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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 18, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Bush-Cheney '04 Rally in St. Paul, Minnesota
St. Paul River Centre
St. Paul, Minnesota

12:30 P.M. CDT

MRS. BUSH: Thank you, everybody. Thanks very, very much. Thank you, Laurie, for the very nice introduction. I don't know if I've had such a really nice introduction in a long time. Thank you, Laurie. I really appreciate you and I appreciate Senator Coleman and our friendship. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

This is a great crowd and I'm so happy to be here in Minnesota to meet with all of you and to talk with you about why it's so important to reelect George W. Bush as President. (Applause.)

The President and I first traveled together back in 1978 when George was running for Congress. Newly married, we spent a lot of our time in the car, driving up and down the panhandle of West Texas. Believe me, you learn a lot about your husband when you spend that long of a time in a car with him. (Laughter.) By the end of the campaign, he had even convinced me to vote for him. (Laughter.)

And now, this is our last campaign. Being on the campaign trail isn't what it used to be. These days, we get to travel in a very nice airplane, and George isn't behind the wheel anymore. (Laughter.)

But we still love the very best part of the campaigns, and that's the people we meet all over our wonderful country. Thank you all so very much for coming out to meet me today. (Applause.)

I want you all to know how much we appreciate the leadership of Governor Pawlenty and First Lady Mary Pawlenty, who I saw back stage. (Applause.) And, of course, your Lieutenant Governor Molnau, thank you very much. (Applause.) And special thanks to Secretary of State Kiffmeyer and State Auditor Pat Anderson for being here, and to Jeff Cavins for his great work as emcee. (Applause.) And congratulations to Mason Green, who led the Pledge of Allegiance. Mason finished in the top 20 during the 2004 spelling bee. We're proud of you, Mason. (Applause.)

And we're also very proud of Joey Gerdin for her great work as the state volunteer coordinator for the campaign. Joey just started with 30 volunteers; today, she leads more than 600 strong. (Applause.) They make thousands of phone calls. You can hear a lot of them out here. (Laughter.) They make thousands of phone calls every week, and we appreciate all that all of them do.

Over the next 10 days, Joey will lead an effort called Test Drive for W. She'll call on the 30,000 volunteers statewide who have signed up across the state. We need every one of you. We need volunteers to spread the word about the President's positive agenda for America. Some of you will start making phone calls when you leave here today. And George and I want to thank each and every one of you for your help on his campaign. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

I know that you see what I see. The President is a steady leader for these historic times. He's hopeful about our future because he has tremendous confidence in the American people. He has a good and compassionate heart.

When he took office, he was determined to achieve great goals on behalf of the American people. At the time, we couldn't possibly have imagined how challenging these last three years would be. But I've known George Bush for nearly 30 years, and I've known for every second of our time at the White House that the President has the character and the courage to meet the demands of these times. (Applause.)

On taxes, on health care, on education, on promoting compassion at home and democracy abroad, the President has stood solidly on the side of the people who are working so hard to make life better for themselves and their neighbors. Thanks to the President's tax relief plan, millions of families are keeping more of their own money, and they are deciding how to use it. (Applause.)

In some families, tax relief means more money to pay the monthly bills. In other families, it means more money to start a college fund for their children or a retirement fund for themselves. For small business owners, tax relief means expanding their operations and adding jobs.

These millions of individual decisions made by American taxpayers are lifting our economy and improving the lives of people all across our country. (Applause.)

And the economy is getting better. We're experiencing the fastest economic growth in 20 years. Home ownership is at an all-time high rate. (Applause.) Minority home ownership in particular is strong. And I'm so proud of the fact that we've set a new record in the first quarter of this year. And that is that more than half of all minority families now own their own homes. (Applause.)

And since last August, more than 1.4 million jobs have been created. As Governor Pawlenty mentioned earlier, nearly 20,000 jobs have been created in Minnesota in just the last two months. (Applause.)

More Americans are proud to be back on the job, thanks to our growing economy. The President understands that reliable health care is fundamental for our economic security. No one can feel confident about the future if they fear that the next illness might wipe out their savings or drive them into debt.

That's why the President is taking action to make health care more affordable and more accessible to millions of Americans. He worked with Congress to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare to help seniors afford their medicines, and he's expanding health care options for Americans, promoting new ideas like health savings accounts. (Applause.)

But the fact is junk lawsuits drive up the cost of medicine and they drive doctors out of their practices. So the President has proposed a plan for reforming the medical liability system to reduce junk lawsuits. (Applause.)

Education is also close to the President's heart, and to mine. From day one, the President has been a friend to parents and teachers who want to improve America's schools. My husband is so committed to education because he looks at schools the way a parent looks at schools. He wants to make sure that children who are at risk of being left behind get the help they need to be successful students. The No Child Left Behind Act is bringing more money, higher standards and stronger accountability to schools throughout America. (Applause.)

