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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
August 17, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at "W Stands for Women" Event in St. Louis, MO
Hilton St. Louis Frontenac Hotel
St. Louis, Missouri

3:00 P.M. CDT

MRS. BUSH: Thank you all. It's so great to be here. I'm so glad to be in St. Louis today with all of you. Thank you, Ann, for your very hard work for the reelection of President Bush.

It's always great to see family and I'm glad that the President's uncle and aunt, Bucky and Patty Bush, are here. They're right over here. (Applause.) And Lindsay Bush, their daughter-in law and our cousin, is here as well. Thank you, Lindsay, thanks for your hard work. (Applause.)

Brenda Talent, I'm so glad you're with us. Senator Talent is a great leader for the people of Missouri, and we're so glad to have his friendship in Washington. (Applause.)

I want to encourage all of you to make sure that Matt Blunt is your next governor. (Applause.) And that Catherine Hanaway is your next Secretary of State. (Applause.) And that Peter Kinder is elected your Lieutenant Governor. (Applause.) Thank you all so much for being here.

I want to thank Reverend Bailey for her invocation, and I want to thank the very talented singers of the Community Elementary School Choir. Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)

And then to the girls from Spoede Elementary that led the Pledge of Allegiance. Thanks to you all. (Applause.) I know that some of these girls that were either in the choir or in the group that led the Pledge are probably Girl Scouts. My mother was my Girl Scout leader and George's mother was his cub scout leader. (Laughter.) In fact, that's when some say her hair turned white. (Laughter.)

But Scouting, and especially for girls, Girl Scouting teaches important values that help girls become leaders. I learned that -- at an early age, I learned that women can make an incredible difference in our world.

I want to thank each one of you for being a part of the political process and for making a difference in our world. Thanks to every one of you for your politics, but also thanks to you for your community work. I know every single person here is an asset to their community. Thank you all for that. (Applause.)

All of us get to follow in the footsteps of our mothers and our grandmothers who fought for their voices to be heard. And, in fact, tomorrow is the eighty-fourth anniversary of women's suffrage. August 18th, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, finally giving women the right to vote. (Applause.)

So as we approach this election in 2004, I want to urge all of you to reach out to your friends and neighbors, to work to make sure people are registered to vote. Don't be afraid to reach across party lines and ask Democrats and independents who appreciate strong leadership. Everything you do to reach voters and to get them to the polls will be a huge help for the President's campaign. And thank you all so much for coming here to be with me today.

Women across America are making important decisions about the future of our country. My husband knows how vitally important empowered women are to democracy. And look at Afghanistan for an example of women who were totally disenfranchised in every way, who weren't even allowed to leave their homes, and now a lot of them are registered to vote in their election. (Applause.)

I'm proud that in my husband's administration, there are more women in senior positions than in any other previous administration. (Applause.) Dr. Condoleezza Rice advises the President on foreign policy and Margaret Spellings is in charge of domestic policy. That means in the White House, women are in charge of everything abroad and everything at home. (Applause.) That sounds about right to me. (Applause.)

And the fact is, it's not just that way in the White House. It's estimated that women make up to 70 percent of their families' financial and health care decisions. All issues are women's issues and we have a lot at stake in this election.

We want our economy to be strong and for all women to have the opportunity to work if they want to. We want our children and our communities to be safe. We want every child in every neighborhood to learn to read. And we want women the world over to be educated. These are the goals President Bush has worked so hard to achieve, and he is committed to making our country safer, stronger and better.

George and I grew up in the same small town, in Midland, Texas. His family just lived about four blocks away from mine, but we didn't really meet until much later in life. Little did I know that I would literally marry the boy next door. (Laughter.)

It was in West Texas that George learned the values of hard work and family and integrity. And after 27 years of marriage, my husband still has those values. And I can tell you that President Bush has the courage and the character that these times demand. (Applause.)

I love it that women can whistle, too. (Laughter.) That's terrific.

When the President took office, he was committed to achieving great goals on behalf of all Americans. But little could we have imagined how challenging these last few years would be. But because of his steady leadership, we've overcome some of the toughest challenges in our history. And, with your support, President Bush will keep America moving forward. He'll start by making tax relief permanent. (Applause.)

The President's tax relief plan is putting more money into the hands of millions of people across America, including 2 million people here in Missouri. Families with children, married couples and single mothers are saving more of their own money. More than 80 million women will save an average of nearly $1,900 each in taxes this year.

