Let me express my thanks and delight at the privilege and the opportunity to share with you on this occasion. Let me express my thanks to the president, who has called personally to help organize this splendid opportunity, to Mr. Reagan, and to the one who put the ultimate elbow in my side and offered me a deal I could not refuse, the not so subtle threat, Senator Kassebaum. Won't you stand, please, again? I mean she never stops playing power politics. We were having a very critical television show some weeks ago on our "CNN: Both Sides with Jesse Jackson" program, and Senator Kassebaum said, "I will come on the condition that he comes to Kansas State and [I] will not show up until he declares he will come." Promises made, promises kept.
Let me say to the faculty and administrators and those of you who come from surrounding areas, it is a source of joy to be with you at this time in the history of our country as we seek to grapple with the critical issues of our time. I want those of you who are here, young America, as I call out to you, to join in the Rainbow Crusade to heal and rebuild America, to stop the downward trend and threat of self-destructive behavior, to address the crime and violent condition that is now engulfing our nation. Hear this if you will.
Violent crime and violence is tearing apart the fabric of our society. It seems to have gotten worse. It is worse than any other industrialized country in the world. It is drug-related. It is turf-related, sometimes just random madness. Violent crime is tearing us apart. It seems to have had an even worse effect on young African-American males.
But it is not just violence in the form of homicides, it is hunger that affects more than 20 million Americans. About one in eight children under age 12 in our country suffer from hunger. One in 10 Americans now get food stamps. This country ranks 21st among industrialized nations in infant mortality. But the U.S. Conference of Mayors says the need is going unmet as malnutrition is on the rise again. In U.S. cities people are being turned away because of a lack of resources. Nearly 200,000 people in the United States have been diagnosed with AIDS since 1981. Of those, 100,000 people have died already. The Center for Disease Control estimates that one million more Americans could be carrying the AIDS virus even as we speak, and more and more the victims have been and will be babies.
The number one and number two sources of death and destruction are homicide or fratricide, brothers and sisters killing brothers and sisters, or AIDS from the result of unloving, unguarded, undisciplined sex, both of which are preventable forms of self-destructive behavior.
Now there are a number of high school students who are here this morning. I want to ask you several questions so those who may not be connected, as indeed we are, might get a sense of why I choose to address this issue of violence and crime today. If you are in this room today and you are 21 or under and you know someone in your age group who is dead because of drugs, wherever you are, please stand. If you know someone in your age group who is in jail because of drugs, please stand. Be seated. If you know someone at your school who has tried drugs, please stand. Be seated. If you know someone at your school who sells drugs, please stand. Be seated. If you know someone in your age group who has brought a gun to school, please stand. Be seated.
Now be fair and honest on this one. If you have told some teacher or some principal or some pastor about who is selling drugs in your school or who has a gun in your school, stand. And so we hear somewhere between silence and a silly grin. It represents the code of silence. It makes you unwillingly a co-conspirator, a corroborator, almost a collaborator, in the growth of drugs and guns, which lends itself most directly to AIDS and crime and self-destruction. Your silence allows your school environment to be a sanctuary, an incubator for the development of the number one and number two threats to your lives: drugs and guns. By and large the level of killing that we see is not nearly so much rooted in poverty as it is rooted in drugs and greed and mindless materialism.
And so today I call us to meet, to heal and rebuild our country. If it were a problem, we could quickly solve it. Problems can be solved quickly. Conditions, which are the result of long ignored problems, must be healed. And that which must be healed requires a spiritual foundation and more time and more resources. If you will to be a part of this crusade for moral and academic excellence and to be a participant in this war against drugs and violence and crime and self-destructive behavior, let us stand and bow our heads in prayer.
Have mercy on us. Forgive us for our sins and our foolish ways. Look deep within us and flash your illuminating light in the dark recesses of our souls. Define anything that should not be, any hatred, a jealousy, a malice, a meanness, a greed, a racism, a sexism, an anti-semitism, an anti-Arabism, an anti-Asianism, or homophobia, define any mean spirit that should not be, remove it and make us better and never bitter. Let something that is said or expressed here today transform somebody's lifestyle and alter their behavior. They might be a factor for good to make the world more secure and our nation better. Bless this school and those who have come and those who accept the burden to enlighten the minds of our youth. This is our earnest petition and prayer. Amen.
