Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy

The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy

"The home is the child's first school, the parent is the child's first teacher,and reading is the child's first subject." - Barbara Bush

Last month, in our profile of former first lady Barbara Bush, we mentioned that she is currently serving as head of the The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. The Foundation has been going strong for twenty years, helping families realize the importance of literacy and helping parents and children learn to read together by supporting the development and expansions of family literacy programs across the country. They award competitive grants to nonprofit organizations, correctional institutions, homeless shelters, schools, school districts, libraries, and community and faith-based agencies. Since 1989, they have awarded over $32 million to 723 family literacy programs in all 50 states and Washington D.C.

The Barbara Bush Foundation began awarding grants in 1990, receiving applications from all over the country. In September of that year, they awarded eleven different grants totaling over $500,000. By September 2007, the foundation had benefited over 650 programs, many of which still serve their communities today. In January 1996, the Foundation began launching statewide literacy grant programs. The first state to receive the grants was Maine. Partnering with the Maine Department of Education, the Foundation has awarded grants to 166 family literacy programs in schools and community organizations.

In February 1996, the Foundation launched another statewide program entitled "The First Lady's Family Literacy Initiative for Texas" which has awarded 118 grants to programs in over 65 Texas cities. Mrs. Bush's daughter-in-law, former first Lady Laura Bush is the Honorary Chair of this initiative. The grants from this program have been given to community-based organizations, libraries, charter schools, pediatric medical clinics, Head Start and Even Start programs, as well as many others. Because of this initiative, more adults are learning English and getting their GEDs, obtaining better jobs, reading to their children, and becoming more involved in their children's school and home lives.

In 1999, the Foundation's efforts move to Florida with the "Governor's Family Literacy Initiative for Florida." Mrs. Bush's son, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, serves as Honorary Chair of this program which has awarded grants to over 151 programs throughout Florida.

In addition to the grants and statewide programs, in 1995, the Foundation started "A Celebration of Reading." The annual fundraiser, which began in Houston and is now held each year in Texas, Maryland, and Florida, features readings from best-selling authors and members of the Bush family. Proceeds benefit the foundation. Participants in the fundraiser have included Mary Higgins Clark, James Patterson, Reba McEntire, Patricia Cornwell, and Mary Tyler Moore among dozens of other authors.

Mrs. Bush has called literacy "the most important issue we have" and has worked tirelessly to promote the importance of not just reading, but reading as a family, during and even after her very public life. She has accredited her own family for her love of reading, saying that some of her fondest memories are of her family gathered around each other during the evenings, engrossed in their own reading.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Congressional Pro-Life Women's Caucus Fights Abortion Bail-Out

Congressional Pro-Life Women's Caucus

What do Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, Candice Miller of Michigan, Sue Myrick of North Carolina, Jean Schmidt of Ohio, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida all have in common? Besides being current Congresswomen, they are all members of the Congressional Pro-Life Women's Caucus. The Caucus, formed in 2007, allows these powerful leaders to stand up for women and their unborn babies in the fight against abortion.

The latest item on their agenda is the "1.8 million dollar bailout of the abortion industry." Along with the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that works to advance the role of pro-life women in politics, and other pro-life groups, the Caucus recently urged Congress to ensure tax-payers' dollars are not used to fund abortions and that the Dornan Amendment is preserved. The Dornan Amendment, named for former California Congressman Robert Dornan, is a law that bans tax-payer funding of abortion in Washington D. C., except for when the mother's life is in danger or in the case of rape or incest. It has been in place for almost twenty years.

If President Obama gets his way, the law would be amended to make tax-funded abortion legal in D.C.. Pro-life groups say changing the law would encourage at least an extra 1,000 elective abortions each year that would not have occurred before. Joy Yearout of the Susan B. Anthony List told CNSNews that what the President wants to do is change the law so that it says "federal funds," creating a loophole that allows for the use of local taxes. Yearout is hoping the members of Congress will know the details and potential ramifications of the change in the law before the legislation is even placed in front of them and says her group is currently working with the pro-life members of Congress to make that happen. Because Washington D.C. allows teenagers to get abortions without parental consent, the fear is that teenage girls would flock to D.C. to have abortions, ignoring the laws in their home states.

