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President Obama's Address: His Words on Gulf Food

A Louisiana shrimping boat
A Louisiana shrimping boat
Photo: Mira (on the wall) / Flickr

Last night, President Obama declared war on what is now, apparently, 60,000 barrels of oil hemorrhaging into the Gulf of Mexico daily. Among other initiatives, such as establishing a National Commission to look into the cause of the fire on the Deepwater Horizon rig, Obama announced that BP is responsible for compensating the fishermen of the region for their lost livelihood.

He also ended the speech on a tearjerker of an anecdote about "The Blessing of the Fleet," a non-denominational religious ceremony that takes place all over the US at the beginning of fishing season. It is especially poignant in this region given its symbolic ties to the post-Katrina era.

On the seafood industry:

You know, for generations, men and women who call this region home have made their living from the water. That living is now in jeopardy. I’ve talked to shrimpers and fishermen who don’t know how they’re going to support their families this year. I’ve seen empty docks and restaurants with fewer customers -– even in areas where the beaches are not yet affected. I’ve talked to owners of shops and hotels who wonder when the tourists might start coming back. The sadness and the anger they feel is not just about the money they’ve lost. It’s about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost.

I refuse to let that happen....

On The Blessing of the Fleet:

It’s a faith in the future that sustains us as a people. It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the Gulf right now.

Each year, at the beginning of shrimping season, the region’s fishermen take part in a tradition that was brought to America long ago by fishing immigrants from Europe. It’s called “The Blessing of the Fleet,” and today it’s a celebration where clergy from different religions gather to say a prayer for the safety and success of the men and women who will soon head out to sea -– some for weeks at a time.
The ceremony goes on in good times and in bad. It took place after Katrina, and it took place a few weeks ago –- at the beginning of the most difficult season these fishermen have ever faced.

And still, they came and they prayed. For as a priest and former fisherman once said of the tradition, “The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that He is with us always,” a blessing that’s granted “even in the midst of the storm.”

· Remarks by the President to the Nation on the BP Oil Spill [White House]
· All Obama coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All oil spill coverage on Eater [-E-]

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