Public Papers

Remarks at the Acres Homes War on Drugs Rally in Houston, Texas


Thank you all very much. Mayor Whitmire, Kathy, thank you. Thank all of you from Sugar Plum Day Care, too, right here in the front row. Thank you for that warm introduction, mayor. I'm especially pleased to have with me two key members of my administration, both of them actively involved in the fight against drugs. They were announced when I came in, but one of them, Nick Brady, is the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States -- right here. And of course, our drug control director -- we call him the czar -- who is doing an outstanding job, Bill Bennett -- fighting every single day to win the battle against drugs.

I, of course, want to pay my respects to your distinguished and able police chief, Lee Brown, Kathy's counterpart in the county; my friend of longstanding, Judge Jon Lindsay over here; and of course, another close friend of mine who's working on the legislative side, one of Houston's great Congressmen, Congressman Fields right over here.

And thank all of you, all of you in Acres Homes community, not for standing up to greet us today but for standing up for Houston every day. And I should single out -- for special thanks from this President -- Erma Scales and Thelma LaStrap for all they have done to make this day possible.

As our distinguished mayor said, Acres Homes was a part of my congressional district twenty-some years ago. In fact -- little-known fact -- this was the home turf for the George Bush all-star championship women's softball team. And I just had a little reunion with our -- I think I see some -- maybe the third baseman. No, but I just saw Bobby Moore. He and I started this team in 1960. And we had good teams, and these -- I want to say girls; they were then; now women -- but they almost won the State championship. Traveled all over the State and played out of De Soto Park, which is just down the road a little bit, so I do feel at home. In fact, I even preached in a church here. Well, I didn't exactly preach in it, but I was Reverend Floyd Williams' guest at Antioch, down the road a ways. And I understand he's here today also -- and what wonderful work he has done for this community.

But let me reminisce just one second more. It's great to be back here. It's great to be back in Texas, especially after that little rough sea over there in Malta, all the way across the Atlantic and halfway around the world -- but glad to be back on dry land. Got the weather report -- I wasn't sure it was going to be dry, but it is.

But the talks there in Malta, the talks that I had representing you all with President Gorbachev, remind us all that we live in dramatic and exciting times, times that present great opportunities, opportunities for great and historic change. And that's true not just in Eastern Europe, where people are seeking freedom to travel and freedom to vote -- the freedoms that we just take for granted here in Houston and here in the United States -- but right here in the United States in places like Acres Homes, where brave men and women -- and I mean brave, brave men and women -- have used ``People Power'' to fight for another kind of freedom: the freedom from fear, the freedom from crime, and the freedom from drugs. And just as with that new freedom in Eastern Europe, freedom from drugs isn't something the Government can give you. You have got to take a stand -- you've got to take back the streets. And that's exactly what you did, right here in Winzer Park.

Acres Homes has a proud history. Once the largest unincorporated black community in the South, its quiet, tree-lined neighborhoods were mainstream America -- the embodiment, if you will, of the American dream. But in recent years, the dream on Main Street has become the ``Nightmare on Elm Street'' -- a twisted, backwards world where our children and our playgrounds are taken away by an evil menace called cocaine, often out there in broad daylight. By 1987, 25 to 30 drug dealers were operating right here, right here in Winzer Park. And the circular driveway behind us at Carver and Dolly Wright was so clogged with the cars of the drug buyers that police called it Crack-in-the-Box. [Laughter]

That's when your community people and your police came together to declare a new ``independence day'' -- April 9, 1988. One thousand people swept into the park, and one thousand people swept the drug dealers out of the park. They haven't come back, and they better not -- because I've heard what they say about you, the members of the Acres Homes War on Drugs. They say you are community-based, and they say you are tough as nails, and they say you're not afraid of anything or anybody. And looking out at you today, I believe that. You were united. You were determined. You got mad. You were angry -- but you were right.

One thousand people -- one thousand people took back what's yours: took back your parks, took back your kids. And you not only put the drug dealers out, you put pride back in. And you were among the first to assemble and rally and move forward with a plan to fight drugs, and you were among the first to recognize that the community's future is in the hands of the community. And efforts like yours are a critical part of Bill Bennett's plan, of America's battle plan, the new national strategy that I submitted to Congress earlier this fall. We invited Congress to join us in a new comprehensive partnership with America's communities.

First, drug education -- the 1990 budget has provided over a 0 million increase for school and community prevention programs like those that have proven so successful right here. We've got to teach our children to stay away from drugs. We've got to stop illegal drug use before it even gets started.

And second, drug treatment and prevention -- too many people in too many cities simply aren't getting the help they need. That's not right. And that's why the '90 budget has boosted spending on drug treatment and prevention, and especially cocaine treatment, by about 5 million.

And third, for those who cannot learn or will not seek help, we have a plan for them, too, because we're going to take back the streets by taking them off the streets. And that means helping your able police chief. That means punishing those who do evil.

And to some ears, the very word ``evil'' is embarrassing, an obsolete reference to some old-fashioned attitude. Well, we've all heard the supposedly sophisticated arguments that turn right and wrong into empty concepts, words without meaning. But the people in this park know better. You see, you have seen violent crime close up and firsthand. And you know that crime, and crimefighting, is usually a question of right and wrong -- good and evil, if you will. And you know that a community that cannot understand the difference between right and wrong can never protect itself.

What's the difference, then, between the wonderful young kids behind me, this great-looking group back there, and the kids who huddle a few blocks from where we stand, using and dealing drugs? Same neighborhood. Same schools. Same Houston -- but a different choice. Often a choice made by the parents; always a choice made by the kids.

Roy Douglas Malonson said it right here in Acres Homes the same night I addressed the entire Nation on drugs. He said: ``The bottom line is we're going to have to take a stance and quit blaming others for the problem. We need personal accountability.'' Roy couldn't be more right. Only the American people can make this change in attitude. Only you can cultivate character and a sense of values in our kids. It's not a Federal problem for which there is a simple Federal solution. We can't do it by looking to the Government alone.

But as you have proven here in Acres Homes, and particularly in this park, parents and teachers and religious and neighborhood leaders can do it. You -- and probably only you -- can teach our kids right from wrong. Erma Scales says: ``We need to teach a system of values. Parents need to spend more time with their kids and go back to being parents, not just being buddies.'' And, Erma, I bet you agree with me that it's time we went back to teaching what I like to call the four R's -- reading, writing, 'rithmetic, and respect -- in the schools of this country. And while we're at it, I might add respect for the teachers who give their lives to help educate these wonderful kids.

What I've called the Thousand Points of Light -- that galaxy of individuals and institutions who live not just for themselves but also to serve others -- is really what we're talking about here today. Each day at the White House, I announce now a daily Point of Light, an individual or group working to rid our communities of drugs or homelessness or hunger or illiteracy, loneliness -- so many other problems. And nowhere in America is there a group more deserving than today's Presidential Point of Light, a bright star in our nationwide battle -- the Acres Homes War on Drugs. And thank you, thank all of you for demonstrating that each point of light counts; each point can mean one life changed, one life saved. But we need thousands, thousands in every city and every neighborhood. And if anyone wants to know just how bright that light can be when a thousand points come together, look around you. Look at the home of strong hearts, clear minds, and indomitable wills. Look at the people of Winzer Park.

Thank you for this warm greeting on this December day. God bless you all. I hope every one of you have a wonderful, Merry Christmas. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:10 p.m. in Andrew Winzer Park. In his remarks, he referred to Erma Scales and Thelma LaStrap, chairwoman and secretary of the Acres Homes War on Drugs Committee.