Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release Tuesday, August 17, 1999


Presidential Hall

11:12 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Leilani, most people twice your age couldn't do that.(Laughter.)

Ladies and gentlemen, because this is my first chance of the week tospeak to the press, before we get on to showing the spot I have to say just acouple of words about the awful earthquake that occurred in Turkey, which I'msure a lot of you have heard about. It has claimed hundreds of lives and manyinjuries.

So let me begin by saying, on behalf of all Americans, our thoughts andprayers are with the victims and their families. Most of you know that Turkeyhas been our friend and ally for a long time now. We must stand with them anddo whatever we can to help them get through this terrible crisis. We've alreadyreleased aid for the Turkish Red Crescent. We're sending a team to Turkey tohelp with search and rescue today.

Our Energy Secretary, Bill Richardson, and General Hugh Shelton, theChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are actually in Turkey, and they havepersonally conveyed our willingness to provide additional assistance. GeneralShelton has met with his Turkish counterpart to offer the military's help withdisaster relief. And we will continue to determine what further help is needed.But you can only imagine how difficult this is for them and we will do what wecan to help.

Now, let me thank Leilani again and Wyatt Keusch and HarrisonBoatwright, who are the young people here with us, who are also in the PSA. Iwant to thank Secretary Riley and Attorney General Reno, who have really done awonderful job oftrying to have a coordinated and balanced approach to keeping ourchildren safe. Governor Romer, thank you. I want to thank allthe people here from the entertainment industry -- Jack andRichard and Eddie, Sheila and all the others who stood up. Thankyou so much for your generosity and your farsightedness.

Thank you, Peggy Conlon, you're a great spokesperson for thepeople you represent and you've been great in helping us to getthis far. And I want to thank my long-time friend, Drew Altman,and the Kaiser Foundation for their support in this endeavor.I'd also like to thank the young AmeriCorps members who are heretoday, who spent a lot of time working with our young people andtrying to help them stay safe. This is a very important issue toHillary, to me, to our entire administration.

In two weeks, Leilani's going to start at a brand newschool. That's probably more scary than introducing thePresident to a bunch of strangers. (Laughter.) And, you know,there are always a lot of worries associated with going to a newschool. All these strange people -- are they going to like me?Am I going to like them? You've got to get to know the teachers,you've just got to find your way around -- got to remember thecombination to a new locker. (Laughter.)

Those are the things that our kids ought to be worriedabout. They shouldn't be worried about whether what they saw inLittleton, or Conyers, or what that young madman in Illinois andIndiana, or at the Jewish Community Center in LA, could possiblyhappen to them. That's what they shouldn't worry about.

But they do, because they've seen the press reports, and sohas our entire nation. We're still grieving for the youngchildren, the teacher, the counselor, the receptionist, at theJewish Community Center -- or the family of that youngFilipino-American, Joseph Ileto, who was killed only because hewas an Asian-American who worked for his country's government.

Secretary Riley has gone across the country trying to makesure that all of us can put this in some kind of context. TheAttorney General has, as well. The crime rate in this country'sat a 26-year low, juvenile crime is going down, the Center forDisease Control and the Department of Education show that overallviolence has actually decreased in our schools. It's importantto tell these children here with us today, and others, that thechances of a tragedy happening are small, less than they used tobe, less than one in a million.

But that's not good enough when you see how horrible it iswhen it occurs. Schools ought to be right next to our houses ofworship as sanctuaries in America. They ought to be places whereyoung people are completely safe and absolutely certain that theyare. And each of us bears a responsibility. If Hillary is rightthat it takes a village to raise a child, it will take our wholenational village to keep the nation's children safe in theirschools.

A big part of that responsibility lies with parents andgiving parents and their children the capacity and courage tocommunicate with one another. And that's a big part of why we'rehere to launch this public service campaign. As you will see ina moment, the PSA sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation, byChildren Now and the Ad Council sends out a powerful call toaction. If you're a child and you see someone committingviolence, or even just talking about it, that's very important,given the evidence we now have about the situation in Coloradoand others.

If you see someone just talking about it the best thing youcan do is to first tell your parents. And if you're a parent,you have to take it seriously. You have to sit down and talk andlisten, to draw your children out, to give them a chance toexpress their fears, to give you early warning and then to sharethat early warning with your children's teachers and principal.

This is an important message, so I'd like to, again, withthanks to all concerned, turn the lights out and watch the ad.

(The public service announcement video is shown.)(Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks to the commitment of America'sbroadcast and cable networks and cable channels, this ad andothers like it will be seen by just about every single person inAmerica who turns on the television tomorrow night, during thefamily hour of prime time.

