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Public Papers - 1991

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


Welcome. Welcome all to the Rose Garden. No roses, but it's the Rose Garden. [Laughter] Now please be seated, and thank you all for coming. Well, listen, it's a great pleasure to see all of you here. And it's a pleasure to be with our Drug Policy Director Bob Martinez, doing a great job in the antidrug campaign across this country; our very able Attorney General Dick Thornburgh standing next to me; and Lamar Alexander here, our new Secretary of Education, who's excited the country with our program for America 2000, a good look at revolutionizing education.

And I'm just delighted -- is David Kearns going to be here? I heard that he might, but I don't see him out there. So, I'll leave out our new Deputy Secretary over at Education, David Kearns, who's also a key member of our team.

But I'm pleased to see a lot of the students here today. That's important at an event like this one because all the damage drugs can do, what's worse is that drugs rob you of your future and our future. Frankly, our future as a nation is robbed. And it's in your hands.

With our thoughts fixed on our future and before we begin, let me briefly mention two forward-looking actions taken in the House of Representatives yesterday. The House provided funding for two of this administration's top priorities: Space Station Freedom -- that's America's pioneering effort to establish a permanent presence in space, thus keeping us on the cutting edge of science and research and development -- and the HOPE program, to expand opportunities for home ownership to people who now live in public housing. And each program is a prime example of how we can shape America's future for the better.

This is the 4th year we've hosted the Drug-Free School Recognition Program. And this year, the schools we honor come from every corner of America, near and far. One stands not far from here up 16th Street -- DC's own Abraham Lincoln Junior High School. [Applause] I see they brought us some fans along today. That's the way it should be. Others come, literally, from as far away as the North Pole -- North Pole High School in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Now, I'm sure all of you know about America's 2000 strategy that I've referred to -- to transform, literally transform, American schools and move the Nation toward achieving the six ambitious national education goals that we've set for ourselves, working in close conjunction with the Nation's Governors. We've set a target for our students to be first in the world in math and science by the year 2000. We want to increase the graduation rate to 90 percent. We will ask our students to demonstrate a competence in five core subjects as they progress from fourth grade to graduation.

And many times, the last goal we mention is safe, disciplined, and drug-free schools. It may be last, but it is certainly by no means the least important. We can't hope to give any student a sound education, a decent shot at the future, if drug users and drug dealers roam the halls of our schools. And for this reason, drug-free schools are a top priority of our America 2000 strategy and of our national drug control strategy.

We've made some progress. We have made some progress in decreasing illegal drug use among America's students. And each of the schools gathered here today helps ensure that this progress will continue.

The 56 schools we honor represent 28 States and the District, District of Columbia. These include public and private schools, large and small, rural and urban, elementary, junior, and senior highs. But for all your differences, there's one thing in common. There's a common matrix here: You're winning the battle. In a society where our children often get mixed messages on drug use, you're sending a clear signal: You draw the line against drugs.

Take Washington Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For some kids, walking to Washington Middle School every morning means running an urban gauntlet, threading their way through gang turf. But when they get to school, they're in a new world; they enter another world. Washington Middle School is off-limits to gangs. It hosts more than a dozen student support groups, places where kids can turn to escape the peer pressure that often pushes them into this deadly experimentation with drugs.

And then, there's Washington's Parent Center, a program that teaches everything from English to how to be a better parent. And I've heard about banners on the wall there that say it all: ``It's easier to build a child than repair an adult.''

When a school succeeds, as all of yours are succeeding, in a sense it's a team victory -- for the teachers, the administrators, for the students, but also for the parents and the wider community outside the classroom.

When I unveiled our America 2000 strategy back in April, I said this: ``Across this nation, we must cultivate communities where children can learn, communities where the school is more than a refuge, more than a solitary island of calm amid chaos.'' And I challenged every city and town across our country to become an America 2000 community by doing four things: adopt the national education goals; devise a community-wide plan for reaching them; establish a report card to measure progress; and fourth and finally, to create and support what I call a new American school. If there's one word that defines what it takes to be an America 2000 community, that one word is commitment.

Kenedy High School in Kenedy, Texas, understands that kind of community commitment. Four years ago, a Kenedy kid, a Kenedy student, died from drug abuse. The school vowed to turn that tragedy into hope, and a small Texas town declared its own war on drugs. Student leaders at Kenedy formed what they called a SWAT team -- Students With A Target -- to spread this antidrug message. Even more important, the community outside the school closed ranks to deny drug users a safe haven. It's working. Kenedy's success comes from community involvement: a commitment on the part of every adult, every shopkeeper, every community leader, every parent never to look the other way when kids use drugs.

Washington and Kenedy and all the other schools here today prove that when it comes to stopping drugs, we can fight back. By creating a drug-free environment where students can learn, you set an example that other schools can follow. And so, once again, it has been a real pleasure to welcome you to the White House. Congratulations to each and every one of you for your fine work. And may God bless our country as we wage this heroic fight.

Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:20 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Bob Martinez, Director of National Drug Control Policy; Attorney General Dick Thornburgh; Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander; and Deputy Secretary of Education David T. Kearns.

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