The National Right to Life Committee calls President Obama's commitment to reducing the number of abortions a "political scam." In a statement, the National Right to Life Committee's Legislative Director, Douglas Johnson, said,

"Some wide-eyed journalists and various political shills for the Obama administration continue to write fairy tales about how President Obama wants to pursue policies that would reduce abortions. In reality, President Obama is pursuing a step-by-step strategy to expand access to abortion..."

Johnson also said,

"The abortion industry's own studies suggest that many thousands of residents of the nation's capital are alive today because of the abortion funding ban that President Obama now proposes to repeal."

Visit the Stop the Abortion Bailout Action Center at the Susan B. Anthony List to learn what you can do to help the Pro-Life Women of Congress spread the word to their colleagues about President Obama's proposed actions regarding abortion.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Karen Handel takes on Voters' Rights

Karen Handel takes on the Department of Justice

In what Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel calls a "shockingly political move," the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently discarded Georgia's voter verification program which was put in place to help prevent non-Georgia citizens from voting. According to Secretary Handel, the DOJ's new orders essentially violate federal law and contradict previous demands placed in 2007, before the new administration took office. In an exclusive statement Handel explained to us,

"The irony of this DOJ situation is that, right after I was elected I received a letter -- a demand letter if you will -- from the DOJ asking why we did not have the verification program, required by federal law, in place. The reason was pretty simple, the previous administration did not do it. We did, immediately and communicated the details to DOJ. For more than a year, the DOJ knew this verification program was in place, and no one raised a question or an objection. It was only after groups like MALDEF and the ACLU starting complaining that the DOJ become interested. When those groups sued Georgia, two federal courts ordered us to continue the verification programs -- with lawyers from the DOJ sitting in the court room.

Now seven months later, DOJ has essentially voided the court orders and are now directing us to stop the verification process -- the same process they directed us to implement in 2007. DOJ's directive prohibits the citizenship verification and even prohibits the basic verification to ensure that that individuals registering are at the very least who they say they are. The fraud potential created by the DOJ decision is vast. There are dozens of cases across the country involving improper and illegal voter registration activities by ACORN and other groups. This decision creates a gaping opportunity for additional fraud and opens the door for "universal voter registration” with no checks whatsoever.

It's also important to note that the verification process is required under the Federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA). HAVA specifically requires states to verify information from new voter registration applicants with the Department of Driver Services databases and with the Social Security Administration databases. DOJ's decision essentially directs us to ignore Federal law. Because of this, we have sought clarification from the DOJ. To date, we have not received a response."

Though Secretary Handel is currently working harder than any other elected official in the country to protect the rights of citizens to "fair and honest elections," the issue reaches far beyond the state of Georgia. This move by the DOJ under the Obama administration is setting the tone for the 2010 and 2012 elections and will, according to Handel, have serious implications all over the country,

Should DOJ confirm its intention to prohibit the verification process in its entirety, all states will be affected. This is a direct assault on the integrity of elections and is yet another example of the Federal government overreaching into the state's authority. Further, I am very concerned that we are seeing the beginning of politicizing the elections process as we approach 2010 and head into 2012, which will be the first election after redistricting and reapportionment.

So, if we consider the controversies surrounding the census and the anticipated fights that will occur around redistricting, one can see that this issue here in Georgia may well have an impact nationally.

So what can you do to help Handel in her effort to protect the voting rights of all American citizens? The Secretary asked us to pass along this message,

"[You] can help with a mouse click or two. I started an online petition with the goal of getting 10,000 signatures of people who want their voices heard in opposition to this terrible decision. That petition now has more than 20,000 names on it. It can be found at and I urge your readers to sign it, ask their friends to sign it, post it on their Facebook pages and tweet messages in support of it on Twitter. We can make a difference and that is the first step."

Karen Handel was elected Secretary of State in Georgia on November 7, 2006 and been a champion for the people, their rights, their tax dollars and an advocate for responsible government ever since. She is currently running for Governor of Georgia and more information can be found at her website.

We'd like to thank Secretary Handel for taking the time to answer our questions and wish her luck with leading the fight for voters' rights.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Interview with Stacy Mott, Founder of Smart Girl Politics

During the aftermath of the 2008 election, like many of us, Stacy Mott was looking to find conservative women like herself. Little did she know that six months later, she'd be the founder and president of Smart Girl Politics, a "conservative women's movement" with over 11,000 conservative female (and male) members. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk to Stacy about all things Smart Girl Politics (SGP) - from how it began to what her goals are for the future of the organization.

