Statement of Secretary Paige:
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige delivered a statement in October, 2003. The statement was made at the Round Table of Ministers on Quality Education during the 32nd session of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which 80 ministers of education from around the world attended.
The statement included the following passages:
"I fully agree with the UNESCO members that education must be for all, including all children regardless of gender, all children of all cultures and religions, all children with disabilities, all children of any color or ethnicity, and all children from indigenous tribes or cultures....
"My country has been multicultural since its founding. We know that each culture is valuable, each language an important addition to intellectual growth. There is a growing resolve in American education to learn even more about other cultures and languages. Americans are committed to respect all cultures, as long as they share the same respect and tolerance.
"Education is the common denominator of all people, the road to emancipation and liberty, the way we find our humanity and discover our soul. There is no mission more important than providing an inclusive, quality education to all people; no endeavor more crucial. Thomas Jefferson, one of our Founding Fathers who himself was also a great educator, starting a university in his home state of Virginia, wrote that 'If the condition of man is to be progressively ameliorated, as we fondly hope and believe, education is to be the chief instrument in effecting it.' Extending the educational franchise is our best hope for a safer, more progressive, tolerant, and equitable world.
"This educational mission unites us. UNESCO is a powerful forum for sharing our views, developing a common strategy, and implementing joint action. I look forward to working with each UNESCO member. Again, thank you for your most gracious welcome."