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Hurricane Katrina exposed ‘deeper tragedy’ of inequality, says Obama

In New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, President Obama commemorated the 10th anniversary of the costliest natural disaster in American history. Praising the city's resilience, the president also acknowledged the failure of government to look out for its vulnerable residents. Judy Woodruff reports.

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    But, first, we continue our weeklong series on how the Gulf Coast is faring after Katrina.

    We start with President Obama's visit to the area today.

    Ten years after the costliest natural disaster in American history, President Obama today declared New Orleans is moving forward. He spoke at a newly opened community center in the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the city's hardest-hit neighborhoods.


    You are an example of what is possible, when, in the face of tragedy and in the face of hardship, good people come together to lend a hand and, brick by brick, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, you build a better future. And that, more than any other reason, is why I have come back here today.


    Mr. Obama was in his first year as a U.S. senator when Katrina struck Louisiana in August 2005. It devastated the Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida, while breaching the levee system built to protect New Orleans from flooding.

    More than 1,800 people died and a million were displaced. Damages reached $150 billion.

  • MAN:

    We need more resources here.


    Aside from praising the city's resilience, the president also acknowledged the failure of government to look out for residents of New Orleans.


    The storm laid bare a deeper tragedy that had been brewing for decades, because we came to understand that New Orleans, like so many cities and communities across the country, had for too long been plagued by structural inequalities that left too many people, especially poor people, especially people of color, without good jobs or affordable health care or decent housing.


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



    And, today, a cheering crowd greeted the president as he toured Treme, one of the country's oldest black neighborhoods. It was badly flooded in the deluge that swamped New Orleans.

    After meeting with residents, Mr. Obama emphasized that much work remains.


    Just because the houses are nice doesn't mean our job's done. This is a community obviously that still has a lot of poverty. This is an area where young people still too often are taking the wrong path before they graduate from high school. This is a community that still needs resources and still needs help.


    The city as a whole has seen positives, like a near return to its pre-storm population. But New Orleans is still plagued by severe income inequality and a rising crime rate.

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