Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on Drug Abuse

June 30, 1984

The President. My fellow Americans, this week the Congress passed, and I will soon sign, a series of measures to reduce budget deficits by about $63 billion over the next 3 fiscal years. My approval of these measures should not by any means be considered the final action on deficits this year. The Congress still has much work to do to achieve spending restraint and help our economic expansion continue. I stand ready to use my veto to make sure it fulfills that responsibility.

Spending restraint and personal incentives for growth are the two greatest deficit reduction weapons we have. That's why the ultimate solution to budget deficits must be a mandatory restriction on the Congress' ability to spend and a simplification of the entire tax system, enabling us to broaden the tax base and lower personal income tax rates for all of you who work and earn. We're bound and determined to do this.

But today I don't intend to go on talking about the economy. I have a special guest. Nancy is here with me, and she'd like to speak to you about the problem of drugs and what, together, all of us can do about the problem.

Mrs. Reagan. Thank you, Ronnie.

During the past 2 years, I've traveled throughout our country, and what I've seen happening to our children is terribly frightening. In fact, sometimes it seems as if we could lose a whole next generation to drug abuse.

Cocaine, PCP, marijuana, alcohol, speed—these are the enemies of our children. They're cunning and treacherous and, oh, so very patient. As one former teenage alcoholic put it, "Alcohol will wait forever. It's always going to be there." And that child was right; which is why we must be there as well.

And this enemy shows no mercy. It still sends a chill through me to recall a visit I made sometime ago to an elementary school in Atlanta. I asked the class of third graders how many had been offered drugs, and almost every hand went up.

Many people still seem to think that substance abuse is something that happens to other families. There's a wall of denial that must be broken down. The truth is drugs and alcohol are everywhere available and everywhere abused. And now people are waking up to that fact.

A 16-year-old girl, who described herself as a recovering drug addict, wrote me to say that she was one of the lucky ones. "I'm doing fine now," she said, "but last Christmas I was in the hospital weighing 87 pounds and not caring whether I lived or died. I only took drugs for a year, but I'm sure I had a problem as soon as I started. I dropped a lot of my old friends because I only wanted to be friends with kids who could get drugs for me. When I collapsed in a public park from malnutrition and exhaustion due to cocaine, my new friends didn't lift a finger to help me. If it hadn't been for my parents, who came looking for me, I wouldn't be alive today."

Her letter isn't unusual. Other children have talked frankly to me about how young they were when they began to experiment with drugs and how school became little more than a place to buy dope and get high.

Most parents were completely in the dark. They just didn't believe it could happen to their kids. Again, the wall of denial. But there maybe a light at the end of the tunnel—something that fills me with hope about our children's future and about our country's future. We're finally becoming aware of the terrible problem of drugs.

Three years ago there were only 1,000 volunteer parents groups organized to fight drug abuse. Today there are more than 4,000, and the number keeps growing. Yes, there is reason for hope. These are parents who have learned—some the hard way-that the most effective answer to the tragedy of drugs is involvement and knowledge. And, too, now they know that discipline is something you do for a child, not to him.

I'm asked so often what I think is the answer. And I always stress self-confidence, family communication, and active supervision. As a mother of a girl who was experimenting with LSD during the day and finishing a bottle of bourbon every night put it, "It's time for parents to take over and be parents again."

Ronnie, I know you join me in the belief that if we all work together, become more involved in our children's lives and more knowledgeable, we can help save a generation and help preserve its promise and hope.

The President. Well, I sure do know that, Nancy. And I can't imagine anything that could do more to brighten the skies of America's future.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on Drug Abuse Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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