In the Chicago Defender, John Kerry writes:
“The lesson of Katrina is simple. We must always be honest about the challenges we face, and never reserve our compassion only for disasters. People must not allow the Administration to continue sugar-coating the true state of this nation.”
As I read these words, I was overcome, again, by the simple clarity of this man’s thinking. He understands separation, he understands race, he understands death.
And he understands life. And what it takes, from all of us, to account, and be responsible for, the gift of our time here on this earth.
We are all in this together.
Leave no American behind: Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina
by, Sen. John Kerry
September 12, 2005
The evidence that our nation was unprepared for hurricane Katrina is undeniable. Thousands of our fellow citizens losing their lives not to wind and water – but thirst and starvation. Rescue attempts failing to materialize days on end, leaving mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, to perish in ways embarrassing to fathom in this society: children running out of medication; elderly too long without dialysis; patients whose oxygen tanks went empty or respirators went offline. When people were stuck on those roofs, they weren’t just cut off from the floors beneath them. They were cut off from the world, including the nation that pledged to protect them.
The failure in Washington was indeed undeniable and embarrassing, and time will continue to expose the scope of the injustice exacted on the people of New Orleans. In the meantime, we must honor those lost in the hurricane by making a strong commitment to the survivors. And our first responders should be commended for their bravery in the face of countless dangers.
If there is any silver lining for Americans in the face of this tragedy, we can find it in the courage of our people. Families are gathering food, clothes and supplies and sending it south by the truckload. Americans are opening up their homes to complete strangers. The generosity and compassion of the American people is incomparable but sadly these past few days Americans have learned the hard way that generosity and compassion from those who are in charge of the federal government is in short supply.
The reality of what millions of Americans face every day was brought home this week. Americans saw on television the grave economic disparity that exists in this country. They were forced to confront the struggles that many African American families have faced for years due to lack of jobs and critical services to help open the doors of opportunity. They saw the people left behind literally and figuratively by the politicians who control Washington these days.
The truth is that many children languishing in shelters this week will get vaccinations for the first time. Thousands of adults will see a doctor after going without a check-up for years. Illnesses lingering long before Katrina will be treated by a healthcare system that just weeks ago had no interest in helping. In this time of tragedy, we demand healthcare for all. Yet for the rest of the year this nation silently tolerates the injustice of 11 million children and 30 million adults suffering without healthcare.
We all have to ask ourselves what it says about our nation, and our leadership, when only in a time of crisis we help people who need help most. Our nation’s real test after Katrina goes well beyond the rebuilding of New Orleans, Mississippi and Alabama. We will be judged by how we deal with the all the unmet challenges and injustices in our nation.
The lesson of Katrina is simple. We must always be honest about the challenges we face, and never reserve our compassion only for disasters. People must not allow the Administration to continue sugar-coating the true state of this nation.
Americans everywhere have proven their capacity to do good over and over again these last weeks. Now, we need to keep the momentum going and join together to make Katrina what 9/11 should have been: the crisis that brings Americans together and galvanizes this nation to fight injustice and tackle the great challenges of our generation.