6 RADCLIFFE COLLEGE :
7 ALUMNAE ASSOCIATION :
8 THE 1998 RCAA ANNUAL LUNCHEON :
11 Cambridge, Massachusetts
12 Friday, June 5, 1998
15 The 1998 Radcliffe College Alumnae
16 Association keynote address by the Honorable
17 Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United
18 States, taken at Radcliffe College, 10 Garden
19 Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138, at 1:45
20 p.m., on Friday, June 5, 1998, and the
21 proceedings being taken down by Martin Mulrey, a
22 Professional Court Reporter and Notary Public,
23 and transcribed under his direction.
1 P R O C E E D I N G S
2 ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO: Thank
3 you so very much. You do me a very great honor,
4 and you give me much, much to live up to. But
5 you have done so much for me. You've given me a
6 wonderful Deputy Attorney General, Jamie
7 Garrelli, who I served with great delight
8 and pleasure. And Renee, it's so good to see
9 you. Radcliffe has sent to public service, sent
10 to the professions, sent to this country some
11 wonderful, wonderful people, and it is a great
12 institution, and I am very touched to be honored
13 as you have today.
14 We have a moment of opportunity in
15 this nation. We can make a long-range
16 difference for our future. We have that
17 opportunity. Or we can become complacent and
18 conclude, "Janet, crime is down, we don't need
19 to worry anymore," and go home. I suggest if we
20 do the latter, we're going to see a surge in
21 crime again as the number of juveniles increases
22 significantly in this nation. We will see a
23 wage gap widen as more and more people have
24 fewer skills to match the needs of the 21st
25 century. And we will see unease and dissention
1 and division.
2 What do we need to do to grasp this
3 moment of opportunity? Let us learn from these
4 past years, and let us conclude that we must
5 make not a one-time investment, but a lifetime
6 investment in people. Let us conclude that we
7 have been too long in investing in technology,
8 too long in investing in buildings and in land
9 without having the investment in people.
10 As a prosecutor in Miami, I would
11 pick up the pre-sentence investigation of a
12 sixteen-year-old, whom we had just prosecuted for
13 armed robbery. I could see four points along
14 the way in that child's life where we could have
15 intervened and made a difference, to avoid him from
16 dropping out, to giving him something to do in
17 the afternoons and evenings, some supervision.
18 And then the crack epidemic hit in
19 Miami in 1985, and the doctors took me to the
20 public hospital to try to figure out what to do
21 about crack-involved infants and their mothers.
22 And they taught me that the first three years of
23 life were the most formative of all. That is
24 when the person learned the concept of reward
25 and punishment and developed a conscience.
1 And I thought, what good are all the
2 prevention programs going to be worth ten years
3 from now if we do not have a foundation today?
4 What good are all the jails going to be eighteen
5 years from now if the child doesn't have a
6 conscience or understand what punishment means?
7 And I became convinced that whatever
8 our concern, we must begin the investment now,
9 because if we do not invest from the beginning,
10 early on, we will never have the schools
11 available that can teach our children for the
12 future. They will all be providing remedial
13 education to try to bring the child up to today.
14 If we don't invest in our children and in people
15 now, our medical institutions will be brought to
16 their knees by a failure to provide preventative
17 medical care.
18 How do we do it? We're not going to
19 do it unless we collaborate, unless we realize
20 that the doctor can't solve the problem by
21 herself, the attorney general by herself, the
22 teacher by himself. President Wilson
23 I challenge you. I was recently at the
24 Kennedy School, and they said, "Well, we're
25 becoming more specialized." The academic world
1 can help lead us away from the specialization
2 that avoids collaboration, the specialization
3 that leads us down into one little path.
4 We do not raise a child with a
5 specialty. We do not raise a nation with a
6 specialty. We need to collaborate. We need to
7 make sure that as we build to create self-
8 sufficient people, that we build in a
9 comprehensive way. It makes no sense to have a
10 wonderful Head Start program and then have a
11 child at risk afternoons and in the evenings and
12 summertimes when there is no one there to
13 supervise them from the first grade to the
14 twelfth grade. It requires that we build brick-
16 Another wonderful opportunity exists
17 for us, and that is to learn again, that
18 research, study, analysis and evaluation can be
19 wonderful tools to those who are trying to
20 create the answers to social problems. And we
21 cannot forget that in this great institution and
22 in this great center of learning. Too often I
23 see something come across my desk, looks like
24 wonderful statistics, but it's five years old.
