As the nation marks the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s disastrous landfall in New Orleans, President Barack Obama traveled to the city to reflect on its progress. During his speech at the brand new Andrew P. Sanchez & Copelin-Byrd Multi-Purpose Center in the Lower Ninth Ward, he talked about the impact of the storm, the government’s duty to its citizens and what is necessary for total recovery. Here a few of his key points.
On the city’s resilience:
Today, this new community center stands as a symbol of the extraordinary resilience of this city. The extraordinary resilience of its people. The extraordinary resilience of the entire Gulf Coast and of the United States of America. You are an example of what is possible when, in the face of tragedy and in the face of hardship, good people come together to lend a hand. And brick by brick, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, you build a better future.
On how the government failed NOLA residents:
We came to realize that what started out as a natural disaster became a man-made disaster—a failure of government to look out for its own citizens. And the storm laid bare a deeper tragedy that had been brewing for decades. Because we came to understand that New Orleans, like so many cities and communities across the country, had for too long been plagued by structural inequalities that left too many people—especially poor people, especially people of color—without good jobs or affordable health care or decent housing. Too many kids grew up surrounded by violent crime, cycling through substandard schools where few had a shot to break out of poverty. And so, like a body weakened already, undernourished already, when the storm hit, there were no resources to fall back on.
On inequalities in the city’s recovery:
We know that African Americans and folks in hard-hit parishes like Plaquemines and St. Bernard are less likely to feel like they’ve recovered. Certainly we know violence still scars the lives of too many youths in this city. As hard as rebuilding levees is, as hard as rebuilding houses is, real change—real, lasting structural change—that’s even harder. And it takes courage to experiment with new ideas and change the old ways of doing things. That’s hard. Getting it right and making sure that everybody is included and everybody has a fair shot at success, that takes time. That’s not unique to New Orleans. We’ve got those challenges all across the country.
In 2005, Obama was a United States senator. George W. Bush was president. Watch the full speech above; he finishes the thank yous and starts his actual speech at 2:56.