George Bush photo

Remarks to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, California

March 02, 1990

The President. Thank you all very much. Chuck, thank you, sir, for those kind words. And good morning to all of you. I want to thank you for being here at this very early hour. It's great to see such an all-star cast assembled. We Bushes are basically name-droppers. [Laughter] We like this kind of event. And wait until Barbara hears about it. [Laughter] I'm glad to see my good friend, Jerry Weintraub; and, Leo, to you, sir, the president of the academy, thank you very much. In fact, we've got a roomful of presidents: Bob Iger, ABC; Arthur Hiller, DGA; George Kirgo, WGA; Sidney Sheinberg, MCA; George Bush, USA. [Laughter]

And over my shoulder I feel the presence of Roger Ailes, my good friend and trusted adviser whose help was so important to me in my quest for the Presidency. I'm not sure I hit that line just the way Roger wanted me to do it, but the eye contact was superb. [Laughter]

Being President does have its advantages. And this is true: I have a TV set there in the White House with five screens, one big one in the middle, four small ones around it, all of them on at once. Now I don't have to miss the nightly news while I watch "Wheel of Fortune." [Laughter] It's a wonderful thing.

There's no escaping the fact that we live in the age of television. You know, in my State of the Union, I announced six national education targets to be met by the year 2000. And this morning I want to add a seventh goal: By the year 2000, all Americans must be able to set the clocks on their VCR's. [Laughter]

I know that your industry faces some real challenges right now -- I had a chance to talk to some of the officials at the head table a little earlier -- cable and satellite deals, the controversy surrounding the financial interest rules, the exploration of new revenue streams, regulatory hurdles. The list is a long one. But that's not what I came to talk to you about this morning, interested as I am in those problems facing the industry. I came here this morning to make a serious point about a different kind of opportunity -- about the tremendous power of television and how it can help us meet some of the most pressing social challenges that we face. And I know this industry is more involved than ever in focusing on some of our nation's most serious problems, whether it's hunger or homelessness or drug abuse. And there's tremendous potential in that because every one of us in this room knows that television does more than entertain. It informs, and it educates.

This morning, I want to focus on public enemy number one: illegal drugs. Two weeks ago, I went down to Cartagena to the Andean drug summit -- a country on the front line of the drug war. Their courageous President, Virgilio Barco, and the people of Colombia have made a courageous choice: Colombia versus the cartels. The battle is far from over. But for the first time, the drug runners are on the run. We're going to keep the pressure on, work with those Andean allies -- Peru, Bolivia, Colombia -- to cut the supply lines that run from the jungles of South America right into the heart of our cities. And we will. Two nights ago, we just learned that in Orange County, two cars were just pulled over carrying nearly 900 pounds of cocaine. Four million doses; street value -- $30 million.

The supply side is a massive, serious problem. And I will continue to address myself to that side of the equation. But if we want to win this war, big busts won't be enough. We've got simply to drive down demand, dry up the market for illegal drugs right here in our own country. We do that by increasing awareness, education -- providing people, especially young people, information that helps them separate fact from fiction when the subject is drugs. That really is why I was so pleased to accept your invitation, Leo and Chuck, to come over here this morning -- to thank you, the leaders in the television industry, for enlisting the power of TV as a force for positive change. Each of you is a Point of Light, with a unique ability to inform and to change attitudes and to catalyze public action in our fight against drug abuse.

This morning, I want to thank so many of you for the work you're doing with my friend Jim Burke, the head of Media Advertising Partnership for a Drug-Free America. We see those hard-hitting antidrug commercials every day, and really, they are hitting home. We're starting to see a shift in attitudes in the regions where those spots are on the air. But it's not just the commercials that are getting the antidrug message across; increasingly, it's also your regular programming, the shows themselves. And that's important.

Most people have no idea how many kids watch those Saturday morning cartoons. This is one group that does. Well, I am astonished at the number: 20 million kids between the ages of 5 and 11, sitting on the living room floor every Saturday morning watching cartoons. Twenty million kids, impressionable, just asking to be entertained. And let me tell you something: Those 20 million kids in front of their TV's on any Saturday are the same target audience for every schoolyard drug pusher 5 days a week.

Today, drugs are an unfortunate fact of life in every city and town across America. And our kids face pressure from their peers -- --

Audience member. Talk about AIDS. Why don't you lead the country on AIDS like you do on drugs? You never talk about it.

Audience members. Sit down! Sit down!

