President Bush is pressing U.S. lawmakers to double funds for fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports Mr. Bush says his trip to Africa last week convinced him that American aid is making a difference.
President Bush says the trip to Africa was the most exhilarating of his presidency, because America is helping a new generation of African leaders change the continent.
"They are reformers who are determined to steer their nations toward freedom and justice, prosperity and peace," he said.
Mr. Bush reviewed the highlights of his trip with a slide show at an African-American foundation committed to self-help, social responsibility, economic empowerment, and human rights on the continent.
The president told the Leon Sullivan Foundation that Americans should feel proud of the work they are doing to encourage what he says is a new spirit of African confidence, determination, and strength.
"This is a spirit worthy of America's support," said President Bush. "It is more powerful than any partisan quarrels here in our nation's capital. And having given our word, we must not turn back now. Congress needs to make America's commitment clear by fully and promptly funding our development programs. And presidential candidates in both parties should make clear that engagement with Africa will be an enduring priority of the United States."
The president called for Congress to double U.S. funds to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa to $30 billion during the next five years. He also wants full funding for performance-based development grants.
"America is on a mission of mercy," said Mr. Bush. "We are 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."
Mr. Bush said that mission serves America's security interests because people who live in chaos and despair are more likely to fall under the sway of violent ideologies. He said it also serves America's moral interests because the power to save lives comes with the obligation to use it.
While U.S. programs in Africa rarely make the news at home, the president stressed going to Africa and seeing the results left no doubt in his mind that the mission is succeeding.
"You see it when you hold a baby who would have died of malaria without America's support," he said. "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 president and Mrs. Bush visited Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, and Liberia last week.