The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
July 13, 2005

Briefing by the First Lady en route Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Aboard Mrs. Bush’s Plane
En route Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

10:21 A.M. (Local)

MRS. BUSH: I want to thank all of you for coming with me. I planned this trip to follow up on the G8, because I knew the G8 would be focused on Africa. And the President, in fact, made his proposals before we went to the G8, new proposals, increased funding for Africa, the debt relief and all of those other issues that were discussed at the G8 and that are very important for the economy of the different African countries that I'm going to visit.

So we had a great day yesterday in South Africa. The Mothers to Mothers-to-be Program is a program that gets PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Relief funding, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to go to it, besides the fact that another focus of this trip is working with women and girls to make sure girls are educated and women are educated, so that women have more control over their lives and particularly over their sexual lives so they can negotiate their own sexual lives and avoid HIV/AIDS.

Another interesting part of the Mothers to Mothers-to-be program, I thought, was the fact that one of the things they require is for the mothers to reveal that they're HIV positive - and there is still such a stigma associated with AIDS, HIV in many African countries, which keeps women particularly in isolation, without seeking treatment because they don't want people to know that they're HIV-positive. So a very important part of girls' education, women's education and HIV is to try to strip away the stigma associated with it and to encourage women to reveal their positive status, if that's what they have, and work with other women to make sure the stigma decreases.

So today we're going to go on to Tanzania, which I'm really looking forward to. Today we'll visit first a Catholic charity. I wanted to pay attention to all of the ways different associations, different NGOs, different governments can work in Africa together. And so this one will be a program that's done by Catholic Charities.

We'll go on - Tanzania is also a country that's working on their laws to protect women and so I'll go on with Mrs. Mkapa to an equal opportunity for all trust** event, that also encourages law enforcement and other groups in their protection of women, from violence, particularly from sexual violence.

So thanks for coming with me. All right, any questions?

Q Mrs. Bush, you're traveling on later to Rwanda, particularly to the Genocide Museum in Kigali. How important do you think it is to even now still talk very candidly about the world's failure to prevent that genocide, especially given what's going on in Darfur? And do you think it would be very powerful for you, from Rwanda, to talk about Darfur and the need to not let those atrocities continue, for the world to act very aggressively?

MRS. BUSH: I think it's very important in Rwanda to continue to talk about out the genocide that happened there. The healing process, the reconciliation that Rwanda has managed to have is really amazing, considering how extensive the genocide was and how violent. But I look forward to talking both with the First Lady of Rwanda, as well as the President of Rwanda about what the rest of the world can do in situations similar to this, like in Darfur, and see what they think is the best way for the world to help in situations like their genocide.

But I also think that the genocide was recent enough that everyone still remembers it, and no doubt many, many people are still grieving for their family members or their loved ones that they lost. And I think that takes a long time. That the idea for us - how difficult it must be to live with a genocide like that in your country, to live with it in your history is really, really hard to imagine. And I think they've made a lot of really great steps in reconciliation. So I'm interested to see what they say, also what their advice is to the United States government, to other governments.

Q Well, I'll ask the elephant-in-the-room question. (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: Now, what could that be? (Laughter.)

Q The President has said that he will dismiss anyone in the administration if he finds out they leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to the press. And I was wondering if you were following that story, and how you felt about that, whether, you know, responsibility should go all the way to the top and include people like Karl Rove and the top President's men? Should they have to be dismissed, as well, if -

MRS. BUSH: Well, I'm following the story just like you are. What I know about it, I've read in the newspaper or seen on television. But I do know that it would be irresponsible of me to speculate on any part of it. So I think I'll leave the speculation to you all and I'll leave the investigation to Judge Fitzgerald.

Q Not talking about the investigation, but rather, you know -

MRS. BUSH: That's a speculation -

Q Right, but -

MRS. BUSH: -- anything else would be a speculation.

Q But just to sort of follow on this level, you have known Karl Rove for some time, as a - speaking about his character, could you speak to - because it's been a long time that you've had a relationship. Do you feel - would you be very surprised to hear - or is there anything you can say about his character to support the view that he - a positive view of Karl Rove?

