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Bush Discusses Afghan Children's Fund

Aired December 8, 2001 - 08:48   ET


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: And now we're going to go to new Windsor, Maryland. President Bush is appearing there. He's going to be talking about the aid to Afghan children -- money for it raised by American school children. He's being introduced for it now by the first lady. Let's listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: ... New Windsor we are proud to welcome the president and first lady to our town and to have this opportunity along with them to see some of the relief supplies made possible by our fund-raising efforts for the American's Fund for Afghan Children.

Thank you, Red Cross, for making it possible for us to help the children in Afghanistan at this important time. I am pleased to introduce the CEO of the Red Cross, Mr. Harold Decker.

HAROLD DECKER, CEO, RED CROSS: Kristen (ph), I want to thank you for that wonderful introduction. That was just great -- under pressure I might add. And I'd like to thank you for your support of the Red Cross efforts to make the lives of Afghan children a little brighter. We're honored that hundreds of thousands of children have chosen the American Red Cross to be your relief agency for Afghan children. We strive every day to insure that the most vulnerable people around the world are given a chance to survive by having clean water, fresh food and hygiene items in order to stay healthy.

Many of us here today will never know hunger or thirst they way they do. We're blessed with food when we are hungry, and ample options when we are thirsty. When we are sick we can easily find a clinic or a doctor, and adequate health care.

The children who will receive the relief items being sent today struggle daily with these challenges.

As we enjoy the holiday season with family and friends, we should all feel an extra little bit of joy this year, knowing that the care we're sending is bringing hope and happiness to thousands of young lives during this turbulent time.

Again, many thanks to the youth of America for showing Afghan children the spirit of America, and what humanity is really all about. And a special thanks also to our corporate partners: Federal Express, M&M-Mars and Hasbro, A.J. Larkin and the Secret Santa Foundation. The American Red Cross is honored to work with president and Mrs. Bush and American's children to reach out to Afghanistan's suffering children.

Now it is my pleasure and honor to introduce our partner in humanity. Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States, George W. Bush.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, thank you all very much.


BUSH: Good morning.

AUDIENCE: Good morning!

BUSH: First, Harold, thanks a lot for the introduction, and thanks for your leadership for the Red Cross.

It's such a -- it's a joy to know that we're a part of a country that houses such a great institution as the Red Cross that intends to help people.

And I want to thank you, and I want to thank all the Red Cross volunteers who are here to make sure that this warehouse functions well and that the mission of helping Afghan children is fulfilled.

Laura and I are thrilled to be here.

First, I want you to tell your neighbors that we really appreciated the good folks of New Windsor lining the road to wave. It made us feel great this morning coming in from the middle school where we landed, by the way. I don't know how many times a helicopter has landed on the soccer field of the middle school...


BUSH: ... but it did this morning. And a lot of your townsfolk were out there to greet us, and for that we are really, really grateful. So please tell them thanks on our behalf.

And I'm so proud of the job Laura is doing on behalf of the country. She is such a steady, calm influence. And she knows the important priorities of life, and it starts with moms and dads loving their children with all your heart and all your soul.

And so, welcome, Laura, and thank you for coming with me today to New Windsor.


BUSH: David, I want to thank you as well for your leadership of the Red Cross.

And I particularly want to thank Kristen Thompson (ph). She did a fantastic job, I thought, introducing...


BUSH: You must have a pretty darn good school system here.


BUSH: She sounds incredibly well educated, and she was able to handle the pressure in such an articulate way.

So, Kristen (ph), thank you.

And thank all of the boys and girls who are here from this town. Those who have helped raise money for the Afghan children, I want to thank you. I know a lot of the Boys and Girls Clubs around America, particularly here, have helped, and I want to thank.

I want to thank all of the Scouts who are here for working to...


BUSH: ... and I want to thank all of the students who are here as well.

I also want to thank your U.S. congressman, Roscoe Bartlett, and his wife Ellen for being here. I don't know where the congressman is. I saw him earlier today. But I want to thank you for coming, Congressman. I know you care a lot about this part of the world. And I appreciate you being here this morning.


BUSH: I also want to thank Federal Express. That's a fine United States company, and they are going to fly the first flight of supplies overseas. And I want to thank Federal Express for understanding that part of being -- part of us being a good corporate citizen in America is to assume responsibility to help others. And Federal Express has done this, and I appreciate your services and I appreciate your example. Thank you very much.


BUSH: And finally, I want to thank the Church of the Brethren.


BUSH: I want to thank you all...


BUSH: I want to thank you for your compassion and love. And I want to thank you for loaning your warehouse for this most noble project. It is so kind of you to figure out a way to help.

And so, on behalf of all Americans, particularly the children who have contributed to the fund, thanks a lot for your contribution as well.


BUSH: You know, coming here this morning makes me so proud of America, and of our young people. We have given the Afghan children something to smile about because America's children are generous and kind and compassionate. There have been bake sales and there have been lemonade stands. And there are empty piggy banks and there have been all kinds of drives to raise money for the Afghan children. We raised over $1.5 million thus far to help the children of Afghanistan. That's a lot of effort by a lot of youngsters.

Everywhere I go people are -- yesterday on the U.S.S. Enterprise, where I went to thank our soldiers and sailors for defending freedom, one of the sailors handed me a dollar from his daughter and said, "Would you make sure that gets into the fund for Afghan children?" It's happening all across the country, and I want to thank everybody for their hard work; for raising the donations.

The spirit driving the donations was summed up in a letter that one child wrote. And it went this way -- it said: "Dear Afghanistan children, God bless. People want to give you a better life. All children should have love and respect. I hope this helps you somehow."

Tomorrow the first flight will leave, bound for Afghanistan to deliver packages. These packages will brighten the lives of Afghanistan children, not only during Ramadan, but throughout the winter.

It is a reminder that we are at war with the Taliban regime, not with the good, innocent people of Afghanistan.

We've been made painfully aware of the plight of the Afghan children. One in three Afghan children is an orphan. Almost half of Afghan children suffer from malnutrition. One in four Afghan children won't live beyond their 5th birthday.

This first shipment represents the good will of the American children. It also represents our hopes and desires that the plight of the Afghan children improves; that life can be better for all children in the world. It contains some interesting surprises, and vital supplies.

Tomorrow we ship 1,500 winter tents to provide shelter for Afghan children and their families; 1,685 winter jackets to help keep children warm; 10,000 gift parcels including hats, socks and school supplies, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, candy and toys that we hope and know will bring hope and joy to children who have incredible -- suffered such incredible hardship.

Each gift parcel is marked this way: "A gift to Afghan children from American children." It's spoken in several -- it's written in several local languages. But one thing is -- when spirit is a part of each package. And it says, "Love knows no bounds" -- or "boundaries." Americans of all ages care deeply about our fellow citizens because we're a truly compassionate nation. We 're a nation of heart, a nation of decency and a nation that loves freedom.

Removing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan is one way to help the children and women of Afghanistan. It's one way to make sure the children and women of Afghanistan are able to have a more decent and hopeful life, and the Afghan Children's Fund is another way to help.

And so today I come to this warehouse full of love and decency, and on behalf of America, say thank you from the bottom of our heart. May God bless all the children in the world, and may God continue to bless America.

Thank you.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush thanking the children of America for raising $1.5 million for aid to Afghan children. The first shipment of supplies heads off to Afghanistan tomorrow. He said, "This is a reminder that we are at war with the Taliban regime, not with the people of Afghanistan."




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