[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[June 7, 1995]
[Pages 824-828]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Recognition Program
June 7, 1995

    Jaime, I think I can speak for every adult in this audience today 
and say that there's not a person here who wouldn't be proud to be your 
parent when you graduate from high school tomorrow. Thank you, and God 
bless you for everything you've done and said. Thank you, Marilyn, for 
being here. Thank you, Director Brown, and thank you, Secretary Riley.
    Ladies and gentlemen, the statement you just heard from this fine 
young woman, about to begin her life after high school, is as clear an 
example as I could ever think of of what I think we ought to be doing as 
a country. You

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hear all these debates up here in Washington about whether the 
Government should do this, that, or the other thing, whether our 
problems are fundamentally to be addressed by political action, or 
whether all of our problems are just cultural and if people would just 
simply take responsibility for themselves and do the right thing we 
wouldn't have any problems, and therefore we should just ignore any 
spending call--nothing is really worth investing in, let's just make 
everybody do the right thing.
    The truth is, in the real world we need to do both things. Parents 
have to set better examples; they have to teach their children. We need 
to tell young people at the earliest possible age, ``There comes a time 
in life when you cannot blame other people for your own problems, and 
whatever your difficulties are, you have to behave and you have to take 
control of your own lives.'' But it's also true that, in the meanwhile, 
somebody has to pay to protect these children if they need protection to 
be safe in school, and somebody has to make provision to bring people 
into the schools who can do the kinds of things that Jaime talked about, 
who can be the role models, who can talk about how to diffuse conflict, 
who can talk about how to avoid violence, who can talk about the 
imperative of staying off of drugs, which is still, I would remind you, 
at the root of more than half of the problems that we're dealing with in 
this country today.
    So this is one more time a phony, overly politicized debate here. 
It's not either/or; it is both. And we have responsibilities here, those 
of us who work here, to make sure that every single child in America has 
a chance to get out of school safe and educated and be the kind of 
person that was reflected in what Jaime said here today. We have a 
partnership obligation to do that for America.
    That is at the heart of a lot of arguments we're having here in 
Washington. Last night I received Congress's rescission bill. The 
rescission bill cuts spending from this year's budget. I believe we 
ought to do that and make another downpayment on balancing our budget. 
I've done everything I could to cut this deficit. In 1993, unfortunately 
with only Democrats voting for it, we voted for a deficit-reduction 
program and passed it and I signed it, which reduced the deficit over 
the 7-year period now popularly discussed by $1 trillion. I believe in 
cutting the deficit.
    We froze discretionary spending completely, which means every time 
we gave more money to education, we had to cut something else. And we 
did it gladly. We cut waste and duplication and bureaucracy and 
committed to reduce the size of the Federal Government by 270,000 
people. But we increased investment in Head Start. We made college loans 
more available, more affordable. We supported schools with the Goals 
2000 programs, which were not mandates from the Federal Government but 
were programs like the safe and drug-free school program, where we give 
money to local school districts and they decide how you can make the 
school safest, how you can make the schools the most drug-free, just the 
approach the leadership of this new Congress says they favor, let people 
at the local level make more of their decisions. But we thought we ought 
to be partners because not every local school district had the money to 
guarantee safety and the best possible efforts to make children safe, to 
make them learn how to avoid violence and to stay drug-free.
    Now, after all this, I can tell you that the budget today would be 
in balance, today, but for the interest we'll have to pay this year on 
the debt that was run up in the 12 years before I became President. That 
is the problem. We took leave of our collective financial senses about a 
dozen years ago and began to put this country in the ditch. And we've 
got to take it out. But we cannot do it overnight. And we must recognize 
that the only deficit in this country is not the budget deficit, there's 
a deficit in this country in the number of drug-free children. There's a 
deficit in this country in the number of safe schools. There's an 
education deficit in this country. And we dare not ignore those 
problems. We can do both. That's the right way to approach this problem.
    I worked in good faith with Members of the Congress to craft a 
rescission bill that would cut spending by a set amount and do it in the 
right way. I actually agreed with the spending cuts passed by the United 
States Senate with a bipartisan majority, an overwhelming bipartisan 
majority, because it protected programs like the drug-free school 
program, the national service program, the education programs that we're 
working so hard on. Unfortunately, what happened is after the Senate 
passed the bill, they went into a closed-door conference with Members of 
the House who had passed a bill that did cut all these things, and 
instead of cutting

