The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 8, 2002

President Visits Logan High School in Lacrosse
Logan High School
LaCrosse, Wisconsin



President's Remarks

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1:05 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you all very much. It's --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We all love you!

THE PRESIDENT: Your mother may be watching, behave yourselves. (Laughter.) I'm honored to be here. I want to thank the citizens of LaCrosse, Wisconsin for such a warm welcome. I'm -- great to be here in Logan High School. It's a great place. (Applause.)

So I was being briefed about Logan High School. I'll tell you what impressed me the most. I was impressed by the fact you've got a great baseball team. (Applause.) I was impressed you've got a great girls basketball team. (Applause.) But I was most impressed when I saw that the school raised a banner for the Academic Super Stars. (Applause.)

I'm at this school, of course, to talk education. But I'm also here to herald excellence. And we have found excellence at Logan High School, and thanks for giving me a chance to come by. (Applause.)

I appreciate the Secretary of Education traveling with me today. You know, we've got a lot of people who like to theorize in Washington, D.C. -- kind of philosopher types. I'm kind of a role up your sleeve and get it done type guy. And that's what I want the people -- (applause) -- and I picked that kind of man as our Secretary of Education, as well. This is a fellow who's been on the front lines of education. I had the honor of meeting your superintendent here in LaCrosse. They were able to talk superintendent talk. (Laughter.) They know how to get things done. And so I've got a really good man who's joined me in my administration to help make sure that no child in America -- and we mean no child -- is left behind when it comes to education. (Applause.)

I want to thank Logan High grad, class of '81, Congressman Ron Kind, for joining us today. Thank you, Ron. (Applause.) I really appreciate you coming today. I'm honored you're here. I also want to thank your Governor, Scott McCallum, for traveling with me today, as well. (Applause.)

I want to thank Michael McArdle, who is the president of the LaCrosse School Board, for being here. I want to thank all the school board members. I appreciate Thomas Downs, who's your superintendent. Interestingly enough, he showed me a picture of he and my dad when he was -- I think a teacher, he said -- in Iowa. I really want to thank Scott and the staff and the teachers for making this visit possible.

You know, one of the things I've learned, as governor and now President, is that when you find a good school, you also find a good principal. (Applause.)

There's going to be some folks here graduating, I understand, pretty soon. (Cheers.) Don't take it for granted. (Laughter.) But you'll be the first high school class that has graduated with America under attack. We got under attack in September, and you're graduating in a time of war. And I want to talk to you a little bit about what that means for America, what it means for our country, what it means for a nation to fight for what it believes in.

I can't imagine what went through the minds of our enemy when they attacked us on September the 11th. You know, they must have thought America was so self-absorbed, so materialistic, so selfish that we would cower in the face of a challenge -- well, we might file a few lawsuits or two, but that would be all we would do. But that's not the America I know and that's not the America you're a part of. This is a country that when it comes to defending that which we believe in, when it comes to defending our freedoms, we are patient, we're deliberate, and we are plenty tough. (Applause.)

You're graduating in a time of war, right here in America, but a war that your textbooks really haven't been able to describe before. It's a new kind of threat to our country. Now, you need to know right off the bat that our enemy are nothing but a bunch of cold-blooded killers. And they hate America because of our freedoms. They cannot stand the thought that we worship freely, that we've got freedom of the press, that we debate freely. They can't stand that. It bothers them. And therefore, they're out to hurt us again.

Now, you need to also know that we're doing everything we can to protect the American people. My most important job is the security of the American people. I learn that every day when I walk into the grand Oval Office. In the morning, I walk in there, and first thing I do, of course, is -- after I bring the First Lady a little coffee -- (laughter) -- is take Spot and Barney down, let them work the South Lawn for a while. (Laughter.) Spot was born in the White House, she's 13 years old, she understands the decorum of the Oval, so she gets to go in. But Barney is only a year and a half and we got a new rug, so he doesn't. (Laughter.)

Every morning I read about threats to America. I read about the enemy wanting to inflict some more harm on us. And every morning it reminds me that I will do everything in my power to protect the American people.

