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Public Papers - 1990 - July

Remarks at an Antidrug Rally in Billings, Montana

1990-07-20

Thank you for that warm welcome on this cool day, and thank you, Governor. I am so very happy that so many of you could join us this morning in this Daylis Stadium, home of the Big Sky State Games. Cycling, golf, handball, shooting, swimming, tennis, track and field -- sounds like a weekend at Camp David. [Laughter] How come no horseshoes around here? [Laughter] I am very pleased to see sports play a prominent role in education, drug awareness programs, and scholarship activities. And first, best of luck to all tomorrow's participants. Good luck to each and every one of you.

I want to thank everybody and single out a few for this special hospitality: Doris Poppler, the Acting United States Attorney, has done a superb job on pulling all this together; the attorney general, Marc Racicot; Senators Baucus and Burns; and Governor Stephens and Mayor Larsen. We're honored to have with us also Robert Helmick, the president of the U.S. Olympic Committee. And then, of course, a very special hello to a special guest, Edwin Moses, whom I just was chatting with earlier -- an Olympic hurdler and, would you believe, a bobsledder, too? [Laughter] But you got a great turnout and great participants.

And I'm especially honored to be able to congratulate the 5th and 6th grade graduates of the D.A.R.E. program who are out there in the crowd. You see, these kids are setting a wonderful example not only for their friends and classmates but for all the adults as well. And they're proof that each of us, no matter how young or how old, has a part to play in this war on drugs.

The drug problem facing America is the reason that I'm out here today with you. For over 100 years now, the people of Montana have been known as proud, hardworking, community-minded people. And that is where the answer to this nation's drug problem lies -- right here in the community. And there is no problem so great that all of us working together cannot solve.

We're beginning to see signs that our national efforts against drugs are working. And last summer, a major nationwide survey found that the number of current drug users in this country had dropped by almost 40 percent in just 3 years. That's good news for America. It's good news for the next generation. And then in February, mid-February, another survey showed that the number of high school seniors using drugs declined in 1989, a long-term trend that has brought seniors' drug use to its lowest level in 15 years. So, that's all good news. But the good news isn't limited to just these national statistics. Last year the State of Montana reported a decrease in the number of drug abuse violations. It is news like this that deepens my faith, my conviction, that together we can win this national war against drugs.

But like all wars, we must be united in our efforts as a country and as a community. Parents, teachers, children, law enforcement officials must join as one. Business, labor, the professions -- all must be a part of this crusade for a drug-free America. Each of you here today, by your presence, is sending the dealers of death a strong Montana message: We will not surrender our children. We will not surrender our community. Billings, Montana, is in this fight to win -- and win it you will, win it we will.

You know, I know you're going to win because this State, like so many others across this great land, is taking the initiative. You're fighting back. You've had enough. Last year the Montana Board of Crime Control began the innovative Drug Abuse Resistance Education program throughout the State. For those of you not familiar with that, with D.A.R.E., it is a unique program that targets primarily 5th and 6th graders by using well-trained uniformed officers to teach the kids about the dangers of drug use. The program helps students recognize and resist the subtle pressures that influence kids to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Over 7,500 children statewide received instruction in the program's first year, and this number does not include the kids in kindergarten through 4th grade who were taught about drugs through another program designed especially for them. So, let's give a pat on the back to all the kids who have said no to drugs, and our thanks to the law enforcement officers who help them say no. We're very proud of all of them. Keep up the good work. In your own way, you are making America proud.

Another example of community involvement with young people are the antidrug programs supported by the Freemasons of America, like the Center for Adolescent Development's Montana Teen Institute. This innovative center takes at-risk teens who are willing to commit to swear off drugs and gives them the tools they need to avoid drug use, teens like Manuel Zuniga. An alum of the teen institute, Manuel's new goal in life is to be a U.S. marshal so he can help others. Manuel says, ``all kids need the help of parents and all adults to fight the bad guys. I would rather be a role model to my community and have made a stand to live a drug-free life.''

Often kids themselves are some of our best troops on the front line against drugs. They understand the enormous power of friendship in helping one another avoid drugs. One such program gaining recognition not just around the country but around the world is Youth to Youth, a community drug prevention program for middle school and high school age young people. Recognizing the influential force of peer pressure, the Youth to Youth program uses that pressure to encourage young people to live alcohol and drug-free lives. Proof that kids talking to kids can make a difference is reflected in the words of a young man in Landisville, PA, who said, ``All my friends are drug-free, so I've learned that drug-free is the way to be.'' Wise, wise words.

Parents will agree that there is nothing more heart-wrenching than to witness something as sinister as drugs and alcohol dim the sparkle of your children's eyes, steal their exuberance, destroy their dreams. But parents don't have to stand by and hope their kids are spared from this devastation. Instead, each and every one of us -- that means grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends, anyone -- can make a huge difference by setting a good example and by watching for the overt signs of abuse, the overt signs of trouble. But the most effective way to reach our kids is by talking to them about drugs, and even more important -- listening to them. Then, through caring and, yes, discipline, help them turn their backs on drugs. When a kid has someone who cares enough to listen, he will not care about drugs.

But kids, communities, families, and friends have some special allies in this battle. In towns as small as Laurel and as big as Los Angeles, brave men and women who believe that this country is worth fighting for face danger and face death every single day. They form the ``thin blue line'' between good and evil, protecting our children from drugs, protecting all of us from the terrible threat of crime.

Right here in Montana, you know all too well that sometimes these modern day champions are called upon to pay the ultimate price. You've lost one of the town of Hardin's finest in Janet Rogers, and our hearts go out to George Rogers and his three boys -- Jace, Logan, and Chad -- whom I'm told are here today. Your wife, your mother, was a true American hero.

But let's face it, heroes alone can't win wars. So, in Washington the administration, under the able leadership of our tough drug czar, Bill Bennett, is taking action to help support our law enforcement officers across the country. As we meet today in Montana, this beautiful State, we're still waiting for the House to act on our anticrime package. Earlier this year, we were pleased that Congress passed our request for more agents, more prosecutors, and more prisons to get criminals off the streets and behind bars, where they belong. But we must do more.

I urge the House of Representatives to pass a major portion of the Violent Crime Act, legislation that will back up our new lawmen with new laws -- laws that are fair, fast, and final. Fair -- an exclusionary rule designed to punish the guilty and not punish the good cops who have acted in good faith. And when I say fast -- we need habeas corpus reforms to stop the frivolous appeals that are choking our courts. And final -- I'm talking about fair and constitutionally sound death penalty provisions for these major traffickers. To win the war on drugs, we must have a united effort. This isn't Republican or Democrat or liberal or conservative: it's got to be bipartisan. But now, it's time for Congress to act. Our children, our communities, and our cops have waited long enough.

As I look out over this magnificent audience -- an ocean of red, white, and blue, I see America at her best. This country's strength has always been her people, people who for generations have always helped not only for the neighbor next door but for the stranger in trouble down the street. This was true over a hundred years ago, when this great land, Montana, became a State. Back then, the sight of smoke on the horizon, a sure sign of trouble, farmers would drop their plows and mountain men would leave their traps and shopkeepers would abandon their stores to help a neighbor in distress -- some of our first what I call Points of Light. In 1990, this sense of community, this sense of caring, still remains, as Americans support one another in this battle against drugs. Today there is again smoke on the horizon, and every single one of you in this stadium are here to help. You're a community bound together not by geography but by caring, and you should be very, very proud.

So, thank you for having me here, and God bless the great State of Montana. Thank you all very, very much. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:10 a.m. at Daylis Stadium, a day prior to the start of the Big Sky Games.

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