Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS



First Lady, President Speak About Afghan Educational Aid

Aired March 20, 2002 - 13:49   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: From Alexandria, Virginia, the first lady now with the honors today to introduce her husband. We will take you there now live.


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: ... and they feel the shame of being different from their more fortunate classmates who do have uniforms to wear to school. When you give a child a uniform, you're giving her family another incentive to send her to school.

These uniforms are gifts that represent one less financial burden for families. The goal is to make uniforms for more than 3 million girls and boys. By sewing these uniforms, Afghan seamstresses, many of them widows, will be providing for their families -- some for the first time in years.

These women are contributing to the reorganization of Afghan schools that are rebuilding, literally, from the ground up. Every stitch contributes to the great patchwork of support and stabilization for the people of Afghanistan.

An Afghan women I met named Forita (ph) said that when she was a child living in a refugee camp in Pakistan, she and her five sisters received uniforms through a relief organization. She said, "We were so joyous and so happy to receive the clothes. We wore one dress for four to five years. We didn't feel like we were poor. We felt like we were seen in an equal light, and we knew that our family would not have to worry about paying for our uniforms."

She thanked me for helping support this back-to-school project, and I'm very proud to share her thanks with Vital Voices, who organized this project at Sima's request and solicited all the partners.

This is a global partnership that has truly been a vital voice for Afghan women and children. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, for the Labor Department's job creation role in this project. Liz Claiborne for providing a half a million yards of fabric gathered throughout Asia.

Springs Industries for providing fabric. L.L. Bean, Inc., for providing shoes, jackets and blankets. Bass & Co., New Balance, Sabago and Timberland for providing shoes. Sara Lee Corp. for providing socks. General Motors and Wal-Mart for their financial support. And J.R. United of Miami for providing sewing machines and fabrics through their commercial partners in Pakistan.

Will the representatives from these organizations please stand so we can recognize you?


Thank you all very much.

These people are giving children thousands of miles away something greater than uniforms. They're giving them hope for a brighter day and hope for a better life.

Students, I want to thank you for contributing to a project that has only just begun. You're part of an ongoing effort that deserves our support. There's still much left to do, and Americans will be watching as the back-to-school project for Afghan girls continues to help women and children throughout the year.

When we educate children, we give them the ability to imagine a future of opportunity, equality and justice. Education is the single most important long-term investment we can make in the future of any nation.

In his State of the Union address to the United States Congress, President Bush said, "All fathers and mothers, in all societies, want their children to be educated and to live free from poverty and violence. No nation owns these aspirations and no nation is exempt from them."

When President Bush speaks of education, he speaks passionately from his heart.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm proud to introduce my husband, President George W. Bush.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 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 accomplish 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 going to go to college? Can you raise your hands if you're thinking about going to college? Boy, that's great. Guess what?


That means you've set an important goal. That's what that means. You've set a good, important goal. Also means you better learn how to read. So by reading all those books, 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, 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. I want to 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.


Our secretary of labor, Elaine Chao.

Good to see you again, Elaine.


You probably know this already, I don't need to tell you this, but each state has got two United States senators. And you're the state of Virginia, and 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 have come today to show their support for this important project. And here they are, Senator John Warner, Senator George Allen.


Thank you all for coming.

And from Miami, Florida, there is a congresswoman here. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is here as well.

Ileana, thank you for coming.


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 is 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 your efforts.

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 (ph).

Olivia (ph), would you please stand up over here?


Olivia (ph) is from Southlake, Texas, and she's got a unique talent. At the age of 12 years old she is a really good artist. And so you know what Olivia (ph) did? She painted a lot of pictures and sold them and thus far has raised $33,000 for the fund to have Afghan children. But you know what? She's only 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 (ph), very much for being here.


I want to thank Haron Amin for being here as well, the Afghan charge d'affaires. Thank you very much for coming, sir.


And Madam President, fine job.


There will be a Madam President one of these days, and if you keep talking the way you talked, you may be her.


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. They're people who want to hurt us. And I want to assure you that we will 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. And 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 and 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 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? I mean, heck, most of you all 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. And it's 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 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, 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; 1,000 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 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. And 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.


HEMMER: The first couple today doing the honors there, in Alexandria, Virginia, at an elementary school, Samuel W. Tucker School, in Alexandria. The Afghan School Aid Package was the purpose for this visit, with the Bushes here now, off to Mexico.




Back to the top