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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
January 25, 2006

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at the Coming Up Taller Awards Ceremony
The East Room


2:45 P.M. EST

MRS. BUSH: Thanks, everybody, and welcome to the White House. I'm so happy that we have this chance together here to celebrate arts programs that are helping boys and girls develop their talents and find their own voices. The programs we recognize with the Coming Up Taller awards bring caring adults into the lives of children so that these children can grow up to be successful and healthy adults themselves. Congratulations to all the award winners.

Thanks very much also to the people who make the awards possible: Adair Margo, the Chair of the President's Committee on Art and Humanities, and her whole committee; Bruce Cole, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts -- for the Humanities; Dana Gioia, Chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts; Mary Chute, the Acting Director of the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

This year, we again recognize two programs from Mexico, so I'd like to welcome Mexico's Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Carlos de Icaza. Thank you very much, Ambassador, for joining us. And, Luisa, thank you for joining us, as well.

And thanks also for the members of Congress who have joined us today: Senator Johnny Isakson from Georgia; Congressman Dennis Moore and his wife Stephene from Kansas; and Congressman Steve Pearce and his with Cynthia from New Mexico. Thank you all very much for joining us today. I know you're proud of your groups that are here that are winning Coming Up Taller awards.

And special thanks to Debbie Allen, who has touched the lives of so many through dance and music.

I also want to thank all of the adults who teach and inspire children. Thank you very much for what you do.

Children of every age need caring adults in their lives, and that message is at the heart of Helping America's Youth, an initiative which President Bush announced last year in his State of the Union address and then asked me to lead.

I've visited programs all over our country that bring together children and their mentors -- programs that help students succeed in school, or teach character lessons through sports -- and programs like the ones we honor today, that open a whole new world to children by introducing them to the arts.

In Los Angeles, I saw a performance of Will Power to Youth, a program that employs teenagers to stage productions of Shakespeare. Will Power is a former Coming Up Taller award winner, and they were here for the summit, White House summit on Helping America's Youth.

This year's award winners help young people succeed in every part of their life. One hundred percent of the 18 seniors in Harlem's TRUCE program graduated from high school and were accepted by at least one college.

Students at the Castle Performing Arts Learning Center in Hawaii have higher graduation rates, higher grade point averages, and higher SAT scores than their peers.

Participants in the Cathedral Choir School of Delaware learn how to sing in at least five languages. In Atlanta, "Moving in the Spirit" teaches dance and choreography. The Cultural Alternatives Division of Connecticut introduces young people to creative writing, photography, dance, and cultural drumming.

Several programs are structured around reading and writing. In Illinois, "Literature for All of Us" gives girls new books every month -- books that they will then read and discuss in weekly groups. Oprah should hear about their book club. (Laughter.)

At the Chicago Avenue Project in Minneapolis, children first become characters in plays written especially for them by professional writers. And then they write their own plays to express their views of the world.

At the Brown University Summer High School, students study and perform complex classic works by Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw and Rudolfo Anaya.

Participants in the Teen Media Program in Cambridge, Mass., express themselves through video and photography and work on the annual National Youth Video and Film Festival. The International Center of Photography helps youth in the Bronx picture a brighter future by teaching the principles of photography.

Coming Up Taller award winners also give young people the chance to make important contributions to their own communities. Youth-Art-in-Action, sponsored by Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, helps young people make art for public spaces. In Lawrence, Kansas, JAMS -- which stands for "Jobs in the Arts Make Sense" -- helps teens and young adults earn money through art projects. Projects have ranged from decorating park benches to painting community murals.

Family, history, and culture play a significant role in Coming Up Taller programs. The School Project of Venice, California, is a theater-based program that includes two parent/child workshops and then performances for family and friends in a professional theater. The Philadelphia Museum of Art's Latino Outreach Program features a Latino Family Day, during which children stage performances to demonstrate what they've learned about Latino art, history, and culture.

In Denver, Colorado, "Old Stories, New Voices" give boys and girls a deeper understanding of how people of past generations and diverse cultures lived in the American West. And this year's Mexican award winners -- The Art and Children Project in Nogales and the Margarita Septien Ludic Center in Colima -- use dance, music, storytelling, theater, and crafts to bring indigenous cultural traditions and customs to a new generation.

By developing their talents and skills, drawing closer to their families and their cultures, young people who participate in the arts have more opportunities to build a successful life. Thank you to everyone who works with children in a Coming Up Taller award-winning program. You can proudly say that you're helping youth in your community.

Now I want to introduce Adair Margo, although I think -- is it right now? Okay, we're going to have a little interruption that we hadn't really planned on, and that is, the President's helicopter is going to land sometime during the program. So we're trying to schedule it so we can all run out onto the porch -- (laughter) -- watch the helicopter landing, and then come back in for the choir or the dance. (Laughter.) So if you thought my speech was fast, that was one of the reasons.

Now I want to introduce a very good friend of mine and a great friend to the arts in the United States, and that's the Chair of the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities, Adair Margo. (Applause.)

* * * * *

Thank you all very much. That was a wonderful performance, the Zulu song. It was really absolutely beautiful. Thanks to the Cathedral Choir School of Delaware. Thank you very much. And thanks to our dancers, the Moving in the Spirit dancers from Atlanta. Thank you all very, very much, as well. Debbie Allen, you're terrific. (Laughter.) Thank you for serving on the President's Committee and inspiring children here and everywhere around the world. And Adair, you were terrific, as well. And thanks, everyone. Now, we can retire to the dining room for the reception. So we have food next. (Laughter.) Thank you all so much. Thanks so much for coming. (Applause.)


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