Remarks by First Lady Laura Bush at a Reception for Egyptian Women LeadersAmbassador's Residence
May 24, 2005
Released by the White House
MRS. BUSH: Thank you, Gordon. Thank you very much. Thanks so much to Gordon, and thank you all for coming out. I read the guest list, I know how distinguished this group is, and I'm sort of actually embarrassed to be giving you a speech. I'm going to just give a few remarks about my trip and then I hope I have a chance to come out and speak to everyone. I think you all should be speaking to me, instead of the other way around.
I want to introduce my Chief of Staff, Anita McBride, who also wants to come out and meet you all. And I know you probably -- many of you know Liz Cheney from the State Department, who some of you have already talked to and she wants to also talk to you when we come out.
I also want to pass on President Bush's best regards. Egypt is a very, very important friend of the United States. We have a longtime friendship, and Egypt has been a leader in peacemaking. And I appreciate that very much. I know that President Bush appreciates that, as well. I know that Egypt is! actively involved in the peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and both the President and I appreciate that.
I'm very happy to be here. This is my second visit to Egypt. I know you can't come enough or spend long enough to get to see all of the magnificent sites that your country is blessed with. I came in 1998 with my mother-in-law on a women's trip. She brought all of her daughters-in-law and her daughter and we had a wonderful Nile cruise and got to have lunch with Mrs. Mubarak at the end of the cruise before we went back home.
I've had a very, very nice visit with Mrs. Mubarak. She is really a leader. She's a role model for women around the world. Yesterday we visited the Girl Friendly School, which is such a terrific idea. It's an idea that is a role model, especially for Afghanistan. It's so important in Afghanistan to be able to educate girls as quickly as they can because girls were left out for so many years. And also, the idea of a one-room schoolhouse, you can have a six-year-old who's learning to read and you can have a 14-year-old who's learning to read in the same building without embarrassing girls who are 14 and who haven't had the opportunity to learn to read.
So I want to spread this idea to Afghanistan. I think they actually have already started to try to put these women's centers in every little town where girls and women can come and mothers and daughters can be educated at the same time.
Everyone in America knows about your wonderful country. And girls especially when they first start reading about Cleopatra and all of the very, very exotic-sounding places -- the Pyramids, the tombs in Egypt -- beccome fascinated with your country. I think girls and boys around the world do. And in fact, that's what happened to Liz Cheney. When she was 12, she read a book about Egypt, and she was so fascinated that she made! the Middle East her career and her lifetime interest. I know you know that, I mean, I'm sure you hear that from so many people who visit your country, women and men, about it.
I want to just tell you again how important Egypt and our relationship with Egypt is, how strong our friendship is and longstanding our friendship is, and how much we appreciate everything President Mubarak and Egypt does in promoting peace, and Mrs. Mubarak, in fact, who started the women's peace movement here that includes a number of countries.
Women in Egypt have always been educated, they've always had a strong role to play, they've always been role models. But as we look around the world, we want that for women in other countries. And we were delighted when the Parliament in Kuwait just a week ago voted, at the urging of the Amir, to give women's suffrage. Women have only had the right to vote in the United States for less than a hundred years, even though our Constitutio! n, as you know, said all men are created equal. That didn't leave women in the group -- (laughter) -- or slaves. We started with the perfect Constitution but it took us a very longg time, and of course, we still work on it.
Democracy is a long time coming. You take a few steps forward and a few steps back, and certainly in our country, we still do that. It requires vigilance, it requires work on the part of everyone, which is what Vaclav Havel told me in the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel -- intellectual playwright, prisoner, political prisoner, and then President of the Czech Republic -- said to me, he said, "You know, democracy is hard, because it requires the participation of everyone."
It's easier to just let the government do it sometimes than to step up, for everyone to step up and take their own responsibility for building their country. And I know from visiting women around the world, from visiting with Palestinian women this week and Israeli women this week that women want to be involved in civil society, that women want to be able to contribute to their countries, just like men do, and that women want peace. And I know that from visiting with the Israeli and the Palestinian women who both told me, both groups said we want peace, we want to live free from terror, we want to be able to live with each other like they had before at other times over the -- in the past.
And so I think women are -- bring a very -- especially mothers, bring a very important idea or contribution to the table when you're talking about peace, when you're talking about children and the rights of children and how children should be able to live free from poverty and free from violence.
And that's what we all want. And I just want to finish so I can come out and visit with all of you and speak to each one of you, and I know that Liz and Anita also want to meet you and talk to you. So thank you so much for your hospitality while we're in your beautiful country. We appreciate it very, very much. Thanks a lot. (Applause.) I see the two men on the front row and so I had to have some gender equality and say thank you all also for being here. (Laughter.)
Released on May 24, 2005