THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||July 22, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT CRIME PREVENTION EVENT
Old Executive Office
10:55 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. If I had any senseat all, I would not say a word. (Laughter.) I've got to tell you,before I came over here, my staff all gathered very solemnly in theOval Office and they said, now, you know, there's going to be a lotof preachers there today. (Laughter.) And Reverend Anthony said hewas going to be moved by the spirit. You stick to the text. Wedon't want you to get too moved by the spirit. (Laughter.) I don'tknow if I can honor that.
Let me say before I begin, I was just handed a note -- Ithink it's appropriate since we have so many ministers here that --one of our greatest astronauts, Alan Shepard, has just passed away.Those of us who are old enough to remember the first space flightswill always remember what an impression he made on us and on theworld. And so I would like to express the gratitude of our nationand to say that our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Let me begin by thanking all the people who are here:Eric Holder and Ray Fisher, all the people at the Justice Departmentwho have done such a good job. Commissioner Evans, it's good to seeyou again, and I never get tired of hearing the story of what Bostonhas done. Reverend Anthony, thank you for your wonderful statementand the power of your example. I thank Congressmen Cummings andCardin who are here from Maryland. And two Senators who havesupported this program very strongly and were not able to come at thelast minute -- I want to acknowledge Senator Joe Biden and SenatorCarol Moseley-Braun.
I thank Mayor Alan Styles from Salinas, California;Mayor James Garner from Hempstead, New York; Mayor Marion Berry fromWashington; Mayor Kurt Schmoke from Baltimore; and Mayor and ReverendEmanual Cleaver from Kansas City, Missouri, for being here. The Chiefof Police of Washington, D.C., Charles Ramsey is here; ReubenGreenberg from Charleston, South Carolina; Michelle Mitchell fromRichmond. There are children here from Brown Junior High School andfrom Baltimore and from Philadelphia -- we welcome you all.
This is really about what we can do together to save ourchildren and to strengthen our country's future. For all the goodthings that are happening in America -- unemployment, inflation,crime, welfare the lowest in somewhere between 25 and 32 years,depending on the statistic -- we have to understand that there arestill too many of our children who are left out and left behind, andthat in order to honor our solemn responsibilities as citizens andour fundamental moral duties as human beings, we have to do a betterjob.
I am gratified that crime is at a 25-year low. Surely,the improving economy had something to do with it. But I ampersuaded that the lion's share of credit goes to people -- thosenameless people Reverend Anthony spoke about -- who wear uniforms andwho work in churches and other religious institutions, who work inschools and work on streets and who talk to their kids at home atnight. What is working in America is a community-based,prevention-oriented, broad-based partnership to try to bring crimedown and bring our kids back. And the faith community has animportant role to play.
I noted -- one of the things that I remembered about thefirst time I went to Boston and met with the Mayor's Youth Council isit was being run by a Roman Catholic nun. Everybody showed up, theywere on time. (Laughter.) It ran like clockwork -- it was great.(Laughter.) Including me -- we all did our part.
And I think it is important to say that thiscommunity-based, prevention-oriented, broad-based partnershiprepresented by the children and the adults here, including themembers of the faith community, that it is working. And what we wantto do today is to see it work everywhere in America.
You heard Commissioner Evans say that in Boston, police,prosecutors, principals, pastors -- they all got together around thetable. They called on everybody to take responsibility to stop gangsand guns and drugs and to change attitudes -- above all, to changeattitudes -- how people look at themselves, how they look at otherpeople, whether they treat them with respect. And they recognizedthat the only strategy that will work in the long run is one thatkeeps our children out of trouble in the first place.
I can't help noting that I've had the opportunity tospend quite a bit of time in the city of Chicago. You all clappedwhen the mention was made of our commitment to before- andafter-school programs. There are now over 40,000 children, Ibelieve, that get three square meals a day in the Chicago schoolsystem -- they stay through supper. And the summer school is now thesixth largest school district in the United States. And a lot of thekids have to go because they don't make good enough grades during theyear. But because it's a positive thing, the community groups, theparents groups, everybody supports it. It's a way of building a goodfuture for our children.
So that's what we're here to celebrate, and to emphasizethat there is a critical, fundamental role for the faith community inteaching our children a sense of right and wrong and self-disciplineand respect. Boston's pastors and faith communities took the lead.Often, they are the most stable institutions left in unstableneighborhoods. I think it is important that these mentors saw ineach child a cause and not just a case file; a future, not just apresent full of problems.