Audience member. Why don't you appreciate people who are fighting AIDS? Why aren't you going to address the AIDS conference?

The President. One of the reasons that we've increased Federal help to an all-time high on AIDS is to try to help people that are concerned. And we will continue to try to help people that are concerned about that subject.

You know, I think -- I'll ad lib here for a minute -- but I think of the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe and the dramatic changes towards democracy in this hemisphere, and I have come a long way in my own political maturity. This guy's interdiction doesn't bother me one little bit. And I'm glad we live in a country where we can all speak up, even if it takes advantage of the hospitality of you all.

But our kids do face peer pressure from their peers, pressure from the pushers out there to snort coke or smoke pot or even a killer called crack cocaine. "Just once can't hurt." "Everybody does it." "It's cool." And that's what our kids hear. That's what they're up against. For too many of our kids, regrettably, that is the real world. And we've got to help our children develop the power to say no, power that comes from self-confidence. We've got to arm our kids with the facts: Drugs aren't part of life in the fast lane; drugs are a dead-end. And that's why I am so delighted that the academy is taking the lead in producing a show called "Cartoon All-Stars to The Rescue" -- a story about a boy who, with the help of more than a dozen of today's most popular cartoon characters, learns that he can draw the line against drugs, that every kid can be drug-free.

And that's a great message. And I hope that on Saturday, April 21st, the day that that show is first broadcast all across the United States and all over North America, every TV set is on and every kid is watching. And I want to thank all of you associated with the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for taking part in this collaborative effort. Barbara and I are proud to participate with you. Never before in cartoon history have Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck worked with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Muppets, and the Smurfs -- [laughter] -- and all the other stars of the cartoon world. And my hat's off to Roy Disney and Buzz Potamkin for keeping all those colorful egos in line. [Laughter]

One thing more while we're talking about cartoons: Every one of us knows those scenes where a character falls off a cliff or gets hit by a truck and then bounces right back up, dusts himself off, and moves right on to the next scene. Kids see that stuff, and they know it isn't real. But how many kids and young adults today have seen the programs or movies that show a character take drugs and, just like the cartoon characters, survive without a scratch? That isn't real, either. And in the real world, whether it's Hollywood or Harlem, or out in the heartland, smalltown America, we know what drugs do. And the simple truth is they destroy. And thank goodness the days when popular culture glorified and glamorized drug use are fading fast. Public opinion is turning around. We used to hear that drugs were fashionable and fun and risk-free. Not anymore. Now we're hearing something different. We're hearing that it's okay -- no, that it's great, really, to be drug-free.

And I think that change is taking place because we all see the damage that drugs can do. We've seen too many sports stars, too many entertainers, too many of the men and women we look up to, too many of our heroes pulled down, destroyed by drugs. Drugs and success simply do not mix. And I really want to thank every one of you in this room for helping smash that stereotype. Because the truth is: Drugs don't care who you are, how famous you are, how much you earn. Drugs are deadly for everybody.

So, this morning, I want to make sure that I'm understood by all the writers and producers and actors in this room. I'm not asking you to compromise your art. I'm not asking TV producers or filmmakers to portray some kind of a fantasy world where drugs don't exist. Sugar-coating isn't going to solve anything. What I'm suggesting is that you have an opportunity to help your country. And I'm with those of you who believe the answer is to treat drugs with the same degree of realism TV brings to so many other subjects, to show what happens in the real world. When someone does drugs, show what happens: how what starts out as a high turns into the lowest form of self-abasement, where drugs mean more than family, friends, self-respect -- to show in the real world how drugs destroy, how drugs kill every single day.

And that's the real message. It's a message that can save lives. And thanks to you, thanks to you, it's a message that's getting through to the children of the United States of America, to the children of many other countries as well.

Leo and Chuck, thank you for this opportunity to address this exceptionally prestigious and influential group. And I am grateful to all of you. And thank you for all you're doing, and God bless you. And now I'll go over and try to represent you properly as I meet the Prime Minister of Japan. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 8:28 a.m. in the Los Angeles Ballroom of the Century Plaza Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Charles Fries, chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences; Leo Chaloukian, president of the academy; Jerry Weintraub, chief executive officer of Weintraub Entertainment Group; Robert Iger, president of ABC Entertainment; Arthur Hiller, president of the Directors Guild of America; George Kirgo, president of the Writers Guild of America; and Sidney Sheinberg, president and chief operating officer of MCA, Inc.

George Bush, Remarks to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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