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Laura Bush Talks To VOA - 2002-09-10

Ms. Derakshesh: "We are two days away from the anniversary of September 11th. What has changed in your life since that day, not as far as your goals but as far as what you're more aware of right now?"

Mrs. Bush: "Starting from the day of September 11 and going for this whole year, I'm so much more aware of our freedoms that we have in our country that I think a lot of Americans took for granted. Certainly, as we watched the Taleban in Afghanistan and we saw where little girls couldn't go to school and women weren't even allowed out of their homes without a male family member to escort them, it contrasted so strongly with the values and the freedoms that we have here. The freedom to be educated, the good public schools that every child of every race, of every religion, of every socioeconomic background can go to, those are the things that Americans really are so proud of about our country.

But they are also the ways that we know that other countries could get out of poverty. For instance, if they made sure that every single child had an opportunity to be really knowledgeable and have a really good education."

Ms. Derakshesh: "What do you think has changed in the lives of the American people since that day?"

Mrs. Bush: "I think the American people have really come to find that they have the inner strength that they know other generations of Americans had. My parents' generation, for instance, who fought in World War II and defeated Nazism. And I'm not sure we thought we had that. We might not have been so sure that we had that sort of inner strength and compassion, grace, that has been demonstrated since September 11, the compassion that people showed when they lined up to give blood for the Red Cross, or when they sent cards. Or one town in Louisiana, for instance, raised the money and bought a new fire truck, a new fire engine, for New York City, to replace the one that had been ruined in the fall of the World Trade Center.

All of those things really proved to us once again how strong these values are that Americans believe in."

Ms. Derakshesh: "What do you think the legacy of 9/11 is? What are the lessons that we've learned?"

Mrs. Bush: "Well, I hope that we'll all look at our lives again, that we'll figure out ways to make our lives more meaningful since September 11, to honor the lives of the people who were lost on September 11. People are deciding to become rescue workers, to become policemen or firemen or teachers, or all the jobs that serve other people. And I like that.

But also I think people are wanting to volunteer for the Peace Corps, for instance. The president has asked that the Peace Corps increase their numbers, so that Peace Corps members can go out around the world and let people know about American values and what Americans are really like. And we hear that there are 76,000 requests for applications for Peace Corps jobs for only 7,000 slots. And I'm so proud of that. I'm proud that Americans really want to help and want to get the message out around the world about what Americans believe in and what Americans are like."

Ms. Derakshesh: "What did you think, what came to your mind when you heard the news right at that time, when you heard about the tragic events?"

Mrs. Bush: "Well, when I first heard about the first plane, I was just leaving this room actually. I was going off to the Senate Education Committee. I was going to brief the Senate Education Committee on the results of the Summit on Education. And I heard, as I got in the car, my Secret Service agent told me that the first plane had hit. And of course I assumed it was an accident, some terrible accident. But then, before I even got to Capitol Hill, we heard about the second plane. And so I knew it was an act of terrorism. That's what we all assumed.

But, you know, for a long time that morning, as we watched those images on TV, we weren't sure, we didn't really know. The flight members, the people who were on the flight, Flight 93, they were the ones who started hearing, from their cell phones and from the in-flight telephones, about what had happened. And they were able then to get up as a group and rush the cockpit and foil that plane from crashing into some other target. And all of those things really, that's just another example, I think, of the strength that the American people have shown since the very first moments of what happened on September 11."

Ms. Derakshesh: "You have said that education produces greater understanding and tolerance. Do you believe that lack of education could have been a cause for the tragic events of September 11 on the United States?"

Mrs. Bush: "I think those events were caused by lack of tolerance, by hate, by evil. What I hope is that every child all over the world will have a chance, every girl and every boy, will have a chance to have a really good education, that teaches tolerance, that talks about the value of human life, that lets people know that human and innocent lives are valuable. Really, all civil society is based upon those ideas, that human life is valuable, that you don't attack innocent children and women and men, who have no idea, who are just going about their business of their own life. And I hope that that's something that we can spread worldwide, because it's so, so important."

Ms. Derakshesh: "You have turned your passion for books into a full-time devotion for promoting learning, teaching, reading. What do you think the effect of education could be in the future of democracy and freedom in the world?"

Mrs. Bush: "I think that, for one thing, we know that countries that have highly educated populations have more prosperity. Certainly it's a way to spread wealth around the world, to have more prosperous societies and less poverty, if people are educated. But I also think a really good education helps us understand each other. If we understand each other's religions, if we understand that we have so many more similarities, because we're human beings, than we have differences, no matter what the difference of our culture or our skin color or our religion, that in so many more ways we're alike because we're humans. We have the same emotions.

And I think that if you really read a lot, if you read works of great literature from every culture, if you've read about the religions and understand the religions of every culture, then we can understand each other."

Ms. Derakshesh: "Mrs. Bush, if I may, I would like to ask you a question about Iran and Iran-U.S. relations. In a July 12 statement, the President said, and I quote: 'As Iran's people move toward a future defined by greater freedom, greater tolerance, they will have no better friend than the United States of America.'

Most Iranians, especially the younger generation, are in favor of establishing relations with the United States. How do you think they can get their message across, being under an oppressed regime, their message across to the United States and to the American people?"

Mrs. Bush: "Well, I will say that Americans were moved by the feeling that outpourings of sympathy and support that came out of Tehran after September 11, the memorial service that was held there, the candlelight vigil, those images from that were very, very moving to the American people.

I think, in any way that Iranians can let the civilized world and freedom-loving people all over the world know that they also seek freedom, that they want freedom, that it's really very inspiring to know that people take the risk, literally risk their lives, to let the rest of the world know that they want freedom. That's a very, very powerful message that comes out of Iran to the rest of the world."

Ms. Derakshesh: "You have raised awareness on the condition of Afghan women and Afghan children. What is your message and your recommendation for Iranian women who are also in a very difficult political and social situation, and women in general who have been denied their basic human rights?"

Mrs. Bush: "I hope that women around the world will participate as much as they possibly can in their governments, to really let their governments know how important their rights are. When you think about a society with men and women in a society, and if you deny half of the society their rights, then you deny your whole country all the benefits that come from having the whole society being involved in the laws that are made or the culture that is built. It's very, very important to make sure that women are also included.

So, I want to encourage Iranian women and women around the world to do whatever you can to make sure that the people in power in your governments know that you want freedom, that you want to be involved.

I understand that women actually tried to register to be in the last election in Iran, to be elected, and to be part and to participate in the government. And I think that's so great that they made that step. Now, the next step is for the government to let them participate."

Ms. Derakshesh: "Thank you very much, Mrs. Bush. Thank you very much for your time."

Mrs. Bush: "Thank you."