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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks at an Antidrug Awards Ceremony at Pickard Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois


Well, first of all, let me just thank your principal, Mrs. Asllani, for the hospitality. You know, the minute we walked into this school, we were made to feel at home. And some of it is because of your principal, some because of the other wonderful teachers here, and a lot of it just because of the warm welcome that we all felt when we saw the signs and the posters and all of that. So, it makes a difference. And for those who participated in all of that, my heartfelt thanks.

I want to just refer to the people here with me. Sam Skinner -- he's the Secretary of Transportation. He's a member of the President's Cabinet. We talked about drugs in the classroom. He's in overall charge of the Coast Guard. They're the guys -- a lot of them out at sea -- trying to do the job on stopping drugs. He's doing a wonderful job. Governor Thompson, the Governor of the whole State. And in this drug area, why, he put on a major effort to get Illinois to have its legislation right out front of the Nation -- did a great job. You all know, because you see him every single night on television, I bet you -- Mayor Daley. And he's fighting hard at the local level to work with the police officers and the families to do a good job on fighting drugs. Congresswoman Lynn Martin: She used to be a teacher, so she understands a lot about how it works in school. And now she's a Member of the United States Congress, a real close friend of mine, a real leader. And she understands the problems of young people in this country -- working to help. And Jim Ryan, a State's attorney, is here. I, too, want to say hello to McGruff's master, Officer Oliveri, and even -- Oliveri over here and McGruff himself here.

So, thanks for the welcome! Also, we've got to give one more round of applause. We have to do this because when I looked at these winning posters I saw so many that could have won. And I think these winners need one more round of applause for what they've done. [Applause]

All of these posters, these ones right here behind, show that this school understands that drugs and crime are bad, and you've got to keep on understanding that. We asked how many kids in the other room -- Lynn Martin did -- how many had been exposed to drugs? Many hands went up. And that means that the pressure is still on out there, so you've got to follow through on what you've learned in this school.

I'm here today, as your principle alluded to, because you, the students of Pickard Elementary, cared enough about the problem of drugs in your community to write the President of the United States. Well, I'm responding to those letters, and as she put it: You have been heard, and I'm just delighted to be with you.

For the younger ones here, how many of you have ever heard the story about the little train that could? I bet you have. I hope you have. But Pickard is the little school that could. And all of you have said no to drugs, and you've said yes to education. And you've refused to be defeated by marijuana and crack and terrible gang violence. And instead, you've chosen to succeed by studying, obeying your elders, and having enough pride in yourselves just to say no to drugs.

And so, I'm delighted to have had this chance. Somebody asked me do you like your job as President? You might think it's an easy question. I guess it's easy because I really do like my job, but there are many facets to being President. And one of the things that really makes an impression on me is when I see dedicated teachers, a totally dedicated principal, working with dedicated students who are willing to do what they can to stand up against drugs.

And so, it is my honor -- it's not yours -- for me to be here. It is mine to be with you today. My Spanish is not too hot. I told the girl that met me out there, Ana, that we have grandkids that are half Mexican. Their mother's a Mexican. And so, I should speak better Spanish. My Spanish is just terrible. And maybe I can get a little help from our winner today, because I know he's fluent in Spanish, as many others are. But I would simply say: Diga no a drogas. [Say no to drugs.] And thank you very, very much. Muchimo gracias. I'm very proud to have been here. God bless you all.

[At this point, the students chanted antidrug slogans.]

That's it. Thank you all. Now I got to go to work. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:08 a.m. in the gymnasium. In his remarks, he referred to Sylvia F. Asllani, the school principal; Rose Oliveri, a Chicago police officer who assisted at the school; and Ana Zamora, a fifth grade student who had written a letter to the President about widespread drug abuse in her neighborhood.

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