Madam Principal thank you for having us. Laura and I are honored to be here, umm... during the moment of reflection it is a time to... ask for the Almighty's blessings on those who suffer, those who lost a loved one, and remember that there's always a more blessed day in the future. And that's what we're here to celebrate, a more blessed day, and there's no better place to do so than in a place of hope... and that's a school, and so we're honored, uh, that you would welcome us. We love being with your teachers, and your students, thanks for being here.
Uh, governor thanks for coming. Uh, Governor Kathleen Blanco is an educational reformer. She has done what leaders are s'posed to do. When she sees a problem, address them head on and pass law and budget necessary to... achieve educational excellence, and you've done so governor, I congratulate you for your leadership.
I'm proud to be with the congressman. Jeff thanks for coming. You care deeply about the... students of this district and I'm glad you're here.
I do want to thank Don Powell for joining us, Don is the... is the recovery man, uh, who, uh, represents the White House and the administration here in Washington. From, in, in Louisiana from Washington and thank you for your service.
I appreciate the state education superintendent, uh Pastorak, superintendent thanks for coming, he is a, he's got a vision of excellence for the schools in New Orleans, and for uh, Louisiana. He shared that vision with us earlier.
I appreciate, uh, Paul Vallas, superintendent here in New Orleans for his willingness to take on... this challenge. He dudn't view it as a... problem, he views it as an opportunity. I first met Paul in Chicago, where he is uh, he was an advocate then like he is today of high expectations and... strong accountability to make sure every child learns.
I appreciate Hilda Young. Sister Finnery. She's the superintendent of the Catholic School system here I thank all the teachers... students and parents who've joined us.
Hurricane Katrina, umm... broke through the levees, it broke a lot of hearts, it destroyed buildings but it didn't affect the spirit of a lot of citizens. In this community. This spirit can be best reflected when, when you think about... a principal who... refused to allow a school to... be, uh, destroyed by the flood and worked hard to not only rebuild the building but keep the spirit alive or... it can be reflected in the fact that teachers commute. Uh, we met a... seventh grade teacher, today... who, uh, commutes thirty miles every day... to be able to impart knowledge and... to share wisdom with students who will be... leading New Orleans in the future
And so it's uh, I-I uh, I... m-my attitude is this, New Orleans... better days are ahead. It's sometimes hard for people to see progress when you live... in a community all the time. Laura and I get to come, we-we-we don't live here. We-we come... on occasion. And it's easy to think about what it was like when we first came here after the hurricane... and what it's like today. And this town's coming back. This town is better today than it was yesterday and it's gonna be better tomorrow than it was... today. And idn't no better place to find that out than, uh, than in the school system.
First I do wanna thank our fellow citizens for their generosity when it comes to helping New Orleans and the Gulf Coast rebuild. The citizens of this country thus far... have, uh, paid out a hunnert and fourteen billion dollars in tax revenues, their money... to help the folks down here. And I appreciate the governor, last night we went to, uh, we had a nice dinner... here in New Orleans, bytheway I have yet to recover... Dooky Chase's. If you wanna eat a lot of good food go there. But during that dinner the governor, uh, expressed her appreciation... to the taxpayers of America, i know there's taxpayers are people from all around the country have gotta understand the people of this part of the world, really do appreciate... the fact that the American citizens... are supportive of the recovery effort.
Of the hunnert-fourteen billion spent so far... uh, uh, uh, uh, in resources allocated so far 'bout eighty percent of the funds have been dispersed or available... uh, and of course, Don and I will try to work through the bureaucracy in Washington just like folks down here are trying to work through the bureaucracy to make sure that there are adequate plans for the money. And so we're workin' through... this kind of collaborative effort of federal, state and local... folks workin' together to make sure the taxpayers money is spent wisely on priorities. But there's uh been a commitment and a strong commitment.
A lot of people down here prob'ly wondered whether or not, those of us in the federal government not from Louisiana would pay attention, to Louisiana or Mississippi, 'nother words... one thing to come give a speech in Jackson Square it's another thing to... keep paying attention to whether or not progress is being made, and uh, I hope, I hope people understand we do. W-w-w-w-we're still paying attention... we understand.
