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Question-and-Answer Session at the Wilmington Cluster Against Substance Abuse Program in Delaware

March 22, 1989

Mr. Mustafa. Mr. President, I'm sure the kids have some questions they'd like to ask you, so why don't you have a seat.

The President. Okay, now, what's happening here, you guys? Who's got a question, or tell me something about how this is working. I mean, this is wonderful.

War on Drugs

Q. What can I do to stop drugs?

The President. Well, that's a good question, and the answer is to stand -- I mean for your individual self -- is to avoid the pressure that comes when those guys come around with the drugs, I mean, just to encourage yourself and the guys like this that are in training here to stay away from it -- to stay totally away from it. And then get other friends, and get them to turn down drugs. So, when the guy comes into the neighborhood peddling the drugs, why, you take a role like an individual leader, and you say no, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to go the clean way. I'm going to go that -- and then you want to help other guys do it.

And what we've got to do in the Government -- like in Washington and then Governor Castle here and the State government and your mayor and the local police guys -- we've got to help as private citizens. We've got to help you in the law enforcement side of things. And then, our drug czar, who is with us today, Bill Bennett -- he's the big guy over here, and he was in education. He was the Secretary of Education and in charge for the Federal Government in education. And he's going to help work with the schools and others in terms of the education side for all kids, in the classrooms, to just say, "Look, this is wrong; this is bad; don't come in here telling me it's okay."

You've got to listen to Rashid, your able instructor here. It's his whole life. He's given a lot out of his own life to not only train you and discipline you guys but help on the education side himself, just by his time that he gives you guys. So, it's kind of hard for one individual, but every guy can make a difference. And if somebody in your family does it, you've got to say, "Hey, that's wrong." Even sometimes when it's unpopular. You know, they say, "Hey, come on, you. What's the matter with you? Come on." And you've got to be the guy that stands up to it, says, "No, I don't want that." Come on over here and work out and do what you've got to do.

Q. Have you ever been offered drugs?

The President. No. See, you know, I'll tell you something. They had drugs around when I was a little guy, but I hate to tell you how old I am. It wasn't as much -- there wasn't the pressure on the kids in schools. It's just kind of come in more lately, you know? And so, when I was your age, the pressures and the temptations on all kids was much less in terms of the drug threat you guys face up to now. Have you ever been offered them?

Q. Yes, once.

The President. Did you? Did you tell the guy to bug off?

Q. Yes.


Q. When you were younger, have you ever been in an activity like karate or a different -- other things -- basketball, gym?

The President. A lot of athletics, not karate. I watched you guys. I'm not sure I could have done that. [Laughter] That was pretty good, and -- --

Q. Do you know where drugs come from?

The President. Yes, I know that. I'll get to that one in a minute. But sports -- yes, I love sports -- still do play. I love to play baseball, and I played soccer. I don't know whether you've ever played that, but I did a little bit of football in grade school. So, sports I think helps. It keeps your body going good and keeps your mind cleaned out for you.

What did you say?

War on Drugs

Q. Do you know where drugs come from?

The President. Yes. They come from all over the world, unfortunately. Picture a map and see where you are in Delaware. And then you go way down south to the Rio Grande River, and then on down south into South America. A lot of them come from down there.

And our Attorney General [Richard L. Thornburgh] right here, he can tell you where he was for some of this. Tell him where you were, Dick, just recently.

The Attorney General. I was in three countries where they grow drugs. If you look at the map of South America, one of them is Bolivia -- high in the Andes Mountains. And then right next door to that is Peru. And then just north of that is Colombia. In all three of those countries, they grow the plants that produce the materials that are made into drugs, and they sell them for a lot of money in this country. But they wouldn't be able to sell any of them if nobody wanted to use drugs. And that's what the President is saying. He says the best thing we can do is to turn our back on those people who want us to use drugs and put the money into the pockets of the crooks who handle the drugs.

The President. Some people, they grow it here sometimes in the United States, too. It's terrible. So, then the law enforcement guys have to go out and try to crack down on them and stuff.

