The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 8, 2001

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at a Troops to Teachers Event in South Carolina
As Delivered
Ft. Jackson Army Base
Columbia, South Carolina

Thank you very much, Tyrell (Brown, a student), for that wonderful introduction.

General and Mrs. Barrett;
Dr. John Gantz;
Dr. William Harner;
Dr. Thomas Sylvester;
Dr. Richard Tanner;
and the fine men and women of Fort Jackson, I’m honored to be here today.

Today is National Teacher's Day, and as a former public school teacher myself, I am thrilled to be here to help celebrate the occasion. By some accounts, this day of teacher recognition dates back to the mid 1940s, when an Arkansas teacher named Mattye Woodridge began lobbying political and education leaders for a day to recognize America’s teachers.

Nearly a decade later one of my predecessors, Eleanor Roosevelt, persuaded the 81st Congress to proclaim a National Teacher Day in 1953. Today that tradition continues.

Every teacher here today, thank you for your hard work. You are sincerely appreciated.

On behalf of the children and families of America who benefit from your care and devotion, President Bush and I salute you.

President Bush also joins me in saying "thank you" to our nation’s military personnel for your service. We deeply appreciate the sacrifices you make for our nation...and the pride and honor you bring to our Armed Services.

Because of your dedication, the United States is strong, stable, and secure.

Your work ensures that America remains a land of opportunity and that is what brings me here today.

Men and women of the United States military, you answered the call to serve your country in the finest Armed Forces in the World. As you prepare to leave the military, we ask you to turn your attention to the home Uncle Sam’s classrooms...where we need your service as teachers.

Over the next 10 years, schools will hire tens of thousands new teachers to keep up with our growing student population. As we confront this need...we turn to former military personnel for your help.

When I announced my education initiative in February, my husband thought I was kidding when I told him I was going to call in the military...

But he supports me 100 percent. And he supports YOU 100 percent.

America’s school children need you, and I am here to enlist...or rather, RE-enlist your help through the Troops to Teachers program.

Troops to Teachers will help you earn your teaching credentials, and once you are certified, Troops to Teachers will help you find jobs back home or wherever you plan to live when you leave the military.

We are looking for the best and brightest minds to send into our classrooms. We want leaders like you, who have the qualities that make excellent teachers: an ability to thrive on overcoming challenges, a drive to achieve results, and a commitment to reaching every goal you set.

Already nearly 4,000 former military personnel have joined the ranks of teachers in our nation, and as we speak, others are lining up. But we need many more excellent teachers. We need more people like you. You have what it takes for this honorable assignment.

Many of you have science, math, and engineering degrees — disciplines that our children desperately need. Beyond that you are tremendous role models with a sense of duty, honor and country that our children would do well to emulate.

The challenge is different but the reward is great.

In the news recently was a former soldier who became a teacher through Troops to Teachers. He said: "You put so much into talking with the kids. But it’s also so exciting. There are definitely more plusses than minuses. Watching the light bulb go off in the kids’ faces...the ‘I got it now, I understand look'.

Another man, an Air Force veteran, said: "As a veteran you sacrifice self for your country. As a teacher you sacrifice self for youth."

As a former public school teacher myself, I am proud to add my voice to the chorus of supporters for Troops to Teachers.

President Bush joins me in that effort. He wants to boost funding for the Troops to Teachers program from $3 million to $30 million, to help skilled professionals continue to serve our country...this time in our classrooms.

We are proud that many of our nation’s leaders are making the commitment to ensure that no child is left behind, and we hope you will join us.

Fort Jackson is a training ground for young soldiers. Men and women become true leaders here. Skills are sharpened and refined here as you teach and learn from each other. It is this kind of duty that translates well to a career in teaching.

For those of you who are retired or are soon to be retired, you are invited to attend the Teaching as a Second Career briefing in the Youth Services Center once we conclude here. There, you will hear more about how Troops to Teachers can help you serve again in a new and important role in our public schools.

Members of the military protected our nation in war and lead the world in peace. As you prepare to end your service, I ask you to consider another challenge...teaching in America’s classrooms. Join the Troops to Teachers program...for your future; and for our nation’s future. Thank you.

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