Choices and consequences. None of us can avoid the consequences of our choices and so often even a non-choice is a choice and thus there is a consequence. In many instances your silence about that which threatens the moral fabric of our country, silence is a choice and that choice has devastating consequences. Dr. King said to us over and over again, we must choose co-existence or co-annihilation, nonviolence or non-existence. We have the choice to turn to each other and not on each other. Violence is a civilizational crisis. The cost, the fear, the facts are driving our national political priorities.
A recent study of street gangs in the Chicago Tribune made these conclusions: "Street gang patterns, trends reflect not only chronic problems such as racial and class discrimination, an adjustment of immigration, but also acute, often rapidly changing problems stemming from the existing economic situation, weapon availability, drug markets, the arrangements of street gang territories across the city. Obviously the chronic problem of street gang violence cannot be solved with a quick fix. The ultimate solution rests on a coordinated criminal justice response, changes in educational opportunities, racial and ethnic attitudes, and job structure."
The Congress must offer more than prisons. The president must offer more than platitudes. We must go beyond where the problem exists and now has deteriorated into a condition because it has been long ignored. We must now go from whereas we recognize it to therefore programs, plans, and priorities, power rightly used. In the face of our fear driven politics, last year early in the year, there was a vote down of an economic stimulus plan to put many young Americans back to work. To provide them the option of hope. Somebody decided to save a mere $16 billion dollars to invest in our people. But now they are rushing to pass a $22 billion crime bill. The solution to the crisis that is projected is more police, not more teachers; more jails, not more schools. Stimulus-defeated crime bill rolling. Fear, fear, fear.
The reality is that across our country today, plants are closing. Family farmers driven to assembly lines. Workers cannot get a fair wage, farmers cannot get a fair price, plants closing, jobs leaving, tax base eroding, youth restless, aimless, school systems traumatized. And the crime bill, driven by fear, the lockup a condition. Long-term ignored problems. The condition requires healing. The right use of power. A vision and a plan. Violence. This generation of youth have more guns for toys than televisions. Violence. AIDS. By and large a result of unloving, unguarded, undisciplined sex. Violence. Abandoned boarder babies. Young girls carrying a baby to term. Checking into the hospital under a false name and address. Checking out leaving the baby in the hospital to be raised by the state.
To carry a baby in your body nine months to term and drop that baby in the hospital as if it were a bowel movement and never look back. Something has died in you that is fundamental to your humanity, and young men surely must have a humane ethical value system for the human race of which you are a part. You are not a man just because you can make a baby; you are a man because you can raise a baby and love a baby and care for a baby. You must give your son the dignity of your name. You have a high place in the natural order of things. Dogs raise their puppies. Cats raise their kittens. Cows raise their calves. Eagles protect little eaglets in the nest until they can fly. Surely we who are just a little less than God, just a little lower than the angels, must raise the babies we make to earn our place in the natural order: to fight violence. Abandoning babies is a form of violence.
By age 15 this generation has watched 18,000 hours of television. Listened to more than 22,000 hours of radio. Songs aimed at youth ten to 12 years old, songs like "You're Not Too Young To Try." And thus a generation of 27-year-old grandmothers and 15-year-old boys meeting their 32-year-old dads in jail, since boys tend to want to become like their daddies wherever they are, in jail, dead or alive. Compared with 11,000 hours of school, less than 3,000 hours of church, temple, or synagogue. Quantitatively the media has more access to the minds of our youth than the home, church, and school combined, and qualitatively penetrates more deeply; those who have the most access to the minds of our children have the most responsibility.
On TV when somebody is shot, it is a blank, it is ketchup, and credits roll. In real life it is a bullet, it is blood, and consequences come. We must stop the violence and save our children.
TV romanticizes violence. Record companies are selling it. I have talked with many young rap artists who have created rap and rhythm and rhyme, and they cannot get a contract, in spite of talent and rapping and rhythm and rhyme. Unless they say bitch and nigger and gun, they cannot get a contract. From high up they have been paid to spread decadence, and the lower they go, the higher the contract goes. There was a time when our values were stronger; we would not put dollars over dignity. Even this day the record companies give out contracts for it, and they hustle the labels and disc jockeys, spin and grin and play it and turn their heads the other way while the young die. Those who do it must not abuse your gifts. Your dignity must never have a price tag on it. It must be nonnegotiable. Any record out that is degrading a race, a religion, or sex exploitation should be picketed and fought by the victims. You cannot just stand idly by and play it and do not say it. You have got to stand up and fight back for dignity. Your lives are at stake.
