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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 1, 2001

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Teach for America Gala


Thank you, Wendy and thank you for your extraordinary effort and persistence.

Thanks to your vision one million children have benefited from Teach for America teachers.

Dr. Kissinger
Sir Howard Stringer
Mr. Kenny
Roland and Lois Betts

Teachers — and future teachers — honorees, and guests...thank you for being here tonight, and thanks for caring deeply about the children of America.

For more than a decade, Teach for America has made a real impact on the lives and education of America’s students.

Children need our love and support; they need devoted teachers and strong role models.

One of my priorities is to support organizations that have the same goal I have, and that is to encourage people to choose teaching as a career.

I can’t think of a better cause than bringing more excellent teachers into America’s schools to give our children a good education.

Children are not only eager to learn; they are also eager to please. President Bush and I love getting letters from children, because they contain innocent wisdom, support and advice. Their words are a powerful reminder that they have as much hope and high expectations of their teachers as we do.

Recently a young man named Austin sent my husband a letter. He wrote:

"Dear Mister President Bush, This is an honor writing to you! I have brown eyes and hair. My favorite subject is math. My teacher is Mrs. Broff. She is my teacher for one year but friend for life."

Simple words with great meaning. Austin shows how important the bond between a student and teacher is. Teachers do much more than teach. They mentor, support, entertain...and they befriend.

Teaching is always challenging and sometimes thankless. But even small rewards are greater than in any other profession I know.

I’ll never forget a story I heard from John Erickson, the award-winning author who writes the "Hank the Cowdog" children’s books. He credits his 12th grade English teacher, Annie Love, for inspiring his writing abilities.

One of her assignments changed his life. It was to write a poem.

John said, "I'd never written one before, but I found it was easy for me. So instead of writing one poem, I wrote five. She told me that they were beautiful and to write some more.

"So I started writing poems for her at night instead of doing my chemistry, math and other homework. By the end of the semester I'd made a book out of them. I made the wooden book binding in my wood shop, and I gave it to her at the end of the year. I guess you could say it was my first book."

John kept in touch with his teacher through college, and he often asked her to read his books before they were published. In fact, you will find her name in one of his books, which he dedicated to her.

To say that a teacher has a profound impact on a student’s life is only half of the story, because students have just as much of an impact on their teachers. A TFA Corps member named Michelle Culver who works in Compton, California, said,

"Every morning when I get out of my car, students will run up to me — children I don’t even know, in other classes — and they’ll ask, "Ms. Culver, can I help you carry anything?"

She said, "The children want to support you. They want you to lead them in this vision, in this belief that every student can and will succeed."

Michelle described the moments that make her experience as a teacher memorable.

She said, "It is the stance of defiance that later melts into a hug. It is the spark of understanding that replaces the lines of frustration. It is the brilliant colors of my students’ paintings drying outside the classroom juxtaposed against the urban browns and grays. As I work to inspire, I am inspired."

Teach For America succeeds because of people like Michelle and the Corps members here tonight. And Teach For America can continue to succeed and expand its good work with your help. Teach for America has a goal of tripling the number of new teachers in the corps project, and I appreciate your support in helping reach that goal.

Finally, congratulations to the outstanding Teach for America Corps members and to Sir Howard Stringer on your day of recognition. You deserve our praise and I want to thank everyone here for your generosity and caring about the children of our nation and for making a difference in their future.

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