BLACK VOICES

Obama Lauds New Orleans' Progress Since Katrina, Says There's More To Be Done

The president met with residents in the community on the anniversary of the storm.

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Thursday heralded the progress New Orleans has made rebuilding since Hurricane Katrina battered the area 10 years ago but said more needed to be done to overcome poverty and inequality.

On his ninth trip to the city that made worldwide headlines in 2005 after a devastating flood was exacerbated by a slow government response, Obama toured a neighborhood of colorful new houses and a new school and community center.

"Just because the houses are nice doesn't mean our job's done," Obama told reporters after shaking hands with residents and greeting children from the community.

President Barack Obama arrives at Louis Armstrong Airport in Kenner, La., for a visit to New Orleans for the 10th anniversary
President Barack Obama arrives at Louis Armstrong Airport in Kenner, La., for a visit to New Orleans for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. Obama says New Orleans is "moving forward" a decade after Hurricane Katrina dealt a devastating blow. He offered the city as an example of what can happen when people rally to build a better future after extraordinary trials.

As a presidential candidate in 2008 Obama sharply criticized Republican President George W. Bush for his administration's handling of the aftermath of the storm.

On Thursday, he recalled the storm and its aftermath.

"What started out as a natural disaster became a man-made disaster, a failure of government to look out for its own citizens," Obama said.

The storm "laid bare a deeper tragedy" of structural inequalities that left "too many people, especially poor people, especially people of color, without good jobs or affordable health care or decent housing," he said.

President Barack Obama (C) and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (R) talk with a woman during a tour of the Treme neighborhood
President Barack Obama (C) and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (R) talk with a woman during a tour of the Treme neighborhood August 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. President Obama visited New Orleans Thursday to praise its people's 'extraordinary resilience,' 10 years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the 'Big Easy' and shattered Americans' confidence in government.

Obama and other elected officials commemorating the 10th anniversary of the storm said there has been progress. But the president noted that typical black households still earned less than typical white households in New Orleans and African American men were especially hard hit by unemployment.

With 1-1/2 years left in his presidency and a slew of recent racially charged incidents of gun violence and police use of excessive force against minorities, Obama has spent increasing amounts of time publicly addressing racial inequality.

While in New Orleans, Obama had lunch with a group of young black men as part of his "My Brother's Keeper" program, which he has said he plans to continue after leaving office in 2017.

President Barack Obama walks towards residents during a tour of the Treme neighborhood August 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisi
President Barack Obama walks towards residents during a tour of the Treme neighborhood August 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. President Obama visited New Orleans Thursday to praise its people's 'extraordinary resilience,' 10 years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the 'Big Easy' and shattered Americans' confidence in government.

Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist and New Orleans native whose father was stranded during flooding from the storm, said the city has begun to address inequality and make greater strides toward recovery.

Levees have been made stronger, homes have been built higher, and jobs are starting to return, Brazile told reporters traveling with Obama.

“We still have a long way to go,” she said, estimating that it would take another five or 10 years of hard work.

President Barack Obama waits for a lunch with residents at Willie Mae's Restaurant August 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
President Barack Obama waits for a lunch with residents at Willie Mae's Restaurant August 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Julia Edwards and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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