Q. Are they legal in the other countries?

The President. I don't think they're ever legal. I don't know for sure. Bill, maybe you can tell them. I don't think they're legal. They turn their back on it in some places and condone it -- well, we did in this country for a while.

Attorney General Thornburgh. There are 108 countries that signed the U.N. drug convention, Mr. President, and that means there are 108 countries that are your working partners in the effort to deal with the drug problem around the world. There aren't many places where the drug dealers or the drug traffickers are going to get much in the way of approval.

The President. Here's another one for this guy. How about these quiet guys down there? Go ahead.

Q. Mr. President, as I learned as I was in school, they took a lot of drugs that were good, like narcotics and stuff that heal some people's wounds, like cocaine and stuff that numbs.

The President. Yes. Like morphine to keep the pain away and stuff.

Q. Yes, keep your pain away, and sometimes marijuana for different things. But as my teacher told me, drugs were good until somebody took them and abused the drugs. They used them on their body as the wrong thing.

The President. Good point. Good point. You know, when a guy lying out on the battlefield was shot, fighting for his country or something, and they'd give him a shot of morphine to take the pain down, well, that was some kind of narcotic effect on them. And so, there are some uses -- very narrow medical uses -- that people, well, doctors would say this could help save a life or help a person bear the pain of a wound. But then it got abused. Your teacher was absolutely right about that.

Q. Do you know exactly how long the drugs have been around?

The President. No, because you go back in history and you look in the opium wars that go over into China years ago, and you've got -- so, I don't know, but I expect long, long ago in history it started. But whether society condones it, whether there's a growing -- what they call permitting it -- permissiveness that permits that to happen to a society. You know, you go back into ancient history now -- Rome, and when Rome got corrupt with a lot of alcohol abuse and that kind of thing. And so, it isn't something brand new in our history, but it's something that's become because people have just turned the other cheek and just kind of let it happen in their neighborhoods. And then, when parents do it, why, then it's hard for the kid, even though he's taught the right things, right in this very room, right over there on those mats -- taught the right thing. In the home, maybe the pressures are tough on you at home, and it's hard for a little guy to stand up. That's why you need to be company on this -- stand together in fighting against it.

Q. Have you ever been offered drugs?

The President. I haven't. No. No, I haven't been offered that. Have you?

Q. No.

The President. Never did? How about you?

Q. Where do drugs come from?

The President. Well, you didn't hear. He asked it. A lot of the basic plants are grown in South America, sometimes over in Burma and in what they call the Golden Triangle over there. And some right here in this country -- marijuana plants illegally grown out in the forests and out in the woods. And Alabama -- the Governor was in to see me the other day -- the Governor of that State. And he said it's hard to find the plants because people sneak out and cultivate them. And then it's hard. You have to find them from helicopters. So, a wide array of places they come from.

Mr. Mustafa. Well, Mr. President, I'd like to make a comment. I'd like to say that the WACASA program, or Wilmington Cluster Against Substance Abuse here in this State -- we have made a pledge to live a drug-free lifestyle and to help these youth become the hope for the future. And they understand that a mind is a terrible thing to waste and that they are the hope of the future and that their present thoughts determine their future actions. And they all have made that pledge to live that lifestyle.

The President. That's wonderful, Rashid.

Q. Our teacher said when he was growing up, when he was a little kid -- --

The President. Yes, a little guy?

Q. Yes. He said while other little kids were wanting to buy drugs and they couldn't -- he said they used to go to the store and buy airplane glue and sniff it.

The President. They did. That's right. Duco -- what was it called? Something like that? Yes. And it would give you some drug effect. That's true.

The Attorney General. It's not good for you.

The President. No. And then they'd damage their brain, and it would be very bad.

Wilmington Cluster

Q. Mr. President, how do you feel about the WACASA program?

The President. Well, I'm going to talk about it at lunch. I don't know all of the details of it. But I feel that programs like that -- and I'm going to mention it because the Governor and others have told us that it's making a real move, being successful -- that in there lies a lot of the answer. Federal Government -- Washington, DC -- they can't design all these programs. I mean, what works here is good. Nobody can tell your instructor here, "You're going to have to do this nationwide. Everybody at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, or whatever it is, is going to have a karate lesson." But it's all different kinds of answers.

