"What we try to do is not only get people to support the mental health infrastructure but also give people something to look forward to in the morning: Yes, it can be better," Clinton says

By Adam Carlson
March 04, 2020 02:25 PM
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Since leaving office, both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have largely focused on their charity work: the former with veterans and the latter with his family’s eponymous foundation’s support of international aid.

Their efforts were spotlighted in a pair of videos produced by the History Channel for the former presidents, who last week appeared at a private HISTORYTalks moderated by acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

While the discussion was not open to the press, History shared their video spotlights with PEOPLE. (A+E Networks’ Paul Buccieri led the creation of the HISTORYTalks event.)

In the Bush clip, he explains why he feels “personally responsible for helping” vets.

“Many have come back and are doing fine. Some need help. I made the decision to put many of these combat troops in combat,” he says.

“I feel troubled that some have come back with post-traumatic stress and, frankly, our society was not doing that much to address it,” President Bush says.

One wounded Army veteran explains: “Cycling for me was a form of therapy, and it wasn’t just riding the bike. It was the relationships that I was able to make with fellow veterans and seeing some that were further along in their recovery or further along in their life.”

Last year’s Warrior 100K Ride, organized by the Bush Institute, was held at his Texas ranch.

Former President George W. Bush (left) and former President Bill Clinton
| Credit: Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic ; Eugene Gologursky/Getty

The History video for President Clinton is a little further abroad: It looks at the Clinton Global Initiative’s recovery work in Puerto Rico, which has been devastated by Hurricane Maria, earthquakes and other issues.

“What we try to do is not only get people to support the mental health infrastructure but also give people something to look forward to in the morning: Yes, it can be better,” Clinton explains in the video.

“People see all this talent in Puerto Rico — you’ve got fifth-graders now that actually know how to make a difference,” he says.

“It’s almost impossible to extinguish the human spirit, and I figure if I can help give them the tools to do it and the support they need to do it, then eventually the political system will have to respond.”

In a statement before the HISTORYTalks event, moderator Goodwin said she was looking forward to the discussion.

“Exploring our history and the legacy of our leaders is one of vital ways we learn about who we are as a nation, and how we have strived to fulfill our founding ideals over time,” she said. “I am so proud to join with HISTORY for this special conversation with Presidents Bush and Clinton, to inspire people everywhere to learn more about our nation’s storied past and the leaders and everyday people who have shaped it.”