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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
February 11, 2008

Remarks by Mrs. Bush and OMB Director Jim Nussle in a Greeting with AbilityOne Employees of the Year

Diplomatic Reception Room

10:28 A.M. EST

DIRECTOR NUSSLE: Well, first let me thank you all for coming, and for the team's dedication to AbilityOne. Paul Denett from OMB does the work of leading our team, and I want to thank him for his leadership.

I'm honored to be with all of you here today. You know, AbilityOne is not just a federal initiative that works with public and private organizations to generate employment for individuals who are blind or who have other severe disabilities. It helps create opportunities for people who might otherwise not have them, and that's pretty special.

Congress created this program in 1938 to allow agencies serving the blind to sell products to the federal government. In 1971, the Act was extended to include people who had severe disabilities. Well, currently the AbilityOne program employs nearly 43,000 people and individuals in more than 600 community-based non-profit agencies, providing the federal government with quality services and products.

Well, today we're here to honor the dedicated employees of the Committee for Purchases From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, AbilityOne's federal overseer. We also are here to pay tribute to the outstanding employees of the National Industries for the Blind and NISH, two non-profit agencies under the AbilityOne program that serve people with disabilities. So congratulations to all of the AbilityOne program award recipients. We see you working shoulder to shoulder and side by side with all of us. We thank you for making such a valuable contribution to our nation's work force.

And it is now my very special treat to have the opportunity of introducing the First Lady of the United States, Laura Bush. (Applause.)

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, Director Nussle. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome you all to the White House today to congratulate the 16 outstanding individuals who are the ability award winners that are here with us today, but also to inform you that this morning, President Bush signed an AbilityOne memorandum that encourages all federal agencies to adopt AbilityOne programs on their own, to continue to work with AbilityOne. And I'm very proud that President Bush signed that memorandum today. (Applause.)

I also want to thank you for the work that each one of you do and the contributions you make to AbilityOne. It's very important for Americans with disabilities to be afforded the opportunities to lead independent lives, to be able to use their talents and their potential to the fullest. And I know that that's what you all work on every day. And I thank you very, very much for it.

God bless you all. (Applause.)

END 10:32 A.M. EST

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