Hope Taft will focus on youths, abuse prevention programs


BY JOHN JOHNSTON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hope Taft says she'll focus much of her efforts on helping improve the lives of young people and their families when she becomes Ohio's first lady next month.

“I see (being first lady) mainly as ... a motivational platform to promote issues I feel strongly about,” such as prevention of substance abuse and positive youth development, she said in an interview Monday.

Gov.-elect Bob Taft said his wife will be doing “everything she can to continue to encourage the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to continue to expand services in the area of drug and alcohol abuse.”

He said she also will be working with schools to help them set up programs to address drugs and alcohol abuse.

Mrs. Taft has long been active in drug- and alcohol-prevention programs. She co-founded Citizens Against Substance Abuse in 1986 in Cincinnati and Ohio Parents for Drug Free Youth in 1987.

She said she can bring to her husband “a lot of knowledge, a lot of research and information about what is working in other parts of the country.”

“One of the things the state's going to be working on is reducing underage drinking. I will probably have some role in that.” She also will likely stay involved in the annual Red Ribbon Celebration, a statewide substance-abuse prevention effort.

She will serve as an unpaid volunteer in Mr. Taft's administration. The location of her office and number of staff assigned to her have not been determined, she said.

She said she also hopes to find ways to “highlight young people who are doing good things, who have beat the odds.”

Asked how much influence she'll have on her husband's public policy decisions, she said: “Not any more than I have now. Not anymore than (Mr. Taft's) staff. Not any more than the people who write in to him. Bob's a very good listener. He likes input from a lot of sources. I'll just be one of them.”

Mrs. Taft said she also hopes to get involved in helping plan Ohio's bicentennial celebration in 2003.

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