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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
September 7, 2006

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at a Thelma Drake for Congress Breakfast
Norfolk Waterside Marriott
Norfolk, Virginia

10:14 A.M. EDT

MRS. BUSH: Thank you, Thelma, for that very kind introduction. Since she just happened to mention the National Book Festival, I wanted to tell you that the sixth National Book Festival is this fall, September 30th, on the Mall in Washington. So I hope you all will come. You're not that far away from Washington. I hope you'll drive over and meet all of your favorite authors and support the National Book Festival.

I want to thank each and every one of you for coming today. I'm so happy to have this chance to be in Norfolk, so close to Virginia's gorgeous Eastern Shore beaches. I know President Bush wishes he could be here with you today, and I know he wants me to give you his very best regards.

Part of what makes this part of the country so appealing is its tremendous natural beauty. But the Virginia Shore is also steeped in fascinating maritime history. Norfolk is the home to the world's largest naval installation, which for more than a century has been the home base for courageous American sailors who risked their lives at sea to keep America's homeland safe. (Applause.)

The Norfolk Navy Yard is where our country's first commissioned naval battleship, the U.S.S. Texas, was built in the late 19th century. The battleship has long been retired, but a new nuclear submarine now bears the U.S.S. Texas name -- she sailed from Norfolk just a few weeks ago. And tomorrow I'll be in Galveston to commission the new U.S.S. Texas. I know Norfolk's naval community and everyone here wishes the best for the crew of this new submarine. (Applause.)

I want to acknowledge Ted Drake, Thelma's husband. When your spouse is in politics, you're involved, whether you want to be or not. (Laughter.) And we know that successful politicians have families who support them and are there with them all the time. And I want to thank Ted very much. And I know there are other members of Thelma's family here, too, and I want to thank them for that. (Applause.) Thank you very much, Ted.

Jeff McWalters was our emcee. Thank you, Jeff, thank you very much for being our emcee. (Applause.) Don't know where he went. (Applause.)

I'm delighted to be with each and every one of you today to support Thelma Drake's campaign for the United States Congress. Thelma has gotten off to a great start in Washington. During her first term, she's distinguished herself as a passionate advocate for Virginia's families.

Thelma brought to the United States House the principles of efficiency and accountability developed during her successful real estate career, ensuring that Virginia's tax dollars are spent responsibly. Thelma consistently voted for tax cuts during her time in the Virginia legislature, and she supported them in Congress. This year, thanks to Congresswoman Drake's support, President Bush signed into law the largest tax relief package in American history. (Applause.)

These tax cuts have fueled the economy, and they've helped add over five-and-a-half million new jobs since 2003. And that means five-and-a-half million more Americans wake up every morning with the dignity and the sense of purpose that comes with a job.

And in Virginia, your state unemployment rate is way down to about 3.7. That is really, really great, and I want to congratulate all of you for that, as well.

Something else Thelma and the President have in common -- and something that I share with them -- is a commitment to natural preservation.

In 2003, President Bush announced the Preserve America Initiative, which encourages communities to safeguard their natural and historical treasures. Preserve America can also boost local economies, because recognized landmarks and scenic sites attract visitors and businesses.

As a member of the House Resources Committee, Thelma has helped protect the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's Eastern Shore. Her leadership is safeguarding both the 2nd District's environment and its tourism business, and has ensured that this region's natural beauty can be enjoyed by generations to come. Thank you, Congresswoman Drake, for this vital preservation work. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

One of the benefits of natural and historical preservation is that it gives our children more opportunities to learn about our country. Visits to museums, aquariums, monuments, and national parks are great activities for young people, offering them healthy and positive ways to learn and to spend time with their families.

In his 2005 State of the Union address, President Bush announced the Helping America's Youth Initiative, and he asked me to lead it. Helping young people learn to make wise decisions for their lives is at the heart of Helping America's Youth.

Since the President announced the initiative, I've traveled to many parts of our country, visiting with young people and with the adults who are so important to their lives. I've been to schools and to after-school programs. I've seen fatherhood initiatives. I've met with mentors and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. I've visited gang intervention programs, where I've met with young people who are leaving gangs and finding jobs.

All of these visits led to the White House Conference on Helping America's Youth last October, and then to two regional conferences in Indianapolis and Denver. At the conferences, we introduced an online, interactive Community Guide. This guide helps concerned adults learn more about the problems facing youth in their own communities, and what local resources are available to address these problems. The information is available on the Helping America's Youth website, --that's g-o-v. I urge you to look at the website, and to use it in Norfolk in your home communities.

Here in Virginia, there are few advocates for children as dedicated as Thelma Drake. On the House Education and Workforce Committee, Thelma has brought greater accountability to Virginia's classrooms, making sure children are building the knowledge and the skills they need to be productive members of our society. And this March, with help from Thelma, the House passed the College Access and Opportunity Act, allowing more of Virginia's young people to realize the dream of a college education.

We all know, though, that the well-being of families in Virginia and throughout our country ultimately depends on our government's ability to keep them safe -- by defeating terrorism and increasing liberty abroad.

In the House, Thelma Drake is a champion of the men and women of the United States military. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Thelma is a respected voice on defense issues vital to the 2nd District. Norfolk is home to the largest naval station in the world, and to thousands of military personnel who serve here.

On the committee, Congresswoman Drake has provided our men and women in uniform with the equipment they need to remain safe in combat, and has voted to increase medical benefits for our troops and veterans. She regularly shares her time and care with wounded service members, and she's traveled twice to Iraq to support our troops there.

Thanks to the men and women in uniform, the Iraqi people are now free from the oppression of Saddam Hussein, and are working to build a democratic future for their country. President Bush has pledged that the American people will stand with them as they build their democracy. (Applause.)

And in Afghanistan, women and girls can now be educated. It's hard for us to imagine a country that would prohibit half of its citizens from being educated. But now, little girls are in school all over Afghanistan.

All of us are so proud of the young men and women who are deployed around the world, defending our country overseas to make sure that our families are kept safe here in the United States.

Thelma's dedication to the people of Virginia, and her achievements, remind us of why she must be re-elected.

Thelma understands that America faces challenges too important to be reduced to simple politics. President Bush has an ambitious agenda for the rest of his time in Washington, and he takes his responsibility to the American people very seriously.

Ending our dependence on foreign oil, reforming our immigration system, rebuilding the Gulf Coast, and keeping our country safe from terrorism are not easy tasks, but they're absolutely vital goals. To accomplish them, we must have serious national conversations, conducted with civility and respect. And Thelma Drake is a thoughtful, positive, and powerful part of that dialogue. (Applause.)

This is just one reason why Thelma is a wonderful leader for Virginia. When you look through her distinguished record of public service, you'll find many more.

Thank you all very much for coming out to support Thelma. Thank you for your generous support for her re-election. I urge you to redouble your efforts between now and November, and make sure Thelma Drake is re-elected to the United States Congress.

Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)

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