The President and I have spent a lot of time traveling to schools around our country, talking with teachers and principals who devote every day to our children. During these school visits, I've seen the President reading to children, encouraging them as they go through their lessons, and talking to them about the importance of going to college.

Because learning is life long, the President announced a plan to expand job training partnerships between community colleges and local businesses and other private sector organizations. Whether you're a new high school graduate who needs high-tech training, or a single mom who's looking for a better paying job, or a factory worker who wants to learn new skills, the President's job training proposals will help Americans succeed in the best jobs of the new economy.

My husband has always believed that government can be a force for tremendous good in our society, and he appreciates the great work that's done outside of government by compassionate citizens who recognize the need in their community and then take action to meet that need. George and I have seen first hand the good and generous hearts of the American people. Compassion and ingenuity are being put to work all over this country to lift up lives, from the mentoring of children of prisoners to bringing meals and a few minutes of friendly conversation to our elderly neighbors. America rises to meet every challenge, and we have a boundless capacity to improve the lives of people around us.

As we help our neighbors at home, we also are sharing the blessings of liberty with our neighbors abroad. The terrible acts of September 11th showed us the face of evil in the world, but they also called us to the great work of promoting freedom and democracy to the far corners of the world. Today, 50 million more men, women and children live in freedom thanks to the United States of America. (Applause.)

From the very night of September 11th, when George and I were reunited at the White House, I've seen his courage and character guide his actions. The President organized a broad coalition of countries to remove the Taliban from Afghanistan, al Qaeda's biggest supporters were driven from power and the people of Afghanistan are liberated from their oppressors. (Applause.)

Today, in Afghanistan, women can walk freely on the streets in public without male supervision. (Applause.) And millions of girls are going to school, many for the first time in their lives. (Applause.)

Last week, President Bush and I hosted the G8 summit in Sea Island, Georgia. And the G8, in case you don't know, are the eight largest democratic economies in the world. I hosted the spouses of the world leaders. I was joined by Cherie Blair from Great Britain and Ludmilla Putin from Russia and Sheila Martin from Canada and Madame Chirac from France. And we asked to join us for a roundtable a woman who is a minister on the Iraqi Governing Council and a woman who is a minister on the Afghan Governing Council and an Iraqi Fulbright scholar, a young woman who is studying here in the United States. In case you didn't know, the Fulbright scholarships from Iraq have started again in our country and there are 25 Iraqi students studying now in the United States.

We all shared ideas on how we could support our sisters in Afghanistan and in Iraq as they try to gain greater rights. But the story that was most compelling was the story of the young girl who is studying here at an American university.

She lived on the Iraqi-Iranian border. And during the time of the war between Iraq and Iran, her village was --suffered a chemical attack. And she was just four at the time. And she got separated from her family and she drank water from the street, because she was thirsty and, of course, there was no one from her family to tell her not to. And she went blind for four months, because she took a larger dose of the chemical than other people around there had.

But now, 20-something years later, she's studying in the United States. And she wanted me to tell everyone she thinks that we all have a very different idea of Iraq from what it really is. And she said she wanted us to think of Iraq as 25 million people who each have their own hope. So now we're seeing the stories of that hope as they rebuild their country. (Applause.)

In Iraq, the brave men and women of our military, along with allies from many nations, toppled Saddam Hussein's government and liberated the Iraqi people. (Applause.)

Now, the Iraqis are building a new government. And at the end of this month, new Iraqi leaders will begin making their decisions about security, economic progress and other issues that are so important to its citizens. (Applause.)

When we were at the G8 in Sea Island, President Bush and all the world leaders who were there met with the new Iraqi President. And the Iraqi President thanked the United States, especially the men and women of our military for their sacrifices. (Applause.)

And last week, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution pledging the U.N.'s help in making the new government a success, and paving the way for free and fair elections in Iraq beginning in the new year. (Applause.) Thanks to the tremendous work of our coalition, this is a time of great promise for the people of Iraq. (Applause.)

We all know that many challenges lie ahead and that building a democracy and freedom is not easy. But we know it's right. I'm so proud of my husband for recognizing the new realities of the world and for taking action to meet them. (Applause.)

I'm so proud of my husband for many reasons, not least of which is the dignity and respect he shows for every single person he meets, the same dignity and respect he has for the office he holds. (Applause.)

He has worked hard on behalf of all Americans from the day he took the Oath of Office, and now it's our time to work for him. And all of you can contribute so much to our campaign by simply getting the word out about the President's record of accomplishments and his vision for the future.

Please talk to your neighbors and friends, sign up here with the campaign in Minnesota, and make phone calls or go door to door bringing the President's message to the voters. Everything you do to reach the voters and to get them to the polls will be a huge help for the President's campaign.

These are very hopeful times for Americans. We can look to the future with great confidence because we know now our ability to overcome challenges. And these are times that require particularly strong and determined leaders. I'm proud that my husband is that kind of leader. (Applause.)

Thank you all very much. Thank you for working hard to reelect President Bush, and may God bless you and may God bless America. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

12:50 P.M. CDT


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