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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
April 19, 2007

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Zurich Classic of New Orleans Birdies for Books Breakfast
The Ritz-Carlton
New Orleans, Louisiana

8:50 A.M. CDT

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, Jim, and thank you, Tommye, Jim's wife, for everything that you've done to make sure this golf tournament goes on as we all want it to, at the newly refurbished golf course here, the TPC Louisiana course. And I want to thank you very much for making sure this golf tournament is in New Orleans. I'm very happy to be here with all of you for this.

I think Secretary Margaret Spellings is here, is she? Oh, there she is. (Applause.) Secretary -- our Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings. Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu, has joined us today. Thank you very, very much, Governor, for being with us. (Applause.) Ambassador Pam Willeford, who is the Chair of the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries, is here. Pam, thank you for coming. (Applause.) And I'm very happy to welcome to New Orleans the Ambassador from Switzerland, Ambassador Urs Ziswiler. Thank you very much for joining us. (Applause.) And the Ambassador's wife, Ronit. Thank you very much for coming, as well.

PGA wives that are here today, leaders from Zurich Financial, representatives of the Fore!Kids Foundation, Women of the Storm, and distinguished guests. Thank you all very much for coming to this breakfast, and to this year's Zurich Classic. Recreational facilities like the TPC Golf Course, and sporting events like the PGA Tour, are important to the rebuilding of New Orleans. So thank you for keeping the Zurich Classic here in the Crescent City. (Applause.)

Another vital piece of the recovery is New Orleans's culture -- its beloved art, music, and, of course, its cuisine. In a minute, Emeril will be teaching us how to make New Orleans specialties, like shrimp and grits, and I want to thank Emeril Lagasse, and Alden, as well, for joining us today. (Applause.)

We all know, though, that the Gulf Coast recovery ultimately depends on its schools. Until there are schools for children, families can't return home. And never before in our history have state school superintendents and state officials faced the challenge of rebuilding whole school districts as quickly as possible.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than a thousand private and public schools in the Gulf Coast region were damaged or destroyed. More than 372,000 students moved -- were displaced to new classrooms in all 50 states. Today, every school district in Mississippi has reopened. In Louisiana, 94 percent of schools have opened their doors. In New Orleans, 58 public and charter schools are now up and running.

And of course, these newly rebuilt schools need new libraries. In September 2005, the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries established a special fund to help schools rebuild their book and material collections. Since then, the Foundation's Gulf Coast School Library Recovery Initiative has awarded about $2.5 million to 54 schools in Mississippi, Louisana, Florida, and Texas.

These grants will help librarians build new collections, especially chosen collections, that support their schools' curriculum. And they'll help young people who use these libraries find comfort and inspiration in their favorite books.

These grants are made possible by the support of generous individuals, good corporate citizens like Zurich Financial, and charities such as Fore!Kids. The Fore!Kids Foundation has donated more than $15 million to local New Orleans charities -- and by hosting the PGA Tour, it adds an estimated $25 million to the local economy every year. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)

Today, Zurich and Fore!Kids are extending their generosity to the Laura Bush Foundation through the "Birdies for Books" program. For each birdie scored in the Classic, Zurich will award $100 to the School Library Recovery Initiative. This is one time when we actually want sub-par performances. (Laughter.) In fact, before I came, President Bush told me he was glad he wasn't playing, or otherwise, it would have to be "Bogeys for Books." (Laughter.)

We hope "Birdies for Books" gives players an extra incentive to do well on the links. And we already know what it will give the children of the Gulf Coast. With the money donated by Zurich, the Laura Bush Foundation will help put books on the shelves of more school libraries. Rebuilt libraries will help bring children back to their schools. And rebuilt schools will bring families back to a revitalized Gulf Coast.

Thank you to Zurich Financial Services, and the Fore!Kids Foundation, and to the PGA Tour for your generosity. And thanks to each and every one of you for your commitment to New Orleans. I wish you the very best for a great Zurich Classic -- and one with lots of birdies.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

END 8:56 A.M. CDT

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