Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke by video to community leaders attending the Washington State Literacy Summit in Seattle, Washington. The summit is part of a nationwide effort to raise awareness and increase participation in literacy development. Senator Murray's remarks follow:
Hello from our nation's Capitol and thank you for coming together at the Washington State Literacy Summit.
First, I want to say a word about the challenge we now face as a nation. Of course, there is little we can say today to bring comfort to those who lost loved ones in the attacks of September 11th. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims, their families and friends.
We're grateful to the rescue workers and relief organizations who are containing the damage and comforting the affected. And we're grateful to the military families of our nation -- many from Washington State -- who may be called on to protect and defend us in the coming months.
In the past few days, I've been struck by how all Americans have come together to show our national unity. We've seen Washington students holding bake sales and car washes to raise money for the relief effort. Just last week, a group of students in Edmunds and Lynnwood Washington wrote cards and letters to students in New York City. I was honored to deliver those letters to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will give them to students in New York.
Whatever the coming days may bring, we've got to hold on to the sense of unity we've discovered in the past two weeks. As my daughter said to me, the terrorists thought they would divide us, but they've only brought us closer together. As long as we stay together, we'll win this battle.
Meanwhile, our work here at home goes on. And that's why I'm so proud that you have all come together for this historic statewide summit on literacy.
For years I've taken a very personal interest in literacy. It goes back to my days as a pre-school teacher. Some children would come to my classroom familiar with books and ready to learn. But not all children are lucky enough to be read to by their parents. Many parents work two or even three jobs. Other parents struggle with limited English proficiency or were simply never taught to read. But all of these kids can learn, and all of these kids deserve our best efforts to ensure that they do learn. When we work as partners, we can help all kids reach their potential. That's why I'm pleased that this conference has brought together policy makers, community leaders and literacy providers to build partnerships.
And as you know, it's certainly not just children who struggle to learn to read. I was reminded of that a few years ago when a gentleman stopped me in the airport and asked me if I could tell him where the gate was for his flight. I pointed to the computer screen across from us and said - it says right on there. He paused and asked me again, and I said - just go read it - it's right over there.
He replied, "I am so sorry, I cannot read."
The truth is, we should all be sorry that he could not read. Somewhere along the way, we failed that man by not giving him what he needed to learn to read. But it's not too late for him, or the millions of Americans like him. Thanks to the work that you are doing, and the partnerships you are building, adults who are struggling with low literacy levels can continue to learn, and can succeed.
The good news is that literacy is a problem we can solve. We know what it takes to help people learn to read, and we know that once you break the cycle of illiteracy in a family, the result affects generations to come.
I'm excited about what we can accomplish in promoting literacy these days. Not only do we know more about the best teaching techniques, but we also have a new national awareness of the importance of literacy and a new commitment from our nation's leaders to address literacy.
I'm pleased that the President and the First Lady have focused so publicly on literacy. I was happy to support an expansion of the Reading Excellence Act. This expansion will create the "Reading First" and "Early Reading First" programs. I'm working to secure the President's request for almost $1 billion for those programs.
But we also need to expand other important federal investments in literacy including support for research through the National Institute for Literacy, increased access to programs through State Grants for Adult Education, the English Literacy and Civics Education program, and TANF funds, which states like Washington are using to increase access to basic skills training.
So as I see it, we have five challenges ahead of us. We've got to make sure every child learns to read. We've got to help adults get access to lifelong learning. We've got to help new immigrants learn to read. We've got to support family literacy. And in programs like Welfare, we've got to improve basic skills to break the cycle of poverty.
I know that's a tall order, but I also know that you're already making a lot of progress. So thank you for coming together for this summit. And thank you for your work to improve literacy throughout our state.
As you go back to your schools and communities, remember that not only are there a lot of people depending on you, but there are a lot of people standing with you and supporting your work.
Thank you again and best of luck.