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Saying ‘No’ Won’t Make You a Nerd, Bush Tells Students : ‘Drugs Mean Death,’ He Says on TV

From Associated Press

President Bush told the nation’s schoolchildren by television today that saying no to drugs “won’t make you a nerd.”

In a midday speech from the White House library, Bush called drugs an “equal opportunity destroyer.”

“They have no conscience,” he said. “They don’t care where the money comes from. They just murder people. Young and old, good and bad, innocent and guilty--it doesn’t matter. For too many, drugs mean death.”

The President’s address was broadcast live by all four major television networks for viewing in schools and marked the latest round in Bush’s campaign to fight the flood of drugs in American society.

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The speech came a week after Bush unveiled a $7.9-billion national drug strategy that calls for more prisons, more prosecutors, tougher sentences and aid to Latin American nations to help combat drug cartels.

Many Democrats have assailed the package as too modest, and Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he was introducing legislation today to boost it to $10.1 billion. To pay for the increase, Byrd proposed cuts in many domestic and defense programs of 0.575%.

“Presidents don’t often get the chance to talk directly to students. So today, for each of you sitting in a classroom or assembly hall--this message goes straight to you,” Bush said in his 15-minute speech.

“Most of you are doing the right thing,” he said. “But for those of you who let drugs make their decisions for them, you can almost hear the doors slamming shut.”

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The President equated drugs with death and, displaying the badge of a slain 22-year-old rookie policeman, said: “I keep this badge in a drawer in my desk to remind me of that.”

The badge belonged to New York City Police Officer Eddie Byrne, who was killed in 1988 while protecting a witness in a drug case. It was presented to Bush during a campaign appearance in New York last year by Byrne’s father.

In a speech that aides said was particularly tailored to schoolchildren, Bush said: “I’ll let you in on a secret: We all can succeed. If you don’t use drugs, you can be anything you want to be. . . . So don’t blow it.

“Saying ‘no’ won’t make you a nerd. It won’t make you a loser. In fact, it will make you more friends than drugs ever will. Real friends.”

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Bush combined his warnings against drug use with a plea that drug-free students help troubled friends. “I’m asking you not to look the other way,” he said.

“You know, all of you in a classroom know, who’s got a problem. Today I’m not just asking you to get help. I’m asking you to find someone who needs you. And offer to help.”

Asserting that “the day of the dealer is drawing to a close,” Bush said: “Some think there won’t be room for them in jail. We’ll make room. . . . Some think there aren’t enough prosecutors. We’ll hire them--with the largest increase in federal prosecutors in history.

“No matter who you are, or how strong you are, drugs take control of your life. But without drugs, you’re in control. You can determine your future. And that means staying in school,” Bush said.

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