Our law enforcement officials are talking better amongst each other, we're sharing information a lot better way now. The federal government is in better communications with state and local governments. And anytime we get a hint, or anytime we get kind of a sniff that something might be fixing to happen, you need to know we're acting -- we're acting within the confines of the United States Constitution, but we're acting.

But the best way -- and I want the students to understand this -- the best way for me and our government to protect the homeland is to chase these killers down one by one and bring them to justice. And that's what we're going to do. (Applause.) And it's going to take a lot longer than people want; it's just going to take a lot longer than people want. We're not dealing with an organized government with the al Qaeda network. We're dealing with people who, on the one hand, send youngsters off to kill themselves and they, themselves, try to hide in caves. That's the way they are.

It's important for you to know, as well, that when your country speaks, we're going to do what we say. And we told the Taliban, since you're harboring those terrorists, you're just as guilty and we ran them out of business. Thanks to the United States military and a mighty coalition, we ran them out of business. (Applause.)

Our country doesn't seek revenge. I want the high school kids here to understand, we don't seek revenge -- we seek justice, that's what we seek. And when we went into Afghanistan, I want you to remember -- and history will record -- that this nation -- this decent, kind nation liberated a group of people from the clutches of barbaric people who would not even educate young girls. We went in not as conquerors, but as liberators. And I'm proud of our nation and I'm proud of our heart. (Applause.)

Now, it's going to take a while -- it's going to take a while. But much to the chagrin -- I guess to the chagrin -- I haven't spent a lot of time talking with the enemy, but I got the feeling they're going to be disappointed to hear that we're going to remain united as a country; and that we're resolved, and we're patient, and we're plenty tough. That they think they can hide, but they can't. Our strategy has been not only to disrupt the government that harbored these people, we're destroying their training camps, we're disrupting their finances. We're chasing them down. We're denying them sanctuary in other parts of the world.

Listen, these are the kind of people that if they can find a soft spot, they'll light. If they can find somewhere where there may be a weak government, they'll try to move in. And that's why, when I look at some of these leaders and send a message, either you're with us or you're with them, they understand that we mean what we say. And we're beginning to deny sanctuary.

No, it's going to take a while. But the people in this high school, the kids in this high school have got to understand, it is worth it. I will not let, your government's not going to let people destroy the freedoms that we love in America. We fight for civilization. And they're going to find out what this country is made out of. This country is going to defend our values to the core, and we're going to win. (Applause.)

But not only do we work to make our country and the world safer, we also got to work to make it better, a better place. And it starts with making sure every child in America gets educated. (Applause.) I -- there's been a lot of talk about this bill I was able to sign -- by the way, worked on by both Republicans and Democrats. It was a -- it was a refreshing change of what sometimes takes place in Washington, or a lot of times, where people are in there just trying to promote their own political party without worry about the nation. This is a piece of legislation where we worried about the nation and not our political parties, and the nation is better off for it. I want to thank Ron for his vote on this piece of legislation, by the way.

But here's what -- here's what -- let me tell you the philosophy in the bill. It first starts off by saying, in order to achieve educational excellence around the nation, we must have high expectations and high standards. It starts with the belief that every child can learn. If you have low expectations, in other words, some can't learn, you're going to get bad results. It starts with a mind-set. See, I believe every child can learn, and I expect every child to learn. We have raised the bar of expectations.

And in order to make sure that's happening, we're insisting that people show us it's happening. See, if you believe it can happen, then you want to know if it's happening. If you don't believe it can happen, you don't care. If you have low expectations for students, if you have low standards, you don't care whether they're learning, because you don't think they can. If you have high expectations, you care, and therefore, you want to see.

And we want to know. We want to know through an accountability system, designed not by the federal government, but by the good people of Wisconsin. That's who's going to design it. We want to know. We want to know -- we want to see the scores. We want to post it for everybody to see, because we believe every child can learn. I know you don't like to take tests -- too bad. (Laughter.) It is important. (Applause.)

It's important. So what we're saying, that after a period of time, the state of Wisconsin must develop accountability, grades 3 through 8. If we spend federal money, we're going to see some results. And so we want to know. And by the way, an accountability system is not meant to punish anybody, it's meant to be used as an information tool. And if things are going well, we ought to use the accountability system as a way to praise the teachers and principals for success.

