THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts)
|For Immediate Release|| ||August 27, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT SAFE SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITIES EVENT
12:00 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, first let methank you for your remarkable and warm welcome. I'm glad to be here inWorcester, the heartbeat of Massachusetts for 150 years now. (Applause.)Andin this grand hall where so many great Americans have spoken, fromFrederickDouglas to Susan B. Anthony to Henry David Thoreau. I'm honored to sharethisstage with Kathleen Bisson, and I thank her for her commitment to teachingourchildren and for keeping them safe; and with Officer Michael Jones, whomovedus all with how he responded to his personal tragedy.
Mr. Mayor, I thought you gave a great talk. (Applause.)Whenhe was up here kind of moving around, doing his shtick, I said --(applause)-- I was amazed. Kathleen said, you know, he ought to be in Hollywood, youshould see the rap act he does for the school kids. (Laughter.) So Ithankyou.
Chief Gardella, I cannot thank you enough for what you saidand I appreciate more than you will ever know the impact that we have hadtheopportunity to have through the community policing and the other lawenforcement programs.
I thank Scott Harshbarger, who has been a friend of minefor along time, and who has, I can tell you from my personal experience not only asPresident, but even before when I was governor, always been on theforefrontof law enforcement reforms that would give our children a safer future.(Applause.)
I thank Congressman McGovern who has worked in both theareaswe celebrate today, and in so many other ways. It's interesting to see amanwho both knows what he's doing down to the tiniest detail about howCongressworks and how thecommittees work and how the procedures work -- and I thinkCongressman Moakley's tutelage had something to do with thatbefore he showed up. (Applause.) But it's interesting to seesomeone who has that feel for the mechanics and also is plainlyso connected at an emotional, human level to the people in hisdistrict and so passionately cares about it, and was able toconvey that to all of us today through the wonderful metaphor ofhis wife and young child. And if you want to cry, go rightahead. (Laughter.)
Let me also thank Congressman Markey, who is here,and Congressman Neal for coming out to the airport to meet me. Ithank Senator Kerry, who has long been one of the leaders in lawenforcement issues in the Congress, for his involvement in boththese issues. And I thank Senator Kennedy for making sure thateven though this is the end of a long program, none of us couldpossibly go to sleep. (Laughter and applause.) I always marvelat his continuing energy and commitment and dedication. And somedays when I get tired and weary, I think, he's been doing thislonger than I have and he never gets tired or weary, and that's agood thing. (Applause.)
Let me say, I have a few brief things to add to whathas been said about the two issues we came here to discuss today.But because this is my only opportunity to speak with you and,through you, to the American people, I want to say a couple ofthings about Hurricane Bonnie and the havoc it's wreaked in NorthCarolina in the last day, and the flooding caused in Texas byTropical Storm Charlie.
I know that all of our hearts go out to the familiesaffected by these storms. Yesterday I declared a disaster inTexas because of the flooding, and today there's a disasterdeclaration that has just been issued for North Carolina. Thatmakes federal funds available immediately to people who have beenharmed in both places.
Thankfully, the winds are dying down in NorthCarolina. Hopefully, the floods soon will recede in Texas. Inboth cases, FEMA, our Federal Emergency Management Agency, isworking with state and local agencies to assess the damage and tostay there for as long as it takes to help the people rebuild.
While we're here today, Vice President and Mrs. Goreand Secretary of Education Dick Riley are in California talkingabout the same things -- our common commitment to make ourstreets and our schools safe for families and children.
This is, as Senator Kennedy noted, a time of greatprosperity for our people. We have the lowest unemployment in 28years, the smallest percentage of people on welfare in 29 years,about to realize the first balanced budget and surplus in 29years -- (applause) -- and we learned not very long ago that homeownership is at its highest rate in American history. And thishas occurred at a time when we have reduced the government to thesmallest size it has had since John Kennedy was the President ofthe United States. (Applause.)
I come here, as I have gone across this country, tosay to my fellow Americans, this is not a time to celebrate, butto be grateful. It is not a time to rest on our laurels, but touse the confidence, the resources, and the understanding we haveacquired for the last six years to face the long-term challengesof this country. For the world is changing very quickly, full ofnew challenges.
Senator Kennedy mentioned one of them, the problemof terrorism, which has become a bigger problem for us as webecome more open, and as information and money and technology canmove around the world so quickly; as people themselves can moveacross borders so quickly. These multinational problems liketerrorism, or even the global spread of disease, or sharedenvironmental problems, are things that visionaries must thinkabout and take steps now to prepare for.
The world will never be free of problems. And weknow that the world is changing fast, which means that if we wishto maintain our present level of success, we must keep up. Wecannot afford to relax. We must become more rigorous. And wemust -- I say again -- use the newfound confidence of America tothink more boldly, not less boldly; and to act more boldly, notless boldly, for our children's future.
