Department of Justice Seal

Deputy Attorney General
Larry D. Thompson
Remarks for:

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.

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

I am very pleased to see so many parents, teachers, National Guard officials, and chairs of the "Do the Write Thing Challenge Program" with us here today. I especially want to recognize Dan Callister who founded the Campaign and the great team that keeps the Campaign running: Basma Rayess, Managing Director of the Kuwait-America Foundation; Marion Mattingly, National Program Director of the "Do the Write Thing Challenge" Program; and the countless individuals and groups around the country who dedicate their time and lend their support to "Do the Write Thing" programs. Your efforts have helped expand this important violence-prevention program to 15 cities and 30 National Guard Units around the country. This is an extraordinary accomplishment, and I thank you.

I would also like to recognize the strong support that the "National Campaign to Stop Violence, Do the Write Thing Challenge" has received from the Kuwait-America Foundation, the many corporate and individual sponsors, the National Guard, and our own Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Now, while all of these adults and groups are extremely important and have accomplished great things, I would like to take a few minutes to talk to the young people here today, because it is you we honor today.

First things first: congratulations. You 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. And, even more important, you have taught us some very important things.

I want you to know how impressed I am 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 didn’t 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 most important– you told us what you think you and 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, plus the ideas you’ve shared, is, I believe, of vital importance in helping our communities and our whole country to become safer places to live and better places for kids to grow up.

I’ve had a chance to look through some of your essays and poems. I’ve read about your experiences, including your personal thoughts, feelings, hurts, and pains. You’ve had the courage to talk about peer pressure, domestic violence, drug abuse, problems in your families, gangs, bad role models, gossip, and violent images in the media. That took a lot of courage.

And then – and this is what is remarkable – you’ve shared your thoughts on what we can do together to make things better. You told us your ideas and proposed solutions to address the problem of youth violence. Some 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’re feeling and how violence affects your lives.

What each of you has done took intelligence, commitment, and courage. Today, I congratulate you for all of that. And, I promise you, you have already made a real difference.

But I am going to ask you to do one more thing. When you return to your home, your school, and your community, I would like each of you to promise to talk to at least one adult whom you haven’t already talked to about your ideas to stop violence and work to make adults listen. I am delighted to learn that "Do the Write Thing" encourages each of you to share your writings with individuals in your cities and towns who can make change happen in your schools and in your communities. The experiences, ideas, and solutions that you share will help to give policymakers, elected officials, and program developers specific information on ways to improve programming and the delivery of services to prevent violence in and among our communities. People need to hear what you have to say. And, I promise that we at the Justice Department will do all we can to make your voices heard.

And now, for the adults here today – I haven’t forgotten about you. To the adults, I ask that you make every effort to help these young people reach out to the local policymakers, elected officials, and program developers in your communities – so that they too can hear what these impressive young people have written. Help make their voices heard.

Congratulations to our Do the Write Thing Challenge finalists. You have shown that the pen is truly mightier than the sword. Thank you for sharing your visions of a safer future. I am confident that together we can make a real difference in preventing and reducing violence in America. And, to the adults among us, today let us recommit ourselves to doing all we can – in our homes, in our schools, and in our communities – to help our young people do the right thing.

Thank you, and congratulations to you all for stepping up to the challenge.