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Telephone Remarks to Students and Educators Attending a Drug Education Seminar in Monroe, Louisiana.

October 04, 1971

THE PRESIDENT. I just wish I could be there with you, because this has to be one of the greatest meetings held ever, anywhere, anyplace in the country on a subject of such great interest to the Nation.

CONGRESSMAN OTTO E. PASSMAN. It certainly is, Mr. President. You are going to get a very favorable report on the meeting. I want to assure you I speak for all the citizens of Louisiana when I say to you that you have honored us greatly by accepting our invitation to address this drug seminar. This is the largest gathering ever assembled in the city of Monroe. We are very much in your debt, and we are very appreciative, Mr. President.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is a high privilege, a distinct honor, and a great pleasure for me to present 'to you the President of the United States. Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much, Congressman Passman.

I simply want to say to you, to Governor McKeithen, Governor Noe, District Attorney Kostelka, Mayor Howard, Mayor Hatten, to all of the thousands who are gathered there in Monroe, Louisiana, as I just told the Congressman a few minutes ago, this is without question not only the biggest meeting of its kind ever held in Monroe, Louisiana, it is the biggest meeting of its kind ever held in the United States of America.

I congratulate the people of Louisiana for supporting this great program for dealing with drug abuse and giving an example to the rest of the country.

When we look at the vicious, destructive effects theft drugs have on individual lives, on society as a whole, there is no question but that drug abuse is public enemy number one in the United States today. What we must do is to wage an all-out offensive against that deadly enemy. That offensive is underway right now. Government is playing a large part, educators are, scientists and doctors are.

But these efforts, by themselves, will not be enough. The only way we can conquer public enemy number one is by meeting it with public defender number one. By that I mean the people gathered in Monroe, Louisiana, today. I mean mobilizing thousands, and even millions, of individual Americans on the basis of their absolute refusal to tolerate the drug menace as a part of our national life any longer.

What you are doing in Monroe this morning is an indication that this kind of fighting spirit is taking hold all over this land, and I say more power to you.

Let's look for a moment at the dimension of the drug problem. Heroin, the most dangerous of all illicit drugs, is coming into wider use. Vicious criminal networks push it ruthlessly, and far too many people-and, most tragically, young people-continue to believe the lie that heroin is a source of pleasure. In fact, it is a source of enslavement or death. Only a small minority of heroin users ever get rid of that deadly habit.

At the same time, we also find that other drugs are being shoved aggressively at Americans behind a smoke screen of false claims and half-truths.

The Government is moving against the drug problem on a number of fronts. We are moving hard to cut off the drug supply. In doing so, we are getting increasing cooperation from other countries where smuggling and production have been most troublesome. Here at home we have put a lot more money and manpower into law enforcement. We are requesting still more.

At the same time, we are working to help the people who have already been victimized by drugs. We have set up a new White House office to coordinate rehabilitation and treatment work across the country, as well as in Vietnam, and among those veterans who have become drug users in the service, wherever they were in the world.

We are making a major effort at heading off the problem among young people before it gets started, through educational programs which get them the facts on what the law is, what the effects of these various drugs are, and what a poor risk it is from any standpoint for a young person to gamble on drugs.

I particularly want to congratulate those who planned this conference for your enlisting thousands of young people, high school students and college students, in this great battle against drug abuse, because that is the key. Young people are the target of the peddlers of drugs, and they must be the ones who must lead the fight against them.

But none of these efforts, important as they are, get to the fundamental question of why--why do people turn to drugs in the first place? The answer lies in the erosion of moral and spiritual values to the point where people look to a pill or a shot of drugs for support, when they should be able to look to the strength of their own character and the vitality of the American spirit.

So no matter what else we do, we are going to continue to have a drug problem until we have a new birth of individual character and of national character to give people something finer and higher to live for.

I hope your conference will consider this great need, for it is truly the key to solving the drug abuse problem. If America means anything, it means freedom--free men, free ideals, freedom to reach new heights of greatness and progress. The slavery of drugs is the very opposite of this cherished dream. So, as you fight to conquer it, you are doing a great service to America and to the cause of freedom for which this Nation stands.

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to talk to you at this great conference.

CONGRESSMAN PASSMAN. Thank you, Mr. President. Your message has been received most enthusiastically. The thousands assembled here are giving you an outstanding and enthusiastic ovation. I have never witnessed anything like that before. Thank you again, Mr. President, for your message.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:13 a.m. from Key Biscayne, Fla., to participants attending the seminar in the Monroe Civic Center.

During his remarks the President referred to John J. McKeithen, Governor of Louisiana; James A. Noe, a former Governor of Louisiana; Robert Kostelka, district attorney of Monroe; Jack Howard, mayor of Monroe; and Bert Hatten, mayor of West Monroe.

Richard Nixon, Telephone Remarks to Students and Educators Attending a Drug Education Seminar in Monroe, Louisiana. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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