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pd24my99 Statement on Withdrawal of the Nomination of Brian Atwood To Be...

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    So the fundamental thing is, we have to still do a better job trying 
to help parents understand what it means for children to move into 
adolescence and to drift away, and to be given both independence and 
still be held accountable and be involved with their parents and their 
lives. And we have to help

[[Page 905]]

the schools do a better job of connecting and telling kids how they can 
find nonviolent ways to deal with their conflicts, and how they can 
count no matter what group they're in and how they can be treated with 
respect no matter what group they're in.
    I don't see how anybody can dispute the fact that it's crazy to have 
a country where, you know, criminals can buy guns at gun shows they 
can't buy at gun stores. I mean, I think that's a pretty hard case to 
    I think it's a hard case to defend to say we've abolished assault 
weapons--thanks in no small measure, by the way, to a citizen from San 
Francisco named Steve Sposato, who lost his wife in a shooting, a man 
who happened to be a Republican. I met him and his daughter. So we 
abolished assault weapons, but we let people keep bringing in these big 
ammunition clips and selling them legally as long as they were imported, 
as opposed to homegrown. How come these things are in the law? These 
things don't happen by accident, folks. I did the best I could back in 
1994. I pushed that thing as hard as I could push. So now we have a 
sense all over the country we should close the loopholes.
    Florida, not normally known as a raving liberal State, voted 72 
percent in a public referendum to close the gun show loophole, and we're 
having trouble getting it done in Washington. That's not good. It's not 
going to kill the NRA to change its position. The gun manufacturers did, 
and I applaud them. They deserve a lot of credit. There have been--one 
of the most outstanding groups in this whole debate are the gun 
manufacturers, coming and saying, ``Okay, let's clean up this business. 
Let's have responsible, commonsense controls. We want people to be able 
to hunt; we want to support the rights of sportsmen; but we don't need 
that. We need to deal with this.''
    So they have their responsibility. But so, too, does the 
entertainment industry. You can say if you start from their perspective, 
just like you can say if you start from the gun perspective, ``Guns 
don't kill people, people do.'' Right? If you start from the 
entertainment perspective, you can say, ``Well, we show these movies and 
we sell these video games in Europe and you don't have this level of 
violence.'' You can say that--in other words, from anybody else's 
perspective, you can always say this.
    But here is the thing. Start with the kids. We have more kids 
getting hurt and more kids hurting other kids. Start with the facts. And 
we now have over 300 studies that show that the volume of sustained 
exposure to violence through the media--and now increasingly through 
interactive video games--is so great that it desensitizes children 
dramatically to the impact of violence and the real consequences of it, 
and therefore makes the most vulnerable children more likely to go over 
the edge.
    Now, having said that, we have to find some commonsense things we 
can do. For example, you could change the whole advertising strategy of 
a lot of these games and other media outlets and not have a lot of the 
problems you have. But lots of other things can be done. I'm trying to 
make a larger point here. How we respond to this and whether we take on 
something really big and important like this and do what the Mothers and 
Students Against Drunk Driving did to drive down drunk driving; or do 
what the 10,000 business people did to hire 400,000 people off welfare 
so people wouldn't be just thrown in the streets--how we respond to this 
and whether we respond to this as one community coming together instead 
of pointing the finger at each other will define in large measure what 
kind of country we're going to be in the 21st century.
    And the same is true of Kosovo. What in the world have these two 
things got in common? Well, in both cases, there at least is some 
evidence that part of the problem was one group of people looking down 
on another group of people and getting to where they hated them and then 
getting to where they thought it was legitimate to take them out. And if 
you look all over the world today, from the Middle East to the Balkans, 
to Rwanda and Africa, to the still unresolved conflict in Northern 
Ireland, what is at the root of most of the world's problems on the edge 
of the 21st century? Is it that the Kosovar Albanians don't have as good 
computers as the Serbs? Are we fighting over some software secret in 
central Africa? Not on your life. The economics are bringing people 
together. That's

