[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[July 9, 1998]
[Pages 1200-1202]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Launching the National Youth Antidrug Media Campaign in 
Atlanta, Georgia
July 9, 1998

    Thank you very much. Thank you. First of all, let's begin by giving 
Kim and James another hand. Didn't they do a good job? [Applause] They 
spoke well for you.
    Mr. Speaker, Governor Miller, Mr. Mayor, General McCaffrey, General 
Reno, Secretary Shalala, I thank you all for your superb efforts in this 
endeavor. I'd like to say a special word of appreciation to Jim Burke, 
the president of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. He's not as 
well-known to most American children as the President or the Speaker or 
the Governor, but no American has done more to save the children of this 
country from the horror of drug abuse than Jim Burke. And we all owe him 
a very great debt of gratitude. Thank you.
    I'd also like to thank the Ad Council, the Community Anti-Drug 
Coalition, the athletic teams and sports figures that are represented 
here today, the business groups, the Georgia attorney general and 
agriculture commissioner, and the other State and municipal and county 
officials. And Congressman Peter Deutsch from Florida is here with us 
today. I thank all of them for being here. And there are many others who 
aren't here who are supporting what we are doing together as Americans.
    I was interested, when we just watched the ads, to see what the 
young people's reaction was to the various ads. I was wondering to 
myself whether the ads that were most effective with me were also the 
ones that were most effective to you, or whether they were different. I 
say that to make the point that the Speaker made so eloquently. In the 
end, this is about you, what touches you, what you believe, what your 
convictions are.
    We know from the stories that we just heard from James and from Kim, 
we know from all the available scientific research, that what Governor 
Miller said is right: Attitudes drive actions. There are lots of other 
factors. There are some places where kids are subject to more temptation 
than others; there are some blocks where there are more drug dealers 
than others. All of us have to deal with that. But we know that the more 
young people fear drugs, the more they disapprove of them, the less 
likely they are to use them. Therefore, kicking America's drug habit 
requires a dramatic change in attitudes, accompanied and reinforced by a 
dramatic increase in personal responsibility by all Americans.
    Parents have the greatest power. That's what one of the ads showed 
us. The ads we saw today are not meant to replace parents' voices but to 
reinforce them. Ultimately, the best drug enforcement program, the best 
drug prevention

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program is an effective, caring, loving parent sitting down with a child 
and talking seriously about drugs early.
    Parents have already told us that these ads help to break the ice 
with their children. So I ask the parents of America today, don't wait 
until your children are using drugs to talk to them about drugs. Watch 
the ads together and discuss them, beginning tonight.
    Every one of the rest of us can and must help parents to teach their 
children to turn away from drugs. The entertainment industry can shape 
attitudes, as anyone who has a teenager can tell you. The media should 
never glamorize drugs. I'm pleased that, across the entertainment 
industry, a real effort is now being made to help, with the antidrug 
messages on the Wonderful World of Disney, antidrug chat groups on 
America Online, even training sessions about youth drug use for 
screenwriters and producers at Fox--something I hope we will see for all 
people who prepare television programs on all networks.
    Professional athletes can shape attitudes. I thank Major League 
Soccer, the Florida Marlins, the New York Mets, Atlanta's own Braves for 
agreeing to air the ads during their home games. And while one of 
government's primary responsibilities is to enforce the law--and we 
should--we can also support this change in attitudes.
    As General McCaffrey said, with the help of the Speaker and people 
from across the political spectrum, we have aggressively pursued a 
comprehensive antidrug strategy. We've put more police on our streets. 
We've strengthened our border patrols. We've toughened penalties. We do 
more drug testing of prisoners and parolees to break the link between 
crime and drugs. We work more with countries where drugs are grown and 
processed to try to stop the drugs from coming into the United States in 
the first place.
    But with this ad campaign, in which the public's investment is 
matched, dollar for dollar, by private partners, America is mounting a 
new and sweeping effort to change the attitude of an entire generation 
of young people.
    Already, we've seen an impact in the 12 cities where the ads have 
run as a pilot project. Calls--listen to this--in just those 12 cities, 
calls to local antidrug coalition hotlines have increased by up to 500 
percent. Calls to our national antidrug helpline have nearly tripled. 
Young people here in Atlanta say that the ads make them realize the 
serious consequences of using drugs. In Denver, middle school students 
think the ads could ``scare kids out of using drugs,'' to quote one of 
them. In Washington, DC, young people say, to quote one, ``the ads make 
them stop and think about what illegal drugs can do.''
    Tonight, when these ads run on every national television network, 
they will reach more than 40 million Americans, including millions and 
millions of children. That is just the beginning. Over the next 5 years, 
we'll help to make sure that when young people turn on the television, 
listen to the radio, read the newspaper, or surf the Web, they get the 
powerful message that drugs are wrong, illegal, and can kill.
    I'm proud to say, as has already been said by General McCaffrey, 
that this national media campaign was a part of the historic bipartisan 
balanced budget agreement reached last year with Speaker Gingrich and 
the other leaders of Congress. And I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for 
including this in our budget agreement. It shows what we can accomplish 
when we put progress ahead of partisanship. I will work with the 
Congress to fund other important programs in our drug control strategy.
    All of us--parents, the media, athletes, business, government--have 
an opportunity and an obligation to make a real difference in the fight 
against drugs. But nothing we do will succeed, as the Speaker said, 
unless young people also take responsibility for themselves.
    We've heard some personal stories; I'd like to close with two: one 
from my family and one from the job the American people have so 
generously given me these 6 years. Let me begin with the job.
    I spent a lot of time haranguing, cajoling, trying to persuade, 
sometimes putting brutal pressure on countries where drugs are grown or 
processed, or through which drugs pass, trying to get people to stop 
doing things that send drugs to us. And we've had some success. We 
supported remarkable efforts by the Coast Guard, for example, to cut off 
drugs before they get to this country. But we can never cut off the 
whole flow. And every time I'd do this, some leader of a country where 
drugs are grown will say, ``You know, Mr. President, you're right. We 
have a lot of poor farmers in our country, and I wish they'd grow 
something else. But America has 4 percent of the world's people, and 
you're buying almost 50 percent of the

