|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
November 10, 2003
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Media Availability in Delaware
11:00 A.M. EST
MRS. BUSH: Good morning. I'm so glad to be here today at Shortlidge Academy to talk about reading and to give an example to everyone else of a really great school that's done a lot of different innovative things to make sure every child here learns to read. This school is also the recipient of a Reading First grant which is part of the No Child Left Behind Act, and that is money that goes to schools to make sure teachers know how to teach reading, that teachers become aware of all the new research that shows how children learn to read to make sure that children, every child here learns to read.
I'm also joined by Congressman Castle and I thank him very much for joining me here. He's been very active in the movement to make sure Head Start also includes an academic part to make sure that children who are in Head Start start school ready to learn to read. So I'm glad to be here and I'd love to take any questions.
Q Mrs. Bush, how does it feel to be on the campaign trail again?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I like that. It's fun to campaign, it's fun to see friends all over the country, and so it's hard to believe it's gotten here so soon. But in a lot of ways, I think the campaign won't really start until we know for sure who the other candidate is. I think we have a couple more months without a really intense sort of campaign, maybe I guess starting in late January or February.
Q Mrs. Bush, there have been a lot of educators, teachers, administrators who are very vocal in their complaints about No Child Left Behind, teaching to the test, time spent giving tests, paperwork, unfunded mandates. As an educator, how do you respond to those kinds of comments?
MRS. BUSH: Well, this is what I think about that. If your curriculum that is devised by the state departments of education and by your school districts, if that's what your test is over, then you're teaching exactly what you want children to know. And if we don't have diagnostic tests, then we don't have any idea which children need special help or which ones start school at a disadvantage, because they haven't already been read to and they have a very small vocabulary.
All of those parts of the No Child Left Behind Act are very, very important. It's really important for schools to devise their own tests, for school districts and state departments of education, the same way they devise their curriculum, to make sure the children in their state are learning what they think children ought to know. And that's what a test would cover.
So this teaching to the test is exactly, I guess, what you should be doing if your test is what you want children to know. What we really want to know is if children are learning to read. And if they're not, then it's really up to schools and school districts to assess how they're teaching reading. Unless you have diagnostic tests, you can't diagnose a problem.
Q Mrs. Bush, do you think every child will meet each state's standards by the year 2013?
MRS. BUSH: Well, we certainly hope so. That's the goal. That's part of the Reading First money, is to make sure teachers are trained in how to teach reading, so that children really can learn to read.
Delaware has gotten about 28 percent more federal funding since my husband has been President. So there is a lot of money associated with the No Child Left Behind Act, more than has ever been associated with any other education reform package, for states to use, for states to leverage the money from the Reading First Initiative that this school is learning -- is using money that was part of that act.
Q Mrs. Bush, what can you tell us about the next event? How well do you know Charlie Cawley?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I know Charlie Cawley, of course. I've known him for a long time. My cousins as well, Betsy and John Field, will be there this will be a crowd of people who I've known for a long time and have been friends with and am looking forward to seeing them
Q Yes, you were telling the children that maybe one of the most difficult parts of being the First Lady is dealing with the press.
MRS. BUSH: I was only kidding. (Laughter.) That was only a joke.
Q I know. But what do you find when you're dealing with the press? What are some of the concerns that you might have?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I don't really have those concerns. I was only kidding, when I looked up and saw all of you. It was just a funny thing.
I mean it was a question of what was the hardest part. And for me, there aren't really that many hard parts. I get to do all the best things, like this, get to be with children who are anxious to learn, who want to please, who really want to do well and I think that's what you're seeing here at this school. You're also seeing teachers and principals and school administrators who are committed to the success of these children. And that's what I see when I travel around our country.
My husband and I have the true privilege of getting to see how strong and resilient and resolute Americans are. And that's what we see everywhere we go.
Q What are you doing in Maine?
MRS. BUSH: In Maine, I'm going to do a Preserve America event. Preserve America is a new program that's part of the Department of Commerce and the Department of the Interior to encourage communities to preserve their historic landmarks and their historic downtowns and then also to preserve and conserve their natural landscapes. So Portland is a great example of a town that has really revitalized their economy by redoing the old port part of the town and saving a lot of their historic buildings.
Q How hard is it for you to get back on the cycle and get in to fundraising? And how hard is it for you to deal with the slings and arrows the Democrats are throwing at your husband every day?
MRS. BUSH: I think, after a while -- I mean, I won't say it never hurts because of course it does. But after a lifetime in politics, which is what it seems like now for my husband and me with his father's many races and then my husband's governorship in Texas and now here at the White House, you do become a little bit used to it.
You know, it's just a fact of life in politics, in any politics, in any country that's the way it is. And we're a country that is so free we have the freedom to say bad things about people who are the President or who are running for office. And that's one of our luxuries, one of our freedoms we have in the United States.
Q How tough is the endless fundraising cycle?
MRS. BUSH: Not that tough.
Q Mrs. Bush, it seems that Howard Dean and John Kerry are going to follow your husband's lead in forgoing federal campaign funds. Are you concerned that your husband has left something out of the bottle?
MRS. BUSH: No.
Q Mrs. Bush when you think about all the money it takes to run a campaign, do you ever think about how many books that could buy, how much that could --
MRS. BUSH: Sure, absolutely. I mean, you know, it's a lot of money. But it's also a very huge country and you know I -- this is another one of our freedoms as Americans, that we can give money to political candidates. That's one of our luxuries also. And we can pick a candidate that we like; we can support them by going down to their headquarters and working for them, or by writing a check to their campaigns. And that's one of the freedoms in our country that I think definitely should be protected. That's one of the great things about our country. Another thing fundraising shows is support for a candidate, and I think that's an important part of it.
Q Mrs. Bush, the recent series that was done by CBS on the Reagans, what are your thoughts about if there is ever something like that done about you and your husband, how would you feel about that?
MRS. BUSH: I hope it would be really, really great. (Laughter.)
Q That notwithstanding, would you argue for not having it shown if you felt that it was not presenting you in a favorable light?
MRS. BUSH: Sure, absolutely. If it wasn't presenting me in a favorable light? (Laughter.)
Q Or your husband --
MRS. BUSH: Or my husband?
Q Or your husband in a favorable light. Or would you argue on the side of artistic freedom or First Amendment or how would you feel about that?
MRS. BUSH: Well, every day, I argue on the side of writing really nice things about me and my husband.
MR. JOHNDROE: Thank you.
MRS. BUSH: Thanks everybody. Thank you all for coming.
* * *
MRS. BUSH: -- they're making sure these children learn to read and I don't know if you've noticed or -- you all were in one class with me. But when I asked who was going to college, every child said they were going to college. So I think that's --
Q -- second graders asking you -- that's what I'm surprised about. Can you talk about -- these are our future and this is what your program is kind of spearheading?
MRS. BUSH: What I said earlier, when you travel around the country like I have the privilege to do, what you find out is that young people around our country, children and young people are going to make a -- they're going to make a great future when they are the leaders. And I have every confidence in them. And it's up to us as adults, all the adults here, to make sure that our children are prepared for their future by knowing how to read and giving them a good education.
11:10 A.M. EST END