Bishop Hoyt replies to Bush: rebuilding
is a great opportunity to
realize America's historic dream
15, 2005 -- Bishop
Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., President of the National Council of Churches and
Christian Methodist Episcopal bishop of Louisiana and Mississippi,
welcomed President Bush's pledge Thursday night to rebuild New Orleans
and the Gulf Coast.
"Today," Hoyt said in response to the presidential
address, "We stand on the threshold of what is a great opportunity. It
is an opportunity to become the America that Martin Luther King, Jr., so
vividly portrayed ... It is an opportunity to stop making empty
promises, to practice what we preach, to walk what we talk."
speech to the nation, Mr. Bush promised one of the largest
reconstruction programs in history. The President also responded to
charges that help was slow in coming to hurricane victims because most
were poor and black. "That poverty has roots in a history of racial
discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of
America," Bush said. "We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold
Bishop Hoyt replied, "In our rush to repair the levees and restore the
neighborhoods of the Gulf Coast, let us not continue the injustices --
and, yes, the sins of omission and commission -- of the past. Let us not
continue to allow poor people to live in neighborhoods that are
environmental hazards. Let us not continue to allow honest, hardworking
people to work for
less than livable wages.
The full text of Bishop Hoyt's response follows:
It is commendable
for President Bush to apologize for the mistakes made in the aftermath
of Hurricane Katrina. We welcome his pledge to rebuild New Orleans and
the Gulf Coast. We celebrate his promise to address the injustices that
were so profoundly exposed by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and
the subsequent flooding of New Orleans.
Both his apology and his promises will help us move forward as a nation.
Yet, as his sisters and brothers in faith, we feel it is our duty to
remind the President that an apology and promises will only go so far.
Now, as a nation, we must acknowledge that this crisis has only exposed
what lies just beneath the surface of prosperity and progress in this
country. In America, we have a past that haunts us on every level of our
existence. We now see all too clearly that a person's race and class
can often determine whether or not you are left behind in the Super Dome
or escorted to safety.
As we look beyond the President's welcome candor, we must now look to
our government and to the private sector for a long-term change in
behavior that recognizes and corrects the glaring inequities of American
society in housing, jobs and wages, health care and education -- the
list is long and growing. 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.
Today, we stand on the threshold of what is a great opportunity. It is
an opportunity to become the America that we have always dreamed of
being. It is an opportunity to become the America that Martin Luther
King, Jr. so vividly portrayed in his "I Have A Dream" speech more than
40 years ago. It is an opportunity to stop making empty promises, to
practice what we preach, to walk what we talk. It is way beyond overdue
that America treats all its citizens as full participants in the
economic and educational and cultural mainstream. We may have come to
America on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now.
In our rush to repair the levees and restore the neighborhoods of the
Gulf Coast, let us not continue the injustices -- and yes, the sins of
omission and commission -- of the past. Let us not continue to allow
children to be left behind by under-funded school systems and inadequate
healthcare. Let us not continue to allow poor people to live in
neighborhoods that are environmental hazards. Let us not continue to
allow honest, hardworking people to work for less than livable wages.
The Book of Nehemiah (2:18) records that the people of Israel, seeing
that Jerusalem was destroyed, said, "Let us rise up and build. Then they
set their hands to this good work." As the Bishop of the Fourth
Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church presiding
over Mississippi and Louisiana and as the President of the National
Council of Churches USA, I say to you: Let us rise up and build! 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
Hoyt's Sept. 1 statement on Hurricane Katrina's assault on the Gulf
The National Council of Churches is composed of 35 member churches in
the USA representing a wide spectrum of Orthodox, mainline,
Episcopalian, historic African American and peace churches. The
membership of these churches includes 45 million Americans.
Contact NCC News: Leslie Tune,
202-544-2350; Philip E. Jenks,