COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Members of an exclusive club made a rare joint appearance Saturday.
All five living former US presidents took part in a benefit concert in Texas to raise money for hurricane relief efforts, while President Donald Trump appeared in a taped video message to the concertgoers.
Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter attended Saturday night’s event, named “Deep From the Heart: The One America Appeal,” at Reed Arena at Texas A&M University in College Station.
Trump planned his taped message to hail the resiliency of the American people following the devastation of this year’s deadly hurricanes and wildfires. In it, he calls the effort of his predecessors “tremendous.”
“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 says in the message. “This wonderful effort reminds us that we truly are one nation under God, all unified by our values and our devotion to one another.”
A White House official said Trump was “honored to be given an opportunity to participate in relief and recovery efforts,” adding that the President “encourages all Americans to be as generous as they can in helping storm survivors through this difficult time.”
As of Sunday afternoon, the One America Appeal charity effort had raised nearly $33 million in tax-deductible, private funds from more than 80,000 donors, according to organizers.
The concert featured rock and country musicians such as Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Sam Moore and Yolanda Adams. Country music singer Lee Greenwood was emcee for the event.
Lady Gaga made an unbilled appearance and tweeted, “Nothing more beautiful than everyone putting their differences aside to help humanity in the face of catastrophe. #OneAmericaAppeal.” The singer made a “generous” donation, said Jim McGrath, spokesman for the elder Bush.
“It’s important that those affected by these devastating storms know that even if the path to recovery feels like a road that goes on forever, we’re with them for the long haul,” President George H.W. Bush said.
The elder Bush and the volunteer programs he started came in for special praise before the crowd of Texans.
“He sets an example for all of us, as does first lady Barbara Bush,” Obama said.
“I speak for the folks right here when I say we really admire and love George H.W. Bush,” the younger Bush said.
Carter told the crowd that Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit he’s worked with for 36 years, has agreed to build 6,000 homes in devastated areas. The group has raised $20 million of a needed $100 million, he said.
Clinton noted the nation’s long history of volunteering. “We’ve been volunteering since before the Constitution, when Benjamin Franklin organized the first volunteer fire department in Philadelphia.”
The concert is not the first time the former presidents have joined forces.
After Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in September, all five started the charity effort and filmed a video urging citizens to help out amid the devastating flooding.
They have since resumed the effort in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“We love you Texas,” the elder Bush said in a video posted to the One America Appeal site. The former president raised his family in Texas and also was once a US congressman from the state.
Funds collected through concert ticket sales will be distributed through various organizations in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.