at Launch of Friendship Through Education
Thurgood Marshall Extended Elementary School
October 25, 2001
11:12 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Americans believe in patriotism. We
don't believe in prejudice. We're determined to fight terror. That's what we're
going to do. And we're equally determined to build ties of trust and friendship
with people all around the world -- particularly with children and people in
the Islamic world.
As you all know, our nation is at war right now. We're going to defend America
and defend the values that we all hold dear. And our nation is united in the
defense of our country. We are not at war with Muslims. We don't have a beef
with Muslims. We want to be friends with Muslims and Muslim children.
We're fighting evil people. It's important for the boys and girls of Thurgood
Marshall to know that we're fighting evil with good. And one way to fight evil
with good is, you can help by writing letters to boys and girls your age. You
can let boys and girls know what you think are important. You can let boys and
girls know what your dreams are, and ask them about theirs, too.
I want to thank very much the Secretary of Education for being here with me.
He's a fellow Texan who is doing a great job of running the Education Department.
He helps herald our number one domestic agenda item, and that is, making sure
every boy and girl in America gets a good education.
And he's right. We hope Congress gets the business done and gets us a good education
bill. They're close; all they've got to do is work a little harder to get us
a bill, one that I can sign. I'm confident they will do so with a little extra
I want to thank very much the principal of this fine school. Ms. Wilson, thank
you so much for your hospitality. And I want to thank all the teachers who are
here, as well. It's really important for all of us to thank our teachers. And
I wish the First Lady were here with me, because she could thank you, too. One
of the things she's trying to do is go around the country reminding people what
a noble profession teaching is, and we need more people to become teachers.
But thank you all for being such good role models for your children here. (Applause.)
I want to thank Paul Vance, as well. Gosh, it seems like I see Paul every other
week. I appreciate your hard work. I want to thank the boys and girls of this
school for letting me come by to say, hello. It's been my honor to be able to
come to Thurgood Marshall, and to see all the future leaders of the country.
I guess I don't need to ask; I'm sure all of you are going to be going to college,
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that's good. I hope you read more than you watch TV, too.
It's really important to be a good reader. But thanks for letting me come by.
We're here talking about how we can best conduct a war against evil. And you
can play a part. You can be an integral part of that, by establishing friendship.
And I want to thank some of the adults who have helped set up programs that
enable boys and girls all across America to reach out to boys and girls all
across the world.
And one such person is Mary Eisenhower, who is the Chief Executive Officer of
a program called People to People. Thank you very much, Mary, for being here.
(Applause.) She had a relative named Eisenhower, and he and I share something
in common -- we're both Presidents. And I appreciate you, Mary, for working
And I also want to thank Ed Gragert, as well, the Executive Director of iEARN.
IEARN is the umbrella organization that's encouraging organizations to help
fund and organize the effort for our school children to reach out to children,
particularly in the Muslim world. Thank you for coming, as well, Ed.
And we've got Issa Al-Nashit from the country of Bahrain. Issa, thank you for
coming so much. The reason he is here is that he represents a country to which
you're sending letters. We were in the 4th grade class, and we had four letters
read by 4th graders to 4th graders in Bahrain. And it's part of our effort to
outreach to boys and girls all across the world. So I want to thank you for
I'm looking forward to meeting with the Crown Prince of Bahrain this afternoon.
It is a perfect opportunity for me to remind him that, one, we appreciate the
alliances we're forming around the world, with Muslim nations and non-Muslim
nations. And we also remind him that we've all got to work hard to make sure
we establish trust at the most basic level, and that's people-to-people.
And so today I'm here to announce a new initiative, called, Friendship Through
Education. And we're going to ask schools all across the country to join with
schools in other countries to spread the message that we care for each other,
that we want to understand each other better.
I think the best way to attack -- to handle the attacks of September the 11th
is to fight fear with friendship; is to fight fear with hope; is to remind people
all around the world we have much more in common than people might think; that
we share basic values -- the importance of family, and the importance of faith,
and the importance of friendship.
And, do you know something? Boys and girls all across America can do that job
pretty darn well. And so I'm asking schools all across the country to join up.
And I want to thank you for actively recruiting schools. We've got St. Patrick
Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia, is helping. Mott Hall School in New
York City has joined up, as has, of course, Thurgood Marshall here in Washington,
The students here and students all across our country witnessed a terrible tragedy.
It is a terrible moment in our country, and it's got to have affected a lot
of our students in a way where they ask the question, why would this have happened
to America? Why would somebody do this to our country? And I want to assure
the boys and girls, these attacks didn't come from a nation or a religion. These
attacks are from some people who just are so evil it's hard for me to describe
why. It's hard for us to comprehend why somebody would think the way they think,
and devalue life they way they devalue, and to harm innocent people the way
they harmed innocent people. It's just hard for all of us adults to explain.
But what we can do is we can find common ground with others who wonder about
America. We can prove them wrong by acting in a way that's good. We can show
the world what a great, compassionate and decent nation America is. I can do
that through diplomacy. I can do that through our actions, through the alliances
we form. But children all across America can do it, as well -- can do it through
letters and e-mails and pictures and drawings, and reaching out to boys and
I thought it was really interesting, the letters that I heard today. Every letter
said: Would you write me back? Would you share with me your experiences so I
can understand you better? And that's exactly the spirit of the program and
the initiative we're announcing, and it makes a lot of sense.
It is very important for us to combat evil with understanding. It's very important
for us re-enforce our message in all ways possible to the people in the Islamic
world that we don't hold you accountable for what took place. As a matter of
fact, we want to be friends. The average citizen in America harbors no ill will
toward you. As a matter of fact, the average citizen in America would like to
do everything we can to explain what our country is about, to explain what our
future is about. And this is a great way to do this, in my judgment.
And so, we're going to work hard to encourage other schools, other principals
to sign up, other boys and girls to write letters. And one way that people who
are interested in participating can do, they can call up on a website to find
out how to participate. And I'd like to give the address of the website: It
is www.friendshipthrougheducation.org. It is www.friendshipthrougheducation.org.
And that's a way for other principals and parents and concerned citizens to
participate in this outreach.
Rod Paige mentioned the fact that we've got a -- we've asked boys and girls
all across America to contribute a dollar to help feed and provide medicine
for Afghan children who are suffering. The response has been great, and I can't
thank the boys and girls of America enough. That's one initiative. The initiative
we're announcing today is a second initiative, all to send a message about the
goodness and decency of our great country.
I want the boys and girls to know that the action that we're taking in our government
is all aimed to make sure that you can grow up in a free country. The military
action, the diplomatic action, the intelligence-gathering, what you read and
hear on the TV and newspapers has got one goal, and that's to make sure you
can live in freedom in our great land.
And so thank you for giving me a chance to come by to thank you for your hard
work. May God bless you all, and may God bless America.