The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
July 7, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Media Availability in Council Bluffs, Iowa
Council Bluffs Public Library
Council Bluffs, Iowa

10:30 A.M. CDT

MRS. BUSH: Thanks for coming out today. I'm so glad to be in Iowa. Four years ago, we spent a lot of time here, and this year we didn't spend that much time here, so it's really nice to be in Council Bluffs. I came to Council Bluffs before, during the last campaign, to this library, in fact. So it's great to be back here today.

I'm back with the message about how important it is for children to read over the summer. These children are involved in a book club that you saw today, and they are involved in the Council Bluffs Library Book Summer Reading Program which, as you could tell from all of our discussion, is based on the Corps of Discovery.

And so I want to encourage you to encourage your listeners or your readers to make sure children come to the library in the summer and check out books. It really is true, there's a lot of research that shows if children don't read over the summer at all, if they don't pick up a book, when they start school, they have to start over, and they start school behind in September. And it takes them another couple of months at the first of the school year to get back into the habit of reading. So that's my main message today, how important it is to come to your library in the summer and to make sure your children read.

So now I'll answer questions.

Q In your travels, Mrs. Bush, when you speak with these children, do you find that most of them do read? Or do you come across a lot of children who don't?

MRS. BUSH: Of course, in most of my travels, I'm here at a library or a school; the students that are there usually do read. But I know that many students don't read over the summer. And I hear that from teachers and I hear that from people all over, that it's easy in the summer to turn on the television and to quit reading. And it's really important for parents to encourage their children to read, to read to them, to read at night to them before they go to bed.

Because of the long days, there's plenty of light late in the evening, when you can read chapter books. You can read Charlotte's Web or the Little House on the Prairie, or Harry Potter books to your children and read a chapter a night, and really make memories for your children besides making them learn to love to read.

Q Mrs. Bush, do you have a favorite life verse from the Bible, something that speaks to you, or a book of the Bible that really speaks to you?

MRS. BUSH: I have a lot of favorite verses. One that comes to mind immediately is: We walk by faith, not by sight. I think especially now, under the circumstances in our country, when we have so many difficult decisions and we're faced with so many challenges everywhere, and there's a lot of anxiety because of what happened on September 11th, that we do walk by faith and not by sight. We don't know what's going to happen, but we have faith. We have faith in God, we have faith in the people of America.

Especially right now, as I watch in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as those two countries try to build a democracy, and I think about how long it took us in our country, even though we were given the very perfect document by our founders. It was not -- it was perfectly written; it wasn't lived perfectly. We took another almost a hundred years before slavery was abolished, almost another hundred years before the civil rights legislation. Women didn't get the right to vote until early in the last century.

When you look at how long it took us and at how we -- each successive generation of Americans corrected the flaws of our country, and how we still hope each successive generation will do that, then when we look at these other emerging democracies, the Central European emerging democracies that emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union, Iraq and Afghanistan, we know how hard it is to build a democracy. But also how important it is, and how right it is.

Q How would you explain it to children who have parents overseas?

MRS. BUSH: Pardon me?

Q How would you explain it to children who have parents overseas?

MRS. BUSH: Well, you mean the -- yes. I mean, that's very, very difficult. And I've met with a lot of children on military bases around the United States whose parents are deployed. I gave the commencement address at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, high school last year, where those children -- some of those children's parents were deployed.

But, you know, they grow up in a family that knows that their parents are willing to sacrifice for their country, and they see the example of their parents, the courage of their parents, of the parent that's in the Army or in the military, and their parent that might not be, the other parent, the mother or the father who is a civilian.

And those kids move around from state to state because their parents move from military base to military base. They really deserve special attention from all of us. One of the things I've worked on is a program to get states to accept the credits from other states of military children. Military children move so often and, quite often, when they get to high school, they don't get to take their class rank with them.

They might have been the valedictorian in the school they were in before but don't get to take that. Or, in an example in my state, Texas requires a study of Texas history, which you do in the seventh grade. So those children have to -- those students have to take Texas history and -- or they can't graduate.

And I think it's really important for all of us, all over the country, to give special attention to those children whose parents are in the military and try to make their transition as they move from base to base with their parents easier.

Q Mrs. Bush, now that the Democratic ticket is set, questions are already being raised about John Edwards' experience or lack of experience, especially when it comes to foreign policy. Given the fact that President Bush had little or no foreign policy experience four years ago, is it fair to criticize Edwards for having a lack of foreign policy experience now?

MRS. BUSH: You know, I'm interested in the ticket, I'm interested that John Edwards was chosen yesterday. But I'll have to say, I fully support the other ticket, the Bush-Cheney ticket. (Laughter.)

I'm not going to criticize the other ticket. But I really do believe that President Bush and Vice President Cheney share the values and the character that Americans have, that most Americans have, and certainly Americans in the heartland have. But I'm not going to criticize.

Q The exit polls in 2000 showed that Al Gore defeated your husband among women. And I think the polls are showing now that he trails among women to Kerry as well. What is it that those women aren't seeing that you see in your husband?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I mean, I hope they saw little girls go to school in Afghanistan for the first time in their lives. I know that American women -- and I see this everywhere I go -- feel a real solidarity with the women of Iraq and Afghanistan. And the lives of those women have been changed in a very, very positive way.

Imagine a country that forbids women to be educated, that literally condemns women to ignorance. And that's very hard for American women, particularly -- American men and women, but I think American women particularly to imagine.

There are so many ways that I think my husband and his administration have been very important for women worldwide. But that's certainly one that is the most startling.

Q Do you think Iraq had a role in the 9/11 attack?

MRS. BUSH: No. I don't think that's what they found, and the President never said that either. Did Iraq harbor terrorists? Yes. Did they pay suicide bombers' families? Yes. I mean, those are a lot of things we do know.

Q Hasn't the Vice President --

MRS. BUSH: Not that I know of.

Q Have you seen Fahrenheit 9/11? (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: What do you think? (Laughter.)

Q I think that you haven't. (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: I think that would be right.

Thank you all. Thanks so much. And I really want to enlist your help and get the word out to parents to make sure their children read this summer.

Thank you all. Thanks for coming in.

END 10:40 A.M. CDT

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