How New Orleans Drowned is the title of Tulane History Professor Douglas Brinkley’s new book. As this brief summary article in Vanity Fair shows, it’s a story about the failure of leadership. Speaking of leadership, tonight New Orleans will find out who its next mayor is. You don’t need to read Brinkley’s book, or even accept the accuracy of his account, to know that our current leadership has been sub-optimal (to put it diplomatically). People outside New Orleans know as much as we do about our leadership deficiencies: I just spent a few days with a group of lawyers and judges in Orlando and every single one of them is deeply concerned about our city and its current leadership. They want change to come to New Orleans as much as we do.
On August 28th, with Katrina barrelling down, I wrote a blog post entitled Massive Change is coming to New Orleans. Looking back, I realize that was a pretty easy prediction to make. But having had ‘massive change,’ what we need now is positive change. We have to rise above the flood damage and fix the things that were holding us back before the storm, as well as repair the post-storm damage. There’s a lot to be done and it needs to be done more quickly.
We need to fix so many things that it’s impossible for any one person to grasp the scope of the task. Our imagination has to be collective and our dedication has to be unified. We need a mayor who will bring us together, one who will inspire and guide us with focus, intelligence and passion. We need someone who will tell us what we need to know and not what we want to hear. We need someone who will help us make hard choices, or make them for us. We need the kind of leader that we read about in fables.
I’m as stirred up now as I was on the day before Katrina hit. The city’s fate is will be changed in a few hours –this time not by a force of nature, but, rather, by our own judgment. A postive change is now within our reach if we just choose it.
A strange feeling is telling me that we will.