Obama keeps close tabs on New Orleans recovery from a distance 2009: Hurricane Katrina

Obama keeps close tabs on New Orleans recovery from a distance

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Barack Obama was a fresh face on the national scene, a man of uncommon eloquence, and the only

African-American in the U.S. Senate. It was hardly surprising then that in the immediate aftermath of the storm, Obama emerged as one of the most compelling critics of the Bush administration's handling of the disaster. In the years that followed, and in five post-Katrina trips to the city, Obama honed his critique and an alternative vision of what he would do if he were in charge, culminating in on Feb. 7, 2008 in which he asked the overflow crowd to "have the imagination to see the unseen, and the determination to work for it." Obama hasn't been back to New Orleans since, nor, in the seven months of his presidency, has he turned his oratorical gifts more than fleetingly to bring the city back from the brink. Unlike his sweeping pronouncements at Tulane in 2008, his approach to recovery along the Gulf Coast as president has not been one of bold strokes or grand gestures. But his administration has shown a dogged dedication to bending the federal bureaucracy in what Flozell Daniels Jr., president and CEO of the , describes as a "kinder, gentler" direction. With "federal agencies finally working as partners and not adversaries, " Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-LA, said, "in its first seven months, the Obama Administration has made significant progress toward making the Gulf Coast recovery effort quicker and more efficient." "I would say what they have demonstrated in this first year is a low-key but genuine commitment to accelerate the business of recovery, " said Amy Liu, deputy director of the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, which publishes an annual x, detailing the city's progress since Katrina.

Or as the president put it in an Oval Office interview in advance of the fourth anniversary, of Katrina: "In terms of rebuilding, two of my best Cabinet members, Secretary Napolitano of Homeland Security and HUD Secretary Donovan, have been spending an extraordinary amount of time thinking about how to deal with the blockage of assistance in the region."

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