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coach at Northwestern.
    So when you have all these opportunities out there and you have your 
problems laid bare, and you have the strength of the country and the 
prosperity of the country giving us the confidence do deal with them, 
what I hope you will say to everybody here and when you go back home is, 
America will never have a better time to face its biggest problems; 
America will never have a better time to save all of its children. And 
that is what I think we ought to be thinking about.
    You heard Congressman Gephardt say that our crime rate has been 
going down 7 years in a row. That's the first time that's happened for 
over 40 years. The overall crime rate is the lowest it has been in 26 
years; the murder rate is the lowest it has been in more than 30 years. 
That sounds great, and I'm proud of that. And I'm glad we've worked on 
that. But does anybody think America is as safe as it ought to be? No. 
Of course not, obviously.
    Six months after Columbine--tomorrow, 6 months after Columbine, no 
serious person believes that America is as safe as it ought to be. And 
every day, every day we lose more than a dozen kids to violence. They 
die in ones and twos, so we don't see them on the evening news; we don't 
see their names blared in headlines.

[[Page 2085]]

    So why don't you help us adopt a real goal? Why don't we, together, 
say that we're going to make America the safest big country in the world 
in the 21st century, starting with making our children safe? You can do 
that, and that's what I want to do.
    We need an organized way in every community in America to capture 
the spirit that brought you to Washington this week. We need people 
working on specific things. I thought Rebecca Hunter's pledge was great. 
You just think about it. If every young person in every high school and 
junior high school in America took the pledge that she stated and acted 
on it, violence would go down. At least violence perpetrated by young 
people would go down.
    I want you to help us while you're here. What else can we do? How do 
we make our schools sanctuaries of safety? How do we recognize the early 
warning signs of violence? How do we teach people to resolve their 
differences peacefully? How do we share good ideas from one community to 
another? How can people who are injured find it in their hearts to 
forgive people they've been angry at, instead of trying to get even? 
These are very important questions.
    It seems to me there is no quick-fix solution, and what we have to 
do in Washington is to try to give you the tools and the framework and 
as safe as possible condition to do this work. But our young people have 
to be reached one by one. In many ways, all of you can have more 
influence on your peers than I can as President, or than any of us can. 
We can try, but you can make all the difference.
    I also would like to say that I think that this conference has to 
recognize that there are things that you can do and things that we have 
to do and that we have some obligations here to understand the problem 
of youth violence in the environment as a greater violent level of our 
community. And let me just mention a few things. Mr. Gephardt mentioned 
a couple of them before, but when I took office, almost 7 years ago now, 
I had spent a lot of time going from community to community, walking the 
streets with police officers and with community leaders, sitting and 
listening to young people talk about the violence in their streets. I'll 
never forget, I was in California one time--this was way--8 or 9 years 
ago--and this young person in a grade school told me what it was like 
when they had a drive-by shooting at random, and all the kids had to get 
out of their desks and hit the floor. And I've listened to people talk 
to me about this stuff.
    And I asked the Congress to do what the local people told me would 
help to lower crime. So we put more community policing programs out 
there; we passed the Brady bill; we banned assault weapons. We did a lot 
of things that were good, and we supported local community initiatives. 
We had a zero tolerance for guns in school policy.
    And as I said, it is working, and that is good. But now I think we 
have to do some more things. I also should say that all these people 
here in our caucus who supported all those crime policies took a lot of 
heat for doing it, because we were told that--the NRA told everybody we 
were going to take their guns away and they couldn't go hunting anymore. 
Well, everybody's still hunting, but it's a safer country, and we're 
still having the same argument up here.
    We held the first-ever school safety conference at the White House, 
and we gave over $100 million in safe school grants to schools and 
communities to help them fight youth violence. We started mentoring 
programs to help kids know that if they stayed in school and stayed out 
of trouble, they could actually go on to college. And after the terrible 
wave of violence culminating in Columbine, I launched a new White House 
Youth Violence Council to coordinate our work throughout all the 
Government agencies.
    Now, today we are going to release at the Government level--this 
makes the very point I made to you in the beginning about why I'm glad 
you're here--today we're going to release our second annual report on 
school safety. The Secretary of Education has done wonderful work on 
this. It shows that, once again, the vast majority of our schools are 
safe. It also shows they're getting safer, which is a tribute to you and 
to your teachers. Homicides in schools remain rare. Crimes are down both 
in and out of school, and there are now far fewer students carrying 

