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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
March 24, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Rob Simmons for Congress Luncheon
Groton, Connecticut

12:35 P.M. EST

MRS. BUSH: Thank you all very, very much. I've really been looking forward to being here today.

Thank you, Congressman Simmons, for inviting me to Groton to be with you. I'm so happy to be here with you and your many supporters and friends in the crowd today.

As many of you know, the Bush family has very strong ties to Connecticut. Our cousins, Ambassador Debbie and Craig Stapleton are here with us today. They live in Greenwich. Thank you all for being here. (Applause.)

President Bush Number 41, as we call him, grew up here and his father, Prescott Bush, was the United States Senator from Connecticut. Our daughter, Barbara, has lived here the last four years in New Haven while she has attended Yale.

But what I was really surprised to learn is that my husband, President Bush, is the only President of the United States born in Connecticut. (Applause.)

We're here today to show our support for an outstanding member of Congress, Rob Simmons. (Applause.) You know Rob as a hardworking public servant, a family man, an experienced leader deeply devoted to serving the people of eastern Connecticut. He'll always listen to a suggestion or a concern. He stays in touch with the people back home. And you can count on him to speak out on issues that matter most.

But in Washington, we know Rob as a principled, skilled legislator. He's respected by colleagues in both parties, and he's not afraid to reach across the aisle to get things done. He's a strong supporter of our military and of his fellow veterans.

I'm really happy to see Heidi here today as well, Heidi Simmons. We have a lot in common -- we're both teachers, we both know what it's like to raise teenagers, and we've both campaigned with our husbands for Congress.

My husband's first campaign was really our honeymoon. It was a bid for Congress in West Texas in 1978. Newly married, George and I spent most of our time in the car, driving up and down the panhandle of West Texas. The race didn't turn out as well as we hoped, but we had a great time.

You learn a lot about your husband when you spend that much time in a car with him. (Laughter.) By the end of the campaign, he even convinced me to vote for him. (Laughter.)

President Bush sends his very best regards to all of you and he also thanks you for supporting Rob Simmons.

From protecting our homeland, to supporting our troops and veterans, to rebuilding the state university system, Congressman Simmons has been an advocate for the people of Connecticut. He understands your priorities and I hope we will make sure he is reelected. (Applause.)

Over the last three years, our country has faced some of the toughest challenges in our history. I've watched as our President has led our country with compassion and conviction. President Bush has been steady and determined as he has made the most difficult decision any President can make, and that's to send Americans to war to protect our national security and to defend the cause of freedom. And President Bush is grateful to have leaders like Rob Simmons to stand by his side during these difficult times.

Congressman Simmons is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and he is the longest serving military officer in Congress. (Applause.) He has supported our troops by providing greater equipment, training and pay. And he has also provided Connecticut's fire fighters with greater resources to protect families here.

As a decorated solider and veteran, Rob knows that we must defend our homeland and the peace of free people around the world. September 11th, 2001, was the defining moment for all of us. Many families from the second district lost loved ones that day, and the entire nation shared in the tragedy. We will never forget the bravery of our fellow Americans, or the spirit of unity that spread over our country.

Since that fateful day, I've watched as the President's leadership has not only made our world safer, but also people's lives better. Thanks to my husband's decisions and America's actions, 50 million people today are free from tyranny and oppression.

The people of Afghanistan have new leaders, new freedoms, and a constitution guaranteeing the rights of women. And consider the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan. Before the rout of the Taliban, little girls were forbidden to go to school and women couldn't leave their homes without a male escort, which meant that many widows -- and there are many widows because of the wars in Afghanistan -- were forced to beg because they couldn't work to support their families.

And now the people of Iraq are building a free and democratic society.

We face many challenges. Terrorists commit acts of hate in the hopes that we will abandon the Afghan and the Iraqi people. But America's resolve is strong. We know that the work of building a democracy isn't easy, but we know it's always right. We know this from our own history and from the history of other emerging democracies.

For more than 200 years, dedicated Americans have worked to fulfill the promise of our democracy. And today, our work to strengthen America continues.

Working with Rob and others in Congress, President Bush is taking steps to strengthen our economy. The President's tax cuts have put more money back into people's pockets, and we're beginning to see real results. Economic growth is at a 20-year high and home ownership is the highest ever, and people are finding jobs.

But our economy is still in a period of great change. Increases in productivity, advances in technology and competition from foreign countries require us to educate and equip workers with the new skills of the future. For our work force to succeed, we must ensure that every child receives an excellent education.

Rob has actually taught at universities around here. He has been a teaching assistant, and he has worked with Republicans and Democrats to help pass the most important education reform in a generation. The No Child Left Behind Act provides more money for our schools and higher standards for our children and teachers.

The President and Rob understand that providing a quality education for our children is the single most important responsibility we have. In Congress, he supports more funding for special education, reforms for school lunch programs, and refinancing of student loans to help ease the burden of rising tuition costs.

I know that you're here today because, like Rob, you believe that every American deserves an education and the opportunity to achieve their dreams. And you believe that we can help secure peace in the world. You believe that through acts of faith and love, we can build a more compassionate America.

President Bush and Rob Simmons share your beliefs and they will continue to make them their priorities as they strive to build a stronger America. Congressman Simmons will work with President Bush to strengthen our national security, our homeland security and our economic security. He will work with the President to make America stronger, and to keep our children and families safe, so we can live in a world free from terror. And Rob will work with the President to make our country a more compassionate nation, where neighbors help neighbors in need. And I know that's the Connecticut way, to help a neighbor in need.

And I want to thank everyone here who works every day to help your neighbors in your cities or in your state or in our country. Thank you all very much for that.

And Rob will work with the President to make our country a more compassionate nation, where neighbors help neighbors in need.

When you leave here today, I hope you will work to make sure Rob Simmons is your Congressman. I urge you to redouble your efforts in the months ahead. Talk to your friends, make sure your neighbors vote, do everything you can to reelect Rob Simmons. Remember that every single vote matters -- and every vote for Rob is a vote for a better and stronger America.

This election is important to the President and to our country, but most of all, it's important to you because you are electing someone who will represent your hopes and your dreams in our nation's capital -- and someone who will uphold the strong character of a great state.

A few years ago, Rob received the Knowlton Award for his contributions to the Military Intelligence Corps. This award recognizes "Integrity, Moral Character, Professional Competence and Selflessness." From the corps to Congress, these are the qualities Rob Simmons has served America with his entire life. And these are the qualities we need in the United States Congress.

Please join President Bush and me in supporting Rob Simmons for Congress. Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)

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