“Drug Free Marshals” Day
Tenth Anniversary Kicked Off
Badged with Marshal stars, pen and pledge in hand, these youth have their sights set on a drug-free future for themselves and their peers
An international drug prevention youth movement, which got its start here in Los Angeles in 1993, began its 10th anniversary celebration with a flourish. As the calendar turned to 2003, so did a major page in the Drug-Free Marshals’ history, with estimates of more than three million youth having signed the group’s pledge to live a drug-free life.
Since the Drug-Free Marshals showed up in town a decade ago, more than three million youth have signed the drug-free pledge.
Focusing on youth between the ages of 8 to 14, the Drug-Free Marshal program provides events and publications that inform children and teens of drugs and their harm, but also elicits from each a pledge to be — and stay — drug-free for life.
The pledge is a staple for the Drug-Free Marshals, an offshoot of the Church of Scientology’s “Lead the Way to a Drug-Free USA” anti-drug campaign. It emerged a decade ago, when the nation’s “war on drugs” was shifting to a heavier emphasis on prevention and education programs.
Once new Marshals sign on, each is given a Drug-Free Marshals badge to signify their status as role models for their peers. They start the program by writing essays or creating artwork that show how to make their neighborhoods drug-free.
“People see the Drug-Free Marshals and recognize that it’s cool to not take drugs,” said one of the founding Drug-Free Marshals, Chris Kamar, now 20.
The Day the Marshals “Come to Town”
That commission began on Saturday, April 3, 1993, in the Garden Pavilion at the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre in Hollywood. There more than 200 pre-teens were welcomed by actor John Travolta, actress Anne Archer, FBI Special Agent Brent Braun, Los Angeles County Marshal Captain Steve Day and others. As well, a sheaf of congratulations and good wishes came to these founding Marshals from City Hall, the halls of Congress and the Nancy Reagan Foundation, just to name a few.
At that opening event, each youth signed their name to the newly drafted pledge to live a drug-free life, after which Messrs. Travolta and Day swore them in as the world’s first Drug-Free Marshals.
“I am very proud of you for taking this oath, and you should be very proud of it, too,” wrote former First Lady Nancy Reagan in her message to these founding Marshals. “Everyone is counting on you to help other people say NO, and I have always said that there is no better way to stop this menace than for drug-free youths to serve as role models to friends, peers and family members. We are counting on you, and I know you can do it!”
The word — and their efforts — quickly spread. With the Clinton administration in need of young guns to provide peer pressure in the “war on drugs,” the Drug-Free Marshals’ focus on both drug education and prevention met with instant agreement. Within weeks of the inaugural LA event, more than 100 youth in the nation’s capital were sworn in — this time by the then-U.S. Drug Czar Lee Brown and members of the U.S. Marshals Service.
By year’s end Brown was joined by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and Partnership for a Drug-Free America Chairman James E. Burke in welcoming the Marshals to participate in the National Forum on Substance Abuse. Jim Copple, national director for the sponsoring Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, presented this perspective of the import — and impact — of the Drug-Free Marshals’ mission: “The substance abuse coalitions were formed as Americans across the nation began to mobilize at the grassroots level to reclaim their communities from drugs. Drug-Free Marshals is an example of the impact these groups can have on a local drug problem.”
An Impact Worthy of Celebration
The impact of the Drug-Free Marshals campaign was most vividly described by spokesman Luis Gonzales, Hispanic Affairs Coordinator for Lead the Way to a Drug Free LA and a Drug-Free Marshals supporter since day one.
“Picture, as the pioneer Drug-Free Marshals did, a scene in a corrupted old West town in which a new Marshal gains legions of moral supporters as he walks down Main Street ‘clearing out the vermin,’” Gonzales told Freedom. “Such has been the accomplishment of the Drug-Free Marshals on the modern-day streets, where until the pledge came along, the peer pressure to try drugs was far greater than the ‘Say NO’ forces. A key weapon is one-on-one drug education, and that is the hallmark of our Drug-Free Marshal program.”
Since the Church of Scientology International has taken its anti-drug campaigns worldwide, programs such as the Drug-Free Marshals have reached 330 million people in 150 countries, Gonzales reports. More than 80,000 posters and billboards, nearly 6 million drug education booklets, 12.5 million educational fliers and 30,000 public information events have created a wake of public support for making communities drug-free.
In the U.S., the number of sworn-in Drug-Free Marshals climbs daily with events and activities taking place in 21 states. Since 1993, more than 3,150,000 children have been sworn in as Drug-Free Marshals in schools, cultural centers, parks, community groups and city halls.
All the while, recognition from public officials and community leaders grows.
LA County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke concurs. “I encourage you to continue reaching out to your friends with the message that ‘drugs are dangerous,’” she stated in a County proclamation. “Your positive leadership is a beacon of hope for all young people in the County.”
Carlos Moorhead, former U.S. Congressman from the greater LA area, has been a long-time Drug-Free Marshals supporter and was sworn in while in office by young Marshals 10 years ago. “Drugs ruin promising lives before they ever have a chance to begin,” he stated at the time. “You Drug-Free Marshals are going to save lives and allow your friends to appreciate this wonderful world and contribute positively to it.
“It is quite gratifying to see children coming together from all walks of life in this diverse city and enthusiastically working together to play a role in spreading the word about the scourge of drugs in our society.”
Heading for The Hill
To officially celebrate their ten years of drug-free crusading and expand it to reach millions more, Drug-Free Marshals are taking their campaign to the Nation’s Capital, Washington D.C. There Marshals from around the country will meet and perform honorary swear-ins with members of Congress from every state, capping their trip with a gala anniversary event.
A series of local events lead up to the Washington D.C. ventures. At these local activities, old-time “Head Marshals” — pioneer Drug-Free Marshals who are now in their twenties — rally their counterparts in cities nationwide to sign on new pledgers and round up their local delegates for visits to Capitol Hill.
Gonzales says the Los Angeles campaign includes new anti-drug booklets printed and distributed by the hundreds of thousands and a commemorative 10th Anniversary brochure, as well as newly designed 10th Anniversary Drug-Free Marshals t-shirts, baseball caps, posters and other items promoting the commitment to be drug-free.
For information on the Drug-Free Marshals and their Southland events and activities, call (323) 953-3225 or visit the new Drug-Free Marshals website at www.drugfreemarshals.org.