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Bush Re-Enters Spotlight With Haiti Appeal

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One year after leaving the White House, former U.S. President George W. Bush is back in the public spotlight.  He has joined forces with another past president - Bill Clinton - to raise private funds to help the earthquake victims in Haiti.  

The images of devastation in Haiti have brought George W. Bush back to the spotlight.

He says these pictures of suffering are heart-wrenching.  And he says he has a message for the Haitian people.

"People around the world know the hardship you are going through and that we care deeply about your lives," said George W. Bush.

Mr. Bush says he understands why the earthquake victims are anxious.  He appeals for calm.

"I fully understand the anguish that the people of Haiti feel," he said. "But I hope the people of Haiti know that our government is doing everything it can with our military and USAID to get food, medicine, and water to you as quickly as possible."

The former U.S. president says his reason for concern is personal.  During his time in office he launched an initiative called PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief)  to fight the disease AIDS in parts of Africa and the Caribbean. 

"I was involved with Haiti," said George W. Bush. "I did care deeply about those who are suffering from AIDS. PEPFAR has spent about $320 million in Haiti to get anti-retrovirals [anti-retroviral drugs] and prevention programs to the people Haiti."

He says PEPFAR is in Haiti for the long term.  So too, is the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, which collected $10 million in its first three days in operation.

"Bill Clinton and I want the people of Haiti to know that once the immediate crisis had been stabilized, we won't forget you," he said.

Mr. Bush says he learned a great deal when disasters struck during his presidency - especially Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the Indian Ocean tsunami in late 2004.

He says the first lesson is that aid never flows fast enough to those in need.  Another is that when major disasters occur, people around the world are always ready to help.

"The people of Haiti are not alone," said Mr. Bush. "And unfortunately, the world cannot come and embrace you.  But the world can send help to help you get back on your feet."

Mr. Bush says he has not missed being in the spotlight since leaving office.  But he says he was more than willing to give up what little anonymity he has to help a cause that is truly worthwhile.
 

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