‘The Power of Community’ spotlights New Orleans’ recovery, urges continued action


Former President Bill Clinton delivers a speech at “K10 Commemoration: The Power of Community” Aug. 29 at Smoothie King Center. 

Emily Carmichael, Print News Editor

K10: Bill Clinton

Acclaimed musicians and politicians alike, including former President Bill Clinton, participated in “The Power of Community” event Saturday at the Smoothie King Center.

“The Power of Community” was part of Katrina 10, which commemorates the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with a variety of events that remember New Orleans’ recovery and look towards improving its future. This specific event recognized all the individuals who participated in the recovery effort — whether as a survivor, a first responder or both.

Hosted by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien who covered the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for CNN, a mixture of speakers and musical performances both celebrated New Orleans’ ability to rebound from the destruction left by Hurricane Katrina and called for the community to continue its efforts to improve the city. 

The affair featured musical performances by the Warren Easton Charter High School Marching Band, John Boutte, Ledisi, Stephanie Jordan’s Big Band, Tonya Boyd-Cannon, Ivan Neville, Kermit Ruffins, Karen Antunez, Rebirth Brass Band and Dumpstaphunk, as well as a performance of Indian Red by Big Chief Monk Boudreaux. 

Throughout the event, both videos and speeches highlighted different local organizations that make positive contributions to the New Orleans community, like Cafe Reconcile, a restaurant that mentors at-risk youth males, and Circle Food Store. 

Community faith leaders led a prayer in multiple languages to honor those lost and provide hope for the continued growth of New Orleans, followed by a moment of silence. The leaders included representatives from different Christian denominations, Judaism and Buddhism, among others. 

In his opening remarks, Congressman Cedric Richmond called on the audience to celebrate their success, but to keep working towards a better New Orleans. 

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi commended the state and local leadership in the immediately after the storm and praised New Orleans for modeling for America what it means to be a great city. 

“Thank you for being an inspiration to America,” Pelosi said. 

Mayor Mitch Landrieu took time to thank those who came to New Orleans from across the world to help the city recover from Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. 

“This week, the second purpose is for the people of New Orleans to say thank you to the people who came to help,” Landrieu said. 

The crowd applauded as Landrieu said that New Orleans will repay America by becoming the best city it can be.

“We can help America find her greatness,” Landrieu said. 

Former President Bill Clinton, in partnership with former President George H.W. Bush, worked closely in the recovery effort through the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund as well as through the Clinton Global Initiative. 

Clinton has a close connection to the Big Easy, first visiting it as toddler to visit his widowed mother while she studied nursing at Charity Hospital, and again at 15 as a hopeful jazz musician. During his presidency, he visited the city 10 times. 

Throughout the recovery process, people have criticized and doubted New Orleans’ ability to change and adapt to the challenges the city faces. Clinton called these people pessimists who underestimate the change that has occurred within the city. Instead, he celebrated New Orleans’ ability to rebuild themselves from what pieces remained after the water receded. 

“Give yourself a pat on the back — you deserve it,” Clinton said.

Still, Clinton strongly cautioned New Orleans against resting on its laurels.

“There’s a difference between being happy and being satisfied,” Clinton said. “The celebration must be leveled by rededication.”

With this progress, Clinton assured New Orleans that its unique character will never disappear, seemingly addressing the concerns of people who believe that progress has brought and will continue lead to gentrification and the erosion of the local culture.

“You will not lose the flavor of your gumbo,” Clinton said. 

In true New Orleans fashion, the event ended as the audience second lined out of the arena.

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