Public Papers

Remarks on Signing the National Parents and Teachers Association Week Proclamation


The President. Welcome to the White House. And may I thank Congressman Kildee for being with us. Of course, single out for special recognition Ann Lynch, the president of the National PTA. And, of course, Ted Sanders, who is our Under Secretary at Education and who really is a man of commitment and has done an outstanding job all across the board for education.

I want to welcome Mr. Stair, the president of ServiceMaster, this year's -- right here -- this year's sponsor of the National Parents and Teachers Association Week. And we are grateful to you, sir.

And a special welcome to the teachers and the parents, and, of course, the students -- you're outnumbered, but you're here -- [laughter] -- from communities in and around our Washington area, representing the many millions who, together, make up the real strength of the PTA.

And I want to begin today by sharing with you the results of a recent poll of the Nation's fourth graders. These days we all live by instant polling. And this one I know you will find fascinating. They were asked to pick a hero from the following list: Bart Simpson, George Bush, Paula Abdul, Bo Jackson, or E, none of the above. And they did not pick A, C, or D, or sad to say, B. [Laughter] The winners were write-in candidates. Children picked parents as their heroes by a landslide. And teachers were the runners-up, right in there very, very close. And Bo Jackson was third -- [laughter] -- and they didn't dare give me the rest of the results. [Laughter]

But the fact of the matter is that parents are our children's first teachers. And I guess Barbara, in her reading to kids, exemplifies this pretty darn well; now it's grandkids for us. But it's more than a matter of helping our kids do their homework, teaching them how to read, or showing them through our own interests that learning is a lifelong pursuit. Our kids look to us for the moral values that guide and shape our lives.

And we know children look to us, and it's up to us to give our kids something to look up to. Ann Lynch is right on the mark when she says that ``the difference between a good school and a great school is the parents.''

And those of us in government, at the Federal level and in the statehouses and right down to the local school boards, have a responsibility to ensure that parents are at the center of educational reform. Together, let's work to meet a common challenge; let's find a way to help children who lack the advantages that come from a loving home and caring parents.

I am convinced that our efforts to improve our schools are at a critical turning point now. We here in the White House are committed to these national education goals. We've forged a real, working partnership with the Nation's Governors. And it is real; it's not just on paper. And we know real progress comes one school and one student at a time. And that's why we see the PTA as a key partner in making certain that America's children receive an education that's second to none.

And once again, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the White House. And now I will sign the proclamation designating this National Parents and Teachers Association Week. And Congressman Kildee, if you'd join us here, too, sir, it would make it extra special. And the deed is done.

Q. Mr. President, does Saddam's no-surrender statement mean there's no hope of avoiding a ground war?

The President. He should have spent more time in the PTA. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 1:16 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Representative Dale E. Kildee; Ann Lynch, president of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers; Ted Sanders, Under Secretary of Education; Charles W. Stair, president of the ServiceMaster Co.; television cartoon character Bart Simpson; singer Paula Abdul; and professional athlete Bo Jackson. The proclamation is listed in Appendix E at the end of this volume.