November 1, 1983

Thank you all very much, and let me thank Senator Chiles, who sponsored National Drug Abuse Education Week in the Senate, and Congressman Bennett, who sponsored it in the House, as well as Senator Thurmond, Congressmen Gilman and Rangel. I know Congressman and Mrs. Bennett have a strong personal interest in this proclamation, and let me extend a very special welcome to Mrs. Bennett, who is with us here today.

Nancy's told me so many times that few things in her life have frightened her as much as the drug epidemic, and this is something she's living with daily by virtue of her work with those who are endangered by drugs. She's told me many personal stories of grief, but the hard statistics are there, as well.

The numbers on drug abuse are terrifying. These statistics virtually overwhelmed us for the past two decades, paralyzing our will. It was as if the problem was so large that we couldn't do anything about it. But today, as never before, America's children are getting help in the battle to keep their minds free of drugs. We're making progress against drugs, because parents and other adults finally decided to do something about it.

No longer do we think of drugs as a harmless phase of adolescence. No longer do we think of so-called hard drugs as bad and so-called soft drugs as being acceptable. Research tells us there are no such categories, that the phrase ``responsible use'' does not apply to drug experimentation by America's youth. And as far as the recreational use of drugs is concerned, I've never in my life heard a more self-serving euphemism by those who support drug use. There is nothing recreational about those children whose lives have been lost, whose minds have been ruined. If that's somebody's idea of recreation, it's pretty sick. Too often we've fallen into the trap of using nice, easy, pleasant, liberal language about drugs. Well, language will not sugar-coat overdoses, suicides, and ruined lives.

One of the biggest indicators that America is awakening to the harm of drugs is the wonderful outpouring of people who will launch the Chemical People Project tomorrow evening on the Public Broadcasting System. That's the project combining community action with the power of television. On the next two Wednesday evenings, special broadcasts will be seen on over 260 of the country's television stations. Simultaneously, there will be local community meetings, thousands of them all across America, in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Guam. There are more than 10,000 task forces out there to assist mothers and fathers who, unfortunately, have felt for too long that they were alone in the battle against drugs. Over 50,000 volunteers and 35 national organizations have dedicated themselves to making this project a success.

Last week America lost many loved ones. Well, this week we can save others.

Throwing taxpayers' money at a problem, sitting back with smug looks of self-congratulation, has been tried, and it didn't work. Business leaders recognize this and are lending a helpful hand. For example, the Keebler Company teamed up with Warner Communications last spring, and they came forth with a comic-book approach to getting the right kind of information about drugs into the hands of kids in a readable way. Other companies are coming forward, as well. The effort against drugs is coalescing with parent groups, government, business, and now, in the case of the Chemical People Project, the media is involved, as well.

Progress is being made, but it takes time to erase 20 years of lax attitudes. I'm confident we're on the right track and that education, not scare tactics, will be effective.

And now, as part of that awareness campaign, I will sign the National Drug Abuse Education proclamation.

[At this point, the President signed the proclamation.]

Well, thank you all again. Watch television tomorrow night. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 1:20 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. The ceremony was attended by Members of Congress and their spouses and representatives of parents groups.