ChristianActivities.com reported President George W. Bush received the “International Medal of PEACE” at the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day on December 1, 2009. The award, given in recognition of the President’s tireless efforts and unprecedented contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases, was presented by Dr. Rick Warren on behalf of the Global PEACE Coalition during the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Prior to receiving the award, the President announced that his President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) had fulfilled its commitment to support treatment for 2 million people ahead of schedule. “When we got started, there were 50,000 people getting anti-retrovirals in all sub-Sahara Africa, and we set a goal of 2 million people by five years. Today, we are able to announce that we are over 2 million in less than five years.” President Bush said he insisted on measurable goals because he felt lives needed to be saved. The President explained the success of the program depended on aligning authority and responsibility through partnership with local leadership on the ground.
“No world leader has done more for global health than President Bush,” Warren said. “The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief [PEPFAR] has saved millions of lives in the past five years, so it is fitting that he be awarded the first ‘International Medal of PEACE.’ said Pastor Warren on RickWarrenNews.com.
According to Rwandahealthcare.com in the country of Rwanda alone, there are about 190,000 people living with HIV/AIDS and treatment is only available to 25% of those who need it. Because of AIDS and other diseases like malaria, the average life expectancy is only 43 years. However, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is changing those numbers.
“They call what’s taking place in Africa, ‘the Lazarus effect’ – people given up for dead now realizing there is life,” President 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 can 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 better nation when we save lives.”
President Bush recognized Warren’s PEACE Plan, which encourages government to partner with faith and business leaders to seek solutions for needs around the world. He stressed the important role of the faith community saying, “I believe that when people join organizations to love their neighbor, that is a powerful incentive for effectiveness on the ground.” Bush compared government to justice and said that “Love comes from a higher government, higher calling – from God. 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 President stated that the intention of PEPFAR was not to take money away from domestic programs but to “build on what we have learned at home.” The Bushes plan to continue their work after leaving the White House through a new Freedom Institute in partnership with Southern Methodist University, Mrs. Bush’s alma mater.
Dignitaries who participated in video tributes before the “International Medal of PEACE” was awarded included: United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki Moon; former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; His Excellency Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; musical artist and humanitarian activist, Bono; philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates; and Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of The Global Fund.
After the award presentation, a video message from President-elect Barack Obama was shown congratulating President Bush for his accomplishments with HIV/AIDS. Then Mr. Obama commented on the future of world health saying, “This epidemic can’t be stopped by government alone, and money alone is not the answer either. All of us must do our part.”
RickWarrenNews.com states that the “International Medal of PEACE” is given to honor outstanding contributions toward combating the five “global goliaths” including pandemic diseases, extreme poverty, illiteracy, corruption and injustice and spiritual emptiness. This was the first award given by the PEACE Coalition, which is a network of churches, businesses and individuals to solve humanitarian issues through the PEACE Plan, an effort to mobilize millions of Christians to:
Equip servant leaders,
Assist the poor,
Care for the sick
Educate the next generation.