I talked about the concept of 1,000 points of light -- 1,000 different programs, multiplied by 1,000, all working in their own way and in their own community. So, I would just say, Hey, go for it. Participate. Get others to do it, too. And that's part of it.

Q. Do you think the WACASA program would be in existence at least another 4 or 5 years?

The President. Yes, because I don't think this whole program is going to be whipped. I mean, the whole drug thing is -- I wish I could tell you differently, but we're going to make some moves. I've got 4 years as President, and I want to be able to look back -- and not just for the country, but also I'd like to be able to say to my grandchildren -- about the age of some of these guys here -- we worked hard to make it better. It's not going to be solved. We need to keep these programs going.

War on Drugs

Q. Mr. President, how can I, one person, help?

The President. Out at schools and everyplace? Yes, you've got to encourage others not to use them. You've got to participate in the programs. And other kids that are down there, other kids in the neighborhoods, they'll see this, and they'll see you working out here, and they'll say hey, maybe these guys have got something.

Q. Mr. President, have you ever went to anybody's funeral that used drugs?

The President. Went to a funeral where the person died from drugs? I don't think so, but I've been to ceremonies honoring people whose lives were taken by the drug pushers and the drug criminals, like law enforcement people. And you go, and you give a medal -- like when I was Vice President -- you give a medal to a family, a widow, a woman whose husband had been killed trying to protect your neighborhood and mine from drugs. And that's sad, I'll tell you -- people to give their lives, to fight so you guys can have a good environment and we all can.

What's that guy's name?

Q. Mr. President, what do you do to keep drugs out of your life?

The President. Keep them out of your life? Well, kind of getting along in my level of life here, the pressures aren't quite that big. You don't have a lot of guys coming up to you in daily life saying, hey. So, I don't have the temptations and the pressures that you've got, like young guys in school and all of that. But I think if I did I'd try to do what you're doing: I'd try to have that lifestyle going in such a way and helping the education programs and helping the law enforcement so people wouldn't be tempted to offer up those narcotics.

But I'm not saying it's the same. Now, like I'm President. It would be pretty hard for some drug guy to come into the White House and start offering it up, you know. It's different. We've got a lot of Secret Service guys there -- hey, throw them right out of there. But it's different in a school or a community. And so, the pressures -- I think I understand them, but I can't say that it's the same when you're in this job on that kind of thing. But I bet if they did, I hope I would say hey, get lost. We don't want any of that.

Mr. Smith. Besides the program they have set up here in Delaware, I think that you've really set the example by appointing one person in charge of it, which nobody has ever done before -- to have somebody of the caliber of William Bennett, with his track record that he's done in education, to be in charge of it. I think he's going to inspire more people to start -- --

The President. And your Senators here, both Senator Roth and Senator Biden, have been in the forefront of that kind of battle. And so, it's a new office, and it's a tough deal for Bill because the statutory authority is blurred. Attorney General Thornburgh has direct responsibility as Attorney General, and yet, he's got to work cooperatively with the drug czar, the new leader of the fight. So, it's a job that is just being defined. This man is the first man in the whole country to have the responsibility under the law for coordinating all this drug policy and setting the policy. How would you like such a big job as that? [Applause]

Rashid, can I give you these to give to these kids? I guess we've got to go on. I'd much rather talk to you guys, I think. But that was wonderful.

Did you ever get kicked with a flying heel there when you're out there on the mat or anything? I'll be honest. I was a little nervous when I first got here, although I knew he wouldn't let you boot me around.

Thanks a lot.

Note: The President spoke at 11:55 a.m. in the gymnasium at the Young Men's Christian Association. Rashid Mustafa and Jeff Smith were karate instructors and counselors at the Wilmington Cluster Against Substance Abuse program. Prior to his remarks, the President viewed a karate demonstration. The President gave Mr. Mustafa patches that read "Kick Drugs Out of Your Life" for each child.

George Bush, Question-and-Answer Session at the Wilmington Cluster Against Substance Abuse Program in Delaware Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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