From the Lieutenant Governor

By Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie & Ruth Ann Dunne It came from Rabbi Max Wall of Burlington. Rabbi Wall was my grandfather's friend, he is my father's friend and he is my friend. Rabbi Wall performed religious services as a chaplain in the army air corps, in Germany during the war. In 2003, he was speaking at the funeral of his grandson, 21 year-old Marine Corporal Mark Evnin. Mark was the second Vermonter to die in Iraq. Rabbi Wall said that day, "We need to honor and respect our Marines who are here today, and surely we do. But I challenge you all, especially you young people, to learn foreign languages, to go to strange and new places all over the world, and to be peacemakers." As Vermont's Lt. Governor, I have taken that challenge to heart. So have Vermont's foreign languages teachers. Early in 2003, I reached out to our French-speaking neighbors in Quebec and our friends in Ottawa to restore our bruised friendships. In October 2003, I led a peace and trade mission from Vermont to Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei. In April of 2004, I led our first peace and trade mission to Cuba. Our differences may run the gamut from human rights to monetary policy, but building a better world starts with finding common ground. As a student of history, I have observed that trade among nations has always enhanced their security, and a world in which free and sovereign nations build interdependence through trade and travel is a better world. We recently celebrated Foreign Language Week in Vermont with a reception for student Poster Contest winners at the State House. These young people took the theme, "Different is Good", and crafted images of languages, dress, food, architecture, and even animals in montages of peaceful co-existence. Foreign Language Week reminds us that knowing how to speak another language is essential to the future success of our children, our state and our world. The child reaps greater benefits the earlier he or she begins language instruction: it stimulates intellectual growth, improves critical thinking skills, and promotes a better understanding of English and other subject areas. All of these benefits translate to better performance in school and on high-stakes standardized tests. But the benefits to students don't end there. Students also learn about other cultures and ways of life, which promotes tolerance and understanding of people different from themselves. These highly-valued personal qualities will increase the scope of employment opportunities for the graduate, and contribute to a population who seek peaceful resolution to conflict. Vermont's economy is a global one. Our number 1 and 2 trading partners are Qu颥c and China, respectively. We need Vermonters with solid language skills and cultural competencies to maintain and enhance all of our business relationships with international trading partners. Despite the well-documented benefits of learning another language, especially when a child gets an early start, only 40 percent of our public elementary schools offer instruction in a foreign language. And even our middle schools are not yet at 100 percent. Using data from a Vermont Foreign Language Association/Department of Education 2005 survey of Vermont public elementary schools, there was no difference in community size or property tax rate between schools with and those without a foreign language offering. What the schools with a foreign language program had in common was a commitment to the program by all stakeholders. Despite financial constraints, which all school boards experience, these schools make it work. How do we foster that commitment among the rest of our elementary and middle schools? It's never too early to start grassroots discussions in your community. There are several successful program models to consider, and the Vermont Foreign Language Association has many resources to assist persons interested in starting or enhancing their programs (www.vfla.org). Finally, an ad hoc committee of the State Board of Education is examining how to implement foreign language instruction in all of our elementary schools. They need encouragement to move forward expeditiously with this process, which will be of great benefit to our schools and children. Just before our first mission to Cuba, I met 2004's Foreign Language Week Poster Contest winners in the State House. The theme that year was "Make Friends. Peace Follows." I took a copy of one of those posters with me to Cuba, and as I addressed some 300 trade fair attendees in Havana, I held it up for the audience to see. I told them about the Vermont school children who are motivated to learn foreign languages, and to the world a safer place through trade and travel. It's up to us to help them. Ruth Ann Dunn is president of the Vermont Foreign Language Association. She teaches French at Twin Valley High School in Wilmington, Vt. Learn more at www.vfla.org Brian Dubie is Vermont's lieutenant governor. E-mail his office at martha.hanson@state.vt.us, or visit www.ltgov.state.vt.us

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