President Bush traveled to Pennsylvania Dutch country today to declare drug abuse “a national problem” that leaves no communities immune from the death and destruction of narcotics.
Bush resumed a road campaign to tout his more than $5-billion drug-fighting effort and to urge community leaders to help educate young Americans to the dangers of drug abuse.
The President was accompanied here by his “drug czar,” William J. Bennett, who has been weighing strategies for combatting rampant drug-related violence in the nation’s capital.
Bush traveled here by helicopter from Washington and flew on later to Wilmington, Del., where he met with community organizations fighting drug abuse in that industrial city and addressed law enforcement officials.
The drug trade is not an issue that involves “shades of gray,” he said in the Delaware speech. “It involves good guys and bad guys, white hats and black hats, good and evil.
“We often think of drug abuse as an urban, inner-city phenomenon,” he told about 3,500 students, faculty and parents at Conestoga Valley High School, in the heart of Amish and Mennonite farm country near Lancaster.
“When drugs come here to the Conestoga Valley, that’s proof the drug epidemic is a national problem,” Bush said. “The rising problem here simply shows how vulnerable every American city and town is to the menace of drug abuse.”
‘Work as a Team’
Bush noted an acceleration of drug abuse in the last two years in the historically staid Pennsylvania Dutch region.
“Most Americans want to see their towns restored to a time when drugs came from the local M.D. where crack was something you jumped over to avoid bad luck,” the President said.
“Twenty-three million Americans used illegal drugs last year,” Bush said. “Countless thousands died. The fact is that none of us is immune to the problems drug abuse can cause.
“We’ve learned a hard lesson. Unless we join together and fight, it can happen here. But if we do work as a team and as a community, it won’t,” he said.
During an informal chat that lasted nearly half an hour, Amish leaders told Bush they believed that teaching their young to have a strong religious faith and a sense of self-denial helps keep drugs away from their communities. But one Amish man told of how his teen-age son had once been offered marijuana while being given a ride home from work.
Another leader told Bush he believed that the drug problem had been kept away from his community because the young Amish do not have access to television and radio “and sexual things.”
The Amish leaders seated around the table carried no name tags and photographers were not permitted to take pictures of Bush’s meeting with the men.