All five living former presidents took the stage together at Saturday evening's hurricane relief charity concert in Texas, displaying a sense of unity and speaking of the importance of volunteerism and community in the face of natural disasters.
The event, "Deep from the heart: The One American Appeal," took place at Reed Arena at Texas A&M University in College Station and featured a slew of country and pop music performances. The Office of George H.W. Bush announced before the start of the concert that $31 million had already been raised to help Americans impacted by a very active hurricane season in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
When the ex-presidents -- Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter -- took the stage, about 90 minutes into the show, they implored Americans to keep donating and offer a helping hand if they can. Absent from the show were the implicit rebukes aimed at the current resident of the White House by Obama and Bush this past week.
"America is known for volunteer work," said Carter, who cited volunteer statistics in the U.S. from last year and encourage Americans to do even more this year. "Let's all work together and make America still a greater volunteer nation." Carter also plugged the group he has for decades been associated with, Habitat for Hummanity.
Clinton said people in America have been volunteering before the creation of the U.S. Constitution. "The heart of America, without regard to race, religion or political party, is greater than our problems," he said.
Clinton also made a blunt assessment of the recovery effort still to be done. He said there is still work to be done in Texas and in Florida, adding, "our friends in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have only begun to dig their way out what could be still a calamitous disaster, but can be a new beginning, if we just do what we ought to do and prove that the heart of America with regard to race, or religion, or political party, is greater than our problems."
.@BillClinton: "The heart of America, without regard to race, religion or political party, is greater than our problems." #OneAmericaAppeal pic.twitter.com/oSX76K7nJB— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 22, 2017
Obama spoke to the altruistic nature of Americans he sees. "When they see their neighbors and they see their friends, they see strangers in need, Americans step up," he said, adding that this shows "the spirit of America at its best."
Both Obama and George W. Bush singled out George H.W. Bush, who sat beside them in a wheelchair, for a special round of praise, noting his efforts to start the Points of Light program to help boost volunteer service by Americans. George H.W. Bush, 93, was hospitalized two separate times earlier this year over bouts of pneumonia and chronic bronchitis.
Obama said "he sets an example for all of us," adding so does former first lady Barbara Bush.
"I speak for the folks right here when I say, 'we really admire and love George H.W. Bush,'" George W. Bush said of his father.
The elder Bush did not speak but waved to the audience before the former presidents left the stage and returned to their seats for a performance by Lady Gaga.
After Lady Gaga sang, it was announced that another half a million dollars had been raised two hours after the concert began.
Though he was not in attendance, President Trump too was a presence at the event. Before his predecessors spoke a video message from Trump was played for the audience. "Together we will recover. We will rebuild. And we will come back stronger and better than ever before," Trump said. Trump also thanked his predecessors for their "tremendous assistance" in the hurricane relief effort.
Trump has donated $1 million to the victims of Hurricane Harvey and has made visits to Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico in particular has received a great deal of media attention at the island struggles to recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria amid the U.S. territory's debt crisis.