College Station, United States: All five of America’s living former presidents took the stage on Saturday at a benefit concert in Texas to raise money for victims of the hurricane-ravaged southern US and Caribbean.
Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter appeared together onstage at Texas A&M, praising Americans for their willingness to help fellow citizens and urging them to do more.
The effort by the three Democrats and two Republicans has raised more than $31 million (Dh113 billion) from 80,000 donors for the victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, George H.W. Bush’s office said.
“All of us on this stage here tonight could not be prouder of the response of Americans. When they see their neighbours and they see their friends, they see strangers in need, Americans step up,” Obama said.
“Let’s all work together and make America still a greater volunteer nation,” said Carter, making an apparent play on President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
The Georgia native said that Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit he’s worked with for 36 years, would build 6,000 homes in hard-hit areas. It’s raised $20 million of the $100 million sought, he said.
And, “I too am here to urge you to give to this fine fund, and I want to thank all the volunteers,” the younger Bush said.
“There’s still work to do,” Clinton 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.”
Former First Ladies Barbara and Laura Bush both attended the event, as did vice-president Dick Cheney, ex-secretary of state James A. Baker, Senator Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Lady Gaga gave a surprise performance at the concert, announcing that she would make a $1 million donation and that a “mental health and emotional trauma surviving programme” would be set up for hurricane survivors.
“Pain is such an equaliser. And in a time of catastrophe, we all put our differences aside and we come together, ‘cause we need each other, or we can’t survive,” she said.
Lee Greenwood opened the concert and served as master of ceremonies for the event, titled Deep From the Heart: The One America Appeal, which also featured artists including The Gatlin Brothers, Yolanda Adams, Robert Earl Keen and Sam Moore.
Trump did not attend the concert, but praised the effort in a video message released earlier, terming it a “wonderful” and “vital effort”.
“As we begin to rebuild, some of America’s finest public servants are spearheading the One America Appeal,” said Trump, whose administration’s response to the heavy storm damage in Puerto Rico has drawn fire.
“Melania and I want to express our deep gratitude for your tremendous assistance,” he said.
Ticket-sale receipts were to benefit organisations in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.