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Public Papers - 1992 - January

Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National Religious Broadcasters


Thank you for that wonderfully warm welcome. And to President Dave Clark, may I thank you, sir; Brandt Gustavson, the executive director. And let me salute your leadership of the NRB. I understand that former Secretary Dole was to be here; I don't know that she is. I know FCC Chairman Sykes is. And I see, of course, two good, respected friends, Jim Dobson and Billy Graham.

Ladies and gentlemen, this marks the fifth time that I've had the honor of addressing the annual convention of the National Religious Broadcasters. A year ago we met in the first week of a struggle to protect what is right and true. And I came before you to talk of what was not a Christian or Jewish war, not a Moslem war. It was a just war. And in the Persian Gulf we fought for good versus evil. It was that clear to me: right versus wrong, dignity against oppression. And America stood fast so that liberty could stand tall.

Today I want to thank you for helping America, as Christ ordained, to be ``a light unto the world.'' Your support honored the finest soldiers, the finest sailors, marines, airmen, and coastguardsmen that any nation has ever known. And what they did in war, let us now do in peace. Just as our forces fought to defend all of what is best about America, we need you to help instill the traditional values that make life and liberty worth defending.

Let me begin with some good news for modern man. According to Gallup, the Gallup surveys, no society is more religious than the United States of America. Seven in ten Americans believe in life after death; 8 in 10, that God works miracles. Nine in ten Americans pray. And more than 90 percent believe in God, to which I say, thank God. I wish it were 100 percent.

Now, I know this is an election year. And I don't know about Damascus, but this primary season we're seeing a lot of conversions on the road to New Hampshire. [Laughter] But I don't want this to be a partisan speech, and I appreciated so much what David Clark said about values. I want to speak of the values that I know you all believe in, values which sustain America, values that are always in fashion.

The first value is not simply American but universal. And I refer to the sanctity of life. I will stand on the side of choosing life.

Next comes a value which gives each life meaning: the self-reliance central to the dignity of work. Go to the barrios of San Antonio or the suburbs of St. Paul, and there you will find people who ask for only what our forefathers had, the same opportunity which helped us brave independence, push back the wilderness, win two World Wars, and create the highest standard of living in the history of man. The Bible reminds us, ``By thy works shall ye know them.'' What we must do is give working Americans that level playing field to keep us as rich in goods as we have been blessed in spirit.

Tomorrow I'm giving a speech. [Laughter] The State of the Union Address will detail how we can nurture creativity as old as 1776, harness it to the needs of a new American century. Remember, to this day the only footsteps on the Moon are American footsteps. The only flag on the Moon is the Stars and Stripes. The knowledge that put it there is stamped ``Made in the U.S.A.'' Yes, the world looks to us to lead, and lead we will. Americans can outwork, outproduce, outcompete any nation in the world. And we must do all we can to further that end. And I will do my level-best. And I need your help.

The next value I speak of must be forever cast in stone. I speak of decency, the moral courage to say what is right and condemn what is wrong. And we need a Nation closer to ``The Waltons'' than ``The Simpsons'' -- [laughter] -- an America that rejects the incivility, the tide of incivility, and the tide of intolerance. We see this tide in the naked epithet and in the code words that play to our worst prejudices. We see it when people ridicule religion and religious leaders, like the group which desecrated communion hosts on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral. We see this tide of incivility and intolerance in bigotry, in discrimination, and anti-Semitism.

Have they no decency? Have they no honor? Have they no respect for the rights of others? I will continue to speak out against these apostles of hate who poison our kids' minds and debase their souls. There is no place, whatever our views, there is no place in America for religious prejudice, for anti-Semitism, or racial prejudice.

This, then, brings me to a fourth value crucial to America: the belief in the family, the foundation of our strength. Take my kids, for example. Having helped put them through college, I remember receiving letters from them. Barbara does, too. And there would always be a P.S. at the bottom. It was those three words that said so much about the bond between parents at home and kids at school, ``Please send money.'' [Laughter]

But this one is true. The other day I was visited by the leaders of the National League of Cities, mayors from big cities and small, liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat. And they were unanimous in their view that the major underlying problem in our cities is the decline of the American family. And they are right; too often, family is under siege. Each one of us, parents, preachers, politicians, and teachers, must do our part to defend it. I do not want one single action that I take as President to weaken the American family. And I want to strengthen it in every way that I can. Every law that is passed should guard against weakening the family.

And that is why I insisted that the child care bill that I signed in 1990 allow parents, not bureaucrats, to decide how to care for their children. I refused to see the option of a religious-based child care restricted or eliminated.

Our national education strategy -- we call it America 2000, and it is an exciting program -- helps the family by enhancing parental involvement in education, insisting that choice include both private and public schools. I do not believe it is unconstitutional for schoolkids to have the same choice that I got under the GI bill or that college kids now get under the Pell grant or that ex-servicemen now get under the Montgomery bill.