[[Page 906]]

one of the reasons we're going to get this thing done in Ireland this 
    What is dividing people on the edge of this brave new brilliant 
high-tech interdependent world are the oldest demons of human society: 
our hatred and fear of people who are different from us. First, you're 
scared of them, then you hate them, then you dehumanize them, then it's 
okay to kill them. And isn't it ironic that we're sitting here a stone's 
throw from Silicon Valley, dreaming about the marvels of modern 
technology and at risk of being held hostage to the oldest, most 
primitive human designs?
    So you want to know why we're in Kosovo? Because it's in Europe, 
where we were pulled into two wars in the 20th century, and the cold 
war, and because we had the capacity to stand against that kind of 
ethnic cleansing and slaughter; and because when we couldn't get it done 
for 4 long years in Bosnia, there was a trail of 2\1/2\ million refugees 
and a quarter of a million people dead, and we still had to get in and 
put Humpty Dumpty back together again and tell people they had to stop 
killing each other because of their different religious and ethnic 
    But I'm telling you, there are common threads to what is there--the 
hatred of those boys built up in Littleton, hatred looking up at the 
athletes, hatred in their minds looking down at the minorities. The 
hatred in what happened when that poor man, James Byrd, was murdered in 
Texas and his body was torn apart, hatred in what happened to Matthew 
Shepard in Wyoming. It's all the same thing.
    We're all scared. Not anybody in the world is not scared from time 
to time. How many days do you wake up in a good mood and how many days 
do you wake up in not such a good mood? Every human being has got a 
little scale inside. It's like the scales of justice and hope and fear. 
And some days, the scales are just perfectly in balance, some days 
they're just--you're crazy with hope and some days you're gripped with 
    And the more fearful you are, the more people who are different from 
you seem to present a threat. And here we are. Look at California. Look 
at San Francisco. Look at Seattle, where I was today. Look at the 
diversity of our population, racial and otherwise--religious, all the 
differences you can imagine--sexual orientation, the whole 9 yards. Look 
at all the differences in our population.
    In our dreams, all people get a chance to become what God meant for 
them to be and we pull together. In other words, we finally got a chance 
to be the country our founders said we ought to be when they knew darn 
well we weren't. I mean, when only white men with property could vote, 
they said all are created equal, and they knew what they were doing. 
These guys were not dummies.
    Every now and then, I go over to the Jefferson Memorial and read 
what Thomas Jefferson said, ``When I think of slavery, I tremble to 
think that God is just.'' He knew exactly what he was doing. They knew 
that this whole struggle would be sort of an endless effort to try to 
make real these ideals. And here we are about to do it. And are we going 
to let the whole thing go haywire because of the most primitive impulses 
in human society, both inside our country and beyond our borders?
    That man that blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma City, he was 
poisoned with hatred and a sort of blind irrational notion that if you 
worked for the Federal Government there was something inherently bad 
about you. And I believe the distinguishing characteristics of our 
country in the 21st century has to be that we constantly, consistently 
reaffirm that for all the differences among us--we don't have to like 
each other, but we have to respect each other. We have to tolerate each 
other, and we have to actively affirm each other's common humanity. And 
if you want all this modern technology to be put at the service of your 
children's dreams instead of terrorists and madmen, then you have got to 
say this is one thing America will stand for, overall, above all, beyond 
everything else.
    And that is what all these incidents have in common. We must not let 
the great promise of the modern world be undermined by the most ancient 
of hatreds. We cannot fundamentally alter human nature, but we can alter 
the rules by which all of us let our nature play out. And we can call 
forth our better selves. That is what we have worked for 6\1/2\ years to 
do. And you know as well as I do, if the economy works better it's 
easier to do.

[[Page 907]]

    But when you go home tonight and you get up tomorrow and somebody 
says, ``Why in the world did you write a check and go to that thing?'' 
Tell them, ``Because I believe in the vision and the ideas that the 
country has followed in the last 6 years. We have a lot more to do, and 
most important of all, I really want America to be a community and a 
model to the world, because I want my children to have a future more 
like my dreams than the worst nightmares we see in the paper.''
    We can do it, but not unless we work at it.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:25 p.m. at a private residence. In his 
remarks, he referred to dinner host Walter Shorenstein; Bill Lockyer, 
State attorney general; Gov. Gray Davis of California and his wife, 
Sharon; Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco; dinner cochairs Martin 
Maddaloni and Tom and Victoria O'Gara; Joseph J. Andrew, national chair, 
Andy Tobias, treasurer, and Beth Dozoretz, national finance chair, 
Democratic National Committee; baseball legends Willie Mays and Hank 
Aaron and their wives, Mae and Billie, respectively; Tom Mauser, whose 
son, Daniel, was killed in the Columbine High School shooting by gunmen 
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold; gun control activist Steve Sposato and 
his daughter, Meghan; and Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted of the 
Oklahoma City Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing. This item was 
not received in time for publication in the appropriate issue.

