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Remarks by President George W. Bush at the George W. Bush Presidential Center Voices of Freedom Luncheon
Please be seated. Sientese. I want to thank you all for coming. My job is to introduce Laura. But before I do so, I do want to say thanks to my dear friend José María Aznar, the former president of Spain. This is like the former president’s lunch. So I’m often asked, “Were you able to trust other world leaders during the presidency?” I said, “Not all of them…but there’s definitely some.” I trusted their belief system – they wouldn’t change under pressure. I trusted their vision. When we shook hands, I knew he wouldn’t change. One of the most trusted leaders, and a person who ended up as a dear friend, is José María. I’m glad you’re here. Thank you for coming.
I want to thank Antonio López-Istúriz. He’s the European People’s Party head, and so he’s going to talk to you a little bit. Most of you have no clue what the European People’s Party is. But it’s right-of-center thinkers. And we share something in common: we believe freedom leads to peace. And we believe freedom is a universal desire.
I want to thank my friend Carlos Gutierrez, who was the former Secretary of Commerce. Carlos was born in Cuba and his parents were wise enough to get out of there. And he ends up as Secretary of Commerce for the 43rd President. It’s an awesome country where people can come with dreams and aspirations and in this case watch their child become not only the CEO of a major U.S. company, but serve in the cabinet of the President of the United States.
I want to thank the three Cuban prisoners who are here. You’re going to hear from them later. It’s really important for the United States to understand that there are parts of the world where people get imprisoned for what they believe or how they worship. So one of the purposes today is to shine a light on the oppression in our own neighborhood. For those who thank that, you know, somehow we can convince Fidel Castro that all we got to do is be logical: all you got to do is hear the stories of the three prisoners who are with us today, one of whom is José Luís García Paneque. So I’m going to tell you an interesting story real quick. I used to love to meet with dissidents, political prisoners, and/or their families. I met this woman when I was president who told me that her husband was a medical doctor who was dying in a Cuban prison. And she had four children. She was helped by a church in Midland, Texas to learn to speak English, and she was working in a warehouse here in the Metroplex so that her four children had a chance to have a decent [life]. Her husband is José Luís, and it’s an an awesome story of love and courage. We’re proud he’s here.
I want to thank Bob Fu, the president and founder of the China Aid [Association], and Joe Torres, who’s [Chairman]. I want to thank the folks from China who have joined us, some of whose mother and father are in prison because they’re part of the 100 million worshipers, believers, in the underground church movement.
The purpose today is to honor freedom, remind people that certain people aren’t free, to make sure our country never turns our back on those who want to be free. And here to talk about an announcement that we’re going to make today regarding the Freedom Collection at the Bush Center -- so this is a place where dissidents, underground preachers, political prisoners, can store their writings, their diaries, their work. And there’s no place like it in the world. And it’s awesome that it’s on the SMU campus. There’s no place like SMU in the world either, by the way. And so Laura [Bush], why don’t you come on up?