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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > What the Secretary Has Been Saying > 2006 Secretary Rice's Remarks > September 2006: Secretary Rice's Remarks

Remarks at the White House Global Literacy Conference

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
New York Public Library
New York, New York
September 18, 2006

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. Thank you, Vartan, for that really kind introduction and I’d like to thank Vartan for his great leadership of intellectual life in America for many decades.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to join you here today. It is our mission to help all men and women to share the power of the written word. When we promote literacy, we build the foundations of human progress and freedom. It is our hope to build societies where all individuals can achieve the full extent of their liberty. Education gives individuals this chance to succeed. There’s an independence of spirit that can only come from education because when you can read it opens up a world of limitless horizons and nobody can take that from you.

I personally know the transformative power of education because of stories of my grandparents, who were so determined to educate themselves and to educate their children. I want to tell you in particular the story of my paternal grandfather. Granddaddy Rice was a sharecropper’s son in Ewtah – that’s E-w-t-a-h – Alabama. And despite that all he had to endure, including poverty and segregation, he understood that education is a privilege and he understood that the opportunity of education could be provided to him and to his family. And it was a commitment that made him so strong that he found a way to get a college education, college learning, book learning as he called it, at the beginning of the 20th century in Alabama.

He passed that commitment on to my family and it was a commitment that was shared by my parents, and they passed it on to me. And so as someone whose life was transformed by education, I have been proud to be an educator myself because I have no doubt that education is the single greatest force for equality in the world.

I know that not all people have the great benefit of parents and of grandparents like mine and so someone has to step in and help. I know that you all share this belief and I want to thank you for your commitment to the international fight to eradicate illiteracy and promote education and to give children -- and indeed, if necessary, adults -- a chance to read.

I am very proud that we have had two First Ladies in the United States of America so devoted to reading and to literacy. And thank you, Mrs. Barbara Bush, for your commitment, too. (Applause.)

Our current First Lady is someone who has devoted her life to helping others reach their full potential. That our First Lady dedicates her energy to promoting education comes as no surprise to those who know her. As a mother and a public school teacher and a former librarian, Mrs. Laura Bush has a wealth of experience in promoting her commitment to literacy and learning. And now, as First Lady and Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Literacy Decade, she is sharing her belief in the importance of literacy with people around the world.

Indeed, the First Lady has helped to highlight some of the most important issues that we will discuss at this conference.

In Tanzania, she stressed the connection between a literate society and a healthy society, that knowledge is the single best weapon in the fight against disease.

And in Costa Rica, the First Lady helped to promote the powerful connection between literacy and economic interdependence – independence – with Costa Rican educators and children in grade school.

In Afghanistan, Mrs. Bush visited the Women’s Teacher Training Institute that she helped to establish in Kabul, where she saw Afghan women gaining the skills and education that had been denied to them by the Taliban.

This is just the beginning of what Mrs. Bush has helped to accomplish – her great passion, her hard work is helping many around the world to change their own lives. Now and for many years to come, I know that she is going to continue to work tirelessly to help millions of people around the world change their own lives. Through the development of this campaign to achieve literacy for all, I have been privileged to witness the First Lady’s expertise, her energy and her effectiveness. And I know that we have all been moved by the strength of her spirit, the depth of her generosity and the power of her decency.

This morning then, it is my great honor to introduce to you a great friend of literacy, a great friend of mine, and a great friend and advocate for all people who desire a better future; the host of this Inaugural White House Conference on Global Literacy, the First Lady, Mrs. Laura Bush.


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