When young people learn to turn to values, then theyturn away from gangs. That was the message of what Reverend Anthonysaid more eloquently than I could. When they learn the basic rulesof right and wrong, then they can reject the rules of the street. Ifit's true in Boston, if it's true in Washington, if it's trueanywhere, it can be true everywhere. And that is what we're hereabout.
If something can happen somewhere, it is our duty tomake sure it happens everywhere. Indeed, that has been the wholephilosophy behind this administration's anticrime efforts. When Iwas Governor, I worked a lot on these issues at home. Very often Iwould work with religious leaders -- Christian leaders, Jewishleaders; in my state Black Muslims were often quite active incommunity-based efforts to save our children. But the thing thatstruck me was that there was never a system. And the thing thatBoston has done so well is that they have created a system withinwhich everybody has a role to play where they can be most effective.And it has worked.
Last year researchers at Harvard found that urbanneighborhoods, with a strong sense of community and shared values,had much, much lower crime rates than those without it -- bigsurprise. But when you hear people in my position, or electedofficials talking about crime, how often do you hear them talk aboutthat? You get more emotion on the meter readers if you give somerough, tough speech about jails and punishment. Well, we have tohave jails and people who do the wrong things have to be punished.But we will never jail our way out of America's problems, and youknow that. (Applause.)
I want to thank Exhibit A here for coming -- if I couldcall him that -- Reverend Eugene Rivers, who's sitting behind me. Ithank him for being here. He has gotten to know some of Boston'smost troubled children, welcoming them to his parish, Baker House,offering counseling, recreation and an occasional pizza party;introducing children who have known nothing but chaos at home to theserenity of prayer. He mediates fights, visits homes, shows up atschool when they get in trouble. He has been there for his kids,making them understand that God cares about each and every one ofthem and he cares whether they do well. (Applause.)
He cares whether they get an A or an F on a test,whether they get in a fight or get a citation for doing good atschool. They will be praised when they succeed, disciplined whenthey fail. Two of his children are with him today: Kenyatta Moonand Tony Barry. Growing up hasn't been easy for either of them. Butwith Reverend Rivers' help they have stayed on track. Tony is takingcollege prep courses; Kenyatta will begin college this fall.Congratulations. (Applause.)
You know, we have worked very hard to open the doors ofcollege to all Americans, to give scholarships and tax credits and tomake sure, in effect, we can make two years of college virtually freeto nearly everyone in this country -- but you still have to get in.And this is very, very important, what is being done. I know thereare many more just like Reverend Rivers, and just like these youngpeople, doing good things across this country -- more like ourwonderful speaker, who gave me such a powerful introduction. Whatwe have to do is to give all of them the tools they need to succeed.
That is what we're here to do today. Today I am gladand proud to announce that we will be making new value-based violenceprevention grants to 16 communities across our country, to help lawenforcement, schools, businesses and faith communities together workto prevent truancy, mentor, teach values, and offer children positivealternatives to gangs and drugs.
Congress, too, must act because 16 is not enough. Inthe juvenile justice bill, which I modeled in large measure on theBoston success story, there are funds for more of these kinds ofprograms. We need these funds. We need more funds for before- andafter-school programs, for the summer school programs, for thecommunity-based programs. We need these funds. (Applause.) Ourrole here in Washington on this is to give people the tools and toclear away the obstacles necessary to have more success stories.
I can't thank the mayors and the police chiefs who arehere enough for the examples that they have set in their owncommunities.
Carl Sandburg once said that a baby is God's opinionthat the world should go on. Well, when we lose our children, we arethwarting the opinion of God. We are blessed with our children.They will be America in the 21st century. What America will bedepends upon what we do to help them become all they can be. Thatdepends upon us. It is our responsibility.
I can't tell you how moved I am by all the stories Ihave read, all the examples I have seen, all the work that has beendone by the people that are in this room, and the people theyrepresent all across America. Some of them have been out there foryears and years and years. but now they have found a way to worktogether that will have dramatic, profound and permanent success. Weowe it to them to help them.
We're taking a big first step today, and if Congresswill give me the funds, we'll put the welfare of the American peoplefirst. Even in an election year, let's not let partisanship get inthe way of this critical mission. We will see these stories sweepacross this country, and we'll have a lot more children to celebrate.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)