Transcription of speeches of Secretaries Ridge and Paige

March 7, 2003, midnight | By Izaak Orlansky Kevin Chang | 19 years, 2 months ago

The following is a transcription of the speeches made by Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and Secretary of Education Rod Paige at their visit to Blair on Friday, March 7.

Gainous: "The Blair community is honored to host this occasion that focuses on the important topic of school preparedness for emergencies. With the largest enrollment of any school in the topic, 3200 students, with an extensive staff as well, we understand the importance of coordinated and well-practiced plans for emergencies. We also know how important to maintain a strong cooperative relationship with first responders.

I'd like to take a moment now to recognize and thank Board of Education President Pat O'Neill, Vice President Sharon Cox, other members of the Board, Superintendent of Schools Jerry Weast, County Executive Doug Duncan and Council President Mike Subin for their support and leadership. Now, it is with particular pleasure that I introduce US Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, who will tell you more of the important information he will be sharing with you today. Thank you."

Ridge: "First of all, Secretary Paige and I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to the pricipal, the superintendent, the county executive, the other public officials, the first responders, who have turned out today en masse to give us an opportunity so with the attention you help bring to the Secretary of Education's very important announcement with regard to school safety.

It's so much better to deliver, or to make this kind of announcement in an environment that reflects the kind of community cooperation that this school and this county has demonstrated on school safety issues in the past. It's a good foundation to build upon for the future as well, so we're grateful for your extending this courtesy to us because we know it is somewhat disruptive and we thank you for giving us a chance to be with you today.

A couple weeks ago the Department of Homeland Security launched a formal public information program called the Ready campaign. The Ready campaign was designed to encourage families to do a few simple things to help protect their families in the unlikely but possible event of a terrorist attack that may affect the community directly or indirectly. Secretary Paige and I and everyone in the administration feel that when people are empowered with information, we are in a position to respond to either individuals, families or schools. 'What should we do to prepare, what should we do to create an environment that enhances our safety?' They respond to it, they take thay information, develop plans, execute and work the plans, and go about the business of teaching and educating and learning and enjoying their experience in this fabulous public school you have here and throughout this county.

We asked the folks in the Ready campaign to make an emergency kit, develop a family communication plan, and become well informed, apparently simple fundamental things to do. When you have the opportunity to control your environment and to make decisions, I think there is a certain level of comfort as well as reliability associated with plans that you yourself have developed. Because terrorism forces us to make a choice. We can be ready, or we can be afraid. And you know Americans aren't afraid of anything, so we'll just be ready.

By taking these steps, families can be better prepared for any emergency and certainly be safer in their homes. I might add that (Editor's note: link opens in new window) has had a greater response than we could have ever hoped for. It's rather remarkable. An estimated 45 million Americans have seen the ads so far, our toll-free number 1-800-BE-READY averages more than 650 calls an hour, and our website – our website - logged more than 100 million hits in the first week, and of these at least 5 million spent at least 13 min visiting the site. Let me read a few of the hundreds of comments that the..."

PA announcement: "At this time, students are released to go to either lunch or 5A class. At this time all students are released to proceed to either lunch or 5A class."

Gainous: "I thought we shut that [the PA system] off for this room."

Ridge: "Well, it's the principal's call. Mr. Principal, where am I supposed to go, to class or to lunch? I prefer lunch to class, if you don't mind, if that's alright, that'd be good! Like I said, that's the pleasure of being here. It's great."

"From Arizona, wonderful comment: 'I pray that every family will download all the information and put it into a plan of action.' From Louisiana – this one really caught our attention – 'you have changed my frantic, ignorant fear into a calmer, more informed preparedness.' From a teacher, a couple great comments from teachers, a teacher from Washington state wrote, 'thank you for assembling a most excellent site; I am using it with my school's students.' Another teacher, from California, found it 'very user-friendly and empowering.'

We feel empowered when we have information that's actual information. We get it and we can do something with it. It's proof that Americans want emergency preparedness information. They're prepared to take action when they get it. Secretary Paige believes the same applies to the schools around this country, so today Secretary of Education Rod Paige will announce a new department website to help school officials plan for any emergency, from natural disasters to terrorism.

