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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
January 10, 2002

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at America's Promise Long Commitment Announcement
Houston, Texas

I am thrilled be a part of this event with friends and fellow Texans, and with my friend Alma Powell. Thank you for your leadership of America's Promise and for your wonderful words.

President Bush and I deeply appreciate the members of the Long family for supporting this important work. And we applaud everyone here today who helps young people in Houston and across the state of Texas.

I want to also recognize the students from Marshall Middle School and ProjectGrad who helped set up this great event. I am glad to see all of you.

Since September 11th, I have seen an incredible amount of good across America - in our communities, and especially in our children who have wanted to help - and have done so in many remarkable ways.

On a scale that we could not have imagined possible, we have seen people helping strangers and strangers becoming heroes.

We are reminded that little things - and little hands - can make a difference. I spent a day teaching at Birney Elementary School in Washington D.C., during Teach for America week in October. I never expected to be handed 169 envelopes containing donations from the students.

The money in those envelopes was intended for America's Fund for Afghan Children. The students knew the President had asked children to send a dollar to help pay for food and medicine for Afghan children.

The children at Birney Elementary might understand hunger. Of the 565 students who attend that school, all but 27 children are eligible for the free or reduced-cost lunch program. And yet they contributed $173 dollars and .64 cents to the Children's Fund.

This spirit of giving to others is not new in Texas or in America. Giving to others has been a way of life for many individuals and families in this great state and across the country. Today, we witness the writing of one more chapter of that proud story with this generous gift from the Long family.

Their commitment answers a special call for the family, and it will help countless children - many of whom the Longs will never know.but to those children, the Longs will be heroes.

When America's Promise first began in 1997, I attended the summit in Philadelphia with Alma and Colin Powell. I remember it well. There, the voices of thousands of Americans rang with a contagious enthusiasm - everyone wanted to be a part of a movement to help our nation's young people, including young people themselves.

It was the beginning of a national movement that continues to this day. After that gathering, General Powell and my husband, then Governor of Texas, became partners in the effort in Texas by starting the Texas Challenge, which Governor Perry now faithfully leads.

My husband took from Texas to Washington his commitment to the fundamental belief that every child is a child of promise. Last summer, he welcomed a group from America's Promise to the White House to thank them and everyone across the country is making a child's life one of hope and promise.

The President said that all children need role models. They need to be safe, healthy, educated and challenged to serve - challenged to "love a neighbor just like they'd like to be loved themselves." That is what America's Promise is all about.

The answers to our nation's most pressing problems are not echoing in the halls of Congress or waiting approval in our state legislatures. the answers can be found in our communities, in our churches, our businesses, and our hearts.

In one of his first addresses of the new year, the my husband said, "2002 is going to be a great year because Americans have taken a look inward, reassessed their values; have realized that some of the basics in life are what matter most - love of faith, love of family. And as a result, our communities have been stronger."

He's right. Our communities have grown stronger. It is important to be good citizens and good neighbors, to promote good values in our homes, and not be ashamed to promote them in our communities and across the country.

At home and abroad, America's response to the tragic events of September reveals the power that we have when we are purposeful and united. We are capable of more than we imagine; capable as ever to reach beyond our own families and friends to care for neighbors and strangers and those in need.

America's children all have needs; some more than others. Perhaps now that we have witnessed what we can accomplish together in our communities, we can set new and higher expectations for what we can provide for children across the country.

We are a compassionate people who want to do the best we can for our children. We would like to set and meet higher expectations when it comes to the character and competence. We look to our children with hope that they will become the future "greatest generation".

Every community can charge itself to fulfill the promise of America for its children. Of course, many communities need help, and we can help by giving them specific information about ways they can meet needs of local children.

With our renewed optimism and courage, with the help that comes from friends and strangers alike, and with the fulfillment of the America's Five Promises as a guide, communities can meet their goals and make life better for our next generation.

Just as the five leaders here today have done, every American can find ways to commit time and talent to our children. I hope more people will consider becoming a part of the web of critical resources for our nation's young people.

Colin Powell spoke powerful words on the steps of Independence Hall at the closing ceremony for the President's Summit for America's future.

He said "If we're going to achieve this dream that we believe in for every American, regardless of race, color, creed, background or any other distinction, the only thing that really counts is that they're all Americans, they are all our children, they are all God's children, and we're going to save each and every one of them, one child at a time - God willing and with your help."

Government alone can't solve all the problems of our society, but it can contribute in many ways with the help of compassionate Texans like the Longs and those who are here today.

The Longs' generous commitment is a wonderful example of giving back to the places we call "Home", and I hope the rest of the nation hears about your compassionate gift so that others will be inspired to give as generously in their own unique ways.

Together we can fulfill the promise of America and ensure a bright future for every child.

Thank you. God bless Texas and God bless this great nation of ours.

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