The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
July 21, 2005

Remarks by the First Lady at a Reception for Governor Bob Ehrlich

Bethesda North Marriot Hotel Bethesda, Maryland

6:01 P.M. EDT

MRS. BUSH: Thank you all. Thank you for that very, very warm welcome. And Governor, thank you very much. Thank you for that introduction. And I do follow Maryland politics. Governor Ehrlich has been a very good friend of President Bush and me, starting with his years in Congress, and now as the Governor of Maryland. In fact, Governor Bush just -- Governor Ehrlich just hosted President Bush yesterday at the Port of Baltimore, and it's nice to have very friendly neighbors, which might be one of the reasons I do follow Maryland politics. (Laughter.)

For well over a decade, Bob Ehrlich has served his home state, and he's an outstanding leader for Maryland. Thank each one of you tonight, who's come tonight, for supporting Governor Ehrlich. I'm so happy to have your support for him. It's very, very important as he works over the next year-and-a-half that he's re-elected.

I also always love to see Kendel. Kendel is a great advocate for children in Maryland, and when it comes to improving schools or teaching children to avoid drugs and alcohol, Maryland's parents have a wonderful friend in Kendel. (Applause.)

And you may not know it, but they actually deserve congratulations, because this Sunday will be their 12th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) And it also happens to be their son Drew's sixth birthday on the 24th of July. So congratulations to both of you and I'm sure it will be a very festive weekend for your whole family.

I also want to thank Tom Kane, Maryland's Republican chairman for joining us here tonight. Thank you, Tom. Let's see, there he is. Thank you very much for all you're doing. (Applause.)

One thing we know about your Governor is that he has the energy to keep up with two little boys at home. We know he's got the energy to be Governor. My husband likes to refer to him as Maryland's live wire. (Laughter.) Bob Ehrlich has spent his time in the Governor's office putting his energy to good use. Governor Ehrlich's efforts have turned budget deficits into surpluses, which is terrific. (Applause.) His policies have led to 60,000 new jobs for Maryland. (Applause.) In fact, Maryland has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. So congratulations on that. (Applause.) And we know that the Governor is working to restore the health and the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay, which is one of the most treasured parts of Maryland's environment, but actually one of the treasures of our whole country. So thank you for doing that, as well.

And, as a mother and former teacher myself, I'm most impressed with Governor Ehrlich's commitment to education. He's giving schools more funding and accountability so that every child can receive a great education. And the latest test results, released just last month, show that this leadership is getting results. Over the last two years, Maryland students made major gains in both reading and math. So congratulations to you. (Applause.)

And the good news is, we know this is only the beginning. When the Governor has two children running around the house, you can be sure he'll stay focused on education. (Laughter.)

Education will always be a top priority for President Bush. It's one of the many issues that require cooperation between the federal government and the states. On education, on homeland security, on health care, the President and the governors have to work together, and it's vitally important that President Bush has a great partner like Bob Ehrlich.

The President is also addressing issues around the world, and I want to mention, I want to thank Kendel for telling the story of Governor Ehrlich calling families who have lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan. All Americans, governors who might not have that much interest in foreign affairs before in our history, now are all really involved. And I want to thank you for that very much, Bob, for both the homeland security aspect of it, as well as for just the love and concern you have for Maryland families who have a loved one in harm's way. And I know there's at least one person here who has a son, a Marine son in Iraq. So I want to thank you for that. And we all want you to give him our thanks. (Applause.)

The week before last, I joined the President at the G8 meetings in Scotland when he and other world leaders made pledges to relieve debt and increase aid to Africa. So after the G8 conference, I was able to visit three countries in Africa myself to see how United States aid makes a difference in the lives of Africans. In these three countries, I visited programs that are supported by the U.S. government in one way or the other.

I visited programs where compassionate people are helping men and women live with AIDS. Caring individuals are providing shelter and schooling to orphans. They're giving support to women who suffer domestic abuse or rape.

The American people contribute billions of dollars every year to help people around the world. We contributed through our tax money, through our government. Many American individuals also contribute around the world. Churches, synagogues and mosques do inspirational work, American churches, synagogues and mosques around the world. And I think this generosity shows what the American people are really like, and I'm so proud to have the chance to visit these programs and these projects around the world, these programs and projects that wouldn't be possible without the generosity of Americans.

In many places, governments, private sector organizations and individuals are all working together to bring urgent help to people in need. Our government works with local service providers, people who have relationships with local communities and can provide help right where people live.

A program that I visited in South Africa, which was actually started by an Arizona doctor, called Mothers to Mothers-to-Be, it helps pregnant women who are HIV-positive to avoid transmitting the disease to their children through the use of anti-retroviral treatments that are provided by PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief. Mothers to Mothers-to-Be relies on the network of mother mentors. Women who have HIV and have given birth to healthy babies through the program are recruited and paid to mentor other women. They work with expectant mothers to make sure that the next generation is HIV-free, and they earn an income while they do that that gives them some independence and some control over their other lives -- over their own lives.

Then I visited a wonderful church program that also gets some funding from the U.S. government, the World Relief site in Kigali, Rwanda. And that is a local church provider and they work with ministers all over Kigali to provide services to people who have AIDS. They have a school to educate children who are AIDS orphans or orphans of the genocide in Rwanda. And they also work, of course, to prevent further HIV transmission.

I met with a 12-year-old girl who is raising her three younger brothers after her father died in the genocide and her mother died with AIDS. There are a large number of orphan-headed families like hers in Rwanda and around Africa. The World Relief program at this church provides food and shelter for this family of orphan children and it provides an education to the little girl who is now the head of her family.

Americans can be proud that our generosity extends to people around the world, and that we can have such a profound and positive influence on people's lives.

And of course, there are many needs right here in our own communities. I know that Kendel has been working on a number of issues that have to do with what President Bush announced this year in his State of the Union, a new initiative called Helping America's Youth that addresses the problems of young Americans. Like Kendel, I've had the privilege of highlighting programs that help children who might be at risk of dropping out of school or turning to drinking or drugs or crime.

One great program that I visited is right here in Baltimore -- it's at a number of schools, actually, in Baltimore -- it's called the Good Behavior Game. They have about 20 years of research that showed that if first graders are taught how to be students, this Dr. Shep Kellam from Baltimore believes that it's not intuitive, that kids don't just know how to be a good student, and that if teachers, as they teach their other subjects, teach children how to be a good student in the first grade, their chances of graduating from high school are much increased over their peers. It's a terrific program that's here, and I had a really great time visiting it.

That's one of the many programs that I've had the chance to look at all over America. But what I found is that parents and teachers and coaches and mentors are spending time with children, showing kids that they care about them, and guiding them toward a healthy and responsible adulthood.

In our country and around the world, people are making an extraordinary difference in their communities by identifying challenges and taking actions to overcome them. And these active citizens benefit from having strong leaders. Bob Ehrlich has been this kind of strong leader for Maryland. (Applause.)

Governor Ehrlich has been the kind of leader that every one of us are proud to support. In the next year-and-a-half, he'll need our help as he's running for re-election. So I want to urge you to let your friends and neighbors know what a great job the Governor has done, and how important his re-election is to Maryland.

Thank you all, each one of you, for coming out tonight. Thank you, Governor Ehrlich, and Kendel, for the great job you do for Maryland and for our country. I appreciate it very, very much. (Applause.)

END 6:13 P.M. EDT

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