Department of Justice Seal

JULY 8, 2002


     It is a pleasure to be here with you today. On behalf of Attorney General John Ashcroft and myself, I want to welcome all of you - and especially our fine group of finalists - to the Department of Justice. I am honored to be able to share this very special day with you.

     We have quite an impressive group here today - very caring and committed adults and truly extraordinary young people.

     I would like to reiterate Mr. Flores' expression of appreciation to the Kuwait-America Foundation, the many corporate and individual sponsors, the National Guard, and our own Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for all they have done to support the "Do the Write Thing Challenge."

     Their hard work and dedication to reducing youth violence is truly admirable, and their contributions are very much appreciated.

     I would like to spend most of my time today speaking to the young people we have gathered here to honor. You, too, are making real contributions to your communities and to our country, and for that you deserve enthusiastic congratulations.

     You finalists have accomplished something truly remarkable: you have managed, through your hard work and wonderful writing, to make adults here in Washington stop and listen to what you have to say.

     I am impressed that each of you chose to participate in the "Do the Write Thing Challenge." Each of you wrote about crime and violence. These are two extremely difficult topics that many of the adults in this room think about every day. But, you did not stop there. You each told us about how violence affects your lives, at home and in your communities; you shared your thoughts about what causes violence; and - perhaps more importantly - you shared what you think your communities can do to help reduce violence by and against youth. And then, most impressive of all, you made a promise to try to help stop the violence. That promise can help your communities to become safer places to live and better places for you and other young people to grow up.

     Many of you made a personal commitment to avoid drugs and not engage in violence. Others have pledged to be positive role models for your younger brothers and sisters and other children. Some of you have decided to become peer counselors and conflict mediators. Others are working to start clubs and activities devoted to positive activities for youth. Many of you have pledged to stay in school, set positive goals, and avoid movies, television, and video games with excessive violence. And last, but not least, you have committed to talking with your parents and other adults which, I know, is not always easy about what you are feeling and how violence affects your lives.

     What each of you has done took intelligence, commitment, and courage. Your actions have already made a positive difference.

     To the adults who are with us, I ask that you make every effort to help these young people reach their local policymakers, elected officials, and foundations. You can help make these connections so that others can hear what these impressive young people have written. You can help ensure that their ideas are considered when planning and funding decisions are being made for the community.

     I extend my thanks to all of the Finalists in the Do the Write Thing Challenge program for sharing their visions of a safer future. I am confident that together we can make a real difference in preventing and reducing violence in America. I hope that the adults with us will recommit themselves to doing all that they can - in their homes, in their schools, and in their communities - to help young people do the right thing.

     Again, congratulations to each of you for stepping up to the challenge. Thank you for inviting me to join your celebration.