Katrina Rebuilding Efforts Move Nation Toward New Beginnings

The American public tuned into President Bush's weekly radio address Saturday, which highlighted the compassionate efforts that have moved the entire nation toward "a bright dawn" in the aftermath of Katrina.

After visiting the hurricane-stricken regions of Mississippi and Louisiana, Bush exposed the scenes of the grieving and the searching that have "moved [the] whole nation to action."

He reiterated the commitments he had made to the nation during Thursday night's prime time address in rebuilding the homes and communities that had once housed thousands of families who now lay as evacuees.

The three pledges include immediate relief effort with more than $60 billion provided by Congress, a commitment "to help the citizens of the Gulf Coast put their lives back together and rebuild their communities" with a goal of getting people out of the shelters by mid-October, and the assurance of rebuilding "better and stronger" communities as recovery efforts address the issue of poverty.

"The recovery of the Gulf Coast region will be one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen," said Bush in his weekly radio address.

Not only does the Katrina disaster provide Americans with the opportunity to respond to the immediate needs of the suffering, but also to plunge into the deeper issues of poverty and justice.

"As we rebuild homes and businesses we will renew our promise to be the land of equality and decency," said Bush. "And one day Americans will look back at the response to Hurricane Katrina and say that our country grew not only in prosperity, but also in character and justice."

Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., President of the National Council of Churches and Christian Methodist Episcopal bishop of Louisiana and Mississippi, also brought attention to the underlying poverty issue in a statement released Friday by the National Council of Churches after Bush's televised address.

"Disaster relief and rescue must go beyond the flooded streets of New Orleans and reach into the desperate lives of the millions in poverty across our land – a disproportionate number of whom are African American," said Hoyt.

"Today, we stand on the threshold of what is a great opportunity," he continued. "It is an opportunity to become the America that we have always dreamed of being."

"It is an opportunity to stop making empty promises, to practice what we preach, to walk what we talk."

As Bishop Hoyt called America to put words into action, citizens and faith-based groups continued to take the desperate needs of the Katrina victims to heart with ongoing relief efforts and continuous acts of compassion.

"Our citizens have responded to this tragedy with action and prayer," stated Bush.

Shedding light on the faith-based communities, Jim Towey, director of the White House office of faith-based and community initiatives, said in an online interactive forum called Ask the White House, "I have marveled at the miracles that have been done – where different faith traditions have reached out with compassion to help those in desperate need."

Along with the assistance of organizations on a national level, including Lutheran Social Services, the Red Cross and Volunteers of America, Towey highlighted the generous response coming from smaller local groups.

"... the local responses by the little groups have been simply sensational," he stated, "and the Federal government has been working closely with them, and giving them FEMA supplies, to assist in this disaster relief."

Taking the opportunity to walk the talk together, faith-based groups, relief organizations and the federal government are rising to respond to the national crisis and to build a better and stronger country.

"We may have come to America on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now," said Bishop Hoyt.

While the city undergoes reconstruction, Bishop Hoyt went further in calling for "a new America."

"Let us rise up and build!" he added. "How we respond as a nation to this crisis can be the beginning of a new era of progress, prosperity and promise for a new America that will be true to its spiritual and ethical values and worthy of its leadership among the nations."

President Bush also made mention of a new beginning, speaking of "a bright dawn emerging over the Gulf Coast and the great city of New Orleans."

"In the life of our nation we have seen that wondrous things are possible when we act with God's grace," he said.