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Remarks on Departure for Springfield, Oregon, and an Exchange With Reporters in Portland

June 13, 1998

The President. Good afternoon. Several days ago, Senator Wyden got in touch with me and told me that the principal and the superintendent of Springfield would like for me to come down and visit with the people there while I am in Oregon. And I'm going because I want to listen; I want to learn; I want to be of whatever support I can. I also want to highlight the importance to all Americans of trying to prevent tragedies like this.

I have today instructed the Secretary of Education and the Attorney General to prepare a guide for teachers, educators, parents, and others, that basically goes through the early warning signals that so many young people who are likely to take very violent destructive action often give, in the hope that it will help the schools and the families, and even other students to pick up such signals so that we can prevent these things in the future. So, for both those reasons, I'm going down, and I'm looking forward to it. And I'd like to thank the Senators and the two Representatives for going with me. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Q. Mr. President, what will you tell the families or the victims in Springfield this afternoon?

The President. Well, I'll—first of all, I want to listen to them and not tell them too much. But I—what I will tell them is that I hope that one way they can honor their children is to work with us to try to create a country and a set of circumstances which makes it far less likely that these things will be repeated. And I would think that any parent would want to do that.

Q. How much help do you think this guide will be, sir?

The President. Well, I think it might be quite a bit. One of the things that, frankly, I must say, I was not aware of until I started studying the facts more closely, is that if you look at the Jonesboro case, the Kentucky case, the Mississippi case, the Pennsylvania case, some other cases where there were shootings but not killings, as well as the one here, in quite a number of the cases, there was some behavior on the part of the young people involved which indicated that they were—they might do something very out of the ordinary. Now, if you're not—if you can't—first of all, these kinds of things are almost unimaginable. So, unless you have some way of knowing that what kind of behavior should set off the biggest warning signal in your mind, and you have something constructive to do about it, you know, where you can take these children and what you can do. Normally, what happens is people are just disturbed, and then they go on with their lives until something terrible happens. So, I really believe there's a chance, if we can get this guide up, if we can get it widely discussed in our schools and people can talk about it not in a paranoid or negative way but just in a open way, that there's a good chance it will really do some good.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:24 p.m. at Portland International Airport. In his remarks, he referred to Larry Bentz, principal, Thurston High School, and Jamon Kent, superintendent, Springfield Public Schools. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Departure for Springfield, Oregon, and an Exchange With Reporters in Portland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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