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What We’re Reading | February 15, 2013

February 15, 2013 5 minute Read by Jacqueline Lowe

Words That Saved Millions and What George W. Bush Did Right

Two articles this week featured the work of President George W. Bush in launching the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and succeeding in saving millions of lives through "largest financial commitment of any country to global health and to treatment of any specific disease worldwide." Foreign Policy says, The 43rd president of the United States did a great thing for humankind -- but most Americans have no idea. It's impossible to tell exactly how many lives the program has saved, though Secretary of State John Kerry recently claimed that 5 million people are alive today because of it. That's probably as good an estimate as any.” Both articles point out that PEPFAR was announced for the first time during President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union – a good reminder that sometimes speeches can change lives. Michael Gerson recalls that speech in his RealClearPolitics article: “In retrospect, the words were not particularly memorable. But the moment was remarkable. An initiative of this scale and ambition -- the largest effort to fight a single disease in history -- was utterly unexpected. Bush's strongest political supporters had not demanded it. His strongest critics, at least for a time, remained suspicious. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) existed entirely because of a willing leader, a creative policy team, a smattering of activists and a vast, bleeding need.”

Burmese political activists recount their country’s recent “opening” at Bush Institute event

The Dallas Morning News covers the visit to the Bush Center this week by four Burmese women activists who have long fought for and finally seen recent progress in their native country. “The four women shared intimate details about their triumphs and travails, mixing cautious optimism about the country’s recent political and economic “opening” with a wary acknowledgement of ongoing problems.” The visit, part of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women program, was co-sponsored by the Human Freedom and Women’s Initiatives at the George W. Bush Institute, the McCain Institute and Meridian International, and included a taping of each woman’s story for the Bush Institute’s Freedom Collection. The reporter noted the event “could be a preview of the kind of programming the Bush Institute will offer when the George W. Bush Presidential Center opens at SMU in April.” More on the visit and the recent progress in Burma can be found on the Bush Center Blog.

Forgetting Prosperity

“It is common to hear people discuss 2% annual growth and 8% unemployment as the “new normal.”” This article by Carl Schramm of The 4% Growth Project looks at how current attitudes about future economic growth and prosperity may mirror those during the Great Depression and why that is important. “The sentiment felt today is not unprecedented in history. During the Great Depression there was likewise a feeling that recovery might never come.” Schramm points out the danger in this kind of thinking, especially for young adults who have been among the most affected by unemployment, and who will inevitably be the most affected by rising national debts. “Perhaps most alarming is that Americans between the ages of 18 and 27 have never known what it’s like to participate in a robust, growing, economy.”  Schramm argues, “It’s worth looking at the Depression with a new eye on what in retrospect seemed to be an inevitable recovery.”

NCLB Waivers Weaken Graduation Rate Accountability: Alliance For Excellent Education Study

According to an Alliance for Excellent Education study, examined in the Huffington Post this week, many states that have been granted waivers from No Child Left Behind are relaxing or even ignoring federal regulations designed to hold schools accountable for the number of students who graduate from high school on time.  The waivers are potentially allowing low-performing students to once again fall through the cracks.  The report states: "Legitimate equality questions arise as to whether all students in the state are being held to the same high standard.”

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