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For Immediate Release
Office of the First lady
April 11, 2002

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at a Tribute to Mrs. Michele Ridge
Hershey, Pennsylvania

Thank you for that great introduction. You deserve a round of applause.

Occasionally in life we find ourselves among the company of people whose inner light shines so brightly that people are naturally drawn to them.

Michele Ridge is one of those people.

Michele and I became friends in 1995 after our husbands took office as governors. We met at one of the first National Governors' Association meetings.

We had a lot in common: we shared the challenge of defining ourselves and our goals during our husbands' new terms as governors. And we had other roles to consider: as mothers, daughters and wives.

But what I really admired and respected about Michele was her early choice in careers, which happens to be one of my personal favorites: she was a librarian. Here is a woman who can walk the walk, and talk the talk, of the Dewey Decimal System.

It's fair to say that I felt an instant rapport with her. Two former librarians.she and I could dispel many of the age-old myths about librarians. We are not all little old ladies. We don't wear our hair in buns. And we don't wear sensible shoes. Although right about now I wish that I had.

Librarians are part story-tellers, part actors, and part information managers. To be a librarian, you have to love working with people as much as you love gathering and sharing information. This is true of Michelle.

She's passionate about her work with the Children's Partnership and Pennsylvania's Communities that Care. Over the years she's proven that she's not afraid to roll her sleeves up and get to work on whatever needs to be done.

We have had a chance to take long walks together in Kennebunkport and at Camp David, and I have enjoyed getting to know her and discover her true character.

I know how deeply affected she was by the events of September 11. Less than a week after the attacks, Michele and I stood together in a field in Pennsylvania and mourned the victims of United Flight 93, and her concern and empathy were apparent to everyone gathered that day.

As her commonwealth and our country grieved, she brought hope and comfort to people whose lives were affected by the tragedy. President Bush and I are grateful for that.

I think what sustains her -- through all the good and bad that life brings -- is her strong faith, her devotion to family, and her sense of humor and fun. Beyond that, though, Michele is a leader and a woman of great heart who brings out the best in people. She's devoted to helping children who cannot help or protect themselves, and she wants to make sure that every child has a fair chance at the best possible future.

Michele, President Bush joins me in recognizing you for your service to the people of Pennsylvania and the people of America. You're an inspiration and a good friend.

Ladies and gentlemen, Michele Ridge.

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