WASHINGTON – First lady Laura Bush said Thursday that retired soldier turned teacher Arthur Moore of Baltimore will travel to Afghanistan with presidential counselor Karen Hughes for that country’s first official school day since the ousting of the Taliban.
Moore, a retired Army sergeant who now teaches special education at Abbottston and Furley elementary schools, said he was equally astonished and excited by the invitation extended to him by the White House last week.
“We take education for granted in the U.S. Every child here has a legal right to an education,” he said. “When you look at a country like Afghanistan, where they’ve let education go down — to be able to go over there and see their education system get off the ground is so exciting. I’ll have lots to tell my children about when I get back.”
Moore said he was “shocked” that the White House tapped him for the trip.
“I’m just a teacher, really,” he said.
In fact, though, Moore has become increasingly familiar in Washington as an often-cited model veteran of Troops to Teachers, the federal program that channels military retirees into teaching careers. Mrs. Bush has championed the program over the last several years, and she invited Moore earlier this month to speak about his experience with the program at a White House education conference.
Bush singled out the ex-soldier again Thursday during an appearance before the House Education and Workforce Committee, lauding him for his education efforts before announcing his upcoming trip to Afghanistan.
While his 21-year Army career took him as far as Germany and South Korea, Moore said he has never been to Afghanistan. He is looking forward to cheering on the country’s teachers and students as they rebuild their education system, which was all but snuffed out by the Taliban during their reign from 1996 to 2001.
“I’m hoping to offer them encouragement that education does work, and knowledge is power,” Moore said. “If they keep the faith, there’s nothing they can’t do.”
The military veteran is also is eager to visit U.S. troops stationed in the region.
“I hope I have the opportunity to speak to servicemen while I’m there, to tell them that we’re behind them and supporting what they’re doing,” he said. “I’m a teacher now, but my heart is with them over there.”
A senior White House official confirmed that plans are in the works to send the “education delegation” to Afghanistan, but stressed that no travel plans will be finalized until pending security matters have been cleared.
“The White House hopes the delegation can be there for the first day of school, but security concerns could delay them,” said Jim Wilkinson, the White House communications official.
Citing security reasons, neither Wilkinson nor Moore would comment on the dates or itinerary for the trip. Afghanistan’s school year is scheduled to start March 23, according to UNICEF.