In his speech at the Katrina 5 Commemoration and Determination Ceremony, the speaker, Mitch Landrieu, recounts the experiences of various people during the storm that struck the Gulf five years ago. Landrieu’s aim is to help people remember the souls that died during that time span and to ensure that the audience recognizes the effect on today’s society. He depicts the era’s shortcomings as well as the tragic circumstance that ensued. He uses a solemn tone to assist the audience in comprehending the events of the day in question as well as identifying solutions to problems that were encountered on that day.
Landrieu starts his speech by expressing appreciation to the audience and Brian for coming to the event. He goes on to explain that the main purpose of the event is to mark the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which hit a major part of the Gulf. In addition to this, he reminds the audience of the grief they experienced for “the one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six Americans who lost their lives” (Landrieu). He expressed that they were all left in mourning and that even though it may seem like a long while had passed, in some instances, “the moments that have been etched into our memories flood back to us like the rising water” (Landrieu). He expresses that different situation including, “Oppressive heat, pitch black nights, confusion, and fear’ bring back the feelings they had during that tragedy. The emotions and sentiments he conveys show an empathetic tone that reassures victims and families affected by the storm that their grief is not forgotten but proper and understandable.
Secondly, Landrieu emphasizes his feelings further by showing that the government failed the people during such a tragic time. He expresses how the people who managed to head out had to resort to shelter on the roofs of houses while waiting for hours for rescue teams to arrive. On the other hand, “People, like apparitions, defiantly emerging from the water — head first, shoulders second — holding a black garbage bag filled with the only things that they had left” (Landrieu). He gave examples of people who were unable to make it out of the zone on time like Vera Smith, whose grave was the street for a few days. The Port of St. Bernard had a sheltering shed that housed thousands of people that it became overwhelmed. He reiterates that even though it had been five years, there still were unclaimed bodies that lay in the Memorial. He joins the society in mourning their dead during this moment and even leads them in a moment of silence to show respect to the departed souls. This emotion from the speakers showed that he felt the pain they felt, he understood their loss and took time to reassure them that what they experienced was not an isolated feeling.
Landrieu moves to explain that through the experience of the people in the Gulf, they were able to come up with a stronger nation that understands the pain of loss. First, this showed when they “endured together,” even though their “lives had lost color,” and “everything was grey” (Landrieu). He goes on to explain about the groups that came in to help the people at that time to deal with the sorrow and get back on their feet. The author uses statements that explains that he also was affected by sharing their feelings. He says that “Bit by bit, time smoothed the jagged edges of our memories.” His use of language that is self-inclusive helps the audience understand that he is a part of them and he felt their pain. He understood their experiences and was just as affected by the storm as they were. Just as he says, “we knew we could not do this alone.” The use of first person pronouns reiterates to the audience his feelings on the situation and his strong sense of their loss and development after the loss.
Landrieu closes by explaining how far they had come as a community after the storm. He speaks of their “path to resurrection.” Additionally, he moves to encourage the people to be better people as learnt from the tragedy. This would involve being better neighbors, parents, friends, family, and even children. He establishes that the people should understand the value of other lives since” the value of our lives is not measured by the things that we own.” He expounds by telling the audience that the journey should not end at this point. Rather, they should strive harder to ensure that “tomorrow will always be better than today.” He encourages the people of New Orleans by qualifying to the rest of America that they overcame despite the hardships and were empowered. He ends by speaking blessing on the people of New Orleans as he was assured that they were going to better people as they have “committed to strive, to seek, to find, and never, ever, ever to yield.” The speaker’s words assured the audience that in truth the people of New Orleans are a changed and better society despite their loss.
Mitch Landrieu. (2010). Speech on the Removal of Four Confederate Monuments in New Orleans. Retrieved from http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mitchlandrieukatrina5.htm