So why did he do it? As singer-songwriter Bob Geldof pointed out, "There are no votes in helping the poor of Africa, but Bush did it anyway." It clearly wasn't about winning votes or political gain. It was not about fodder for stump speeches and empty promises of hope. Instead of being about catch phrases that simply ring hollow, the president's quiet efforts in Africa have been about action, about compassion and about results.
Mr. Bush's unheralded commitment to helping the people and nations of Africa reminds us that we are the generation who will have it within our power not only to move hearts and minds but also to raise our hands to shape the very future of families, communities and even a continent. The ability to empower others rests not in empty promises or high-minded rhetoric, but rather in real actions that not only change lives, but also change the world.
During my trade mission to Africa as Maryland's lieutenant governor and on subsequent visits, I had the opportunity to witness firsthand how the seeds of empowerment were being planted through market reforms, health initiatives and long-term strategic planning across the African continent. I gained a new appreciation for the kind of business climate that continuing market liberalization and privatization can create, and also for the impact that U.S.-sponsored trade legislation truly offers as a mechanism of support.
Measures such as the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Southern Africa Customs Union Free Trade Agreement (SACU-FRA) are making Africa more attractive to American companies who are interested in doing business on the continent. These reforms and the partnerships they foster will shape the economy of both continents for generations to come.
The time is ripe for Africa — and an African renaissance is beginning to emerge across the globe. Because of the efforts of the Bush administration, America will have an important role to play in helping to sustain that renaissance. But it will be equally important for future administrations to appreciate what Mr. Bush's leadership on Africa exemplified: The character of America is not so much revealed in what we say or the public attention we may get, but in what we do when no is watching.