Bush was presented with the International Medal of PEACE by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., for his administration’s work to provide lifesaving antiretroviral treatment to patients in sub-Saharan Africa. Warren said that “no world leader has ever done more for global health” than Bush. The President announced that his administration’s plan for emergency AIDS relief had surpassed its goal by treating 2 million people in less than five years.
“They call what’s taking place in Africa, ‘the Lazarus effect’—people given up for dead now realizing there is life,” Bush said. “What the American people have to understand about this initiative is that it is in our national interest to help save lives. It is really good foreign policy; it is good national security policy—to deal with hope when we find it. It is obviously in our economic interest to have a vibrant, growing group of consumers, but it’s also in our moral interest—we are a better nation when we save lives.”
Bush said his family would continue their efforts to fight AIDS and HIV after they leave the White House through a new Freedom Institute working in partnership with Southern Methodist University.
In videotaped remarks to the forum, Obama praised Bush’s efforts and addressed the future of global health.
“I salute President Bush for his leadership in crafting a plan for AIDS relief in Africa and backing it up with funding dedicated to saving lives and preventing the spread of the disease,” Obama said. “And my administration will continue this critical work to address the crisis around the world.”
Warren concluded the forum by emphasizing the challenges that lie ahead. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “It’s a matter of life or death. It’s a matter of the fact that when people are out hurting and we do nothing, our love vanishes and it’s all about that.”
Bush stressed the important role of churches and the faith community in addressing global needs. “Government is justice and love comes from a higher government, higher calling—from God,” he said. “People from across America, motivated by faith, are already involved in the process, so why not bring some order and focus? That is a proper role of the government in this case, and it’s working.”
The International Medal of PEACE is awarded by the PEACE Coalition to honor outstanding contribution toward alleviating problems negatively impacting society worldwide, including pandemic diseases, poverty, illiteracy, corruption and injustice and spiritual emptiness. The PEACE Coalition is a network of churches, businesses and individual that seeks to solve humanitarian issues through reconciliation, equipping leaders, assisting the poor, caring for sick and education.