Protecting the quality of life for our children is a fundamental responsibility of good government. It’s been at the heart of my lifetime of service in law enforcement and executive office. At a time when our nation has been too often divided by culture wars, I believe America can move into the future as a more hopeful and unified nation — finding new common ground by promoting a culture of personal responsibility.
I can do it, because I’ve done it. As Mayor of America’s largest city, we not only turned the crime capital of the country into the safest large city in the nation — we drove drug-dealers, pornographers and prostitutes out of places like Times Square after decades of civic decay. By banning sex shops from within 500 feet of a church or school, we reopened areas to legitimate businesses and made families feel free to invest their future in the heart of our city. The millions of Americans who visit New York each year have seen the results for themselves.
Our effort to improve the quality of life in New York extended throughout my administration. Increasing the number of adoptions was a clear focus, beginning with the establishment of the Administration for Children’s Services, the first child protection agency in New York City history that reported directly to the Mayor. We promoted adoptions by forging partnerships with faith-based organizations such as “One Church, One Child” and promoting innovative initiatives like “Adoption Saturdays,” when family courts focused entirely on matching children with stable, loving homes. As a result, we increased adoptions 133% compared to the eight years before I took office, while the foster child population fell by more than 40% — providing more than 27,000 children with a foundation for a fulfilling life.
We can move America in the same direction by streamlining the adoption process, making the adoption tax credit permanent and partnering with faith-based organizations, such as crisis pregnancy centers that give women the information they need to make informed decisions. That’s a more hopeful America that’s moving in the right direction.
Protecting children’s quality of life extends to our streets, our schools and increasingly the Internet. Children are more likely to suffer violent crime and sexual abuse than any other group of Americans. The facts are sickening and stark: 29% of rape victims are under 11 years old and as many as 300,000 children in our country are exploited through prostitution and child pornography.
I was Ronald Reagan’s Associate Attorney General when the Missing Children Act passed in 1982. As President, I would ensure the full implementation of the Adam Walsh Act of 2006, which advances federal, state and local authorities’ efforts to protect children from sex and violence by tracking predators over the Internet and ensuring they serve their full sentences. We need to enforce the “two-strikes” provision against child molesters that has been in place since 1996 and aggressively pursue Internet predators with the new authorities granted to the U.S. Marshal Service. Finally, I will direct the State Department to work with Interpol in a coordinated effort to combat international child pornography and child prostitution. No child should be subject to exploitation.
Finally, we need to reduce the supply of and the demand for illegal drugs to protect our children, families and communities. I’ve worked on the front lines of our anti-drug initiative since serving as Chief of the Narcotics Unit in the US Attorney’s Office in New York City at age 29. I’ve seen neighborhoods destroyed by drugs and crime — when I became Mayor, over 70% of people arrested in New York tested positive for drugs. We successfully turned back the tide of the crack epidemic, but newer drugs like Crystal Meth are destroying young lives and tearing apart communities across our country. We need to support the DEA, while increasing the coordination of federal, state and local authorities’ efforts to bring drug traffickers to justice. We need to restore funding for drug prevention and treatment as well. We need to improve anti-drug education and increase school drug testing as a requirement for extra-curricular activities, giving students a compelling reason to say “no” to drugs while identifying those who need help.
Our nation has been divided by culture wars in the past. But we must always remember that there is far more that unites us than divides us. Americans are united in our determination to protect the innocence of our children and the world of opportunity open to them. With the right leadership, I know America can find new common ground, protecting the quality of life in our communities by promoting a culture of personal responsibility.