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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Drug-Free School Recognition Program Awards


Thank you all very much. Welcome, Secretary Cavazos and all of you, the principals, the students, parents, teachers, and friends. I'm delighted to have you here in the Rose Garden today. We're here to celebrate a cause that's near and dear to your hearts and mine: the battle to free our schools and our children from the poisonous plague of drugs. We're so proud to honor the 51 schools named as winners in our 1989 to '90 Drug-Free School Recognition Program.

You've distinguished yourselves and your country by substantially reducing alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use among your students. And each school represented here today has been selected because they have a clear no-drug-use policy, established enforcement procedures, and an ongoing plan to remain or become totally drug-free. You're each stars on your own, and together you form a constellation of hope, illuminating the blackness of the night's sky.

We've established these awards because nothing should be more important to us than the young people of America. And because they are our future, they trust us to leave our land healthy and at peace and our values strong and true so that the world they inherit will be a good one. And they trust us to prepare them to take advantage of the opportunity that the world has to offer.

You know, education means more than just teaching our children the skills that are needed to hold a job; it's also about passing on to each new generation the values that serve as the foundation and cornerstone of our free society: loyalty, compassion, courage, and the ability to make the crucial distinctions between the right and wrong. But to get the finest education in our schools, we must get the drugs out.

As President, I have seen much and heard even more, but as a parent, few stories have wrenched me as hard as those about schoolchildren trapped in this evil nightmare of drugs. We've seen the tragic devastation that drugs cause, seen how they're draining the lifeblood of our best and greatest hope. We've heard the stories, have thought about the young lives being wasted. And finally, as a nation, we declared: This is war, and let the victory begin with each one of us.

We must win our war on drugs by persuading our young people that drugs are not ``cool,'' that drugs will chew them up and spit them out, and that they must see that the choice of drugs over self-reliance is the choice of death over life. But you know, ultimately the most important weapons in the war on drugs are the least tangible ones: self-discipline, courage, support from family, and faith in one's self. The answer is traditional values. And if we want to stop our kids from putting drugs in their bodies, we must first ensure that they have good ideas in their heads and moral character in their hearts.

And that's exactly what the 51 schools that we honor here are doing. But actions not words, speak most vividly, most poignantly. Listen to the extraordinary stories of some of the schools represented here today.

Almost half a century ago, a scene from a movie captured the hearts of Americans: An older boy, troubled but now reformed, carries a younger boy. And when a priest offers to relieve him of his burden, the boy quietly but firmly refuses. ``He ain't heavy,'' he says, ``he's my brother.'' The movie was ``Boys Town.''

In 1990 the extraordinary mission of this community continues, inspiring its students to take responsibility for their lives and the lives of those around them. A model town for ``at risk'' teens, it teaches right from wrong in a loving environment that stresses self-respect and moral values. It's a healing balm that restores lost youngsters physically, mentally, and spiritually.

A visitor to Boys Town High School once said: ``Here, they make the kids want to resist drugs by showing them that they're people who deserve respect -- from themselves as well as from others. I've never seen kids so in touch with themselves.''

And, for the real truth of this place, here's what one Boys Town High student said: ``There are lots of holes in my life that were filled with pain. And now I'm going to fill them with joy.''

Another place where kids are finding joy is the Mollie Ray Elementary School in Orlando, Florida. Principal Paul Van Mitchell is a hero with faith in commonsense values which have never failed us when we've had the courage to live up to them.

The school is in what's been called an ugly environment with pretty kids. Paul and his staff are warriors defending what's beautiful by destroying what's evil. They provide special after-school drug prevention programs for the most ``at-risk'' students and have an open-door mentor program. And Paul has also inspired a communitywide drug program and is part of a task force to combat drugs.

And another principal-hero, Robert McCarley, of Crockett Junior High School in Odessa, Texas, is also the backbone of that school's drug-free program. He set up a hotline where kids can call and report drug use. Robert has transformed the school from one run by three gangs to one with a proud and successful no-use policy.

But it is Robert's own example that shines as a proud beacon, a North Star for all to follow. For years, he and his wife have taken problem kids into their home. And then came Ginger, an abused child from a family filled with drugs. She was malnourished, depressed, and failing school. And after a year with them, she is now healthy, well-adjusted, making A's and B's. And this is the most wonderful news of all: The McCarleys are adopting Ginger.

I've told you three stories today, but behind each school here are similar tales of joy and success, tales that show people are working together toward our national education goals. The Governors of the U.S. and I agree: By the year 2000, every school in America will be free of drugs and violence. I know that with people like you to inspire them, others will follow until every school in America is safe. And with people like you, America's future will be bright beyond our dreams.

Today we honor these 51 schools from across our country, selected from hundreds -- literally hundreds -- nominated by public and private education's groups. You're from 25 States and include 42 public and 9 private schools, from elementary to high schools. You're being saluted today as the finest in the Nation, and you should be very proud of your achievements and your legacy. And I am proud of you.

Congratulations, and God bless you for your unselfish example. Thank you for what you're doing; keep up the great work. Thank you all very much. Now, Dr. Cavazos will pass out the awards.

Note: The President spoke at 11:08 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

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