Former Presidents Bush, Clinton join Obama to aid Haiti

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President Barack Obama is asking former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to coordinate efforts to involve more Americans in the recovery and rebuilding effort that's needed in Haiti. (Jan. 16)

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By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 16, 2010; 2:39 PM

Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush pledged to lead a long-term fundraising effort on behalf of Haitian relief during remarks with President Obama in the White House Rose Garden Saturday morning.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder after a 30-minute meeting in the Oval Office, the three men vowed that American support for Haiti will continue long after the headlines of the tragedy disappear.

"When the news media starts seeing its attention drift to other things, but there are still enormous needs on the ground," Obama said, Bush and Clinton will "help ensure that these efforts are sustained."

Bush said that his heart, and that of former first lady Laura Bush, "are broken when we see the scenes of little children struggling without a mom or a dad or the bodies in the streets."

He pledged to work alongside Clinton to encourage Americans to dig into their pockets. In the near term, he urged people to avoid donating blankets or other items but to just "give your cash" to aid organizations that can spend it wisely.

"The Haitian people have got a tough journey," Bush said. "But it's amazing how terrible tragedies can bring out the best of the human spirit ... While that earthquake destroyed a lot, it didn't destroy their spirit."

Clinton, who also serves as the United Nation's special envoy to Haiti, said that with America's help, the Haitian people "can escape their history and build a better future."

The former Democratic president promised that the organization he and Bush lead will be committed to making sure the donations are spent wisely. And he cautioned people to be patient.

"It's gonna take a lot of help and a long time," Clinton said.

Obama praised both men for taking on a role similar to the one that Clinton and Bush's father, former president George H.W. Bush, accepted in the wake of the tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004.

He said the image of the two men from opposite political parties coming together to lead the aid effort will send an "unmistakable signal" to Haitians that Americans are united in their desire to see the island nation recover.

"In times of great challenge in our country and the world, Americans have always come together," Obama said. "Here at home, presidents Bush and Clinton will help Americans to do their part."

The three presidents asked that donations for relief in Haiti be directed to a new website: www.clintonbushhaitifund.org.


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