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Remarks of Dave D. Lauriski
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health
"Stay Out-Stay Alive" 2003 Campaign Kickoff
Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School
Rockford, Illinois
April 24, 2003

Thank you, Principal Danielowski, for that kind introduction.

Good morning, boys and girls.

My name is Dave Lauriski, and I work for the United States Department of Labor.

I know you've probably not heard my name before, but I know you're familiar with my boss, George W. Bush.

Am I right?

President Bush appointed me to this job two years ago. And I answer to the President's Secretary of Labor. Anyone know what her name is? It's Elaine Chao.

Who can tell me what the Department of Labor does?

Our job is to protect the workers of America, to guarantee them jobs in safe and healthful conditions.

To make sure all workers receive a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay, and that they're not discriminated against in the workplace.

In fact, right here in Rockford, a former Secretary of Labor grew up. Does anyone know her name?

It's Lynn Martin, and she was Labor Secretary to the first President George Bush back in the early 1990s, before you were born.

So you're probably wondering, what is it I do, and why am I standing up here before you?

Well, in my office, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, we look out for the men and women who work in our nation's mines. Has anyone here ever been in a mine, or seen pictures of one?

I'll bet lots of you were glued to your television sets last July when those nine coal miners in Pennsylvania were trapped underground for three days.

How many of you watched them being pulled up from 240 feet beneath the earth's surface?

Well, I'm proud to tell you that the Mine Safety and Health Administration played a big part in rescuing those men.

In fact, it was our capsule, that big yellow piece of equipment, you saw raised and lowered each time to pull all of those men to safety.

That was an incredible experience for everyone involved. I know I'll never forget it.

It's also a reminder to people that mining can still be a dangerous occupation.

It's especially dangerous when people - kids and adults - venture onto mine property without the proper training to be there.

Right here in Rockford, and in nearby communities, there are many limestone quarries and sand & gravel mines.

Does anyone know what products come from limestone?

Well, there's paper, glass, paint and varnish, soap and detergents, textiles, baking powder and others.

Sand and gravel operations provide the materials we use to build parking lots, driveways and highways.

Lots of products we use every day come from mines. Coal is used to provide us with electricity. Next time you turn on your computer or your TV set, remember, coal made that connection possible.

While a lot of good things extracted from mines make our lives easier, there also are a number of hidden dangers that you may not be aware of.

Last September, about 50 miles from here, in McHenry County, a young man went swimming in an old gravel pit.

I'm sure at the time he thought nothing of it. Nice cool water, a quiet place to swim.

Maybe he didn't see the "No Trespassing" signs. Or maybe he did, and chose to ignore them.

Those signs were put there for a reason.

It turns out he made a deadly mistake.

It took rescuers about 20 minutes after the young man disappeared from sight to rescue him from 15 feet of water.

I'm telling you this story not to frighten you, but to make you aware that these are not safe places to swim.

The water is very, very cold.

You may be a great swimmer, but do you realize that if you jump into extremely cold water, you can develop cramps?

Cramps can lead to panic. And panic is the worst thing a swimmer can do.

The water isn't clear. If you got into trouble, your friends might not be able to find you.

Sometimes, at an abandoned mine, there will be old equipment underwater. Imagine diving into a barbed wire fence that was left behind by the company that used to mine there.

The example of the young man in McHenry County is just one.

Dozens of these drownings happen every year around the country.

That's why we came here today to talk to you about staying out and staying alive.

That's the name of our campaign - "Stay Out--Stay Alive."

Later on, your teachers will be passing out stickers and bookmarks with that slogan on them.

I hope you'll put those stickers somewhere special so you never forget why I came here today.

And I hope you will do me another favor. Talk to your friends, your brothers and sisters, even your parents about what you heard here today.

Tell them you want them to Stay Out and Stay Alive.

You've been a great audience. Thank you for your attention.