04-24-98 - Speech by Attorney General Janet Reno to the United Way



         3                   UNITED STATES

         4               DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE




         8                    Speech to

         9                  THE UNITED WAY




        13             THE HONORABLE JANET RENO

        14       Attorney General of the United States





        19                 Atlanta, Georgia

        20                  April 23, 1998




         1               P R O C E E D I N G S

         2             ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO:  Thank you

         3   very much, but I am the one that should be

         4   applauding you.  Most of you I don't know,

         5   but many of you I do.

         6             I remember when Harv Mogel first

         7   came to Miami.  He came to talk to me about

         8   Success by Six, and I know the difference

         9   that he has made.  But before Harv, there

        10   were so many people, so many dedicated

        11   volunteers, who struggled to make sure that

        12   other people's lives would be changed for the

        13   better.

        14             You have touched the lives of

        15   millions, all over this country, and I have

        16   met people in other communities doing the

        17   same thing.  You have given hope and heart

        18   and courage to people who never thought that

        19   they would see the light at the end of the

        20   tunnel.

        21             I praise you, and I honor you and I

        22   salute you for your great and wonderful work.


         1             Violence against our youth breaks

         2   our heart.  Violence by our young people

         3   casts an awful pall across this nation and

         4   leaves us in numb confusion.  Whether it be

         5   at Jonesboro or Liberty City, our nation's

         6   capital or an Indian reservation, no place

         7   and no young person is immune.

         8             If it is not the problem of

         9   violence, it is the problem of our youth

        10   dropping out, dropping out of school,

        11   dropping out of community.

        12             It is the problem of youth beset by

        13   disease, whether it be TB or AIDS.  It is the

        14   problem of some youth, who spend their days

        15   in a long, slow blur of alcohol and drugs.

        16             It is youth trying to overcome the

        17   reaction they have to some racial cut.  It is

        18   youth, too often, living in hopeless

        19   indifference.

        20             But there are so many magnificent

        21   and wonderful young people in this nation

        22   who, if given only half a fighting chance,


         1   want so much to contribute, to make a

         2   difference, to be part of this nation, to be

         3   part of its destiny.  It is important that we

         4   work together to give them that future.

         5             Across this nation, you are engaged

         6   in that effort, and so many other people are

         7   involved.

         8             We have seen the juvenile crime

         9   rate come down for the first time.  Teen

        10   pregnancy is down.  But, ladies and

        11   gentlemen, we have a habit in this country,

        12   when we see just a little bit of success, of

        13   turning and moving on to something else.  We

        14   can never move on from our children.

        15             We require, instead, a greater

        16   effort because the number of young people

        17   between the ages of 12 and 17 will increase

        18   significantly in these next five to ten

        19   years.  The gap between those who have in

        20   this country and those who don't have enough 

        21   increases.

        22             Jobs in this nation go unfilled,


         1   because our youth lack skills.

         2             Then we are confronted, again, with

         3   a horrible tragedy in Jonesboro or

         4   someplace else, and we remember that we must

         5   go home from here, back to our communities.

         6             Let us go back to our communities

         7   and blaze a path for our children to come

         8   home.  For our children to come home to

         9   safety, to come home to learning, to come

        10   home to a place where there is love and arms

        11   around them.  To come home to understanding,

        12   and to come home to laughter and to fun.

        13             Let us reweave the fabric of

        14   community around our children.  Let us

        15   cherish them and give them a strong and

        16   positive future.

        17             How do we do that?  There are so

        18   many people in this room who, I think, know

        19   the answer and are trying to make sure we

        20   provide that answer.  But, I think it is

        21   important for us to remember what the tools

        22   and the processes and the building blocks


         1   are.

         2             First of all, I think the problem

         3   is going to be solved, not in Washington, not

         4   in the state capital, not just in the county

         5   commission's or the city commission's

         6   chambers.  It is going to be solved in the

         7   communities of America, with United Way

         8   helping to lead the way.

         9             It will be solved by partnerships

        10   between the federal, state and local

        11   governments and the private sector.  It will

        12   be solved by all disciplines, not just the

        13   police, not just teachers, not just a

        14   business person, but everybody coming

        15   together.  It will be solved by the people,

        16   themselves.

