For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
October 30, 2001
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Woman's Day Awards Luncheon
New York, New York
(Mrs. Bush was introduced by Jane Chesnutt, Editor-in-Chief of Woman's Day.)
Thank you, Jane for that kind introduction. And thanks very much to Womans Day magazine for letting me applaud the outstanding women you are honoring today. Mrs. Pataki, distinguished guests, and honorees, Im delighted to be here among friends and friendly faces.
We are here to celebrate the achievements of women whose generous work is motivated by a simple, yet profound goal: they want life to be better in America.
The women we honor today know what makes America strong: healthy people and happy families; safe children and free enterprisea good education and strong reading skills; caring neighbors and willing volunteers.
Their achievements are diverse, but what they have in common is their humanity and purpose.
We have learned a lot about humanity in the past seven weeks. Few of us would have expected to be here today with a completely different outlook on life; with a renewed sense of whats important in our lives.
Now we have a stronger idea of what it means to be an American. President Bush and I are inspired by what weve seen and experienced. Yes, our nation has changed, but it has changed for the better.
Our families have grown closer.
Around the country, a third of all Americans are spending more time at home with their families. Couples are coming togetherand staying together. Since September 11, divorce cases have been withdrawn at higher rates; and more people are buying engagement rings and planning weddings.
Parents are more heavily involved in their childrens lives. In New Jersey, one man said he was struck by the presence of parents around town, specifically the men who were unable to return to work in New York.
Living across the street from a primary school, he couldnt help but notice Dads everywhere holding their childrens hands and walking them to school in the morningretrieving them for lunch, returning them after lunch, and finally picking them up at the end of the school day.
In Ohio, a man said he and his wife spend more time with their boysthey put dinner off so they can play outside longer, and later at night, they have fast-food picnics" in the living room -- one of their four-year-olds favorite pastimes.
College students are calling home, and coming home. Understandably, Thanksgiving will be an important family holiday this year. A freshman at Boston College told one reporter that she couldnt wait to just sit around the table with her family.
Many of us are reflecting on the holidays, on family traditions and on earlier times when we were children. Perhaps we have gained a deeper understanding of what our parents and grandparents went through during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. We have much to learn from themand pass along.
A teacher in New York named Susan St. Louis started a unique tradition called Bring Your Parents to Work Day, a creative extension of Bring Your Daughter to Work Day.
Susan said, We as educators are proud of what we doto invite our parents into our classrooms shares with them our pride and says to them, thanks, we are what we are because of you.
She continued, Honoring our elders, continuing the great interest our parents have in our accomplishments, even into our adulthood, and nourishing the ties that bind families togetherhow many of us, no matter what age, have not longed to hold the hands that led us through childhood in this terrible time?
Our family bonds are strengthened, and weve also grown closer to our friends and neighbors. Our communities have become tighter.
Few would have guessed that we a society that had grown increasingly individualistic would suddenly be opening our doors to our neighbors, and our hearts to strangers.
Just outside of Washington, women from a local Jewish congregation volunteered to shop for Muslim women who are afraid to go out on their own for fear of harassment. In Chicago, a 27-year-old Christian student also offered to help the Muslim population gather groceries and other needs during this uncertain time.
In New York, families opened their homes to their evacuated neighbors; spare rooms in apartments were filled with displaced people instead of excess furniture. Landlords offered low-cost temporary housing until homes are rebuilt or replaced.
The word community has taken on a whole new meaning in Americas most populous citythis beautiful example is being set elsewhere across the heartland, in our cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Because schools already play an important role in our lives and communities, we recognize and appreciate them more than ever.
Schools are strongholds of stability. They add to the healing process by restoring order, certainty and routine in our childrens lives.
In Florida, the Superintendent of Schools (Dan Galtz) said a student told him, thank you for keeping school open. I know everything will be OK because Im coming to school today.
Schools are giving students a chance to learn from this experience; to contribute and comfort others.
On October 15, during Teach for America week, I volunteered to teach at Birney Elementary School, which is located in the Southeast Washington, DC.
The students knew the President had asked each American child to raise one dollar for food and medicine for Afghan children, because nearly half of the 11 million children (10,740,000) who live there suffer from chronic malnutrition.
The Presidents call was answered at Birney Elementary School. After class, a young man presented me with 169 envelopescontaining $173.64 for Americas Fund for Afghan Children.
Hunger is something these children might understand. Of the 565 students who attend Birney, all but 27 children are eligible for the free and reduced-cost lunch program.
Their tremendous effort is an indication of the response weve had so far.
We also have a greater respect and appreciation for Americas teachers.
In Manhattan, some teachers took students home with them until they could find parents. In other parts of the country, teachers had to find traveling parents.
Their jobs are already difficult; and their extra effort -- far above and beyond what is asked of them says much about their devotion to our children. Our country owes them a special debt of gratitude.
Parents can use this opportunity to thank their childrens teachers for the great job theyre doing. Here in New York, I met a teacher at Public School 41 who told me about a parent who had given her a gift certificate for a massage. Teachers everywhere would like that idea to catch on!
We feel stronger bonds with our families and within our communities, and beyond that, we are closer, more united as a country.
We are more patriotic, as you can tell by the huge display of flags waving on the sides of buildings and homes, and on car antennas everywhere. Were wearing our national pride inside and out. The three hottest colors in fashion this winter are bound to be red, white and blue.
We are more willing to serve. More people want to defend our country and what we stand for. A man in his late 30s said that despite his age, he updated his draft registration.
Another young professional reports that she decided to join the Army. She said, Our country needs people like myself, people my age willing to step up and serve.
We are more willing to give. Charitable and private contributions have exceeded $1 Billion and, by some estimates, are well on the way to reaching $2 Billion.
Our response to the greatest threat of our time has been one of the greatest moments of our time. We have risen to the occasion and shown ourselves at our best.
Some worry that the wave of goodwill will swell and pass. In Boston, a student said she fears all this goodness will come to an end. My biggest fear, she said, is that the connections people have made across America will go away.
On the far coast, in Seattle, a woman echoed the sentiment. She wrote, Will we as a community be able to sustain the level of compassion and humanity we are feeling right now, once everyday life resumes its usual pace?
I am an optimist. I believe that human connections are more lasting and that our country is entering an important time of renewal.
I believe that more children will grow up to become firefighters and police officers because they want to be heroes like the ones we got to know, and the ones we had to let go.
More people will enter the health care and teaching professions, to take care of others and to ensure that America remains the land of opportunity and has the strength that comes from every child and every citizen being healthy and having a great education.
More people, like those here today, will find new ways to volunteer, to contribute, and to make America a better place.
Erma Bombeck once said, When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say to Him, "I used everything you gave me."
Among us today are women who use everything given to them, from individual talent to a network of resources, and they use those assets as tools to build a better world around us.
The accomplished women in this room carry on a fine tradition. For generations, battles hard-fought and won by women have resulted in improvements in all aspects of American life. You are proof that the good work continues, and we are proud of you.
Those we honor today, and those we have honored since September 11th have touched our lives no matter where we are -- whether in Washington State or Washington, D.C., New York or California.
I applaud your generous contributions to this country, and to our future, and I know you will continue your good work. Congratulations to the award winners, and thank you for inviting me.
# # #