Ten years ago, President Bush used the State of the Union to unveil the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The program is a lasting legacy of the administration that has won praise from both sides of the aisle.
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, wrote Michael Gerson in remembering the occasion.
Because of the success of PEPFAR, there have been expectations in development circles that President Obama may too seek to leave his mark in a similar manner. The ten year anniversary, to some, may have been the right moment to make a surprise announcement. What happened was a speech that leaned heavily on rebuilding the American economy, improving education, immigration reform, national security and passing a gun bill.
The President did manage to squeeze in a few lines about international development. In them, he gave quick mention to existing programs and put his support to accomplishing an AIDS-free generation. Continue reading