(President Bush, commemorating the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans August 29th, 2006)
My fellow Americans, and the poor people of the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina: Today we celebrate the anniversary of your hurricane. And by "celebrate", I mean "commemorate", because you people dont seem to like it when I use the word "celebrate". Just like you didnt seem to like it when my Mom said that this tragedy had worked out well for so many of you, who had been living in squalor before. And now No squalor.
So, you see, my Mom was right about one thing: This has worked out pretty well for all the people of New Orleans, rich and poor alike. For the rich, they have seen their property values skyrocket. And for the poor, they have seen their property washed out to sea, and now they have the opportunity for a fresh start. A chance to rebuild from the ground up. Just like the destruction of the levees have provided an opportunity to build newer, better, stronger levees. An opportunity we have decided not to take, but thats not the point.
The point is that when tragedy strikes, we should not judge the federal governments response by the actions it takes, but by the opportunities it creates. And I dont think theres anyone who can doubt the massive opportunities created by this administrations actions and inactions in the face of catastrophe after catastrophe after catastrophe.
I look around at the renewal of New Orleans, and I am reminded of an old saying: "Theres nowhere to go but up." And I dont think Ive ever seen a city with more "nowhere" to go up from.
So this is a great day in the history of New Orleans. Not as great as Mardi Gras, of course. And dont even get me started on how much fun that can be. Let me tell you, if youve never snorted cocaine off a hooker, then youve never been to New Orleans with my wife. (waving) Hi, honey! Ill be home as soon as I get this out of the way.
A year ago I made a vow. A holy vow. Because Im a holy, holy man. Like the pope. Only Christian. As I flew over the destruction of New Orleans, I promised to learn from the mistakes that were made here. The mistakes of Democratic mayor Ray Nagin. The mistakes of Democratic governor Kathleen Blanco. And most of all and I can admit this now the mistakes of my good friend Brownie, who misled all of us with his leadership of the Federal Emergency FEMA.
He did a heckuva bad job with that. And, as you recall, I was the very first person to call him out on it. "Brownie," I said, "youre doing a heckuva job. Just a heckuva job." And he should be ashamed of himself for it. And for ever accepting a job which he knew he wasnt qualified for.
I dont understand why more people cant just admit when theyre not qualified to handle a job, and step down and let someone else take over. Like the situation in Iraq. All of this could have been avoided if Saddam Hussein had just stepped down when he had the chance, and admit that he didnt know how to prevent the growing insurgency that we now know was on the verge of tearing his country apart. Or the presidents of Iran and Korea, who should step down if they cant handle the job of disarming their nukuler weapons program. Or the King of Hezbollah, who should step down immediately before any more Israelis are killed by his completely unqualified militias.
But some people never learn. And thats why, a year ago today, I promised that I would learn from the mistakes of Katrina. And today I would like to renew that vow, and promise to keep learning from those mistakes, for as long as it takes for me to learn from them. Even if that means I spend my entire remaining years in office learning and relearning the same lessons over and over. I will not give up on you, the people of New Orleans. As long as you are suffering, I will stay the course. Even if that means coming back here, year after year, for the next two years, I will always be here for you, once a year, God willing. God bless.
George Bush: Katrina Victory Tour
Speechwriter: Jeff Goode, copyright © 2006