25 What's that got to do with now? I need current
1 information. I need the best analysis. I need
2 to find out what's working and what doesn't
3 work. I need to find out how you can adjust the
4 program to make it work. And that's happening
5 now. Let us base our decisions, our public
6 policy decisions on the most informed
7 information that we can achieve.
8 Let us determine that this is not a
9 Republican or a Democratic issue. It is an
10 issue that is based on common sense. It is an
11 issue that is based not on rhetoric, but just on
12 steady building, block-by-block, based on the
13 sound information that we develop.
14 Let us create partnerships. I never
15 liked it when the Feds came to town telling me
16 what to do. I always wanted them to come to
17 town saying, "You understand your community
18 better than we do. What can we do to help you?"
19 And finally, if you want to engage in
20 a wonderful opportunity, don't be discouraged.
21 Anybody that has tried to participate in
22 rebuilding a community and investing in others
23 knows the frustration, that there's sometimes
24 four steps forward and five steps back, as a
25 child disappoints you, as a person fails you.
1 What are the building blocks? Let's
2 start one-by-one. First we must make sure that
3 we understand and that we do something about the
4 fact that the best caregiver of all is a strong,
5 sound family. And let us understand how we can
6 teach parenting skills to those who have not had
7 the opportunity to have it handed down from one
8 generation to another.
9 Let us make sure that we support our
10 children and that we, together, in every
11 community in this nation, develop child support
12 enforcement mechanisms that are efficient and
13 effective at collecting child support. This is
14 not a problem of the poor. This is a problem
15 that reaches across all socioeconomic classes in
16 this country, and we ought to use our smarts,
17 our technology and our legal processes to make
18 that work.
19 Let us focus on the fact that the
20 child who watches his father beat his mother
21 comes to accept violence as a way of life. And
22 if we're going to make an investment in people
23 in this country, we have got to do something
24 about domestic violence, and the moment is now.
25 My friends, we can change a culture
1 in this nation. Congress has authorized
2 billions of dollars in the Violence Against
3 Women Act. It goes directly to states, for
4 which they plan the distribution of the money in
5 an orderly way, for shelters, for courts, for
6 other initiatives aimed at domestic violence.
7 Get involved. There is an advisory committee in
8 almost every community. There are groups that
9 are focused on this issue. The money is there.
10 There are budget surpluses in most state
11 legislatures now.
12 If we work hard for the next five
13 years with doctors and lawyers working together,
14 understanding that it's a criminal justice and a
15 public health problem together, if schools and
16 employers work together, focusing on the
17 identification of domestic violence problems, we
18 can change the culture of this nation so that
19 our grandchildren will look back and say, "They
20 did what?"
21 But here is our greatest challenge:
22 If we are going to raise children, we have got
23 to figure out -- and we ought to be able to do
24 it -- how we can be the lawyer, the doctor, the
25 teacher and raise our children the right way. I
1 remember my afternoons after school and in the
2 evening. My mother worked in the home. She
3 taught us how to play baseball, to make cakes,
4 to appreciate Beethoven's symphonies. She
5 punished us, and she loved us with all of her
6 heart, and there is no child care in the world
7 that will ever be a substitute for what that
8 woman was in our life.
9 If we can send a man to the moon, we
10 ought to figure out how to have organized flex
11 time and work schedules that permit both parents
12 to spend quality time with their children.
13 One suggestion: Why don't we have
14 two shifts, one shift ending as school gets out
15 so that one parent can go pick up the children
16 after school, and the other shift starting about
17 three hours later so you avoid rush-hour traffic
18 at night? It makes sense. Let's try it.
19 The next building block is health.
20 Something has been wrong with a nation that says
21 to a person seventy years of age, you can have
22 an operation that extends your life expectancy
23 by three years, but for too many children for
24 too long we said, you can't get preventative
25 medical care because your parent earns too much
1 to be eligible for Medicaid and you can't --
2 they don't have insurance.
3 We have got to make sure that every
4 child in America has proper preventative medical
5 care, and if we don't care about children, some
6 do, it comes out of our pocketbooks if we wait
7 to pay for the costly tertiary care three years
8 down the line. Let us use common sense as we
9 build these blocks that put the lives of America
11 Let us focus on the wonderful,
12 wonderful things that have happened in the
13 treatment of mental health. And it's been such
14 a revolution. There are so many wonderful
15 things that can be done, and yet you see some of
16 these children do such tragic and tortured and
17 horrible acts. You see the stories talking
18 about the danger signals that were there, and
19 you see the children who didn't get the help
20 that could unlock that terror that caused those
22 Let us make sure that we understand
23 the tremendous strength and the wonderful
24 resource in the children of America who suffer
25 from disabilities and again realize what the
1 Americans with Disabilities Act has done to open
2 doors all across America. We can double the
3 opening of those doors if we make an investment
4 up front in children and give them the tools to
5 do the job.
