Remarks on Signing the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986

 

October 27, 1986

 

Well, today it gives me great pleasure to sign legislation that reflects the total commitment of the American people and their government to fight the evil of drugs. Drug use extracts a high cost on America: the cost of suffering and unhappiness, particularly among the young; the cost of lost productivity at the workplace; and the cost of drug-related crime. Drug use is too costly for us not to do everything in our power, not just to fight it but to subdue it and conquer it.

 

The magnitude of today's drug problem can be traced to past unwillingness to recognize and confront this problem. And the vaccine that's going to end the epidemic is a combination of tough laws -- like the one we sign today -- and a dramatic change in public attitude. We must be intolerant of drug use and drug sellers. We must be intolerant of drug use on the campus and at the workplace. We must be intolerant of drugs not because we want to punish drug users, but because we care about them and want to help them. This legislation is not intended as a means of filling our jails with drug users. What we must do as a society is identify those who use drugs, reach out to them, help them quit, and give them the support they need to live right.

 

Let me take a moment here and salute a special person who has turned the fight against drug abuse into a national crusade. She started long before the polls began to register our citizens' concern about drugs. She mobilized the American people, and I'm mighty proud of her. I know the work Nancy's been doing has been appreciated. And Nancy's made a special commitment to assist young people who are just getting started to quit and to prevent others from starting in the first place. One young person asked her advice about what to do if offered drugs. And she came up with a bit of simple, yet profound, wisdom. She said, ``Just say no.'' And today there are thousands of Just Say No clubs all over America. In all of our endeavors here in Washington, we're striving for a world where our young people can live happier, more opportunity-filled lives. Our goal in this crusade is nothing less than a drug-free generation. America's young people deserve our best effort to make that dream come true.

 

In the last few years, we've made much progress on the enforcement end of solving the drug problem. Interdiction is up, drug crops are being destroyed while still in the fields all over the country and overseas, organized crime is being hit and hit hard, cooperation between governments is better than ever before. This legislation allows us to do even more. Nevertheless, today marks a major victory in our crusade against drugs -- a victory for safer neighborhoods, a victory for the protection of the American family. The American people want their government to get tough and to go on the offensive. And that's exactly what we intend, with more ferocity than ever before. But as I've said on previous occasions, we would be fooling ourselves if we thought that new money for new government programs alone will solve the problem.

 

Let's not forget that in America people solve problems, and no national crusade has ever succeeded without human interest. So, at the same time that government sends a long, loud, clear message, I ask each American to be strong in your intolerance of illegal drug use and firm in your commitment to a drug-free America. United, together, we can see to it that there's no sanctuary for the drug criminals who are pilfering human dignity and pandering despair.

 

There've been some real champions in the battle to get this legislation through Congress: Senators Bob Dole, Robert Byrd, and Strom Thurmond; Congressmen Bob Michel, Jim Wright, Benjamin Gilman, Charles Rangel, and Jerry Lewis. I'd like to single out Senator Paula Hawkins in particular. She took this battle to the public and has been a driving force behind the effort to rid our society of drug abuse. Like Nancy, she made her commitment to fighting drugs long before it was the popular thing to do. This kind of honest, hard-working leadership is what makes all the difference. And now, Paula, if you and your colleagues will join Nancy and me, we will get on with the signing of that bill, making it the law of the land.

 

Note: The President spoke at 2:39 p.m. in the East Room at the White House to a group of Cabinet members, administration officials, Members of Congress, and private citizens. H.R. 5484, approved October 27, was assigned Public Law No. 99 - 570.