The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
February 10, 2005

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Helping America's Youth Event in Michigan
Wigle Community Center
Detroit, Michigan

11:53 A.M. EST

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much. Thank you all. Thank you so much. Fanchon is right. This is a very moving morning. Thank you so much, Coach Marks, for your dedication to children and for your testimony, really, about what it means to be a coach and what it means to the life of children that you coach. You set a very inspiring example for all of us.

Also, special thanks to Mike Tenbusch and to Daniel Varner. Thank you very much, both of you, for your dedication and for founding Think Detroit, and for your commitment to your city and to the children of your city. Dan Mulhern, thank you so much for being here with me. Mrs. Kilpatrick, thank you for coming. The three of us have a lot in common. (Laughter.)

Thank you all for being here, and I'm so glad to see so many coaches and parents and young athletes here with us today. I've visited Michigan often during the last four years, and I'm so happy to be here in Detroit now.

Last week, President Bush, during his State of the Union address, proposed an initiative to reach out to young people, especially to young men, who are struggling to find their way. We want all young people to grow up and have the chance to lead successful lives. And we want to show young men particularly an ideal of manhood that respects life and rejects violence. The President has proposed $150 million over the next three years to help young people in some of our toughest neighborhoods. Encouraging children to see beyond a world of hopelessness is part of a national effort to help all young people reach their full potential. For children to have healthy beginnings and bright futures, they must be surrounded by love and learning from the moment they're born.

Since my time as an elementary school teacher and librarian, though my years as First Lady of Texas, and now as First Lady of the United States, I have worked to emphasize the vital importance of those first few years of life for children. The first five years are critical for children to develop the physical, emotional and cognitive skills that they'll have for the rest of their lives. Infants and toddlers need parents and caregivers who read to them, who engage them in conversation, and who foster their development, so when they start school, they're ready to learn.

In fact, these first early years are also critical to the social and behavior development of young children. Research shows that boys who exhibit highly aggressive behavior as early as kindergarten have a greater chance of being involved with drugs and violence as adolescents. And research from Yale University shows there's a substantive linkage between early reading failure and truancy and depression later in life for young people.

Our children are living in an increasingly complex world, and boys especially are having a tough time growing up. Boys are more likely than girls to be arrested for crimes. The Department of Justice estimates that more than 90 percent of gang members in large cities are boys. They are also more than four times likely than girls to carry a weapon to school. And by age 18, boys are 17 times more likely than girls to be in jail.

Researchers are studying how boys differ from girls in their ability to cope with life changes. We have more to learn. But we know that positive experiences within their families, their schools and their communities can determine whether boys will live a life of peril or a life of promise.

Mike and Dan and the coaches of Think Detroit refuse to let young people become statistics. Through sports, character development and mentoring, Think Detroit engages and empowers young people, both on and off the playing fields. Mike said, "In Detroit, every kid is at risk." When you have a city with so few fathers and so few after-school opportunities, we must reach out to young people.

Think Detroit connects children with a team and with a coach who loves them, and with their communities. Think Detroit coaches use positive character development to teach children from ages four to 19 valuable life experiences through sports.

Today, more than 650 coaches volunteer their time and talent to mentor young people. More than 90 percent of Think Detroit coaches are family members of children in the leagues, and many coaches are fathers who are nurturing role models for young boys.

Recently I saw the movie "Coach Carter." I don't know if many of you have seen it. We actually showed it at the White House this week. And it's based on the true life story of a high school basketball coach in Richmond, California. If you haven't seen the movie, I hope you'll have a chance to go see it. With tough love and an unwavering belief in his players, Coach Carter teaches his team the importance of teamwork and scholarship. This is exactly what Think Detroit coaches teach young people every day. Coaches train young athletes in the mastery of baseball, soccer and basketball, but more importantly, they shape young leaders with lessons in accountability and perseverance. Think Detroit coaches build character by teaching young people the four C's: confidence, composure, commitment to growth and commitment to others.

Baseball coach Carnell Humphries taught Andrew that he could accomplish anything he set his mind to, and for Andrew, this is playing Major League Baseball. Ever since he was four years old, Andrew dreamed of playing in the pros. Andrew's mom encouraged him, but she couldn't afford baseball camp or the fancy gear that Andrew needed. She turned to Coach Humphries for help, and like every good coach, he promised to help Andrew pursue his dreams. For Andrew, this meant doing well in school. Coach Humphries insisted that Andrew needed a good education and skills to support him when he was off the field. He inspired Andrew to apply his same devotion to baseball to schoolwork and family.

Today, Andrew is a junior at Southeastern High School with a 3.0 grade average. He volunteers as an umpire for t-ball league, and he excels in mathematics and he hopes to play Division I baseball in college. Thank you, Andrew, for sharing your story with us. (Applause.) And special thanks to Coach Humphries for being a great role model for Andrew and for other boys. Thank you, Coach. (Applause.)

For Andrew and for so many young people, a coach's influence extends far beyond the playing field. Coaches teach children valuable lessons that don't only apply to sports but also to life. Children learn to focus on their effort and on their improvement. Young people realize that mistakes are an important part of learning, and that if they practice and work hard, they'll get the next pitch. And they learn that respect and dedication are the hallmarks of a champion.

All children need caring adults in their lives who listen to them and help them achieve their goals. Studies show that young people with mentors are more confident in school and more hopeful about the future. In fact, children with mentors are less likely to begin using drugs or engage in alcohol or violence, and they're more likely to go to class and stay in school.

For positive role models to character development, Think Detroit also provides young people with a sense of purpose. Children look forward to going to practice after school and look forward to games on the weekends. They take pride in knowing that their coach and their team count on them. They gain confidence from belonging to a team, and their parents take comfort in knowing that their children have somewhere safe to go after school.

Across the country, more than 14 million school-age children take care of themselves after school, and the time between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. are peak hours for juvenile crime. Studies show that after-school programs like Think Detroit keep children safe and help improve their academic achievement.

We want all children to grow up healthy and safe. As parents and teachers and community leaders, we have a personal interest in seeing our children succeed. And as Americans, we have a moral responsibility to ensure that all children are prepared for school and for life.

As we've seen today, there are specific interventions and promising practices that work. Think Detroit works, because it engages children through sports and it empowers them through character development. This program works because of the commitment of parents and volunteers and sponsors, and this program can work in communities across the country.

Over the next few months, I'll be traveling around America, visiting schools and community programs like this one. And I hope to learn more about the challenges that young people face and more about what we can do to improve their lives.

I encourage all Americans to get involved in the life of a child. Think Detroit has a new goal to involve 10,000 children in sports and character by their 10th anniversary. If you're a coach or just love sports and children, consider joining this winning team. And if you can't volunteer your time, you can sponsor a child for a season. You can also learn about volunteer opportunities across the country through the USA Freedom Corps.

The challenges before us are great. And the time between childhood and adulthood, as George and I can attest, is all too short. But as the coaches of Think Detroit show, each of us has the power to make a difference in a young person's life.

Thank you all very, very much, and thank you for your commitment to your city, and thank you for commitment to the children in your city. Thank you all so much. (Applause.)

END 12:06 P.M. EST

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