Public Papers

Remarks at a White House Briefing on National Drug Control Strategy


I wanted to come over here today just to make a brief statement prior to Bill Bennett's presentation. One year ago today, I announced one of the most important initiatives of our administration: the National Drug Control Strategy, a blueprint -- a clear blueprint -- for the war on drugs. We've devoted unprecedented new resources to the fight -- new material, new money, new management, new manpower. And this is true virtually across the board: for law enforcement; for treatment; for school, community, and workplace prevention; and for our friends in Latin America. We've pulled the entire Federal effort together. We've given every participating Department a clear antidrug mission. And we've joined hands with State and local governments -- and of course, private citizens -- all across the country. Never before has so much effort, involving so many people, been applied to the scourge of drugs.

In a moment, as I say, our very able drug czar, Bill Bennett, will give you a more detailed assessment of the progress that the Nation's already made, what we've done and, of course, what is left to be done. But I'm here because I wanted to tell you personally that I think America is making progress against drugs and will continue to do so. The crisis is far from over, but there are clear signs of progress. So-called ``casual drug use'' is continuing to decline. There are early promising signs that even the problem of hardcore addiction has taken a turn for the better. Today in America, cocaine is harder to find, more expensive, less pure than it was just one year ago.

Statistics like these help put perspective in the very real progress that we've made in this war on drugs. Too often, public attention focuses only on the face of the battle -- the drive-by shootings and the horrible individual tragedies. The other side might not make good television. But many of you in the press have traveled with me this past year. We've seen the recovering drug addicts who are getting help, seen the families, the neighborhoods, the whole communities that are being restored to health and safety.

I think back to Erma Scales who took back a part of Acres Homes, a big park there -- part of my old congressional district in Houston. Heroes like Al Brooks in that Baptist church basement in Kansas City -- he just had enough and decided to do something on his own and mobilize the spirit of that community. The rallying cry of Father George Clemens in Chicago -- here's the way he put it: ``There are more of us than there are of them.'' Just those few words, and mobilized opinion and got community action going.

So, while the statistics are good, progress can't be measured only by statistics. The past year has also seen a fundamental change in attitude, a growing awareness that drugs can take away your family, your job, your health, your freedom and, yes, even your life. We've also seen stunning new successes in law enforcement in both this country and Latin America that are difficult to measure by statistics alone. There are drug lords who -- arrogant and free only a year ago -- are today behind bars or on the run, or have already paid the ultimate price for a life of crime and violence.

Today's good news that Bill is going to share with you is welcome. We've made important progress. But clearly, that's not enough. There is still too much violence, too much destruction, too many innocent victims. Drugs are still an international menace. So, we're going to stick to this comprehensive drug strategy. We're going to renew our call for Congress to pass a true crime bill -- one that's tough on the criminals and not on the police. My administration will remain on the front lines until this scourge is licked for good. Block by block, school by school, child by child, we will take back the streets. We will never surrender. I know that other subjects are preoccupying all of us these days. But this one remains number one. It will continue to remain number one when the international situation has calmed down -- an entirely different climate.

I want to thank all of those here who have been laboring, sometimes without identity or without acclaim, on the front lines. I am proud of the work of Judge Walton and, of course, Bill Bennett and all of you, and I want to thank you for what you're doing, and keep it up. I now will turn the podium over to our able drug czar, Bill Bennett. Thank you all very much. Good luck.

Note. The President spoke at 11:11 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Reggie Walton, Associate Director for State and Local Affairs in the Office of National Drug Control Policy.