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President Bush Speaks at Goree Island in Senegal
Remarks by the President on Goree Island
Goree Island, Senegal

11:47 A.M. (Local)

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. President and Madam First Lady, distinguished guests and residents of Goree Island, citizens of Senegal, I'm honored to begin my visit to Africa in your beautiful country.

For hundreds of years on this island peoples of different continents met in fear and cruelty. Today we gather in respect and friendship, mindful of past wrongs and dedicated to the advance of human liberty.

At this place, liberty and life were stolen and sold. Human beings were delivered and sorted, and weighed, and branded with the marks of commercial enterprises, and loaded as cargo on a voyage without return. One of the largest migrations of history was also one of the greatest crimes of history.

Below the decks, the middle passage was a hot, narrow, sunless nightmare; weeks and months of confinement and abuse and confusion on a strange and lonely sea. Some refused to eat, preferring death to any future their captors might prepare for them. Some who were sick were thrown over the side. Some rose up in violent rebellion, delivering the closest thing to justice on a slave ship. Many acts of defiance and bravery are recorded. Countless others, we will never know.

Those who lived to see land again were displayed, examined, and sold at auctions across nations in the Western Hemisphere. They entered societies indifferent to their anguish and made prosperous by their unpaid labor. There was a time in my country's history when one in every seven human beings was the property of another. In law, they were regarded only as articles of commerce, having no right to travel, or to marry, or to own possessions. Because families were often separated, many denied even the comfort of suffering together.

For 250 years the captives endured an assault on their culture and their dignity. The spirit of Africans in America did not break. Yet the spirit of their captors was corrupted. Small men took on the powers and airs of tyrants and masters. Years of unpunished brutality and bullying and rape produced a dullness and hardness of conscience. Christian men and women became blind to the clearest commands of their faith and added hypocrisy to injustice. A republic founded on equality for all became a prison for millions. And yet in the words of the African proverb, "no fist is big enough to hide the sky." All the generations of oppression under the laws of man could not crush the hope of freedom and defeat the purposes of God.

In America, enslaved Africans learned the story of the exodus from Egypt and set their own hearts on a promised land of freedom. Enslaved Africans discovered a suffering Savior and found he was more like themselves than their masters. Enslaved Africans heard the ringing promises of the Declaration of Independence and asked the self-evident question, then why not me?

In the year of America's founding, a man named Olaudah Equiano was taken in bondage to the New World. He witnessed all of slavery's cruelties, the ruthless and the petty. He also saw beyond the slave-holding piety of the time to a higher standard of humanity. "God tells us," wrote Equiano, "that the oppressor and the oppressed are both in His hands. And if these are not the poor, the broken-hearted, the blind, the captive, the bruised which our Savior speaks of, who are they?"

Down through the years, African Americans have upheld the ideals of America by exposing laws and habits contradicting those ideals. The rights of African Americans were not the gift of those in authority. Those rights were granted by the Author of Life, and regained by the persistence and courage of African Americans, themselves.

Among those Americans was Phyllis Wheatley, who was dragged from her home here in West Africa in 1761, at the age of seven. In my country, she became a poet, and the first noted black author in our nation's history. Phyllis Wheatley said, "In every human breast, God has implanted a principle which we call love of freedom. It is impatient of oppression and pants for deliverance."

That deliverance was demanded by escaped slaves named Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth, educators named Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois, and ministers of the Gospel named Leon Sullivan and Martin Luther King, Jr. At every turn, the struggle for equality was resisted by many of the powerful. And some have said we should not judge their failures by the standards of a later time. Yet, in every time, there were men and women who clearly saw this sin and called it by name.

We can fairly judge the past by the standards of President John Adams, who called slavery "an evil of callosal magnitude." We can discern eternal standards in the deeds of William Wilberforce and John Quincy Adams, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Abraham Lincoln. These men and women, black and white, burned with a zeal for freedom, and they left behind a different and better nation. Their moral vision caused Americans to examine our hearts, to correct our Constitution, and to teach our children the dignity and equality of every person of every race. By a plan known only to Providence, the stolen sons and daughters of Africa helped to awaken the conscience of America. The very people traded into slavery helped to set America free.

My nation's journey toward justice has not been easy and it is not over. The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end with slavery or with segregation. And many of the issues that still trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other times. But however long the journey, our destination is set: liberty and justice for all.

In the struggle of the centuries, America learned that freedom is not the possession of one race. We know with equal certainty that freedom is not the possession of one nation. This belief in the natural rights of man, this conviction that justice should reach wherever the sun passes leads America into the world.

With the power and resources given to us, the United States seeks to bring peace where there is conflict, hope where there is suffering, and liberty where there is tyranny. And these commitments bring me and other distinguished leaders of my government across the Atlantic to Africa.

African peoples are now writing your own story of liberty. Africans have overcome the arrogance of colonial powers, overturned the cruelties of apartheid, and made it clear that dictatorship is not the future of any nation on this continent. In the process, Africa has produced heroes of liberation -- leaders like Mandela, Senghor, Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Selassie and Sadat. And many visionary African leaders, such as my friend, have grasped the power of economic and political freedom to lift whole nations and put forth bold plans for Africa's development.

