[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[May 23, 1998]
[Pages 833-834]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's Radio Address
May 23, 1998

    Good morning. This weekend marks the time when we honor the brave 
men and women who gave their lives to serve our country and we thank the 
hundreds of thousands of Americans in uniform who protect and defend us 
every day all around the world. But this Memorial Day weekend, Americans 
are also praying for the people who lost their lives and for those who 
were wounded when a 15-year-old boy with 
semiautomatic weapons opened fire in Springfield, Oregon, this Thursday.
    Like all Americans, I am deeply shocked and saddened by this 
tragedy, and my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their 
families. Like all Americans, I am struggling to make sense of the 
senseless and to understand what could drive a teenager to commit such a 
terrible act. And like all Americans, I am profoundly troubled by the 
startling similarity of this crime to the other tragic incidents that 
have stunned America in less than a year's time: in Paducah, Kentucky; 
Jonesboro, Arkansas; Pearl, Mississippi; and Edinboro, Pennsylvania.
    We must face up to the fact that these are more than isolated 
incidents. They are symptoms of a changing culture that desensitizes our 
children to violence; where most teenagers have seen hundreds or even 
thousands of murders on television, in movies, and in video games before 
they graduate from high school; where too many young people seem unable 
or unwilling to take responsibility for their actions; and where all too 
often, everyday conflicts are resolved not with words but with weapons, 
which, even when illegal to possess by children, are all too easy to 
    We cannot afford to ignore these conditions. Whether it's gang 
members taking their deadly

[[Page 834]]

quarrels into our schools or inexplicable eruptions of violence in 
otherwise peaceful communities, when our children's safety is at stake 
we must take action, and each of us must do our part.
    For more than 5 years, we have worked hard here in our 
administration to give parents and communities the tools they need to 
protect our children and to make our schools safe, from tighter security 
to more police to better prevention. To promote discipline and maintain 
order, we are encouraging and have worked hard to spread curfews, school 
uniforms, tough truancy policies. We instituted a zero tolerance for 
guns in schools policy. It is now the law in all our 50 States. And 
we'll work hard to make it a reality in all our communities to keep 
deadly weapons out of the hands of our children and out of our schools. 
And we will continue to demand responsibility from our young people with 
strong punishments when they break the law.
    This year Congress has an opportunity to protect children in our 
schools and on our streets by passing my juvenile crime bill, which will 
ban violent juveniles from buying guns for life and take other important 
steps. We shouldn't let this chance pass us by.
    But protecting our children and preventing youth violence is not a 
job that Government can or should do alone. We must all do more, as 
parents, as teachers, as community leaders, to teach our children the 
unblinking distinction between right and wrong, to teach them to turn 
away from violence, to shield them from violent images that warp their 
perceptions of the consequences of violence.
    We must all do more to show our children, by the power of our own 
example, how to resolve conflicts peacefully. And we must all do more to 
recognize and look for the early warning signals that deeply troubled 
young people send before they explode into violence. Surely, more of 
them can be saved and more tragedies avoided if we work at it in an 
organized way with sensitivity and firm discipline.
    This weekend we grieve with the families of Springfield, Oregon. We 
may never understand the dark forces that drive young people to commit 
such terrible crimes, but we must honor the memories of the victims by 
doing everything we possibly can to prevent such tragedies from 
occurring in the future and to build a stronger, safer future for all of 
our children.
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The address was recorded at 3:30 p.m. on May 22 in the Roosevelt 
Room at the White House for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on May 23. In his 
remarks, the President referred to Kipland P. Kinkel, who was charged 
with the May 21 shooting at Thurston High School in Springfield, OR, in 
which 2 students were killed and 22 wounded.