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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks at a White House Briefing on Drugs in the Workplace


I'm sorry to have missed the briefings, but I first wanted to thank Jim Burke, my old friend, and Bill Moss, Bob Allen for cohosting this event today. And of course, thank Bob Mosbacher and our czar, Bill Bennett, for participating today as well.

You know, I am very pleased to be over here. A lot going on in other quarters, as we all know. [Laughter] But we've got to keep the focus on your important work here, and I think we are endeavoring to do that. So, I really wanted to come here to just demonstrate my determination to do everything in my power to see that the scourge of drugs is banished from this country.

It may not always be on the front pages, but let me assure you that it's on our minds every day. Bill Bennett is doing an outstanding job in this fight, coordinating a lot of strong-willed Cabinet officers in the process -- Bob Mosbacher, Jim Baker fully involved because of the international aspects of this. So I can tell you, it does have the attention and concern of all our top administration officials.

By strengthening our interdiction efforts and then supporting law enforcement and expanding our treatment opportunities, I think we're doing our part. You can't say we can't do more. But we've got a good national drug strategy that I'm sure you've heard about and that's been spelled out so clearly by Bill Bennett.

But I keep coming back to what Jim Burke and I first talked about. And that is simply that this war is not going to be won by government alone. It simply cannot be. And so, we have to enlist the aid of every corporation. Seventy percent of all illegal drug users are employed. One in twelve full-time employees report current use of illicit drugs. But day by day -- and you've heard the numbers -- we are winning the fight against drug abuse in the workplace, due in large part to the corporate Points of Light which are shining brightly all across this country, many of which are represented right here today.

There are countless ways in which corporate America can make a real difference in the communities in helping them be drug-free. There are counseling and treatment programs in the workplace for drug-dependent workers, and then also for the families of these drug-dependent workers. Education programs show employees how to avoid the temptation of drugs. Many companies are going way beyond the workplace to fight drugs and their ravaging effects in their surrounding communities. It's almost like some of you all are adopting the communities in which you live, and it's a wonderful thing.

Many corporations fighting to make the workplace and the larger community drug-free are exactly what we talk about when we talk about this concept, Points of Light. You know, when that slogan or those words were put together and we started in talking about them -- I see Gregg Petersmeyer, who's our lead in the White House on this -- when that all started, it passed the laugh test, but people weren't quite sure whether we'd follow up. And I'll tell you, it is wonderful when you go out around the country and meet some who have been designated Points of Light. It doesn't make the front page of the Washington Post or the evening news on the networks. But I'll tell you, it really spreads out through communities and then to neighboring communities across the States.

And so, I think the Points of Light concept is being understood. And I think it fits right in, Jim, to what you were talking to me about when I first became President -- individuals, corporations, unions, schools, places of worship, groups, organizations of every type recognizing that drugs are, indeed, everyone's problem. So, being a corporate Point of Light in the fight against drugs is not some do-good concept. It's smart business, and it is indeed, in many instances, the key to our economic survival.

To maintain our edge in an increasingly sophisticated international economy, our workers have got to be literate and well-trained and, indeed, drug-free. So, when I talk about competitiveness now, I talk about the workplace being drug-free. Thanks to your efforts and those of the other Points of Light there's been a sea change in the attitude of a special group of Americans about substance abuse, and I'm talking about our young people.

Doing drugs is no longer -- and I'm sure Bill's talked to you -- perceived as ``cool.'' It's come to be seen for what it is: a dead-end street, a dark tunnel with no light at the end. Those advertisements that Jim and others have been responsible for are really powerful -- powerful message. I think they're getting through to the American people.

So, I wanted to thank you because you're helping me convey to the young people the message that there is no place for them in the work force of tomorrow if they're hooked on drugs today.

So, thank you very much for what you're already accomplishing, and I want to urge you to sally forth and enlist other corporations in this movement against drugs in the workplace. Every corporation can make elimination of drugs in the workplace its personal mission. We're on the right road; I'm confident we're heading in the right direction.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel. The figures back this up. It's not just our emotion -- Bill Bennett's and mine, Bill Moss' and mine -- the figures back this up, a direct and consequential result of your efforts beginning to pay off.

So, thank you very much for what you've done. Please keep it up. Thanks for coming to the White House, taking out busy schedules and taking your mind off of all of the problems that are out there. But I can't think of anything that gets more fundamentally to the fabric of our society than this question of illegal drug use and our challenge of trying to get rid of it. So, thank you all very, very much. I appreciate it.

Note: The President spoke at 11:22 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to James E. Burke, chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America; William Moss, Chairman of the President's Drug Advisory Council; Robert E. Allen, chairman of American Telephone and Telegraph Co.; Secretary of Commerce Robert A. Mosbacher; William J. Bennett, Director of National Drug Control Policy; Secretary of State James A. Baker III; and C. Gregg Petersmeyer, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of National Service.

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