In February of 2008, Senator and presidential candidate Barrack Obama visited New Orleans during his whistle-stop campaign of "Hope."
I joined my fellow NOLA Bloggers in welcoming the lanky lawman from the Land of Lincoln. But in true blogger fashion, we all nit-picked about one thing or another that was or was not said. (Mine had to do with terminology.)
As he visits New Orleans today for the first time as POTUS, here is what I would like to hear from him today: vision.
It’s a pretty straightforward proposition as I see it. As a candidate for and now incumbent president, I did not/do not expect Mr. Obama to have all the answers. I do not expect him to have all the cures.
I expect him to have vision. I expect the Chief Executive to have a concept of what he thinks this land of liberty must look like, and to communicate that idea to citizens, and to inspire us to willingly join in making that dream into reality.
When he visited here 20 months ago, Mr. Obama’s vision for New Orleans was potent: “never again,” he said.
Think about how much is said with those two small words.
Not, “Next time the city is decimated.” Not, “Things are better, but it’s still very dangerous.” Not, “Let’s hope our luck holds out.”
“Never again” is a vision for action. It is a vision for prosperity and purpose. It is the vision we need in New Orleans, in coastal Louisiana, and in a nation with so many basic needs that are ignored for convenience.
No, Mr. Obama will not grab a shovel and start digging the clay to fortify our levees. He will not pull the levers on the pile-driving rig to push sheet pile into the ground. He won’t even pull out his Diner’s Club card and pay for the astounding amount of work that needs to be done to protect our great city.
What I would hope to hear from the president today when he visits New Orleans is a clear statement of his vision.
Another president, speaking about another daunting goal, articulated his vision by acknowledging the difficulty in achieving the goals he had set out for the nation. He told Americans quite plainly that we would strive for lofty goals, "not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
In his own words, Mr. Obama said, “The words ‘never again’ - spoken so often in those weeks after Katrina - must not fade to a whisper.”
Since ascending to the office, the president has not to my knowledge repeated those words or anything else that establishes his vision for New Orleans.
That’s what we need from Mr. Obama today.