[[Page 2086]]

to schools than there were 6 years ago. That's the good news.
    The bad news is we've had Columbine, Jonesboro, Springfield, Pearl--
I could go on and on--all the places where there have been these 
horrible examples of school violence. We know that more and more 
students feel unsafe. So I want to say to you that--again, I say, I want 
you to help us with new ideas. But I want to tell you what we're doing 
now, up here. And then I want to close and ask you to think about 
something for the rest of the time you're here.
    First of all, we want to do more to help you reach other people. Our 
Justice Department and the Education Department worked with MTV to 
provide a youth action guide and a CD that focused on concrete steps to 
reduce youth violence, such as mentoring, conflict resolution, and youth 
advocacy. I want to thank the Recording Industry Association of America 
for their help in putting this CD together. We've already distributed 
over a quarter of a million, over 250,000 of these CDs. Today the 
Justice Department is going to send out 200,000 more to organizations 
around the country--after school programs, law enforcement agencies, 
foundations, and civic groups.
    Now, this CD basically sounds a call for action. It's a commonsense 
tool that helps to make a difference if it's put in the right hands, the 
hands of people like you. And we're doing our part. But let me also say, 
to again echo what Mr. Gephardt said, we need Congress to help us. 
Especially, we need Congress to help us to keep guns out of the wrong 
    Now, I've heard all this talk with--people say it doesn't really 
matter whether we do anything about guns. All I know is, we passed the 
Brady bill. We've kept 400,000 people with criminal backgrounds from 
buying handguns since 1994, and we have the lowest crime rate in 26 
years. I don't believe the things are unrelated.
    And one of the real problems with the Brady bill is there is a 
loophole: If you buy a gun at a gun show or in urban flea markets, they 
don't have to do a background check on you. So we want to close that. We 
also want to ban the import of large ammunition clips. And we want to 
require child-safety locks.
    Let me just give you this statistic to think about--you want to be 
against unintentional violence as well as intentional violence--the 
accidental death rate of children from guns in America--the accidental 
death rate--listen to this--is 9 times higher than the rates for the 
next 25 biggest industrial countries combined. You take the next 25 
biggest economies and put them all together, our accidental death rate 
from guns is 9 times higher than all of them put together.
    So we should do more to create an environment in which we will be 
more safe, that will help you when you're trying to get kids to sign the 
pledge, when you're trying to solve the conflicts in your schools. I 
also believe it's very important for Congress to pass this hate crimes 
legislation which makes it explicitly criminal to attack people because 
of their racial, their religious, or their sexual orientation. I think 
it is very, very important.
    Now, last night the Republicans on the relevant committees removed 
important hate crimes protection from a bill that had already passed the 
Senate. And they tried to kill this bill when we weren't watching, but 
now we're watching this morning. I want to ask you also to speak up for 
that, and that's the last point I want to make.
    This hate crimes legislation is important because--why? It embodies 
what I think is the biggest challenge facing not only our society but 
societies all over the world. The great thing about the modern world is 
we've got a lot of movement across national borders. A lot of you have 
probably been on the Internet talking to people in other countries. And 
when I look ahead to your future, I see a time when we'll have these 
unbelievable scientific discoveries. And your children, literally, may 
be born with a life expectancy of about 100 years. We're unlocking the 
secrets of the human gene. And you will be, literally, able to not only 
be American citizens but citizens of the world in ways that no one else 
has ever been, even if you don't travel beyond your home county, because 
of the way the Internet is working to bring us together. That's the good 

[[Page 2087]]