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 907-908]
Pages 895-960
Week Ending Friday, May 21, 1999
The President's Radio Address

May 15, 1999

    Good morning. In the past few weeks, ever since that terrible day in 
Littleton, people all across America have searched their souls and 
searched for solutions to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening 
again and to reduce the level of violence to which our children are 
    Last Monday, at our White House strategy session on children and 
violence, representatives of every sector of society agreed on one 
fundamental fact: Making progress requires taking responsibility by all 
of us. That begins at home. Parents have a duty to guide children as 
they grow and to stay involved in their lives as they grow older and 
more independent. Educators have a responsibility to provide safe 
learning environments, to teach children how to handle conflicts without 
violence, and how to treat all young people, no matter how different, 
with respect. They also need to teach them how to get counseling or 
mental health services if they're needed.
    Communities have a responsibility to make sure that there is a 
village, as the First Lady said, that supports all its children--
especially those who don't get their needs met at home. And the 
community needs to do more to get our kids involved in working with each 
other and serving the community, not being isolated from it.
    And here in Washington, we have a responsibility. We've got a 
responsibility to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children. 
There's a broad national consensus on that point. At the White House 
conference, the gun manufacturers agreed that we need commonsense 
approaches. Everybody agrees except the U.S. Senate. For example, 
everyone knows we need a real law to close the deadly gun show loophole, 
through which thousands, indeed, tens of thousands of guns are sold each 
year without background checks--even though they'd have to have a 
background check to be sold in a gun store.
    Now, the Senate declined to pass that bill. Even worse, the Senate's 
substitute bill is riddled with new loopholes, permitting convicted 
felons to get guns at pawn shops, no questions asked; and making it 
harder, not easier, for law enforcement to trace guns used in crimes. If 
the Senate wants to fix the problem, it should fix the problem, not make 
it worse. The American people deserve better. They know law-abiding 
citizens don't need loopholes in our gun laws, only criminals do. I sure 
hope that in the coming weeks the Senate will step up to its 
responsibility and do the right thing by our children.
    I've always said the entertainment industry must do its part, too. 
In 1993, shortly after I became President, I traveled to Hollywood and 
spoke there to members of the community about their responsibility. I 
said then, ``You have the capacity to do good, to help change the way we 
behave, the way we think of ourselves; examine what together you might 
do to help us rebuild the frayed bonds

[[Page 908]]

of community, to give children nonviolent ways to resolve their 
    After 6 years of work, the entertainment industry is helping parents 
to limit children's exposure to violence, working with the 
administration on a voluntary rating system for television and the V-
chip to enforce it, and on parental screening for the Internet and 
ratings for all Internet games sales. But there is still too much 
violence on our Nation's screens, large and small. Too many creators and 
purveyors of violence say there is nothing they can do about it. And 
there are still too many vulnerable children who are steeped in this 
culture of violence, becoming increasingly desensitized to it and to its 
consequences and, therefore, as studies show, hundreds of them more 
liable to commit violence themselves.
    By the age of 18, the typical American will see 40,000 dramatized 
murders. There are those who say they can or should do nothing about 
this. But I believe they're wrong. Every one of us has a role to play in 
giving our kids a safe future. And those with greater influence have 
greater responsibility. We should see movies and music, TV programs, 
video games, and advertising for them made by people who made them as if 
their own children were watching. Members of the entertainment community 
can make a big difference.
    Today I want to issue three specific challenges to them. First, the 
whole industry should stop showing guns in any ads or previews children 
might see. Second, I challenge theater and video store owners all across 
our country to enforce more strictly the rating systems on the movies 
they show, rent, and sell. You should check ID's, not turn the other way 
as a child walks unchaperoned into an R-rated movie. Third, I challenge 
the movie industry to reevaluate its entire ratings systems, especially 
the PG rating, to determine whether it is allowing too much gratuitous 
violence in movies approved for viewing by children.
    Our administration is fighting to do all we can to protect children. 
The entertainment industry should do everything it can, too.
Across America people are coming together, saying, ``Yes, together we 
can change this culture of violence; together we can give our children a 
safer future and a culture of values we'll be proud to pass on to future 
generations.'' We can do it together.
    Thank you.

Note: The address was recorded at 3:26 p.m. on May 14 in the library at 
the Rainier Club in Seattle, WA, for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on May 15. 
The transcript was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary 
on May 14 but was embargoed for release until the broadcast.

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 908]
Pages 895-960
Week Ending Friday, May 21, 1999
Radio Remarks on the Observance of Armed Forces Day

May 15, 1999

    Armed Forces Day was created in 1950 as a way for Americans to thank 
our men and women in uniform for their service and sacrifice. Our Nation 

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