MRS. BUSH: Sure, of course. Karl Rove is a very good friend of mine; I've known him for years. And I'm not going to speculate on any other part of the case, except to say that he's a good friend.

Q Mrs. Bush, you've come from a generation that fought very hard for women's rights in the United States. How will you feel if the next one or two Supreme Court Justices are staunchly anti-abortion? What will that do to women's rights that you have fought for?

MRS. BUSH: That's another speculation that I think I won't get into. But I'll tell you this, I know that the President will pick people of integrity when he makes this choice later on this month - is what I read in the newspapers, it's not what he told me. (Laughter.) But that he would be picking maybe someone toward the end of the month.

I do know that he'll pick very strong justices and I have every confidence in his choice, whoever that choice may be. I let everyone know yesterday that I thought it should be a woman, as a result of Ann's question, but actually, you know, whether it's a man or a woman, I know that whoever he picks will be a person of great distinction. And I'm looking forward to hearing who it will be.

Q And you're confident the whoever is picked will not -

MRS. BUSH: I am confident that whoever is picked will be a person of great integrity and strength.

Q One more questions. Given your activism for the opportunities of women, why shouldn't you run for President of the United States?

MRS. BUSH: Why should I? (Laughter.)

Q Why shouldn't you? (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: I'm not really - I have no intention of running for President of the United States, as you all know. (Laughter.) I have a huge privilege right now, because my husband is President, to work on issues that are important to me, that have been important to me my whole life. And this trip is one of those privileges -- to be able to represent the United States, to let people know in these countries that the United States, the people of the United States stand with them and the people of the United States will do whatever they can.

Q The Vice President has said that he thinks you would be a great President. So are you saying that you've ruled out the possibility?

MRS. BUSH: I've ruled out the possibility of running for President. (Laughter.) I actually never considered the possibility of running for President.

Q If a woman were to run, though, what would you consider important, as far as supporting her? Would it be party or would it be the history-making -

MRS. BUSH: If a woman were to run it would be exactly the same thing I would consider in any other election, and that is who I think has the best characters, whose views are similar to mine. You know, I would vote for, in most cases, the Republican. (Laughter.) I guess you'd say in all cases. (Laughter.)

Q Mrs. Bush, yesterday one of the women who you spoke with at the second roundtable said it was very important to deliver very concise and strong messages on the use of condoms, such as the example she gave was, "If you think condoms are a hassle, try taking 12 pills a day." Do you support those types of messages, speaking to youth in their language, even if they don't include anything about abstinence and the importance of abstinence?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think - let me say one thing. If you live in a continent where a quarter of the people have a sexually transmitted disease that's deadly, then abstinence better be one of your concerns, one of your major concerns. It's just a fact of life that that's the only way you know for sure you wouldn't get a deadly disease. And particularly under the circumstances, where girls marry early, where they're forced into sex many times early, as very young girls, it's really important to get that message out to girls so that they'll have the opportunity and the empowerment and the strength to be abstinent, to negotiate their own sexual lives and to everyone to know that that is one way you can keep from getting AIDS, and the most important way. So I don't think you can ever deny abstinence is a very, very important part of not getting a sexually transmitted disease.

And then, of course, condom use. But if you - the ABC Program is abstinence, it's being faithful. And one of the reasons that AIDS is all over Africa is because, like you heard yesterday at the roundtable, men travel to various countries in Africa for jobs and they would be with women when they were in those countries. And then they'd go home to their own wife, their own families, and then their wife would get AIDS. And so the being faithful part is also very important. If you're in a relationship with a single partner, who's not positive, than just like if you're abstinent, you would not get it.

And then, of course, the third and equally important part is the use of condoms.

Q So should the U.S. government support programs that don't speak about abstinence, that only deliver messages on condom use?

MRS. BUSH: The U.S. government supports programs that talk about all three of them, because all three of them are absolutely important in not getting HIV/AIDS.

Q Can I ask one other question? Your daughter, Jenna, obviously has joined you for the rest of the trip. Would you like to see her participate in some of the events? I know you talked a little bit yesterday about what Barbara is doing in Cape Town, some interesting work there. It's a powerful message to send that, you know, your own daughters are accompanying you on this trip, doing that kind of work. How do you think people -

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think you're right. I think it's really very important to their generation, their generation of girls that they meet here, as well as their generation of people in the United States. Jenna will participate with me on all of these events that we go on for the rest of the trip. And she also feels very - she thinks that her presence is also important to let American kids her age, young people her age, as well as African girls her age, know that her generation is also committed.

