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 Home > News & Policies > April 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 6, 2001

President Bush Congratulates Winners of Horatio Alger Education Award
The East Room

3:03 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Welcome to the White House.

Wayne, thank you very much for your kind remarks. It is a real honor for me to be here to congratulate the 105 national scholars, to thank the universities who are going to match the scholarship money that you all have raised, and to thank the award recipients and congratulate you for the example you've set for America.

Before I begin, I want to say I've got a little news I'd like to report. I'm really pleased to report that the United States Senate, just moments ago, passed a budget that funds our nation's priorities and allows for over $1.2 trillion of meaningful, real tax relief for the American people. (Applause.)

The House has already passed $1.6 trillion of tax relief. Now, the House and Senate will work to find common ground between these two budget plans. And the result will be the largest tax relief in decades. The fact that both Houses of Congress have committed to provide significant relief is good for the American people, and it's good for our economy.

When the House and Senate complete their work, they will have paved the way so the American people can receive an across-the-board income tax reduction, a doubling of the child credit, relief from the marriage penalty and the elimination of the death tax. This budget also wisely increases spending on education, funds priorities like Medicare and Social Security and pays down a record amount of debt.

I applaud today's action and congratulate the Republicans and Democrats who helped make it happen. (Applause.)

And I'd like to congratulate this year's recipients. All of you have amazing stories of adversities overcome and great goals attained.

The son of a Polish immigrant who started out in his father's burlap bag business and is now the chairman and CEO of two major corporations.

A man who, in his youth, helped support his family, right here in the Washington area and then went on to become the founder of America Online.

A young woman who mortgaged the family house for money to start her business, and now runs a major construction company. A managing partner of a baseball team -- and I know how much he suffers. (Laughter.)

Two well-respected leaders from my home state of Texas. (Applause.) A successful son of a preacher, now chairman and CEO of Lanier Worldwide, Inc. One of you began work at age eight to help your mother sustain the family because of illness of your father; and he is here proudly as the chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae.

And, finally, the CEO and president of Burger King, who experienced tough times, but overcame them with dignity.

I am privileged to be here with you all. And one is not able to be here, a man I'm proud to call an ally. A fellow who, before I came, I can tell you, he voted right. (Laughter.) And that's Senator Chuck Hagel. This is an award that all of you deserve and we're sure honored to have you here in the White House.

It's also good to see Mrs. Ruth Peale here with us. Dr. and Mrs. Peale, I think you've been here several times before, and it is my honor to welcome you again.

It's fitting that all of you should gather in the people's house. This is the right place to honor the recipients of this award and perhaps a future president.

There are quite a few Horatio Alger stories among the folks who have lived here. A small Missouri farmer who never graduated from college and spent his best years working on the farm, who would eventually lead America as it became a world power: Harry S. Truman.

Or a poor boy from Iowa, orphaned at age nine, who as a man would save millions in Europe from starvation after two world wars: President Herbert Hoover.

A child of the frontier who would become a land surveyor, a store clerk, a lawyer, a legislator and one day helped to free slaves and save the Union: Abraham Lincoln.

The Horatio Alger Association is dedicated to really one of the basic truths about this country, and I hope this home remains dedicated to the same truth. In America, we believe in the possibilities of every person. It doesn't matter how you start out in life; what really matters is how you live your life. That has always been our creed. It has always given hope to those who dream of a better life. And that hope has always been the source of our nation's greatness.

At the Horatio Alger Association, you also understand how much the dream depends on education. And for that, all of us should be grateful. You promote literacy and early reading. You provide millions of dollars in scholarships based upon need and talent. You understand that the hope for a better life often begins in the classroom.

A good education can be the first real break a person gets in life. A young person might have big dreams for the future. But if he or she can't read, then the highest of hopes probably won't carry them very far.

We have a duty to every child in America to give them the best possible start in life, to make every school a place of learning and of discipline and of character. We take this responsibility seriously in our country, as we should.

But, lately, we've been falling well short of our professed goals. Just today, we learned the latest results from the National Assessment of Education Process, known as the NAEP, which measures reading skills amongst our 4th graders. Unfortunately, the test reveals no progress at all amongst children in need of help.

And it shows a further widening of the gap between the highest and lowest performing students. The highest scores are higher; the lowest scores are lower. Good students are scoring better; struggling students are struggling more. This is not acceptable.

The NAEP provides an important service. It shows us where the need is greatest amongst our students. And these results point out once again the need for a strong emphasis on early reading. The budget I submitted to Congress would accomplish this with a Reading First Program and reformed Title I programs. My budget gives the highest priority to education, with an 11.5 percent increase in overall funding. It triples the current spending on reading and early detection of children facing reading difficulties.

The House and Senate are working closely to pass a budget with this kind of focus. I applaud them for their efforts. It's important that we work together, because reading is what really turns children into students. It is the most basic of all basics. That was true in the 19th century, when Horatio Alger lived, and it's just as true for children today. His stories call to mind an era very distant from ours; and they were just stories, but they had a point and they showed young readers the way.

Such stories are still being written in America, in every town and city, every day, and in real life. Today, we recognize 10 such lives, the example they set and the promise they hold for others to follow. And it is my honor to honor them.

God bless. (Applause.)

END 3:12 P.M. EDT