This so-called television roadblock is really unprecedented.The networks are donating $1.5 million of free air time in onenight alone. That's more blanket coverage than I get for theState of the Union. (Laughter.) Many of the networks havealready pledged to continue airing these PSAs during differenttime slots for the remainder of this year.

So let me say once again, I am very, very grateful to allthe people involved who have fulfilled the commitment that theymade at our Youth Violence Summit in May -- to use the power ofyour medium to send out positive messages to our children. Thisis the kind of thing we can do when we work together, and we needto continue to do so -- and to include all parts of our society.

You remember that when we had the national summit, the FirstLady and I said we wanted to organize a national campaign againstyouth violence, to have the same sort of galvanizing impact onour people that Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Students Against-- I think it's now called Destructive Decisions, the campaign topromote seat-belt use. These grassroots campaigns can have aprofound effect on the way Americans think and the way theybehave. It will be much, much easier now, because of the workthat all of you involved in the media have done to bring thesepublic service spots to the people of the United States.

But we also need our organized campaign. So today I havethe honor of announcing and introducing the person who will bethe Executive Director of this campaign. His name is Jeff Bleichand he's here with us on stage. He's been recognized by theAmerican Bar Association as one of our country's leading youngattorneys. He's also one of San Francisco's leading civic-mindedcitizens. He is the father of three beautiful children hedesperately wants to have a safe childhood. He has receivedseveral prestigious awards for his pro bono legal service. He'sbuilt strong connections in Silicon Valley and in Hollywood, bothof whom can be of immense help to us in this endeavor. And,perhaps most important, he has written a very fine book on youthviolence.

So I'd like to ask Jeff to stand up, and to thank him forhis service. (Applause.) And thank you for taking on thischallenge to protect our children.

Today, the Department of Justice is also releasing $15million to fund innovative partnerships between local police andschool and community groups, something the Attorney General hasbeen pushing since the first day she came here. Thesepartnerships will help schools do everything from trainingstudents in conflict resolution techniques to combatting drugdealing and use on school grounds.

But as every police officer in America knows, we're kiddingourselves if we think we can conquer youth violence withoutaddressing one of its undeniable catalysts: the appalling easewith which young people gain access to guns. Hillary has alreadysaid, and you know that I strongly agree, it is long past timefor Congress to step up to its responsibility and restore somecommon sense, sanity and strength to our nation's gun laws.

Today, I ask the Republican majority: when you come back towork, our children will be going back to school. Think aboutthem. Let's not wait until the next senseless tragedy to passcommon-sense gun safety measures to protect them.

Now, I know in a country of 270 million people, and tens ofmillions of guns, no law can stop every disturbed person fromcommitting a violent act with a gun. But we would never doanything, as a people, if we gave in to the objection that all ofour actions would have less than 100 percent impact. The BradyBill has kept over 400,000 gun sales, which should not haveoccurred, from happening. It has saved countless lives. Closingthe gun show loophole will have the same impact. Closing theloopholes in the assault weapons ban will have the same impact.

Doing these other things -- will they solve every problem?No. Will they stop every act of violence? No. Will theyprevent every madman? No. If we used that kind of excuse, wewould all stay in bed every day. We would never get out of bed.We would never get of bed. We would never hit a lick.(Applause.) So we need all the tools at our disposal. Look whatthese media people have done. Will this public service ad getevery parent in America and every child to talk about everydangerous thing that happens at every school? No. But it willhave a huge impact. (Applause.)

And so if the media people are doing their part, and theschool people are doing their part, and the law enforcementpeople are doing their part, it is time to pass the reasonableand entirely modest measures before the Congress. For those whowant to do more, I say, so do I. But that is no reason not to dothis. This will make a difference. And it is certainly not anargument not to do it, that it won't solve every problem. Itwill save some lives, and we ought to do it.

We have got to work together. That's what our nationalcampaign is about; that is the message that the Ad Council isputting out in these ads; and down deep inside, that's what allof us know we need to do, so that when we see children likeLeilani -- don't you wish all you ever had to worry about wasthat the kid you're pulling for can get through the speech infront of the strangers? (Laughter.) Can make it through theathletic event? Can play the solo, or sing the song, that is soexcruciatingly difficult the first time you did it? These arethe things that our children ought to be worried about.

We ought to give our kids back their childhood. And we cando it, if we do it together. Thank you, and God bless you.(Applause.)

END 11:30 A.M. EDT

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