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Michael Gerson might be the most familiar person you don't know. As chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign and first term, he crafted prominent addresses delivered after September 11, the Columbia shuttle explosion, and on the State of the Union. As senior adviser during Bush's second term, he sought more funding to fight AIDS and a plan to end the Darfur genocide. One of TIME magazine's 25 most influential evangelicals, Gerson left the White House on June 28. Now he plans to take time off for reflection before focusing on writing. He spoke with CT associate editor Collin Hansen days before he packed up his West Wing office.

What will you remember most fondly about your time working for President Bush?

Memories I'll really take away are being in Namibia, meeting this little 6-year-old, HIV-positive girl whose parents had named her "There is no good in the world," because they assumed she was going to die. And then seeing a perfectly healthy little girl because of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). That's a vivid experience.

I'll also remember being with the President over in the residence, where he met with Chinese house-church leaders and dissidents, and how unbelievably inspired they were to know they had a friend in the Oval Office. Those are the kind of things I'll tell my children, the kind of things that really make public service worthwhile.

What more do you wish you had accomplished before leaving the White House?

We've set some broad policy goals that are going to take a long time to accomplish—the promotion of democracy in the Middle East, setting up a stable democratic government in Iraq, and some of the goals we set on malaria or AIDS or development.

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August 2006

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