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Text of Education Secretary Rod Paige's speech

Good evening Fellow Americans.

We live in a great country.

A nation of good people in pursuit of great ideals - defined by our Founders, defended by citizen-soldiers, and delivered to us.

We inherited a great nation.

So must our children! No nation -- whatever the size of its armed forces or economy -- can sustain greatness unless it educates all, not just some, of its citizens. No one understands that better than President Bush.

He's always had a compassionate vision for education: Students challenged by high standards; teachers armed with proper resources; parents empowered with information and choices.

Young adults with meaningful diplomas in their hands - not despair in their hearts. He saw that many schools shared his vision. They have dedicated teachers, outstanding administrators, involved parents.

They are in cities, suburbs and rural communities. But there were also schools where young minds were left unengaged; good teachers left unsupported; standards left unused.

Kids who passed through these schools -- were robbed of their life's potential.

And so were we.

Other Presidents tried to fix this problem. But even as education spending skyrocketed, the "achievement gap" persisted.

On a personal note: In my youth I attended segregated schools. I was in college when the Supreme Court announced Brown versus Board of Education. I felt liberated that day.

I thought true equality would soon follow. It did not.

While Brown opened the schoolhouse door to all -- it did not guarantee quality education for all. President Bush saw this two-tiered system as unacceptable! He proposed a plan -- High standards; measurable goals; real consequences -- and resources to get the job done.

He promised results.

He delivered results.

The President's first legislative proposal was the No Child Left Behind Act.

This bipartisan law raises the bar for all students -- no matter their race or income level.

It challenges what the President calls the "soft bigotry of low expectations." Its goal is simple: all students read and do math at grade level.

States, not Washington, set the standards. Schools that need assistance get assistance.

Support for education under President Bush has gone up 36 percent -- with more funds requested for disadvantaged students than during the entire Clinton administration.

Casey Stengel would say: "You can look it up!"

Now schools are held accountable for making real progress. If they don't, parents have real choices -- such as after-school homework help, or the choice of another school.

No Child Left Behind is working.

All across America -- test scores are rising; students are learning; the achievement gap is closing; teachers and principals are beaming with pride! President Bush also increased Pell Grants funding so one million more young adults can afford college.

Although much work remains, our choice is simple: We can either build on these achievements -- or return to the days of excuses and indifference.

Our opponents voted for No Child Left Behind. They praised it then. Now they attack it.

They say No Child Left Behind should be watered down, schools can't handle change, some children just can't learn. We say, do not underestimate our public schools -- do not underestimate our teachers -- and never underestimate our children!

We say high standards, accountability and achievement are on the right track -- and we're not going back!

This election may be multiple choices, but there's only one correct choice. To go forward, not back. To choose compassion, not cynicism. To set high standards, not settle for second-best.

To elect a true "reformer with results" -- not a "Johnny Come Lately" with mere promises! Only one candidate has worked to create an education system worthy of a great nation.

President George W. Bush.

And now, let's take a look at a school where No Child Left Behind is helping disadvantaged students. 

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