Sunday, October 08, 2006

Bush on School Shootings: 2006 vs 2005

How President Bush is, verbally, responding to the 2006 series of school shootings is in contrast to his silence on Red Lake in 2005.

On Monday, October 2, 2006, five little girls died in Amish country, in a school shooting, the latest of six North American school shootings since August 24. The day after the Pennsylvania outrage, the President of the United States appeared at the George W. Bush Elementary School in Stockton, California, the only school in the United States to ever be named for a sitting President.

[Unmentioned and perhaps unknown to Bush, Stockton was the site of one of the country's worst "outsider" school shootings. At Stockton's Cleveland Elementary School, 20 East Fulton, on January 17, 1989, drifter Patrick Edward Purdy, who had attended this school 15 years earlier, killed five children (four were Cambodian immigrants, one was born in Vietnam) and wounded twenty-nine others and a teacher. This school is only 3 miles from George W. Bush Elementary School, 5420 Fred Russo Drive, Stockton.]

On October 3, 2006, at the school with his name, President Bush read a statement, devoting these two paragraphs to school violence:

You know, being at this school reminds us we have a special responsibility to protect our children. The most important jobs of those involved with schools and government is to make sure that children are safe. And Laura and I were saddened and deeply concerned, like a lot of other citizens around the country, about the school shootings that took place in Pennsylvania and Colorado and Wisconsin. We grieve with the parents and we share the concerns of those who worry about safety in schools.

Yesterday, I instructed Attorney General Gonzales and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to convene a meeting next Tuesday, a meeting of leading experts and stakeholders to determine how best the federal government can help states and local governments improve school safety. Our schoolchildren should never fear their safety when then enter to a classroom. And, of course, the superintendent and principal know that.

Then President Bush read three paragraphs, which were about the sex scandal of resigned Congressman Mark Foley and defending Speaker "Denny" Hastert with Bush's now often-quoted "father, teacher, coach" comment.

(Have you ever wondered, who decides who attends such inside-the-beltway quickly called gatherings of experts? I certainly don't know. I have yet to receive my invitation.)

President Bush then on Saturday, October 7, 2006, talked of the school shootings on his weekly radio address, before launching in to a call for passing some of his education bills.

Jennifer Loven, writing for the Associated Press on October 8, 2006, noted:

President Bush yesterday lamented recent "shocking acts of violence" in schools and promised that his administration will do what it can to keep them safe for students.

The White House will convene a conference on school safety Tuesday. Federal officials, school workers, parents, law enforcement officials, and other specialists will gather in Chevy Chase, Md., a Washington suburb noted for exceptional schools.

The conference will be hosted by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. The president and first lady Laura Bush are expected to attend part of it.

"Our goal is clear: Children and teachers should never fear for their safety when they enter a classroom," the president said in his weekly radio address.

In contrast, President Bush was quiet for days after the last major school shooting in the country, the incident at the Red Lake Ojibwa (Chippewa) Reservation School on March 21, 2005. Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly, in her March 2005 article entitled "Native Americans Criticize Bush's Silence: Response to School Shooting Is Contrasted With President's Intervention in Schiavo Case", wrote:.

Native Americans across the country -- including tribal leaders, academics and rank-and-file tribe members -- voiced anger and frustration Thursday that President Bush has responded to the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history with silence.

Three days after 16-year-old Jeff Weise killed nine members of his Red Lake tribe before taking his own life, grief-stricken American Indians complained that the White House has offered little in the way of sympathy for the tribe situated in the uppermost region of Minnesota.

"From all over the world we are getting letters of condolence, the Red Cross has come, but the so-called Great White Father in Washington hasn't said or done a thing," said Clyde Bellecourt, a Chippewa Indian who is the founder and national director of the American Indian Movement here. "When people's children are murdered and others are in the hospital hanging on to life, he should be the first one to offer his condolences. . . . If this was a white community, I don't think he'd have any problem doing that."


"I hope that he would say something," said Victoria Graves, a cultural educator at Red Lake Elementary School on the reservation. "It's important that there's acknowledgment of the tragedy. It's important he sees the tribes are out here. We need help."

The reaction to Bush's silence was particularly bitter given his high-profile, late-night intervention on behalf of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman caught in a legal battle over whether her feeding tube should be reinserted.

"The fact that Bush preempted his vacation to say something about Ms. Schiavo and here you have 10 native people gunned down and he can't take time to speak is very telling," said David Wilkins, interim chairman of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota and a member of the North Carolina-based Lumbee tribe.

"He has not been real visible in Indian country," said former senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.). "He's got a lot of irons in the fire, but this is important."

And finally..

At the Red Lake Urban Indian Office here, volunteer Marilyn Westbrook said she was disappointed but not surprised.

"I don't feel he cares about the American Indian people," said Westbrook, as she collected donations of gas cards and money to enable fellow Red Lake members to make the 260-mile journey to the reservation. "Why hasn't he made any statements about what happened with this shooting?"

Ah, perhaps that's why I've not been invited to Washington D.C. Maybe someone heard that my grandmother that I talk about being the victim of a murder-suicide on Valentine's Day 1940, was an Eastern Band Cherokee?

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