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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 18, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Larry Diedrich for Congress Luncheon
Sheraton Sioux Falls Hotel
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

12:15 P.M. CDT

MRS. BUSH: Thank you, Larry, for the great introduction. Thank you, everybody.

Thank you very much for the warm welcome to your wonderful state of South Dakota. Thanks to the state legislators and party leaders who are here with us, especially Mayor Munson. Thank you very much. Sioux Falls is a beautiful city.

I want to thank all the many South Dakotans who are here who work on many campaigns for elected officials, including my husband's campaign. Thank you for your friendship and thanks for coming out today to support Larry. (Applause.)

Kimberly, it's great to see you today. And, Brittany, I could hear you sing from back stage and that was really so beautiful. Thanks so much for singing the National Anthem for us. Kimberly, I wish John were here with us today. I know that many South Dakotans are working hard to make sure that, come November, John Thune will be elected to the United States Senate. (Applause.)

I'm happy to see Jackie here today as well. Jackie and I have a lot in common. We both love the outdoors, we both campaigned with our husbands for Congress, and we both know what it's like to raise teenagers. (Laughter.)

George and I first hit the campaign trail long before our girls were born. In fact, his first campaign was a race for Congress in West Texas in 1978, and it was also our honeymoon. Newly married, we spent most of our time in the car, driving up and down the Panhandle of West Texas.

The race didn't turn out as we hoped, but we had a great time. And, believe me, 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 had 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 Larry Diedrich. All of you know Larry as a hardworking public servant, a father, an advocate for agriculture and an experienced leader, deeply devoted to serving the people of South Dakota. In the state capitol, Larry is known as a principled, skilled legislator, who puts people before politics. He is respected by colleagues in both parties and he'll reach out across the aisle to get things done.

A farmer himself, Larry is a strong supporter of South Dakota's farmers, ranchers and small business owners, and he'll represent your views in Washington. Larry knows the people of his home state. He shares your values and he understands your priorities. And he knows those priorities are for a strong and safe America, for greater opportunities and jobs, for low taxes, and for an excellent education for every single child.

Larry will make sure your voice is heard in Washington. And that's why it's so important to elect Larry Diedrich to the United States Congress. (Applause.)

President Bush looks forward to working with Larry in Washington. The President is working hard to keep our country strong and safe. Over the last three years, as our country has faced some of the toughest challenges in our history, I have watched as our President has lead with compassion and conviction. President Bush has been a steady and determined leader 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 Larry Diedrich to stand by his side during these very difficult times. Larry knows that we must defend our homeland and the peace of free people around the world.

September 11th was the defining moment for all of us. We'll never forget the bravery of our fellow Americans or the spirit of unity that spread across our country. And since that fateful day, the President's leadership has not only made our country safer, but has also made people's lives better.

Thanks to my husband's decisions and America's actions, 50 million people are free from tyranny and oppression. Consider the women and girls of Afghanistan. During the long years of the Taliban regime, they were virtual prisoners in their homes, unable to leave their homes without being escorted by a male relative. And if they didn't have a male relative, they were forced to beg because they were forbidden from going to school or to work. Now the people of Afghanistan have new leaders, new freedoms and a new constitution guaranteeing the rights of women.

And thanks to my husband's leadership and America's actions, the people of Iraq are free from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. (Applause.) Today, they are building a free and democratic society. Iraqis have a new constitution that protects the rights of women as well as ethnic and religious minorities. We must be vigilant in protecting the rights of all Iraqis. The pictures we recently saw from Abu Ghraib prison do not reflect the character of our troops or the people of the United States.

From the beginning of the battle to this very hour, the vast majority of our military have conducted themselves with honor and compassion. Their resolve is strong, and so is the resolve of our nation.

We know that the work of building a democracy isn't easy, but we know it's right. We know this from our own history and from the history of other emerging democracies around the world. For more than 200 years, dedicated Americans have worked to fulfill the promise of our democracy. And today, our work to strengthen America continues.

President Bush is taking bold steps to strengthen our economy, and he needs Larry's leadership to make tax relief permanent. The President's tax cuts have put money back into the hands of the people who earned it, and we're beginning to see real results. Economic growth is at a 20-year high and home ownership is at the highest ever in the United States.

Larry supports the President's tax cuts, and he further cut property taxes for seniors and low-income residents and for farmers in South Dakota. He understands that when South Dakotans get to keep some of their own money, they make their own decisions. And each of these decisions help strengthen our economy and improve the lives of people all across our country.

South Dakotans have a long history of producing some of the world's best food and livestock. Larry knows that the livelihood of farmers and ranchers depends upon our ability to export their goods and open new markets. He has led trade missions around the world to open more international markets for South Dakota products.

President Bush also knows how vitally important agriculture is for our economy. He had the privilege of being governor of the second largest farm state in the country, and he has learned a lesson or two from the farmers at the coffee shop in our home town of Crawford, Texas.

President Bush believes that American workers are the best in the world and, when given a level playing field, we can compete against workers anywhere, anytime. The President has negotiated trade agreements that reduce foreign tariffs and trade barriers, and his tax cuts are helping businesses grow and expand.

Like President Bush, Larry knows that we must educate and equip American workers with the right skills to meet the demands of an ever-changing work force. And we must also ensure that every child receives an excellent education. Larry's leadership on the education committee in both the State House and Senate will be vital in the United States Congress.

Larry believes that providing a quality education for our children is the single most important responsibility we have. He supports the No Child Left Behind Act, which provides more money for our schools and higher standards for our children and teachers.

In the legislature, Larry increased funding and flexibility for South Dakota school districts. He gave parents a higher education savings plan so that they can save to send their children to college. And Larry supports reimbursing teachers for classes to further their training and their own skills.

I know that you're here today because, like Larry, you believe that every American deserves an excellent education, and you believe that we can help secure peace and freedom in the world. And you believe that through acts of faith and love, we can build a more compassionate America.

President Bush and Larry Diedrich share your beliefs and they will continue to make them their priorities as they strive to build a stronger America. Larry will work with President Bush to strengthen our national security, our homeland security, and our economic security. He'll work with the President to keep our children and families safe so that we can live in a world free from terror. And Larry will work with President Bush to make our country a more compassionate nation, where neighbors help neighbors in need. I know that's the South Dakota way, and I also know that many people in this room serve your neighbors in meaningful ways, and I want to thank you for that.

When you leave here today, go to work to elect Larry. I urge you to redouble your efforts in the next two weeks -- there are just two weeks left. Talk to your friends, make sure your neighbors vote. Do everything you can to elect Larry to the United States Congress.

Remember, every vote counts. And every vote for Larry is a vote for a better and stronger America. (Applause.)

This election in important to the President and it's important to our country. But, most of all, it's important to you, because you're electing someone who will represent your hopes and dreams in our nation's capital.

Larry will uphold the strong the character of the people of this great state, and he has the experience to get things done for South Dakota. Larry is a leader who serves with integrity and compassion, and these are the qualities we need in the United States Congress.

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

12:28 P.M. CDT END

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