|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 17, 2002
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Women Leaders Luncheon in Hungary
Thank you, welcome everyone, and thank you, Ambassador Brinker, for arranging this meeting and the beautiful centerpieces - they represent books that will be donated to area school children in honor of Hungary's "Year of Reading".
Thanks, also, to our hosts, the all-woman staff of Bagolvar.
This room is filled with women of power and promise. You use your individual talent and your resources to build a better world, and I salute you.
Through your roles in business, government, education, diplomacy or the arts, you help advance the progress of women. And as you share your stories today, you honor the many women - mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers and role models -- who helped carry us to our current ways of life; lives of opportunity and freedom.
Earlier this week I was in Paris to attend the Organization for Economic Co- operation and Development Forum. Member countries, including Hungary, gather regularly to discuss ways to improve the lives around the world.
This year's forum focused on four themes: security, equity, education and growth. All four are important - and I believe all four hinge on one: education. Education opens the door of hope to all the world's children.
No matter what country you call home, no matter what our differences in culture or custom or faith, one value transcends every border: all Mothers and Fathers the world over love their children and want the very best for them.
As President Bush said earlier this year in his State of the Union address to Congress: "All fathers and mothers, in all societies, want their children to be educated, and live free from poverty and violence.No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them."
We all want our children to grow up in a world that is secure. Women are central to this goal.
A vivid example of this truth is the appalling treatment of women in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime. At the White House, I have met with Afghan women who have told the heart-rending stories of the Taliban's virtual house arrest and brutal treatment of women, and of the absurd and tragic lengths to which men went to keep women in submission. Girls were banished from school, and marginalized in society.
As a result, Afghanistan lost numbers in wealth, workforce, brainpower, productivity, expertise and the professional support of doctors, engineers, businesswomen, teachers. The nation lost its lifeblood.
In the world's thriving countries, women might take for granted the ability to leave our homes and go to work every day, to help provide for our children and participate in society.and to attend gatherings like this one.
In Afghanistan, a country that has looked more like the Seventh Century than the 21st Century, these goals are staggering.
But we have reason to hope as we witness the first joyful returns of freedom in Afghanistan. Now that the Taliban has lost its grip on society, women are beginning to resume the lives they once knew -- as doctors, government employees, teachers, and professionals in many fields of work.
An Afghan woman named Shura said, "For five years, we could not recognize each other on the street because of our burqas. Now we can be together and try to fight."
The women of Afghanistan remind us that freedom is worth fighting for. It takes courage and perseverance, and sometimes it takes the strength of numbers, but in every case, and in every country, freedom is worth fighting for.
Next I will travel to Prague -- my last stop before I join my husband in Germany. In Prague I will meet with representatives from NGOs that are a big part of the rebuilding effort in Afghanistan.
I look forward to hearing about their work - and talking about some of the United States' contributions to the allied effort in Afghanistan. I also will deliver a radio address to the people of Afghanistan through Radio Free Afghanistan.
Part of the address will include messages written by the children of the United States for the children of Afghanistan. They are innocent words of hope and friendship that American children wish to share with their peers in Afghanistan during this important time of rebuilding. And I will speak directly to women.offering words of praise and encouragement from the people of the United States, and detailing some U.S. efforts to help women regain their place in the workforce, and in society.
In my home state of Texas, I had a good friend, an artist, whose name was Tom Lea. Tom died last year, but his life is immortalized in both art and words. In his book titled "A Picture Gallery", Tom wrote, "Sarah (My wife) and I live on the east side of our mountain. It is the side to see the day that is coming, not the side to see the day that is gone. The best day is the day coming, with work to do with the eyes wide open, with the heart grateful."
In Afghanistan, in Hungary and in our hearts, the best day is coming for women.
Many of us have been inspired by the ideas and stories of strong, determined women in our history, and in our lives. The roles these women play are diverse, but perhaps what they all have in common is their love, their humanity, and their purpose. We can learn a lot from their example, and just as we can learn a lot from each other today. Thank you.
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