President Obama to New Orleans: 'We Will Rebuild'

The president tells skeptical residents that much work remains to be done.

ByABC News
October 15, 2009, 5:24 PM

Oct. 15, 2009— -- In his first visit to New Orleans since last year's election, President Obama today reassured residents that the government would continue to help rebuild the city damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, although he noted that much work still remains to be done.

"Katrina may have swept through the city but it did not destroy this community, and that is because of you, the people of New Orleans," Obama said at a town hall event at the University of New Orleans, where this year's graduating class will be the first that attended the school after Katrina struck.

In the face of criticism that the president's first visit to the city came nine months after he took office and lasted less than four hours, the administration has highlighted that Cabinet members have made 35 trips to the Gulf Coast since January and they have freed up $1.5 billion in recovery funds from bureaucratic red tape.

"I promise you this," Obama said. "Whether it's me coming down here or my Cabinet or other members of my administration, we will not forget about New Orleans. We are going to keep on working. We are not going to forget about the Gulf Coast. Together we will rebuild this region and we will rebuild it stronger than before. It is going to be stronger than before."

But the president noted that the initial government response under President Bush was far from adequate.

"It has now been just over four years since that terrible storm struck your shores," Obama noted. "And the days after it did, this nation and all the world bore witness to the fact that the damage from Katrina was not caused just by a disaster of nature, but also by a breakdown of government, that government wasn't adequately prepared and we didn't appropriately respond."