Five United States ex-presidents raise relief funds at hurricane event

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

On Saturday night, former United States presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and father and son George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush attended a concert at the Reed Arena in Texas to raise funds for hurricane relief. This came after a week of comments from Obama and the younger Bush that many in the press have read as critical of the sitting president, Donald Trump.

The event, called "Deep from the Heart: The One America Appeal", part of the One America Appeal charity effort, featured country music and gospel performers such as Lyle Lovett and Yolanda Adams, and an appearance by singer Lady Gaga. The funds raised are meant to aid victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which struck U.S. soil in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Former President Carter told the audience that Habitat for Humanity, a charity with which he works closely, has pledged to build 6000 homes in the affected areas.

The current U.S. President, Donald Trump appeared virtually at the concert: "Now, as we begin to rebuild, some of America’s finest public servants are spearheading the One America Appeal. Through this effort, all five living former presidents are playing a tremendous role in helping our fellow citizens recover," he said via video.

Former presidents Obama and the younger Bush made, in the previous week, comments that journalists interpreted as critical of the sitting president. Though neither former president mentioned Trump by name, the younger Bush claimed "We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America," in a speech in New York. "We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade, forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism. We've seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places." "Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed," he said Thursday. Slowing immigration, especially immigration of Muslims, and building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico were among Trump's campaign promises.

As part of a get-out-the-vote effort for the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races, Obama gave a speech saying "Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed. That has folks looking 50 years back. It's the 21st century, not the 19th century. Come on!" He also refuted President Trump's recent claim that he, Obama, had not visited soldiers wounded in combat.

By later Sunday representatives of the appeal said it had raised well over US$30 million from over 80,000 separate donors.

The Reed Arena is part of Texas A&M University, which is also home to former President George H.W. Bush's presidential library.