The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
December 2, 2002

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Coming Up Taller Awards
As Delivered
The East Room

Thank you, Debbie. I am pleased to welcome our friends, His Excellency Ambassador Juan Jose Bremer and Mrs. Bremer and the Mexican delegation, to the fifth annual Coming Up Taller Awards. The President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities is proud to honor two programs in your home country of Mexico with Coming Up Taller Awards.

Welcome Congresswoman Connie Morella. Thank you, Adair, and members of The President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities for your welcome. Thanks also to the members of the Institute of Library and Museum Services and the National Councils on the Arts and Humanities.

And thanks to all the young people who are here. Today, we celebrate you and your pursuit of excellence in the study of arts and humanities. We celebrate your talent and creativity, and the dedication of your teachers who inspire you to paint, to write and to act out your dreams.

Debbie Allen is one of those dedicated teachers. She has inspired hundreds of young people to pursue their love of dance and to never give up on their dreams. This is a lesson she learned a long time ago. As a child, Debbie wanted to study dance at the Houston Foundation for Ballet, but she was not accepted during her first audition, but she did not give up.

She took lessons with a former dancer. She moved with her family to Mexico City and danced with the National Ballet of Mexico. When Debbie and her family moved back to Texas, she auditioned again for the Houston Foundation for Ballet. Her strong will and hard work paid off. She received a full scholarship and became the company's first African-American dancer. You are an inspiring example, Debbie.

Just as Debbie's love of dance inspired her to succeed, Coming Up Taller programs inspire young people to succeed. Today, thanks to the study of arts and humanities, thousands of children are gaining a greater sense of character and confidence. They are realizing there is a big world beyond their own backyards - and that the world is waiting for them.

For many children, this new world is college. Coming Up Taller programs help children who never imagined they could go to do just that. Through the DC Youth Orchestra Program here in Washington, students study with professional musicians and perform in one of the program's five orchestras. The Youth Orchestra has even performed at the White House and at Lincoln Center. And nearly every student in this merit-based program goes on to college or on to play with some of the world's greatest orchestras.

Young people in Florida are also earning the chance to attend college through Dance - The Next Generation. Sponsored by Sarasota Ballet of Florida, this program gives aspiring dancers seven years of ballet training and then helps them qualify for full scholarships to college.

In North Dakota, through the STudents At Risk, or STAR program, gifted students receive personal support and tuition assistance to attend the Trollwood School for the Performing Arts. There, they immerse themselves in the study of dance, playwriting and theater.

At Trollwood and in every Coming Up Taller program, everywhere children learn in a safe environment where they make new friends and spend time with caring adults. Through performances and exhibitions, children are recognized and applauded for their accomplishments. They learn discipline and teamwork. And above all, they learn to love learning. In North Carolina, children learn about their community and its rich history through Youth Document Durham. Children work with folklorists and photographers to explore and document their neighborhood origins. In Louisiana, through the New Orleans Recreation Department and the New Orleans Ballet Association Center for Dance, children experience the migration of African Americans from the South to the North through interpretative dance.

The arts and humanities are critical building blocks for a child's development. Drawing helps children improve their writing. Poetry helps with memory. Theater brings history to life. Arts and humanities help to develop vocabulary and critical thinking and an appreciation for math and science.

In the New York public schools, more students learn to appreciate architecture through the Arts in Education Program in Architecture and Design. Children build scale models, they learn about design elements, and even develop new building plans for their schools. And through the Museum Team Afterschool Program at the Brooklyn Children's Museum, young people go to the inviting world of the museum after school, rather than home by themselves. Children study Early American history and make quilts that illustrate our country's beginnings.

These children express themselves and have fun. They learn new and amazing things about the arts and humanities - and about themselves. They discover who they are - they discover who they can become - and that they can do anything they set their minds to. In my home state of Texas, through the SAY S, San Antonio Youth YES! Program, young people sharpen their communication skills to prepare for college and careers. They also learn about helping others. Student artists hold art workshops for young children at housing projects and shelters. In California, through Young Artists at Work, teenagers study with artists and filmmakers in a year-long program that encourages the development of skills that last a lifetime.

Through Coming Up Taller, young people are growing up stronger and smarter - and more prepared for what the world holds. More children tune violins than into television. More participate in plays than in violence. Rather than give up, they give in to the joy of painting a mural to beautify an old building in their neighborhood.

That is just what A Company of Girls does in Portland, Maine. Through this theater program, students perform their rendition of King Lear, appropriately titled Queen Lear for their all girls' production group. In California, young people learn about and share their native Mexican traditions with their community at the Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center. Here, master artists teach young people traditional Mexican arts. Los Cenzontles means The Mockingbirds, and I am thrilled that these gifted young people will be sharing a bit of their heritage with us today.

Mexico's heritage is also being shared with children through two remarkable programs in the heart of Mexico. Through Fbrica de Artes Oficios de Oriente, young children learn sculpture, toy-making, and music from gifted artists in Mexico City. And through Talleres Culturales en Zonas Marginadas, artists hold workshops in rural villages. Here, children are read stories and then learn to write their own.

And they learn that the arts and humanities are fun. Coming Up Taller programs engage children in a learning style that they respond to. They especially respond to the gifted teachers, artists, and musicians who share their love, their time and their talent with our young people.

Congratulations to the recipients of this year's Coming Up Taller Awards for the remarkable difference you are making in our communities and in our world.

To the young people here today, your brothers and sisters and children in your neighborhood look up to you. You show them what is possible if you work hard and pursue your dreams. So before you head out into a world filled with opportunity, give someone else the opportunity to learn from you. I encourage you to get involved as a teacher or a mentor with a Coming Up Taller program in your community.

A wise woman once said, "Failure is something you cannot be afraid of, because you will stop growing. The next step beyond failure could be your biggest success in life." Debbie Allen knows what she is talking about. Study of the arts and humanities give you the skills. Dance, words and music inspire you. And you will make your future a true work of art. Thank you all very much.


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