However, if we find out children aren't learning, there's a reason. And we need to know the reason. And we need to solve the problems early, before it's too late. This business about just shuffling kids through the system has got to end. This business about kind of promoting them out -- (applause.)

The part of making sure that we also succeed is the understanding that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to public education. I mean, look, we don't want federal -- Washington, D.C. telling you all how to run your schools. You've got plenty of good people here in Wisconsin. As a matter of fact, the people who love the children in Wisconsin are the people of Wisconsin. And, therefore, we have passed a lot of power and authority out of D.C. to align responsibility and authority where it belongs, at the local level. (Applause.)

Also an incredibly important part of a successful school system, the thing that matters a lot, of course, is the teachers. And I want to thank the teachers here at Logan High School for doing what you do. It's an incredibly noble profession. It's an important profession. And it's one that I hope -- I assume that you get a lot out of it by making sure that our children learn.

The teaching profession needs to be heralded. And we've got a great person in my administration who's willing to do just that, a former teacher, my wife, Laura. (Applause.) When I married her, she was a public school librarian. And the truth of the matter is she didn't particularly care for politics -- or politicians, for that matter. (Laughter.) Thank goodness she said yes when I asked her to marry me. A lot of people now know why I asked her to marry me. A lot of people are wondering out loud why she said yes. (Laughter.) But she's great. And she's going to go around the country reminding people that if you want to serve your community -- reminding young and old, if you want to serve your community, teach, become a teacher.

We've got a Troops for Teachers Program for retired military to go in the classroom. We've got Teach for America programs. We've got all kinds of opportunities. When you go to college and you're looking for something to do and you're wondering about your career, think about becoming a teacher, to make a difference in the lives of our children. (Applause.)

The bill we passed has got $3 billion additional dollars in there for teacher training, teacher recruitment, teacher retention programs. And that's good. But it's going to be up to the local districts, the states and local districts, to figure out how to spend that money to make it work for the teachers.

But I'll tell you another piece of reform that's really important in this bill. One of the things that's important is for teachers to be able to control her classroom or his classroom. It's essential that that be the case. And for the first time, the federal government has limited liability for teachers and principals and school board members and superintendents when they enforce reasonable standards of conduct in classrooms. (Applause.)

Let me see if I can put that a little more plainly. If you think you can disrupt your class, you're going to get booted out and the teacher's not going to get sued. (Applause.) So don't disrupt the class.

Parents have got a lot to do with whether or not schools in our communities succeed. The parents have got to make sure that young children read more than they watch TV. That's a hard thing to do. (Applause.) Oh, I know it's hard to turn off the TV and read to your child. But it's really important for a mom or a dad -- if a mom or a dad wants their child to learn, get reading to them early and stay on it, and click off the tube. Your children are going to learn a heck of a lot more.

It's important for parents to come to the PTAs and to be interested. It's important for a parent to make sure that a child understands respect for teachers when they get in that classroom; that they have got a responsibility to be respectful. And one way to make sure parents are involved is to use the accountability system. A lot of parents in America feel like their school is doing just fine -- until they see the results of the children's tests, until it's a comparative system like you do here in LaCrosse.

This man right here, he's not worried about comparing. He's a confident principal. He's confident in the teachers. He doesn't care if there's a comparison, because he knows he's going to do well -- he's focused, he likes that idea of a good, health comparison.

But in order to enhance parental involvement, parents need to know. It's amazing how many parents say, everything is going just fine in my child's school -- until they see the results. And if you want to enhance teacher -- parental involvement, let them see whether or not their children are learning relative to the school across town. Just make sure that the score card is honest and open and transparent, and you'll get parental involvement, and even more.

This state has enacted public school choice, which basically says if your child is trapped in a failed school we're not going to tolerate that anymore. And if you're tired of it, you can move to another public school. I think that's a good, healthy reform. Our bill does just that. And not only that, if a child is trapped in a school that won't change, after three years there are what's called supplemental services. That means money, Title I money follows the child, a Title I-eligible child to tutoring services, summer school, after-school services. If you're interested in making sure no child is left behind and you find children trapped in schools that will not change and will not teach, we've got to make sure that they get extra help. And give parents additional choices.