        17             If we sit in the United Way

        18   boardroom or in the office of the Attorney

        19   General and say, This is what must be done,

        20   without bringing the people, including the

        21   marvelous young people, who want to be

        22   involved into our efforts, we will not


         1   succeed.

         2             Finally, if we are to succeed, we

         3   must remember one clear message.  Childhood

         4   does not end at six.  Childhood does not end

         5   at ten.  Childhood is from the beginning

         6   until the time you have grown up.

         7             We have got to provide a fabric

         8   that provides continuity from zero to

         9   eighteen if we are to make a difference.

        10             What is that fabric?  What are

        11   those building blocks?

        12             First, the best answer is strong

        13   and healthy parents.  You are doing so much

        14   through Success by Six and through your other

        15   initiatives and your support for so many

        16   worthwhile community programs to make sure

        17   parents have the skills they need to be good,

        18   successful parents.

        19             We have got to make sure that

        20   parents provide a safe place for their

        21   children, and that we focus on the problem of

        22   domestic violence.  Realizing that the child


         1   who watches his father beat his mother comes

         2   to accept violence as a way of life and

         3   perpetuates that cycle of violence.

         4             We must make sure that parents have

         5   time to spend with their children,

         6   encouraging the business sector to provide

         7   child care that is adjacent to the workplace,

         8   or to provide opportunities for

         9   telecommuting, or to provide opportunities

        10   for job sharing or limited work weeks.

        11             Let us understand that our

        12   investment in our future is not just an

        13   investment in smokestacks and infrastructure,

        14   in dollars.  It is an investment of time in

        15   our children, and it is one of the best

        16   investments we can make if we want a return

        17   in 20 to 50 years.

        18             I remember my afternoons and summer

        19   times.  My mother worked in the home.  She

        20   taught us to play baseball.  She taught us to

        21   bake cakes.  She taught us to appreciate

        22   Beethoven's symphonies, and she taught me the


         1   poets she loved.

         2             She also gave me all her dislikes

         3   too, which I am slowly overcoming.

         4             She taught us how to play fair, and

         5   she spanked us when we didn't.  And she loved

         6   us with all her heart.

         7             There is no child care in the world

         8   that will ever be the substitute for what

         9   that lady was in our life.  Somehow or other,

        10   we have got to provide it for all our

        11   children.

        12             Let us make sure that every child

        13   in America has proper preventative medical

        14   care, prenatal care and health care along the

        15   way that gives them the chance to grow.

        16             I have looked at too many

        17   pre-sentence investigations that said, It may

        18   have been caused by a high fever, which went

        19   unattended.

        20             If this nation can afford

        21   operations for people who are 70 that extend

        22   their life expectancy by four years, we can


         1   make sure that our children have proper

         2   preventative medical care.

         3             Let us make sure that our children,

         4   all our children, have the benefit of

         5   education from the beginning.  The experts

         6   tell me, and nobody has refuted it yet -- and

         7   I have repeated this again and again -- the

         8   child development experts tell me that zero

         9   to three is the time you learn the concept of

        10   reward and punishment and develop a

        11   conscience.

        12             What good are all the prisons going

        13   to be, years from now, if you don't

        14   understand what punishment means?

        15             Fifty percent of all learned human

        16   responses are learned in the first year of

        17   life.  What good are the best educational

        18   opportunities going to be, eight years from

        19   now, if that child does not have the

        20   foundation of learning?

        21             Let us not invest in just child

        22   care.  Let's call it "educare," and let's do


         1   it from the beginning in the right way,

         2   involving the parents in every way we

         3   possibly can.

         4             Let us carry forward to K through

         5   12, and looking out at this audience, I see

         6   some who probably were in elementary school

         7   about the time that I was.  It was a

         8   marvelous place.

         9             I hated to go to school, because I

        10   would prefer to stay home and ride my pony.

        11   But I remember that so well, and I remember

        12   the lessons that I learned.  I remember how

        13   we revered our teachers.

        14             Let us start looking and putting

        15   priorities straight in this nation.

