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Bush Needs to Enlist All States in Resettling Victims

Reported by Judy - September 2, 2005

George Bush, who somehow managed to show some leadership after 9/11, has no ideas on how to enlist the American public in helping the victims of Katrina. That's obvious from the wooden speeches he has delivered during the unfolding catastrophe and his clumsy attempts at comforting the victims he met with Friday (September 2, 2005) on his publicity tour of the stricken areas. Bush should take a lesson from another Republican from another era, former Iowa Governor Robert Ray.

Ray, who was not a conservative but a moderate, knew what compassion was. In 1975, after the end of the Vietnam War, thousands of residents of Vietnam who were of Laotian ethnicity fled the country. In response to an appeal from President Gerald Ford, Ray cooperated with the Department of State in helping them resettle in Iowa.

A few years later, thousands of Cambodians fled the horrors of Pol Pot's regime. Crowded into refugee camps throughout Southeast Asia, they were at least being given food and water (more than the suffering people of New Orleans were), but their futures were bleak. In 1979, Ray visited a refugee camp in Southeast Asia. He returned to Iowa and, visibly moved, told reporters, "I saw people die."

Despite lukewarm public support at first, Ray committed the state of Iowa to accepting thousands of refugees and founded Iowa SHARES (Send Help to Aid Refugees and End Starvation) to raise money. Individuals, churches, and other groups sponsored families and brought them to Iowa, where they helped them find places to live, learn English, find jobs, and adjust to a new culture. Ray set a goal of resettling 10,000 Southeast Asians.

Since Ray left office in 1982, Iowa has continued the tradition of resettling refugees from around the world, receiving people from Poland, Bosnia, and elsewhere.

We need somebody with Bob Ray's vision right now to step forward and organize the nation's governors to adopt a similar program for the victims of Katrina.

People cannot live in school gymnasiums, the Astrodome, or tents for the months and years it will take to rebuild New Orleans and Biloxi. Many may not wish to return to a part of the country that is likely to be hit by another such disaster. Some states with low unemployment rates might even be anxious to have willing workers. Not all the victims of Katrina were sickly, infirm, or mothers with small children. Many were people with jobs and mortgages. Others may be unable to work. But they are all good Americans. When the time comes, many people may wish to return to a rebuilt New Orleans or Biloxi, but in the meantime, they can start rebuilding their lives elsewhere.

More importantly, such a program would allow some personal contact so that these suffering people know that somebody cares. Even if Bush doesn't.

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