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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
July 20, 2001

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at a Troops to Teachers Event at Aviano Air Base, Italy
As Delivered
Aviano Air BAse
Aviano, Italy

Thank you very much for that wonderful introduction Col. Gaskin.

General and Mrs. Hoffman;

Dr. Gantz;

Col. (Joseph) Gaskin;

and the fine men and women of Aviano Air Force Base, I'm honored to be here with you today.

President Bush and I thank our Italian hosts for welcoming us to this beautiful country. Italy is a close friend, ally and trading partner of the United States.

Laura Bush arrives to a Troops to Teachers meeting and rally in the Hangar One at the U.S. air base in Aviano, Italy, July 20, 2001.  White House photo by Moreen IshikawaOur nations are bound by common values and common interests. Our economic ties are strong and growing. We both have a large stake in each other's continued economic growth and prosperity. Clearly, we also have a large stake in our mutual security.

We boast a strong military alliance that protects freedom, peace and stability throughout Europe and the Trans-Atlantic region. Our close military cooperation and Italy's strategic location make it possible to respond to any threat to the security and stability of the NATO alliance.

Of course, this successful alliance would not be possible without each of you.

President Bush joins me in saying "thank you" for your service. We deeply appreciate your dedication.and the pride and honor you bring to our Armed Services.

Your participation in Joint Guardian and your leadership in Operation Northern Watch confirm the peaceful priorities of NATO - and affirm the principles of our freedom-loving America.

With every mission, you protect human life and dignity. With every sortie, you uphold NATO's promise that the rules of peace will be enforced. You secure the safe boundaries between families and the front lines.

Together, you and our allies hold diligent watch while families piece their lives back together. You stand as guardians while communities and countries work to restore a normal and peaceful way of life. And you teach the world, by your example, the great lessons of tolerance and respect; and the virtues of duty, honor and country.

These and other lessons are what bring me here today.

Men and women of the United States Armed Forces, you answered the call to serve your country in the world's finest military. And when you prepare to leave the military, whether it is one or two or 10 years down the road, we ask you to turn your attention to the home Uncle Sam's classrooms.where children need you as role models, mentors, and teachers.

I know that some of you won't even think about retirement for a number of years, but from this teacher's perspective, it's never too early to start recruiting.

America's need for more teachers is significant - and growing.

Over the next decade, schools will hire tens of thousands more teachers to keep up with our growing student population. As we confront this need.we turn to former airmen and military personnel for your help.

Troops to Teachers is a program I believe in and support.

When I announced my education initiative in February, my husband thought I was kidding when I told him I was going to call in the military...

But he supports me 100 percent. And he supports YOU 100 percent.

America's school children need you, and I am here to enlist .or rather, RE- enlist your help through the Troops to Teachers program.

Troops to Teachers will help you earn your teaching credentials, and once you are certified, Troops to Teachers will help you find jobs back home or wherever you plan to live when you leave the military.

We are looking for the best and brightest minds to send into our classrooms. We want leaders like you, who have the qualities that make excellent teachers: an ability to thrive on overcoming challenges, a drive to achieve results, and a commitment to reaching every goal you set.

Nearly 4,000 former military personnel have joined the ranks of teachers in our nation, and as we speak, others are lining up. But we need many more excellent teachers. We need more people like you. You have what it takes for this vital assignment.

Like Col. Gaskin, many of you have physics, math or engineering degrees ( disciplines that our children desperately need strong instruction in. Beyond that you are tremendous role models with a sense of duty, honor and country that our children would do well to emulate.

As you just heard (from the Colonel), the challenge of teaching is different but the reward is great, for both teachers and students.

In May I visited at Fort Jackson in South Carolina to promote Troops to Teachers.

A 14-year-old boy introduced me. His parents weren't in the audience.his mother is in prison and his father lives in another state. At a young age, this boy began a pattern of poor decision making and trouble with the police. But his history teacher, placed in his school by Troops to Teachers, changed the course of his life.

Of his teacher, the student said: "There's only one reason why I can say Mr. Davis influenced me - not by being a teacher or giving advice, but by caring. By caring, he shows me that he is willing to be there for me and listen to me. By doing those things, he has shown me that he's willing to be a friend."

Clearly his teacher makes a world of difference.

President Bush joins me in supporting Troops to Teachers. He wants to significantly boost funding for the Troops to Teachers program currently budgeted at $3 million. He'd like to see $30 million go to programs that help skilled professionals like you prepare for teaching in America's classrooms.

We are proud that many of our nation's leaders are making the commitment to ensure that no child is left behind, and we hope you will join us as well.

You are all invited to attend the briefing on Troops to Teachers once we conclude here. There, you will hear more about the resources available to you if you consider serving again - this time in our public schools.

You protect our nation in war and lead the world in peace. And when you prepare to end your service, I ask you to consider another challenge.teaching in America's classrooms. Join the Troops to Teachers program.for your future; and for our nation's future.

I want to thank the Italian Air Force and the people of Italy for graciously hosting American and NATO forces here at Aviano Air Base. We value our strong friendship and deeply appreciate your gracious hospitality. God bless you all.and God bless America.

Thank you.

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