There is critical business ahead of us, businessthat we will take up as soon as Congress comes back to work. Oneof the members who spoke before me mentioned it, but we want tomake sure -- I think Congressman McGovern did -- we want to makesure that we have saved the Social Security system for the 21stcentury before a penny of that surplus is touched. (Applause.)We think it is important.
We want to help the teachers like Kate Bisson, notonly with school violence, but with the tools necessary to moveour children forward. I have an education agenda before theCongress that would provide funds in the balanced budget forschool construction, to help repair and rebuild and build newbuildings so that children aren't in substandard conditions. Wehave children going to school in some cities in America today inbuildings that are 65, 70, 80 years old, where the windows arebroken, where they go in -- where whole floors are closed down.What kind of signal does that send to children about theirimportance?
In other parts of our country we have children goingto school in house trailers because the school districts aregrowing so fast and there's no way the people can afford to keepup with it. I was in a small school district in Florida recentlywhere there were 17 trailers outside the main school building.This is important.
We have a program to help out school districts hire100,000 teachers in the early grades so we can get down to anaverage class size of 18. It is the single most significantthingthat the research shows over more than a decade now that willguarantee that children will get off to a good start in school.
We're trying to hook up all our classrooms to theInternet. We're trying to support the establishment of voluntarynational standards. We are trying, in short, to make sure we cansay to our children, no matter where you grow up or what yourracial or ethnic or income background is, you have access to thefinest system of elementary and secondary education in the world.That's a big part of our agenda.
We have a huge health care agenda, and it beginswith the patients bill of rights. With 160 million people inmanaged care operations, people ought to have a right, whatevertheir health care plan, to see a specialist if their doctorrecommends it; to have emergency room care where it's needed ifthey have an accident; to have their medical records keptprivate; to be able to appeal adverse decisions. These thingsare important.
And so I say to you, we need your help. There'sgoing to be a big debate on campaign finance reform when we getback in the Shays-Meehan bill that is cosponsored by CongressmanMeehan from Massachusetts that's going to be in a version beforethe United States Senate. And our people are going to work hardto pass it. There will be major environmental debates when weget back. And these things are important.
So I say to you, the energy that brought you heretoday, the concern you have for these issues, you need to bringit back to every single major challenge this country faces. If Ihad told you six years ago that in six years we would have 16million new jobs and all these other things, you would have said,there's another politician running for office. It happened notby accident, but because of the hard work and the vision and thecitizen spirit of the American people, and the disciplinedefforts that we have all made. And we must not forget that nowthat times are good.
We also can't forget that unless we make ourcommunities, our schools and our children safe, prosperitydoesn't mean very much. That is why this is at the core of whatwe have tried to do.
I told this story many times, but I want you to letme share it one more time. Right before the New Hampshireprimary in 1992, a period when I was dropping like a rock in thepolls -- I have some experience with that -- I was going througha kitchen in New York City. And I was walking to one of thesebanquets, one of these fundraising banquets. I didn't have anyidea whether it would be three people or 300 or 700 when I gotout the door. I was just walking through the kitchen to getthere.
And a waiter came up to me, in this nice hotel inNew York. And I wasn't very well-known then -- I was thegovernor of Arkansas, I just started running in New Hampshire.And this man came up to me and stopped me, and he said, Mr.Governor, I want to talk to you. He said, my 10-year-old boyhere in New York -- he said, he studies these elections and hereads up on the candidates, and he says I should vote for you.He said, now, if I vote for you, I want you to do something forme.
I said, well, what is it? I couldn't imagine whatthis man who was a waiter in a hotel in New York wanted me to dofor him. He said, well, the place where we came from in the oldcountry, we were much poorer, but at least we were free. Hesaid, here I make more money, but we're not free. When my boygoes across our apartment house, across the street to play in thecity park, I have to go with him because I'm afraid for hissafety. Our school is only a couple of blocks from ourapartment, but I have to walk him because I'm afraid for hissafety. So if I do what my boy wants and I vote for you, willyou make my boy free? I will never forget that as long as Ilive. (Applause.)
The comprehensive approach we followed on crime isbasically what, as Senator Kerry said and he certainly supportedvery strongly, is just what the local law enforcement people andthe local community leaders taught us to do -- be smart aboutprevention, be smart about giving kids something to say yes to,be smart about law enforcement patterns, be smart aboutpunishment. Crime rates are now at a 25-year low, juvenile crimeis finally coming down. People do think, I think, that they aremore free.
We have worked hard especially in the schools withthe Safe and Drug-Free Schools program. We've supportedcommunities in schools that offer anti-truancy, curfew, schooluniforms and dress code policies. We have strictly enforced zerotolerance for guns. Last year alone, over 6,000 students withguns were disarmed and sent home. This year, recently, a newreport showed that the overwhelming majority of our schools are,in fact, safe. But it's not enough, as we know from the recentrash of killings in our schools all over the country.
