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Vice President George Bush told parents and students today...

By BILL WOOD

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. -- Vice President George Bush told parents and students today at a drug rehabilitation program that happiness lies in faith and family, not drug addiction.

Bush and his wife visited the drug rehabilitation center, Straight, during a two-day swing through Florida.

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'This is probably as impressive a 20-30 minutes Barbara and I have had in our lives. I don't see how there could be a dry eye in the house,' Bush said.

Bush praised the young people at the center and said education is the only way to control the drug problem in the country.

'Education will help them understand there is no happiness in drug addiction. Happiness lies in faith and family,' Bush said.

The Bushes later attended a fund-raising luncheon near Clearwater before flying to Palm Beach.

Earlier, Bush defended his actions with a Contra supporter seeking U.S. aid.

Bush said Monday that his referral of a Guatemala doctor to Lt. Col. Oliver North of the National Security Council was a routine action.

But Bush conceded future responses should be sent to the NSC chief rather than to an aide such as North.

'I answer my mail and I referred him to the NSC, which I should do,' Bush said. 'Frankly, I didn't even read the letter. It was all in Spanish and I don't read Spanish.'

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Bush's March 3, 1985, letter to Dr. Mario Castejon surfaced Sunday in a Miami Herald report suggesting the correspondence showed Bush knew more about the U.S. arms sales to Iran and the diversion of profits to Nicaraguan rebels than previously disclosed. Bush told Castejon that North 'would be most happy to see you' and discuss aid for the Contras.

The furor was a 'non-story,' Bush said, unless the public is interested in day-to-day administrative matters. 'It's just smoke.'

Bush is visiting Florida for a series of fund-raising events in Melbourne, Orlando, Clearwater and Palm Beach. The visit continues with a mid-day visit to Straight, a non-profit drug-treatment center near St. Petersburg.

'I've never felt stronger politically in my life,' Bush said in Orlando. 'It's hard to tell, but I just can't accept the tarnished image thing.'

Bush, estimating his run for president will cost at least $16 million before the GOP convention in New Orleans, said his supporters have been able to raise money without much difficulty.

The vice president began his visit in Melbourne, saying covert operations are an essential ingredient in national security and said the country had 'legitimate secrets that must be kept.'

Bush also stressed the importance of the proposed Strategic Defense Initiative -- 'Star Wars' -- and the need for a robust civilian space program where a permanently manned space station would play a major role.

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