As I prepare to leave for Africa to attend the Leon H. Sullivan U.S.-African Trade Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, President Bush is returning from his historic tour of Africa as the first-ever Republican president to visit the continent. The Sullivan Summit is named in honor of the late Dr. Leon H. Sullivan, the tireless and courageous advocate of civil and human rights and building bridges of trade and investment between the United States and Africa. Ambassador Andrew Young is the chairman of the Sullivan Summit and it is my privilege to serve as his vice chair.
Bush began his five-nation tour with a memorable address on Goree Island, off the coast of Senegal, by discussing our own country's history with slavery and race relations as well as his vision of hope and opportunity for the people of Africa. During his address, he correctly called slavery "one of the greatest crimes in history" and further quoted President John Adams, who referred to slavery as "an evil of colossal magnitude."
The president also observed that "Enslaved Africans heard the ringing promises of the Declaration of Independence and asked the self-evident question, then why not me?" Escaped slaves like Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman touched our hearts and opened our eyes to the harsh realities of slavery. Educators like Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois opened our minds and awakened our consciences to the possibilities of a future where all could share in the promise of America. Ministers like Sullivan and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stirred our souls with faith and hope that one day all Americans would be free at last.
What unites the people of the United States with the people of Africa is what Bush rightly characterized as our "belief in the natural rights of man, this conviction that justice should reach wherever the sun passes." To advance these ideals, the administration has adopted three policy priorities: to promote good governance, advance political and economic freedom, and combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
It would be ironic if Congress cuts the budget for the president's main proposals for combating poverty and AIDS in Africa while many of its members continue to lambaste his policies for AIDS victims and the poor at home. And, despite the criticism of some Democratic operatives about Bush's visit to Africa as nothing more than photo-op diplomacy, I think Secretary of State Colin Powell had it exactly right when he said the substantive proposals on Millennium Challenge Accounts, trade and AIDS demonstrate that Africa is a priority for this administration. That said, the visit would have been significant if for no other reason than to work to bring peace and stability to Liberia.