<title>10-11-96: Address at Jefferson Junior High School, Washington, DC.</title>







         7                PEER MEDIATION INDUCTION

         8               AND OATH OF OFFICE PROGRAM



        11                       JANET RENO




        15              Jefferson Junior High School

        16                  801 7th Street, S.W.

        17                    Washington, D.C.

        18                    October 11, 1996





         1                 P R E S E N T A T I O N

         2               I am very pleased to be at Jefferson

         3     Junior High School because in Miami, when I was

         4     State Attorney, I used to go to a different

         5     school on the average of once a week.

         6               I found students asked me good

         7     questions, and they had good ideas and that

         8     they made such a major contribution to their

         9     community and to their school.  I think young

        10     people can make such an extraordinarily

        11     important difference in making this world a

        12     better place.

        13               Once, as a prosecutor, I had a lady

        14     demand to see me.  She dragged her

        15     thirteen-year-old daughter into my office and

        16     said, "My daughter is not going to testify,"

        17     and I said, "Well, why not?  She saw this old

        18     lady knocked down."

        19               The little girl was on her way home

        20     from school.  This little old lady was walking

        21     in front of her.  This car screeched to a halt.

        22     A man jumped out, knocked her down, and took

         1     off with her purse.

         2               The young lady went and called 911,

         3     911 responded, and they picked up the man about

         4     five blocks away, but the old lady could not

         5     identify him.

         6               The young girl turned to her mother,

         7     and she said, "Mamma, I have to testify.  That

         8     is the American way of doing things.  He has

         9     got his day in court, but I can't let that old

        10     lady's crime go unavenged."

        11               And she testified.  She was a

        12     wonderful witness, and she made a difference,

        13     and he was convicted.  And that little old lady

        14     was one of the happiest people you have ever

        15     seen to see that justice was done.

        16               Once I went into a high school to a

        17     drug treatment program educating youngsters

        18     about drugs, and I thought I might be going

        19     just to talk to a few students.  Instead, I was

        20     ushered into the gymnasium.

        21               The students had put on the drug

        22     education and prevention program.  They

         1     designed it, they chose their speakers, they

         2     created their workshop, and it was one of the

         3     best drug education programs that I had seen.

         4               About three weeks later, I was asked

         5     to go to another school because they had had a

         6     representative at the first school, and the

         7     program was repeated by students who cared, and

         8     were making a difference.

         9               About a week later, I was walking

        10     down the street, and a young man pulled on my

        11     shirt sleeve.  And he said, "I was at that

        12     program.  I was getting into drugs, and I want

        13     you to know it has made a difference for me,

        14     and I am trying to get treatment, and I am

        15     trying to get help, and I want to thank you."

        16               And I said, "Don't thank me.  Thank

        17     your students.  Thank your peers.  Thank the

        18     people who can make a difference."

        19               I went to tutoring programs in my

        20     community and saw youngsters in junior high

        21     school tutoring kids in the elementary school,

        22     and making a difference.

         1               I saw elementary students who

         2     couldn't wait for their time with their tutor.

         3     Each of us can make a difference.

         4               And then, about ten years ago, I

         5     began to see peer mediators at work, and I saw

         6     the difference that they made in their schools,

         7     and in their community.

         8               Young people have such tremendous

         9     energy.  They want so much to contribute, and

        10     you can contribute in so many different ways.

        11     For those of you who have undertaken this

        12     important work as mediators, thank you, it is

        13     so very critical for us all.

        14               As Attorney General of the United

        15     States, I am responsible for the FBI, the DEA,

        16     the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Immigration

        17     and Naturalization Service, the Marshal

        18     Service, and most of the government lawyers.

        19               By the very nature of what we do at

        20     the Department of Justice, we have a lot of

        21     conflicts.  I have a big conference room where

        22     I have my staff meetings or I meet with my

         1     lawyers, or FBI agents to figure out what we

         2     are going to do about a particular case.

         3               I will have five people on this side,

         4     and five people on that side, and they will

         5     have ten different views, and sometimes they

         6     hold their views very, very strongly.

         7               When I first start listening to them,

         8     it is like we are never going to get them to

         9     agree, but then, as you start listening and

        10     using the tools that you all have learned as

        11     mediators, you begin to make sure that they

        12     communicate, that they talk to each other

        13     instead of past each other.

        14               And by the end of an hour, they are

        15     agreeing.  You haven't taken sides, but you

        16     have made sure that they know how to talk to

        17     each other.

        18               The FBI, in another situation where

        19     it was not personal disagreement on a matter of

        20     law but an issue of how we apprehended the

        21     group called the Freeman without exposing

        22     people to danger and to violence, the FBI could

         1     have gone in with guns blazing, but it didn't.

         2     It talked, and it talked, and it talked, and

         3     those people came out peacefully, and the issue

         4     was resolved.