What prompted you to start SGP?

Mott: Smart Girl Politics started as my personal blog last summer. When the election was over, I struggled to find other conservative women on the internet like myself. I put a small "help wanted" sign on my blog asking if there were any other conservative women who wanted to join with me. I received 60 emails the first week.

Did you expect the response SGP has received?

Mott: I am surprised daily by the growth of SGP. I could never have imagined six months ago that my little help wanted ad would lead to an organization of over 11,000 women and men.

Where would you like to see SGP in the future? What are your goals for the group?

Mott: I would like to see SGP become a resource for conservative women. SGP will continue to be a community environment that supports the voices of conservative women. We have three main goals for SGP. The first is to provide a voice to conservative women. The second is to educate women not only on how to get involved in political activism through our training and education classes. We will take this training use it for voter registration and get out the vote efforts. Finally, we are training conservative women to take back their communities by running successfully for local offices, including school boards, town councils, etc.

What has been your best SGP-related moment?

Mott: It's amazing how many I have from the past six months. I still laugh when I think of the first radio interview I did hiding in my bedroom closet with my three small children outside the door yelling at me. One of the biggest moments was watching the O'Reilly Factor with my husband one night and having Tammy Bruce mention Smart Girl Politics as the alternative to NOW. My email box was overloaded with comments the next day.

Are there any women in politics (GOP or otherwise) whom you really admire? Why?

Mott: There are so many great conservative women to admire in politics. I admire Michelle Bachmann and the courage that she had during her last campaign. She held her own against some really vicious attacks. I would say that is the same reason that I admire Sarah Palin as well. Not only has she been attacked, but they continue to attack her family repeatedly. The fact that she can take those punches and continue on is a reason for anyone to admire her regardless of your party.

What makes you a conservative?

Mott: Life experience has made me a conservative. Until 9/11, I was a Democrat. The last eight years have shaped my life more than the previous twenty-five. I became more aware politically and paid more attention to the world around me. Having my children also had an impact on my political views. It's amazing how much you change when you have a family to protect.

Why do you think conservatism is important to women?

Mott: I think conservatism is important to women because it affects so many aspects of our lives. Contrary to the media accounts, conservative women are smart, hard-working, and tough individuals. We are concerned about our families and willing to do whatever it takes to fight for their future.

A big thank you to Stacy Mott for participating in our interview and we would like to wish her much continued success with Smart Girl Politics!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ann Romney: Survivor and Fighter

Ann Romney: Survivor and Fighter
During the 2008 Presidential election, Ann Romney became a well-known figure in American politics. As her husband, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, traveled the country, attempting to win the hearts and minds of Americans, Mrs. Romney was by his side. But there is much more to her than being the wife of a former Governor and Presidential candidate. Here is a look at the life of Ann Romney:

Ann Lois Davies was born in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 1949 to Edward and Lois Davies. She grew up in Michigan and met the man who would later become her husband as an elementary student at Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills, but they would not begin dating until she was sixteen and after his senior prom. In 1969, when Governor Romney returned home from missionary work in France, the couple was married. Mrs. Romney, who had begun her college career at Brigham Young, graduated from Harvard Extension School with a degree in French Language. While her husband was taking on the world of business and politics, she took pleasure in taking care of the couple's five sons, Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben, and Craig and teaching scripture classes.

In 1998, Ann Romney was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis but has worked hard to overcome the condition. In a 2007 interview with People Magazine, Mrs. Romney said,

"The thing people are most curious about is that I have MS and then the fact that I've overcome it. When you're used to being healthy and strong and vibrant and everything and then – bang – overnight you're desperately ill, it's frightening. People liken it to the same stages you go through grieving a death, where it takes a long time to accept it. Now that I've had it a number of years, I spend a lot of time on the phone privately talking to people who have just been recently diagnosed. That's my way of helping others. I always recommend going to a good doctor, doing the right medicines and then combining that with holistic treatments."

In late 2008, Mrs. Romney faced another health scare, but like her battle with Multiple Sclerosis, she overcame it. Following a routine mammogram, Romney was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Sutu which is often called the early stages of breast cancer, even though it's non-invasive. After the diagnosis, she underwent a lumpectomy and has been cancer-free ever since.

