Remarks to Media Executives at a White House Briefing on Drug Abuse
I'm delighted all of you could come by today. The question before us is a simple one: What value do we place on human dignity and on human worth? I realize that's rather bluntly put. But you know, one of the things I've been intrigued by while I've held this job is an attitude in government that says every approach to public policy issues must be complicated and indirect. Now, come to think of it -- and I know this will come as a surprise -- it kind of reminds me of an anecdote from back in the days when I was also in the media business, in radio.
And most of you will remember for those radio dramas the sound-effects man and all of the things that he devised, from coconut shells that he would pound on his chest to be a horse galloping and so forth. This one particular time at WHO-Des Moines, rehearsing for a play there, and there was a sound effect that called for water falling on a board. And the sound-effect man went to work. He tried sand on a drum, and he tried rice on cardboard and peas on something else. And he was going on, and he couldn't get anything that sounded, through the microphone, like water on a board. And it was getting near show time, and somebody suggested trying water on a board. [Laughter] And you know, it sounded just like water on a board.
that may seem a long way from the drug problem, but it isn't. Trying water on
the board is really what we've tried to do with
I know most of you in the media are cautious about being part of joint efforts with any government agency, and as a general rule, I think this caution is well-advised. But on certain matters of life and death, on questions of national survival, I think there's room for common purpose between us. The fact that those of us here today and people from almost every walk of life are now allied on this issue indicates a new public consensus, a consensus that has developed around what we just talked about, a very simple, very direct set of propositions: that drugs hurt, that drugs kill, that each of us must in our daily lives just say no to drug use and drug users. And saying no doesn't just mean a private refusal to use drugs: It also means taking active steps against drugs or drug use whenever it occurs and whenever we see it.
this set of very direct propositions has had impact. For the first time, we're
seeing progress -- progress measured in statistics, but also in something much
more profound: a change in awareness across
gratifying to see that in homes, schools, businesses, and communities across
I could interject right here: In a community in California several years ago,
before we began to get as serious as we are about this problem, the Santa
Barbara Police Department -- they were pretty much aware of the users and so
forth, and on a weekend they rounded all they could gather, rounded them up,
and put them in the hoosegow for the weekend. And they did it as an experiment.
The burglary rate in
So, we're also overcoming an erroneous perception of the illicit drug user as powerless to act against drug availability, peer pressure, or his or her general lot in life. In fact, our nation's law enforcement officers, while hitting the pushers and suppliers with a force greater than ever before, acknowledge that the drug abuse problem will ultimately be solved by preventing nonusers from ever starting to use illegal drugs and getting current users to quit.
Finally, we're having to face squarely those things which we've built into our culture that enable illegal drugs to exist in our society. As citizens and individuals, we're realizing that, although government must do everything possible to help, a solution to the drug problem will only come when each of us directly confronts and rejects the cultural acceptance of illegal drug use in our daily lives.
In 1981 there were a lot of people who believed drug abuse was so rampant that we were defenseless to do anything about it. But as I said, we're taking down the surrender flag that has flown over so many drug efforts; we're running up a battle flag. We can fight the drug problem, and we can win. This call was answered by concerned citizens from around the country who were committed not only to fighting drug use but to achieving that drug free generation of young Americans that is now our goal.
Last week Nancy and I spoke to over 2,000 such individuals at the White House Conference for a Drug Free America. Believe me, not so long ago, this conference would not have been possible. And there are still those who continue to say that, because we have not quickly solved a problem which took decades to develop, we should throw in the towel. Let's remember that our actions today are an investment in the future.
We know there are a large number of individuals, primarily those who acquired their drug-use habits in the sixties and seventies, who persist in using illegal drugs. And this persistent demand for illegal drugs is met by sometimes seemingly limitless supply. But a surge in drug-related crimes, deaths by overdose, births of drug-addicted and drug-impaired babies, and even the destabilization of national governments by traffickers should not be viewed as harbingers of defeat in our war on drugs. These events should instead strengthen our resolve to stop this insidious evil once and for all.
important campaigns are now underway. Businesses are taking strong action
against drug use in the workplace. Several States, such as
And here your own work has been particularly important. Long gone are the days when drug coverage focused on what the Government was -- or too often, was not -- doing to solve the drug problem. Today drug abuse is the subject of major industry initiatives and in-depth specials on the nightly news, daily newspapers, and weekly magazines. Also gone are the days when drug use was frequently glamorized in movies and television, on radio, and in print. Today the media is revealing the deadly truth about drugs and why each of us must take a stand.
in addition to your individual efforts, I hope you will keep up your tough
reporting on this story. This means holding government officials accountable,
of course, but it also means keeping a close eye on trends in drug use in
also want to mention at least some of your individual programs. The
addition, ABC contributed 482 commercials, half in prime time, to
media-advertising partnership spots in the past 9 months. The Boston Herald
launched ``Say No To Drugs,'' a major community-based
drug education campaign designed to help combat drug abuse among young people
in the greater
don't want to brag, but one of these PSA's features
my own leading lady. All of these initiatives liberally [literally] represent
billions of dollars in expertise and coverage, which has been invaluable in
moving toward a drug free
So, on behalf of the next generation of Americans -- the many lives that will be saved and whose futures will be bettered -- I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to each one of you. Thank you, and God bless you.
Note: The President
spoke at in the Indian Treaty Room of the