Christine Stuart photo

U.S. President George W. Bush tied his initiative to combat malaria to the war on terrorism in his speech at the Northwest Boys and Girls Club Friday morning.

Fighting malaria is a “strategy that advances our security interests,” Bush said. “From experience we understand that the terrorists and extremists can only find fertile recruiting grounds where they find hopelessness.”

“Their ideology is so backwards, so distorted, so hateful nobody really wants to follow it unless you’re so hopeless that it becomes appealing,” he said. “So the best way to defeat this ideology of hate is with acts of compassion and love. The best way to defeat an ideology of darkness is to spread the light of hope.”

Bush highlighted the club’s effort to fight malaria by presenting it with a dragonfly award. He said the dragonfly is the natural predator of the mosquito, which carries the disease.

More than 150 clubs nationwide raised $25,000 to buy more than 2,500 bed nets for families in Africa. Two other individuals were presented with the dragonfly award.

Zachary Ellenthal, 13, of Wilton raised about $12,000 through his bar mitzvah to help fight malaria. Ellenthal said he asked his family and friends to donate to the cause instead of giving him money. He said he also set up a web site to continue to raise money.

Allyson Brown, 18, of Melbourne, Florida was the third recipient of the award. Brown, a senior at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, organized a school dance to raise money to combat malaria and the trend caught on. The dance program called “Stayin Alive” has been thrown at more than 100 high schools in 30 states.

She said students can understand how the $10 ticket to the dance helps buy a mosquito net for a child in Africa. “They feel like they’re personally making a difference by donating the money,” she said.

Brown has raised $30,000 for an organization called, Malaria No More. John Logsdon, of Malaria No More, said one million people, mostly children under the age of 5, die from the disease every year.

But Bush Also Had a Political Agenda

U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, R-4, accompanied the president to Connecticut Friday. He showed up at the Boys and Girls Club in Hartford for the brief 20-minute malaria speech, then he was gone.

As Bush stayed around to shake hands with some of his supporters in the room, Shays disappeared. No one was allowed outside the building until Bush left, so no one was able to chase him to ask questions.

Notable Republicans in the room included Hartford attorney Ross Garber, who was recently nominated by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell to become the state’s top federal prosecutor, Rell’s son Michael and his wife, and Hartford councilwoman Veronica Airey-Wilson. Democratic Congressman John B. Larson’s staff members, including Billy Ciotto, also attended.

After the Hartford event, Bush headed to Henry Kissinger’s home in Kent to help raise money for congressional candidate David Cappiello.

More than 400 people were expected to attend the $1,000 per person fundraiser, where for $10,000 they could have their picture taken with the president. Cappiello is hoping to unseat Rep. Christopher Murphy, a first-term Democrat in the 5th congressional district.

Those in attendance at the Boys and Girls Club event understood that the president seemed to be using them, so he could write-off a portion of his travel expenses on the taxpayers and not Cappiello’s campaign, however, none of them were willing to comment on the politics of the visit.

Benjamin Harlee, 11, who is a member of the club said it’s an honor the president came to the club.

Harlee was not one of the children who personally got to meet the president, but if he did, “I would tell him to lower gas prices.”

Anything else? “Pull the troops from Iraq,” Harlee said.

Unable to get close enough to Kissinger’s home in Kent, war protesters from Connecticut Opposes the War opted to stand outside the Congregational Church in Warren, which is just west of Kent.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to confront the “masterminds” of our failed wars in Southeast Asia and Iraq,” the group of protesters said in an email advertising the protest. 

At the end of the event they are expected to proceed to the center of Kent and march up and down downtown Kent with’s “Iranmobile”.

Below is a picture of the “Iranmobile” taken earlier this year at Sen. John McCain’s campaign rally at Sacred Heart University.

CTNJ file photo