        16   Something is wrong with a nation that pays

        17   its football players in the six digit figures

        18   and pays its schoolteachers what we pay them.

        19             Let us join together to keep our

        20   children in school through a truancy

        21   initiative.  Let us make sure that there are

        22   after-school programs, recognizing that when


         1   that school door opens and those children

         2   walk out, they walk out into less supervision

         3   than probably children have had at any time

         4   in our history.

         5             Let us make sure that there are

         6   mentors there, if there are not other adults,

         7   to ensure supervision.

         8             Let us make sure that our children

         9   live in at least decent housing.  I have

        10   walked into too many places where the toilet

        11   is falling into the kitchen below, and nobody

        12   is doing anything about it.

        13             Let us galvanize our Legal Services

        14   Programs, work together with HUD, to make

        15   sure that we are accountable to our people.

        16             But none of this will make any

        17   difference, if there are not safety

        18   precautions along the way.

        19             We have seen so much done through

        20   community policing, through communities

        21   devising how they want their police to

        22   respond, what their problems are, what their


         1   priorities are.

         2             The exciting thing is to see that

         3   75 year old lady, who wouldn't come out from

         4   behind her door because she was frightened,

         5   suddenly start talking to the community

         6   police officer.  Then come out and sit on her

         7   front steps, and then start giving everybody

         8   a piece of her mind.  Then walking down to

         9   the community center, where there is an

        10   advocate's meeting going on, and becoming the

        11   single best advocate for the community.

        12             It doesn't cost that much money to

        13   get people involved.

        14             Let us make sure that we provide

        15   alternatives to gangs.  Again and again,

        16   young people will tell me, when I ask them

        17   what could have kept them out of trouble,

        18   what could have kept them out of the gang?

        19   Something to do in the afternoon and evening,

        20   and somebody to talk to who understands how

        21   hard it is to grow up in this nation today.

        22             That is not expensive in dollars.


         1   That is expensive in time, but it is one of

         2   the rewarding returns, to be there for a

         3   young person.

         4             Let us focus on alcohol and drugs,

         5   and we know we can make a difference.  Let us

         6   make sure that we prevent it.  But if we

         7   can't prevent it, that we use the best

         8   medical knowledge we have, along with

         9   after-care programs, to give our kids a new

        10   chance.

        11             Let us come to grips with guns, and

        12   make sure that we understand, that if we are

        13   going to ensure a world without violence for

        14   our children, we have got to get guns out of

        15   the hands of our children in unsupervised and

        16   unlawful situations.

        17             Ladies and gentlemen, there is a

        18   marvelous initiative spreading across this

        19   country.  It started with lawyers, who can be

        20   more litigious and contentious than anybody I

        21   know. And I discovered that a lot of the

        22   lawyers were learning what I have learned,


         1   and Abraham Lincoln has learned, and that is

         2   that litigation can be awfully expensive, and

         3   it can oftentimes produce a poor result for

         4   everybody.  Sometimes it is better to use

         5   appropriate dispute resolution mechanisms and

         6   get a good result for everybody.

         7             That is what schoolteachers are

         8   learning, and community police officers are

         9   learning, and young people are learning in

        10   Washington and around this nation.

        11             I urge the United Way to do

        12   everything it can to spread the concept of

        13   dispute resolution and conflict resolution,

        14   to teach young people how to listen, how to

        15   talk, how to communicate, and how to problem

        16   solve.  These programs are making such a

        17   difference in terms of the peace they bring

        18   to the communities.

        19             The final building block, one

        20   simple but one important word:  Jobs.  Not

        21   make-work jobs, but jobs that give people a

        22   chance to earn a living wage.  Jobs developed


         1   by school-to-work programs that can make a

         2   difference.  Jobs that are developed by

         3   employers giving a youngster a chance in the

         4   summer to learn what working is all about.

         5   Schools that prepare our youngsters by making

         6   sure that they have a skill that can enable

         7   them to earn a living wage.

         8             And then, finally, let us give our

         9   young people the opportunity to serve.

