First Lady Laura Bush
I know that the universities that are represented here, the ones that you represent, are uniquely situated to foster connections between people in our country and people around the world. You already do so much, from your student year abroad programs to foreign service opportunities that you offer your own American students. Many American students have the opportunity to travel and work in other countries. You welcome thousands of foreign students to your campuses.
In 2004, George and I hosted the G8 leaders in Sea Island, Georgia, and for the Spouses Program, I invited an Iraqi Fulbright Scholar, a young woman who was at Indiana University then, and now she’s at Duke working on her Master’s. So at a meeting, Dalia, this lovely Iraqi Fulbright Scholar, told us her story. Her family lived in a town on the border of Iraq. When she was a little girl during the Iraqi-Iranian war, her village was gassed. She was temporarily blinded because she was little, she was separated from her family, and drank water from the street. Now she is here studying on a Fulbright Scholarship. She told us how disturbed she was by the impressions Americans had of Iraq, and that when she told students in her university where she was that she was from Iraq, people gasped in horror because Americans’ impressions of Iraq are so bad.
And so not only in the United States here with her Fulbright Scholarship is she learning about the United States, but she’s also having the chance to instruct us about her country.
Another great program that’s run out of the University of Nebraska has been bringing female teachers from Afghanistan to the United States every semester for a very intensive teacher training program. The Afghan teachers then go home and train other teachers in an effort to get as many teachers into rural areas as possible. I’ve hosted each of these groups of Afghan teachers at the White House, usually on their way home back to Afghanistan with a real picture of what American life is like in the heartland of our country.
Later this month, I’m going to visit Ghana with six university presidents from the United States to unveil the Textbooks and Learning Materials Program. This program links minority-serving colleges in the U.S. with institutions in Africa to provide textbooks and school supplies for African students. I know that by working together, our government and our institutions of higher education can introduce people around the world to the America we know. Ours is a just and tolerant society, a home to people of many faiths and many backgrounds. So as we seek to understand and know other cultures, we also want people in other countries to better understand us.