Bush says overseas mission shouldn't obscure homeland education mission
By Holly Ramer, Associated Press, 01/08/02
DURHAM, N.H. -- The war on terrorism should not overshadow the nation's battle against illiteracy, President Bush said Tuesday during his first trip back to New Hampshire since his election.
Bush was at the University of New Hampshire to trumpet the education reform bill he signed earlier in Ohio. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., was one of the key framers of the bill.
"We have an important mission overseas, and we've got an important mission at home," he said. "That's to make sure every single child -- every child -- receives a first-class education. I want the country to remember that we've got to battle illiteracy and hopelessness through quality education."
Also joining Bush on stage was Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who laughed along with the crowd when Gregg joked about how the education bill had brought together politicians from opposite ends of the spectrum.
"The way I see it is if Ted Kennedy can come to New Hampshire to be on this stage with President Bush and myself, then this must be the year the Red Sox win the World Series," Gregg said to thunderous applause.
The legislation signed Tuesday will require public schools to test pupils in reading and math in grades three through eight.
Public schools where scores failed to improve two years in a row could receive more federal aid, but if scores still failed to improve, low-income students could receive tutoring or transportation to another public school.
New Hampshire already tests third-, sixth- and 10th-graders in a program designed to measure a pupil's knowledge relative to standards defining what the state expects they should know at each grade level.
The goal is to allow school districts to track the success of programs, not pupils.
Dorothy Morin, a Nashua teacher who attended Bush's speech, said she particularly likes his goal of giving teachers more control over their classrooms.
"Giving classroom control back to teachers is important because teachers know the students better," she said. "They can deal with situations as they occur."
Though Bush made the trip to tout his education bill, the event also took on a patriotic feel, with schoolchildren singing patriotic songs and a hand-picked audience that included high school ROTC members, veterans and relatives of New Hampshire Air National Guard members who have been called to duty.
"I want to tell you that your families are engaged in a noble and just cause. We will not let terrorists win," Bush told them.
"The enemy made a big mistake. They didn't understand America. They thought because of our richness, that we were soft and that we didn't believe in anything, that we weren't willing to stand up for what we think is right. And they're paying a dear price for messing with America."
Gregg praised Bush for his leadership since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"It was 119 days ago that America was attacked. During that time we have shown the world our nation's strength, resilience and resolve," Gregg said. "In large part this has been because we've been led by a president who's given us definition and purpose."
Bush's speech was interrupted briefly when a young man in the bleachers stood up and yelled, "What about the dead Afghani children, President Bush?"
Two older men standing behind him pushed him back into his seat, while a woman on the other side of the gymnasium yelled, "We love you President Bush."
The heckler, identified as UNH student Rob Wolff, 22, was pulled aside by Secret Service agents.
Bush headed to Boston for the last stop in his three-state swing Tuesday. Though he lost the New Hampshire primary to Arizona Sen. John McCain, New Hampshire was the only New England state Bush won in the general election.
He joked about his primary loss earlier in Ohio when he introduced Gregg to the crowd.
"He was my campaign manager in the New Hampshire primary. I still invited him to come with me," he said.
At UNH, he was given a hockey jersey with his name and the number '43' on the back.
"Winter just wouldn't be right without a trip to New Hampshire," he said.