Former President Bill Clinton initially visited New Orleans when he was three years old. “I first came to New Orleans before most of you were born. When I was three years old, 65 years ago, I came on a train- my first train trip,” Clinton reflected. He was visiting a relative at the historic Charity Hospital, now closed post-Katrina. On the hotel he stayed at across Canal Street, Clinton said, “It was the first time I had ever been in a building that had more than two stories. And it was the first time I had been in a city of this size. And I was three. Do the math. That was a long time ago. I remember that day and that night as if it were yesterday. When I was fifteen, I came back an aspiring jazz musician. “
Clinton went on to tell the story of sneaking into a jazz club at fifteen years old with the help of the performing musician, to sip a Coke and watch the show with his mom. “You never forget stuff like that,” Clinton said.
The former President has long loved the city, as has his wife, Hillary. The city seemingly reciprocates that adoration in spades, giving Clinton a standing ovation as he took the podium. And at the mere mention of Hillary’s name, the crowd erupted in applause, to which Clinton quickly said, “I’m trying to make a really important point here. It’s important for you to love her, that’s good…” and continued on with his remarks on the recovery efforts.
Sunday, August 30th, 2015 marks the end of a week-long commemoration in New Orleans of the 10 year anniversary of the United States’ worst natural disaster in history: Hurricane Katrina. A decade ago, the rest of the country followed the tragic stories on their television as thousands along the Gulf Coast lost their homes, their lives, and their ways of life. The most striking images that have struck a chord haven’t been the politicians who stepped in to help or the celebrities who made New Orleans their cause. They have been the ones that are nameless: the dead bodies floating down the streets, a blanket draped over a deceased woman in a wheelchair, and the cries for help written on homes for those trapped inside.
New Orleans was submerged under water, and the rest of the country seemingly doubted its ability to recover in the days following.
But as Representative Cedric Richmond said at the “Power of Community” commemoration on Saturday, August 29th, at the Smoothie King Center, “We’re that strange seed that can actually grow underwater.”
Saturday night’s presentation included remarks from former House Speaker and House Minority Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton. Performances from Ledisi, Indian Red, Stephanie Jordan, Tonya Boyd-Cannon, Ivan Neville, Dumpstaphunk, Kermit, and Rebirth helped bring the celebration to life.
It was a night of reflection on what the city has accomplished, but also pushing forward everyday toward a better New Orleans.
“People of New Orleans, we know this and the world knows this now- we are not finished. We have more work to do,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said during his speech. “We won’t rest, we won’t stop, until the city of New Orleans doesn’t go back to the way we were before Katrina and Rita, because God knows we weren’t perfect. But you know what? This is a beautiful place. There’s not many on this planet that have what we have.”
“So here’s the message of the day. The big Chief sang it: We are unbowed, we are unbroken, we are still standing, and as the song said, there’s no place like home,” Mayor Landrieu said as he closed out his speech.