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Toasts of the President and Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa at the Education Summit Dinner in Charlottesville, Virginia

September 27, 1989

The President. Welcome, welcome. I will try to keep it short. You see, the record has already been set for toasts here in Charlottesville at the university. Back in 1824, Mr. Jefferson hosted a dinner in the Dome Room of the Rotunda for the Marquis de Lafayette attended by former Presidents Monroe and Madison. It was an elegant dinner. The libations flowed freely -- so freely, in fact, that 13 formal toasts ensued. [Laughter] And looking around here, only to be followed by 37 more impromptu toasts. That's the one tradition that I would like to discourage tonight.

This afternoon, though, we did begin an historic summit -- 2 days of what will be a lot of hours and hard work. The issues before us in the working sessions are profound. The solutions that we seek will not be simple ones. But I am absolutely confident that the spirit which inspired the founders of this nation, and particularly this university, is ever-present tonight as we gather at the beloved mountaintop home of President Thomas Jefferson. Below us, outside of this tent, we can see the twinkling limits and lights of Charlottesville; above us, the quiet pastures of Brown's Mountain. Not far down the mountain road is Ashland Highlands, the home of President Monroe. And we're overlooking the "academical village" founded by Mr. Jefferson 170 years ago. Earlier, at sunset, we could see the Rotunda and the purple shadows of The Lawn -- once an open-ended field that looked out to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It was Mr. Jefferson's wish that it remain that way so that students would look out to the horizon poised between their education and their future.

Today, in the Rotunda, we worked in that elusive area between education and the future, defining our dream for excellence and giving shape to our hopes for America. And it was one day shortly before he died, right here, that Mr. Jefferson gazed at the Rotunda and said that establishing his university was "the last act of usefulness that I can render my country." Building the Rotunda and the university were the crowning achievements of the "Sage of Monticello," and yet he knew that without the creativity and the intellectual challenge of a great faculty, his new center of living and center of thought would be nothing more than bricks and mortar. He searched for the best in Europe and brought them to teach at the university as new citizens -- except in the subject of law, to be taught only by a resident American.

In fact, Jefferson's favorite teacher was his own law professor, George Wythe, a man who also taught him the essentials of ancient philosophy and the classics. I'm sure everyone here has a favorite teacher. I think back myself to the 12th grade, to Professor A.B. Darling, that some elitist ivy-leaguers might remember -- [laughter] -- but in my case, this man made the immortals of American history come to life. And I'm not going to give you equal time because I'll bet you every Governor here has a special teacher that he remembers. Today, as it was in Jefferson's time, it is America's teachers who enlighten our young people and inspire them to excellence. You know, Jefferson knew this, writing once that aside from education, "no other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness."

And so, tonight I would like to toast those who have heard the call and followed it -- those who have sacrificed so much in order that America might enjoy a sure foundation of freedom and happiness. And I toast our teachers -- those who taught us, those who sacrifice to teach our children, and those among us who have been members of this proud profession, the 6 members of my Cabinet -- 6 -- and the 13 Governors present who are former teachers. And just to give a small plug for alternative certification, there is one person present who has never held a teaching position, yet has been a leader in the fight against illiteracy, and that is my wife, Barbara.

We've come to this spectacular home of Thomas Jefferson to build upon his dreams of a strong system of education for all. But without our teachers, without their vision and their dedication, the dream would be lost. And so I ask you now to join me in a toast, a salutation to the teachers of America. God bless them all, and God bless the United States. To the teachers!

Governor Branstad. Mr. President, First Lady Barbara Bush, on behalf of our nation's Governors and our spouses, we thank you for convening us for this historic summit. The first President to bring this body of Governors together was Teddy Roosevelt. And when he called a meeting in 1908 to discuss the problems in the natural resources and environment, the Governors had such a good time that we decided to meet annually every year and form the National Governors' Association. We are proud that you have brought us back together. It has been nearly a century since President Theodore Roosevelt called that meeting of the Governors in 1908; and yet, we have come together for only the third time for a summit meeting of this magnitude called by the President of the United States. We are deeply honored in this opportunity. Our agenda is to develop a world-class education system for the future of America. It is one of the critical challenges facing our nation today.

By bringing your most trusted advisers to this meeting, Mr. President, you have shown your commitment. And when I say "most trusted" advisers, I especially mean Barbara Bush and the Cabinet members. You have shown your commitment to literacy and quality education for all. Just like President Jefferson, you are committed to quality education. Just like President Jefferson, you are helping to build something. Apparently, he supervised the construction of the University of Virginia's Rotunda by watching the work from a telescope here at Monticello.

Here in Charlottesville we have begun what I hope will build something very important. You can watch and help and encourage as we continue the work in the individual States and in the classrooms all across this nation. We thank you for your commitment and for making education and literacy a priority of the American people. To the President of the United States and the First Lady, Barbara Bush.

Note: The President spoke at 8:25 p.m. at Monticello.

George Bush, Toasts of the President and Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa at the Education Summit Dinner in Charlottesville, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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