Bush's Remarks to Students and Faculty at Alice Deal
Junior High School
Bush addressed the
nation's schoolchildren in an address to students at
Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, DC, which
was videotaped for broadcast to students around the
country. In his remarks, the president discussed the
America 2000 education initiatives and urged the
schoolchildren to remain in school.
"Thank you, Ms. Mostoller, and thanks for allowing
me to visit your classroom to talk to you and all these
students, and millions more in classrooms all across the
You know, long before I became President I was a
parent. I remember the times that my kids came up with a
really tough question or a difficult decision. I tried my
best never to shut them down with a quick ``no.'' I would
simply say those three magic words that made that problem
disappear: ``Ask your Mother.''
Let me tell you why I've made the trip up from the
White House to Alice Deal Junior High. I'm not here to
teach a lesson. You already have a very good teacher. I'm
not here to tell you what to do or what to think. Maybe
you're accustomed to adults talking about you and at you;
well, today, I'm here to talk to you and challenge you.
Education matters, and what you do today, and what you
don't do can change your future.
Every day, we hear more bad news about our schools.
Maybe you saw today's headline, I don't know if you had a
chance to look at it, about the release of the new
National Goals Report. Get the camera to come in and take
a look at this for a moment. In math, for instance, this
national report card shows that, nationwide, five of six
eighth graders don't know the math they need to move up
to the ninth grade.
In spite of troubling statistics like this one, I
don't see this report, however, as just bad news, and
I'll tell you why. This report tells us a lot about what
you know and what you don't know. It gives us something
to build on. It shows us our strengths and the weaknesses
that we've go to correct. It sets forth a challenge to
all of us: Work harder, learn more, revolutionize
I know you've heard about stanines and percentiles,
surveys and statistics, but here's what all that fancy
talk really means: Education means the difference between
a good future and a lousy one. Reports don't give us the
right to make excuses. Our scores will tell us where we
are and where we need to go.
I mentioned earlier the bad news we hear about
schools today. But what we don't hear enough about are
the success stories. You know, all over America,
thousands of schools do succeed, even against tough odds,
even against all odds. Kids from all over the District of
Columbia petition to get into Alice Deal School here
because parents know this school works. It works because
of teachers like the one standing over here, Ms.
Mostoller, who decided at the age of 25 -- maybe you all
know this, but a lot of people around the country don't
-- she decided at the age of 25 that she wanted to teach.
She was standing in a supermarket checkout line when she
saw a magazine ad about college. She went back to school,
worked her way through in 7 years, waiting tables to pay
tuition. She made it, and so can you.
This school here works because of students like the
ones with me today, students like Rachel Rusch -- where's
Rachel? Right there, okay -- a member of Alice Deal's
award-winning ``Math Counts'' team. Rachel, you tell me
if I'm wrong, but you and six other students in this
class alone have taken part in the Johns Hopkins Talent
Search. They took the college entrance exams on an
experimental basis last year as seventh graders. Even in
junior high, some of them scored well enough to get into
college right now. So, let's just put it on the line.
You've got the brains. Now, put them to work --
certainly, not for me, but for you.
Progress starts when we ask more of ourselves, our
schools and, yes, you, our students. We made a start
nationally now by setting six National Education Goals to
meet the challenges of the 21st century. By the year
2000, at least 9 in every 10 students should graduate
from high school. We should be first in the world in math
and science. We need to regularly test student's
abilities. Every American child should start school ready
to learn; every American adult should be literate; and
every American school should be safe and drug-free.
Reaching those goals is the aim of a strategy that we
call America 2000, a crusade for excellence in American
education, school by school, community by
But what does all this mean, you might say, what is
he doing, what does this all mean for the students right
here in this room? Fast-forward -- 5 years from now.
Unless things change, between now and 1996 as many as one
in four of today's eighth graders will not graduate with
their class. In some cities, the dropout rate is twice
that high or higher. Imagine: Out of a total of nearly 3
million of your fellow classmates nationwide, an army of
more than half a million dropouts.
I ask every student watching today: Look around
you. Count four students. Start with yourself. No one
dreams of becoming a dropout, but far too many do. Which
one of you won't make it through school?
The fact is, every one of you can. Let's make a
pact then right here. Let's work to see that 5 years from
now, you and your friends will be more than sad
statistics. Give yourself a decent shot at your dreams.
Stay in school. Get that diploma.
Let's go back to the future. In the fall of 1996, 5
years from now, nearly half of today's eighth graders who
get their diplomas will enter the working world. More
than half the graduates will stay in school and become
the college class of the year 2000.
The question each student watching today should ask
is: Where will I be, where will I be 5 years from now?