Last week, I announced another policy to strengthen the family, expanding the preschool program to serve all those 4-year-olds who are eligible, the largest funding increase in the history of project Head Start. And when this is enacted, we will be much closer to achieving one of our six national educational goals, that every schoolchild should start school ready to learn.

And finally, families will stay together only if drugs do not drive them apart. Winning the war on drugs means waging war on crime. Now, we've made the commitment. And altogether, the new Federal budget that I'll introduce 2 days from now will increase spending to combat crime by .2 billion, to a total of almost billion. Now that's nearly 60 percent higher than when I took office in 1989.

My new budget will provide a half a billion dollars for an initiative that we call ``Weed and Seed.'' Not enthralled with the name, but listen to what it does. [Laughter] Today our very able Attorney General, Bill Barr, point man in this new operation, is spelling out all its details. But let me say this much right now. ``Weed and Seed'' works this way. First, we join Federal, State, and local forces to weed out the gang leaders, the violent criminals, the drug dealers who plague our neighborhoods. And when we break their deadly grip, we follow up with part two: We seed those neighborhoods with expanded educational opportunities, job training, health care, and other social services. But the key to the ``seed'' concept will be jobs-generating initiatives such as enterprise zones to give people who call these neighborhoods home something to hope for.

There is more to do to win the final victory in our war on drugs. We are making progress. We are winning. Over the past 4 years, marijuana, crack, and cocaine use has definitively declined. And what's more, today kids aged 9 to 12 are the most antidrug group in America. The highest at-risk group remains 13- to 17-year-olds. But last year, for the first time, 13-year-olds mirrored the behavior of preteenagers.

Drugs affect a multitude of issues. They contribute to AIDS; they contribute to homelessness, shattering families and futures, hopes and dreams. And that's why, literally, we should thank God for the drug use decline. The drop in use doesn't just prove we were right in our assault on substance use, it shows how we can achieve drugs' unconditional surrender. We will triumph through tough enforcement and through education, increasing awareness of the damage drugs do.

And in that spirit, let us resolve to treat the victims of AIDS and drug abuse with compassion and caring. Let us redouble our efforts to help with treatment and with education. That will help eliminate the risks involved.

Over the last 4 years, more kids talked about drugs with their parents and teachers. Another reason for drug use decline has been America's print and electronic media, the major source of drug information and the primary influencer on drug use, especially among the young. Together, they have helped reawaken America's conscience which, in turn, inspires America's greatness.

Later today I will unveil our fourth national drug control strategy to build on these beginnings. It will say no to drugs. It will say yes to life. But it cannot just be done by the Government. To stop drug use will require caring and community, above all, abundant love.

Let me tell you, remind you, for some of you, tell you others a story. Once, a great First Lady, Pat Nixon, toured a medical center. And she stopped to embrace a little girl that was blinded by rubella. And for a few minutes, she talked to the girl and held her close. And then later, someone told her that the child was deaf as well as blind. And Pat answered that she had known that. ``But she knows what love is,'' Mrs. Nixon said. ``She can feel love.''

America's love is conveyed in many ways: in what we oppose, injustice and tyranny; in what we support, the inalienable rights that include the freedom to think and dream and worship and, yes, vote as we please. To preserve our liberty, America once deposed a king, fought a great Civil War, and five times in this century sent Americans into major battle.

And yet, freedom is not ours alone; it is our most treasured export. If you doubt freedom's victory, look to the Persian Gulf. Look to the former Soviet Union, where those once oppressed crowd reopened churches and synagogues. Look to Eastern Europe, where Christmas carols warm the bright winter chill. It is written, ``In the beginning was the Word.'' Here is the word for 1992: Today, the times are on the side of peace because the world, increasingly, is on the side of God.

I remember an early trip to the Soviet Union by our friend Billy Graham. He came back, and he reported that faith in God was very much alive in Russia. And some hard-liners ridiculed him. Some even thought he shouldn't go. Today, we see that he clearly was right.

This brings me, then, to the ultimate value that sustains America and the values I have already cited: a belief in prayer. Obviously, no country can claim a special place in God's heart. Yet we are better as a people because He has a special place in ours.

I once asked one of my grandkids how he felt about prayer. And he said, ``Just try getting through a math test without it.'' [Laughter] In Sunday school children learn that God is everywhere, but in public school they find that He's absent from class. And I continue to believe, as do the overwhelming majority of Americans, in the right to nondenominational voluntary school prayer.

The values I have spoken of remind us of the truth that comes on one's knees. And I believe with all my heart that one cannot have this job, cannot be America's President, without a belief in God, without a belief in prayer.

The poet Walt Whitman once asked what made America America, and he replied simply, ``Its religion. Otherwise there is no real and permanent grandeur.'' Let that be our essence as a people and our message as a Nation.

Thank you for this occasion. And may God bless this most wondrous land on Earth, the United States of America. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:59 a.m. at the Sheraton Washington Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to James Dobson, clinical psychologist and president of Focus on the Family, and evangelist Billy Graham.

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