|U.S. 'flunked' initial hurricane response, congressman says
|A UMNS photo by Gretchen Hakola
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II prays for the Gulf Coast at the United Methodist Building in Washington.
April 27, 2006
A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert
WASHINGTON (UMNS) —
Hurricane Katrina revealed the nation’s character and “we flunked
miserably,” said U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II during a healing and
justice service for the Gulf Coast held April 26.
Speaking in Simpson Memorial Chapel at the United Methodist Building in
Washington, Cleaver said the character of an individual is not measured
only in bad times but in good.
“Remember this: most accidents don’t occur in bad weather,” he said.
“They occur when everything is fine, the sun is shining. … And character
is not determined always in bad weather.”
Cleaver, an ordained United Methodist minister and congressional
representative for the Fifth District of Missouri, used the National
Council of Churches' Earth Day worship resource, "Through the Eye of a
Hurricane: Rebuilding Just Communities." The service was sponsored by
the NCC's Eco-Justice Working Group.
“When Katrina struck, the character of the nation was revealed,” he
said. “Like David, everything was going fine with us, and so we were so
caught up in self-praise, self-worship, that we could not see the most
fundamental component of all three of the major religions: help the
poor. Judaism, Islam and Christianity all hold that principle high: You
help the poor.”
Cleaver serves as senior pastor of St. James United Methodist Church,
Kansas City, Mo., and is one of the co-sponsors of the Hurricane Katrina
Recovery Reclamation, Restoration, Reconstruction and Reunion Act of
2005 (HR 4197), introduced by the Congressional Black Caucus.
Steps for EPA
Last week, nearly 3,000 members of FaithfulAmerica.org, NCC’s electronic
advocacy program, sent close to 9,000 letters to elected officials
asking that they insist the Environmental Protection Agency fulfill its
moral and legal obligation to clean up toxic sediment that is still
blanketing Greater New Orleans.
“Only one out of six individuals in New Orleans owned an automobile,”
Cleaver said. “It was a very poor city. The committee I work with in
Congress, the subcommittee that oversees HUD, conducted hearings in the
Gulf Coast region, and no matter what you’ve seen on television, no
matter what photograph you’ve seen in the newspaper, you have not seen
If passed, HR 4197: Title II will mandate the EPA to develop a
Comprehensive Environmental Sampling and Toxicity Assessment Plan, which
would include public health assessments and monitoring; training of
cleanup workers; public notification of risks; a step-by-step process
for allowing residents to return to their property; a process for
compensating those unable to return to their property because of
environmental conditions; and an independent review of the EPA’s plan
for the Gulf Coast.
‘Do whatever we can’
The NCC’s Eco-Justice Working Group has been actively monitoring the
progress of the environmental cleanup in the Gulf Coast region. It
issued a Statement of Eco-Justice Principles for Rebuilding the Gulf
Region in October.
The council also established a Special Commission for the Just
Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast region to “strive for the greatest degree
of coherence and comprehensive efforts in our rebuilding the Gulf Coast
communities and in addressing the human inequities which exacerbated a
natural disaster into wholesale calamity.” United Methodist Bishop
Melvin Talbert heads the special commission.
“We have almost 1,400 people dead, hundreds missing,” Cleaver said.
“This was the largest, most costly natural disaster ever. … This was a
crisis, and the nation understandably would be measured by this crisis.
And we flunked. We flunked miserably.”
Cleaver said it is possible to rebuild New Orleans, but people must make sure the issue is not forgotten.
“We’ve go to push people, we’ve got to write letters, we’ve got to send
e-mails. We must do whatever we can to make sure this doesn’t fade back
to page 22 (in newspapers),” he said.
It is not too late for the nation to turn around and practice what any
of the three monotheistic religions would practice with regard to
helping the poor, he said.
“We can turn around in our personal lives and we can turn around in the
corporate life of our nation, but it requires that men and women speak
up. It requires that we not turn loose an issue that requires justice.”
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Profiles (Audio Faith Stories)
Emanuel Cleaver: U.S. Congressman and senior pastor of St. James UMC (Kansas City) shares his faith story
'Clean Sweep' results in tons of electronic waste
Event focuses on church's role in caring for environment
Storms revealed faces of poverty in U.S., bishop says
Commentary: We must rebuild on a rock of justice
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver
NCC Earth Day Special: Help Heal the Gulf
Earth Day Resources