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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
January 15, 2008

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at the Launch Event of Mount Vernon's "George Washington's Return to School" Program
Washington Mill Elementary School
Alexandria, Virginia


11:06 A.M. EST

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, Madison. Thanks so much for your kind introduction. Thank you to Damian for reading your great article about Mount Vernon. It was a very excellent article.

I want to also thank Dr. Jack Dale and Dr. Howard. Thank you very much for letting me be here with you today at Washington Mill School. And then I want to thank the people from Mount Vernon -- Mr. Jim Rees, Mrs. Ansley, and Mrs. Gaines. Thank you very much for having this idea to put George Washington's portrait back into schools across the United States.

Students, I want to thank you especially for welcoming me to your school. I'm happy to be here at a school that's built on land that George Washington once owned to talk about George Washington. And I'm happy that you will have this wonderful portrait of George Washington for your school.

I know you've been studying George Washington in your classes, and I know you've learned about his great accomplishments. But I want you to remember that George Washington was a man; he was a normal person just like each -- you and I are as well. Like, you probably have a favorite food. Do you?


MRS. BUSH: So do you know that George Washington had a favorite food? Do you know what it was?


MRS. BUSH: He loved to eat pancakes made of corn, and he had pancakes every single morning for breakfast, with honey and butter and tea. And he had favorite hobbies and games. Do you like to play games?


MRS. BUSH: Do you know what he liked to do?


MRS. BUSH: He was one of the best horsemen of his day. He loved to ride horses. He was a great dancer, and all of the ladies at parties thought he was their favorite. He was very tall and he was an excellent athlete. We know that he liked a game called "Tossing the Bar." And that's a good name for it, because the point of the game was to pick up a heavy iron bar and throw it as far as you could.

I know that many of you love animals. Do you?


MRS. BUSH: Well, George Washington loved animals, and one of his favorite pets was a foxhound, a dog named Vulcan. And one day when Vulcan was very hungry, he ate the ham that Mrs. Washington had made for dinner right off the kitchen table. George Washington thought this was hilarious. Mrs. Washington did not. (Laughter.)

After the Revolutionary War and America's independence, General Washington thought he would retire right down the street at Mount Vernon. He wanted to enjoy his retirement and be at home, the home that he loved, with Martha. But, just like when he had been called to go to the war and to be the general of the Continental Army, his countrymen called him again and asked him to become President -- the very first President of the United States. George Washington did this because he was a good citizen and he was a great patriot. Every time his country called on him to ask him to do something, he did it.

President Bush and I are proud to live in the house and the country that George Washington helped build. George Washington never lived in the White House, but he helped plan it, and he picked out the site that all of our presidents have lived on ever since him.

Every day, we learn more about George Washington -- and our admiration for him grows. For many years, the presidents who have lived in the White House and their families have honored President Washington by placing portraits of him throughout the White House. There are dozens of paintings and sculptures and drawings of President Washington. President Washington appears on clocks and cups and lamps.

The most famous painting of George Washington is in the East Room of the White House. When the British invaded Washington during the war of 1812, First Lady Dolley Madison refused to leave the White House without that painting. But the painting was so large, she had to break the frame and cut the canvas out of it to leave with it. The painting was just 14 years old then; it was a new painting. And Dolley Madison's actions showed how much she -- and other Americans of her time -- admired President George Washington.

The portrait that your school is getting right here, which is called a "porthole portrait," because the President is looking through this circle, is a very similar image to the one that President Bush has right over the mantle in the Oval Office. So every day when you come to school and you look at this portrait of George Washington, who is watching you do your schoolwork, remember that President Bush is also looking at a portrait very much like this while he works for our country.

You can honor George Washington by following his good example of good citizenship. I hope that each one of you will be a leader, set a good example for others in your school and community, and, as President Washington reminds us, all it takes is one citizen who loves his country to change America for the better.

Thank you all very much. You're so lucky to live so close to Mount Vernon, so I hope you go to Mount Vernon all the time and learn more and more about President Washington. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

Thank you, Santiago. Thank you for these beautiful flowers. And thank you, Damian, again, for your excellent essay.

END 11:13 A.M. EST

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