Years after then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama declared “America failed the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast,” he has returned to the city to hail Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts and highlight the region’s resilience in the face of massive devastation.
The president met with residents who are working to rebuild their neighborhoods as part of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. He was scheduled to visit a community center in the Lower 9th Ward, a predominantly African American neighborhood especially hard hit during Katrina.
The community, like a number of historically African-American neighborhoods in the city, is still working to recover. The Obama administration has scored high marks in helping New Orleans recover and the region rebuild the local economy, schools, homes, hospitals and roads, restore the wetlands and improve access to public transportation.
That recovery has been aided in part by funding efforts that began under his predecessor, former president George W. Bush. The two administrations focused nearly $71 billion in federal funds to help the region rebuild and boost the economy.
Still, the recovery has been uneven, and some of the city’s poorest residents and African Americans have been disproportionately impacted.
Much work remains.
“Not long ago, our gathering here in the Lower Ninth might have seemed unlikely,” the president said in excerpts of a speech released by the White House. “But today, this new community center stands as a symbol of the extraordinary resilience of this city and its people, of the entire Gulf Coast, indeed, of the United States of America. You are an example of what’s possible when, in the face of tragedy and hardship, good people come together to lend a hand, and to build a better future.
Earlier in the day, the president strolled with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu through Tremé, one of the oldest black neighborhoods in America, which borders the French Quarter just north of Downtown and the birthplace of many jazz legends.
The administration points to communities like Tremé and others across the Gulf, as an example of how they’ve worked with local communities to cut-red tape and hasten assistance, use data to improve services for citizens, build in a more resilient way and make the government a better partner for communities.
“Like so much of this area it was devastated during the storm,” But what we’re seeing is an example of the incredible federal, state and local partnerships that have helped revitalized this community,” the president said of Tremé.
“Part of our goal has always been to make sure not just that we recover from this storm but also that we start dealing with some of the structural inequities that existed long before the storm happened.”