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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Former first lady talks education at home, abroad

Vanessa Peña — THE BATTALION
Dean of the College of Education and Human Development Douglas Palmer (left) moderates a talk with education advocate Razia Jan (center) and former first lady Laura Bush.
Vanessa Peña — THE BATTALION Dean of the College of Education and Human Development Douglas Palmer (left) moderates a talk with education advocate Razia Jan (center) and former first lady Laura Bush.

Education is a powerful instrument for change; that was the message of an MSC Bethancourt event keynoted by former First Lady Laura Bush.
The event pushed the message that education should be an equal opportunity for children in every country, rich or poor.
The former first lady spoke along with Razia Jan, an Afghani education activist, in Rudder Theatre on Wednesday night. Their discussion covered the domestic progress of education and United States efforts abroad to create education infrastructure.
Bush said her early involvement with child education as an elementary school teacher inspired her to speak out for reform. When her husband was elected president, she saw it as a chance to take her message worldwide.
Bush has been a prominent voice in education in the 21st century, and made literacy rates and equal-opportunity schooling the focus of her tenure as first lady. Douglas Palmer, dean of the College of Education and Human Development and curator for the discussion, said Bush is one of the greatest names in education today.
“Laura Bush is an extraordinary advocate for literacy, education and women’s rights,” Palmer said. “As first lady, Bush advocated the importance of literacy and education to advance opportunities for America’s youth.”
Bush spoke on the fundamental power of education to stabilize nations and enrich culture.
“I believe that literacy is a central foundation of democracy,” Bush said. “Books have the power to shape our journey as a nation.”
Bush said the process, while getting better, is still broken in some areas. Most of these problems seem to arise from hard to reach places, including the home.
“The challenges really are internal,” Bush said. “They are a family situation that makes it difficult for the children to have the discipline to make the best of going to school.”Student motivation is one of the most important parts of education, Bush said, and teachers who seriously invest in their students inspire them the most.
One of those special teachers to thousands of Afghani girls is Razia Jan.
Jan is a celebrated education activist, born in Afghanistan, who emigrated to the United States in 1970. Through Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, she continues to support the community education of women in her home country, a place where they have regularly been refused the right to a proper education.
“Afghan people are very intelligent and they want to really learn,” Jan said. “[Education] is a great asset for them. I built a school in 2008 with 100 students and today we have 557 girls.”
Jan acknowledged the challenges that decades of war has had on her country, and the social and educational difficulties that come along with that.
“It took 30 years to destroy that country, and it will really take 30 years to rebuild it,” Jan said.
Bush has been active in rebuilding the education system in Afghanistan along with Jan, working with USAID to open the American University in Kabul in 2005. Both women said they will press on to rebuild broken communities and countries through education.
“There are so many needs to be met and so many ways that we can help,” Bush said. “I’m proud that so many Texas A&M students are preparing here for a life of service.”

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