Will I be holding down a good job and maybe working
toward a better one, or will I be out of school and out
of work? Will I be on a college campus, or out running
Think about that tonight when you're at a kitchen
table doing some homework; while your parents are meeting
your teachers like so many millions do this year at
back-to-school nights all across our great
I'm asking you to put two and two together: Make
the connection between the homework you do tonight, the
test you take tomorrow, and where you'll be 5, 15, even
50 years from now. You see, the real world doesn't begin
somewhere else, some time way down there in the distant
future. The real world starts right here. What you do
here will have consequences for your whole lives.
Let me tell you something, many of you may find
very hard to believe this. You're in control. You're
thinking: How can the President say that about kids like
us when we don't even have our driver's license? But
think about it, and you'll see what I mean.
Think about drugs. You see films. You hear police
experts and tough speakers from the outside. You get
stern lectures from everyone: movie stars, athletes,
teachers, parents, friends. But you know and I know that
all the drug prevention programs, all the pledges, all
the preaching in the world won't pull you through that
critical moment when someone offers drugs. At that
moment, everything comes down to you. Yes or no, you've
got to choose, and the answer will change your life. Your
parents won't make the decision. Your teachers won't make
the decision. Your friends won't make the decision. It's
up to you. It takes guts to take control.
A sound body and a sound mind, they go together, as
my friend, and he is a friend, Arnold Schwarzenegger
says. He's crossing the Nation talking with students
about the importance of fitness. And real fitness means
Studies show a decline in drug use, and that's
good, that's encouraging, I think. And every student who
draws the line against drugs really deserves credit for
that. But drugs and violence continue to threaten every
school, every small town and suburb in America. And as
students, you have a right to be physically safe at
school. You should never have to worry that a quarrel in
the hallway will lead to gunfire in the playground. Fear
should never follow you into the classroom.
If you have to take the long way home after school
so you don't cross paths with the gang hanging on the
corner, if outsiders roam the halls of your school
hassling kids, hassling students, you must take control.
Go to your teacher, or go to your principal, or go to
your parents, as difficult as it may be, go to the school
board if you have to. Demand discipline. If good people
chicken out, bad people take control. Together, we can --
I really believe this -- we can drive the drugs and guns
and senseless violence out of our schools.
When it comes to your own education, what I'm
saying is take control. Don't say school is boring and
blame it on your teachers. Make your teachers work hard.
Tell them you want a first-class education. Tell them
that you're here to learn.
Block out the kids who think it's not cool to be
smart. I can't understand for the life of me what's so
great about being stupid. If someone goofs off today, are
they cool? Are they still cool years from now when
they're stuck in a dead-end job? Don't let peer pressure
stand between you and your dreams.
Take control -- challenge yourself. Only you know
how hard you work. Maybe you can fake, maybe, just maybe
you can fake your way into a job, but you won't keep it
for long if you don't have the know-how to get the job
done. Maybe you can cram the week before that marking
period ends, and turn that C into a B. But you can't con
your way past the SAT and into college. If you don't work
hard, who gets hurt? If you cheat, who pays the price? If
you cut corners, if you hunt for the easy A, who comes up
short? Easy answer to that one: You do.
You're in control, but you are not alone. People
want you to succeed. They want to help you succeed. Here
at Deal, teachers like your outstanding teacher standing
here with us today, Ms. Mostoller, from your principal,
Mr. Moss, to your custodian, Mr. Francis. Right now in
classrooms across this country, in the communities you
call home, when things get tough, when answers are hard
to come by, there's a teacher, a parent, a friend or
family member ready to help you. They want to see you
If you take school seriously, you won't have to
settle for a job, just any job. You'll have a career. If
you make it your business to learn, one day you'll be a
better parent. You may not think about it now, but one
day your children will want to look up at you and say,
``I've got the smartest Mom and Dad in the world.'' Don't
Let me leave you with a simple message: Every time
you walk through that classroom door, make it your
mission to get a good education. Don't do it just because
your parents, or even the President, tells you. Do it for
yourselves. Do it for your future. And while you're at
it, help a little brother or sister to learn, or maybe
even Mom or Dad. Let me know how you're doing. Write me a
letter -- and I'm serious about this one -- write me a
letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals. I
think you know the address.
Now we're going to walk over to the school
auditorium to say hello to the rest of the student body.
To all the students across the country who watched us
here in this great classroom today, may I simply say
thank you and good luck to you this school year.
And now, Ms. Mostoller, if you'll kindly lead the
way. Thank you all very much. Nice to be with
Note: The President spoke at
12:15 p.m. in a classroom at the school. His remarks were
broadcast live by the Cable News Network, the Public
Broadcasting System, the Mutual Broadcasting System, and
the NBC radio network. In his remarks, he referred to
Cynthia Mostoller, an eighth grade humanities teacher;
Rachel Rusch, a student; Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chairman
of the President's Council on Physical Fitness; principal
Reginald R. Moss; and custodian George Francis. A tape
was not available for verification of the content of