President Bush came to the Pennsylvania Dutch country Wednesday to declare drug abuse "a national problem" that leaves no communities immune from the death and destruction of narcotics.
Bush resumed a traveling 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 control policy director, William J. Bennett, who has been weighing strategies for combating 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," the president told some 3,500 students, faculty and parents at Conestoga Valley High School, in the heart of Amish and Mennonite farm country nead Lancaster.
"When drugs come here to the Connestoga 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."
Bush noted an acceleration of drug abuse in the past 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.
"Don't hide yourself from the reality of drug abuse in our communities and hope for the best," Bush told his audience.
"The good news is, you are fighting back," he said. "Your community is too proud, your traditions here too deeply rooted, for an invader to threaten your safety and well-being without a fight."
He praised local programs that target for special attention high-risk youths in area elementary and high schools as "doing something to stop drug problems before they begin."
But, the president said, "the war on drugs will ultimately be won one day, one battle at a time - the battles each and every one of us wage to keep our families and communities free from drug abuse."
Following the speech, Bush met with about a dozen leaders of the local Amish community - a quiet, religious people who shun publicity and such modern-day conveniences as televisions and telephones.
"I salute you because, as we look at a national drug problem, we find communities like yours, with strong religious faith and family values, the drug problem seems to be non-existent, or hopefully non-existent," the president said. "This is an anti-narcotics swing, and maybe I could hear how your community staves off the problem," he said.
During an informal chat that lasted nearly a half-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.