George W. Bush has written a powerful and elegant op-ed on why AIDS in Africa is America’s fight. The former president argues that it has served American interests to help prevent the collapse of portions of the African continent. He points out that early in 2003, there were perhaps 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa on AIDS treatment; today, nearly 4 million are. He recounts how on World AIDS Day in 2005, two young children from South Africa, Emily and Lewis, came for a White House visit. “They chased around the Oval Office before Emily did what many others no doubt wanted to do,” Bush writes. “She fell asleep in her mother’s lap during my speech. Both young children were HIV-positive but had begun treatment. I could not even imagine all that curiosity and energy still and silent.”
President Bush concludes this way:
I am happily out of the political business. But I can offer some friendly advice to members of Congress, new and old. A thousand pressing issues come with each day. But there are only a few that you will want to talk about in retirement with your children. The continuing fight against global AIDS is something for which America will be remembered. And you will never regret the part you take.
The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is a historically impressive achievement. It will rank among the handful of the most important things George W. Bush did as president. And it’s an excellent example of a federal government program that works and has advanced tremendous human good — the kind of effort conservatives, some of whom have a tendency simply to denigrate government, should proudly champion and seek to replicate.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,” the book of Proverbs tells us, “for the rights of all who are destitute.”
There are worse ways a president can spend his time than speaking up for, and saving the lives of, the defenseless and the voiceless.