All five of the United States’ living former presidents took the stage at a benefit concert in Texas to raise money for victims of the hurricane-ravaged southern U.S. and Caribbean.
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.
However, one man was notably absent from the gathering: the sitting president, Donald Trump.
The former commanders-in-chief appeared together onstage for the national anthem, then took their seats in the front row at the concert, sending a strong message of unity, while President Trump appeared in a taped video message to the concertgoers.
The effort by the three Democrats and two Republicans raised over $31 million from 80,000 donors for the victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, George H.W. Bush's office said.
It is unclear whether Trump was invited to the event, as reports suggested he was spending the weekend at one of his golf courses, but in his video message, he avoided his past criticism of the former presidents and called them "some of America's finest public servants."
"This wonderful effort reminds us that we truly are one nation under God, all unified by our values and devotion to one another," Trump said in his recorded message.
Four of the five former presidents, Obama, George W. Bush, Carter and Clinton, made brief remarks but none of them mentioned Trump in their speeches. 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 heart of America, without regard to race or religion or political party, is greater than our problems," said Clinton.
The concert, which was streamed live on the One America Appeal website, featured performances by country band Alabama, Grammy-winning “Soul Man” singer Sam Moore, gospel legend Yolanda Adams as well as Texas musicians Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen.
Much to the excitement of the fans, Lady Gaga also made a surprise appearance.
This marks the second time that the five living former living presidents gathered. Coincidentally, their first gathering was in 2013, when Obama was still in office, during the dedication of George W. Bush’s presidential library in Dallas.
Given the fact that Trump has come under fire for his administration’s unsatisfactory response to the post-hurricane crisis in Puerto Rico, nearly 80 percent of which remains without electricity, the president’s absence from the event spoke volumes.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Richard Carson