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President Bush Discusses Trip to Africa at Leon H. Sullivan Foundation
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
Washington, D.C.

february 26, 2008

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. I appreciate the warm welcome. Last Thursday Laura and I returned from a six-day visit to Africa. It happened to be her fifth visit, and my second. Without a doubt, this was the most exciting, exhilarating, uplifting trip I've taken since I've been the President. It was an unbelievable experience. (Applause.)

Africa Trip 2008




And I want to thank the Sullivan Foundation for letting me come by to visit with you about the trip. And I appreciate the good work they're doing on behalf of the people on the continent of Africa. Hope, thank you very much for introducing me and inviting me back. It's always an honor to be with Andrew Young, Chairman of the Board of -- (applause).

By the way, I should have recognized Carl Masters, your husband -- (laughter) -- that was a major faux pas, just like I should have recognized that my wife unfortunately is not here, but she sends her very best regards.

I do appreciate very much Ambassador Howard Jeter for his service to the United States. I thank the members of the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation who are with us. Pleased to see members of the Diplomatic Corps who have joined us. I'm honored that Congressman Donald Payne, who is the Chairman of the Africa and Global Health Subcommittee, has joined us today. Thank you for coming, Mr. Chairman. (Applause.) He's knowledgeable about the issues on the continent of Africa, and that's good. And I want to thank you for your interest and your diligence. Sheila Jackson Lee -- she's supposed to be here. If she's not here, I'll give her an excused absence -- after all, she is from Texas. (Applause.)

I appreciate so very much Jendayi Frazer. (Applause.) I probably won't have to say anything else. (Laughter.) She's been awesome to work with, in putting this strategy in place. I appreciate very much Rear Admiral Tim Zeimer. He's in charge of the Malaria Initiative. Admiral Zeimer, he's a no-nonsense guy. I hope people have come to realize I am, too. I'm not interested in promises, I'm interested in results. That's why I went to Africa -- to see results firsthand. Admiral Zeimer, we're getting great results on the Malaria Initiative thanks to your leadership. (Applause.)

Lloyd Pierson, President and CEO of the African Development Foundation -- appreciate your leadership, Lloyd. Jody Olsen, Deputy Director of the Peace Corps. (Applause.) Contain yourselves. (Laughter.) Although I'll tell you -- it's not a part of this speech, but I had a wonderful lunch with Peace Corps volunteers in Ghana. Our Peace Corps is full of compassionate, hard-working, decent people who are serving America on the front lines of compassion. And I really can't thank the Peace Corps enough. (Applause.)

Last time we met was at your summit in Nigeria, and that was during my first trip to Africa. You know, things have changed in Africa since then, I mean striking changes. These changes are the result of a new generation of African leaders -- they're reformers who are determined to steer their nations toward freedom and justice, prosperity and peace. They're also the result of new American policy and new American commitments. In my first term, we more than doubled development assistance to Africa. And at the beginning of my second term, I asked the United States Congress to double our assistance again. It is an important commitment that Congress can make. I'm looking forward to working to get these budgets out, Mr. Chairman.

America is on a mission of mercy. We're treating African leaders as equal partners. We expect them to produce measurable results. We expect them to fight corruption, and invest in the health and education of their people, and pursue market-based economic policies. This mission serves our security interests -- people who live in chaos and despair are more likely to fall under the sway of violent ideologies. This mission serves our moral interests -- we're all children of God, and having the power to save lives comes with the obligation to use it.

This mission rarely makes headlines in the United States. But when you go to Africa, it is a visible part of daily life -- and there's no doubt that our mission is succeeding. You see it when you hold a baby that would have died of malaria without America's support. You see it when you look into the eyes of an AIDS patient who has been brought back to life. You see it in the quiet pride of a child going to school for the first time. And you see that turning away from this life-changing work would be a cause for shame.

The best argument for our development programs is found in the people they benefit. So with the help of our fabulous White House photographers, I have assembled a slide show -- (laughter) -- of images from our visit. And this morning, it is my pleasure to share it with you. (Applause.) (Slideshow begins)

Our first stop was to the Western African nation of Benin, where we touched down on a Saturday morning. Benin is a vibrant democracy with a rich history. It has a wise and determined leader in President Yayi. I was proud to be the first sitting American President to visit the country.

