Announces Partnership to Help Afghan Children Prepare for School
Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School
March 20, 2002
1:54 P.M. EST
Thank you, Laura, for that warm introduction. I appreciate what a fine job she's
doing as the First Lady. She's a pretty calm voice in a time -- in turbulent
times for our country. And I'm lucky to be married to her.
I want to thank all the Tucker Tigers for letting me come by to say, hello.
Gosh, it's good to see you all. I want to thank the fact that you understand
that you can make a big difference in somebody's life, that you can help a boy
and girl who needs help. And you've done a darn good job. I understand you raised
$2,500. That's a lot of money to raise. But you did it by reading books.
So you accomplished two things: one, you helped somebody in Afghanistan who
needs your help; and secondly, you practiced reading, which is one of the most
important things you can do. I hope you read more than you watch TV. That's
really important. How many of you are going to go to college? Can you raise
your hands if you're thinking about going to college? Boy, that's great. (Applause.)
Guess what? That means you've set an important goal. That's what that means,
you've set a good, important goal. It also means you'd better learn how to read.
So by reading all those books, it's really a good step toward meeting your goal.
So thanks for letting us come. I also want to thank your teachers. Thank you
all for being teachers. Teaching is a noble profession and an incredibly important
job. So make sure you listen to your teachers. They care about you a lot, and
they want you to meet your goal, and they want you to learn how to read. And
Laura and I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for taking on this
important, vital profession.
I want to thank the principal, as well, and thank the Superintendent of schools.
I want to thank you all. Gosh, it's such a pleasure to come. I'm accompanied
by some people who I admire a lot. Our Secretary of Education, Rod Paige has
come with us today. Rod, thank you for being here. (Applause.) Our Secretary
of Labor, Elaine Chau. Good to see you again, Elaine. (Applause.)
You probably know this already, I don't need to tell you this, but each state
has got two United States senators. And here in the state of Virginia, you've
got two senators that represent your state at the Capitol. And you've got two
really fine United States senators, both of whom have come today to say hello
to us. And both of them have come today to show their support for this important
project. And here they are: Senator John Warner, Senator George Allen. (Applause.)
Thank you all for coming. And from Miami, Florida, there's a Congresswoman here,
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is here, as well. Ileana, thank you for coming. (Applause.)
I want to thank Harold Decker and all those who work for the Red Cross for participating
in this important project. I want to thank all of you who helped on the uniform
project, as well. You know, I oftentimes talk about the need to be a responsible
society. In order to have a responsible society, there's such a thing as corporate
responsibility. So it warmed our hearts to know that many of you in corporate
America heard the call to help. And thank you so much for coming. I appreciate
Today, as well, we're joined by a special young lady from Texas. That's where
Laura and I are from. She flew up here for a reason, and it's because I wanted
to single her out as someone who has done a little extra -- not a little extra;
a lot extra -- for the fund to help Afghan boys and girls. Her name is Olivia
Bennett. Olivia, would you please stand up over here? (Applause.) Olivia is
from South Lake, Texas, and she's got a unique talent. At the age of 12 years
old, she is a really good artist. And you know what Olivia did? She painted
a lot of pictures, and sold them, and thus far has raised $33,000 for the fund
to help Afghan children. But you know what? She's only a third of the way toward
her goal. She told me she is going to raise $100,000. And that is so wonderful.
Thank you, Olivia, very much for being here. (Applause.)
I want to thank Haroun Amin for being here, as well, the Afghan Charge d'affaire.
Thank you so much for coming, sir. (Applause.) And, Madam President, fine job.
There will be a Madam President one of these days, and if you keep talking the
way you talk, you may be her. (Laughter and applause.) Very good job.
I know you all know that we're fighting a war. We're fighting against people
who really don't like freedom, people who want to hurt us. And I want to assure
you that we'll do everything we can to make sure they don't. We'll do everything
we can. But we're fighting for more than just a war; we're fighting to help
people, too. We want the world not only to be peaceful, we want the world to
be a better place. We want boys and girls to grow up in a world that is free,
and where they can go to school.
And we're making some good progress. I want to tell you all that we've helped
people get food. A lot of times on TV, all you see is about the bombs. But we've
prevented mass starvation because we've moved a lot of food into the region.
We're helping build roads. We're helping build schools. We're helping make sure
boys and girls or others have got health care and health clinics. And we're
also doing a lot to help children get a good education.
Laura talked a lot about education, and she's right -- if you're educated, you've
got a much better chance to have a hopeful future and a happy future. And that's
what we want. We want that for every boy and girl, whether they live in America
or anywhere else in the world.
And the amazing thing about this -- and a lot of Americans have trouble understanding
this -- that for the first time young girls are going to be going to school
in Afghanistan. See, that's hard for us to believe, isn't it? Most of you, after
summer, dread going back to school. Not all of you -- some of you. But there
are boys and girls -- there's girls in Afghanistan who dream about getting to
go at all. And as a result of what our country and many of our friends have
done, girls get to go to school, too. Starting this week.
And when they go to school, we want to make sure they've got supplies. We want
to make sure they've got tablets to write on and crayolas to color with, and
even jump ropes to jump with. And so one of the things that's happened is we've
put a coalition -- that means a group of people together to send textbooks to
Afghanistan. We've sent 4 million textbooks thus far, and there's another 6
million to go in Afghanistan, so the boys and girls will have something to read.
And as you heard earlier, we're putting basic school supply kits together, so
that 120,000 Afghan children will have some school supplies by June. And they're
called school chests, and today I had a chance to see some of your classmates
putting the chests together. Matter of fact, I got to load a couple of notebooks
myself. Forty notebooks per chest -- that's a lot of notebooks. But that's how
many children there are in a class.
And there's a lot of other things in there, as well. There's pencils, and rulers;
as I mentioned, crayons, jump ropes, a soccer ball, so the kids can play soccer,
get a little exercise while you're doing your studies. And so far, I just want
you all to know -- it's kind of a report here -- that 1,000 of these kits have
been put together, a thousand chests have been assembled.
But that's not enough. We need 2,000 more chests. And so I'm asking our fellow
Americans to rally for this good cause; to donate and participate in the creation
of 2,000 more school supply chests to go to Afghanistan. And if you want to
help, contact your local Red Cross chapter.
You know, I'm asked all the time, what can I do to help in the war against terror?
You can help by helping build one of these school chests. It doesn't matter
how you do it, how you raise the money. Just get it done.
And the good news is we're a can-do country. We're a country who responds in
a compassionate way. There's no doubt in my mind, Harold, that the American
people will respond. And when they do, Laura and I will thank them from the
bottom of my heart
-- our hearts.
But there's a lot to do. And so for those of you out in America who wonder what
you can do to help, call the Red Cross office. And they will give you an assignment,
and when you fulfill the assignment you'll know you're making a huge difference,
a significant difference in the life of a boy or a girl in Afghanistan.
Our dream is a world that's peaceful, and our dream is a world that is hopeful.
And the best way to make sure the world is hopeful is to help people get a good
education. And that's what we're here today to honor.
I want to thank you all for helping somebody. I want to thank you all for understanding
that when you help somebody it really helps your own life; that when you help
somebody in need, that it makes you a better person. I hope that's a lesson
you keep with you for a long time.
Thanks for letting us come by to say, hello. God bless you all. (Applause.)