Many schools in the Washington area like Montgomery Blair and elsewhere around the country, have already developed strong plans, as evident in our meeting with the community leaders. It really is a fundamentally very strong plan, and as the County Executive says we constantly 'work it, work it' to make it better. All the nation's schools hopefully will follow your lead, and hopefully all the nation's schools can use this resource from the Department of Education to guide their efforts. This effort will complement our new campaign in which our firefighters and police and emergency managers and other trusted leaders tell families how they can prepare for the worst. Secretary Paige will offer more details in just a few minutes.

But first, if I can just take this opportunity to speak as a parent myself. Disasters can be pretty scary subjects to talk about, particularly with children. It's tough for moms and dads to talk about it themselves and we when we have to communicate that message to your son or daughter and your children it's even more difficult. I think we have to approach the subject with care, but we do have to approach the subject. So I believe the campaign that is designed to give our campaign conjunction with Secretary Paige's and conjunction with yours, will strike the right balance. It will be a great help for teachers and parents as they seek guidance in turn to discuss this very important subject with their children.

Now it's my great privilege to introduce Secretary Rod Paige. You know, it's wonderful to have as the President's point-person on education somebody who's lived the life of an educator at the grassroots level. As a school superintendent in a very complex, large diverse school district associated all the challenges you have here: the multicultural nature of the school, the different kinds of schools that they had, and the different kinds of challenges associated with a large urban school district, he knows, as a former school superintendent he certainly has firsthand knowledge of the issues that all of you can print. He knows that in a crisis, there is no time for a principal or teacher to plan. You can't plan in a crisis, only to react according to a plan. He also knows that a plan that sits on the shelf unread and untested is as good as no plan at all. School is a place of learning, and we want all Americans, young and old, to learn how to protect themselves from terrorism. And I believe Americans will find this initiative, designed by Secretary Paige and his team, to be an excellent learning tool. Ladies and gentlemen, United States Secretary of Education, Rod Paige."


Paige: "Governor, thank you so much. Also thank you for your leadership in this time of great need. We are proud to partner with you and your department in this effort to make schools safer and better prepared for an emergency. I believe the very first responsibility that we have is for our students' safety, and also the safety of the professionals in the building. As a former superintendent of the seventh largest school district in the United States, I know how important emergency planning is. Schools are part of the community. They're not isolated from the community. They must be a part of the community's emergency plan.

The events on Sept 11 taught us a great lesson: the midst of a crisis is not the time, as the Secretary has indicated, to try to start figuring out what to do. You must already have a plan, a practice plan, one that has been worked on. If you don't have a plan, get one. And if you have one, practice it. We're here to help with resources and information, so that you can get it done as it should be done. And I want to compliment this great community. I see all the various aspects of the community employed in student safety collaborating with each other. Mr. Superintendent, congratulations on your leadership and thank you. Members of the board, and other members of the other agencies outside of the school district, let's give them a round of applause.


Paige: "We've been quite busy in the US Department of Education considering ways we can be helpful, and we've now converted ourselves into an organization that can offer some assistance here. We've expanded from the old operations when we had just deal with issues such as what we found with Columbine. We know now it's much broader than that. We had an international conference where we brought people from ten countries who came to talk about how we can protect schools and make ourselves safer.

I would like to announce today that we're making $30 million available to school districts to improve and strengthen their emergency response and crisis management plan. The President's '04 budget will call on Congress for an additional $30 million to continue funding this important priority. These funds can be used for crisis response training, coordination with local emergency first responders and purchase of equipment. I would also like to announce a new web source that we think could be helpful to give schools a source of information, so let me present that to you right now. Take it away."

[Student representative Jeanne Yang brings up new website on projection screen]


Paige: "This website, which went live yesterday, will include expert advice on how schools can prepare for any emergency, including natural disasters and violent incidents and terrorist acts. It's designed to be a one-stop shop, and so we invite schools all across the nation and community agencies and organizations all across the nation to visit this website. We think this will be something that's going to be very helpful for all of us. Schools are an integral part of the community, and this is a community responsibility, and we present this as a community resource. Thank you."


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Izaak Orlansky. Izaak Orlansky is a senior in the Communications Arts Program. His hobbies include cross-country running, swimming, and singing in the spring musical. Izaak is also a big fan of the Yankees, and likes playing with big fluffy dogs. More »

Kevin Chang. Kevin Chang was born on April 28, 1985. This makes him a bull, and coincidentally, a Taurus. Somehow, he ended up in the Magnet program at Montgomery Blair High School, where he is now a SENIOR! 03! Yes, he is a geek. He is often … More »

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