(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 don’t seem to like it when I use the word "celebrate". Just like you didn’t 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 that’s not the point.

The point is that when tragedy strikes, we should not judge the federal government’s response by the actions it takes, but by the opportunities it creates. And I don’t think there’s 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: "There’s nowhere to go but up." And I don’t think I’ve 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 don’t even get me started on how much fun that can be. Let me tell you, if you’ve never snorted cocaine off a hooker, then you’ve never been to New Orleans with my wife. (waving) Hi, honey! I’ll be home as soon as I get this out of the way.

A year ago I made a vow. A holy vow. Because I’m 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, "you’re 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 wasn’t qualified for.

I don’t understand why more people can’t just admit when they’re 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 didn’t 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 can’t 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 that’s 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.

"Celebrating Katrina"
George Bush: Katrina Victory Tour
Speechwriter: Jeff Goode, copyright © 2006