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Bush's Africa show-and-tell

Almost any proud traveler has said it upon returning home: Hey, want to see the pictures from my trip?
President Bush shows off his dancing style Tuesday as he gives a slide show of his recent trip, which promotes development in Africa.Ron Edmonds / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Almost any proud traveler has said it upon returning home: Hey, want to see the pictures from my trip?

Sure, President Bush. Fire up the slideshow.

In a rare presidential show-and-tell, Bush spent almost 30 minutes Tuesday narrating images from his five-country journey across Africa. They technically weren't his pictures — the professionals from the White House photo office took them — but it was absolutely Bush's experience.

Five days after returning to the United States, he still seems caught up in what he saw.

"Without a doubt, this was the most exciting, exhilarating, uplifting trip I've taken since I've been the president," Bush told hundreds of guests at a hotel ballroom.

That, in perspective, is quite a statement.

Bush has ranged all over the globe as president: India and Pakistan, Singapore and Vietnam, France and Ireland, Japan and China, Chile and Colombia, on and on. He has met U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the pope in Vatican City, the queen in England, Mideast leaders in the holy land.

U.S. President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush greet Ghanaian tribal chiefs and members of tribes in Accra, Ghana, February 20, 2008. Bush met with 30 tribal chiefs during his visit to the International Trade Fair Center on the fourth leg of his trip to Africa. REUTERS/Jason Reed (GHANA)Jason Reed / X00458

What happened in Africa, however, captured moments that Bush and first lady Laura Bush can't share enough.

Poor nations, largely with the help of U.S. aid, are making gains in the fight against malaria and AIDS. They are building roads, expanding education, recovering from devastating conflicts. And, of course, they are effusively grateful to the United States and Bush.

"Having the power to save lives comes with the obligation to save lives," Bush said. "This mission rarely makes headlines in the United States."

He keeps trying, though.

Bush spoke to a friendly audience, hosted by the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, which works on behalf of Africa and vulnerable people. When he announced he had assembled a slideshow, the idea sounded so unlikely it generated unintended laughter.

Then came the pictures, shown on two screens behind Bush and two larger ones to the sides. The shots were expressive, and almost all were joyous.

Children lining the streets by the thousands. Mothers holding their healthy babies. Young boys playing tee-ball. African presidents beaming in pride.

In Tanzania, Bush's smiling face was emblazoned into fabric worn by men and women alike.

"I thought the dresses were pretty stylish," Bush said, as a photo showed women clothed in the George W. Bush fabric. "But my good wife reminded me that I shouldn't expect to see them flying off the shelves in American stores anytime soon."

Another shot showed Bush standing aside a giant, stuffed lion — a gift of Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. "Memorable gift," Bush said. "Laura said we probably need another pet. I'm worried that Barney might be slightly intimidated."

He also poked some fun at himself. Like the night in Ghana when a state dinner ended with some impromptu dancing on his part.

"Some of us put on a better performance than others," Bush said. The accompanying photo showed him with hands up, arms out, trying to find the rhythm.

There were reflective moments, too — laying a wreath at the genocide memorial in Rwanda, inspecting the troops in war-ruined Liberia.

Bush, capping the slideshow, said Americans should feel mighty proud.

"We recognize the extraordinary potential of Africa," Bush said. "In schoolchildren waving flags on dusty roadsides, to nurses caring for their patients at busy clinics, to artisans selling their products in scorching heat, we saw people who have been given great challenges — and responded to them."