         5               We can do so much when we reach out

         6     through conflict resolution programs, whether

         7     it be as Attorney General or as a student at

         8     Jefferson Junior High School, to make a

         9     difference.

        10               In the last few years I have seen it

        11     at work in the community.  I used to see some

        12     police officers who came into a school, and

        13     they would elbow and talk to people like they

        14     didn't have much respect.

        15               And then I saw community police

        16     officers come in.  I saw officers come into

        17     schools and into a neighborhood talking to

        18     people, communicating with people, working

        19     together to resolve problems.  If we talk, we

        20     can resolve so many problems.

        21               We are teaching lawyers in the

        22     Department of Justice how to handle a lawsuit

         1     not by trying a case in a court but by sitting

         2     down with the people and resolving the issue.

         3     The same kind of techniques can work in

         4     disputes among students here at Jefferson.

         5               You are one of the many schools in

         6     the District of Columbia and across the country

         7     that have adopted peer mediation as a way to

         8     help students learn how to solve disputes.  A

         9     peer is someone like you, someone about your

        10     age, another student here at Jefferson.

        11               Peer mediation is a chance for

        12     students to work with other students to help

        13     them resolve problems, arguments, disagreements

        14     without having to get the teacher or the

        15     administration involved.

        16               I have been learning a lot more about

        17     peer mediation as it has been conducted in the

        18     public schools.  I have watched teachers in

        19     training programs, and I have visited schools

        20     where youngsters are learning how to mediate.

        21     I have even taken part in some of the training

        22     myself.

         1               What do peer mediators do?  First of

         2     all, they listen very carefully.  When I see

         3     two people in dispute, it is often because they

         4     haven't heard each other.  They haven't heard

         5     the whole story.

         6               A good mediator asks questions so

         7     that the whole story comes out.  They help you

         8     come up with solutions.  They might not suggest

         9     it, but they may lead you into the solution

        10     just because you have heard the full story and

        11     can work it out.

        12               And they keep what they hear to

        13     themselves.  They don't go blabbing it around

        14     to other people.  Confidentiality is very

        15     important to the process.

        16               What don't mediators do?  They don't

        17     take sides.  They let you and the person that

        18     you are in conflict with talk it out.  They

        19     don't decide who is right and who is wrong.  In

        20     most conflicts, there is neither a right nor a

        21     wrong.  Everybody is a little bit to blame.

        22     They don't solve the problem for you.  They

         1     help you solve the problem.

         2               They don't tell you what to do, they

         3     just help you get to what you should do.  They

         4     don't spread what they hear.

         5               Peer mediation is a way to try to

         6     settle arguments before they turn into

         7     something bigger, and maybe even into violence.

         8               I think our young people are our most

         9     precious possession.  As Attorney General, I

        10     have said that one of the great crime problems

        11     we face in this country is youth violence.  I

        12     want to do whatever I can in the time I am in

        13     this office to give the young people in this

        14     nation a strong and safe and positive future,

        15     and this is one way of doing it.

        16               Let me give you some examples, and

        17     remember, the mediators haven't told me any of

        18     the names, they have just told me about these

        19     cases.  Two girls had been friends, and now

        20     they were quarreling.  And one complained to

        21     the other that she was harassing her and

        22     talking behind her back.

         1               There were rumors flying that the two

         2     girls were going to fight.  The two went to

         3     talk to mediators and discovered, that by

         4     talking it out with the mediator's help, there

         5     was really no serious quarrel between them.

         6     Others were simply stirring up the rumors.

         7               The two girls agreed with each other

         8     not to fight and not to pay any attention to

         9     rumors and to tell their friends that they

        10     wouldn't listen to rumors.  Each of the girls

        11     said that the mediation really helped.  It got

        12     things out in the open in a way that the two

        13     couldn't have done it by themselves.

        14               In another example, two young men had

        15     a misunderstanding about whether one of them

        16     was going to put in a good word for the other

        17     with a certain young lady.  Over a few weeks,

        18     several other misunderstandings caused an

        19     increase in the bad feeling between the two.

        20               They knew they needed to talk about

        21     it, but, when they met, just the two of them,

        22     they started yelling and fussing and

         1     criticizing each other, and they came very

         2     close to blows.

         3               When the peer mediators got involved,

         4     the two were able to talk more calmly and

         5     straighten out the misunderstandings.  They

         6     agreed to talk to each other about any problems

         7     before taking any other action, to ignore

         8     rumors from others, and to tell others that the

         9     issues between the two of them weren't anybody

        10     else's business.

        11               You will face them all your life,

        12     conflicts.  There will always be disputes, and

        13     they are not all bad.  Good things can come

        14     from conflict if it is handled properly.  What

        15     we want to do is to keep it from becoming

        16     violent, to keep friendships from being broken,

        17     to keep people from being injured.

        18               Sometimes you can settle arguments

        19     yourself peacefully, but these mediators are

        20     going to learn, as they have already, is that

        21     the tools you learn in mediation can be learned

        22     to use to solve disputes yourself so you don't

         1     have to go to mediators.

