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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
November 7, 2001

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Best Friends 'For Our Children' Event
As Delivered
Bertie Backus Middle School
Washington, DC.

Thank you, Charles (Edward Thorpe, a Backus student), for the great introduction. You did a terrific job, and I think you deserve a round of applause.

Mrs. Bennet, Deputy Mayor Graham, Secretary Paige, Superintendent Vance, distinguished guests, I'm so glad to be a part of this beautiful program. The words spoken and sung here today fill the air with beauty and my heart with pride.

Laura Bush listens to the National Anthem with Bill and Elayne Bennett, left, and Secretary of Education Rod Paige, right, during a Best Friends for Our Children Event at Bertie Backus Middle School Nov. 7, 2001 in Washington, D.C.  White House photo by Susan SternerToday's tribute to your classmates and teachers is an example of what America does best. In the shadow of a national tragedy, America’s light shines. And it shines because of you – because of the love and kinship you have for each other and for those whom we remember today.

When sad things happen, we all have an opportunity to become better people by thinking about others. We can show people we care about them by saying so and by doing nice things for them.

That’s why we are here today. We’re here to celebrate, and to share, and to give to one another. We are here to remember the teachers and friends you lost. They were proud Americans, as we all are.

We love our country because here, we are free. We are free to go to a church or a mosque or a synagogue; free to express our thoughts and feelings; and free to grow up to be whatever we want to be – a firefighter, police officer or teacher like the ones we honor today.

Here in America, we can follow our dreams. Bernard, Asia, and Rodney were on their way to a field trip that they had dreamed of, along with their teachers, Hilda Taylor; Sarah Clark, James Debeuneure.

The story of each of their lives is unique and wonderful – the students were known for warm hugs, broad smiles and bright minds; their teachers, for their devotion to their jobs and students.

They left us too soon, but we will not forget them. Today we are thinking of them and celebrating their lives. But we should also think about and appreciate the people who are sitting here with us today.

Being together like we are today –sharing sorrow and joy -- helps us heal and grow.

Martin Luther King Jr., who was speaking at the memorial service for three little girls who were killed in a terrorist act, a church bombing in 1963, said, “Life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has bleak and difficult moments of drought and moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of seasons, life has the piercing chill of its winters but it also the soothing warmth of its summers.”

It feels like winter in our hearts now, but just as the brighter days of summer will be back, so will joy and happiness return to our hearts.

So today let's reflect on the things that brighten our lives. In my life, it’s my Faith; my husband, my daughters, my parents and friends. It's our wonderful county America. And there’s something else that gives me comfort when I’m sad, and that’s reading. All my life I’ve loved to read for inspiration and for entertainment.

So today, there is the gift of a book for every child who is here. The book is the Children’s Book of America, and there is a copy for each of you and your school libraries.

Now I'd like to invite school librarians Thelma Younger, Charles Phillips and Carolyn Prue to come up and receive a book collection for your school.

(Present books).

On behalf of President Bush and the nation, I want to thank you for helping us celebrate the lives of those we lost on September 11.

I also thank every person who has reached out to you with words of sympathy and acts of kindness over the past seven weeks. Thank you.

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