        10             I remember during World War II, one

        11   aunt came home from the war, a member of the

        12   Women's Army Service Pilots.  She has towed

        13   targets and ferried bombers and served her

        14   nation.  I thought she was one of the

        15   greatest people I had ever known.

        16             Then, her sister came home, an Army

        17   nurse from North Africa, who had gone in

        18   behind Patton's army.  Both these ladies had

        19   served, and they never forgot their service.

        20             There is so much opportunity we can

        21   provide our young people to serve in this

        22   country and around the world, to bring peace


         1   and so much good to so many.  Let us unlock

         2   that door of opportunity for them.

         3             Those are the building blocks.

         4             Where do we go from here?

         5             In order to help our children grow

         6   up healthy, the President has proposed, what

         7   I think and what others believe who have

         8   even more knowledge than I do of history, 

         9   most comprehensive set of initiatives

        10   to benefit children ever seen.

        11             It contemplates federal support for

        12   children and for young people from the day

        13   that they are born through to the entry into

        14   the job force.

        15             Let me briefly tell you about five

        16   major initiates.

        17             First, for zero to three.  Those

        18   years, as I have pointed out, are so

        19   important.  That building block is so

        20   critical.  Your Success by Six Program is an

        21   example, an excellent example, of the kind of

        22   good work that can be done in communities, if


         1   they make early childhood development a

         2   priority.

         3             President Clinton's child care

         4   initiative proposes $3 billion for early

         5   learning programs and for improving the

         6   quality and the safety of child care for

         7   children in these earliest years.  It

         8   proposes $7.5 billion to double the number of

         9   children receiving educare subsidies to more

        10   than two million by the year 2003.

        11             The President's plan also proposes

        12   increases for Headstart and Early Headstart,

        13   which will help more than a million children

        14   take advantage of these programs.

        15             With respect to health care.  The

        16   President has worked successfully to expand

        17   health care coverage for uninsured children

        18   and, this year, has asked Congress to fund

        19   health outreach programs, including the use

        20   of schools and child care centers, to make

        21   sure that millions of eligible, but currently

        22   uninsured children, receive health care


         1   benefits for which they are now eligible.

         2             With respect to education.  We must

         3   dramatically strengthen elementary and

         4   secondary education, helping children start

         5   out in small classes where they have the

         6   opportunity to learn with good teachers in

         7   safe and modern schools.

         8             The President's plan calls for

         9   $12.4 billion over the next seven years to

        10   hire an additional 100,000 well-prepared

        11   teachers in order to reduce class size in

        12   grades 1 though 3 to a nationwide average of

        13   18.

        14             This program includes initiatives

        15   to test new teachers, develop more rigorous

        16   teacher testing and certification

        17   requirements, and train teachers in effective

        18   reading instruction.

        19             The President has also proposed

        20   federal tax credits to pay interest on nearly

        21   $22 billion in bonds to build and to renovate

        22   public schools.  This will permit them to


         1   house smaller classes, to accommodate

         2   children's needs throughout the day, and to

         3   provide truly safe and nurturing communities

         4   for children in which they can grow and learn

         5   and explore the wonders of this world.

         6             A fourth major initiative for

         7   children is in the area of after-school

         8   programs.  As you may well have heard, most

         9   juvenile crime occurs between the time

        10   children leave school and the time parents

        11   arrive home from work.  Unsupervised hours

        12   are not only too often wasteful, they are far

        13   too often dangerous.

        14             President Clinton's child care plan

        15   would quadruple current spending on

        16   after-school programs that keep young people

        17   safe and occupied in the afternoons and early

        18   evenings.  These funds, when combined with a 20

        19   state-match, will provide for new

        20   after-school activities for up to 500,000

        21   children each year.

        22             Finally, we must ensure support for


         1   children in their transition from school to

         2   work.  Through the Department of Labor's

         3   School to Work Program, the Administration

         4   has been helping communities show children

         5   the links between what they learn at school

         6   and what they will be able to do at work.

         7   This lesson helps more young people in school

         8   and helps put them on track to supporting

         9   themselves and their families.

