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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Mrs. Bush
Mrs. Bush
First Lady

October 24, 2005

Mrs. Bush

Thanks for joining the web chat today and for your interest in Helping America's Youth. This Thursday, October 27, I will host the White House Conference on Helping America's Youth at Howard University, here in Washington, DC. I think this will be a terrific conference and will bring together educators, faith-based and community leaders, researchers, students and parents who will share stories of programs and methods that are working to make a positive difference in the lives of children.

Lauren, from Austin, TX writes:
Mrs. Bush, Who will be at the "Helping America's Youth Conference"? Is this Conference important?


Mrs. Bush
Thanks, Lauren. Educators, researchers, leaders of faith-based and community organizations, foundations, local leaders, students and parents will all attend the conference. Researchers will discuss the challenges facing young people today, and program leaders will talk about what makes their programs successful in meeting these challenges. Many of the young people I have met in the programs visited will be participating in the conference.

An important part of the conference will be a new online tool that communities can use to assess the many programs that already serve young people and to see what the community needs to enhance these programs. The tool includes maps of your own community so that law enforcement can plug in high crime areas. Communities can also use the tool to locate the services available, so that they can direct services to underserved parts of their cities.

The conference will also encourage researchers, educators and private foundations to develop ways to measure the success of their many programs, since results are key to determining what works best and makes positive differences in children’s lives.

Tamika, from Omaha,NE writes:
Hello Mrs. Bush I want to applaud your efforts with the youth. I am a youth leader in Omaha at a small church called Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. I am also a student at Grace University where I am seeking my Masters in Psychology and a minor in Youth Ministry. I would love to be a part of the youth day celebration. How do you get involved? I am only one person trying to make a differance in this drastically changeing world. However,I cannot make the impact that you and your husband can.Nevertheless,I am up for the Job.We all can make a differance in one child or youth life by just listening. Thanks for listening and I look forward to attending only by the Grace if God. We are short of funds but rich in faith. -Tamika

Mrs. Bush
Even though you may not be able to attend the Conference in Washington, DC, you can watch the Conference on the Internet. You can visit the White House website ( to get more information, so that you can hear from the panelists and the students participating on that day.

I’m encouraged to hear about what you are doing. Never underestimate the difference you can make in a child’s life. Mentoring programs are an important part of Helping America’s Youth, and you can be a positive role model as a mentor to children who need a caring adult in their lives.

Michael, from Powell, TN writes:
I heard you say on an interview one time that you are disappointed that fathers are not taking any responsibility for their children as one reason why boys are turning out wrong. You are right How would this program encourage parents to be involved?

Mrs. Bush
Thanks for your question, Michael.

Fatherhood initiatives are an important part of this conference. Both boys and girls are more successful if they have an involved father in their lives. Research shows us that boys are falling behind in many areas – fewer boys finish high school, fewer boys are going to college, fewer men are going on to graduate school, and as we all know more boys are likely to be involved in crime.

One particular story that made an impression on me is about a young man named Ken Thigpen. Having grown up without a father in his life, Ken made the commitment to make an honest living and be involved in his son’s life. I met Ken and his son in his hometown of Milwaukee last spring.

Over the past several months, I’ve met several young men who have made the choice to stay involved with their children. The conference will highlight programs that help young people avoid risky behavior (like alcohol, drugs and sexual activity) and connect them with their families, schools and communities, so that all children have the hope of a bright and promising future. An involved father can make incredible difference in the helping their children make healthy choices.

Lauren, from Dothan,Alabama writes:
Mrs. Bush, I was wondering, will you be going on the next overseas trip in November with your husband? May God Bless you

Mrs. Bush
Yes, I will be traveling with my husband to South America next month to the Summit of the Americas. Meeting people from other cultures and building relationships with them is a wonderful way to exchange ideas about the issues we care about and to learn from each other.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Dear First Lady: Do you think the youth of today do more READING than the youth's of say 10 years ago did? I don't see as many kids in the Library as I did when I was growing up. Thank You

Mrs. Bush
Thanks, Cliff. Because reading has always been important to me, I want American children to learn to read and love to read. Television and video games compete with reading time for many children.

We all know that people who can read are at a huge advantage. Reading is skill that all other skills in school depend upon. Children who can read well are more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college. One part of Helping America’s Youth is Striving Readers, a program that schools can adopt for middle and high school youth who have made it that far in school and are still poor readers.

Jordan, from Butner, NC 27509 writes:
Do you believe that one of the pressing problems with today's youth is the lack of parental involvement with our children, and if so, do you believe the government is taking on too much of a parental role in the lives of our youth today, and if so, what steps do you believe are necessary to move in the right direction?

Mrs. Bush
This is a really good question, Jordan. We all know that having involved parents makes a difference in children’s success. When children have a caring, involved adult in their lives, they are more likely to avoid risky behaviors and stay in school.

Partnerships in communities can also help young people stay on the right track. In the programs I have visited, parents, teachers, coaches, law enforcement officials, and faith-based and community organizations working together can positively impact children’s lives in their communities. For example, I visited a program in Chicago called CeaseFire, which brings together members of the community to help stop gun violence. In this Chicago neighborhood in 2003, there were 10 gang-related murders. Last year there were none. All of the community members working in this effort are helping make this positive difference.

Elizabeth, from Las Vegas, NV writes:
Dear Mrs. Bush, I am a 15 year old girl who loves to read. I was wondering if you had an recommended reading for me since the school year is just beginning. Thank you so much Sincerely,

Elizabeth P.S.-I love both you and your husband and I just wanted to thank you for being such a great role model to young women across this country.

Mrs. Bush
Thanks, Elizabeth. I would recommend reading widely. A good place to start is the Newberry Award books and the classics. Remember to go to librarians for book recommendations, since helping you find good books is a big part of their job.

I have just finished reading the fifth book of the Harry Potter series. I also like to read American history books as well, and I encourage students to read about our country’s fascinating history.

Morgan, from NewportNews Va 23608 writes:
hey this is morgan and i am 12 years old my qesution is is it hard to be a presidents wife?

Mrs. Bush
Because my husband is President, I’ve had the privilege of meeting people across our country and around the world. Because he is President, I have a forum to talk about the issues that mean so much to me – education, literacy, the rights of women and women’s health, both in our own country and around the world. Hosting people - whether it be a head of state, a teacher, a veteran or any visitor - at the White House and making them feel at home is important to me.

Mrs. Bush
Thank you so much for your questions. I enjoyed the opportunity to join you on Ask the White House.