Because Africans and Americans share a belief in the values of liberty and dignity, we must share in the labor of advancing those values. In a time of growing commerce across the globe, we will ensure that the nations of Africa are full partners in the trade and prosperity of the world. Against the waste and violence of civil war, we will stand together for peace. Against the merciless terrorists who threaten every nation, we will wage an unrelenting campaign of justice. Confronted with desperate hunger, we will answer with human compassion and the tools of human technology. In the face of spreading disease, we will join with you in turning the tide against AIDS in Africa.

We know that these challenges can be overcome, because history moves in the direction of justice. The evils of slavery were accepted and unchanged for centuries. Yet, eventually, the human heart would not abide them. There is a voice of conscience and hope in every man and woman that will not be silenced -- what Martin Luther King called a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. That flame could not be extinguished at the Birmingham jail. It could not be stamped out at Robben Island Prison. It was seen in the darkness here at Goree Island, where no chain could bind the soul. This untamed fire of justice continues to burn in the affairs of man, and it lights the way before us.

May God bless you all. (Applause.)

END 11:55 A.M. (Local)


Your Comments

Barry Ellison, - wrote on 7/7/2011 10:20:38 AM
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Comment: One of the most significant speeches for President Bush to me one that highlighted history both past and present and shown glimpse of the future to be.


Barry Ellison, - wrote on 7/7/2011 10:19:58 AM
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Comment: One of the most significant speeches for President Bush to me one that highlighted history both past and present and shown glimpse of the future to be.


Barry Ellison, - wrote on 7/7/2011 10:19:09 AM
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Comment: One of the most significant speeches for President Bush to me one that highlighted history both past and present and shown glimpse of the future to be.


Heather , Kansas, USA - wrote on 2/7/2004 7:31:10 AM
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Comment: This was truly touching. How selfish we live our lives here in the states. To each day is something we take for granted. The people of Senegal sound focused, un-rehearsed, nurturing and yet understanding to our ignorance. They are forgiving in many ways aren't they? How I could only dream that I could be more like they. Bless you all.


Margaret G Davis, Beverly Hills, Fl - wrote on 7/19/2003 2:10:40 PM
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Comment: In keeping with our Christian values, I found this speech inspiring. Continue with wisdom and looking to the author and finisher of our faith. I thank God for you, our President


Jessica Ayub, Minnesota, USA - wrote on 7/16/2003 11:05:55 AM
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Comment: These comments were from a local in Senegal about Pres. Bush's visit there: "Dearest friends, As you probably know, this week George Bush is visiting Africa. Starting with Senegal, he arrived this morning at 7.20 AM and left at 1.30 PM. This visit has been such an ordeal that a petition is being circulated for this Tuesday July 8th be named Dependency Day. Let me share with you what we have been trough since last week. 1- Arrestations : more than 1,500 persons have been arrested and put in jail between Thursday and Monday. Hopefully they will be released now that the Big Man is gone 2- The US Army's planes flying day and nigh over Dakar. The noise they make is so loud that one hardly sleeps at night 3- About 700 security people from the US for Bush's security in Senegal, with their dogs, and their cars. Senegalese security forces were not allowed to come near the US president 4- All trees in places where Bush will pass have been cut. Some of them were more than 100 years old. 5- All roads going down town (were hospitals, businesses, schools are located) were closed from Monday night to Tuesday at 3 PM. This means that we could not go to our offices or schools. Sick people were also obliged to stay at home. 6- National exams for high schools that started on Monday are postponed until Wednesday. Bush's visit to the Goree Island is another story. As you may know Goree is a small Island facing Dakar where from the 15th to the 19th century, the African slaves to be shipped to America were parked in special houses called slave houses. One of these houses has become a Museum to remind humanity about this dark period and has been visited by kings, queens, presidents. Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, and before them, Nelson Mandela, the Pope, and many other distinguished guests or ordinary tourists visited it without bothering the Islanders. But for "security reasons" this time, the local population was chased out of their houses from 5 to 12 AM. They were forced by the American security to leave their houses and leaves everything open, including their wardrobes to be searched by special dogs brought from the US. The ferry that links the island to Dakar was stopped and offices and businesses closed for the day. According to an economist who was interviewed by a private radio, Senegal that is a very poor country has lost huge amount of money in this visit, because workers have been prevented from walking out of their homes. In addition to us being prevented to go out, other humiliating things happened also. Not only Bush brought did not want to be with Senegalese but he did not want to use our things. He brought his own armchairs, and of course his own cars, and meals and drinks. He came with his own journalists and ours were forbidden inside the airport and in place he was visiting. Our president was not allowed to make a speech. Only Bush spoke when he was in Goree. He spoke about slavery. It seems that he needs the vote of the African American to be elected in the next elections, and wanted to please them. That's why he visited Goree. Several protest marches against American politics have been organized yesterday and even when Bush was here, but we think he does not care. We have the feeling that everything has been done to convince us that we are nothing, and that America can behave the way it wants, everywhere, even in our country. Believe me friends, it is a terrible feeling. But according to a Ugandan friend of mine, I should not complain because it Uganda one of the country he is going to visit, Bush does not intend to go out of the airport. He will receive the Ugandan President in the airport lounge Nevertheless, I think I am lucky, because I have such wonderful American friends. But there are now thousands of Senegalese who believe that for all Americans the world is their territory. Love to you all"


Ct Musafir, - wrote on 7/16/2003 9:42:36 AM
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Comment: Assalamualaikum brother, please be very careful - what is so much meaning of beautifuls words when there are meant to be broken. Somebody might have been paid to produced such a beautiful speech. May Allah bless you.


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