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Crayon Diplomacy

President Bush and Secretary of Education Rod Paige are hoping that the age-old idea of student pen pals will help improve foreign relations.

The two visited a Washington school last Thursday to promote a new coalition, Friendship Through Education, that links American schools with peers in predominantly Muslim countries.

By communicating with Muslim children through e-mail, and writing essays on their lives, organizers hope students will develop greater understanding of other cultures.

The message: "We want to be friends," Mr. Bush told the students.

Initially, three schools in New York City and the Washington area will communicate with schools in Bahrain, Pakistan, and Egypt, but organizers hope eventually to link schools in every state with schools in the Muslim world.

The project is similar in concept to the "President's People to People Program," created in 1956 by President Eisenhower. Mr. Eisenhower, who had toured Nazi death camps in 1945, believed that such atrocities might be avoided with better communication between former enemies.

The coalition sponsoring the new effort includes private international groups and technology companies that will help translate and facilitate the communications. A school can sign up by visiting its Web site: Friendship Through Education.

Surprise Visit

Earlier last week, Mr. Paige took time during a visit to Georgia to cheer on a group of teachers.

His unannounced Oct. 23 visit was a surprise to the 110 teachers from schools in the Cobb County and Marietta districts. The teachers, who had been chosen as teachers of the year for their respective schools, were being honored with a day of festivities sponsored by the Marietta Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Paige, whose schedule usually doesn't allow for such events, visited what was billed as a pep rally.

—Joetta L. Sack [email protected]

Vol. 21, Issue 9, Page 26

Published in Print: October 31, 2001, as Federal File

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