Bush visits state, promotes education

by Maggie Hessel-Mial

Eden Prairie High School students had the option to take the afternoon off or listen to President George W. Bush speak Monday.

Nearly 3,000 of the school’s 4,000 students, plus a few thousand more community members, crammed into the activities center to get a glimpse of the president of the United States.

After meeting with local educators – including University President Mark Yudof and Steve Yussen, dean of the University’s education and human development college – Bush greeted the crowd with, “So, they tell me you have a good football team!”

Students, faculty and parents shouted back and settled in to hear Bush speak on his education platform.

Policy ideas ranged from wiping out student loans for educators working in school districts lacking teachers to supporting disciplinary action in classrooms.

“I’m here to talk about teaching and its responsibilities,” Bush said. “Our country can do a better job supporting our teachers. Teachers are an important part of your life and America’s future.”

The president also eased students’ concerns about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

“The terrorists fell prey to images of a selfish American and a selfish America,” he told the crowd. “Oh my, did they make a huge mistake. This nation will defend ourselves and freedom at any price.”

Eden Prairie High School students, such as junior Blair Porter, said they appreciated Bush speaking on the military actions in Afghanistan.

“He was a really good speaker, really energetic,” Porter said. “I liked when he talked about what was going on overseas, it was inspiring. He and everyone are working together to make it better.”

Having such a huge political leader in school definitely made the school day different than usual, Porter said.

No backpacks were allowed on school premises, and students had to check in through a metal detector and show student identification cards before entering the school that morning.

In his speech, the president commended Yudof, who accompanied Bush back to Washington, D.C., on Air Force One on Monday night.

“I want to thank my friend Mark Yudof, at the University of Minnesota, who understands in order for teachers to teach, they must teach a curriculum that works in the classroom,” Bush said.

First lady Laura Bush invited Yudof to attend a White House conference Wednesday on preparing tomorrow’s teachers.

“I’ve been to the west wing, but I’ve never been to the rest of the White House, and I’m hoping for a good lunch,” Yudof said. “I try to stay neutral, but I do share the president’s agenda of having every third-grader read on a third-grade level.”

David Tierschel, an Eden Prairie High School junior, said he’s not really into politics but seemed more impressed with the president’s presence in his small town.

“It’s amazing,” Tierschel said. “I’ve never seen anything this important happen in Eden Prairie. It’s a great honor for the community and for the school.”

Maggie Hessel-Mial welcomes comments at [email protected]