Scripps Invites Barbara Bush for Conservative Speaker Series

Barbara Pierce Bush, co-founder and chief executive officer of Global Health Corps and daughter of 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush, took the stage at Scripps College’s Garrison Theater March 24 to speak about her work in promoting healthcare access throughout the world. Her organization sends young people to different parts of globe, from New York City to Uganda, in order to partner with local organizations and bring medicine to those in need.

Bush’s lecture was the centerpiece of the 9th Annual Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program, an annual lecture series that aims to promote conversation on Scripps' campus by inviting primarily conservative speakers. Former speakers have included famous conservative voices such as Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

President Lori Bettison-Varga and trustee and Malott family member Liza Malott Pohle both gave introductions for Bush, who spoke to the audience about her path to becoming a global health advocate and the experiences she’s had working abroad. In her discussion of health care, she spoke to the need for balance between politics and policy in the approach to increasing access to health facilities around the globe. Her talk concluded with a short question and answer session.

To illustrate the kind of work done with her program, Bush gave the example of two fellows, Emily Bearse and Jeffrey Misomali, who worked in a district in Machinga, a region in Tanzania of 400,000 people of whom 25% are HIV positive.

“Jeffery and Emily specifically rolled out a prevention of mother to child transmission program in this district in Machinga," Bush said in her lecture. "Throughout the year, they enrolled 7,000 HIV positive expecting women into their program … Nine months later, these women gave birth, and all 7,000 of them gave birth to an HIV negative child.”

Bush emphasized that GHC seeks to bring an increasing amount of talented young people into healthcare, and is passionate about investing in leaders for the future. Beyond the non-profit's work, Bush is excited to see what ideas young thinkers bring to confronting global health challenges. She encouraged Claremont students to take apply for positions with GHC. 

Rebecca Dutta SC ’15 expressed an appreciation for Bush’s lecture.

“I thought she was awesome,” Dutta said.  “I definitely have met a lot of people that were very suspicious, people that were like, ‘Oh, I hope there’s going to be people picketing the talk!’ But I think it’s so important. Especially her message of policy over politics, I thought that was an extremely important message to give, especially to students here.”

The lecture series has not come without controversy. Bush replaced conservative political pundit George Will as guest lecturer, who was uninvited in October after he wrote a controversial column for the Washington Post that said being a victim of sexual assault was "a coveted status that confers privileges" on college campuses.

“Sexual assault is not a conservative or liberal issue,” Bettison-Varga wrote in an Oct. 7 letter to the Scripps College community. “And it is too important to be trivialized in a political debate or wrapped into a celebrity controversy. For that reason, after Mr. Will authored a column questioning the validity of a specific sexual assault case that reflects similar experiences reported by Scripps students, we decided not to finalize the speaker agreement.”

While Bush talked about the many challenges global health thinkers face, she also expressed a positive outlook on how far global health developments have come in the past several decades. 

“We’re living in such a miraculous time in global health right now," Bush said, "that if you’re an HIV positive women, it’s 99% likely that you can give birth to an HIV negative baby, if you have the right support.”