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Former US Presidents Attend Benefit Concert for Hurricane Survivors

  • VOA News

Former Presidents from right, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter place their hands on their heart for the national anthem at the opening of a hurricanes relief concert in College Station, Texas, Oct. 21, 2017.

All five living former U.S. presidents attended a fundraising concert Saturday to benefit the victims of hurricanes that ravaged parts of the mainland United States and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands in recent months.

Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter attended the show known as "Deep from the Heart: the One America Appeal" at Reed Arena at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

In a rare display of unity, President Donald Trump, who did not attend the event, thanked the former presidents in a video message played during the concert for their "tremendous role in in helping our fellow citizens recover."

A video message from President Donald Trump is played on the stage during a hurricanes relief concert in College Station, Texas, Oct. 21, 2017.
A video message from President Donald Trump is played on the stage during a hurricanes relief concert in College Station, Texas, Oct. 21, 2017.

"All of us on this stage here tonight could not be prouder of the response of Americans," said Obama. "When they see their neighbors and they see their friends, they see strangers in need, Americans step up."

Clinton said, "There's still work to do." He said, "It can be a new beginning if we just do what we ought to do and prove that the heart of America, without race or religion or political party, is greater than our problems."

The organization of ex-presidents is known as the One America Appeal. The office of George H.W. Bush announced on Saturday that the organization has already raised $31 million in tax-deductible private funds from more than 80,000 donors.

Lady Gaga performs during a hurricanes relief concert in College Station, Texas, Oct. 21, 2017.
Lady Gaga performs during a hurricanes relief concert in College Station, Texas, Oct. 21, 2017.

Lady Gaga, is a surprise performance, announced that she was donating $1 million to the One America hurricane fund. She said a "mental health and emotional trauma surviving program" would be established for hurricane survivors.

Country singer Lee Greenwood, known for his hit "God Bless the U.S.A.," was master of ceremonies for the event. Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Sam Moore, Yolanda Adams and the group Alabama were among the performers.

Damage estimates from just the hurricanes have already topped $300 billion and recovery is expected to take months and years of rebuilding.

People collect mountain spring water, after Hurricane Maria hit the island, in Corozal, Puerto Rico, Oct. 17, 2017.
People collect mountain spring water, after Hurricane Maria hit the island, in Corozal, Puerto Rico, Oct. 17, 2017.

One America said in a statement that it has already distributed nearly $13 million to five designated funds: the Florida Disaster Fund, the Rebuild Texas Fund, the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, the Fund for the Virgin Islands, and Juntos y Unidos por Puerto Rico.

The five former presidents have been working together to raise money for hurricane victims since Hurricane Harvey struck the heart of Texas in September. Since then, Hurricane Irma raked through Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida, and Hurricane Maria struck a second blow to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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