George W. Bush: Freedom not just another word
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President George W. Bush had plenty to say about freedom during a rare public speech Tuesday — he uttered the word about two dozen times — but noticeably absent was a single mention of Afghanistan or Iraq, or of President Barack Obama.
“No advance of freedom is inevitable. And any gain can be lost. But there is a reason for the momentum of liberty across the centuries: Human beings were not designed for servitude. They were created for better things. And the human soul is forever restless until it rests in freedom,” Bush said at a George W. Bush Presidential Center event titled “A Celebration of Human Freedom.”
Speaking just a block away from the White House, Bush made no mention of the building’s current occupant, or of the two wars he launched while in office. Instead, the former president spoke in generalities, cautiously greeting the Arab Spring — “the broadest challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism,” he said — while warning of its challenges, and also promoting freedom as an American value that should be universal.
“America does not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East, or elsewhere. It only gets to choose what side it is on,” the 43rd President of the United States said — one of 23 times he uttered the word “freedom,” according to prepared remarks.
“In promoting freedom, our methods must be flexible. Change comes at different paces in different places. Liberty often arrives not in leaps, but in steps. Yet flexibility does not mean ambiguity. The same principles must apply to all countries,” he added.
Bush appeared relaxed, and even opened with a joke about his own freedom.
“I actually found my freedom from leaving Washington, but it’s good on occasion to be back and see old friends,” quipped Bush. “The members of the Bush administration — the mighty Bush administration — thanks for showing up.”
Bush made his remarks before an introduction, by former first lady Laura Bush, of Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi . The pro-democracy activist, recently sworn in to the Burmese parliament, appeared via Skype video-conference.
Suu Kyi said she doesn’t oppose Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) suggestion to suspend sanctions against Burma.
“I’m not against the suspension of sanctions … I do advocate caution though, I sometimes feel that people are too optimistic about the scene in Burma,” said Suu Kyi.
“I’m very satisfied with what the United States has done. I look upon the United States as a very good friend,” she added later.