         2               Having someone else there who isn't

         3     part of the argument, someone who is neutral,

         4     can really make the difference.  One of my

         5     favorite stories about how mediation works best

         6     is this:  Suppose for a moment that you and

         7     your brother may be arguing over the last

         8     orange in the ice box.  You both want it, and

         9     you both can't figure out how to share it, so

        10     you end up splitting it in half because you

        11     couldn't agree on who should have it.

        12               But it turns out that you want to

        13     make orange juice with this orange, and your

        14     brother wants to use the peel for a cake that

        15     he is baking.  If you could have talked it out,

        16     you each could have gotten the whole part of

        17     the orange you needed.

        18               Of course, many disputes can't be

        19     resolved that easily, but that is an example of

        20     what we are talking about.

        21               One of the things that I would like

        22     to do, with your permission, is I don't like

         1     adults that come and talk a lot.  And I would

         2     like you to be thinking of questions that you

         3     have of me about what I do for mediation, and

         4     let me save some time for you to ask me

         5     questions and for the mediators to ask me

         6     questions that might be helpful to them.

         7               But I want to close with a story. It

         8     is one of the most important lessons I learned,

         9     and I learned it about your age.  We lived in a

        10     little wooden house.

        11               There were four children in the

        12     family.  We were a year apart.  I was the

        13     oldest, and we were quickly outgrowing this

        14     little wooden house.

        15               One afternoon, my mother announced

        16     that she was going to build a bigger house, and

        17     we turned to her, and we said, what do you know

        18     about building a house?  And she said, "I am

        19     going to learn."

        20               And she went to the brick mason, she

        21     went to the electrician, she went to the

        22     plumber, and she asked them how to build a

         1     house.  And she came home, and she dug the

         2     foundation with her own hands with the pick and

         3     shovel.

         4               She put up the block, the cement

         5     block.  She put in the electricity and the

         6     plumbing, and my father would help her with the

         7     heavy beams when he came home from work at

         8     night.

         9               It took her several years to build

        10     that house, but she and I lived in it until she

        11     died just before I came to Washington.  And

        12     every time I had a really difficult problem to

        13     deal with, I would come down through the woods

        14     and see that house standing there.

        15               And it was a symbol to me that you

        16     can do anything you really want to if it is the

        17     right thing to do and you put your mind to it.

        18               And that house taught me a more

        19     important lesson when Hurricane Andrew hit our

        20     area in 1992.  We got some of the highest winds

        21     of Hurricane Andrew, a devastating storm.

        22               About 3:00 in the morning, the winds

         1     began to howl, and I have never heard such an

         2     unearthly noise in all of my life.  You could

         3     hear the trees crashing around the house.

         4               My mother got up.  She was old and

         5     frail, but she was unafraid, and she just sat

         6     down in her chair, and she folded her hands.

         7     And she was unafraid because she knew how she

         8     had built that house.  She had put in the right

         9     materials.  She had not cut corners.  She built

        10     it the right way.

        11               In the morning when we went out after

        12     the storm had passed, the world looked like a

        13     World War I battlefield.  The trees were down

        14     around the house, but the house was missing

        15     only one shingle and some screens.  And it is a

        16     symbol to me of when you build something, build

        17     it the right way.

        18               You have an opportunity here at

        19     Jefferson, this wonderful school, to build your

        20     life the right way, to put in the good

        21     materials, to learn the skills of how you talk

        22     to each other, how you listen to each other,

         1     how you respect each other, how you solve

         2     problems.

         3               You have that opportunity to build a

         4     life in which you can work together, learn

         5     together, and be together.  This is a great and

         6     magnificent nation, and it is great because of

         7     its young people.

         8               And those of you who care so much,

         9     and want to give so much to your school and to

        10     your community that you as mediators volunteer

        11     here today.  On behalf of everyone, I thank you

        12     for your willingness to undertake this.

        13               And now I would like to ask if

        14     anybody has any questions, I would be happy to

        15     try to answer them.  Any of the mediators?

        16               Don't be shy.

        17               It is amazing when I go back to the

        18     Department of Justice and have -- did I see a

        19     question out there?  Do I see a hand half way

        20     up over there?

        21               One of the things that I would like

        22     you to do because I have found that youngsters

         1     ask me better questions, and they have got

         2     better ideas about what Attorneys General

         3     should be doing:  Your principal has my

         4     address, and if you have questions or

         5     suggestions about what I, as Attorney General,

         6     should be doing to promote mediation, to help

         7     you end disputes without conflict, and without

         8     knives and guns and fists, I want you to write

         9     me.

        10               Young people give me such good ideas.

        11     Thank you all for including me here today.

        12                    (Whereupon, at 1:35 p.m., the

        13                    PRESENTATION was adjourned.)

        14                       *  *  *  *  *