A speech from the White House: hurricanes and earthquakes

Before we all become numb to the nonsense of this president and his administration, let’s imagine what white house podium copyshould be happening and how the leader of this country should sound when speaking to or about anyone.

(Oh, and fuck the tweets. Just stop.)

Let’s also pretend that Trump is someone else. I was going to suggest we dream that he’s asked our forgiveness for past sins (too many to list but among them, misspelled words and poor grammar damage my senses) but fuck that too. I’d forgive nothing nor have I ever considered he would or will change. In Amy Hempel’s short story “Tumble Home,” a character opines that people don’t independently transform themselves, pointing out for example, in the New Testament, “… the whore becomes a saint, Paul on the road to Damascus. I mean … Christianity acknowledges that for a person to change his nature is miraculous.” So no, the Lord will not be swooping down. There will be no blessed miracle. This country elected an idiot. Can you live with that? I can’t even breathe.

When I run in the morning my head is empty. Mostly I fill it with the day’s hoped-for schedule or contemplate life’s conundrums. Since November 8th, however, I’ve written several political speeches starting around mile two and delivered them to a captive audience at mile four. By the time I get back home, I’m President Jo.

I’m hoping this will become a series. For today, earthquakes and hurricanes:

Good evening.

It’s been a tragic several weeks. Our gratitude, as always, goes out to the first responders who bravely run into the chaos as others flee. They deserve our greatest respect and support.

Our hearts go out to Mexico and to the families of those who perished in the earthquake on Tuesday and from September 8th. Unlike the recent hurricanes we’ve witnessed, there is no demonstrable warning before the earth begins to shake. On the same date thirty-five years ago that Mexico City lost more than 10,000 of its citizens, they’re pulling each other out of the rubble once again. I have spoken to President Peña Nieto and offered our assistance by way of 400 troops, among them Search and Rescue as well as aircraft and supplies. They’re scheduled to arrive tomorrow and will provide aid as a supplement to the Mexican government’s own efforts as well as the brave and inspiring determination of the people of that great country—our southern neighbor, our ally, and our friend.

FEMA will continue their efforts in helping individuals and families recover, physically and financially, in Houston, in Rockport and Fulton, across Florida and among those suffering in Puerto Rico without electricity or running water. Our troops have been in the Virgin Islands since Saturday assisting the recovery and continued evacuation from neighborhoods left uninhabitable after Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria.

As a country, we’re well equipped to handle the aftermath of natural disasters up to a point and as much as we are willing to accept that we don’t control the weather or the earth’s core. We can control, however, the ways in which we treat this planet and so this afternoon, I informed President Macron of France and the head of the European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker, that we are entering back into the Paris Climate Accord. The United States will work tirelessly with the rest of the world to reduce humanity’s deleterious effect on ocean temperatures and on the severity we now see in these weather events. It is not too late – not yet.

But notice fewer buildings have fallen in Mexico City compared to 1985. Less damage was done in Florida after Irma compared to previous hurricanes even when they weren’t as powerful. I know that’s of little comfort to those who have lost so much but we must continue to learn from past catastrophes and admire how building code regulations work. Our finest engineers, and those in Mexico, have figured out how to minimize damage and keep newer buildings from falling over or being blown away, even as we insist on living in areas where Mother Earth would just as soon have us elsewhere.

In addition to the National Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers, I have instructed FEMA to expand their oversight of building codes and floodplain management in both Texas and Florida. FEMA will continue to proactively work with local and state agencies across the country to ensure that best efforts are being made and best practices are being implemented to provide us with the greatest chance of surviving the next natural disaster. And there will be a “next one.” So don’t believe those who would tell you that regulations are killing small businesses. I agree there are plenty that need to be re-examined and on a case-by-case basis are unnecessary and some of the best examples of government overreach. But let’s stop with this notion that regulations are “bad.” Many of them have saved lives because they were created with the imaginative anticipation of mankind’s shortcomings, our inability to believe that “it” could ever happen to “us.”

So if you live in California, strap those big pieces of furniture to the wall and make sure you know how to turn off the gas in your house or apartment if in an earthquake it fails to shut off automatically. Revisit those earthquake kits you put together four years ago. Heck, if you live anywhere, make sure you have a case of water on hand and batteries in your flashlights. If you’ve put canned food in your garage for when the “big one” hits, don’t forget the can opener.

We’re a smart country. Instead of being afraid, let’s prepare ourselves. Let’s learn from these tragedies as a gesture of hope and a belief in the greatness we are capable of. Your life and the lives of your loved ones may well depend on it.

Let this be a call to action, not the dreading of what’s to come.

Thank you and good night.

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Comments

  1. Mary Pat says

    You’ve got my vote! Seriously…start now – will keep a weekend free in 2023 for a couple nights in the Lincoln bedroom (I’m letting you get settled in). 😘

    • Jo says

      Ha! Love this. First thing I’m going to do when I get in there is get rid of all those hideous gold drapes he’s had hung. So garish. – Jo

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