Public Papers - 1990
Remarks at an Antidrug Rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Thank you, Herman. Thank all of you out there for that -- thank you, sir, for that terrific welcome. And let me just say hello to all those that are outside, listening on the loud speakers. We know they're out there.
First, a heartfelt thanks to Herman Wrice, for that introduction and for all he's doing. I want to single out Reds Bagnell and Inspector Durkin and Al Wilson, of course, Herman, for all they're doing in leading this fight against drugs. You know, Mayor Goode was here a minute ago, and I was delighted to be with him and hear right from him firsthand about this fight and about the neighborhood's participation in it. And I also would like to give a hand to Cedrick Ward. What an outstanding job thatÿ7Eÿ7Eÿ7E guyÿ7Eÿ7Eÿ7E didÿ7Eÿ7Eÿ7E upÿ7Eÿ7Eÿ7E here.ÿ7Eÿ7Eÿ7E Whereÿ7Eÿ7Eÿ7E areÿ7Eÿ7Eÿ7E you, Cedrick? There he is. And I think it's a great thing that Charles Barkley is here, Reggie White, Mark Howe, Lionel Simmons, and so many others showing their support for what you are doing in these neighborhoods. I'm proud of you. You might not realize it, but while you're working away out here, America has been hearing you. It's listening to the tolling of a bright new sound: Philadelphians shouting firmly and defiantly to the terrorists who deal drugs, ``We're beating the odds.'' And you are, and we're proud of you.
I love those teeshirts. I saw a couple of them: ``Yes To Sports, No To Drugs.'' Another good message. I'm sure these four big guys will tell you that they appreciate it, too. You kids have the right idea -- no crack in Philadelphia except for the one in the Liberty Bell.
But here's what I learned today. Here's what I learned today. Here in this birthplace of independence, you have another kind of independence. You don't have to depend on drugs or on dealers or on crime. You're free to believe in yourselves. And I love those teeshirts that say, too: ``I Believe In Me.'' Well, I believe in you, too. Keep up that pride.
Let me tell you the two stories that stick in my mind as I learned about this Philadelphia Antidrug Coalition. In one, your neighborhood families, numbed by fear, routinely barricaded themselves inside their homes while the sounds of battle raged outside -- the burst of gunfire in these drive-by shootings, the echoing threats of the drug dealers, and the shuffle of the zombie-like procession to the infested crack house next door.
And it was, in those days, a war zone of despair. But listen, that was from the past. And here's a story from today. An 11-year-old boy named James used to hang around the edge of those cleanup projects. And he didn't want to go home to his alcoholic mother. He needed money for shoes, but was too young to earn anything but the that these drug pushers would pay him to be a lookout.
And you might say, well, why do I like this story? Because someone who cared found James. And he was Herman Wrice, the John Wayne of Philadelphia and this towering mountain of a man who started a whole movement by declaring war on a crack house with a sledgehammer. To James, living drug-free in the safety of the Wrice home, he is now ``Dad.''
My friends, you show that individual neighborhoods can, indeed, work together to restore hope and self-respect. You show that community commitment can extinguish the destructive blaze of crack burning up our streets and our kids. And you speak loudly and clearly. The adults are saying that no more children will be won over by these desperados of death. They're saying: We're not going to surrender to you. We're taking back our kids, and we're taking back our streets. That's the message from Philadelphia to Washington, DC.
And you kids out here, just a word to you guys -- you're the ones we're proudest of because you're saying: Hey, I believe in me. I believe I'm worthwhile, and I'm not going to waste my life for the filth of your crack houses. And I'm going to believe in something bigger than that; I'm going to believe in my community and my life and my family and in my future.
You've formed this antidrug olympics I've been hearing about and these after-school activities as an alternative to drugs. You've stood on the streetcorners -- I love that. For those who are not from this neighborhood, let me tell you about that. They stand on the streetcorners all night long, bearing witness by your presence to the victory being won. And drug dealers see them coming, and they scatter like cockroaches in a sudden burst of light. In an America that worships heroes, in your own way, you are the real thing.
We're also excited about this Operation PEARL, an unprecedented effort to uncover and destroy the dark, dirty roots of drug corruption one neighborhood at a time. This experiment that I've heard about today in community-government cooperation combines the services of city, State, Federal agencies, all with local volunteers. And it embodies the sort of vision and success that our drug czar [William J. Bennett, Director of National Drug Control Policy] in Washington has encouraged since taking command of our drug war.
You know, America has waited too long. And now we've got to move forward to help in Washington with the crime bill and other pieces of legislation, because you are getting your job done right here -- in efforts like the all-night bonfire vigil one rainy night, when 300 of you in white hardhats closed down drug action on Indiana Avenue. When you lit that first bonfire, you were lighting more than just one flame against the cold: you were setting up a beacon of hope against evil, a symbol to other communities in despair.
So, in conclusion, you know, I remember the westerns of my youth -- the good guys wore the white hats, and they stood firmly and proudly for morality. I am glad to see that right here in this precious neighborhood in Philadelphia the good guys still wear the white hats, still stand firmly and proudly for those same virtues. Now, Herman put it this way. He said he'll take off his hat on the streets of Philadelphia ``only when we win this war.'' Well, I know that I'll return one day and find you out there bareheaded, with your neighbors -- strong, drug-free -- at your side.
Thank you for this example that you are setting for the entire United States of America. I leave impressed, inspired, and determined to do my part to help you kids in your fight against drugs. Thank you all very, very much.
Note: The President spoke at 1:58 p.m. in the West Philadelphia Community Center. Prior to his remarks, he visited a preschool class at the center.