President Bush got an update on tsunami relief efforts Tuesday from his two predecessors, former Presidents Bush and Clinton. All three stressed the importance of helping the victims of the disaster.
The two former presidents led a national campaign in the United States to raise private funds to help countries devastated by the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. They recently returned from an extensive tour of affected areas.
President Clinton says they were impressed by the will of the people they met to overcome adversity.
"The report basically says that these people have done an unbelievable job dealing with their losses and cleaning up, but there is a lot of work yet to be done, particularly in the hardest-hit countries," he said.
Mr. Clinton says everywhere they went people came up and thanked them for the help extended by Americans, from the aid workers, to the troops who distributed emergency supplies, to those who donated money and time to tsunami relief charities. Former President Bush, the current president's father, says attitudes toward the United States have changed and cites a new poll conducted in Indonesia.
"And it is a dramatic change," he said. "They have seen the kindness, the outpouring of support for the tsunami victims. That has turned public opinion very much in favor of the United States."
The White House says Americans have contributed about one billion dollars to private tsunami relief efforts. President Clinton says recipients of the aid know how deeply individuals half a world away were touched by their plight.
"When you relate to people on a human basis you send a message that our common humanity matters more than our differences," he said. "When people believe that, America wins, the cause of freedom wins. And it was wonderful to see."
A few hours before he came to the White House, it was announced that former President Clinton will be undergoing another round of heart surgery later this week. Mr. Clinton told reporters he will have some fluid drained from his chest and some scar tissue removed that resulted from the heart bypass operation he had last year. But he said, overall, he feels well and joked that before he goes into the hospital on Thursday, he will be playing in a charity golf tournament to raise money for tsunami relief.