AUSTIN, Texas — Country music legends Alabama headlined the fundraising effort “One American Appeal” last Saturday. The sold-out benefit concert brought together five former presidents to help raise funds for citizens impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
On Oct. 21, the five living former presidents put aside politics and appeared together for the first time since 2013 at the concert day to raise money for victims of devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Democrats Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and Republicans George H.W. and George W. Bush gathered in College Station, Texas, home of Texas A&M University, to try to unite the country after the storms.
million since it began on Sept. 7, said Jim McGrath, spokesman for George H.W. Bush.
President Donald Trump offered a video greeting that avoided his past criticism of the former presidents and called them “some of America’s finest public servants.”
Four of the five former presidents — Obama, George W. Bush, Carter and Clinton — made brief remarks that did not mention Trump. The elder Bush did not speak but smiled and waved to the crowd. They appealed for national unity to help those hurt by the hurricanes.
The last time the five were together was in 2013, when Obama was still in office, at the dedication of George W. Bush’s presidential library in Dallas.
There is precedent for former presidents joining forces for post-disaster fundraising. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton raised money together after the 2004 South Asia tsunami and Hurricane Katrina the next year. Clinton and George W. Bush combined to seek donations after Haiti’s 2011 earthquake.
Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 25, unleashing historic flooding in Houston and killing more than 80 people. Shortly thereafter, all five ex-presidents appeared in a commercial for a fundraising effort known as “One America Appeal.” In it, George W. Bush says, “People are hurting down here.” His father, George H.W. Bush, then replies, “We love you, Texas.”
Hurricane Irma subsequently hit Florida and Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, while both devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands.
A website accepting donations, OneAmericaAppeal.org, was created with 100 percent of proceeds pledged to hurricane relief.
The Alabama band performed to a sold-out crowd that filled Texas A&M’s Reed Arena in College Station. All ticket sales and proceeds went to the One America Appeal hurricane recovery effort.
You can donate to the effort at OneAmericaAppeal.org, or you can give $10 by texting “OneAmerica” to 50555.
— Bradley Roberts contributed to this report
Texas A&M is home to the presidential library of the elder Bush. At 93, he has a form of Parkinson’s disease and appeared in a wheelchair at the event.
Alabama bassist Teddy Gentry said it was an honor to perform.
“It was an honor to meet the five living and past presidents,” he said. “It was an honor to get to perform and raise some money for the victims of the hurricane.”
Of course, Gentry said it wasn’t the first time he had met three of the five presidents.
“I actually got to fly on Air Force One with senior Bush back when he was in office,” he said. “We were happy to do our part for the hurricane victims.
Grammy award winner Lady Gaga made a surprise appearance at the concert that also featured Rock & Roll Hall of Famer ‘Soul Man’ Sam Moore, gospel legend Yolanda Adams and Texas musicians Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen.
The appeal backed by the ex-presidents has raised $31