When children in inner-city schools have to walkthrough metal detectors, when high schools in small towns likeJonesboro, Arkansas in my home state or Springfield, Oregon aretorn apart by disturbed children with deadly weapons, when gangviolence still ravages communities large and small, we have to domore.
This fall, we are going to hold the first-ever WhiteHouse Conference on School Safety, and today we're taking twosteps that I think will make our schools safer and ourcommunities stronger. First, offering a guide to help preventschool violence before it starts and, second, expanding theremarkable Police Corps program to Massachusetts and elsewhere.
Let me show you what thisearly warning guide is allabout. Earlier this year, in the aftermath of the tragedy ofSpringfield, Oregon, I actually went there to Springfield and Ispent an extended period of time in the school library, goingfrom table to table to table, meeting with the families of thevictims; children who had been killed and a much larger number ofchildren who had been wounded.
I talked to the school official. I asked them whatthey knew about the young man who was apparently involved in thisincident. I asked them how they dealt with kids who were introuble; how did they know when children were in trouble. And webegan to ask other people, and we concluded that not everybodyknew everything they needed to know in clear, practical termsabout how to spot the danger signals early and then what to do about them.
So I asked Secretary Riley and Attorney General Renoto develop the safe school guides for educators, for parents, forfellow students, to help them recognize and then respond to earlywarning signs. This is the guide. It says, "Early Warning Timely Response: A Guide To Safe Schools." Now, over the nextfew weeks, every single school in America will get a copy of thisin time for the start of the new school year. It will helpschools to recognize a troubled or potentially violent youngperson. It outlines steps to intervene early before it's toolate.
As Secretary Riley and General Reno say in theirintroduction, the guide should never be used to stigmatize orlabel young people in distress; instead, it should be used as avital part of overall school violence prevention efforts thathave to include, as others have said before and as your Mayorsaid about Worcester, every teacher, every parent and every youngperson.
This guide can make a difference in the lives of ourchildren. The Police Corps can also make a difference. Itembodies the same commitment to every person and the commitmentto public service that was embodied in the life service of Johnand Robert Kennedy.
I first heard about the Police Corps from AdamWolinsky, who has previously been eulogized by Senators Kerry andKennedy, when I was the Governor of Arkansas. I was so impressedby this program and by Adam's commitment to it, that I became acharter member of the National Committee for the Police Corps onthe spot. Adam and his wife, Jane, are here and I know they'vealready been introduced, but I want you to know that we would notbe here talking to this today were it not for this one Americancitizen, and he is harboring a dream for years and years andyears until it became real in the lives of people, and I thankhim for it. (Applause.)
When I was Governor, I signed a bill to create aPolice Corps scholarship program in our home state. And when Ibecame President, thanks to the efforts of Senator Kennedy,Senator Kerry and others, especially of Lieutenant GovernorKathleen Kennedy Townsend of Maryland and Adam, we put the PoliceCorps in the 1994 Crime Bill.
We've already heard that much in the way that ROTCfunctions, this remarkable program gives talented young peoplecollege scholarships in return for their commitment to serve aspolice officers in their communities. I should mention, as waspointed out to me here today before I came here, that apreference is given to one group only -- the children of policeofficers killed in the line of duty. And I understand that thestate police here has already identified several young people whoare the children of police officers who have died in the line ofservice in Massachusetts who, themselves, want to go into lawenforcement and would be eligible to get these scholarships.
In 17 states around the country, that's what thePolice Corps is already doing; creating a new generation ofpolice officers trained to stand on the front lines and listen onthe front porches, to work in distressed communities and be rolemodels for young people.
Now, the young members of the Police Corps who arehere with us today -- and I think there are some, aren't there?Are there any Police Corps members here today? What? Stand up.(Applause.) Thank you. We have invested in their honor, theircourage, their commitment to community and country. We need morelike them. That is why the announcement we make today expandingthe Police Corps to six more states, including Massachusetts,awarding scholarships to more than 300 dedicated young people, isa good thing for the United States.
This Police Corps is an incredible example of whatwe can do when we put progress ahead of partisanship, peopleahead of politics, the future of our children ahead of all else.As the Mayor said, in referring to the First Lady, it does take avillage. But both of us note, as we travel around thecountry -- and Hillary mentioned to me just about a week ago whenshe came back from another stop -- it is astonishing -- it isastonishing how many places we go will there be somebody in thereceiving line who will thank us for the community policeofficers in their community, large and small.
Robert Kennedy once said, "The fight against crimeis, in the last analysis, a fight to preserve that quality ofcommunity which is at the root of our greatness, a fight topreserve confidence in ourselves and in our fellow citizens, abattle for the quality of our lives." With these actions, wemove a step closer to winning that battle for all our people, andto building that bridge toward a strong America in the 21stcentury. Thank you and God bless you all. (Applause.)