6 Let us understand about housing. The
7 child can't grow, we can't make the investment
8 if the toilet from the ceiling above is falling
9 into the kitchen below. Let us organize our
10 efforts in a sensible way.
11 And I will give you one example of
12 what I've talked about. I came to Jackson,
13 Mississippi on Martin Luther King's birthday to
14 work in Habitat for Humanity. I thought I was
15 going to one habitat house. I did. But it was
16 in the middle of a neighborhood that was being
17 renovated and rebuilt by people who cared, by
18 neighbors who were going to be neighbors, by
19 high school students. The before and after of
20 that neighborhood was extraordinary. Each one
21 of us can be part of a building block. Mrs.
22 Winters, the wife of the former governor of
23 Mississippi, was there ready to work. Every one
24 of us can participate.
25 The key to everything that we talked
1 about is something that this great institution
2 reflects. We're not going to have the building
3 blocks unless we focus on education. And let's
4 start with zero to three. Let's not call it
5 child care, let's call it educare. If 50% of
6 all learned human response is learned in the
7 first year of life, then let's make that
8 investment up front with quality educare for
9 every one of our children. Let us make sure
10 that we expand Head Start so that its benefits
11 are felt for every child throughout this land.
12 Let us focus on K through 12 and
13 start doing something about a nation that pays
14 its football players in the six-digit figures
15 and pays its teachers what we pay them.
16 Let us keep our children in school.
17 We've had truant officers and truant officers,
18 but that doesn't do the job. You've got to have
19 the truant officer working with the youth
20 counselor, working with the public health nurse,
21 making a home visit to find out why that child
22 was truant in the first place. But let us
23 figure out how we keep our children in school so
24 that they can graduate with a skill that can
25 enable them to earn a living wage.
1 And let us start thinking of after
2 school. I learned an awful lot after school,
3 because I had proper supervision. I learned
4 some mistakes, too. We have got to start using
5 that school building as a center for after-
6 school, summertime learning. How many of you
7 have gone to city commissions advocating for a
8 youth center because the school wouldn't open
9 its doors after 4:00 in the afternoon? Let us
10 develop a system where these buildings are used,
11 if necessary, well into the night, to make sure
12 that we all have the opportunity to learn
13 throughout our life and that our children are
14 properly supervised.
15 If we have those children after
16 school, the question will be, how do we afford
17 it? That's the old question, oh, it's going to
18 cost money. The new answer is, there are people
19 who are wonderful mentors. Mentors can make a
20 difference if they're properly trained, if they
21 know how to talk to children, how to raise them
22 up instead of putting them down.
23 One of the great joys of my life was
24 to watch an eighty-three-year-old man stand up
25 and say, "You know what I do three mornings a
1 week for three hours each morning? I volunteer
2 as a teacher's aide in the first grade."
3 Teacher stood up next to him and she said, "The
4 gifted kids can't wait for their time with him
5 and the kids with learning disabilities think he
6 has the patience of Jobe." Every single one of
7 us can contribute to these building blocks, no
8 matter what our age, no matter what we do, if we
9 care about investing in people.
10 We've got to make two focused efforts
11 in terms of education. First we've got to
12 realize that unless we invest in developing
13 technical skills for our young people today, we
14 are not going to have the workforce to fill the
15 jobs to maintain this nation as a first-grade
16 nation in the cyber age, and we've got to start
17 now. We cannot wait to retrain. We have got to
18 begin now.
19 The second great challenge we have in
20 our public schools, in all our schools is to
21 teach people how to resolve conflicts without
22 knives and guns and fists, teach lawyers how to
23 resolve conflicts without going to expensive
24 trials that cost more than they are worth, teach
25 police officers how to arrest somebody without a
1 billy club and resolve the dispute and get the
2 kid off on the right foot.
3 Roger Fisher taught me civil
4 procedure many years ago at Harvard Law School.
5 He never once, I think, mentioned negotiation.
6 But Roger Fisher has shown, along with many of
7 his colleagues, that you can teach people to
8 negotiate. Children are learning, teachers are
9 learning and police officers are learning.
10 Let us imagine a society very soon to
11 come that to get a teaching certificate, you
12 have course work in conflict resolution, that to
13 finish basic law enforcement academies for
14 police officers, you get training in conflict
15 resolution and that every child has conflict
16 resolution programmed from the beginning of
17 their time in school. We can change the culture
18 of America.
