EDUCATION FOR A FREE NATION
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February 20, 2006
In 2003, the United States formally re-entered UNESCO, the educational arm of the United Nations. In this press release, then-U.S. Education Secretary Page recognizes UNESCO as the "coordinator" for the international agreement,
Education for All (EFA). He also acknowledges that the EFA agreement is the foundation of No Child Left Behind, signed by the President in 2002. EFA was first signed by President George Bush, Sr.in 1990, and it served as the basis for the federal GOALS 2000 and School-to-Work Acts of 1994. The most current EFA was signed by President Clinton in 2000. Emphases have been added.
U.S. Department of Education
October 1, 2003
PARIS United States Secretary of Education Rod Paige gave the
following speech today to the 32nd Session of the United Nations
Educational, Science, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) General
Conference regarding the U.S. re-entry into UNESCO after a 19-year
"Mr. President of the General Conference,
Madame Chairperson of the Executive Board, Mr. Director General,
distinguished ambassadors, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, thank you
for inviting me to address this historic gathering:
Just over a year ago, President Bush set the United States on a course
to rejoin the global mission of UNESCO and to 'participate fully in its
mission to advance human rights and tolerance and learning.'
This morning in London, the Instrument of Acceptance from U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell is being delivered. And, as of this week,
the American flag flies beside the flags of the other UNESCO member
My country's First Lady, Laura Bush, spoke to you earlier this week. She
is a passionate advocate for our nation's children. As many of you know,
Mrs. Bush is the UNESCO Honorary Ambassador for the Decade of Literacy. I
can think of no better person to represent the United States on this
issue than our First Lady.
As Mrs. Bush said Monday, we hope to achieve results in four key areas:
universal literacy - the opportunity for every child to read and gain
knowledge; quality education - with an emphasis on tolerance and truth;
post-conflict education - helping the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and
African nations rebuild their educational systems; and HIV/AIDS education
- because we know the best way to eradicate AIDS is through
Under the leadership of Director General Matsuura, UNESCO is now in a
much better position to achieve its goals than when the United States
left in 1984. This organization is fortunate to have his vision and I'm
grateful for his friendship and for his commitment to education. We are
also grateful to the many delegations for your warm welcome. We look
forward to renewing old friendships and forming new ones, as we listen
and learn. The United States is also delighted that Timor-Leste is now a
member of UNESCO.
For almost two decades, the United States has been an observer of
UNESCO's work. We return to member status mindful of your many
initiatives and supportive of the goals of this organization. For
instance, UNESCO's role as coordinator of the Education For All effort is
vital. It supports UNESCO's Constitution, which states that the parties
believe in 'full and equal opportunities for education for all.' It also
supports Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which
states, 'Everyone has a right to an education.'
Education For All parallels our efforts in the United States with the No
Child Left Behind Act. Our law provides a guarantee to parents that
every child will graduate with appropriate skills in reading and
mathematics. In my country, we believe that every child can learn. Like
Education For All, it is a landmark, revolutionary initiative.
'An investment in knowledge always pays the highest return,' one of my
country's Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, once said.
Achieving education for all is a key step for insuring a more prosperous
and peaceful world. It can be a key weapon in the fight against hatred
and the terrorism that it can spawn.
One way to share cultures is through shared love of language. I applaud
UNESCO for its steadfast commitment to language acquisition. Those who
are multi-lingual take full advantage of the culture behind the language.
In our global world, multi-lingual skills are an enormous advantage.
Often, those without language skills are simply not competitive. In my
country, I have encouraged students to explore the beauty of second
languages. I have even asked them to work harder on learning their own
Our worldwide commitment to education must be relentless. We must be
especially cognizant of the needs of countries emerging from conflict or
poverty. This point was recently discussed in Mexico City at the Third
Inter-American Educational Ministerial, at which I was honored to
represent my country. I know it will also be a point of discussion at the
upcoming Summit of the Americas in January 2004.
There is a growing consensus that education is the best short-term and
long-term means for healing, progress, and stability.
In addition, we look forward to playing a helpful role, with other UNESCO
partners, to ensure that science, technology, and engineering are used
ethically and practically to solve the world's problems.
Preservation of the world's increasingly endangered fresh-water resources
is a significant global challenge. The United States helped found the
Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, which we continued to support
over the past 18 years as an observer nation.
We have worked closely with other countries and UNESCO on joint research
to foster progress on biodiversity, environmental policy development, and
environmental monitoring around the world.
Most of you are aware of the work of the U.S. Agency for International
Development. In the upcoming year alone, AID plans to provide basic
education support in 48 countries, higher education assistance in 60
countries, and advanced training of individuals in 75 countries.
The United States also seeks to work with you to preserve cultural
artifacts in developing countries where such treasures are otherwise
unprotected. We have continued to fund and participate in the important
work of the World Heritage Committee.
And, we are most anxious to share in UNESCO's important efforts to
promote the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press,
values upon which my own country was founded.
Mr. Chairman, I thank the membership again for their gracious welcome.
In rejoining UNESCO, we hope that the fabric of American society and
culture will contribute to the universaility of this organization.
Together we will work for literacy, culture, peace, freedom, and
tolerance. Together, we will share our common devotion to humanity, our
service to those in need, our compassion for those less fortunate, and
our efforts to educate all children. I am pleased we will make this
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