On Sept. 8, after it became obvious that Hurricane Katrina had cost hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans their lives, President George W. Bush declared today a national “day of prayer and remembrance.”
But for prayer to be a sign of hope, America as a society will have to address problems before they become painfully obvious. Thousands lost everything they owned through this disaster, many of whom lived in poverty even before the storm hit.
Rebuilding efforts are already under way. In a televised speech Wednesday night, Bush said, “The work that has begun in the Gulf Coast region will be one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen. When that job is done, all Americans will have something to be very proud of.”
Such news brings hope to America as a nation. Once the city is rebuilt it will indeed be a success to be proud of. But we also need to assure that hope is brought not only to those who live in poverty in the affected areas but also elsewhere in the nation.
As The Oracle has previously reported, the latest census reports the number of individuals living in poverty rose by 1.1 million in 2004, raising the percentage of Americans living in poverty to 12.7 percent of the population. This cannot be allowed to continue.
When Katrina hit, many lacked the means to evacuate because they did not own a car or the necessary funds to pay for a bus ticket. Such a situation in a major American city is a blemish not only on New Orleans, it is a blemish on the nation.
The rebuilding efforts must include the needs of all displaced. This includes resisting temptations to “solve” the poverty problem in the region by rebuilding housing that the displaced cannot afford.
Pushing poverty into a new location may be a quick fix for the region, but it will not end poverty. Neither does prayer alone; actions must follow.