One can criticize President Bush for many things, but I cant recall any other American President making mention of the plight of the Cuban people so often, so publicly, with nothing to gain politically. Here are President Bush’s thoughts on what made his year special, via Parade magazine:
It’s been a tumultuous year for President Bush. So when PARADE asked him to share his thoughts on the best and worst moments of 2007, we didn’t know what to expect. Would he talk about the war in Iraq, the housing crisis or the California wildfires? The President told us right away that he is “an optimist” and chose to describe five people who inspired him in 2007. Their stories offer a glimpse into what matters to Mr. Bush as he begins his final year in office and his last chance to shape his legacy.
What Made My Year Special
President George W. Bush
December 30, 2007
Every year about this time, the Christmas decorations come down and Washington gets ready to go back to work. In these quiet moments, Laura and I like to take stock of the year that has passed. Inevitably we find that our most treasured memories revolve around the extraordinary people we have met. These men and women inspire us, they touch our hearts, and they remind us of the true strength of our nation.
Dan and Maureen Murphy are two of these people. In June 2005, their son—Lt. Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL—was conducting surveillance in Afghanistan when his four-man team came under attack. Lt. Murphy moved into a clearing where he could get a signal to call for help for his men, knowing it would make him a target. As he made the call, he came under heavy fire that cost him his life. In a meeting before I presented Maureen Murphy with her son’s Medal of Honor, she spoke of the boy she’d raised to manhood. I came away from that day hoping that Lt. Murphy’s story would inspire all Americans to live lives worthy of the sacrifices that have been made for our freedom.
Another leader who inspires me is Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. His work is important because the more we understand the human genome, the greater the opportunity for breakthroughs in the fight against cancer, diabetes and other diseases. Francis also is a believer in God. At this year’s National Prayer Breakfast, I heard him speak about how the work he does helps him fulfill his religious calling to alleviate human suffering. Francis is both a man of science and a man of faith. In November, I was proud to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Throughout 2007, I also was grateful for the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs like Cordia Harrington. A little more than a decade ago, Cordia was a single mom with a dream of starting her own company. Today, she owns a thriving bakery, employs more than 200 people and calls herself “the bun lady.” One hot day last July, I flew to Nashville to see her factory and meet Cordia. I found a strong spirit of enterprise. Risk-takers like Cordia create jobs and opportunities for their fellow citizens and show the world the power of the American Dream.
This year, I’ve also been deeply touched by the spirit of people from around the globe. One of these is Kunene Tantoh. Five years ago, the future for this South African woman looked bleak: She was HIV-positive and pregnant. But—through a program called Mothers to Mothers, in a center that American generosity helped to fund—Kunene got the medical treatment she needed. Not only did she survive, she delivered a beautiful baby boy who is HIV-free. Laura met Kunene during a trip to Africa and introduced me to her at the White House in May when I proposed to double America’s commitment to global HIV/AIDS relief. That day in the Rose Garden, I held her smiling 4-year-old boy in my arms—a living example of the difference America is making for millions around the world.
Finally, I’m grateful for the way America inspires freedom-loving people everywhere. In October, Yamile Llanes Labrada came to visit me in the Oval Office. Yamile is the wife of Jose Luis Garcia Paneque, a doctor who is in a Cuban prison for the “crime” of advocating democracy. Yamile and her children had to flee Cuba after a mob surrounded their home. But she continues to press for her husband’s freedom. She told me of her deep gratitude for the way Americans have opened their arms to her and her family. And she stressed how important it is for men like her husband to know that, when others look away, America will speak up for their freedom.
One of the best parts of my job as President is the chance to meet men and women whose stories show the great heart of our country. Ours is a good and decent country, filled with caring, compassionate, hardworking people who use their skills and talents to build a better America and a more hopeful world. Their achievements make us proud. And their determination and character are the reasons I am so optimistic about America’s future—in 2008 and beyond.