Much of the rapping is painful and ugly and sometimes violent. But the rapping is not abstract. All too often it is reflecting an ignored reality. No one likes to hear people talk about "Cop Killer." Last year the press was reacting to Ice T and the rap about cop killing, and yet Terminator was out at the same time, the high tech killing of cops. And when a cop would kill high tech, he would be invited to the White House to lead a national physical fitness campaign. And while the high tech killing of cops was Hollywood's fantasy last year, this year there is actually killing of the cops on the streets of L.A., the same place the movie was filmed.
It is not just black rap artists, it is Guns 'n Roses wearing Manson T-shirts, glorifying the mass killer, it is this violence thing, this unresolved conflict, this inability to express ourselves without eliminating somebody. And it finds itself in every level of our language, whether the sports writer is talking about crushing the team or killing the opposition. It is just a sense of violence as if we are just locked in the limited language formations.
I went to a church last Sunday, and the minister was performing the rites of infant baptism, and the mother and father were there, and the grandparents were there, and the godparents and relatives were there and after there was a song and a prayer, and he rubbed the little baby on the head and said prayers and lifted the little baby to God, and he said, "This is a handsome little fella, boy, he is gonna grow up one day and be a lady killer. He is a handsome little fella, he is going to grow up, ha ha ha, and be a lady killer."
All the way up in the pulpit this violent language that manifests itself in these obstructive, disruptive behavior patterns. At this stage we are on the defensive as a struggle, as a humane struggle. Fear: it is pushing hope back. Cowardice is pushing courage back. Death is taking the joy of life. Dope is outdistancing hope. Escapism is outdistancing embrace. When youth come alive, you have the energy, the strength, the need, and the moral authority to make America better and the whole world more secure.
When young America comes alive, 1955, our country was mired deep in South African type racial separation. Rosa Parks, a young African-American seamstress, refused to go to the back of the bus. Dr. King, a 26-year- old graduate student, went to her rescue and said better that you walk in dignity than ride in shame. When young America comes alive, America gets better.
In 1960 four students in Greensboro, North Carolina, sat down to get hamburgers they got handcuffs. They were threatened with expulsion from school because they broke out of the traditional order. They chose dignity over degrees and dollars. When young America came alive, they made America better.
Rights that we all now take for granted did not come from the White House or the House or Senate or Supreme Court. When young America was sober and sane and sensitive with a high moral agenda, young America made America better on this quest for the right to vote. Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, two Jews and a black, went to Philadelphia, Mississippi. They were scraped and bulldozed to death with their eyes wide open about the right to vote. Contrast mindless materialism with the willingness to die for the next generation. When young America came alive, they died that we might live for this right to vote.
Jimmy Lee Jackson, a young African-American, stood up, was shot in the back and killed in cold blood for the right to vote. Viola Liuzzo, an Italian-American mother from Detroit, Michigan, came south to help us. They called her nigger lover her brains were blown out at point-blank range for this right to vote. When young America came alive, Reverend James Reeb, young, white, Unitarian minister came south from Boston. Four babies blown up in the church and killed in Birmingham, Alabama, one Sunday morning for this right to vote. When young America came alive, they began to march in Poland and they sang "We Shall Over-come." In Tiananmen Square they sang "We Shall Overcome." In South Africa they sang "We Shall Overcome."
When young America chooses hope over dope, and life over death, we have the power to transform the whole world when we come alive when we come alive.
We must break the cycle of moral degenerate behavior, this spiritual surrender, this ethical collapse, we must—we must go counter culture. We must lead the social values redemptive revolution.
Today I wish I could talk more about the real progressive challenges of our day. I would like to make a case for the plight of the family farmers. Those who fed America, fed the world, now sometimes find themselves distressed, unemployed, disenfranchised on their own farms. Those who fed America, fed the world, are now dying in the dark. I would like to talk more about that.
