And so I'm going to keep on pushing for those things that position us to be the most competitive, the most productive nation on Earth in the 21st century. And I think on that front we have been very successful. (Applause.)
All right. Let me see. This gentleman right here in the blue shirt.
Q Mr. President, good to meet you. My name is Steve. I'm a doctoral student here.
THE PRESIDENT: What are you studying?
Q Political rhetoric.
THE PRESIDENT: Uh-oh. (Laughter.) How am I doing so far?
Q Pretty good. Pretty good.
THE PRESIDENT: I feel like I'm getting graded up there. (Laughter.) Go ahead.
Q All right. Much sacrifice is being asked of our generation. So when are our economic perspectives going to be addressed? For example, when is the war on drugs and society going to be abandoned and replaced by a more sophisticated and cost-effective program of rehabilitation such as the one in Portugal? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I have stated repeatedly, and it's actually reflected in our most recent statement by our Office of Drug Policy, that we need to have an approach that emphasizes prevention, treatment, a public health model for reducing drug use in our country. We've got to put more resources into that. We can't simply focus on interdiction because, frankly, no matter how good of a job we're doing, when it comes to an interdiction approach, if there is high demand in this country for drugs, we are going to continue to see not only drug use but also the violence associated with the drug trade.
This has obviously become extremely severe for Mexico, and we are working now with the Mexican government, in part to help them deal with these transnational drug dealers, but one of the things that I've said to President Calderón is we understand that we have an obligation here in this country to reduce demand and the only way that you reduce demand is through treatment and prevention.
And there are a lot of communities around the country where if you are -- if you have a serious drug problem and you decide, I'm going to kick the habit, and you seek out treatment -- assuming you're not wealthy, because it may not be covered even if you have health insurance -- but particularly if you're poor, you may have a 90-day wait before you can even get into a program. Well, obviously if you're trying to kick a habit, waiting 90 days to get help is a problem.
So I agree with you that we have to make sure that our balance in our approach is also focused on treatment, prevention. And part of our challenge is also getting into schools early and making sure that young people recognize the perils of drug use.
Now, am I -- just to make sure that I'm actually answering your question, am I willing to pursue a decriminalization strategy as an approach? No. But I am willing to make sure that we're putting more resources on the treatment and prevention side. (Applause.)
Okay? All right -- right here, right in the front.
Q Hi. My name is Mary Wagner. I teach government at Blake High School in Montgomery County.
THE PRESIDENT: Great.
Q And one of the things that we teach our students when we're teaching them about this governmental system that we have is how important it is in a two-party system to compromise. And my students watched the Republican leadership after the last election saying things out loud like, we're not going to compromise with the Democrats. And does that mean -- are things changing? Do we not use compromise anymore? And what should I teach my students about how our government works if people are saying out loud, we're not going to compromise with the other party? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I think you should keep on teaching your students to compromise, because that's not just how government works; that's how life works. How many people here are married? (Laughter.) For those of you who are not but intend to get married, let me just tell you -- (laughter) -- you better get used to compromise.
All of us have particular views, a particular vision, in terms of where we think things should go. But we live in societies, we live in communities. And that means we never get our way a hundred percent of the time. That's what we teach our kids. That's what we teach our students. That's how government has to work.
And there's this notion -- I was actually reading an article on the way over here, and the basic notion was that, well, Obama is responsible, but he doesn't fight enough for how he believes, and the Republicans are irresponsible but all full of conviction. So this was sort of the way the article was posed. And this notion that somehow if you're responsible and you compromise, that somehow you're giving up your convictions -- that's absolutely not true. (Applause.)
'The United States of America does not run out without paying the tab'
Remarks of President Barack Obama at the University of Maryland
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