Yesterday, at the Phalani center where we were, there were three young people Barbara and Jenna's age who were volunteering there. Two, a medical student, young man from Pennsylvania, a young woman and then one Swedish -- young American woman, and then a young Swedish woman. I know that Barbara and Jenna and their friends all want to help. Barbara is in Cape Town with a number of friends that she already knew, and then friends that she's met that are Americans that are also volunteering at the hospital where she works.

Barbara and Jenna have had great discussions about a website that would let American students and recent college graduates know about their opportunities to volunteer in other countries, to not maybe spend as long as -- to volunteer as long as you would if you chose the Peace Corps, but other opportunities that American students might have to work around the world to really also to let people know what Americans are really like.

Q Speaking on that topic of what Americans are really like, do you want to say anything to the American people who are watching the coverage of what's happening here in Africa, watching what we're telling them about this trip, what they should feel - that they can and should whatever - do we have a moral responsibility as Americans, being in the richest country in the world, to do something about what we're seeing here in Africa?

MRS. BUSH: Absolutely, I think we have a moral responsibility and many of the people who are already working in Africa, on the continent of Africa from the United States are also religious, they're people of faith who see it as a matter of conscience to fight disease wherever they can.

But also because of our affluence, there are many ways we can help build the economies of these new African democracies, and that's very, very important. It's one thing to hand out aid to countries; it's another thing to work with countries so they can develop their own democracies, so that they can develop their own economies so their people are employed. There are a huge number of unemployed people across this continent. And all of us know - and I learned this from the work that I've done with gang intervention projects in the United States - that if people are employed, if they can support their families, if they can be productive and constructive in their lives, they live happier and more successful lives.

So building economies, the debt relief part from the G8 is a very, very important part; the free trade part that people are discussing now ways to try to get rid of some of the subsidies that different countries have and that leave out African countries as trading partners is also another very important part of helping each one of these countries build their own economies.

Q Back to Jenna just for a second. Did you have to nudge her along a little bit? Because we heard that she wasn't going to go, at the beginning.

MRS. BUSH: No, she really wanted to go. She's very interested in this. Jenna teaches school, as you know, in a Washington school, inner-city school, and she's really interested in working with young people.

One thing I know about my girls, but I see it in all of their friends and in many of the young people I've met around the United States, is their commitment to helping people; their idealism. So I think it's certainly part of the age of young people, they're idealistic and they want to help. But I also know that it's a particularly American character and I admire that very much in my own girls and in many other young people I've met around the country and how they want to help and how they want to volunteer - in their own homes, in their own communities and around the world.

Q So she wasn't worried about the fishbowl stuff or getting in your way or whatever?

MRS. BUSH: No. No, she wasn't. she wanted to see her sister and she - of course, they got to have a private weekend with me, we went to one of the animal reserves and got to have a private weekend together. And then the girls got to have yesterday together.

Q Did you see a lion?

MRS. BUSH: We saw lions, we saw a number of lions.

Q How many of the big five did you get?

MRS. BUSH: We saw all, I think. We didn't see cheetahs, but we saw elephants and rhino and hippopotamus and lion and zebra - what else are the big five; is that it?

Q I think that's a good list. (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: Thanks, you all. Thank you for going on the trip. I think it's really important and this was -- also speaking to what Ann said earlier, I think it's really important for Americans to know what taxpayer dollars are doing in Africa. And some of these programs that we're highlighting get money from the U.S. taxpayers, from PEPFAR and from other programs, come from appropriations from our United States Congress.

But I also think it's important for Americans to know about either the private foundations or individuals or their churches, synagogues or mosques that are also working in Africa, to know the whole contribution of what the American people do. And I do think the American people see help for other countries, support for other countries, partnership with other countries as very important.

And so thanks for helping us highlight that and letting the American people know about it.

END 10:41 A.M. (Local)

Return to this article at:

Click to print this document