Barack Obama photo

Remarks Following a Briefing on Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery Efforts in New Orleans, Louisiana

August 27, 2015

I am here at the Sanchez Community Center, and we've got some outstanding State officials, local officials; Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana; some folks like Thad Allen, who were involved in the early recovery efforts here in Katrina; philanthropies like the Red Cross and the Rockefeller Foundation; and local community leadership like the Foundation for Louisiana and the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.

And what we've been doing is just looking at the lessons that have been learned over the course of the last decade and sharing a sense of pride for the excellent coordination that's taken place between Federal, State and local governments in the rebuilding process, but also some humility and some sense of urgency about the work that still needs to be done.

So we had a chance to talk about the progress that's been made around protecting New Orleans and protecting the Louisiana coast and water management. And behind me, you can see all kinds of charts and maps that indicate that we now have one of the best water management systems and storm management systems in the world right here in New Orleans, thanks to the work of State and local authorities as well as the Army Corps of Engineers. We talked about the need to continue to restore wetlands and the natural barriers that can mitigate the harm from significant storms.

So that's infrastructure resilience. We also talked about community resilience and human resilience. And what's, I think, been critically important over the last decade is to recognize that it's one thing to stop water from pouring in, it's another thing to make sure that individuals and families have the resources and the structure to rebuild after a tough storm hits. And that means that attention has to be paid to housing; attention has to be paid to employment; attention has to be paid to preparedness; attention has to be paid to equity. And the city of New Orleans, with the help of some private sector as well as public dollars, has been doing some terrific work in making sure that the rebuilding process integrates all those concerns.

And we also talked about lessons learned going forward and how we can share the data that's been learned over the last decade with other communities. So, for example, Robin Barnes of Greater New Orleans, Inc., who specializes in helping small businesses and economic development, actually has worked with us on the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, because New Orleans is increasingly becoming a laboratory for the kind of good work that we're going to have to do all across the country and around the world.

And so everybody here has done some outstanding work, but they also recognize that there's a lot more work to be done. I just want to appreciate all of you for participating and helping me learn a little something here today. [Laughter]

And one recurrent theme that's emerged out of this discussion is that perhaps the biggest lesson to be learned from Katrina is making sure that there is trust and effective communication between citizens, their governments, civil society, because when people know each other, trust each other, are accountable to each other, like any human enterprise, mistakes will happen, natural disasters occur, but there's no problem that we as Americans can't solve if we're working together. And that's what New Orleans has been starting to do over the last several years, and it's really showing all across this city.

All right? Thank you very much, everybody. I'll give a longer speech in a second. [Laughter] Appreciate it.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:44 p.m. at the Andrew P. Sanchez and Copelin-Byrd Multi-Purpose Center. In his remarks, he referred to Thad W. Allen, executive vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., in his former capacity as Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard; and Robin Barnes, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Greater New Orleans, Inc.

Barack Obama, Remarks Following a Briefing on Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery Efforts in New Orleans, Louisiana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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