Day One of the Bush Summit to Save Lives

September 13, 2011 By Mark Green

Today’s sessions at the Summit to Save Lives were a real testimony to the best in American global leadership.  The overriding themes were bipartisanship and public private partnerships. Without Republicans and Democrats coming together in the cause of lifting lives in places like Africa, the extraordinary success story that is PEPFAR couldn’t have happened. In some ways, it was a cross generational celebration – Former First Lady Laura Bush praising the Obama Administration for its efforts to provide new health tools to battle maternal and child health problems, and Obama officials like Dr. Eric Goosby repeatedly praising President George Bush’s wisdom in launching his historic AIDS initiative.

As always, Laura Bush was gracious . . . and impressive. She spoke of how moved she was by the women she met in her travels in Africa, and how she was determined to do what she could to help. She said she knew supporting these programs “even in times of financial need” was difficult, but she cited President Bush’s belief that failing to help would only give rise to more despair, and perhaps more extremism, in the poorest regions of the world. She gave story after story of the health care heroes she had met as First Lady.  The fact that she is using her “post-White House” years for promoting America’s role in global health is impressive and reminds us that American leadership matters.

Right after Laura Bush spoke, we heard from a panel that included Dr. Beatrice Wiafe Addai, CEO of Breast Care International in Ghana. She looked at Laura Bush and said movingly, “Mrs. Bush, thank you for not leaving us behind. We know you could have stayed in your own country.” Wow!

The day wound up with the announcement of the Pink Ribbon/Red Ribbon initiative. It’s a wonderful public/private partnership between the George W. Bush Institute, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, PEPFAR, and the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS – in other words, bipartisan, public-private, and multilateral – to dramatically expand availability of vital cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment for at-risk women in Africa. It leverages the platform of PEPFAR (a Bush creation) and the thrust of the Global Health Initiative (an Obama creation). American values in action.

Can’t wait for tomorrow’s sessions!