President Bush unveiled another initiative last week connecting schoolchildren and the ongoing international conflict over terrorism, asking schools across the country to invite veterans to speak to students during the week of Nov. 11.
The goal of the program, called “Lessons for Liberty,” is to have military veterans relay their firsthand experiences to students, and at the same time to teach history lessons and the value of freedom.
“All veterans are examples of service and citizenship for every American to remember and follow,” Mr. Bush said in announcing the program at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Md.
During his visit to the 2,000-student high school in suburban Washington, the president signed a proclamation declaring next week, which begins with Veterans Day, “National Veterans Awareness Week.”
Teenagers should respond well to veterans’ visits because the students “are looking for people to respect,” said Rebecca Newman, the principal of Wootton High. “They are looking for relationships with adults.”
The atmosphere at the school was electric during the visit, she said. Students greeted former Sen. Bob Dole—the Kansas Republican, permanently disabled from World War II combat wounds, who introduced the president—with chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
Series of Initiatives
Since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Mr. Bush has unveiled two other school initiatives related to what has become a war on terrorism. On Oct. 11, Mr. Bush asked schoolchildren to each send $1 to the White House for the America’s Fund for Afghan Children, a humanitarian effort for children in Afghanistan, where the United States is conducting airstrikes.
Then, on Oct. 25, in the Friendship Through Education initiative, the president and Secretary of Education Rod Paige set out to link American children with their peers in Muslim countries by asking them to become pen pals.
Mr. Bush was visiting a school in Florida as the news was breaking on Sept. 11, and his return to a school sends a wider signal, suggested Stephen Hess, a prominent scholar of government at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“Returning to school groups supports his notion that we should go about our daily lives,” Mr. Hess said.
Education has always been a front-and-center issue for Mr. Bush, beginning early in his days as the governor of Texas, and the school-related initiatives during the current crisis give him a way to return to that agenda, Mr. Hess noted.
But they also get schoolchildren more involved in international affairs, he said.
The Department of Education and the Department of Veteran Affairs will jointly administer the “Lessons for Liberty” program. Schools may get more information at www.va.gov/veteranedu.
A version of this article appeared in the November 07, 2001 edition of Education Week as Bush Calls On Schools To Welcome Veterans