And that's exactly what this bill does. Parental involvement not only happens when there's care and love -- I told people earlier today at our seminar, I can't make people love one another; that's not the role of government. But we can provide the tools necessary for loving parents to become more involved. And one way to do so is for the results to be open and the parents to have different options.

Now, we've got a good plan. It's up to you to make it work. The federal government is not going to -- the federal government is going to spend money, which we have; the federal government is going to provide a strategy. But it's up for the local folks. And that's why we've come to this school.

This is a school in which the community takes great pride, mothers and dads take great interest, the teachers take great time to make sure that every child gets educated. A better America is going to be an America that educates every child.

I keep saying, every child. The truth of the matter is we're not educating every child right now. We're letting a lot of them just go on through. The tough to educate. If you don't speak English, or the mothers or daddys don't speak English as a first language, let's just move them through. That's going to quit, as far as I'm concerned. That's not the America I know.

The public school system is a vital part of our democracy. It is absolutely essential that we have educational excellence if we want our democracy and our freedom and our system to flourish and thrive. And that's the kind of public school system I envision, and I know it's the kind you envision, as well. (Applause.)

I believe that out of the evil of September the 11th will come incredible good. I believe that we can achieve peace -- that's my dream. Oh, it's going to be tough to get there, there's going to be some hills to climb. But out of this, by being firm and resolved, we'll achieve peace. And that's important for America. It's important for our children. It's important for our children's children.

I also believe out of this evil will come some good, because Americans are such a compassionate and kind people. People ask me, what can I do to join the war on terror. And my answer is, love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself -- that if you want to fight evil, do some good. That if you want to confront the evildoers that struck America, walk across the street and tell a shut-in that you love them. Mentor a child. Teach a child. Go to your church or your synagogue or your mosque and rally the compassion within the -- within the halls there to feed the hungry.

There are pockets of despair in America. There are pockets of hopelessness right here in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. And if you want to fight evil, tackle those pockets of despair with love and decency.

I met Dorothy Wetterlin today. Where's Dorothy? She's somewhere -- hey, Dorothy, stand up, will you? No? You don't want to stand up? Okay, don't stand up. (Applause.)

Dorothy kindly came out to the airport to greet me. The reason why is because Dorothy is a soldier in the army of compassion here in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. She is -- helps victims of domestic abuse and violence. She started puppet shows for young kids in elementary schools to teach them how to make the right choices when it comes to drugs and alcohol. She's a person making a difference. She's a person who understands that one person can't do everything, but one person can darned sure do something to help somebody in need. (Applause.)

America is full of Dorothys. You've got them all across this country. And I want the young to understand that I believe you have an obligation as an American to help make this country a compassionate and decent place. I believe that it's important for you -- I know it's important you go to college, or whatever you're going to do after high school, go to work. But remember, if you're interested in fighting evil, do some good. Lend your heart, lend your talent to help somebody in need.

And America is doing this. I am so optimistic about the future of our country, not only because we are strong and tough and resolved. I am optimistic about the future of America because we are decent and honorable and good people. (Applause.)

I think the most telling event on September 11th, and one that I hope a lot of people remember, is what happened on Flight 93. Basically, what I'm saying is, it's important to serve something greater than yourself in life. It's important to serve a call greater than yourself and a cause greater than yourself.

Flight 93, we had average citizens flying across the country. And they realized their plane was fixing to be used as a weapon on the nation's capital. They called their loved ones on the phone. They said a prayer and told them they loved them. Said a prayer, and they drove the plane in the ground to serve something greater than themselves. That's the American spirit I know. (Applause.)

That's that sense of sacrifice that makes this country so strong. And that's exactly what's happening. I want you to know when you get out of high school you're going to college and you're going to college in the greatest land, the greatest nation on the face of the earth. And it is my high honor to be the President of the greatest country on the face of the earth.

Thank you for letting me come. May God bless. (Applause.)

END 1:31 P.M. CDT


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