In some families, tax relief means more money to pay the monthly bills. In other families, it means money to start a college fund for their children or a retirement fund for themselves. And for small business owners, tax relief means expanding operations and adding new jobs. (Applause.)

These millions of individual decisions that families are making across the country are lifting our economy. More Americans than ever before own their own homes. In fact, we set a new record this year. More than half of all minority families now own their own homes. (Applause.)

Over one-and-a-half million new jobs have been created since last July 2003. And in Missouri alone, you've added more than 82,000 jobs since July. The record is clear. Because of the President's sound economic policies, the economy is strong and getting stronger. But we have more work to do. The President won't be satisfied until every person who wants to work can find a job. He won't be satisfied until ownership and opportunity are spread to every corner of America. (Applause.)

And the President wants to help workers and families keep something that they never seem to have enough of, and that's time. Time to play with their kids, time to take care of their parents or to volunteer in their communities. President Bush will work with Congress to make flex time and comp time available so that more Americans can better manage the demands of work and family.

President Bush also knows that reliable health care is vital to every family's economic security. No one can feel confident about the future if they fear that their next illness might wipe out their savings and leave them in debt. The President worked with Congress to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare to help seniors afford their medicines. Already, more than four million seniors have signed up for their prescription drug discount card. And the President expanded the system of community health care centers so that more people can receive health care regardless of their ability to pay.

And because frivolous lawsuits raised the cost of health care, the President wants to reform the medical liability system. (Applause.) The growing crisis of medical liability is a particular concern to women. Obstetricians have some of the highest liability premiums of all. And as their rates go up, doctors are retiring or relocating because they can't afford to practice medicine. Women who've spent years building a trusting relationship with their OB/GYN are left searching for a new doctor, sometimes while they wait for the arrival of a new baby. We need medical liability reform. (Applause.)

Another issue that's close to the President's heart and to mine is education. My husband worked to change public education in America because too many children from our poorest schools were being left behind. With the No Child Left Behind Act, which was passed overwhelmingly by Congress, we're investing more money in elementary and secondary education than ever before in our nation's history.

The No Child Left Behind Act combines historic levels of funding with proven methods of instruction, high standards and accountability to ensure that our schools produce real results for every child. Today, more students are graduating high school well prepared to go on to college or to the new jobs of the 21st century.

As we strengthen our schools and our communities, we're also sharing the blessings of liberty with our neighbors abroad. The terrible acts of September 11th showed us the face of evil in the world, but they also called us to the great work of promoting freedom and democracy. Since that fateful day President Bush has worked to make our communities safer. We're confronting terrorist threats around the world. And today, thanks to the President's leadership and the resolve of the men and women of our military, 50 million more men, women and children live in freedom. (Applause.)

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 without a male escort. They couldn't go to the doctor if they were sick. They faced having their fingernails pulled out if they wore nail polish. And today, Afghan women are working again -- many are even running their own businesses. Some women are learning to read and write. They're becoming the greatest advocates for their daughters' education.

In March, nearly 6 million Afghan children, including more than 2 million girls, started a new school year. And this year, Afghan women will have the opportunity to vote in the presidential election. In fact, nearly 10 million Afghans have registered to vote, and more than 40 percent are women. (Applause.)

And, as we've seen this week, Afghan women are proudly representing their country in the Olympics. (Applause.)

In Iraq, women are taking courses in human rights, literacy and computer training. More women are receiving health care, including maternal and child health. And women's self-help and vocational centers are springing up across Iraq from Karbala to Kirkuk.

We still face many challenges, of course. But we know that the work of building a democracy isn't easy, but it is always right. We know this from our own history, and we know this from the history of the Central European emerging democracies. To make the world more peaceful and to make the world more secure, we'll continue the great work of promoting liberty and opportunity in the Middle East. (Applause.)

I'm proud of my husband for taking action to meet the challenges that America faces at home and abroad. (Applause.) When our girls were in high school, they'd sometimes complain about having to study history. Their dad majored in history and he loved to explain the importance of past events and how they impacted us today. One day, one of them looked at him impatiently and said, "Of course ancient history was easy for you, Dad; you lived it." (Laughter.)

We are living in historic times. These are also very hopeful times for our country. We're moving America forward and we have great confidence in our ability to overcome challenges. These are times that require a particularly strong and determined leader, and I'm proud that my husband is that kind of leader. (Applause.)

Thank you very much. Thank you for working hard to reelect President Bush. Thank you for your friendship. May God bless you, and may God bless America. (Applause.)

3:17 P.M. CDT

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