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Rep. Gingrich Reelected House Speaker, Says Drug Issue a Priority


January 1997

On January 7, 1997, Representative Newt Gingrich (R-GA) was reelected as Speaker of the House, despite his recent admission of wrongdoing in the ethics case pending against him. In his speech to the House after his reelection, Gingrich listed "talking honestly about drugs" as one of his three priorities for the 105th Congress. Following is the text about drugs from that speech:

I think we have to redefine and rethink our approach to drugs. One of my close friends had her 19-year-old overdose. And her 19-year-old sister today is in a coma and celebrated her 20th birthday in that coma. Drugs aren't statistics. As [Rep.] Charlie Rangel [D-NY] told me at breakfast just two years ago, drugs are real human beings being destroyed.

Drugs are real violence. If we did not have drugs in this country, the amount of spouse abuse, the amount of child abuse, the amount of violence would drop dramatically. And so I want to suggest that we should take seriously reaching across all barriers and establishing an all-out effort.

You know the Columbia University Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse has done a fascinating study. The center found that one of the best predictors of whether a child will stay free of drugs is whether he or she practices religion. Joe Califano, [President] Lyndon Johnson's former adviser and [President] Jimmy Carter's Secretary of Health and Human Services*, says that religion is part of the solution to our drug problems and a drug treatment itself. Alcoholics Anonymous refers to a higher power.

I don't know what all the answers are, but I do know that if we love these children, in addition to fighting racism and reaching out to every child, we need to decide that we are prepared to have the equivalent of an abolitionist movement against drugs, and to do what it takes so that none of these children end up in a coma celebrating their birthday or end up dead.*

*Califano was Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare