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Bush calls nation to ‘broad humanitarian relief effort’

WASHINGTON (BP)–“I ask every American to contribute as they are able to do so” toward “a broad humanitarian relief effort” for Asia’s tsunami victims, President George W. Bush said Jan. 3 from the White House.

Bush announced that his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and former President Bill Clinton will “head a nationwide charitable fundraising effort” asking Americans “to donate directly to reliable charities already providing help to tsunami victims.”

Beyond the millions to be allocated for U.S. aid in the region, Bush said “the greatest source of America’s generosity is not our government: it’s the good heart of the American people. In the weeks since the tsunami struck, private citizens have contributed millions of dollars for disaster relief and reconstruction” to various organizations involved in relief efforts.

“Americans have suffered sudden catastrophe many times in our own history, from massive earthquakes in Anchorage and San Francisco, to destructive wildfires in the West, to the series of hurricanes that struck Florida last year,” Bush said. “From our own experiences, we know that nothing can take away the grief of those affected by tragedy. We also know that Americans have a history of rising to meet great humanitarian challenges and of providing hope to suffering peoples. As men and women across the devastated region begin to rebuild, we offer our sustained compassion and our generosity, and our assurance that America will be there to help.”

Bush said the Dec. 26 tsunamis left an “arc of destruction from Thailand to the Horn of Africa. The devastation in the region defies comprehension. More than 150,000 lives are estimated to be lost, including 90,000 in Indonesia, alone. As many as 5 million people are thought to be homeless, or without food or shelter; thousands more are missing, and millions are vulnerable to disease.

“Across the United States this week, our flags will fly at half-staff to honor the victims of this disaster,” the president said. “We mourn especially the tens of thousands of children who are lost. We think of the tens of thousands more who will grow up without their parents or their brothers or their sisters. We hold in our prayers all the people whose fate is still unknown.”

Contributions “both large and small” will be solicited by the two former presidents, Bush said.

“Over the past week, we have seen some of the innovative ways Americans are helping people in need,” the president recounted. “A coffee roaster in California is handing out bags of coffee for a $10 donation to the Red Cross. In Virginia Beach, the owner of a tax assistance firm is making a donation for every tax return he prepares. Worshipers at a Buddhist temple in Houston collected thousands of dollars in cash to send to their sister temple in Sri Lanka. Some people are selling personal items on the Internet and donating the cash to the charities. Many corporations are matching contributions by their employees. And several have shown exceptional generosity by donating large amounts of cash and products to the relief efforts.”

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