One of Don Powell's jobs is to make sure that the federal government understands the hurdles that remain to, for recovery. One hurdle was the levee system. We fully understand that New Orleans, can't be rebuilt until there's confidence in the levees. It's one thing to plan it's another thing to convince people that, uh, that the levees will work. And there's been a lot of effort by the Army Corps of Engineer as a matter of fact Don Powell announced, uh, the other day that... that we're gonna complete work to improve stormfloodprotectioninfrastructure, uh, to a hunnert year protection level... by 2011. And that's a, uh, that's, that's a commitment... and it's an important commitment to make.
We're also gonna fund 1.3 billion dollar network of interior drainage projects to insure the area, has, better hurricane protection... or if there's federal responsibilities the levee system is the federal responsibility... and we'll, we'll meet our responsibility. And there's a, uh, obviously we're gonna work, together with the state... and local governments as well, obviously it's, it's, its uh, it's a collaborative effort. Uh, one of the things that Kathleen and I have been working on a long time is wetlands restoration... in order to provide more protection for the folks down here, we got a good bill outta the Congress, and uh, it's an opportunity now for Louisiana to have the cash, uh funds necessary to begin a... serious and subsidied wetlands restoration program.
I appreciate the fact that Al Gonzalez was down yesterday talking about how the federal government can help... on local law enforcement matters. I firmly believe local law enforcement is just that - local... requires a commitment by the local folks to... hold people to account for crime, but the federal government can help and so Al was down yesterday announcing, uh in opening a family justice center. To help the... victims of... domestic violence
Uh, VA... is gonna build a medical... center in downtown New Orleans... as part of the federal commitment, to... helping people here recover.
And so I uh, I come... uh telling the folks in this part of the world that we, we still understand there's problems... and we're still engaged and, and Don will continue to... make sure that uh, that we listen, and respond when, when possible.
But let me talk about the school system, umm... there is nothing more hopeful than a, a good school system... and I firmly believe that excellence in education is gonna be the... leading edge of change... for New Orleans. Uh, Mark Spellings who's the Secretary of Education understands this... concept. The government has uh, provided Louisiana with more than 700 million dollars in emergency education funds... to help not only the public school system, but also the parochial school system. And that's money well spent. It's money spent on, c-construction, it's money spent on, uh, creating sincentives for teachers to return, it's money insent to make sure children who went to other school districts, uh, those school districts got reimbursed, it was good money spent. Because education needs to be the number one priority in the state... just like... Kathleen Blanco has made... that the priority.
New Orleans is, uh 'bout to open eighty school, nearly eighty schools this fall, that's a remarkable achievement. Nearly half of which happen to be charter schools. I believe in freedom, to manage... and accountability to make sure everybody learns. And that's the essence of the charter school movement. Freedom to manage... but accountability to make sure... no child... gets left behind and that's' the spirit of the superintendent... both superintendents here. They believe in high expectations... and measuring... see its what I call challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations. If you don''t believe, that somebody can learn you'll set low expectations. If you believe every child can learn... you'll raise the expectations and then you'll insist upon measurement to make sure that... each child is tracked. And we disaggregate results, that's a fancy word for making sure that... we understand whether or not, each school... is meeting certain standards. And then help for those that aren't... changes for those that aren't, and praise for those that are, and we're at MLK and we're here to heap praise.
This is the first public school to open in the Lower Ninth Ward. It is a tribute to volunteers... concerned parents and citizens who... care about education. It is a... tribute to the fact that, there's teachers who... taught in makeshift classrooms during renovations, in other words they care about the buildings, but they care more about education... and were willing to teach, no matter what the circumstances may be. Uh, and they, it, it's uh, a tribute to a principal... who had a clear vision. And so we're here to herald excellence, and to thank the good folks, in this community for supporting this school, with the understanding that this school... is one of the great beacons for hope.
