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A Thaw in Relations

March 08, 2005 1 min read
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A snowy day in the nation’s capital last week shut down plenty of area schools, but it didn’t keep first lady Laura Bush, nor the U.S. education secretary, from showing up at a Washington university to speak up for an international group that’s weathered some stormy relations with the United States.

Mrs. Bush sang the praises of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, a group the United States refused to be part of for some 20 years before rejoining 17 months ago.

Laura Bush touted the importance of UNESCO at a conference last week.

“UNESCO members and partners are helping millions of children realize the advantages of education,” Mrs. Bush said at a daylong conference hosted by Georgetown University.

The United States terminated its UNESCO membership in 1984, with the Reagan administration citing concerns about poor management and a failure of the Paris-based group to contain the growth of its budget.

Both Mrs. Bush and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings urged U.S. higher education institutions to help with UNESCO’s mission.

“With so much respect across the globe, American colleges and universities have a unique opportunity to help UNESCO meet its goals of advancing literacy, training teachers, and using education and science to fight HIV/AIDS,” Mrs. Bush said.

The conference was organized to discuss the role American colleges and universities can play in the U.N. education organization’s goal of achieving education for all children by 2015. UNESCO notes that more than 103 million school-age children are not in school.

UNESCO has nearly 200 member nations.

Koichiro Matsuura, UNESCO’s director-general, said the United States’ decision to rejoin the organization “has made a world of difference.”

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A version of this article appeared in the March 09, 2005 edition of Education Week

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