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Federal File: Pep Talk

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Reiterating a key theme in his State of the Union Address, President Clinton last week exhorted children at Washington, D.C.'s Kramer Junior High School to take responsibility for themselves.

"No matter what I do, I can't live your life for you,'' President Clinton said. "You've got to decide what happens to you.''

The nation can set a goal of making its schools safe and drug-free, but students will have a large role in determining whether it is attained, the President said.

Likewise, Mr. Clinton asserted, children can help the nation's efforts to fight crime by simply deciding not to join street gangs and, instead, investing their energy in "positive gangs'' such as sports teams.

Asked by one girl what children can do to help restore the family, the President urged her to "make up your mind that you are not going to have a baby until you are old enough to take care of it and you are married.''

Boys, he said, should talk about the responsibilities involved with fatherhood.

The branch of the Secret Service that guards the President "adopted'' Kramer last December as their Christmas present to Mr. Clinton, and plans to establish a mentoring program there.

The President had canceled an earlier visit to the school, which is located in poverty-plagued Anacostia, because of laryngitis.

Mr. Clinton boasted at Kramer that he has spent more time in schools "than any person ever elected President.''

Experts on the Presidency say that Woodrow Wilson, a college professor and president for much of his working life, almost certainly spent the most time in classrooms.

But if you rule out higher education and count the schools he visited as the Governor of Arkansas, Mr. Clinton might have a point.

It is fairly safe to rule out those who had to get around without cars, noted Allan J. Lichtman, a professor of history at the American University in Washington, as well as those who did not serve full terms.

Franklin D. Roosevelt spent 12 years as President and four years as Governor of New York, but his movement was limited by polio.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, a military officer, and Harry S. Truman, a businessman, probably had little call to visit schools.

That leaves as more likely candidates Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George Bush, and Ronald Reagan.

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