
Cutter Chandeleur for the tour I just got. I had the chance to see some 
of the new technologies that are making a tough job just a little easier 
and making smugglers' lives quite a bit harder.
    For the last 5 years, we have been moving this country toward the 
21st century, with a vision to provide opportunity for everyone 
responsible enough to work for it, to maintain our leadership in the 
world, and to pull our increasingly diverse people closer together. That 
has required us to have an aggressive view of what the National 
Government's role is, but a very different one, not that we could sit on 
the sidelines or that we could solve all the problems but that we had a 
sharpened responsibility to create the conditions and give people the 
tools to solve their own problems and make the most of their own lives.
    Our economy is the healthiest in a generation. Our world leadership 
is strong. We're making headway across a whole range of social problems. 
Crime is at its lowest rate in 24 years. We've had a record drop in 
people on the welfare rolls, moving into the workplace. But surely we 
cannot meet all the challenges facing the American people unless we can 
break the deadly grip of crime related to drugs, and drug dependence 
itself, on our people especially and on our communities across the 
    I've come to Causeway Island today because I want America to know 
that off the coast of Florida you are waging a battle for America's 
future and America's children. The ammo is live, the dangers are real, 
and I want America to know you are making a big difference.
    Almost 2 years ago, General McCaffrey and I came with the Attorney 
General to Miami to launch a comprehensive antidrug strategy for the 
Nation, a commonsense plan to address an uncommonly complex problem: 
prevention to keep children from turning to drugs, treatment to help 
break the cycle of addiction and crime, interdiction to reduce the flow 
of drugs, law enforcement to break up the sources of supply, and the 
largest counterdrug budget in history to back it up.
    Thanks in no small measure to heroic efforts on the high seas, in 
the air, and along our borders, the strategy is starting to show 
promising results. In the areas of interdiction, the Coast Guard and its 
partners have just completed a banner year, increasing arrests of 
traffickers by 1,000 percent and seizures of cocaine by 300 percent. 
You've been true to your motto, Semper Paratus, and I know you're too 
modest to do it, but I think all the rest of us--and you can join in if 
you like--should give the United States Coast Guard a big hand for a 
remarkable year. [Applause]
    I also want to congratulate the Customs Service on its success, 
particularly the drug seizure off the coast of Miami earlier this week. 
It's a feat worthy of one of these television movies--one officer, 
Senior Special Agent Joe Goulet, who is here with us today--stand up. 
Where are you? [Applause] Now, listen to this. You did not see this in a 
technologically altered movie. This happened. He singlehandedly pulled 
alongside a drug-running vessel cutting through the waves at 20 miles an 
hour, disabled the vessel, and dove back into his own vessel before it 
raced away. I can't tie my shoes that fast. [Laughter] With the help of 
Coast Guard personnel and air support, he and his fellow Customs 
officers seized more than 2,000 pounds of cocaine, the 10th major 
seizure in south Florida in the last 6 weeks alone.
    This is an impressive record. But we know we must do more because 
the drug cartels will do more; after all, there's a lot of money in 
this. So we're already deploying new technologies, increasing the 
Customs budget, doubling the number of Border Patrol agents along the 
Southwest border. And today I'm committing another $73 million to the 
Defense Department's $800 million counternarcotics budget to help 
support the interdiction efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean. I 
want to especially thank the Secretary of Defense, Bill Cohen, for his 
leadership on these initiatives and to thank our Armed Forces leaders 
for their continuing dedication to this part of America's security 
    As General McCaffrey said, in all this we'll have to continue to 
work even more closely with our neighbors and our allies across the 
hemisphere. Mexico will soon launch with us our first joint counterdrug 
strategy. This spring we'll

[[Page 1749]]

be with all the democracies in Latin America and the Caribbean at the 
Summit of the Americas in Chile, where we will do our best to build a 
true hemispheric alliance against drugs.
    We'll also continue to work as we work to protect our borders, with 
law enforcement on the streets of America, targeting gang violence 
associated with drugs, helping people to adopt the kinds of strategies 
that where adopted have led to dramatic drops in drug trafficking and 
violence. I can just tell you, to cite one example, it has now been more 
than 2 years since a single child has been killed by a gun on the 
streets of the city of Boston, Massachusetts--more than 2 years in one 
of our largest American cities. If we can do that in one city, we ought 
to be able to do that in every city, and we owe our children and their 
future no less.
    The one thing General McCaffrey recognized not long after he took 
office is that we can spend all the money in the world on interdiction, 
we can spend all the money in the world on law enforcement, we can spend 
all the money in the world even on preventive strategies, but somehow, 
some way, our children have to decide that we will stop becoming the 
world's largest consumer of drugs. If we have 4 percent of the world's 
population and we consume nearly half the drugs, we're going to have 
trouble. There will be big money in it, and we'll have to put big money 
and enormous resources and the lives of our finest young people in 
uniform against the effort. We have got to change the culture in America 
which has so many of our young people becoming willing drug users. The 
numbers are encouraging. They're going down, but they're still far too 
    A lot of this has to be done by people who deal with our young 
people one on one, starting with their parents. But Government can help. 
I want to applaud General McCaffrey for having the guts to go to 
Congress and ask them to give us $195 million for a media campaign next 
month. Every other serious endeavor in the United States is accompanied 
by a media campaign. But when we decided to ask for this, a lot of 
people thought we had slipped a gasket, because it made General 
McCaffrey and the whole effort so subject to cheap political attack. But 
in fairness to the Members of Congress, there was very little of it. And 
everyone understood that this was not a Democratic or a Republican 
issue, this was an American issue. And we had to reach our children 
however we could, whenever we could, in the best way that we could. So I 
thank you, General, for one more time risking a bullet for America's 
    I want to say, when these things start, I hope they will remind the 
parents, the teachers, the coaches, the religious leaders that they have 
to take the lead in making our children strong enough to take the right 
stands and turn away from drugs. This is not--this war on drugs, as it's 
often called, is somehow misleading, I think, in the sense that it's not 
an offensive against a single enemy conducted by a single army. Instead, 
it's more like one of Lieutenant Britton's hobbies. She just ran in a 
marathon race where there are lots of people running at different paces 
in different ways. Everyone that finishes ought to get a medal. And it 
requires strength and determination and conditioning and unbelievable 
patience. It requires also a certain courage never, never to stop in the 
face of the relentless obstacles ahead. That's what this is. We're 
making progress in this marathon. The Coast Guard is leading the way. 
But all of us have a role to play, and we better determine to play it if 
we expect the 21st century to be America's best years. That's what I 
expect, and I think you do, too.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:20 a.m. at the U.S. Coast Guard Station. 
In his remarks, he referred to Lt. Megan Britton, USCG, Duty Officer, 
Seventh District Command Center; Adm. Robert E. Kramek, USCG, Coast 
Guard Commandant; Rear Adm. Norm Saunders, USCG, Commander, 7th Coast 
Guard District; Vice Adm. Roger T. Rufe, USCG, Commander, Atlantic Area; 
Gen. Charles E. Wilhelm, USMC, Commander in Chief, U.S. Southern 
Command; Gen. Wesley K. Clark, USA, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; 
and Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay of Florida.