Or the real ramifications of NAFTA. If we are not real careful it is going to amount to a low-paying jobs bill for Mexico and a high-priced crime bill for our country. Unless we in fact build a bridge and not just have a cliff between the U.S. and our next-door neighbor. I believe in free trade and fair trade. I believe we should have a bridge built and not a cliff. Do not get angry with the Mexicans, they are not taking jobs from us, the corporate greedy are taking jobs to suppress our wages and exploit them.
I wish I could see your vitality, young America marching about a national health care plan. After all, nearly 40 million Americans have no health insurance. Do not color it black or color it brown on this poverty question. Forty million Americans in poverty, 29 million are white. Most black people are not poor, most poor people are not black. Most poor people are white and female and young. Whether white, black, or brown, hunger hurts. When a mother's baby cries out at midnight because it went to bed supper-less, it does not cry out in race or sex or religion, it cries out in pain. Somebody must address this poverty crisis.
We should be marching today about these community development banks that were promised to us for the need for adequate housing or to fight malnutrition or to discuss equal funding for public education. I really wish I could make that case today where teacher's pay goes up and tuition costs come down. I wish I could focus on that today.
Even the unfinished business of Haiti or Somalia or Bosnia or China. I wish I could talk just a little bit more about the New World order that you must face. Whatever you think about NAFTA, it does distinguish, it does set up, irreversibly, relationships with 90 million neighbors with whom we share 2,000 miles of border. Why must you get beyond your own race and your own language in the world in which you must live? Because half of all human beings are Asian, half of them are Chinese. America is one third of this hemisphere. In North America two thirds of our neighbors speak Spanish and Portuguese in the main; English is a minority language in this hemisphere. Why do I want to talk about multiculturalism? One-eighth of the human race is African. When Mr. Clinton will meet Mr. Yeltsin, together they will represent one-eighth of the human race. I am trying to say to you that most people in the world today are yellow or brown or black or non-Christian, poor, female, young, and do not speak English, so when they meet that will be a minority meeting. In your world you must get bigger than dope and get bigger than guns and on to the agenda of hope and building. You must get out of this rut and go to higher ground. There is a world out there waiting for you.
I am often asked who is going to lead this drive to break up the drugs and the violence. I am not given to looking for the easiest way out. Number one, while the media may project this as a rap issue or a black issue, the fact is it is an American problem with a black face on it. As you can tell by those of you who stood when I asked questions about guns and violence and drugs. After all, this brothers killing brothers did not start in Wichita. This did not start in Kansas City. Remember Cain killed Abel? Brothers killing brothers, and they had a two-parent household, sociologists, and they did not live in a housing project.
But somehow through all of that access, Cain did less than his best and God gave him back a proportion of what he put up not very much. He got mad at God but jealous of Abel. He would not fight the source of his real concern, he killed his brother, not based upon poverty but based upon greed and fear and misdirected hate. As we fight this violence syndrome, as we fight this condition, we cannot just focus on poverty. There is at root here a moral issue. This here is an ethical issue. Nobody has earned the right to kill or rob or rape anybody based upon not having something they think they need, because you cannot get it by robbing and raping and killing.
The victims must lead it. In New York a few days ago, it was reported that nearly 400 young blacks under age 21 have killed each other this year. If that many blacks have been killed by whites, there would be riots and sympathy riots everywhere. If that many whites had been killed by blacks, there would be calls for capital punishment everywhere. There would be so many electrocutions, you would have to rent portable electric chairs.
But because it is black on black, there is a kind of permissive zone. Blacks are less protected by law. Those who do the shooting will get less time for an egregious crime. In that zone there is more killing and more liquor stores and more abandoned housing. This is an American problem. In New York City there are 600 young blacks 13 and under with AIDS. When you add up the cost of those who were shot and died but received expensive trauma care, received blood transfusions, received the priority time of the doctors, add that cost to those who were shot and died and by and large were buried without insurance, add to that 10 times more who were shot and did not die but now that the rubbish is over are carrying colostomy bags. Or brain injury or surgery or spinal injury or loss of limb or debilitated, unable to protect their families and crippled for the rest of their lives. Add to that those who shot them who are now in jail.
When you add those three costs together it can bankrupt any city, any state, any nation. Multiply it times 100. Either we are going to drive drugs and guns and greed out, or greed and drugs and guns are going to drive us out. There can be no draft dodgers in this war as we fight crime and violence. Why is it such a priority beside the morality, the practical dimension? All of our hopes, our dreams, prenatal care, Head Start, daycare, vocational education, smaller teacher/student classroom ratio, better facilities, all of our great dreams. We would invest in education, we are throwing money at jails but the jails are being crime driven. We must change the condition and change people's minds.