[[Page 1202]]

world's drugs. Nobody is making you buy those drugs. So you can say 
whatever you want to us. If you just said tomorrow--everybody in America 
said, we're not going to buy any more drugs, all our farmers would 
immediately start to grow something legal and good.'' And that's true.
    Now, that doesn't let them off the hook; it doesn't excuse the 
inexcusable behavior of the Colombian drug cartels or any other groups 
in any part of the world. But it is true. It is true. It doesn't mean we 
should stop trying to kill the drugs at the border and stop the imports 
and break the drug gangs. But it's true. If every American young person 
tomorrow said, ``No, thank you,'' they would grow something else. The 
laboratories would make other chemicals that are legal and not harmful.
    I'll tell you another story that's fairly well-known, but I want you 
to think about what it means for families. This young man was brave 
enough to say that his mother used drugs and talk about what--the pain 
it caused the family. My brother nearly died from a cocaine habit. And 
I've asked myself a thousand times, what kind of fool was I that I did 
not know this was going on? You know, I got myself elected President; 
I'm supposed to know what people are thinking, what's going on in their 
minds. How did this happen that I didn't see this coming and didn't stop 
    And when it all happened he said--I said, ``When did this start?'' 
He said, ``Well, in high school; I started using marijuana and drinking 
beer.'' I said, ``How often?'' He said, ``Every day.'' And I thought to 
myself, what kind of family member was I?
    And these things make you do really bad things. They make you abuse 
other people. Most of the people selling drugs on the street are out 
there supporting their own habits. So you take other people, people who 
are basically good people, and you turn them into animals, because they 
don't care what they do to anybody else because they've got to get the 
money, if they have to destroy somebody else, so they can keep feeding 
their own habits. They destroy families. Mothers who love their sons 
wind up neglecting them, abusing them, walking away, weakening the 
family. Everybody gets hurt. Nobody in America is free of this. Not the 
President; not any community, any school, any church, any neighborhood.
    So the hardest thing in the world to do is to get people to change 
their habits, especially if what you're doing feels good in the moment. 
But it's very important. Nothing is so important, not the laws, not the 
investments, not anything. Nothing is so important as what the American 
people get up and do every day just because they think it's the right 
thing to do. Nothing comes close to it.
    So we're here today because we took a little bit of the money the 
American people gave the National Government--a billion dollars over the 
next 5 years--put it with at least that much and maybe more coming from 
private sources, to send a message to all these kids. I look at all 
these little girls out here in their Girl Scouts or their Brownie 
uniforms; the message seems simple today. When they're 14 or 15 or 16 or 
17 or 18, and life gets more complicated, it's real important that they 
carry with them the message that they have today deep in their heart.
    I look at all these kids with these America's Pride T-shirts on, and 
what I want them to do is to go back and somehow reach all those kids 
that are in their schools that don't wear those T-shirts. There's 
somebody like my brother back at your school who is a good kid, just a 
little lost. Somebody told him something is all right that wasn't. And 
the family members were just a little out of it and couldn't believe it 
was going on. You can save them. That's what these ads are all about.
    These ads are designed to knock America upside the head and get 
America's attention and to empower all of you who are trying to do the 
right thing. Please do it.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:40 a.m. in the Sidney Marcus Auditorium 
in the Georgia World Congress Center. In his remarks, he referred to 
student antidrug organization leaders Kim Willis of Erie, PA, and James 
Miller III, of Portland, OR; Gov. Zell Miller, Attorney General Thurbert 
E. Baker, and Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin of Georgia; Mayor 
Bill Campbell of Atlanta; and James E. Burke, chairman, Partnership for 
a Drug-Free America.