President Barack Obama was heavy on praise for the city of New Orleans in terms of its recovery since Hurricane Katrina.
But the president made it clear he does not believe the recovery is complete.
“I’m here to say, I’m here to hold up a mirror and say because of you, the people of New Orleans, working together, 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. You inspire me,” Obama said to applause.
The president addressed 500 people in the recently opened Andrew “Peter” Sanchez Community Center that had to be completely rebuilt because of Katrina damage.
He called the venue a testament to the city’s resilience after that put the city on its knees.
Obama said Katrina was a natural disaster and then became a man-made disaster because the government failed to protect its citizens.
Of course the levees failed, flooding most of the New Orleans, and hundreds who had not evacuated drowned. In all, Katrina killed over 1,800 people along the Gulf Coast.
Still, President Obama said despite the pain of Katrina, people here pulled together.
“I see evidence of it all across this city, and by the way the people of New Orleans you didn't just inspire me, you inspired all of New Orleans folks have been watching what's happened here, they've seen a reflection of the very best of the American spirit. As president I've been proud to be your partner,” he said.
In attendance were current and former politicians, both democrats and republicans as well as community leaders, business people and average citizens.
Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy was in attendance along with former Sen. Mary Landrieu, whom he defeated last fall.
New Orleans city hall gave the White House suggestions for people to invite, and the White House came up with some names of its own, according to staffers.
"I am delighted to see such a beautiful level of recovery, I know we're not complete, I know there are some people who still want to come home and need to come home,” said former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, who was in the thick of Katrina and took a lot of heat for her handling of the crisis.
New Orleans Congressman Cedric Richmond flew on Air Force One with the president.
He said he asked Mr. Obama for more federal funds to help areas of the city recover and to help still displaced residents return home.
“Him coming here was no accident, it's where we wanted him to come, so that we could see that we have a real needs, it's great to acknowledge the process that we've made but we're not where we want to be, we're not where we need to be and this is probably ground zero for recovery that still needs to happen,” Richmond said of the president’s trip including a trip to the lower ninth ward.
A businessman in the audience liked what he heard from the president.
“I thought it was excellent, I thought he hit on all cylinders, he certainly addressed the citizens of New Orleans properly, he knows that we've made a lot of progress, we still have a lot to do,” said Ronnie Burns.
As part of the president’s time in the city, he ate lunch at the renowned Willie Mae’s Restaurant and spoke to Chef Leah Chase. He also spent time with young males from the city as part of the NOLA for Life Program and the president’s own“My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.
"I did get a grease spot on my suit... But that's OK, if you come to New Orleans and you don't have a grease spot somewhere, you didn't enjoy the city,” he said.
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