For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
March 8, 2006
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at "Bridges of Hope: Educating Children for a Better Future," the Kuwait-America Foundation's 2006 Benefit Dinner
Residence of the Ambassador of the State of Kuwait
7:47 P.M. EST
MRS. BUSH: Thank you very, very much, Ambassador. Thank you for your kind words, and thanks very much to you and the Kuwait-America Foundation for this award.
I'm privileged to be able to call attention to issues that touch me personally, like the education of girls. And, of course, I'm thrilled that tonight's dinner benefits UNICEF and its work in Afghanistan.
I'd like to confirm what you said about your wonderful wife. When Rima sets her mind on a goal, it's only a matter of time before it's accomplished. So thank you, Rima, for bringing awareness to this very important cause. (Applause.)
I want to acknowledge the other honorees -- Secretary Condi Rice, so glad she's here with us tonight; Michael Douglas. The members of the Cabinet who are here, as well, tonight -- Margaret Spellings. I know there are other members here, too, that I think are at other tables -- Secretary Chertoff, Secretary Jackson. There are probably more -- I shouldn't have started. (Laughter.) But anyway, thank all of you Cabinet members for coming. (Applause.)
I want to also especially recognize Ann Veneman, the Executive Director of UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund. (Applause.) Ann is the former Secretary of Agriculture, and I know she's doing an excellent job at UNICEF now. Thank you for your great work, Ann.
The members of Congress who are here, the members of the Supreme Court and all the ambassadors -- Marvin Hamlisch, thank you for joining us tonight. Distinguished guests, thanks everyone here tonight for supporting UNICEF and their work in Afghanistan.
Every year, on March 8th, citizens around the world commemorate International Women's Day. I've met with thousands of women from many nations, and I believe that women everywhere share the same dreams: to be educated, to live in peace, to enjoy good health, to be prosperous, and to be heard. And, of course, these dreams start with the education of girls.
Rima mentioned the millions of Afghan girls who now attend school. Each of these girls has a chance to achieve dreams that once seemed impossible. Last week, when President Bush and I met with President Karzai and his wife, Dr. Karzai, Dr. Karzai told me that they think that now there are about six million children in school and about half of that number are girls. And she's a living example of how women once had access to education and advancement in Afghan society.
When I met with her, I also met with women leaders, women ministers in the new government, as well, and these women, from that generation of Afghan women, want today's Afghan girls to have the chance to become doctors themselves or businesswomen or government officials or anything they want to be. And the people of the United States are proud to stand with the people of Afghanistan.
Last year, I visited the Women's Teacher Training Institute in Kabul, which was established through a partnership between the government of Afghanistan and USAID. At the Institute, which is also a dorm so that women can come in from the provinces and have a safe place to stay when they're being trained, they're trained to be teachers, and then they go home and train other teachers in a cascading effect, with an attempt to train about 6,000 teachers in a very short amount of time, so the schools that UNICEF can build in Afghanistan will have teachers. And women teachers are also especially important, because many families still want their girls to be educated by women, and not to be in either a co-ed situation or in a situation with men teachers.
Afghan women teachers are being trained here in the United States. I've met with every single class since 2001 that have been going to the University of Nebraska. These women come in, study at the University of Nebraska, and you might now know that the University of Nebraska has a special course in Middle East or Far East studies for these teachers -- Dari and Pashtu and the other languages that people in Afghanistan speak.
These women, the teachers that are studying here at the University of Nebraska, live with American families, and you can just imagine what those families are like in Nebraska that open their homes to Afghan teachers. And every time I've had -- it's been really fun to be able to ask each class as they've come to the White House on their way back home what their families have been like, and they're shocked because they don't expect Americans to be so generous and so decent and so kind like all of us know these families would be, like families all over our whole country.
Programs that train teachers are especially important, and I want to thank the partnerships like UNICEF, the Kuwait-America Foundation, and all of the other -- USAID -- all of the other groups that are -- Afghan-American Women's Council -- that are working to make sure boys and girls are educated in Afghanistan.
And I want everyone here to know, and especially the people of Afghanistan, that the United States are steadfast partners in their development.
I'm honored to receive this award tonight, and I'm grateful that we're working together to help the people of Afghanistan find the peace and the success that they deserve.
Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)
END 7:54 P.M. EST