For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 9, 2003
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at National Association of Broadcasters Gala Leadership Award
National Association of Broadcasters
Thank you, Eddie, David, and members of the National Association of Broadcasters for this great honor. Certainly, the most deserving award winners though are the men and women of the United States Military. Thank you, General Myers for accepting the Guardian Award. Over the last year, the world witnessed the courage and resolve of our military. Our troops have conducted themselves with compassion and we pray that they will return safely and soon.
Thank you all for your warm welcome. Thanks to the Members of Congress who are here for your support of America's broadcasters. Audrey, your introduction was great. I think you're ready for a career in television. Thanks also to fellow Texan Bob Schieffer for deciphering American politics for more than 40 years. I enjoy watching Face the Nation and contrary to popular belief, President Bush and I do enjoy watching television. I just can't let George eat pretzels at the same time.
Congratulations to tonight's award winners. Through your work you exemplify the spirit of these awards - and what it means to be a friend to someone in need, to be a community partner, to nurture children - and to serve America. Whether providing breaking news, emergency information or raising record funds for charity, the work you perform demonstrates the very best in public service and democracy. You set an inspiring example for broadcasters across the country. I also try to set an example through my work. And according to some kindergarten students, I do some pretty extraordinary things.
They wrote to tell me what they think I do in the White House. Shelbey says that I "help the President with all of his paper work and then help him clean up his office." And that I take care of him when he is sick and put cold cloths on his head."
Megan said I "...feed the dogs and cook carrot soup for dinner." And I plant daffodils and do the President's speeches when he isn't feeling well. While Todd said I "...shovel the snow and feed the birds." Now you understand why I am so excited to be here - I get to take a break from feeding the birds.
The fact is I get to come to events like this and talk about an issue of great concern to me and to all of us - the education of America's children. As broadcasters, you have a role to play in helping educate children. Some people think of education in terms of the "Three R's" - reading, writing, and 'rithmetic - but another "R" is essential: and that is responsibility. Each of us has a responsibility to advance education in America. Parents and teachers can not do it alone. And in a time of continually-evolving technology and mass media, you play an increasingly important role.
Studies show that children spend almost 40 hours a week using media outside of school through television, computers, and the radio.1 Most children watch an average of 3 to 4 hours of TV every day.2 By the time most children finish the first grade, they will have spent the equivalent of three school years watching TV.3 Our responsibility is to continue to create educational programs that inform parents - influence young people in a positive way - aand help instruct toddlers in learning.
We know that programs with research-based teaching instruction can provide a strong foundation for learning. So as people who care about children, we can work with parents, teachers and researchers to enhance programming and build a quality media environment for children.
The first place to start is by informing parents. Electronic media is the sole source of information for many parents. More than 85 percent of adults in America get their news from television broadcasts and 54 percent listen to the radio.4 News about their children's cognitive development and education is news they can not afford to miss. Broadcasters can inform parents about the latest research that shows the importance of reading to children.
Bob might remember Dr. Red Duke's Health Reports in Texas. I always tuned in to hear his health tips - and many of us remember the PSA on the ten o'clock news, "Do you know where your children are?" How about today after the daily news you ask parents, "Have you read a book to your baby tonight?" Or air a reminder at four o'clock for kids,"Have you done your homework yet?"
We can also inform parents about programming that is appropriate for kids. Parents should monitor their children's viewing and listening habits. But with so many media choices, they don't always know what's best for children. The number of programs for children has grown dramatically since "Sesame Street" first aired in 1969. Today, children have their own channels like Nickelodeon and Discovery Kids.
Broadcasters can educate parents about appropriate programs for children through increased marketing and press coverage. And we can inform parents about the influences and effects, both negative and positive, of media on children. In some cases, the media has a greater influence on children than their parents and teachers. An estimated eight million children are at home alone after school. 5
And while watching TV is the number one after-school activity - most educational programs for young people air on Saturday and weekday mornings, not after school. When children turn on the TV or the radio after school - you have an opportunity to influence them to study, to read, to achieve, and to be good citizens. Last October, I met with students at Maplewood-Richmond Heights High School, in St. Louis for a conference on character education.
We talked about the importance of good citizenship and service and Court TV filmed the conference. The program aired as part of Court TVs "Choices and Consequences" series aimed at empowering young people to make responsible decisions. Students talked about how academic achievement and attendance improved with character education. The broadcast also provided information from leading researchers on effective ways to teach character and values. This is a great example of positive programming for an impressionable audience.
Before they can become responsible, active citizens, young people need to succeed in school. The first five years of life are critical for children to develop the physical, emotional, and cognitive skills they will need in school and in life. Television, computers and radio are not substitutes for learning with adults or teachers, but they can be good sources of instruction for the teaching of vocabulary and language skills. With Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street, PBS has shown how high-quality children's programming can enhance early learning - and how these programs can be a starting point for further education once the TV is turned off.
There are great educational programs for children on TV and on the radio - but not enough. We must continue to develop these programs based on sound research on how children learn. PBS's Between the Lions is based on a comprehensive literacy curriculum that demonstrates the alphabetic principle and addresses vocabulary and text comprehension. Children love characters like the Motown band the Vow-wells who use song and rhyme to engage children in learning. Programs like Between the Lions help beginning readers learn key reading skills. And parents can extend this learning with books - my favorite medium. I can't help it - after all I am a librarian.
The man who created the medium you love believed in its value to inform and educate. The story of Philo T. Farnsworth is a great example of the power of education. Philo was a 14-year-old from Idaho who read all the time. He read about radio and about his idol Albert Einstein. By the age of twenty, he was filing his first patent application for television. Reading helped him make the greatest discovery of his life - and certainly one of ours. His wife Pem Farnsworth said, Philo ". . .saw television being transmitted over the ocean....he saw it as an educational tool and also for entertainment."
You can continue his dream and bring his vision to every child. Tonight is evidence of the power you have to make a difference in your communities. I encourage you to extend this reach to every parent, teen and child through information, positive influence and educational instruction. They say the medium is the message - please send America a message that our children's education is everyone's responsibility. Thank you and thank you for this great honor.
1 Kaiser Family Foundation
2 Center for Media Education
3 Abandoned in the Wasteland: Children, Television and the First Amendment, Newton Minnow and Craig LaMay, 1995
4 Children Now
5 U.S. Department of Education