In Washington, not long ago, a four-year-old child was shot and a 14-year-old was killed. I went to visit the child in the hospital. Lying there, four-years-old, innocent, never knew what hit her, perspiring, tubes in her nose and mouth, and her mother pressing her hand and weeping and the grandmother weeping. The doctor pulled back the curtain and said, "I have done all I can do. I cannot thin the blood out, the clots are coming. I cannot bring the high blood pressure down. The vessels will break and the baby is dying." We had prayer. The 14-year-old was already killed. Now let us go deeper than that. The baby's mother had just turned 20, which means that she was 15 when she was pregnant, impregnated. Her daddy was killed when she was three. She never saw him.
Her mother died last year at 37, overdose of drugs. Left her three brothers and sisters, five of them living in one room without a telephone because at a young, tender, uneducated age, she cannot properly distribute the check. The baby's daddy could not come to the funeral because he is in the penitentiary. He shot a four-year-old child who is worse than dead lifetime disability, brains shot. This may have been a problem it is now a condition. It is our problem. Who is going to stop it? In the real sense we keep looking for an outside/in answer, a topdown answer. We keep judging politicians by how tough they talk about it, how long they threaten to lock somebody else up about it. The reality is you cannot lock up a condition. You cannot curse a condition. You cannot threaten a condition. If the enemy was them over there in the brown shirt, we could shoot the enemy, but them is in your house wearing a T-shirt. You cannot shoot quite as quick. It is not them out yonder speaking another language, it is in this room among those that we love the most who are trapped now in the tradewinds of our times.
Who is going to break it up? Who is going to end it? We understand the problem and the plight, now who is going to break it up? The victims must lead the social values redemptive revolutions. Victims? Yes, victims. Victims have the most interest in ending the low hanging clouds of terrorism. Those who cannot go to school without fear of their lives, who cannot speak up in the classroom, those who cannot teach because they are afraid somebody has a gun, those who cannot go to the cafeteria, those who are afraid to walk from home to school in the morning or afternoon.
But Reverend, it is dangerous for the victims. It is, but there is a reward on the other side of danger. After all, slave's masters never retire. The slaves have to change their minds. The Bible says that we shall be transformed by the renewal of our minds. We have got to change our minds about this situation. Segregators never retire; the segregated must change their minds. The oppressed never retire; the oppressed must change their minds. Sex abusers will never tell it; the abused have to tell it. Those who perpetrate sexism will never "get it" unless the victims tell it. The victims must lead the drive; we must massively change our minds.
There must be counter cultural values revolution. Kind of like "We ain't going to take it no more." And it goes something like this: Students in your school, when I asked you the question, "Had you told somebody," and by and large you said not, it means you are cooperating. I saw a generation of youth go to the back of the bus. When the sign said colored seats in the rear, whites in the front, they just cooperated. When Dr. King gave that speech in Washington in 1963, we who came from as far southwest as Texas across to Florida to Virginia, we were black or hispanic or native American, we could not use a single public toilet, and we learned to adjust. We went to the back of cars and trucks and trees and alleys and relieved our bodies; we learned to adjust. We were conditioned to humiliation. My daddy was there, a veteran of a foreign war, medals and a Bible on the dresser drawer, wounds in his body, did not have the right vote but had to pay taxes. He had been conditioned, but somebody, some victim, some Rosa Parks, some Schwerner, Goodman, Chaney, some victim must change his or her mind, and when light appears darkness will vanish. The victims must change their minds.
What can one person do? Turn out all the lights in this gymnasium and light one candle. Light will challenge darkness, but it must be lit. Each of us has a light within us. In your school, if there is only one security guard, somebody gets shot, a conservative remedy is we need five police. We need ten. A liberal reaction may be you just have them that time.
So long as young girls are willing to bring drugs to school in their bras, and young men bring drugs in their shoes and guns in their back pockets, unless the victims change your minds, more or less police will not answer it because of the conspiracy of silence. If you are tired of being afraid to walk to school without fear, if you are tired of teaching in the classroom where you cannot command discipline for fear of being shot, if you are around somebody who cannot afford to buy a book, is driving a BMW, and you know it is drug driven, you have got to tell it.
