Bush Marks Cinco de Mayo Early

President George W. Bush (search) said he likes to use the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo (search) to practice his Spanish, but this year he's practicing his arithmetic.

Bush poked fun at himself in front of about 200 people gathered in the Rose Garden (search) for the White House celebration on May 4, one day before the holiday marking the Mexican troops' defeat of a French army on May 5, 1862.

"My only problem this year is I scheduled the dinner on cuatro de mayo," Bush said. "Next year I'm going to have to work on my math."

Bush offered a toast before dinner, flanked by a mariachi band at the front of the crowd. About 200 Mexican-American leaders and Hispanic administration officials sat in the brightly decorated "Jardin de Rosa," as Bush called it, with tables covered in pink, green and blue decorations and little orange lights strung from the garden's trees and hedges.

Bush noted the presence of his Hispanic attorney general, treasurer, commerce secretary, surgeon general and small business administrator. The mariachi band members, standing politely with their sombreros in hand while the president spoke, hollered out their greetings when he acknowledged Eduardo Aguirre (search), director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (search).

"These guys said they want to get to know you, Eduardo," Bush said to laughter. He reminded the crowd that Aguirre should have a new job soon, though, since he's been nominated as ambassador to Spain.

Earlier Wednesday, Bush spent nearly an hour speaking to a Hispanic audience at the Latino Small Business Economic Conference. He made a pitch for his Social Security plan, saying that private investment accounts is a timely idea because "people from all walks of life" are investing in 401(k) retirement accounts offered by their employers.