For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
December 14, 2006
Interview of Mrs. Bush by CBS The Early Show
The Diplomatic Reception Room
The White House Summit on Malaria
7:40 A.M. EST
Q Good morning once again, everybody. We're here at the White House with First Lady Laura Bush. She and the President today are convening a summit to fight against malaria in Africa, as the First Lady continues her battle for global health, especially on behalf of women and children around the world.
Good morning, Mrs. Bush.
MRS. BUSH: Good morning.
Q It's great to be with you. So many people concerned this morning about Democratic Senator Tim Johnson. And he did undergo surgery here in Washington until after midnight last night. What are your thoughts for him and his family?
MRS. BUSH: Well, President Bush and I heard about it when we woke up this morning. And our thoughts are with him and with his family, and we're praying, like I know all the people of South Dakota are, for his very, very speedy recovery. I hope he's doing fine.
Q Everybody thinking of him and his family this morning.
Let's talk about this very important summit and why people in this country, who may not understand that malaria is one of the leading causes of death in the world --
MRS. BUSH: -- around the world.
Q -- why is it so important that Americans be committed to the fight against malaria.
MRS. BUSH: Well, it's important because this is a disease that's preventable. We had malaria in the United States -- in fact, the story is that Washington was a hardship post for diplomats when there was malaria on the Potomac. And we've eradicated it in the United States -- generations ago, so people don't even really have a memory of it.
So we know it can be eradicated. And we're -- today, a number of great groups will be brought together -- international groups like the Global Fund; our government groups, the President's Malaria Initiative; the Gates Foundation, other corporations and grassroots groups, including Malaria No More -- which is the way -- people in the United States can give $10 to buy insecticide treated mosquito nets -- you save a life. If a child can give $10 in the United States, they can save the life of a child in Africa. And I think that's an especially sweet and direct way to reach people in Africa.
But all these groups are coming together at the summit. And so we have an opportunity, because of this broad reach of each one of these groups, to be very effective and strategic about targeting the countries that have the highest burden of malaria, and reaching out to those countries in a way that we really can eradicate it.
The President's Malaria Initiative was introduced in 2005, and its first three target countries included Angola and Tanzania. In Tanzania, some communities there that have already received PMI funds had, in the last year, 450-something cases of malaria, and then in this last year, only eight.
Q Wow --
MRS. BUSH: With very strategic targeting, using the nets, using directed spray, and educating people about how they can prevent malaria, we can eradicate it. And we have this unprecedented chance to do that. It's such a wonderful thing to do.
Q A $1.2 billion initiative, that should go a long way towards prevention and treatment.
MRS. BUSH: That's right, that's the President's -- our government's commitment to it. And I want the American people to know that, to know what their tax dollars are going to prevent both HIV/AIDS and malaria. It's really important. But there are also ways each of us as individual citizens can be involved. It's a good way for American students to learn about the continent of Africa, to learn about the science of malaria, the disease of malaria, the ways to prevent it, and then to learn what they can do, specifically to buy a mosquito net for a child.
Q This is such a serious time for the President also, as he is considering his options about what to do in Iraq. And we greatly anticipate this course of action being announced in the new year. Does he have a good idea of the direction that he wants to take?
MRS. BUSH: He does. He's meeting with groups; of course, he's already heard the Iraq Study Group's proposals. He met at the Pentagon yesterday. His new Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates, will be sworn in next week, and it will give him a chance to work with him, as well, and not preempt him -- the announcement earlier. So there are a number of groups that are meeting, that are meeting with the President, that he's talking with, including, obviously, our generals. And so I suspect that there will be a very good strategy for going ahead.
But I also think that strategy will include victory. And I think that's very important. It's very important for the people of Iraq to be able to build their country. We know they want to. We know 70 percent of them turned out in their elections. We don't get a 70-percent turnout in the United States very often, and I think that's important.
Q Mrs. Bush, before we go, I have to --
MRS. BUSH: I'm sorry --
Q No, absolutely. I have to ask you about your fashion emergency last week, quickly. (Laughter.) And the fact -- because this has happened to so many of us -- three women showed up with the same dress you had on. How did you find out --
MRS. BUSH: At the Kennedy Center Honors, which shows how very, very popular Oscar de la Renta is -- (laughter.)
Q You handled it so graciously --and decided to run upstairs and change? You had a backup?
MRS. BUSH: The people were all friends of mine, very good friends of mine. So when we had our pictures together, instead of boy, girl, boy, girl for the photo, the two of us -- the two dressed in the same dress, we put our arms around each other. (Laughter.)
Q That will be something to have fun with later.
MRS. BUSH: That's right.
Q Always great to visit with you, Mrs. Bush. Merry Christmas to you and your family.
MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much. Merry Christmas.
END 7:45 A.M. EST