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

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at 25th Joint Armed Forces Officers' Wives' Luncheon
As Delivered

Thank you, Rose. What a pleasure it is to be here and to see so many friends - Joyce Rumsfeld, Deni Mineta, Mary Jo Myers and Dottie England. And thank you, Connie Clark for being here. I am proud to be the sponsor of the USS Texas and I look forward to the day this impressive submarine will be launched.

I am proud to celebrate with you the Silver Anniversary of the Joint Armed Forces Officers' Wives'. Twenty-five years is a long time to be together. But it can go by quickly if you enjoy each other. I speak from experience, as the President and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on Tuesday. Today, we celebrate the spirit of a strong force in the military - an elite special support group who do not wear uniforms, fly jets, or brandish weapons - a band of sisters who comfort and support their loved ones, their community and each other so that America remains the land of the free and the home of the brave. Today, we celebrate you - our nation's military wives.

I know about having life turned upside-down because the man you love wants to serve the country he loves. And I know you make many sacrifices to help your spouses fulfill their dreams. Like you, the President and I have moved a lot - five times and we have lived in six different homes. I have to say, the White House is the best yet. Moving, packing and hoping our children would be happy in a new home is something I can relate to. And so is change. For most people, accepting change is not easy. But you embrace it.

For you, change means moving and starting over, but it also means new friends, new goals, and new mountains to climb. Your determination to make a home for your family wherever you are, matches your husband's devotion to duty. Wherever you go, you continue your own careers or volunteer your time, helping to make the world a better place. President Bush joins me in thanking you for everything you do - not just as military wives and mothers - but as volunteers, coaches, mentors and role models who make a remarkable difference.

I would especially like to thank Mary Fallon who is here with us today. Her husband, Admiral William Fallon, is our country's Vice Chief of Naval Operations. Mary volunteers in my Office of Correspondence helping to organize the hundreds of letters we receive every day. Thank you, Mary.

Like Mary, you are not just the wives of America's great military leaders - but women who share their own talents and their own interests with the world. I have gained great inspiration from your example. I am using my love of reading to make sure that every child in America receives an excellent education.

My Ready to Read, Ready to Learn initiative has two main goals - first, to ensure that young children are well prepared to read and learn when they enter their first classroom. And, second, to help recruit the best and brightest teachers to lead our children and our schools to excellence. Reading is the most important skill our children learn. Practicing language and pre-reading skills with children at an early age and reading aloud to them helps prepare them to learn to read.

Some of my most memorable moments as a child were the times my mother read to me. And some of my favorite memories as a mother are of reading the Runaway Bunny and Good Night Moon to my own daughters.

As they grew bigger, their love of reading and being read to grew as well. It is important to take time to read to and with our children. It not only helps them to learn, but it comforts them and lets them know that they are loved. I hope you will join me in sharing the importance of reading to our children with the young military mothers and fathers you meet every day. Parents are a child's first and foremost teacher. But not their only teacher.

America's school teachers help our children learn once they enter their first classroom. And we desperately need more of them. In the next decade, more than two million new teachers will be needed in our classrooms. That is why the second major goal of my initiative is to encourage dedicated and bright Americans to bring their talent to classrooms throughout our country - especially in inner-city and rural schools - where teachers are most needed.

Retiring members of the military are great candidates to answer the call to teach.

Through the Troops to Teachers program, retiring military men and women are getting the training, certification and support they need to move from the frontlines to the front of the class as America's newest teachers. Many have science, math, and engineering degrees - disciplines that our schools desperately need. And they are making a remarkable difference in our classrooms.

At Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, I met one of Troops to Teachers' very best - Michael Glaze, a 21-year Master Sergeant in the Air Force. Mr. Glaze sparked his third graders interest in science by leading them in Operation Space Station, where they transformed their classroom into a real space station. Just like true astronauts, they stayed in the station all night. They communicated by instant messenger on lap top computers and they created plans of action in case a fellow crew member became sick. By the next day, the students had two new heroes - Neil Armstrong and Mr. Glaze.

The leadership skills military men and women hone throughout their career translate well into teaching. Our students need leadership, they need real world perspective, and above all, they need someone to look up to.

The men and women of our military are great role models with a strong sense of duty, honor and country. And today, our children need those qualities more than ever. Our children's future success depends on their learning to read well at an early age. And America's future depends on our teachers. These are my priorities. And I know that they are also your priorities as mothers, grandmothers, and Americans.

Helping our children to succeed in life can be a great challenge, but an even greater opportunity. Today, our country faces many new challenges - and so does our military.

Our thoughts and prayers will always be with your husbands and our military men and women who have devoted their lives to defending ours - and to defending freedom. Thank you for welcoming me here today, and for continuing to embrace change as an opportunity.

I love the great writer, James Baldwin's analysis of change. I would like to leave you with his words. He said, "For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever.the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have.the moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out."

Your spirit is indomitable - and I know you will continue to hold each other, your families and this country together as only an elite band of sisters can. Thank You. And since this is a women's lunch, we should do what women do best - talk. I know some of you have questions you would like to ask.

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