George Weigel concludes his column (see the previous post) on the Bush legacy with a thanks for his Christian witness:
I should like to thank him for his unapologetic confession of Christian faith, and for his testimony to the importance that prayer plays in his life. And I should like to thank him for not giving a hoot about the mockery that such a witness draws.I will always love and admire Bush because as the Leader of the Free World he never missed an opportunity to stand with "the least of these." Can you think of anyone more forgotten and less important in the eyes of our culture than the unborn, African AIDS & malaria patients, Afghan women, Sunni & Shiite Muslims, immigrants, dissidents of tyrannical nations, the wounded and grieving parents of fallen soldiers? Nobody really cares about any of those folks --the media can't even be bothered to report their plight when it doesn't suit their own purposes to do so. Not so George Bush. Here's a little pictorial reminder of the man's perpetual commitment to the dignity of the human person.
His first serious public act --and his first address to the nation as President-- was refusing to allow federal funding for experiments on human embryos. Here's my list of everything he did to build a culture of life in eight years --which doesn't include a few things he's done since, including clarifying conscience rules for medical professionals and declaring Sanctity of Human Life Day. This baby was a frozen embryo rescued by Operation Snowflake. Bush invited the group to the White House for a photo op to help the rest of us see what we are advocating when we support embryonic stem cell research.
Here he receives a hero's welcome in Tanzania, and you can go here and here and here for more pictures and explanation of why he is beloved all over Africa.
Since Mr. Bush took office, U.S. development aid to Africa has tripled, funding for HIV programs has vaulted from less than $1 billion to more than $6 billion per year and garment exports from Africa to the United States, fueled by special trade deals, increased sevenfold, according to U.S. statistics.He's estimated to have saved 10 million lives with his programs to fight AIDS & malaria, and his trade deals tied to anti-corruption programs have lifted countless more into a more human way of life, with hope for a better future. The greatest threat to the poor is corruption, and Bush took it on.
Honestly, do you think anyone in the West before George Bush gave a fig for Muslims in the Middle East? The attitude of most of us as militant thugs march through the streets of our major cities is a collective yawn. As long as they stick to their ghettos and stay out of sight, we're perfectly happy to let them beat up on each other. That's our official, enlightened, UN policy towards Muslims: nothing can be done, they're all crazy.
Bush, on the other hand, believed in them. Yes the wars in Afghanistan & Iraq were about US security. But sticking it out when Iraq went poorly required more than commitment to our safety --it required also a belief that the Iraqi people would rise up to be free. Bush gave them a chance no one else was willing to. Bush was willing to lose his reputation on behalf of these people. The press, which fancies itself the champion of the oppressed, was not.
The beaten women of Afghanistan not only voted for the first time, they took seats in Parliament! Not content, Bush also sent the First Lady there repeatedly to champion the rights of women, keeping the eyes of the world on the region so they couldn't go back.
He was a champion of freedom for Latin America. His Millennium Challenge Account, like the Pepfar program that tied trade to transparency and reform, was a boon for little people. This is what he said in a speech before the Hispanic Chamber:
social justice requires economies that make it possible for workers to provide for their families and to rise in society. For too long and in too many places, opportunity in Latin America has been determined by the accident of birth rather than by the application of talents and initiative. In his many writings, Pope John Paul II spoke eloquently about creating systems that respect the dignity of work and the right to private initiative. Latin America needs capitalism for the campesino, a true capitalism that allows people who start from nothing to rise as far as their skills and their hard work can take them.You may or may not have liked his immigration policy, but I admire his effort to make legal immigrants feel welcome and to make them into Americans. Here he is at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, which he always took as an occasion to honor hispanic soldiers, highlight hispanic service in faith-based institutions, and to call attention to dissidents in Spanish-speaking nations.
It's essential that the United States always remember, in our great comfort that we always remember that there are those who want their freedom just like we have our freedom. One of those men is Juan Carlos Gonzales Leiva. He's a lawyer and human rights activist on the island of Cuba. Juan Carlos was unjustly jailed for more than two years by the Cuban regime because he supported a dissident journalist. While he was imprisoned, his cane and his dark glasses were confiscated -- which was especially cruel, because Juan Carlos is blind. The guards took away his Braille Bible. But they could not take away his spirit. Today, Juan Carlos is no longer in jail, but he remains under the surveillance of the Cuban government. Juan Carlos continues his important fight for human rights in Cuba, and the United States must always stand squarely with those who struggle for their human rights against tyranny. And today we're honored that his hermano is with us...
Indeed he never missed an opportunity to call attention to dissidents. He went to China and told them to free their people! The Koreans came out by the hundreds of thousands to see him. He met with democracy advocates in Burma. Remember when he attended the dissidents' conference? What heads of state do that?
He always made time for grieving families, meeting with more than 500 of them and writing to each one personally. He spent more than 500 hours visiting wounded soldiers and having them to the White House.
He was kind to his enemies. Here's he's giving a hand to Sen. Byrd, who has always said such ugly and self-righteous things about him.
He danced with the Georgians & Liberians. He cried with the grieving. He even made time for a picture with a little old lady just because her kids put a sign up where his motorcade would pass.
And did any of us even once hear him complain about his vile treatment? Or say anything other than that it was a "joy" an honor and a privilege to serve us?
Christianity is not a get out of stupid free card. History will judge the wisdom of this or that of his policies. But that we as a people should have failed to recognize the great goodness of this man who has been a relentless champion of human dignity and freedom everywhere --especially that of everyone who "doesn't matter"-- is to our everlasting shame. I take comfort that some Americans appreciated him.