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more spending, they took out a lot of education investment. They took 
out half the drug-free school money and substituted courthouses, 
highways, and city streets in selected States and congressional 
districts. In other words, they decided to cut school safety to increase 
    The bill cuts, as Secretary Riley says, half of the safe and drug-
free schools money this year in anticipation of eliminating it 
altogether next year. Now, I'm sure that all the people that voted to do 
it will tell you, ``We favor these efforts; we just think people ought 
to do the right thing.'' Well, I think people ought to do the right 
thing, too. But if Jaime knows what she's talking about--and the chances 
are she knows a lot more about this than most people who live in 
Washington, DC, and work for the Federal Government in the Congress or 
the executive branch--in order to do that, we need a partnership. We 
need public action and personal responsibility.
    I cannot in good conscience sign a bill that cuts education to save 
pet congressional projects. That is old politics; it is wrong. It wasn't 
a good policy when we were increasing spending on everything. It is a 
terrible policy if you're going to cut education to put pork back in. If 
we're going to cut spending to balance the budget, we must be even more 
careful about how we spend the money we do have. And we have to put 
education and our children and their future first.
    So in just a few moments, I'm going to go over there and veto that 
bill. But I want to say this: I lived and worked here for 2 years with a 
crowd that had the ``just say no'' philosophy, and unfortunately it 
wasn't about drugs: Just say no, and then go out and tell the American 
people nothing is happening, even when it is. And a lot of people in our 
party think, ``Well, that policy benefited them so much at the polls 
last November, why don't we do it? Why don't we just say no now? That 
seems to be what's popular.'' It may be popular in the short run, but it 
is wrong for America.
    I do not want to just say no. I have not said no to this. I agreed 
to the spending cuts passed by the Senate by Republicans and Democrats. 
And so what I'm going to do, when I veto this, is to say yes. I'm going 
to send this bill right back. And this bill says, ``Take out the pork; 
put back the education; send it on over. Let's cut spending and protect 
education and protect safe and drug-free schools.''
    I want to say one other thing, too. In this so-called spending cut 
bill, at the last moment there was also, I think, a very bad 
environmental provision added, which says that no environmental laws 
will apply for the next 3 years to any cutting of so-called salvage 
timber in our forests, and we'll just have the taxpayers pay for 
whatever damage occurs to the environment. Well, ladies and gentlemen, 
we're here on education, but the most pro-environment people in America 
are the children of America. And they know they've got the biggest dog 
in that hunt, as we say back home, because they're going to be around 
here longer and their children will be around here longer. Nobody has 
worked any harder than I have to start logging again in our country's 
forests in an appropriate way. Suspending all the environmental laws of 
the country for 3 years is not the appropriate way.
    So what I want to do is to say to the Congress, ``Look, just put the 
education back in; take the pork out.'' I'm for actually slightly more 
spending cuts than they are--that's their wind blowing, not mine. 
[Laughter] The nice thing is--now you'll all look at the chart. 
[Laughter] You can see I'm actually for slightly bigger spending cuts 
than they are. I just don't think we ought to use this spending bill to 
do something bad to the environment, and I certainly don't think we 
ought to use it to cut out half the safe and drug-free schools money to 
build courthouses and city streets and pet highway projects. That is not 
good judgment. We need a partnership here. This is the right thing we 
should be doing.
    Let me just say one other thing about this cutting spending. I have 
now seen two separate news reports in which the majority in Congress, 
according to some of their members, say that they have decided not to 
pass the line-item veto after all, after campaigning on it for a dozen 
years now. This line-item veto is a tool that would permit the President 
to single out special pork projects, veto them, send them back to 
Congress, and Congress would be able to override the veto. But they 
would have to vote on these projects separately instead of burying them 
in big bills that a President cannot in good conscience veto.
    Now, that line-item veto was part of their Contract With America and 
a part that I embraced. President Reagan was for it. President Bush was 
for it. The House passed it on President Reagan's birthday. They talked 
about what

