Former President George W. Bush on Thursday called for "moral" and "practical" spending on global interests, emphasizing the capacity for the U.S. to save lives around the world. 

"Some Americans may ask, 'Is this really in our national interest? Why are we spending money abroad when we've got big problems here at home?' Those are legitimate questions," Bush said at an awards dinner held by the Atlantic Council, an international policy think tank. 

"Here's my answer: I believe that spending less than two-tenths of 1 percent of our federal budget to save millions of lives is the moral, the practical and in the national security interests of the United States," he said.

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Bush, who was recognized by the organization with its Distinguished International Leadership Award, used his remarks to urge the international community to continue fighting against HIV and AIDS.

During his presidency, Bush championed an initiative to fund AIDS relief as part of his push for a massive increase in federal funding to developing countries friendly to democracy.

Since leaving office, Bush has remained a vocal proponent for AIDS relief funding, urging lawmakers in an op-ed last year to continue fully funding his initiative.

"When we confront suffering, when we save lives, we breathe hope into the devastated populations, strengthen & stabilize societies, and make our country and the world safer," Bush said Thursday.