There was a genuine atmosphere of trust and goodwill that summer of 2001, when a new era seemed to be upon us, with the Berlin Wall gone and the divisions of the past overcome. I was sharing this thought with President Bush (both of us recently elected to lead our countries) at the closing dinner of the G-8 summit in Genoa in July 2001. Bush led the conversation, talking amiably with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Japanese Premier Junichiro Koizumi, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, the tragedies of the Second World War and cold war seemed far away indeed. Bush observed how much the world had changed, and how we could pass on a lasting peace to our children. I remember feeling true happiness inside me. Just two months later the unthinkable happened, and the Sept. 11 attacks would again forever change the world. The battle against terrorism would become the principal preoccupation of the American President and our common international priority.
In the months that followed that immense tragedy, we nonetheless tried to stay focused, aware that justice, freedom and democracy can flourish only if there is security. President Bush knows this well, that a secure world is bound to be a united world, where everyoneand particularly those more fortunatecan and must do their part.
George W. Bush, 61, will be remembered as Commander in Chief, but not only for that. He was above all a President who felt the moral obligation that the leading nation of the free world must carry. My thoughts return again to that G-8 summit, where Italy had brought to the top of the agenda the fate of the world's poorest nations. And Bush was an early and enthusiastic supporter of our initiative to establish a fund for combating endemic illnesses.
One time, Bush told me that it is reasonable to have doubts, but not to have so many doubts that you cannot make a decision. It's up to historians to judge his presidency, but whatever fate history holds for him, I am sure that George W. Bush will be remembered as a leader of ideals, courage and sincerity. Personally, I will always remember him as a friend, a true man who loves his family, understands the meaning of friendship and is grateful toward America's allies around the world.
Berlusconi was elected Prime Minister of Italy for a third time last month
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