Bush speech touches on wide range of topics, attendees say

Karen McDonald

President Bush plans to sign a bill next week to help cure disease and hunger in Africa, he told a crowd of about 1,400 at a Peoria fundraiser on Friday.

The bill, he said, is to remember freedom is not just freedom from oppression. It’s also freedom from hunger and disease. He asked what is more hopeless than a person who watches a parent die from AIDS, or a child die from a mosquito-borne disease.

Those are among the recollections of Bush’s speech that some who heard it gave to the Journal Star. The press was not allowed inside the event.

The president also shared a personal story about his wife, Laura.

He told the crowd if she would have known when he proposed that he’d be taking her to the White House she would have "turned him down flat."

A transformational moment occurred when Laura Bush talked to the women of Afghanistan, telling them America would not abandon their desire for freedom.

At that moment, President Bush said, she realized her power to move people and to make a difference in people’s lives.

The guts of the president’s speech — which lasted between 30 and 50 minutes depending on whom you asked — included brief discussions on the economy, the war on terror, the need to diversify energy resources and to drill for oil in the United States.

Bush also said congressional candidate and state Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, 26, the sole reason for his visit to Peoria, was about the same age as his daughters, which means one of two things: "Either I’m getting old, or it’s time for some new blood in Congress."

Bush talked about how Schock is familiar with small business and agriculture issues pertinent to the region.

Peoria City Councilman Eric Turner addressed the crowd before Bush and Schock were introduced. Turner predicted that one day Schock would become president.

Karen McDonald can be reached at (309) 686-3285 or