The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, in a meeting last night with three dozen parents, educators and religious leaders at Montgomery Village Junior High School, called for a counterrevolution to what he called "the epidemic" of drug and alcohol abuse among young persons.
"In my mind, it's a kind of social warfare," Jackson said. "The government has to deal with the supply-side issues; parents and educators and ministers have got to deal with the demand side."
Jackson sketched out a two-part strategy, including a celebrity "media blitz" to balance what he called "the glorification" of drugs in movies and on radio, and a parent-education campaign.
"For the first time, we need to be the researchers of our children, rather than waiting for some government study. We need a one-page survey . . . a standardized form to list their attitudes about sex and drugs and politics," Jackson told the group.
Jackson appeared before a student assembly at Montgomery Village last Thursday as part of a series of regional appearances in which he invited students who have used drugs to come forward.
About 60 of the 900 students in the audience responded. When he made the same call for students who used alcohol or tobacco, about two-thirds left their seats.
Last night's meeting was the first follow-up to such appearances, and Jackson promised to return once the questionnaire has been formulated and passed out to teachers and parents.
"I'm not kidding about teachers," he said. "Kids are very smart . . . and they say that somebody who's on [drugs] doesn't have the moral authority" to chastise them.
Jackson suggested that popular entertainment figures and athletes such as Stevie Wonder and Julius Erving should be recruited to advertise against drug use.
"Anybody who can draw 50,000 to a stadium at $30 a ticket has a whole lot of influence," he said. "They have to be recruited as 'impact educators.' "
Jackson compared such a campaign to the efforts by rock musicians in the United States and Britain to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia.
"Next to starvation in Africa, we may not have a more profound challenge" than drug abuse, Jackson said.
Jackson also emphasized the ecumenical quality of this campaign.
"Thou shalt not steal: Does that offend anyone's religion?" he asked.
"Children age 10 shall not drink liquor. Children should not shoot heroin: Does that offend anyone's dogma?
"It's not a question of whose God is gonna save them, or whose sermon or whose song or whose religion or whose race, because this is a curse."