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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
October 30, 2008

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at a Laura Bush Foundation Grant Announcement
John Dibert Elementary School
New Orleans, Louisiana

photos  Photos

11:31 A.M. CDT

MRS. BUSH: Thank you, Ralph, for that terrific introduction. I know you're going to make it, too, to LSU. And congratulations for having that goal. It's really important to make those goals and then to do everything you can to be able to achieve them. And I'm very happy for you.

I understand that you love computers and basketball, and I think you might really have a pretty good chance at public speaking, as well -- (laughter) -- so thank you very much. (Applause.)

Mrs. Laura Bush visits with Mr. Jim Kelly, CEO and co-president of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, left; homeowner Mrs. Joeretta Roman, Ms. Nancy Parlin, Consociate Candidate, Sisters of St. Joseph of the Province of St. Paul, third from left; Mr. Ashton Johnson, student YouthBuild Helping Hands; Mr. Doug O'Dell, Federal Coordinator, Office of the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding, 2nd right, and Mr. Kevin Fitzpatrick, Volunteer Housing Coordinator, Operation Helping Hands, right, Thursday, October 30, 2008, in New Orleans, La., during a tour of the home of Joretta Roman which is being rennovated by Catholic Charities Operation Helping Hands after sustaining damage from Hurricane Katrina. White House photo by Chris Greenberg I'm happy to be back in New Orleans to present more awards from the Laura Bush Foundation to Gulf Coast school libraries. I also want to acknowledge State Superintendent Pastorek. Thank you so much, Paul. Thank you very much for your great work. And Recovery School District Superintendent Vallas; thank you also, Paul. Principal Keith Bartlett, thank you for letting us be here at Dibert School today to make the announcement of these grants. I appreciate your hospitality and your very warm welcome. And thank you very much to all three of you for your work with students here in New Orleans and across Louisiana.

I also want to recognize a few other guests today. Congressman Scalisi, thank you for joining us today. Thank you for coming. (Applause.) Ambassador Pam Willeford, we couldn't -- the Laura Bush Foundation couldn't get along with Ambassador's great -- without her great work, so thank you so much, Pam. (Applause.) And also, of course, I want to recognize Superintendent Doris Voitier. Like Pam said, our very first visit with the Gulf Coast School Library Recovery part of the Laura Bush Foundation was to Chalmette High School. And that was very early on. The school -- the downstairs was still being painted and restored, and we did everything upstairs. And so I want to congratulate you for the great work then and since then to rebuild the St. Bernard Parish schools. Congratulations, Doris. (Applause.)

And the students, and especially the students that are here with us today, thank you for your welcome to your school. I love all the great artwork and classwork that I saw up on the walls, especially the wetlands restoration art project. And I'm proud of your work that you all are doing to learn how to read and to become even better readers. It's clear that students here at Dibert Elementary are working hard because of the superior rating that your school has received. And congratulations to Principal Bartlett and to each and every one of you students. Keep up the good work. (Applause.)

Mrs. Laura Bush is joined by homeowner Joretta Roman as she views the renovation project at Roman's home Thursday, October 30, 2008, in New Orleans, La., during a tour of the home being rennovated by Catholic Charities Operation Helping Hands. The home sustained damage during Hurricane Katrina. White House photo by Chris Greenberg Reading is the single most important skill you'll learn in school. If you can read, you can read anything. You can read every subject. And if you can't read, you're at a real disadvantage. So it's very important that you learn how to read. And you'll find that when you do, that books can become some of your greatest companions that you'll ever have -- in school and even after school for the rest of your life.

And if you ask me, there's nothing better than a school that gives books a happy home -- in a library with a fireplace -- (laughter) -- to keep the room warm and cozy when you visit.

Your library is precisely what brings me here today. Over the past seven years -- and we added this all up on the plane coming here, and I even was amazed -- the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries has given over $10 million in grants to more than 1,000 United States public school libraries. (Applause.) And this includes more than $3.5 million that's been given directly to schools on the Gulf Coast to help rebuild their library collections after the hurricanes.

And today, I'm here with more good news, and that is, we're presenting another million dollars in new grants to 22 schools here on the Gulf Coast for their libraries -- and that means lots of new books.

I want to recognize everyone from those 22 schools -- the students, librarians, and principals who are here today. Would all of you please stand -- the school librarians, the principals, and the students from these 22 schools? (Applause.) Congratulations to each and every one of you. This represents 22 more schools on the Gulf Coast that are now rebuilt, that are now reopened, that have libraries that are ready to receive these new collections of books that they're -- each of these principals and librarians will select especially for your school, library books that support your student population, that reflect the variety of your students, and also that support your curriculum that each one of you are teaching in your schools. So thank you all, and congratulations to you.

The Foundation grants will add even more to each of the library's shelves, so the students can have the experience of checking out a good book and checking in on a great adventure.

I'm from Texas, so I have a special place in my heart for all of the communities along the Gulf Coast. I've visited many times, but the past three years have proven to be the most extraordinary experiences so far.

I'm inspired every time I come back and see the progress. I've seen people rebuild their lives and their communities -- one home, one church, and one school at a time. And I've encountered such strength and optimism here. I want to tell you how moved I am by every single visit. So thank you all. Thanks to each and every one of you, especially the school people, for your courage and your strength, because when schools are rebuilt, then families can come back. So thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)

I'm happy that the Laura Bush Foundation can play a part in the recovery, that we can put books back on the shelves, and in the hands of children, where those books belong.

Students, I know that many of you attend John Dibert because you don't have schools in your own neighborhoods. I want to share something with you -- something that was written in the grant application for your school. Your principal said, "The students, parents, and staff of the new John Dibert School are pioneers in the rebuilding of the public school system in New Orleans." And truer words could not be spoken. You are brave and hard-working pioneers, and I salute you.

Your principal also said that the library is at the heart of your school -- and when a student here gets to open a new book, it's like opening a gift. So I encourage each of you to give yourself that gift every day. Open a book, and start reading.

When you open a book, you might encounter a character that becomes a lifelong friend; you might travel to some exotic land. You might even learn a new fact about history -- a history that you're now part of in Louisiana.

None of us could live without books, which gives us so many great stories about people, places, and important events. President Bush and I read every day. It really is a gift that we give ourselves, and I'm glad to share that gift with you.

Congratulations to all the Laura Bush Foundation grant winners, and thank you again for hosting everyone here in New Orleans at John Dibert School. Thank you all, and may God bless you, and may God bless America. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

END 11:40 A.M. CDT

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