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Presidents Bush, Clinton Reach Out to Katrina-Devastated HBCUs Through ‘Wave of Hope’ Campaign

Presidents Bush, Clinton Reach Out to Katrina-Devastated HBCUs Through ‘Wave of Hope’ Campaign
By David Pluviose

After a tsunami in 2004 devastated large swaths of Southeast Asia, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton stepped in to aid the recovery process. When Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters overwhelmed the U.S. Gulf Coast, Bush and Clinton again teamed up to raise millions of dollars for hurricane victims. Now, the pair have personally reached out to Gulf-area historically Black colleges and universities still reeling from Katrina’s impact.

The former presidents approached United Negro College Fund President and CEO Michael Lomax about lending assistance to the organization’s Gulf-area member colleges, and thus the ‘Wave of Hope’ multimillion-dollar fund-raising campaign was born. This effort teams the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund with the UNCF to restore student scholarships and rebuild the campuses of seven Katrina-impacted HBCUs — Alcorn State University, Bishop State Community College, Dillard University, Jackson State University, Southern University at New Orleans, Tougaloo College and Xavier University of New Orleans.

“President Bush and President Clinton recognized that there is continued unmet need, and that more has to be done, and that’s why they helped us create this Wave of Hope campaign,” Lomax says. “The rebuilding of seven historically Black colleges struck by Hurricane Katrina has begun, but estimates range as high as $300 million to restore these campuses completely. They’ve committed both to make calls and to speak out on this issue and to work very closely with [UNCF] in raising funds in the months to come.”

It appears that Clinton has been talking to Lomax since the former presidents began spearheading the post-Katrina rebuilding efforts. It was agreed earlier this year that Lomax and UNCF should take on a larger role in leading the fund-raising to rebuild the HBCUs affected by Katrina.

Brenda Siler, communications director at UNCF, says the relationship between Bush, Clinton and the UNCF stems largely from Lomax’s long friendship and political partnership with Clinton. Lomax, as Fulton County Commission chair in Atlanta, chaired Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign in Georgia. In addition, the Bush family has for many years had some presence and involvement with the UNCF board.

This past May, the two former presidents, in New Orleans to speak at Tulane University’s graduation, took time to film a public service announcement supporting the UNCF campaign. The PSA should air sometime this fall.

Siler says that last fall, UNCF spearheaded a fund-raising drive that netted $4 million for emergency scholarships for students at UNCF-member schools that were affected by Katrina.

— Senior writer Ronald Roach contributed to this story.

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