I uh, I want to thank uhm... the educational entrepreneurs who've joined us, those who are in the process of... helping find... uh... new teachers. Teachers... there was a great concern obviously when, when, w-w-when schools re-opening to whether or not there'd be enough teachers. And people responded. Uh, people responded tuh... to the call to help... provided, uh, at a grassroots level the support necessary... uh, to encourage people to teach. Teach NOLA... is such an example. If your interested in bein' a teacher from around the country, get on the internet on Teach NOLA... and you'll find opportunities to come here, to Washing, uhn, New Orleans to teach. We got somebody from Washington, who came down... to help... rally, uh support for the... school system.
Teach For America is active... in this community. Charter school system by the way spawns all kinds of different opportunities for people... to be involved with schools I think of Kip McDonough... 15 school. It's a high standard school. It is a school that says y'know if there are rules that prevent us from teaching, we'll try to figure out how to get around 'em cause what matters more than anything i... teaching a child.
I was impressed that uh, that when they got into the school system there, when they first got going in this particular school they extended the school day with class every other saturday. It's whatta we, what does it take to catch up. What do we need to do to meet standards. And uh, it... the principal, the former principal put it this way, "It took a hurricane to speed up and really jump start the reform efforts in New Orleans" 'Nother words the hurricane was disastrous in many reasons, but it also gave a great opportunity... for a new way forward, seized by the governor and the superintendents and the principals... by the way.
Uh Laura and I care a lot about the libraries... why we dedicatin' books... we're proud to be, uh, a part of... the rebuilding of this library. Uh Laura's got a foundation, uh, and has established the Gulf Coast Library Recovery Initiative... all aiming to make sure, that, uh... that these libraries are stocked with books. You oughta apply to her foundation, by the way I think that might have... I think you'll have a good opportunity. I'll try to work it for you.
I'll never forget one time when I was governor of Texas a woman looked at me 'n she said "reading is the new civil right." It had a profound impact... on the policies that we have pursued, uh, since I've been in public office, and Laura's pursuit as a... lifelong reader. 'N that person was right. We gotta start makin' sure these youngsters can read... at grade level... and stay reading at grade level, no better way to send a message that that is a commitment, than by making sure that the libraries are stocked.
I wanna share a story with you about a woman named Rebecca Jeanfreau who's here... where are you Rebecca... there ya go, thanks for comin'...uh, she was uh... a Boston architect... she'd studied to become uh, a uh... architect and was... in a firm, uh but she is from New Orleans, and she started thinking about the community she loved. And so she said uh, I needed to act and I'm ready to act... and she came back to be a teacher. She left a promising career as a, architect... to come back to a... community that's she's... that is dear to her heart. It's that spirit by the way, that is gonna, uh... uh, a-allow me to predict, with certainty... New Orleanses... better days are ahead... for the New Orleans people.
I mean this is a, uh, and there's stories like go back to all over this community... people who've heard a call... to come back and help... no better way to help by the way than to teach. But there're all kinds of different ways people can help the people of New Orleans... and, and the Gulf Coast recover. You can contribute to the NGO's or the... local organizations that are still helpin' heal hearts. You can help with, uh, sendin' books to schools. You can get on websites to determine, where the needs are. If you're a citizen of this country who cares about making sure that this part of the region fully recovers... please participate... please find a way to help and... continue to do so.
So governor I'm honored you're here. Laura and I are thrilled to be in this school... we're... we're really pleased that uh, that uh MLK school has given us an opportunity to herald excellence, uh, ah... we uh, we care deeply about the folks in this part of the world, we ask for God's blessings... on the families who still hurt and suffer... and we thank God for... the recovery efforts that thus far have taken place. Thank you for your time.
No, really, who the hell is Kip McDonough? And after all that praise for MLK's principal, who stood next to the First Ape the whole time, couldn't he at least have introduced her? I don't know who she is. And if you listened to the video as you read along, you'll know that those weren't spelling errors on my part, just verbatim transcription. Now, I'm a complete idiot when it comes to punctuation, but at least I can speak the English Language! How much do you wnat to bet that this speech is all prettified and edited for Georgie's memoirs? You would think his oration and diction would be better for a speech on education! There's so much wrong here that even I'm at a loss for words, but from what I can make out, between the heaping praise for our local pinheads and future jailbirds, education is important to this man. How's that for fucking irony. Let this be a lesson on the importance of voting. A presidency is a terrible thing to waste.