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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
March 7, 2002

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at United Negro College Fund Anniversary
As Delivered
New York, New York

Thank you very much. I'm so pleased to be here tonight to help celebrate the 58th anniversary of the United Negro College Fund. And I join you in congratulating tonight's honorees for their service to our country and their commitment to our children.

New Yorkers have shown such resolve in healing and recovering after the events of September 11th. And I want to thank the UNCF for contributing to the rebuilding effort through Liberty Scholarships.

These scholarships are being offered to any child who lost a parent or guardian in the attacks. They cover the full cost of an education at any of the UNCF's 39 member colleges and universities.

In October, I met with the first beneficiaries of this effort three young women, the daughters of two of New York's Bravest who died in the World Trade Center disaster.

Two of the girls, twin sisters, are freshman at Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina. Tiffany and Yolanda lost their father Leon, a member of New York City Fire Department's Ladder Company 118. Tiffany said, "It was my father's dream for us to continue to go to school, and I would never disappoint him. He is my hero and I have to keep going."

Thanks to your generosity, Tiffany and Yolanda will keep going. They'll be able to stay in school and their mother Marilyn can send me the graduation announcement they promised.

The President and I support UNCF and the historically black college and university community, and we applaud your efforts to ensure that more students like Tiffany and Yolanda will have a chance to continue their education and contribute to this great nation.

It was nearly 60 years ago that Dr. Frank Patterson wrote his now-famous letter urging the presidents of black colleges to pool their monies and "make a united appeal to the national conscience."

One of the colleges that responded to the call is Xavier University in New Orleans. Earlier this week I was joined by Dr. Rosalind Hale, the Dean of Xavier's Division of Education, at the White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers.

We gathered with education leaders, researchers, and policymakers to help address three important issues that affect us all:

  • The growing teacher shortage in America;
  • The need for improving teaching standards;
  • And the need for accountability systems to ensure students are learning what they need to know in every subject.

All of us know that one of the most important ingredients in a child's education is a good teacher. And teachers need better training and our support to help children succeed in school.

One of America's beloved leaders and role models, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was as passionate about education as the people in this room are.

Doctor King had wonderful parents wonderful teachers and wonderful mentors. He believed a good education was the birthright of every American child. He viewed it as the gateway to greater opportunity and a better life, and as a way to ensure equal rights and social justice.

It is worth remembering that as a young man, Martin Luther King, Jr. turned to the writings of history's greatest philosophers for wisdom and practical guidance. He immersed himself in thinkers from Plato and Aristotle, to Rousseau, Hobbes, Mill and Locke.

His incredible education allowed him to become the 20th Century's greatest advocate of the American dream, and the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence.

I can't help but believe that Doctor King would have been keenly interested in the recent education bill that was passed overwhelmingly by the United States Congress and signed into law by my husband.

It's called the No Child Left Behind Act, and it gives schools greater flexibility to use federal funds where the local need is greatest: to recruit new teachers; to improve teacher training, or to increase teacher pay in areas of critical need.

This new law makes sense and it means more money for schools across America. This new money is matched with new reforms.

First, it will transform federal spending on schools by insisting on improved student performance.

Second, it will require all states to set high standards of achievement and create a system of accountability to measure results.

We must know if our teachers are doing a good job of teaching, and we must know that our children are learning. With this new law, states must test all students in grades 3 through 8 in reading and mathematics. And, assessment results must be broken out by poverty, race, ethnicity, disability, and limited English proficiency to ensure that no group, or no child, is left behind.

This bill is a great first step. But much remains to be done. Over the next decade, America's schools will need more than 2 million new teachers. And the President's proposed budget provides nearly $4 billion dollars overall for teacher training, recruiting, and staff development.

He also proposed to expand programs that recruit new math, science and special education teachers by forgiving part of their college loans in exchange for a commitment to teach in poor neighborhoods for at least five years.

We should open up the teaching profession, allowing people who have achieved in other fields -- including veterans, mid-career professionals and parents with grown children -- to share their learning and experience. And we must do all we can to make sure that all of our teaching colleges are really preparing teachers to teach.

During this week's conference, I was moved by the words of a kindergarten teacher named Elizabeth Menendez who works in Harlem. Elizabeth is a graduate of an alternative teacher certification program called Teach for America, and she turned a two-year teaching commitment into a lifelong commitment.

She said she was working toward Teach For America's vision that "One day, all the children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education."

Our obligation to Elizabeth and to America's teachers is as clear and strong as our obligation to America's children. Teachers deserve all the knowledge and support we can give them. And children deserve the quality education that comes from excellent teachers.

President Bush and I want to make sure that every child in America will achieve in school, and in life. We're committed to working with you to improve education for all children so that no child is left behind. Thank you.

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