Where is the solution? A new attitude, a new behavior, a new character, a new national vision. And what that really means is this: it means in your school, you do not have to be naive and jump up and say, "My name is Joe and Robert has a gun." That is naive. Because Robert is a little junior terrorist, and he has been taught to shoot people who upset his market. But there are other ways to do that. If your value system says he should not have the gun, you can tell the principal. You can tell the teacher, you can tell your pastor.
You have no moral obligation to be silent about knowing those who carry guns or drugs. Reverend, that is dishonorable. Is that snitching? No. There is a difference between snitching and self defense and self respect. If you and I are talking, and you share with me some private personal concern, some trouble you are having, some trial you are going through, and I go and tell somebody else, that is dishonorable. I snitched on you. I exposed your secret and now you are vulnerable, you could get hurt. That is snitching, that is dishonorable.
On the other hand, if I know you got crack or cocaine or heroin and a gun, we are not bonded on that proposition. And if somebody else has crack or heroin and a gun and they are coming to collect or you are going to collect, I may not even be involved, but I can be killed in the crossfire of bullets. I have a self determination, moral obligation, the same obligation with which I would feel an obligation if I knew somebody had a sheet or a hood or a rope in their locker, I would tell that.
We lose more young black lives annually to drugs than the sum total of lynchings in the history of the country. We must deal with death by character not by color. By ethics, not by ethnicity. Stop the killing everywhere. Save all of God's children. That is our burden, that is our moral obligation.
And this thing comes down to character. How do you define that something special, Mr. President, called character? Jesus chose not to give it a dictionary definition. He said one day a man was walking down the street tending to his business. And two thieves came from some place and robbed him and beat him and left him bleeding to die. Now today's television would probably take the beaten man and make him a hero. Say look at his blood, look at his nose broke, look at his blue eye, look at his black eye. They would make the beaten man a hero. He was no hero, he was just a victim. He said I shall judge heros and heroism and sheroism by how you respond to a beaten man. He says so one man came down the street, a reverend, a rabbi, a man of God, a man of religion, a man of organized institutional religion. He saw a man lying there bleeding to death. The reverend went to the other side of the street, the prayer book in one hand, Bible in the other, singing the songs of Zion, heaven bound, no earthly good. He said that is one kind of character. He said another man came down the street of his own race, as in my brother, and he left and went to the other side of the street also. He said now another man came down the street of a different race and a different religion and a different culture, and he stopped and helped him on his way. He said that is that character thing. Well, is that some abstract thing in yesterday that you cannot have here in Manhattan? I think not.
Last year Rodney King was beaten nearly to death by four white policemen. It was a racist act and people called it that. But do not conclude all whites are racists on that basis. Because had not George Halliday, a white photographer filmed it and took it public, you would never know Rodney King ever existed. George Halliday went beyond color, he went beyond culture, he went up to character. I do not see schools giving him honorary degrees. In an authentic expression of character under pressure, he could have kept that film for home movies and just been a mean person. He did us a public good.
On the other hand, you saw four young blacks beat Reginald Denney nearly to death. Broke a block on his head. Now Mr. Bush was quick to say that these were thugs who beat this man, trying to appeal to fear to gather a few more votes. The other part that was not discussed, however, was that four young blacks in four different homes saw it take place, and they left their home, four different homes, and saved him from them and took him to the hospital and the black doctor did surgery on Reginald Denney. Beyond color and culture is something called character.
I suppose what is different about generation 1993 than years past is that we have had to fight these battles, to always need to change some law, go to the state capital, change the law, go to Washington, change the law. Well I submit to you between now and January 2nd there would be a rise in dope distribution, alcohol consumption, gun purchases, and killing. We have the power right now, without changing another law, we have the power right now to stop killing each other. We have the power right now to give our baby the dignity of our names. We have the power right now to not engage in unloving sex without love, making unwanted babies. We have the power right now to register and vote. We have the power right now to build more schools and fewer jails. We have the power right now to make America better.
You have the power. Use your mind. Use your body. Use your spirit. Assert your character. It is your choice, your consequence, your challenge, your opportunity, your hope. God bless you. Keep hope alive.