Today is the first anniversary of the Joplin tornado. One year ago today, Weather Channel viewers like myself watched in horror as Mike Bettes entered the city just behind the tornado. It was the most shocking broadcast in TWC’s 25 year history.
Yesterday, President Obama attended the graduation ceremony for the Joplin High School Class of 2012. Their school was leveled by the tornado. They lost friends, teachers, classmates and their school that day. But they persevered. They survived. They rebuilt their lives and are moving forward. The President was there to honor them and the spirit of the city.
Their principal, Dr. Kerry Sachetta, was on Andrea Mitchell’s MSNBC show this afternoon telling her how honored the students were by the President’s presence. When people bother to listen to him, Barack Obama is a great speaker and can hit the right notes in a time of tragedy or triumph like few presidents before him.
His speech stayed away from politics, and spoke of the “power of community” and the community’s response to the tragedy without “greed and selfishness; ignorance and cruelty.” Not for Joplin the kind the of price gouging we have seen in the aftermath of hurricanes or the exclusion of certain people from assistance, no new zoning laws were passed to prevent the less acceptable from reclaiming their lives. All was good in Joplin last night.
President Obama told the class that what they have done in the past year is “…the same spirit we need right now to help rebuild America. And you, class of 2012, you’re going to help lead this effort. You’re the ones who will help build an economy where every child can count on a good education; you’re the ones who are going to make sure everyone who is willing to put in the effort can find a job that supports a family; you’re the ones who will make sure we’re a country that can control our own energy future and we lead the world in science and technology and innovation. No matter how tough times get, you’ll always be tougher. No matter what life throws at you, you will be ready. You will not be defined by the difficulties you face, but by how you respond – with grace, and strenght and a commitment to others.”