At the airport, we were greeted by women and children wearing traditional dress, and they were dancing and playing drums. And they brought several hand-painted signs that the American people need to look at: "Benin people and his President thank the whole U.S. people." "Beninese people will remember forever."

President Yayi and I had a productive meeting. He told me that the Malaria Initiative and our $307 million Millennium Challenge Compact are helping alleviate poverty and save lives in his country. And I told him that America's support is a reflection of his commitment to govern justly and to tackle problems head on. I congratulated him on his effort to fight malaria, which apparently includes a national awareness day called "George W. Bush Day." (Laughter.) I pointed out to him that hasn't even happened in Texas. (Laughter and applause.)

While President Yayi and I had our discussion, Laura and Mrs. Yayi met with girls who have received scholarships through our Africa Education Initiative. In Benin, these scholarships cover the cost of school supplies, such as uniforms and books and oil lanterns that allow students to read at night. Many of these girls are the first in their family to complete primary school. And their plans didn't stop there. Three girls told Laura that their goal is to become the first woman President of Benin. (Applause.)

Laura and I left Benin impressed by the energy and determination of its people. Benin is an optimistic, it is a confident, and it is a capable nation. And it was a great place to begin our visit to Africa.

Our next stop was Tanzania. We were met by President Kikwete and Mrs. Kikwete, as well as Tanzanians -- they were dancing and they were playing great music. And there was also some unexpected fashion. (Laughter and applause.) I thought the dresses were pretty stylish. (Laughter and applause.) But my good wife reminded me that I shouldn't expect to see them flying off the shelves in American stores anytime soon. (Laughter.)

As we drove from the airport to our hotel, there were tens of thousands of people who lined the motorcade route to show their gratitude to the American people -- and many of them were smiling and they were waving and they were holding flags. It was an unbelievable -- unbelievable sight.

Sunday morning began with a meeting with President Kikwete at the State House. The President told me that relations between our nations are the best they have ever been. He said that America's support is helping Tanzania improve education, and fight HIV/AIDS, and dramatically reduce malaria. He gave me a memorable gift. Laura said we probably need another pet -- (laughter) -- I'm worried that Barney might be slightly intimidated. (Applause.)

Following our meeting, we signed the largest Millennium Challenge Compact in the history of the program. The $698 million agreement will support Tanzania's efforts to improve transportation and energy and water supply. At a news conference, I again called for Congress to reauthorize the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, to maintain the principles that have made it a success, and to double our initial commitment to $30 billion over the next five years. (Applause.) Then President Kikwete jumped in to say -- and I want to quote him on this -- "If this program is discontinued or disrupted, there would be so many people who lose hope; certainly there will be death. My passionate appeal is for PEPFAR to continue." I couldn't agree more with the President. And I hope every member of the United States Congress hears that appeal.

They should also hear about the HIV/AIDS clinic at the Amana District Hospital, where Laura and I visited with the President and Mrs. Kikwete on Sunday afternoon. The clinic opened in 2004 with support from PEPFAR. And two thoughts struck me on the visit -- first, this program is saving lives, there are tangible results. When I visited sub-Saharan Africa in 2003, 50,000 people were receiving medicine to treat HIV/AIDS. When I visited again last week, the number had grown to more than 1.3 million. (Applause.)

At the clinic, we visited with a man and woman who learned they had HIV while they were dating -- but went on to get treatment, get married, and have a little baby boy who is HIV-free. (Applause.) We saw many others who have new hope because of PEPFAR -- including a 9-year-old girl who is HIV-positive. She was smiling at the clinic with her grandmother, because -- sitting at the clinic with her grandmother because her mom and dad had died of AIDS. For the past year, Catholic Relief Services has been paying for the girl to receive treatment at the clinic. And I want to tell you what her grandmother said: "As a Muslim, I never imagined that a Catholic group would help me like that. I am so grateful to the American people."

The second important point is that PEPFAR is allowing African nations to lay the foundation for a health system that does more than treat HIV/AIDS. When patients report to the clinic, they are given a series of tests, they get results quickly from a laboratory on site, and they can receive treatment in the same place. I was struck by the devotion and the professionalism of the clinic's staff. They spoke proudly about the rigorous training they received, and the meticulous way they instruct patients on how to take their medicine. One nurse said PEPFAR funds are helping them to treat more patients while providing more privacy. This is helping extend lives, reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS, and build the health infrastructure that will save many more lives in the future. …

White House Press







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