Clinton adds nonprofit to anti-violence measures

President appeals for grass-roots effort, hails summit participants

May 08, 1999|By Jonathan Weisman | Jonathan Weisman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Hoping to jump-start a grass-roots campaign against youth violence, President Clinton announced the formation yesterday of a nonprofit organization to safeguard children, and he unveiled a guest list for Monday's White House youth summit that is top-heavy with powerful Washington lobbyists.

Since the school massacre April 20 in Littleton, Colo., White House aides have sought to focus on youth violence through a steady stream of events and proposals, hoping that the tragedy will mark a turning point for a nation beset by school violence.

Clinton hailed the participants of Monday's "strategy session" on youth violence as "people who can really make a difference," and he vowed to end the finger pointing that has marked much of the debate since the Littleton shootings.

"We will not ask who takes the blame, but how we can all take responsibility," Clinton said yesterday as he left for a fund-raising trip to Texas and a visit to tornado-ravaged Oklahoma.

But just what influence such power brokers as Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association of America or Edward Fritts of the National Association of Broadcasters could have on the nation's youth remains in question, though their lobbying influence in Washington is almost unrivaled.

For people outside Washington, the most recognizable names on the guest list may be poet Maya Angelou and Steve Case, chief executive of America Online. Bruce Reed, Clinton's domestic policy adviser, said the administration invited a representative of the National Rifle Association. But Bill Powers, an NRA spokesman, said yesterday that the gun lobby has heard nothing from the White House.

A senior White House official promised yesterday there would be well-known performers added to the list by this weekend.

Yesterday, Attorney General Janet Reno teamed up with MTV to launch an anti-violence campaign geared toward teen-agers. Reno was joined by the rock band the Goo Goo Dolls. The campaign, dubbed "Fight for Your Rights: Take A Stand Against Violence," will include the release of a CD.

Today, Hillary Rodham Clinton will hold a Mother's Day gun control event with Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a New York Democrat whose husband was killed and whose son was wounded by a gunman on the Long Island Rail Road.

The nonprofit organization will be modeled on groups that were created in 1995 and 1997 to combat teen-age pregnancy and to help welfare recipients move to the workplace. Clinton noted that the teen-age birth rate fell by 16 percent from 1991 to 1997 and that the 10,000 businesses that have participated in the welfare-to-work initiative have hired more than 410,000 welfare recipients.

"We need a grass-roots effort," the president said, "which involves every single American, from the White House down to the smallest community -- a national campaign that draws out everyone's commitment, all our resources and depends upon everyone taking responsibility."

Pub Date: 5/08/99

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