Obama pays tribute to New Orleans

  • 28/08/2015
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the Andrew P. Sanchez Community Center in Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans (Reuters)
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the Andrew P. Sanchez Community Center in Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans (Reuters)

By Andrew Beatty

President Barack Obama has paid tribute to New Orleans and its people after seeing first-hand how far the "Big Easy" has come, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to swathes of one of America's most famous cities.

"You inspire me," Obama told a community centre to applause, after rolling up his sleeves on a stroll through the historic African-American community of Treme, stopping to chat with residents for whom Katrina remains etched in memory.

"This city is moving in the right direction and I have never been more confident that together we will get to where we need to go," Obama said before the crowd of 600 people at the community centre in the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the poorest and worst storm-hit areas of the city.

"New Orleans is coming back better and stronger," he added, evoking "a city that for almost 300 years has been the gateway to America's soul.

"Where the jazz makes you cry, the funerals make you dance, the bayou makes you believe all kinds of things, a place that has always brought together people of all races and religions and languages, and everybody adds their culture and flavour into the city's gumbo.

"You remind our nation that for all of our differences, we're all in the same boat."

Katrina destroyed levees and submerged 80 per cent of New Orleans in effluent-tainted storm water, but it was the government response which still rankles many, even a decade later.

Americans watched shocked as stranded survivors waited day after day on rooftops for government help that was painfully slow to come, shattering confidence in their government.

Despite the unmistakably upbeat message there is no doubt that plenty of work still remains in New Orleans where more than 1,800 people were killed and one million more displaced when Katrina barrelled in from the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama's trip was intended to mark the rebirth of a city eulogised by Tennessee Williams as the "last frontier of Bohemia," but which in August 2005 became a nightmare of death and looting.

AFP

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