George W. Bush video calls for compassion and solidarity

Former President George W. Bush reminded citizens that they are "equally vulnerable, and equally wonderful," calling for compassion and unity in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus. 

As the United States, and the world, face an invisible enemy, former President George W. Bush urges Americans to remember something essential – we are not partisan combatants. 

Mr. Bush’s nearly three-minute video message hit a chord and has been widely shared. It was part of "The Call to Unite," a 24-hour fund-raising event this past weekend. Politicians, authors, celebrities, musicians, and activists including former President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Gilbert, Peter Gabriel, Maria Shriver, as well as spiritual leaders, offered universal messages of hope and humanity. 

"The larger challenge we share is to confront an outbreak of fear and loneliness," Mr. Bush said. "It is frustrating that many of the normal tools of compassion – a hug, a touch – can bring the opposite of the good we intend. In this case we serve our neighbor by separating from them. We cannot allow physical separation to become emotional isolation. This requires us to be not only compassionate, but creative in our outreach...."

During the live streamed event, actress Eva Longoria said the pandemic was giving the world a chance to reset itself. Reports from around the world show that, indeed, as humans step back, Mother Nature slowly takes over. 

When people stay home, the earth becomes cleaner, reported The Associated Press

Nitrogen dioxide pollution in the northeastern United States is down 30%. Rome air pollution levels from mid-March to mid-April were down 49% from a year ago. Stars seem more visible at night. People are also noticing animals in places and at times they don't usually. 

While the pandemic has temporarily changed nature's landscapes, it has also affected the lives of many. But Mr. Bush praised the American spirit of service and sacrifice – a spirit he said he had seen before, as it isn’t the first time the nation faced times of testing. He urged Americans to "remember that empathy and simple kindness are essential powerful tools of national recovery."

While the former U.S. president wants people to remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat, he also reminded viewers that the COVID-19 challenge doesn’t fall evenly on all Americans. Indeed, minorities, elderly, and unemployed communities are especially affected by the virus.

As some countries around the world enter their fifth week of lockdown, others start easing up restrictions in a hope to return to normal. Mr. Bush’s message comes as a reminder that residents of the world are all together in the fight against fear and loneliness. 

The virus has heightened some tensions in the United States between those arguing for economic freedom or global public safety, and states don’t all agree on the timeline to reopen their economies. But the pandemic has also prompted a plethora of acts of kindness, generosity, compassion, and solidarity all around the world. 

Restaurants and individuals are donating food to their communities and frontline workers, students and engineers are making ventilators, masks, and other protective medical gear, and every night the world cheers for frontline workers from their windows.

“We rise or fall together,” the former president ended his message saying, “and we are determined to rise.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, the Monitor has removed the paywall for all our coronavirus coverage. It’s free.

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