For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 25, 2007
Press Briefing by Mrs. Bush En Route Dakar, Senegal
10:21 A.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Thanks, everyone. I just came out to say hello, and I'm glad you're with me. So I think we're going to have a very interesting trip. It's going to be a difficult trip, just because it's so much travel. We're going, obviously, from the west coast to the east coast and back to the west coast of Africa before we come home. And we're busy in every stop, with a lot of different programs that we want to see that both address AIDS, malaria, clean water, education. And so those will be the four focuses of this -- of the trip.
But I hope you have on your comfortable shoes. We'll work hard for the week.
I think it will be a really terrific trip, and I'm happy to have this chance to get to see all of these terrific programs that are funded in some part by the United States government, either through USAID or PEPFAR or the President's Malaria Initiative. And I hope that you all will help me let the American people know about what they're doing, through their taxpayers' money, to try to make a big difference in Africa, both in eradicating malaria, trying to reach and treat as many people as possible and avert as much infection as possible with HIV/AIDS.
And then I'm really looking forward to the PlayPump that we'll see in Zambia, this children's merry-go-round that are put mainly in schools where they have a well and clean water. And part of the money that goes to putting in the PlayPump includes making sure -- testing water to make sure their well is safe. And I think this will be a fun and interesting way to pump water into a holding tank. And it lets girls and boys go to school, because they're not having to spend all day walking to a water well a long way away and carrying water, sometimes contaminated water, back to their villages. So I think this will be a really fun part of the trip to see these merry-go-rounds, the PlayPumps.
So thank you all for coming with me. I think we'll have a good time, work hard, and see a lot. So I'm really looking forward to it.
Q Can you tell us what you think the most challenging part of the trip will be?
MRS. BUSH: I think for us, the most challenging part, really, is going to be this travel, I mean, the long distances for us to have to fly between places, and then to try to do as many things as we can possibly do in every stop. And as you know from looking at the schedule, the schedule is filled, no down time, except for when we're on the plane. So I'm looking forward to it.
Q Mrs. Bush, it looks like the House, at least, is moving on the first year's funding of the next series of the AIDS funding. Are you confident that the Senate will be there, as well?
MRS. BUSH: Yes -- I mean, I'm not confident, I don't know -- I can speak for the House or Senate. But obviously I think that there is large bipartisan support for this, and that people on both sides of the aisle see it as beneficial, obviously, for the people in Africa, and the other countries -- Asia, Vietnam and Haiti that are also targeted with AIDS -- with PEPFAR funds -- see it so beneficial for them, but also a really beneficial way for the United States to reach out, and for people around the world to see what Americans are really like.
And I think all of the programs we'll see that are supported by U.S. taxpayers are a good example of both what Americans are really like, the generosity of Americans -- and I saw today in USA Today that American charitable giving is up, with the most ever last year, more even than 2005 during the year of the hurricanes and the tsunami when we knew there were unprecedented levels of charitable giving.
So I think the Congress will support this for those two reasons -- first that it's an obligation, many people see it as a moral obligation for the United States because we are affluent, because we do have the -- so many ways to help; and as -- also as being beneficial for our country and letting people around the world know what Americans are really like.
Q Mrs. Bush, obviously this is very good thing that the American people are doing, very positive. Can you talk a little bit about -- I know there's a debate about Guantanamo Bay, Gitmo. Where do you stand? Where do you fall on that? Do you hope to close that in your husband's administration?
MRS. BUSH: I think I'll let the administration speak on that topic. That's not one of my topics, and that's certainly not the point of the trip.
Q Mrs. Bush, this is your third trip.
MRS. BUSH: That's right.
Q Where do you see this, in order of importance, that you've been? I mean, is this the most important by far, what you're doing so far?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I think it's very important. I mean, these are issues that I also work on at home. Education is a very important issue for me, and I'm excited to see and give these scholarships, the African Education Initiative schools and sites that we'll go to. I think that's very important.
I think this is an important piece of American foreign policy, frankly, the way we reach out to countries all over the world. Not just Africa but everywhere in the world we have very active programs going on in Central and South America, as well, and in Asia, as well. And I think that's -- all of these programs are an important part of American foreign policy.
And I think they represent not only the generosity of the American people, but also the efficiency and the accountability piece of the American government, as well, ways for us to be able to make sure our tax money is used in a way that helps the most people, that has the furthest reach, that's the most effective.
One thing that happened during the White House Summit on Malaria that we had in December was each of the big players -- the United Nations, UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, USAID -- all came together to talk about the ways to be most effective in eradicating malaria, instead of each -- and I think this was literally the first time each one of the big players had been brought together -- the World Bank was one of them -- to try to have the most effective outreach. In other words, if the World Bank is giving a big loan to Nigeria, then all the other players ought to know it so they can focus on Zambia or on another country where there's a very high rate of malaria.
So I think that's also another piece of this, of our foreign policy, as we're involved in aid.
The Millennium Challenge grants have been a very important part -- the Millennium Challenge Corporation has worked with governments as they devise their own strategy for what they'll do with the Millennium Challenge grants, whether it's infrastructure, building roads, building water distribution areas, or if it's building schools and education.
And one of the very important pieces -- and I think this is another important part of American foreign policy -- is the work between governments, the work with the governments on the ground, the African governments that are -- whose people are benefiting from these programs, as well as our government, to work together to try to be the most effective, to try to stretch the money the furthest so that the most people get help. And I think that's also an important piece -- and another reason that I think the Congress will support this funding, because they know that we're trying to be as efficient and effective as we possibly can with this funding.
Q This is your third trip. When are you going to get your husband over there?
MRS. BUSH: He'll go, I think -- we had hoped that it would be this year. I don't know now with our other travel schedule, with APEC in Australia and other things, if it will be. But hopefully sometime next year.
So thanks, everybody. Appreciate it. This will be fun. I think we'll have a really good time.
Q We're looking forward to it.
MRS. BUSH: It's going to be very interesting.
END 10:30 A.M. EDT