Lynne Cheney invited 33 D.C. schoolchildren to her home yesterday to talk about the importance of courage.
“What do you think courage means?” the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney asked the 8- and 9-year-olds who surrounded her on the front veranda of the vice-presidential residence at the Naval Observatory.
“Bravery,” said Brenda Perlera, one of the third-graders from Marie H. Reed Learning Center in Northwest.
“Not to be afraid and to stand up for oneself,” Roberto Reyes responded.
Mrs. Cheney introduced a list of 15 books on the theme of freedom that leading historians, authors, and librarians say should be on every youngster’s reading list.
The fiction and nonfiction selections include Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage,” Frederick Douglass’ account of his escape from slavery, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie,” Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage.”
Yesterday’s event was part of a $100 million “We the People” program started by President Bush through the National Endowment for the Humanities to teach youngsters more about American history and culture.
Mrs. Cheney read the children Langston Hughes’ poem “Dreams,” with its famous line, “Hold fast to dreams.” She asked the children what dreams they have.
“To be president,” Diego Fuentes said.
“That’s a great dream to have,” Mrs. Cheney said. “But I also think that even if you just have a high goal like that, and maybe only get to be vice president, it’s OK.”
Ali Malik said he dreamed of being an archaeologist. “That’s a great dream to have,” Mrs. Cheney said, “and you can find out how things were a long time ago.”
The NEH’s “We the People” Bookshelf Program will offer the books to 500 libraries across the country, said Bruce Cole, the endowment’s chairman.
The aim of the program is to encourage young people to read classic literature and explore the ideas and ideals of America, he said. Mrs. Cheney was NEH chairman during the first Bush administration.
Teachers Angela Sims, Sammy Ferguson and Principal John B. Sparrow joined their children at yesterday’s event.
“The books they have chosen are definitely age-appropriate and should be in any child’s library,” Mrs. Sims said in an interview.
She said the event with Mrs. Cheney was “a spectacular experience” for the children, “very much up-close and personal; she was a great storyteller.”
“Books not only feed our minds, they steady our souls,” Mrs. Cheney says in NEH’s literature about the program. “They show us how people in other times and places met adversity and triumphed over it.”
Mr. Cole, an art historian, accompanied Mrs. Cheney.
“Books are really important because they can take you to all sorts of places,” the NEH chairman told the children. “They take you into the past, say 200 years ago, and they can take you into the future. And you can meet through books all sorts of interesting people, animals and other neat things. If you have a book, you have terrific companionship. You’re never alone when you have a book.”
This article is based in part on wire service reports.