Bush focuses on rebuilt school system during Katrina anniversary speech

Bush points to resiliency of school system after Katrina

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Former President George W. Bush continued to carry the theme of the resiliency of New Orleans during his speech at Warren Easton Senior High School Friday morning.

Bush opened his remarks by commending the recovery of the school system in New Orleans, which has drastically changed since Katrina.

"The success that schools like (Warren Easton) have achieved has given the rest of America reason to believe that New Orleans is back," Bush said.

The former president was alongside former First Lady Laura Bush, for the visit. It's a site the pair first visited in 2006 to mark the first anniversary of Katrina. The school benefited from the Gulf Coast School Library Recovery Initiative, a special fund of the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries established to help Gulf Coast schools that were damaged by the hurricanes to rebuild their book and material collections.

Laura Bush touted how much the school's library had grown over the decade and was happy to see books were back in the hands of children that needed them most.

George Bush remembered the chaotic days following the levee breaches.

"The ground we're on today was underwater," he said. "We'll never forget the image of our friends and neighbors under a sea of ruin."

Bush said Katrina is a story of commitment and compassion, not only for schools, but for the people of the region.

In a cruel twist, Katrina brought despair in a season when there should have been hope, the beginning of the school year," Bush said. But he asked people to remember the 30,000 lives that were saved in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

Bush praised the thousands of volunteers who helped during that time. He said he is proud of the educators who stayed after the storm, despite facing tremendous obstacles, like schools reduced to rubble or submerged in floodwater. Many of those educators were also left homeless.

"Decisions made in the dark hours after Katrina sparked reform," Bush said.

Charter schools, which had the power to cut through red tape and improve the public school system, became a staple in the city.

"Educational entrepreneurs decided to do something about desperation and failure," Bush said. "The storm nearly destroyed New Orleans, now New Orleans is the beacon for school reform."

Following their time in New Orleans, George and Laura Bush will travel to Gulfport, Mississippi to thank first responders at a Mississippi Emergency Management Agency event.

Bush was president during the 2005 disaster. In a 2010 memoir, Bush admitted that he should have acted more decisively when the storm devastated New Orleans.

"I should have recognized the deficiencies sooner and intervened faster," he wrote in his 2010 memoir Decision Points. "The problem was not that I made the wrong decisions. It was that I took too long to decide."

Former President Bill Clinton will also visit to mark the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Clinton will visit New Orleans on Saturday for the Power of Community gathering – the city's signature commemorative event, held on the official anniversary of Katrina's landfall that will demonstrate New Orleans' resilience.

"The work of making a strong and more hopeful New Orleans goes on. You have achieved a lot in the last 10 years," Bush said. "The darkness from the storm a decade ago has lifted."

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