Reading & Literacy

President, First Lady Back Global Literacy to Fight ‘Hopelessness’

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 26, 2006 2 min read

President Bush said last week that ensuring that people can read and write is one way to combat poverty and “radicalism” in the world.

“One reason radicals are able to recruit young men, for example, to become suicide bombers, is because of hopelessness,” the president said here at a White House-sponsored conference on global literacy. “One way to defeat hopelessness is through literacy—is to giving people the fantastic hope that comes by being able to read and realize dreams.”

Mr. Bush was a surprise participant at the Sept. 18 conference hosted by first lady Laura Bush, which featured efforts to combat illiteracy around the world. At the conference, Mrs. Bush announced a $1 million donation by the U.S. government to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, for a program to assess literacy in developing countries.

Mrs. Bush highlighted the fact that two-thirds of the 771 million adults in the world who cannot read are women, and that 85 percent of illiterate people live in only 35 countries.

“By investing in literacy instruction for women and girls now, governments ensure that future generations will enjoy the benefits of reading,” she told 250 conference attendees gathered at the New York City Public Library. “Women who can read are much more likely to be advocates for their children’s education.”

The conference was attended by 30 first ladies of foreign countries and 39 foreign ministers of education, as well as by university presidents, corporate executives, and officials of international-development agencies. Mrs. Bush hosted the conference in partnership with the Department of State, the Department of Education, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and UNESCO. Invitations were extended particularly to countries with high rates of illiteracy or very large populations.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings participated in the conference.

Afghan Experience

President Bush, who was in New York City along with other world leaders for last week’s opening of the United Nations General Assembly, cited the U.S.-backed Women’s Teacher Training Institute in Kabul, Afghanistan, as “one of the most, I guess, heartwarming literacy initiatives I have witnessed as president.”

The institute was established after the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The extremist-Muslim government had barred girls from attending school.

“This young democracy will survive,” Mr. Bush said of Afghanistan. “And one of the reasons it will survive is because of the committed efforts by a lot of folks, not just the United States, but by people around the world to help the brave educational entrepreneurs that recognize hope and peace come about because of education.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the September 27, 2006 edition of Education Week as President, First Lady Back Global Literacy To Fight ‘Hopelessness’


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Opinion Science of Reading Advocates Have a Messaging Problem
Invoking science isn’t all it takes to be credible, especially on a debate as charged as literacy education, writes Claude Goldenberg.
Claude Goldenberg
5 min read
Tiny boy and girl stand on wide road in front keyhole entrance in book to narrower way
Tetiana5/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on What We Now Know: Literacy
In this Spotlight, review ways students can be supported; evaluate the struggles often seen when tech intertwines with literacy and more.
Reading & Literacy Struggling Readers Score Lower on Foundational Skills, Analysis of National Test Finds
The results paint a more detailed picture of students who are designated below basic on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
4 min read
Image of library shelves.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
The Power of Culturally Responsive Literacy Instruction
From breaking down barriers to equity to moving beyond skills-based instruction, this informative guide showcases the words and ideas of ...
Content provided by Achieve3000