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Federal File: Ambassador Cavazos; Rare emotion

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Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos spent most of last week in Mexico at the invitation of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari. The agenda for the visit, which included stops in Mexico City and Guadalajara, emphasized education and the war on drugs.

In addition to meeting with Mr. Salinas, the Secretary conferred with his counterpart at the Mexican education ministry, Manuel Bartlett Diaz; Foreign Minister Fernando Solano Morales; a state governor; and the heads of two universities.

The Secretary, who is of Mexican descent, also attended a dinner hosted by U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte, visited an elementary school in Guadalajara, and received an honorary degree from the Autonomous University of Guadalajara.


A speech given by Roger B. Porter, the White House domestic-policy adviser, was a hot topic at the legislative conference held last week by the Council of the Great City Schools--and not because of what he had to say about national education goals.

That was the topic of Mr. Porter's talk, which called for a national commitment to reaching the goals set recently by President Bush and the National Governors' Association.

But what made an impression on his audience was the emotion the usually unflappable Mr. Porter showed in relating a story about a 15-year-old boy who ran off a school bus, collapsed, and died.

As recounted by Mr. Porter, who said he read about the incident several years ago, a teacher who witnessed the death was asked to inform the family because the boy had named him his favorite teacher. The teacher barely remembered the boy, Mr. Porter said.

That experience, he said, led the teacher to vow that "there will never be a student who leaves one of my classes thinking he was a cipher."

The Presidential aide's voice broke while describing "the little, white-faced, unspectacular, uninvolved boy in the back row, whose marks were mostly D's, the little boy who never smiled. ..."

"He did not volunteer, he did not get chosen on the ball teams, and now at 15 he was dead," Mr. Porter said.

Mr. Porter discussed the national goals again two days later at a legislative conference of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Association of State Boards of Education.

But that speech focused on the goals themselves, and "as anecdotal as he got," said Tim Callahan, a spokesman for nasbe, was to talk about how many problems could be solved if all schools were as good as the ones his children attend in tony McLean, Va.--jm

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