- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Excerpts of first lady Laura Bush’s speech to the Republican National Convention as prepared for delivery last night at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Tonight, I want to try to answer the question that I believe many people would ask me if we sat down for a cup of coffee or ran into each other at the store: You know him better than anyone — you’ve seen things no one else has seen — why do you think we should re-elect your husband as president?

As you might imagine, I have a lot to say about that.

I could talk about my passion — education. At every school we visit, the students are so eager. Last fall the president and I walked into an elementary school in Hawaii and a little second-grader came out to welcome us and bellowed, “George Washington!” Close, just the wrong George W.”

When my husband took office, too many schools were leaving too many children behind, so he worked with Congress to pass sweeping education reform. The No Child Left Behind Act provides historic levels of funding with an unprecedented commitment to higher standards, strong accountability and proven methods of instruction. We are determined to provide a quality education for every child in America.

I could talk about the small-business owners and entrepreneurs who are now creating most of the new jobs in our country — women like Carmela Chaifos, the only woman to own a tow truck company in all of Iowa. The president’s tax relief helped Carmella to buy the business, and modernize her fleet, and expand her operations. Carmela is living proof of what she told me. She said: “If you’re determined and you want to work hard, you can do anything you want to. That’s the beautiful thing about America.”

I could talk about health care. For years, leaders in both parties said we should provide prescription drug coverage in Medicare. George was able to bring Republicans and Democrats together to get it done.

I could talk about the fact that my husband is the first president to provide federal funding for stem-cell research. He did so in a principled way, allowing science to explore its potential while respecting the dignity of human life. …

All of these issues are important. But we are living in the midst of the most historic struggle my generation has ever known. The stakes are so high. So I want to talk about the issue that I believe is most important for my own daughters, for all our families, and for our future: George’s work to protect our country and defeat terror so that all children can grow up in a more peaceful world. …

No American president ever wants to go to war. Abraham Lincoln didn’t want to go to war, but he knew saving the union required it. Franklin Roosevelt didn’t want to go to war — but he knew defeating tyranny demanded it. And my husband didn’t want to go to war, but he knew the safety and security of America and the world depended on it. …

Our parents’ generation confronted tyranny and liberated millions. As we do the hard work of confronting today’s threat, we can also be proud that 50 million more men, women and children live in freedom thanks to the United States of America and our allies.

After years of being treated as virtual prisoners in their own homes by the Taliban, the women of Afghanistan are going back to work. After being denied an education, even the chance to learn to read, the little girls in Afghanistan are now in school. … And wasn’t it wonderful to watch the Olympics and see that beautiful Afghan sprinter race in long pants and a T-shirt, exercising her new freedom while respecting the traditions of her country?

I recently met a young Iraqi woman. She is one of the new Iraqi Fulbright scholars. She survived horrific ordeals, including the gassing of her village by Saddam Hussein. She told me that when people look at Iraq, what they don’t see is that Iraq is a country of 25 million people, each with their own hope. …

People ask me all the time whether George has changed. He’s a little grayer — and, of course, he has learned and grown as we all have. But he’s still the same person I met at a backyard barbecue in Midland, Texas, and married three months later. And you’ve come to know many of the same things that I know about him. He’ll always tell you what he really thinks. You can count on him, especially in a crisis. His friends don’t change — and neither do his values. He has boundless energy and enthusiasm for his job, and for life itself. He treats every person he meets with dignity and respect; the same dignity and respect he has for the office he holds. …

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