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The Year in Review: The Bush Institute's Global Impact

December 16, 2016 //   7 minute read

The George W. Bush Institute marched forward in 2016 toward its goals of developing leaders, advancing policy, and taking action to solve today's most pressing challenges. The year also saw Kenneth Hersh become president and CEO of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, as his predecessor, Margaret Spellings, departed to head the University of North Carolina System.

As we look back over 2016, here are five top moments from the Bush Institute's Global Leadership Impact Center, which houses the Human Freedom Initiative, the Women's Initiative, and our global health initiative through our affiliate Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.

Bush Institute Releases We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope Book

The book launched with an event at the Bush Center featuring a poignant conversation between Mrs. Bush and Razia Jan, who is featured in the book, moderated by Greta Van Susteren. Mrs. Bush promoted the book with a media tour throughout March, including interviews with the TODAY show and Glamour magazine, and an editorial in The Washington Post.

Mrs. Bush has been a longtime advocate for Afghan women. November 17, 2016 marked 15 years since her historic President’s weekly radio address – a first for a First Lady – to direct international attention to the Taliban’s oppression of women. She spoke recently about the momentous anniversary, the gains made by Afghan women, the challenges that remain, and her hope for the future of Afghanistan.

Promoting Freedom and Leadership

Imagine if regimes like China, Russia, and North Korea were allowed to shape the world. Basic rights would be trampled and anyone opposing their worldview would suffer.

That’s why the Bush Institute’s Human Freedom Initiative, spearheaded by Global Initiatives Director Amanda Schnetzer, promotes U.S. leadership in extending freedom to people everywhere. We’re elevating freedom advocates who risk everything for liberty, developing a new generation of democratic leaders in Burma, and advancing policy that improves the human condition in North Korea. In doing so, we support those who are struggling against oppression and remind Americans about the preciousness of their own freedom.

In June 2016, we hosted Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, a former prisoner of conscience who could not receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to him in 2007 because he was incarcerated for promoting democracy and human rights in Cuba. Nine years later, he left Cuba for the first time and received his medal from President George W. Bush.

In October 2016, the Bush Institute welcomed its third class of Young Leaders from Burma. President and Mrs. Bush greeted the Young Leaders and offered encouragement saying,

Here’s what’s exciting: a group of leaders can change a country. Through the Liberty and Leadership Forum, we want to provide you with the tools that will help you be agents of change.

In doing so, President Bush observed that their “great country could be a beacon” to others struggling for freedom.

North Korea: Light Through the Darkness

The year concluded with a November 29th Forum on Freedom in North Korea, where President Bush sent a clear message about the need to integrate human rights and security issues in the United States' North Korea policy. Mrs. Bush also announced a new scholarship program to support the small but growing community of North Korean refugees in the United States.

The forum featured two panel discussions that included Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, former Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, North Korean refugees Joseph Kim and Grace Jo, Bush Institute Fellow Victor Cha, Ambassador Robert Gallucci, and Washington Post columnist Michel Gerson.

Cha and Gallucci were the authors of the Light Through The Darkness: Toward a New Policy and Strategy for North Korea report that was released during the forum. The document lays out core principles of national security strategy for North Korea that integrates human rights.

A second report, Education and Employment Among U.S.-Based North Koreans, also was released during the forum. The analysis is a qualitative study of the challenges and opportunities faced by North Korean refugees in the United States.

First Ladies Initiative Participates in Concordia Summit

In September, the Bush Institute’s First Ladies Initiative hosted a panel on global women’s empowerment at the 2016 Concordia Summit in New York. The panel featured prominent voices on the topic, including Mrs. Cherie Blair,  Her Excellency Monica Geingos of Namibia, Anita McBride, Jim Jones, and Kathy Calvin, and was moderated by youth activist Vivian Onano.

Their conversation highlighted the invaluable role of women’s leadership and partnership to improve lives. The discussion especially emphasized the role and influence of First Ladies, the focus of a new research report coming out from the First Ladies Initiative, in close collaboration with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), in spring 2017. The research aims to identify and analyze the factors that contribute to as well as inhibit a First Lady from using her platform to improve lives.

Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Marks 5th Anniversary

This fall marked the 5th anniversary of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, an independent affiliate of the Bush Institute that leads coordinated action to save women’s lives from cancer. The organization has made great strides in working to provide prevention, screening, and treatment services for cervical and breast cancer to women in Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Ethiopia, and Namibia.

Since 2011, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon and its partners have vaccinated more than 119,000 girls against the human papillomavirus, screened more than 340,000 women for cervical cancer, treated more than 24,000 women for cervical cancer, and screened nearly 18,000 women for breast cancer.   

In November, the Minister of Health in Peru and Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon signed a partnership agreement to expand the fight against cervical cancer, making Peru the sixth country to roll-out Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon programs.