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7/9/03 - BUSH ON SLAVERY AND FREEDOM - 2003-07-10

The evil of slavery was the subject of President George W. Bush's first speech on his five-nation trip to Africa. On Goree Island in Senegal, Mr. Bush toured a house used centuries ago to process African slaves being sent to America. "Here," he said, "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. For two-hundred-and-fifty years, the captives endured an assault on their culture and their dignity. A republic founded on equality for all became a prison for millions."

But generations of oppression of blacks in America, said President Bush, could not crush the enslaved people's spirit -- or their hope for freedom:

"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. But however long a journey, our destination is set -- liberty and justice for all."

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery in the United States, was ratified in 1865 after a bloody civil war. Years of discrimination against blacks followed but, as Mr. Bush said, Americans learned that freedom is not the possession of one race -- or 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."

Despite the painful history of slavery, the U.S. and African nations are working together to stop the spread of AIDS and war, and to encourage political and economic reform.