        10             In terms of the Department of

        11   Justice and crime prevention, I am committed

        12   to doing everything I possibly can to support

        13   your efforts and your communities' efforts to

        14   build a fabric and to put all the building

        15   blocks together that will give our children a

        16   safe and positive environment.

        17             First, we would like to continue to

        18   conduct and provide proven research on what

        19   works and what doesn't work, based on our

        20   national perspective, so that we can share it

        21   with you and you can invest your dollars,

        22   based on research and proper evaluation.


         1             Secondly, we want to offer you

         2   high-quality training and technical

         3   assistance, so that you can successfully

         4   adapt principles of effective crime

         5   prevention to your specific circumstances.

         6             I have been touched, in these last

         7   six months especially, when sheriffs and

         8   mayors, sometimes from smaller towns, come to

         9   me and say, Where do I begin?  How do I put

        10   the pieces together?

        11             We would like to help provide the

        12   answers, if you want them.  But often times,

        13   you have got the better answers, and you know

        14   what you need from us to fill in the blanks.

        15             Third, we want to provide seed

        16   money to get initiatives off the ground and

        17   to show whether they work or not work.  But

        18   we also want to provide drug court monies,

        19   monies for violence against women programs,

        20   so many other areas where we think we can

        21   work with you to support your initiatives and

        22   to help implement your plans in the


         1   community.

         2             Now, one thing I would like to talk

         3   on for just a moment, something of real

         4   concern to me.  In addition to the

         5   Administration's proposals on behalf of the

         6   children, Congress has indicated its

         7   intention to address the subject of juvenile

         8   justice this session.

         9             There are positive steps the

        10   Congress can take to reduce violent crime and

        11   delinquency by our people, but we must keep

        12   in mind that this is a problem which must be

        13   attacked at the local level, not from top

        14   down of Washington telling us what to do.

        15             Our juvenile justice systems must

        16   hold children accountable for breaking the

        17   law by providing fair, firm punishment that

        18   fits the crime.  And I will point out, that

        19   fair, firm punishment won't make a bit of

        20   difference if we return the child to the

        21   open-air drug market and the apartment over

        22   it where he got into trouble in the first


         1   place.

         2             We have got to provide after-care

         3   and support and follow-up.  But the system

         4   must also help children reject crime in the

         5   first place, and get them back on track.

         6             Right now, while Congress seems

         7   poised to tell the states exactly what to do

         8   to punish their young offenders, it appears

         9   curiously shy in the area of crime

        10   prevention.  In fact, the bill pending in the

        11   Senate sets aside no funding for delinquency

        12   prevention, none for early childhood

        13   programs, for truancy prevention programs,

        14   for after-school programs, for mentoring

        15   programs, or for other initiatives you know

        16   are so important.  This is a serious mistake.

        17             Everywhere I travel around the

        18   country, police chiefs, sheriffs, police

        19   officers on the beat tell me that they simply

        20   cannot arrest -- and we cannot build enough

        21   jails -- to work our way out of this crime

        22   problem.


         1             They say, without investments in

         2   children -- and these are police officers and

         3   sheriffs -- especially those most at risk of

         4   crime, all the police and the prisons in the

         5   world aren't going to make our communities

         6   safe.

         7             So why do some in Congress still

         8   oppose targeting funding for prevention

         9   programs?  Primarily, they say that in the

        10   area of delinquency prevention, we still

        11   don't know what works.

        12             You in this room, in your

        13   communities, with what you have done with

        14   United Way, know that we can make things

        15   work.  We have got to send the message loud

        16   and clear so that we get the funding.

        17             Now, there is nothing quite as

        18   effective as the well-known community

        19   advocate giving people a piece of her mind

        20   about what works.  But it also helps to be

        21   able to point out that, over and over,

        22   scientific evaluations prove that programs


         1   that intervene with high-risk children to

         2   provide carefully designed guidance for them

         3   and their parents can turn children's lives

         4   around.

         5             A new study, released just

         6   yesterday by the Rand Corporation, proves

         7   that some of these programs even pay for

         8   themselves many times over.  Congress must

         9   take up crime prevention and fund it with

        10   identifiable funds.