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an urgent thing it was. Now they say they don't think they ought to give 
it to me this year because I might use it. [Laughter]
    Well, today I am sending a letter to the Speaker of the House and 
the Senate Majority Leader, asking them once again to send me the line-
item veto. They have said they were for it for a dozen years. They have 
portrayed it as the salvation of all of our problems. It's not the 
salvation, but it's an important part of it. And they say they're 
worried that I might line-item veto special tax breaks instead of 
special spending increases. It's six of one and half dozen of the other. 
But I'll make them a deal: If they'll send me the line-item veto this 
year, I will not line-item any tax cuts they sign. If they pass all 
these big tax cuts and wreck education and Medicare to cut taxes, I'll 
veto the whole thing. But I've already said that. But I will not--if 
they'll send it to me this year, I won't use it on any tax legislation. 
I will only use it on spending.
    So I ask them again: Send me the bill. Send me the bill. Send me the 
line-item veto, and I will see whether America agrees that what we ought 
to do is to protect education, to protect things designed to enhance our 
security like safe and drug-free schools, to protect the welfare and the 
future of our children, and I will show you once again that there is 
nobody who wants to reduce the deficit and to balance the budget more 
than I do. I just want our incomes to go up and our future to be 
stronger and our kids to be healthier and better educated when we do it. 
Send it back here, let me sign it, and let's get to work and prove we're 
    I want to say again that the primary purpose of this event is to 
honor all of you who have worked to make the safe and drug-free schools 
program work. I don't think I have had any more moving experiences than 
going into schools in this country over the last several years--and I 
began to do it not only when I was Governor in my own State but in other 
schools--see people succeeding against all the odds because their 
schools are safe and drug-free. I have been into schools in very high 
crime areas, where the children come to school every day and there are 
no weapons in the lockers and there are no drugs in use and children do 
not fight in the schools. I know this can be done.
    I also know that this requires good management, good discipline, but 
also special skills and sometimes extra resources in the poorer school 
districts of our country. And I know that we can't afford to be 
satisfied even with the stories that are here, the wonderful, good 
stories that we honor today. What we want is, next year, to have every 
school do as well as you have done. That's what you want, too, isn't it? 
And that's why we have to support programs like this.
    As I said, we let the school districts decide how to spend the 
money, whether it's on metal detectors and increased security or drug 
education and gang prevention and violence prevention techniques.
    Our children do need a constant drum beat to remind them that drugs 
are wrong, illegal, not safe, will put you in jail, and can cost you 
your life. I know that. I have had this scourge in my own family, and I 
know that no amount of help from anybody else will ever replace people 
taking responsibility for themselves and saying, ``I will not be 
destroyed by my own behavior.'' But I also know that very few people 
make that decision once they're in trouble without a little help and 
support and discipline from people who understand how to deal with this 
problem. And I think you know that, as well.
    I do not believe that our children are inherently violent, although 
violence is going up dramatically among young people even as the crime 
rate drops. And I do believe that there are some cultural reasons for 
it. I think we do get deadened to violence if we're over-exposed to it 
as children, collectively in show after show on television and movie 
after movie. I believe all that. But that's not an excuse to leave 
assault weapons on the street or keep police officers out of the school 
or not do what we can and we must to change that. So it's not either/or; 
it is both.
    I am very pleased with the work that Secretary Riley, that Director 
Brown, that Attorney General Reno have done. We're working hard now to 
try to find a way to comply with the Supreme Court's decision saying 
that the present law making it illegal for anyone to have a gun within a 
thousand feet of a school is not constitutional and to try to find a way 
to make it constitutional so that all of our States will have this 
protection and not just some.
    I also am proud of the fact that we fought last year for a law 
requiring States to expel students for a year if they bring guns to 
school, no excuses, zero tolerance. That's something the Government 
ought to stand for. If we're not

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for zero tolerance for guns in the schools, what are we for? There 
should be zero tolerance for guns and for drugs in our schools.
    So let me say in closing, perhaps the most meaningful things said 
here today were said by Jaime. I want you all to think about her 
tomorrow when she graduates from high school. Then I want you to think 
about all the kids in this country that are in the grip of drugs and 
gangs and guns and violence. I want you to think about all the teachers 
who wonder every year whether they should continue to teach because they 
are having to deal with these problems and they don't feel that their 
schools are either organized to deal with it, supporting them in dealing 
with it, or bringing in the other people and resources who can deal with 
it. And I want you to ask yourself, is there a courthouse in America, is 
there a city street in America, is there a single solitary special 
highway project in America worth the price, worth the risk that we will 
not have more children like her? The answer is clearly no, no, no, no.
    Now, I would like to ask Jaime Chambron to come up and receive her 
award; Marilyn Green, a wonderful teacher, to come up and receive her 
award; and John Torres, a D.A.R.E. officer who represents people who are 
literally beloved by schoolchildren all over America who changed their 
lives because of their role models, to come up here and receive his 
    Let me again say to all of you, I am profoundly grateful to you. I 
am asking for an end to the word wars and the artificial divisions here. 
You are being honored because you are making a difference in people's 
lives. That's what we got hired to do. And if we could get every 
American on the solution side of the problems, we'd be a lot better off. 
I hope this veto, plus this substitute, will be a good start in bringing 
all of us back to the solution side of the problems, beginning with 
education and safe and drug-free schools.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

[At this point, the President presented the awards.]

    The President. Thank you for being here. Thank you, students, for 
being here. We're adjourned. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:49 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Jaime Chambron, Largo High School 
student, Largo, FL.