Monday, August 30, 2010

The Obama Nation

President Obama talks on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina
Yesterday for reasons only the powers that be can explain, I was inside Xavier University awaiting the address by our nation's 44th President, Barack Hussein Obama. I had been given press credentials in the course of working in my capacity as a reporter and sometimes editor for Southern Jewish Life Magazine. The waiting game is always unnerving for reporters. The byword is always hurry up and wait for every member of the Fourth Estate and even worse for television or still camera photographers. The setup time recommended for them by the White House was 7:30-8:30 a.m. Mind you, the speech was scheduled to begin around 2:00 p.m., so getting up at the crack of dawn to place equipment and mark off one's spot was not especially appetizing to many members of the news media. Nevertheless, those are the rules and don't ever forget that the rules exist to keep everyone in check. The Secret Service and other White House staffers were running around the auditorium, checking out even the slightest hint of impropriety. I behaved like an angel, of course. When the Internet connection was not available, I didn't even complain. When the place they allowed me to sit was located behind the riser for the cameras, I didn't even murmur my discontent. I could, after all, still see the stage through the legs of the cameramen and, after all, that's what long camera lenses and binoculars are for, right? I heard the President talk about many things. After talking about his lunch, which made me hungry, at Parkway Bakery and Tavern (alligator sausage and a shrimp poboy), he mentioned the dedication of the volunteers who have helped rebuild New Orleans. He talked about the tenacity of people like Norman Francis, the president of Xavier University who promised only a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina that the nation's only black Catholic university (and the only one founded by a legitimate saint) would rise from the ashes like a veritable phoenix in just a few short months. To his credit, the university did just that, reopening its doors to students in January of 2006. The President also acknowledged the hard work of students like Jade Young, Miss Xavier 2010, who came back after the hurricane and focused on her studies. As a freshman pharmacy student, she introduced the nation's chief executive and told the audience of how grateful she was to her school and to all those who helped support her during the travails experienced during the rebuilding and recovery efforts. When the President and First Lady appeared, the cheers of the crowd of supporters and politicians rang out loudly in the auditorium and in typical fashion, the President spoke with eloquence and simplicity in promising that the federal government would never desert New Orleans in the future. The only promise many of the local political figures like Governor Bobby Jindal would have liked to hear was that the White House would consider suspending the current moratorium on Gulf oil rigs. But that didn't happen and probably won't for some time to come. It was a wonderful day for people to discover that New Orleans doesn't consider itself a victim anymore. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who was in attendance and shook my hand as he left, has long stated that we have shifted from rebuilding the city that was into building the city we want in the future. He and his sister, U. S. Senator Mary Landrieu, appeared earlier in the day on nationwide TV broadcasts of "Meet the Press" and on local broadcasts, acknowledging the solemn occasion of the fifth anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. It was a remarkable day of remembrance and a special day of looking forward, not backward, as the city and state moves ahead with such things as master plans and other efforts designed to make the city even stronger than it is now.

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