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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
September 14, 2004
Mrs. Bush's Remarks on the Economy in Columbus, Ohio
Clintonville Women's Club
10:34 A.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, Hope. Thank you for the very kind introduction. Hope and I, like she just told you, were sorority sisters together at SMU and so we have a long history of friendship. At the time, we would have never guessed that we'd marry somebody who would become governor and then President. (Laughter.) Thank you so much, Hope.
I also want to thank Mayor Grossman who is here and State Auditor Betty Montgomery for joining us. And special thanks to Doug Preisse who just introduced Hope, and to Jan Antonopolos and Margie Holiday. Thank you all very much for being here with us. (Applause.)
I also want to express to the people of Columbus our sadness at the fire that was here that was so destructive to lives here in Columbus. I watched today on television and saw the people of Columbus bringing food and furniture and toys to the families who have been displaced because of the fire and I was reminded once again of the decency of Americans and how we always rise to the challenge to help our neighbors when they need help. And so I want to express especially my sympathy to the families who lost a loved one.
And I want to express my thanks to each one of you, all the volunteers who are here, who are working hard to make sure President Bush leads this country for four more years. (Applause.)
I've met so many people across America who are making the phone calls, who are going door to door, who are talking to their neighbors, making sure their neighbors are registered to vote, and talking about the President's accomplishments. And right here in Columbus, I even met another George W. (Laughter.) This George W. is a dog --(laughter) -- whose owner said, unlike the President, tends to lie down on the job. (Laughter and applause.)
George W. is Mary Leavitt's dog. Mary Leavitt is right here. You might know her as the Flag Lady. (Applause.) Mary welcomed me to her store this morning, and I'm so happy that she is here with us, along with her son, Andy, and her daughter, Lori, and all the employees of The Flag Lady's Flag Shop. Thank you all very, very much for being with us today.
Mary is a living American success story. And not just a story of one woman's success, but a story that can inspire all Americans who want to own their own business and make it grow. Mary never planned on becoming the Flag Lady. She was raising her children and she was working as a legal secretary here when her husband was transferred to Chicago.
Shortly after they moved, her son, who was stationed on a U.S. ship, was deployed overseas, so Mary placed a yellow ribbon on her home and she searched through her packed boxes for her flag, but she couldn't find it. In fact, she couldn't find a flag anywhere in town. Store owners said it wasn't flag season.
Mary finally found a wholesale dealer 35 miles away and persuaded him to sell her a flag. She realized that if she needed a flag, many of her neighbors probably did too. So she asked the dealer if she could take a dozen flags on consignment. He was skeptical and utterly surprised when Mary returned four days later asking for more.
Mary started selling flags out of the trunk of her car. She also went door to door and gained the nickname "the Flag Lady" after being featured in the local papers. When she moved back to Columbus, she continued selling flags during her lunch hour. Business was going well until her husband finally decided that Mary could no longer keep 20-foot flagpoles in their living room. (Laughter.)
She opened a storefront and, after nearly 20 years of hard work, Mary owns one of the top retail flag stores in the country. (Applause.) With 20 employees and $1.5 million in sales, Mary has sold more than 80,000 flags in the last four years alone. (Applause.)
Mary, congratulations on your success. And thank you for being a role model for us all.
Small business owners like Mary are some of the hardest working people in America. Ten million women own their own businesses in America, so today -- when it comes to entrepreneurship, today's world is increasingly a woman's world. Women are opening businesses at twice the rate of men, and they employee more than 19 million Americans.
I visited women who own quilt shops, employment agencies, construction companies and even tow trucks. (Laughter.) Anyone who wonders what women are capable of achieving need only look at America's women business owners.
They can find inspiration also in the women who work in the White House. I'm proud that, in my husband's administration, there are more women in senior positions than in any other presidential administration in history. (Applause.)
Dr. Condoleezza Rice advises the President on foreign policy and Margaret Spellings is in charge of domestic issues. That means that, in the White House, women are in charge of everything abroad and everything at home -- (laughter) -- which sounds about right to me. (Laughter and applause.)
President Bush knows that empowered women are vital to our democracy. And as we look around the world, in countries where we see women are not empowered, we know how important women are to a democracy. He also knows that empowered women are essential to our economic security. George has worked to build an environment, economic environment in which entrepreneurs can succeed and small businesses can grow. And it hasn't always been easy.
We've been through a lot together, from a recession to a terror attack to corporate scandals. But our economy remains the strongest in the world, thanks to our small businesses and the President's commitment to tax relief. (Applause.) Because of tax cuts, 25 million small business owners have each saved an average of $3,000 this year alone. Mary saved more than $7,000. She is also taking advantage in the President's increase in the annual expense deduction for equipment. Soon, she'll roll out a new catalogue, enhance her e-commerce site, and finalize plans to open a second store. (Applause.)
Tax relief is spurring investments and making it easier for small businesses to expand and create jobs. Last year alone, we've added 1.7 million new jobs. That's more than Germany, Japan, England, Canada and France added, combined. (Applause.) The unemployment rate has fallen to 5.4 percent. And since 2001, real after-tax incomes have increased by 10 percent.
