WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Clinton told high school students
they can be the key to lessening violence in their schools and in
society at large, and asked for their help in passing new civil
rights protections for homosexuals.
Violence, fear and alienation lead to schoolhouse killings, and
also represent age-old fears arrising from ethnic and religious
differences, Clinton said today.
"If you can deal with that, you're going to have the brightest
future of any generation of Americans," Clinton told a group of
more than 350 young people on Capitol Hill attending a conference
on violence that was spurred by school killings and stalled gun
Clinton said expanding federal hate crimes legislation to cover
crimes motivated by sexual orientation is "very, very important,"
and complained that congressional Republicans are trying to block
"I want you also to speak up for that," Clinton said of the
gay rights measure.
One hundred-thirty members of Congress, overwhelmingly
Democrats, selected up to five student delegates from their
districts to attend the two-day event that began today.
Republican Reps. Jennifer Dunn of Washington, Sue Kelly of New
York and Connie Morella of Maryland were the only GOP lawmakers who
chose to participate, according to Laura Nichols, spokeswoman for
House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo.
Asked why few Republicans were participating in the youth
violence conference, John Feehery, spokesman for House Speaker
Dennis Hastert, said it was a Democratic-sponsored event and "we
didn't get invited."
The conference opens with a greeting from Clinton and Gephardt
and a showing of "Fight for Your Rights: Through My Eyes," a new
MTV documentary. A series of workshops on existing programs to
address youth violence follows, including interactive
demonstrations of violence prevention methods.
On Wednesday, the participants will form small groups to
identify the top five primary causes of and solutions to youth
violence. They will present their findings to House and Senate
leaders on the Capitol steps.
The conference ends with an Internet broadcast, moderated by
Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, of a town hall-style
discussion with kids in Washington and participating schools around
the country. Panelists will include William Moffitt, president of
the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and William
Modzeleski, director of the Department of Education's Safe and Drug
Free Schools Program.