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Dikembe Mutombo stands tall with Bush(video)
Wednesday, 24.01.2007, 07:08pm (GMT)

Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo, seated next to first lady Laura Bush and proudly flashing his familiar broad smile, was honored by President George Bush Tuesday at the State of the Union Address in Washington.

Mutombo, working almost daily, raised $29 million (donating $15 million himself) for the construction of the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mutombo plans to open the hospital — Kinshasa's first new one in 40 years — this summer. It is named for his mother, who died nine years ago when civil unrest and a curfew prevented her from getting to a hospital.

Mutombo was honored during Bush's speech as an example of "heroic kindness, courage and self-sacrifice."

"When America serves others," Bush said, "we show the strength and generosity of our country.

"The greatest strength we have is the heroic kindness, courage and self-sacrifice of the American people. You see this spirit often if you know where to look — and tonight we need only look above to the gallery.

"Dikembe Mutombo grew up in Africa, amid great poverty and disease. He came to Georgetown University on a scholarship to study medicine, but coach John Thompson took a look at Dikembe and had a different idea. Dikembe became a star in the NBA and a citizen of the United States. But he never forgot the land of his birth — or the duty to share his blessings with others. He built a brand-new hospital in his old hometown.

"A friend has said of this good-hearted man: 'Mutombo believes that God has given him this opportunity to do great things.' And we're proud to call this son of the Congo a citizen of the United States of America."

Said Mutombo in a phone interview afterward: "My heart was full of joy. I didn't know the president was going to say such great remarks. He raised me so high. I'm so happy. I'm so proud to be a citzen of the United States of America and to be recognized for my work. God is good to have put this work in my heart."

Houston Chronicle

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