Inspiring people to rise to the challenge
"He has a knack for stating the city's urgent case and inspiring others to action."
That's the line that stands out for me in The Times-Picayune endorsement of Mitch Landrieu.
I've been telling people almost exactly the same thing.
Mitch Landrieu speaks with an eloquence that inspires people to rise to the challenge of rebuilding New Orleans. I think I heard it most clearly on the night of the primary when Landrieu said, "although we may be bent, we will not be bowed nor broken." He can inspire New Orleanians to rise to the challenge, but I think he'll watch our back as well -- not leave us hanging like Nagin has done.
By contrast, Ray Nagin keeps doing the casual Mr. Cool routine, speaking in dull language off the cuff. His remarks seem to arise out of thin air while he's speaking, almost in reaction to whichever audience he's addressing, rather than as the product of building consensus around well-thought out plans and goals.
Ray Nagin lost so many vital opportunities to sell New Orleans to the rest of the country -- and worse, made us a laughing stock around water coolers and on sensationalist talk shows where scandal is more the nature of conversation than productive solutions.
He could have answered the criticisms about New Orleans going forward with Mardi Gras by explaining how carnival is a celebration of families and neighborhoods. Instead, he sat before Congress and joked about strip clubs and cockfighting, and later called New Orleans a chocolate city.
We need much more. We deserve much more. The rest of the country needs to identify New Orleans as an indispensible cultural and economic engine of the nation.
I think Mitch can do it. He's extremely intelligent, and he can build coalitions of disparate interests. I think he knows that his family's legacy depends upon his success. I think he has greater aspirations, but he's humble in the presence of others.
Keep an eye on him. I know this might sound corny, but Mitch sounded like John F. Kennedy when he delivered that speech on the night of the primary.
I've said it before, but the problems New Orleans faces are a microcosm of the problems the nation will have to confront in the not too distant future -- a multi-ethnic society, an increasingly service-based economy, failing schools, corruption in politics, environmental crisis, the need for more viable smaller neighborhoods and better transportation solutions.
What city isn't dealing with these issues? The United States needs to rise to the challenges of a more competitive and dangerous 21st century. Americans have always accepted the risks and challenges asked of them when they trusted that those sacrifices would be made to create a better future for themselves and their children. We don't have that kind of leadership at the helm of the country now.
New Orleans can be the model for the future. It might look like it's a mess, but that's in large part because the city has always been at the convergence of complicated issues, but through it all, it's coped reasonably well, it's retained the strength of its family ties, and the charm and color of its neighborhoods.
New Orleans has problems -- no doubt about it, but we've also had a more realistic experience with a spectrum of difficult issues than most other places. Hey, at least we're ahead of the nation in that regard. We can either allow others point to those ugly experiences as the example for the future, or we can tackle those issues in constructive ways that demonstrate the way of the future for the rest of the country.
I'm counting on Mitch to lead us into the future. He won't be able to do it alone. We'll need to bring the nation along with us, but if anyone can inspire people to help, it's more Mitch than Ray-Ray.
That's why I'm supporting Mitch Landrieu for mayor.
Tags: Hurricane Katrina | Katrina | New Orleans | Louisiana | We Are Not OK | Mitch | Mitch Landrieu | Nagin | Ray Nagin |