        11             If you need information to help you

        12   in the county commission and the state

        13   legislature about what works and what doesn't

        14   work, let us know.

        15             My second grave concern about the

        16   bill is that it dangerously retreats from the

        17   core principles governing delinquents in

        18   state custody.  Twenty-five years ago, in

        19   response to crisis levels of youth suicide

        20   and assault in adult jails, Congress enacted

        21   a law requiring that juvenile delinquents be

        22   housed separately from adult detainees.


         1             It also prohibited the secure

         2   detention of status offenders, youngsters

         3   whose acts, such as truancy and running away,

         4   would not be crimes but for their age.

         5   Several years later, when it was determined

         6   that even separation by sight and sound was

         7   not sufficient to curb the suicides by and

         8   assaults upon juveniles, Congress realized

         9   that it had to require states to remove

        10   juveniles from adult jails altogether.

        11             Now, despite that evidence of harm

        12   to juveniles, the Senate seems ready to

        13   reverse these long-standing rules, including

        14   the protections for status offenders, perhaps

        15   our most vulnerable population.

        16             Such a reversal would be flat out

        17   wrong.  It would not only threaten the youth

        18   who are detained, it would threaten public

        19   safety by substantially increasing the

        20   chances that youth who enter the system as

        21   delinquents will come out as hardened

        22   criminals.  If the final legislation includes


         1   this prevention, it may well make the

         2   juvenile crime problem worse, rather than

         3   better.

         4             I have spoken of what the federal

         5   government can do as part of the partnership,

         6   but as I emphasized at the very beginning,

         7   communities are where the problem is going to

         8   be solved.

         9             I have seen something exciting

        10   happen in the last, brief period of time.  I

        11   have seen the United Way rise to a challenge,

        12   a challenge by which we join together to try

        13   to quantify what more we can do to give our

        14   children a positive future.  Not just talk

        15   about it, but develop means of identifying

        16   positive goals that we can achieve, and then,

        17   adding to those goals as we go along.

        18             I am very pleased to announce that

        19   today, as part of this conference, United Way

        20   will help lead a national coalition of

        21   service providers, The Coalition for

        22   America's Children, to advance five specific,


         1   concrete, measurable goals aimed at improving

         2   the healthy and safe development of our

         3   children.

         4             These contributions will go a long

         5   way toward the larger goals that the federal

         6   government has set for itself in aiding

         7   communities.  They will go a longer way.

         8   They will be a step in what you are doing and

         9   will be doing in your communities.  They will

        10   be a part of, and they will build on, your

        11   Success by Six.

        12             Over the next two years, the

        13   Coalition will aim to make a dramatic

        14   difference in three of the five areas I just

        15   discussed:  Children's health care, school

        16   attendance and after-school enrichment.

        17             The Coalition will attack two other

        18   problems which impact children of all ages:

        19   Gun violence and the abuse of alcohol and

        20   drugs.

        21             There is an energy in this room.

        22   Whenever I go to a United Way meeting, even


         1   when I first started practicing law in Miami,

         2   there was an energy of innovation and ideas

         3   and commitment.  We can use that energy, that

         4   boldness, that innovation, that commitment to

         5   community, to truly rebuild community around

         6   our children.

         7             I am happy to announce that

         8   Secretary Shalala, at the Department of

         9   Health and Human Services, and Secretary Dick

        10   Riley, at the Department of Education, join

        11   me in saluting the United Way for undertaking

        12   this critical challenge.

        13             They, too, pledge the support of

        14   their Departments, as I pledge the support of

        15   the Department of Justice, to doing all that

        16   we can, all that I can humanly, possibly do,

        17   to support the Coalition's efforts to achieve

        18   these bold objectives, to use all the

        19   building blocks in your community, to build a

        20   world for our children.

        21             The first goal of the Coalition is

        22   with respect to health care, and that is to


         1   substantially expand access to health

         2   coverage to eligible, but presently

         3   uninsured, children.  Right now, over 10

         4   million American children, one in seven, are

         5   uninsured.  Many of these children come from

         6   working families with incomes too high to

         7   qualify for Medicaid, but too low to afford

         8   private health insurance.