19 And that leads to the issue of
20 safety. Crime is down for six years in a row.
21 Somebody said to me, "Congratulations." I said,
22 "I don't take the credit for it." They said,
23 "Just figure like you've won the lottery." So
24 I'll take credit for that.
25 There are so many pieces to a safe
1 community. Community policing is obviously
2 making a difference, because we are investing in
3 people and in bringing people to the table to
4 find out what their problems are, what their
5 priorities are and how they can work with police
6 to solve those problems. Police in Dorchester
7 and Roxbury have become the mentors for young
8 people and are making such a significant
9 difference. It is happening. It is happening
10 because people like Don Stern are associating
11 with people from Harvard to figure out what are
12 the crime problems in Boston today and looking
13 at the hard data, looking at the research,
14 working with Commissioner Evans and working with
15 so many other people in this community in
16 collaboration. We have seen a significant
17 reduction in juvenile homicides, again proof
18 that if people come together in good will, you
19 can make a difference.
20 We can do it if we focus again on the
21 community, on the concept of community justice.
22 Not in some remote court, but a court that's
23 there, dealing with people's problems. But none
24 of it's going to make any difference unless we
25 change the culture of this nation about guns.
1 I'm not saying -- with President Clinton's
2 leadership, we've banned assault weapons, we've
3 passed the Brady Act.
4 But we have got to let people know
5 that there is a consequence, we have got to let
6 our young people know there is a consequence of
7 firing a gun, that it is a real thing, and we
8 have got to encourage the young people of
9 America to understand that we don't play with
10 guns when we're little, we don't play with guns
11 when we're big if we don't know how to safely
12 and lawfully use them. We have got to change
13 the attitude of this nation towards guns. It
14 doesn't mean that we stop using them for good
15 recreational purposes. It means that we know
16 how to safely and lawfully use them and
17 demonstrate that ability.
18 The next way we can change the
19 culture of America is to focus on drug
20 treatment. There is something wrong with a
21 nation that says to somebody who runs up Storrow
22 Drive going sixty miles an hour after having
23 five drinks and kills two people and breaks his
24 arm that he gets his arm set at the Mass.
25 General tonight at the taxpayers' expense even
1 if he can't afford it, whereas the person crying
2 out for drug treatment too often can't get it
3 because it's not available.
4 We have shown in these last fifteen
5 years that drug treatment can work. I bet
6 there's not a person in this room who doesn't
7 know somebody who is recovering or who is in --
8 but everyone knows somebody who has benefitted
9 from treatment. We have got to make sure that
10 treatment is available on a cost-effective basis
11 so that we prevent the problem before the abuse
12 occurs, before the crime occurs, before we see a
13 cycle repeat itself again and again.
14 But somebody said that the best
15 caregiver is the family, but the best social
16 service is a good job. There are too many
17 people who do not have the skills to find a job
18 that can pay a living wage. The gap between
19 those who have and have not has increased
20 dramatically in this nation, with more falling
21 into both categories and the middle class
22 sometimes vanishing.
23 We have got to develop the capacity
24 within our educational system to train people
25 for the future, to give them the skills that can
1 form the foundation of retraining down the line,
2 that can give them the skills to fill the jobs,
3 that can give them the work ethic to understand
4 that you get to work on time, that this is how
5 you follow directions, this is how you save
6 money. These are all parts of the building
7 blocks. And we have got to take some of the
8 great work being done in this educational area
9 and find out how we organize the market forces
10 where there are a large number of young people
11 to fill the jobs, to provide jobs to give these
12 people opportunity.
13 I have been Attorney General for a
14 little over five years. I came to Washington
15 believing with all my heart and soul in this
16 nation. I felt so proud that I would have the
17 opportunity to try to use the law to help
19 After a little over five years,
20 somebody says, "Well, are you disillusioned?"
21 And I turn and say no way. Never, ever, after
22 this time, have I believed so profoundly in the
23 future of this nation, so profoundly in its
24 people, so profoundly in the children of this
1 My friends, children are some of the
2 toughest little critters you ever saw. If
3 they're given half a chance, they're going to
4 succeed. Let's give them a real chance so they
5 really succeed. It's happening across America.
6 Join with me in doing this. Thank you.
7 RCAA PRESIDENT JANE TEWKSBURY: My
8 sincerest thanks to Attorney General Reno.
9 Those were truly inspiring remarks.
10 (Whereupon the proceedings were
11 concluded at 2:10 p.m.)