President Clinton used his Saturday radio address to urge Americans to combat the culture of youth gangs that he says imperils the future of many children.
"All across America, too many decent people have felt the anguish of losing a child to the meanness of the streets," Clinton said."At younger and younger ages, boys and girls are turning to gangs and guns," he said. "For a child without an involved family, a gang offers a feeling of belonging."
Clinton said the White House emphasis on community security, child development and national service "will help us make this time of year a season of renewal."
It was Clinton's third day of concentration on family values, a theme he embraced as soon as he returned from vacation at Martha's Vineyard earlier in the week.
However, with Congress soon to return, the question remains how vigorously Clinton will return to his campaign for health-care reform.
Clinton said he looks forward in the coming week to signing the crime bill into law, calling the measure a "tough but smart tool in every community's fight for our children's safety."
The hard-fought battle to get the bill through Congress delayed his vacation and that of Congress.
Meanwhile, Clinton said he is signing immediately a proclamation designating next week National Gang Violence Prevention Week, and stressing that "every parent, every teacher, every person" who has a chance to influence children "must force a change in the lives of our youth."
Clinton recalled the recent shooting death of 11-year-old accused hitman Robert Sandifer in Chicago, allegedly by his fellow gang members, and said Sandifer's grandmother "despaired at his funeral because she said `I couldn't reach you.' "
Americans must make sure they can reach young people, he said, with the message that they are already a member of a community "larger than themselves in which they can feel important and serve a larger purpose."