    The bad news is that the same demons that lead people to commit 
racial and religious and sexual orientation-related crimes and 
discrimination in America are sweeping the world in more violent ways. 
Basically, the conflict in Northern Ireland is a religious conflict. The 
conflict in the Middle East is an ethnic and religious conflict. The 
conflicts in Kosovo and Bosnia were ethnic and religious conflicts. The 
brutal killings in Africa were tribal conflicts. All over the world, 
people are getting into modern technology, but they're behaving as if 
they lived 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 years ago, because they're afraid of 
people who are different from them still.
    Don't you think that's interesting, that you live in the most modern 
of all worlds, and yet the biggest problem we've got is the oldest 
problem of human society, people being scared of people who are 
different from them? And you can help that.
    I had, last week, at the White House--really my wife had this 
meeting, and I just went along for the ride. But she sponsored this 
lecture by a man who helped to create the infrastructure of the Internet 
and a man who knows more than nearly anybody in America about the human 
genome project, the breaking down of the component parts of the genes, 
and how it fits in the body. And they talked about how we were going to 
be able to solve all these health problems by merging computer 
technology and what we know about genetics.
    But let me tell you what the genome specialist said. He said--now 
listen to this--look around this room, all the different kinds of people 
that are in this room. He said that 99 percent of us--99.9 percent of 
each of our bodies is identical to the other. We are 99.9 percent the 
same genetically. Even more interesting, he said, if you take two ethnic 
groups, there are more differences in the gene structures within the 
ethnic groups than there are between the ethnic groups. That is, if you 
take, let's say, a group of Hispanic kids and a group of Asian kids, 
there will be more differences within the group than what you average 
out what the genetic makeup is between the Hispanics and the Asians.
    We're getting a message here. Science is reaffirming what our values 
tell us. And I'm telling you, if you all can do something about violence 
and fear and the compulsive alienation of so many of our young people--
which turns into their need to look down on people and eventually 
dehumanize them and eventually think it's okay to act violently against 
them--if you can deal with that, it's the oldest problem of human 
society--if you can deal with that, you're going to have the brightest 
future of any generation of Americans.
    You will have a chance to solve diseases, to solve poverty problems, 
to give people potential that they never would have had before. But the 
whole thing can be held down by the failure to deal with our violent 
impulses, which are the product of our most deep-seated fears. So think 
about that.
    If you want to live in the new world of the 21st century, you've got 
to help people get rid of their old hatreds and old fears. We'll do our 
part, and we're very proud of your leadership in doing yours.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:30 a.m. in the Cannon Caucus Room at the 
Cannon House Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to
Rebecca Hunter, a student from Nashville, TN, who introduced the 
President; Jeffrey Bleich, Executive Director, National Campaign Against 
Youth Violence; and Ananda Lewis, host of MTV's ``HotZONE.'' The 
conference, entitled, Voices Against Violence: A Congressional Teen 
Conference, was sponsored by House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt 
and the House Democratic caucus.

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 2087-2088]
Monday, October 25, 1999
Volume 35--Number 42
Pages 2065-2124
Week Ending Friday, October 22, 1999
Statement on the Social Security Administration Cost-of-Living 

October 19, 1999

    Today the Social Security Administration announced the cost-of-
living adjustment (COLA) for next year's benefits. This announcement is 
a reminder that for over 60 years, Social Security has been a 
cornerstone of American national policy that has enabled generations of 
Americans to retire with dignity. Each year millions of disabled and 
elderly Americans are lifted out of poverty by Social Security. As a 
result, poverty rates among the elderly are at the lowest level ever

[[Page 2088]]

recorded. The cost-of-living adjustment announced today ensure that 
Social Security benefits will continue to be an essential part of 
retirement and family security for all Americans.
    This year we have an historic opportunity to protect and strengthen 
Social Security, securing it for future generations of retirees. At a 
minimum, we should agree on a downpayment on reform by passing a Social 
Security lockbox that extends the life of Social Security to about 2050 
and pays down the debt by 2015. I remain committed to working with 
Congress to move forward in this area.

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 2088]
Monday, October 25, 1999
Volume 35--Number 42
Pages 2065-2124
Week Ending Friday, October 22, 1999
Statement on Senate Action To Block Campaign Finance Reform Legislation

October 19, 1999

    Once again, a minority in the Senate has blocked bipartisan campaign 
finance reform. The failure of the Senate to adopt real reform is a 
victory for the politics of cynicism, and it leaves unchecked the 
influence of moneyed special interests. I will not let the Senate's 
inaction deter us from our goal, which is to restore the public's faith 
in our political system. That is why I will continue to fight for 
passage of real, comprehensive campaign finance reform like that passed 
recently by the House. The people of this country want reform, and the 
Senate cannot stand in their way forever.

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 2088]
Monday, October 25, 1999

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