         9             As I noted, President Clinton

        10   helped to enact a new law which set aside $24

        11   billion over five years for states to provide

        12   new health care coverage.  But as the

        13   President has clearly said, "Coverage is,

        14   unfortunately, not the only issue."

        15             More than 3 million of these

        16   uninsured children are actually eligible for

        17   insurance, but they are not enrolled.  This

        18   is unforgivable, and, thankfully, we can do

        19   something about it.

        20             This Coalition will strive to

        21   enroll at least 10 percent, or 300,000 of

        22   these 3 million eligible children in health


         1   insurance programs over the next two years.

         2             I challenge you to go further.

         3   Make sure your community enrolls everybody

         4   that is eligible.  Why lose this opportunity

         5   to give our children such a marvelous step

         6   along the way to a strong and positive

         7   future?  It will make an enormous difference

         8   in the lives of children and their families.

         9             A second major area, in which the

        10   Coalition will take the lead, is in keeping

        11   children in school.  Truancy is the first

        12   sign of trouble in a young person's life.

        13   One California prosecutor noted, "I have

        14   never seen a gang member who wasn't a truant

        15   first."

        16             Anyone who works with troubled

        17   children knows that truancy is the gateway to

        18   delinquency, to drug and alcohol abuse, and

        19   to more serious criminal behavior.  It is

        20   also costly.

        21             It costs in education.  It results

        22   in reduced earning capacity.  It costs school


         1   districts hundreds of thousands of dollars

         2   each year in lost federal and state funds,

         3   that are based on daily attendance figures.

         4   It costs businesses, which must pay to train

         5   uneducated workers.  It costs us all.

         6             To answer this, the Coalition will

         7   mobilize communities to reduce truancy now by

         8   identifying 200 school districts across the

         9   nation, by working closely with district

        10   officials to cut truancy by one-third over

        11   the next two years.

        12             We know this can be done.  We have

        13   seen programs around the nation, involving

        14   parents, police officers, teachers, and

        15   social service workers, along with

        16   volunteers, who have been successful in

        17   bringing our children back to their schools.

        18             Every child, who is persuaded to

        19   stay in school as a result of this effort

        20   will create a brighter future for himself,

        21   his family and his community.  I think this

        22   effort is going to be just splendid.


         1             One of the ways we get them back

         2   into the community and into the school is by

         3   making it interesting.  I challenge you to

         4   get those volunteers going.

         5             One of my favorite stories is of a

         6   man who stood up at a meeting in Miami and

         7   said, "You know what I do three mornings a

         8   week for three hours each morning?  You know

         9   how old I am?"  I said, "No."  He said, "I am

        10   84 years old, and I volunteer as a teacher's

        11   aide."

        12             Suddenly, the young woman who was

        13   seated next to him stood up, and she said, "I

        14   am the first grade teacher for whom he

        15   volunteers, and the gifted kids can't wait

        16   for their time with him, and the children

        17   with learning disabilities think he is a

        18   saint, and he has more patience than I could

        19   ever have.  He has unlocked so many doors for

        20   them."

        21             Let us galvanize our communities

        22   together to help you achieve this goal.


         1             The third task the Coalition will

         2   take on is increasing access to after-school

         3   programs.  The President's call for quadruple

         4   funds would serve 500,000 children throughout

         5   America.

         6             This new Coalition for America's

         7   Children will aim to create constructive,

         8   engaging, after-school opportunities for

         9   another 100,000 children.

        10             The Carnegie Foundation has said

        11   that children are more alone and unsupervised

        12   than at any time in our history.  This effort

        13   can make a difference.

        14             The Coalition's work in this effort

        15   will mean 100,000 lives tempted more towards

        16   computers, drama and basic skills, instead of

        17   street corners, alcohol, drugs and guns.

        18             The fourth area that the Coalition

        19   will tackle is the use of alcohol and illegal

        20   drugs.  In recent years, researchers have

        21   proved with scientific certainty that certain

        22   programs in junior high cut alcohol and drug


         1   abuse by teens by up to 75 percent and

         2   sustain these decreases in at least the next

         3   six years.

