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Bush Steps Up Political Campaigning Ahead of November Elections - 2002-09-17


With U.S. elections now less than two months away, President Bush is doing all he can to elect members of his Republican Party to Congress and top state posts. He is raising money for campaigns, and focusing in public on issues that could play a big role on Election Day.

On Tuesday, the issue was education.

The president went to Nashville, Tennessee where he visited a school and led children nationwide in a recitation of the "Pledge of Allegiance" to the American flag.

Mr. Bush had a point to make at the ceremony, which was held to mark the 215th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution.

"In one sentence we affirm our government, our belief in human dignity, our unity as a people and our reliance on providence," he said. "And this pledge takes on a special meaning in a time of war. Our enemies hate these words. That is what you have got to understand. They hate the words and they want to erase them."

The president said America's children have seen a great deal in the last year, both acts of evil and acts of courage and sacrifice. He said in order to truly understand what their country is fighting for, they must know the nation's history.

Unfortunately, he said, that knowledge is not all it should be. And before leaving Washington for Nashville he presided at a ceremony to launch an effort to promote the teaching of U.S. history in American schools.

Mr. Bush said statistics show that only one fourth of all American students are proficient in history and civics, the study of how the democratic system works. He cited data from the U.S. Department of Education.

"Recent studies show us that one in five high school seniors think that Germany was an ally of the United States in World War II. Twenty-eight percent of eighth grades don't know why the Civil War was fought," he said.

The president said the federal government will offer grants to programs that advance the study of U.S. history, and will set up contests and traveling exhibits to encourage students to learn more about the events that shaped their country.

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