Mrs. Romney's spent much of her time as First Lady of Massachusetts doing charity work. One of her main focuses was on teen pregnancy prevention efforts and she spent a lot of time involved with a number of children's charities. She served as director of the inner city-oriented group, Best Friends and Operation Kids of Salt Lake City presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award. She also served as a board member for the United Way and as Governor's Liaison to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, along with becoming a member of the New England chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Chapter.

When she isn't involved with charity, her husband, five sons, or eleven grandchildren, Mrs. Romney is an avid equestrian. She has even received awards in dressage at adult amateur and national levels. In 2006, she earned a gold medal and in 2005, she won a silver medal at the Grand Prix level from the United States Dressage Federation. In 2004, along with her trainer, Jan Ebling, Romney qualified for the Pan-Am games. Mrs. Romney accredits her ability to deal with her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis to her involvement in the sport.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sarah Palin to Help Raise Autism Awareness

Sarah Palin to Help Raise Autism Awareness
Over 12,000 people with autism and related disorders and their families are expected to turn out at Manhattanville College in New York today to participate in a two-mile walk around campus. The event, in its eight year, is organized by the Westchester-Fairfield chapter of Autism Speaks, one of the country's largest autism advocacy groups. But there is one expected guest who won't blend into the large crowd. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin plans to walk along with her sister, Heather Bruce. Bruce's son Karcher has autism. A spokesperson for Autism Speaks says they are "fortunate" to have the Governor show up for the cause.

During the 2008 election , when Governor Palin ran as the Vice Presidential nominee on the GOP's presidential ticket, she pledged her support for families with special needs,

"Sometimes even the greatest joys bring challenge. And children with special needs inspire a special love. To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House."

Even though she didn't make it to the White House, the Governor, whose youngest son has Down Syndrome, has upheld her promise by donating her time to special needs causes such as the Special Olympics. Palin's spokeswoman, Meghan Stapleton said about the Autism walk,

"This is just a fantastic opportunity to give back to another community and another state that has been good to her."

The Governor and her family have a few other plans for their time spent in New York. On Saturday, more than 20,000 people came out to see Governor Palin in Auburn, New York, where she helped local officials celebrate Founder's Day and raise money for a museum dedicated to the life of William Seward. Seward was the Secretary of State who helped make Alaska the 49th state. Later this evening, she will receive an award from the Independent Group Home Living Foundation on Long Island. The non-profit group provides services and support for people with developmental disabilities.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Nikki Haley for Governor of South Carolina

Nikki Haley for Governor of South Carolina

South Carolina State Representative Nikki Haley is running for Governor of her state and she's campaigning on one simple message: "conservatism."

Current South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford, calls Haley a "terrific and inspiring choice." She is often characterized as "one of the strongest fiscal conservatives in state government" and a true "Reagan Republican." That's because Haley is not afraid to fight for lower taxes and less government and stand up for true conservative values. She works tirelessly to eliminate wasteful spending and bring transparency and common sense to government on behalf of her constituents. On wasteful spending, Haley has said,

“Our state currently wastes too much of our hard earned money. As a fiscal conservative, I oppose wasteful spending. I know the value of a dollar, and when you send us more than enough money to meet critical needs like education, health care and law enforcement, we owe it to you to return what’s left over. State government must do a better job of living within its means. That’s why I support strict spending limits that will keep government from growing faster than your ability to pay for it.”

In both 2005 and 2009, she was named "Friend of the Taxpayer" by the South Carolina Association of Taxpayers and Governor Sanford named her a "Taxpayer Hero" in 2005. She has also won the Palmetto Leadership award from the South Carolina Policy Council and the Strom Thurmond Excellent in Public Service and Government award from the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women. Currently fulfilling her second term, Haley has served as a State Representative since 2004 and was the first Republican Indian American to win a seat in any state house. Since elected, she has served as the Chairman of the Freshman Caucus and Majority Whip.

Nikki Haley was born in Bamberg, South Carolina and currently resides in Lexington, South Carolina with her husband Michael and their children, Rena and Nalin. She graduated from Clemson university with a degree in accounting and currently serves on the board of directors for Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church Medmission. Haley is a member of the Lexington County Chamber of Commerce, Lexington Rotary Club, National Association of Women Business Owners, West Metro Republican Women, Lexington County Republican Party and the NRA.

You can learn more about Nikki Haley at her website: Nikki Haley for South Carolina Governor