This is the way Mary summed up this success. She said: President Bush was born for a time such as this. He never waivers when it comes to doing the right thing. It makes me feel so secure to know that our leader has such a heart for small businesses and such a love for our country. Thank you, Mary. (Applause.)
My husband is committed to making sure America is safer and more secure and more hopeful for all Americans. We all know that families, and especially women, face new challenges and that government should respond to these changing times. Millions of women are raising families, working full time, going to college, starting their own businesses, and caring for their parents. And some women are doing all of these things at the same time. Women are also living longer and we have more opportunity than ever before. My husband wants to extend this opportunity to every corner of America, so that all Americans have a chance to participate in an ownership society. (Applause.)
In New York, President Bush outlined his agenda for a new term. Helping women and families face the challenges of our changing world is at the heart of the President's plan. All of us know that all opportunity starts with education. For workers who want new skills for the new jobs of the 21st century or women who want to return to the work force after staying home and raising their family, this means going back to school to learn new skills.
The President wants to work with community colleges to make career training more accessible for all Americans. And because higher education is a lifelong dream for so many, the President wants Pell grants to be made more available so that more Americans can get a college diploma. (Applause.)
In fact, the President's budget for next year includes a record $73.1 billion for student financial aid. That's a 55 percent increase since he took office, and I think it's very, very important, because we know that many of the new jobs require a college diploma. And we know that many of these graduates with their college diploma will some day go to work for a woman boss. (Applause.)
And to help make sure businesses continue to thrive, the President will work to keep taxes low. And because more than half of uninsured Americans are small business employees and their families, my husband wants to allow small firms to pool so they can purchase insurance at the same discount available to big companies. (Applause.)
My husband also believes that working moms and dads need more of something we never have enough of, and that's time. Time to go to a ballgame with our kids, time to take care of our parents or to volunteer in our communities. President Bush will work with Congress to make flex time and comp time available so that more Americans can manage -- better manage the demands of work and family. (Applause.)
Another important issue for women is affordable and accessible health care. It's estimated that women make up to 70 percent of their families' financial and health care decisions. The President is making health care more accessible with ideas like health savings accounts. These plans allow people to save tax free for routine medical expenses like routine doctors visits or eyeglasses. Women can take these accounts with them if they start a new job or if they leave work to go home and have a child. This is health care that we own, we manage and we keep.
Another growing crisis that is of particular concern to women is medical liability reform. When I traveled to Philadelphia a few weeks ago, I met Erin Zezzo, who learned about the effects of junk lawsuits the hard way. Erin had a trusting relationship with her OB-GYN who had delivered her first two children. Shortly into her third pregnancy, Erin's doctor decided to stop delivering babies because he couldn't afford his medical liability insurance. Erin was forced to find a new doctor while she was six months pregnant.
Frivolous lawsuits raise the cost of health care and drive good doctors out of practice. To help doctors and women like Erin, President Bush will work to reform the medical liability system and reduce junk lawsuits. (Applause.)
All of these issues are important to women and to our families. But as we grieve for the families in Russia and as we mark the third anniversary of September 11th, I believe what's most important is my husband's work to protect our country and to defeat terror around the world. (Applause.)
The terrible acts of September 11th showed us the threat we face. But they also called us to the great work of promoting freedom to the far corners of the world. President Bush and I want our men and women in uniform and their families to know how much all Americans appreciate their service. (Applause.)
As we do the hard work of confronting terror, we can all be proud that 50 million more men, women and children live in freedom, thanks to the United States of America and our allies. (Applause.)
After years of being treated as virtual prisoners in their homes by the Taliban, the women of Afghanistan are now able to leave their homes without a male escort. And after being denied an education, even the chance to learn to read, the little girls in Afghanistan are now in school. (Applause.) More than 10 million Afghan citizens have registered to vote in this fall's presidential election and more than 40 percent of that number are women. (Applause.)
Because we acted, the people of Iraq are now free from the tyranny of a brutal dictator. The Iraqi Interim Government is preparing for national elections in January, and we pledge to stand with the Iraqi people during this historic and hopeful time for their nation.
We face many challenges still in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I know that the defeat of terror there is very important to the defeat of terror around the world. My husband believes that there's more to do to make our country safer, stronger and more hopeful.
These are times of change for our nation, but they're also years of promise. We have great confidence in our ability to overcome challenges. We've gained a new appreciation for the many blessings of America. And we've been reminded of our responsibilities to the country we love.
George and I grew up in the same small town in Midland, Texas, where the sky seems endless and so do the possibilities. My husband brings that optimism, that sense of purpose, that certainty that we learned in West Texas to his job every day. And with your help, he'll do it for four more years. (Applause.)
Thank you all. Thank you. Thank you, Mary. Thank you for your great example to all of us. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Thank you all, and may God bless America. Thanks a lot. (Applause.)
10:52 A.M. EDT