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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks to the Media Advertising Partnership for a Drug-Free America


I'm delighted to be here, and look forward to seeing you in a little bit across the way. But to chairman Jim Burke, let me first thank you, Jim, for bringing together such a talented array of people. And I'm grateful to see all of you here. I'm grateful for what you're doing.

Welcome to the White House, or, more accurately, the White House complex. I never understood that phrase. Sounds like some kind of neurosis -- [laughter] -- or perhaps a bad case of Potomac fever.

I am very pleased to see Bill Bennett here, and I want to take this opportunity to say that he has not only my full confidence but total support in this effort.

It's an honor to have you all here today. And I'm grateful that some of you have agreed to serve on advisory committees. I see Bill Moss and others here. And of course, the work that he is really undertaking is terrific. This group is at the leading edge of a powerful and moving effort: debunking the big myth about drugs by deglamorizing them and deglamorizing their users.

And having had some experience a long time ago in business, I think I understand a few of the day-to-day concerns of running a company. And so, it's all the more impressive that you're devoting significant time and resources to this struggle against illegal drugs. You're managing to look past the day-to-day operations and beyond the balance sheets, because you understand that America may have no more pressing domestic priority than the struggle to get the drugs off the streets and out of our schoolyards.

Earlier this fall, I presented, with the advice and help of many here, a national drug strategy to increase the Federal efforts in the war against drugs and to better coordinate the vast range of resources and the agencies and people devoted to solving the drug problem. When I presented that plan I was convinced that a nation united against drugs could not lose, and I still really believe that. And I also remain convinced that the Federal Government will never solve this problem by itself. That's why what you're doing is absolutely crucial; and it's why, in my address to the Nation, I made a point of thanking those who are donating air time and space for this antidrug message. I'll tell you, you can feel it. You can feel the change, I think, in the awareness of the American people as a result of what many in this room have already done in that regard.

Among the four pieces of our drug strategy -- enforcement, interdiction, treatment, and prevention -- you understand that it's the last point, prevention, that offers the best long-term potential.

With Jim Burke's leadership, this Partnership for a Drug-Free America is producing hard-hitting and carefully targeted messages, effectively tackling the drug issue from the demand side. I was moved by -- and I know Bill was; we've talked about it -- by President Barco of Colombia's charge to us: Stop the consumption. He's not blaming his own problems entirely on that, but it's a charge that I was happy to repeat on his behalf -- on our behalf -- to the entire country. So, you're tackling the demand side -- breaking a few eggs in the process -- as you put your marketing and communications expertise to work, because nobody understands demand psychology better than you.

There is that ad where a television, a trip to Paris, a new car all disappear right under the cocaine user's nose, or another about how a drug-induced high is like diving into the empty swimming pool, and the infamous frying egg. These are images no child or adult can easily forget. By applying marketing experience and advertising talent to unsell drug use and drug users, your ads are really managing to induce, nationwide, an ideological allergy to illegal drugs. You know, it occurred to me: Never before in the history of man have such energy, talent, and resources been devoted to getting people not to buy something.

The partnership's message -- some call them advertorials -- clearly seem to work. A year after this campaign began, in 1987 -- and I don't think it's mere coincidence -- Americans of all ages viewed drug use and drug users more negatively, a trend that is continuing to this day. That's the message about your medium. You've shown that the private sector can do what legislation alone never can do -- change attitudes.

Your generosity in the past, providing the time and space to showcase these messages, has been outstanding. And it's by far the largest such effort in the history of the industry. But what you're setting out to do, committing million a day in advertising time and space every day for 3 years, is truly extraordinary. And it's an effort that I personally want to see succeed because it's so important to our struggle against drugs.

Beyond earning Presidential appreciation -- which in your case, that's easy, you've got that, and certainly personal admiration and respect, you've got that -- but your continuing support of this partnership demonstrates the best in the American spirit of service to others. In fact, I'm told that the Partnership for a Drug-Free America is the largest volunteer private sector ad campaign since the war bond drives back in World War II. And you've clearly taken to heart the conviction that I share -- that from now on in America, any definition of a successful life must include serving others. Yours is the kind of civic spirit America has always turned to and been able to count on when faced with threats from abroad or at home.

So, today a generation of Americans is threatened from an enemy within, literally. It courses through their veins and compromises their minds and closes the doors of their future. This generation deserves better, and with your help will know better.

So, by contributing this unique ability to influence public opinion to the problem of drug abuse, you are setting high standards for the rest of the Nation to follow. Like the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, every individual and institution must decide to make its own contribution to bettering our communities. You have the power -- you have that power to change America's mind about drugs, so keep breaking the eggs and putting together young lives.

Thank you all very, very much for what you're doing. I really mean it. It is absolutely essential service to the greatest country on the face of the Earth. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:52 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to William J. Bennett, Director of National Drug Control Policy; and William Moss, a Republican Party fundraiser.

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