All five living former U.S. presidents came together in the name of selfless service at Texas A&M University for the “Deep from the Heart: The One America Appeal” concert Saturday night at Reed Arena and raised $2.6 million for hurricane relief efforts in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, pushing the total to more than $33 million since the campaign launched last month.
The rare gathering of presidents featured Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, a video message from President Donald Trump, musical performances by country music legends Alabama, soul icon Sam Moore and pop superstar Lady Gaga. Additional acts included hometown legends Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen, Lee Greenwood, Cassadee Pope, Yolanda Adams, Stephanie Quayle and The Gatlins.
Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young welcomed the Reed Arena audience of more than 13,000 and 6.5 million people around the world who watched on television or streamed the event online to College Station.
“We are truly honored to have five former presidents and their families as well as so many other special guests here on the campus of Texas A&M tonight,” Young said. “We’re here tonight in service to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria. I’m so proud of our students, faculty and staff for the courage and the actions you took to help the ones in crisis as well as to all the other great first responders who are here and might be listening with us who have done such extraordinary work.”
Young also thanked President George H.W. Bush for his selfless service and choosing Texas A&M for his presidential library 20 years ago this week.
“Your passion for service and ours at this university beautifully align. We’re honored to bear your name, and strive to continue to build on your legacy,” Young said.
— xoxo, Gaga (@ladygaga) October 22, 2017
Guests at the event also included Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar representing her father the Emir, former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State James A. Baker, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas House Speaker Joe Strauss, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp and members of the System Board of Regents.
Four of the five presidents delivered remarks, with Bush 43 speaking for his father.
“First of all I am thrilled to be able to introduce 39, 42 and 44 to one of the finest universities in the United States. I too am here to urge you to give to this fine fund and I want to thank all the volunteers, but I am here for another reason,” the younger Bush said, looking at his family in the front row of the audience. “We really love and admire George H.W. Bush.”
Obama said that through the devastation, America has been at its best by helping neighbors and total strangers alike. He also thanked George H.W. Bush for his lifelong service.
“I want to thank President George W. Bush, and most of all, an outstanding American, someone who has always shown grace and character and courage and served America nobly throughout the years: President George H.W. Bush,” Obama said. “We are so proud to be with him today. He sets an example for all of us, as does First Lady Barbara Bush.”
In his video message, President Trump gave his thanks to the former presidents and urged viewers to give to the One America Appeal effort.
“To Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Melania and I want to express our deep gratitude for your tremendous assistance,” Trump said. “This wonderful effort reminds us that we truly are one nation under God, all unified by our values and our devotion to one another.”
Originally, the former presidents were inspired to come together in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which unleashed devastating flooding that threatened hundreds of thousands of Texans — and spurred thousands of first responders and citizens into action. The effort has since expanded twice to include recovery efforts in Florida from Hurricane Irma, and in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands from Hurricane Maria.
— One America Appeal (@AmericaAppeal) October 24, 2017
A special restricted account has been established through the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation to collect and distribute donations so every dollar given goes to assist hurricane victims. Donations will be distributed to:
- Houston Harvey Relief Fund, focusing on the greater Houston region
- Rebuild Texas Fund, assisting hurricane-ravaged communities across the state
- Florida Disaster Fund
- Juntos y Unidos Por Puerto Rico, launched by First Lady Beatriz Rossello and a private sector coalition
- The Fund for the Virgin Islands
Those who are interested in contributing to hurricane relief efforts through the One America Appeal campaign can continue to donate through the One America Appeal website.
Jim McGrath, Spokesman, Office of George H. W. Bush, firstname.lastname@example.org.