         4             New research demonstrates that we

         5   know what works to reduce teen substance

         6   abuse.  I am happy to say that the Coalition

         7   will ensure over the next two years that

         8   100,000 more children in this nation will

         9   participate in effective programs to prevent

        10   and discourage alcohol and drug abuse.  It

        11   will work, and it will give those children a

        12   future.

        13             Finally, I want to turn to the

        14   fifth goal, the reduction of juvenile gun

        15   violence.  If Jonesboro and the mayhem we see

        16   across the nation make one clear point, it is

        17   that we must confront the issue of children's

        18   access to guns.  We cannot turn away from it.

        19   We all know that gun control debates divide

        20   people in this nation, but I am sure that

        21   there is one universal agreement on one

        22   matter:  The unsupervised, unauthorized use


         1   of guns by children is a recipe for tragedy.

         2             We must teach young people, as well

         3   as gun owners, in non-judgmental ways, that

         4   unsupervised, unauthorized gun use by

         5   children is simply unacceptable, and we must

         6   take steps to keep illegal guns out of the

         7   hands of our young people.

         8             I am very grateful that the new

         9   Coalition will work to develop, over the next

        10   two years, new programs in 200 communities,

        11   aimed at both teaching young people and gun

        12   owners about safe and responsible gun

        13   ownership and about keeping guns out of the

        14   hands of young people who possess them

        15   illegally.

        16             Educational efforts about safe gun

        17   ownership and storage, combined with

        18   effective programs aimed at keeping illegal

        19   guns out of the hands of young people, will

        20   make us all safer.

        21             As a tribute to the victims of

        22   Arkansas's tragedy, as well as to the victims


         1   of youth violence all over this land, let us

         2   turn our collective sorrow into constructive

         3   work in reducing youth violence.

         4             As we are busy teaching children to

         5   be accountable for their actions, let us,

         6   too, be accountable to them, marshaling our

         7   best resources and energies to ensure that

         8   they have a healthy and productive life.

         9             I applaud the United Way for your

        10   powerful leadership.  I salute you for

        11   Success by Six.  I salute you for all that

        12   you do for communities across America.

        13             As the first participant in the new

        14   Coalition for America's Children, I thank you

        15   for your deep and abiding and effective

        16   commitment to children.

        17             We have some specific goals, and we

        18   can build on those goals.  Let us go home

        19   from this conference and take our children

        20   into the next century.

        21             Let us work together to make it a

        22   safe century for them, a century without


         1   alcohol and drugs.  A century without guns.

         2   A century with love and arms around them.

         3             A century where they can flourish

         4   and become the computer expert, the

         5   scientist, the lawyer, the doctor, the

         6   plumber that best serves, that they can

         7   become part of this nation.

         8             For the last five years, I have had

         9   a chance to meet so many wonderful people, so

        10   many wonderful young people.  And some people

        11   ask me, after they have watched a

        12   congressional hearing or so, or read the

        13   newspapers, or looked at "Saturday Night

        14   Live," or asked me what I thought of Ally

        15   McBeal, they ask me, Is it worth it?  Why do

        16   you do it?

        17             I will tell you, that after these

        18   five years, I have never, ever believed as

        19   strongly and as devoutly in the strength and

        20   the courage and the compassion and the sense

        21   of rightness of the American people,

        22   evidenced so much by all that you do.


         1             Let us go forward together, to give

         2   our children a century of which we can all be

         3   proud.

         4             SPEAKER:  Janet Reno, thank you for

         5   an inspiring message.  They say, "Once a

         6   United Way volunteer, always a United Way

         7   volunteer," and we are awfully proud of your

         8   association with United Way.

         9             A couple of things that we owe you

        10   in return for your leadership and for your

        11   commitment to us, is an assurance of our

        12   commitment to you.

        13             You can count on us.  You can count

        14   on 1,400 United Ways.  You can count on

        15   45,000 agencies.  You can count on thousands

        16   of volunteers who will respond to the

        17   opportunity to work together with you, to

        18   deal with this most critical issue.

        19                  (Whereupon, the PROCEEDINGS were

        20                  concluded.)

        21                   *  *  *  *  *