January 20, 2009

His legacy

I don't care which political party you support . . . I think we can all agree that George W. Bush hasn't been the most popular president we've ever had. Right? Even if you are one of the few that absolutely love him, you have to admit that your opinion has not been the prevailing one . . . at least during his second term in office.

Yes, he's made decisions and said things that make me cringe. But I think the bottom line is that he was our president. The position alone means that he deserves our respect. And he earned that respect every day by making the hard decisions that we will never have to make.

I might not agree with the decisions that he makes, or the speed in which he makes them, but hindsight is always 20/20, isn't it? I think it's always easy for people who weren't responsible for responding to a situation to criticize a response. Who's to say, given the same circumstances and information, John Kerry, John McCain, Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton would have responded any differently? Fortunately for them, the world will never know.

As bloggers have been writing about the last 8 years, I'm amazed at how much I've forgotten regarding the situations through which President Bush led this country and the hard decisions he's had to make. But there is an untold story to his presidency that I hadn't heard until recently. Cameron Strang, editor of Relevant Magazine, wrote a note in this most recent issue about the legacy of President Bush. Here are a few excerpts:
Recently, I was reminded of one of the most significant untold stories of our generation, and it happens to center on our outgoing president. It’s a story so important that I contend a hundred years from now, it will actually be the primary thing history uses to define President George W. Bush’s administration. And it has gone virtually unreported by the media . . .

. . . For many people, that’s not what first comes to mind when they think about President Bush’s administration, but the long-term ramifications of his global health efforts cannot be understated.

It was at the 2003 State of the Union address that Bush announced the formation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). At the time, only 50,000 people living with AIDS in Africa were able to receive anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. PEPFAR’s ambitious goal was to increase that number to 2 million in five years—a milestone they’ve actually now surpassed.

Those people getting treatment and education have actually led to another 8 million people not contracting the disease who otherwise would have. Ten million lives saved. And of those, 4 million are orphans, the majority of whom were orphaned because both parents died of AIDS.

PEPFAR is touching every aspect of African society, providing hope to a generation that has been dying off at an alarming rate.

So why has PEPFAR worked where other efforts failed? President Bush insisted on collaboration with African leaders—partnering with them instead of merely pushing our strategies—and then holding those partners accountable for results.

“The innovation was trusting leaders at the local level,” Bush said at the forum. “Instead of saying, ‘We’re going to tell you what to do,’ we helped them determine their own strategies for each country. When they develop the strategy, it’s easier to hold the strategy developer to account.

“It’s the timeless management principal of aligning authority and responsibility,” he said. “If you disassociate authority and responsibility, you can’t have accountability.”

The measurable and unprecedented success of PEPFAR not only led President Bush to re-authorize it this past summer, he actually pushed through a tripling of its funding. For him it was a moral imperative that was non-negotiable.

“A president must have a firm set of principals from which he will not deviate,” Bush said. “I believe in the universality of freedom, and I believe freedom is universal because of an almighty God. It’s not just freedom from tyranny that the U.S. must become involved in, I believe it’s freedom from disease, freedom from hunger, freedom from deprivation. If you believe in the universality of freedom, then you should not shy away from doing your duty.”

. . . As we look at these closing weeks of the Bush administration, it’s easy to see the challenges our country is facing and forget monumental, positive initiatives like PEPFAR. I want to publicly applaud President Bush for taking a stand when others hadn’t, and doing so without the motive of political benefit. He has stood up for those who have no voice, and he did so because it was the right thing to do.

You can read the full article here.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kristyw905 said...

I remember a pastor saying "when you give money to a good cause, it will go places and do things you could never have done yourself". President Bush initiated many good things that will go places and do things that the American public could never have done themselves as demonstrated in the great example you gave. It is too bad that many people will never recognize these good things though because they are too busy scrambling to throw the first stone.