Morningside Elementary School
San Fernando, California
March 22, 2001
Remarks of Laura Bush at Morningside Elementary School
Noelle, thank you very much for your introduction.
I'm honored to welcome President Vicente Fox, from our neighboring country, Mexico. Bienvenido Senor Presidente.
Governor Davis, members of the school board, parents, distinguished guests, we're thrilled to be here at Morningside Elementary School.
And what a beautiful school! The colors are wonderful, and everything looks great. Mr. Vasquez, you and your faculty and staff have created an oasis of excellence for these bright young students.
I am proud to spotlight your success so that other schools might see and learn from your great example and I'm happy to see so many parents here supporting their children.
I wish the rest of the country could see you, too because you're proof that parents care about what goes on in the classroom. You deserve a round of applause.
I want to thank every teacher who's here today. You do so much more than teach. You inspire, you challenge and you mentor children.
I know you don't hear often enough how much we appreciate you. I know, because I've been there. I worked in public schools as a teacher and a librarian. It's often a difficult job, but it's a rewarding one. What you do in the classroom determines the future for your students and for our country.
President Bush knows that, that's why education is his top priority: He wants to have America's teachers and schools greater flexibility, freedom and support to do their job so that every child is educated and no child is left behind.
At Morningside Elementary, you set high standards to match the high hopes that parents have for their children.
One of the ways you achieve those high standards is through your commitment to use strong reading programs. If there's one thing that research has shown, it is that reading is the most valuable part of an education.
The importance of reading cannot be understated. In 1998, 68 percent of fourth-graders in our nation's lowest-income schools could not read at even a basic level.
We may grow numb to statistics, but we must not grow numb to our children. That so many children can't read is a clear indication of a fundamental failure of adult responsibility for children's lives and futures.
Every American must know how vital it is to read and talk to children. Parents, you have an important role. You are your child's first and most important teacher.
What you do for your children early in life will have long lasting and far-reaching effects.
Morningside School knows the importance of reading and I hope more schools choose to follow the path that you have chosen for your students. You know what works, because you've seen it firsthand here.
People sometimes make excuses for why our children don't succeed. Some use family situations, economic status, language backgrounds or learning difficulties to rationalize a child's lack of achievement. The President calls this "the soft bigotry of low expectations".
We must set our sights higher than that. Only through high expectations will our children excel in school and in life.
President Fox, as we receive letters from school children across the United States, I'm sure also you receive letters from school children throughout Mexico. Children's letters constantly remind President Bush and me of our duty to our children and their education.
An elementary school student named Nicole wrote and said, "School makes your brain smart. We learn math. It is not easy. I do my homework. My mother helps me sometimes. I like to do my homework and that's why I like my school so much!"
Another student named DeShawn wrote, "My favorite place is my school. I said school because we learn there. We sing, we play, we work, we have fun. Ms. Lucas gets on us when we don't follow directions. I like that because that's how we will learn and become something when we grow up."
We must do more than say that all children can learn. We must believe it.
We are wise enough to know what can be done; and we should expect nothing but the best from those who lead the way in education reform.
I am proud to be a part of President Bush's effort to ensure that no child is left behind. I hope you will join us in our mission. Principal Vasquez, thank you for letting us visit your school for a little while today and thanks to everyone for coming.
Now I'd like to say a few words about our distinguished guest from Mexico. He and my husband have a lot in common. They both started a new job at about the same time they both go to their ranches for solace and comfort.
Both men listen to their mothers .and they both like cauliflower.
President Fox and my husband are committed to the well-being of children in our countries.
President Bush and I appreciate our growing friendship with the President of Mexico. Our relationship is bound by common ties and shared values of democracy, of freedom, and of prosperity for all of our people.
Presidente Fox, when you are in the United States you know that estas con familia.
Thank you for visiting Morningside Elementary School with me.