January 2, 1983
Thank you very much, and let me assure everyone out there the interruption will be very brief. I just want to say a good afternoon to the courageous people of Monroe, Louisiana, and the other hard-hit areas of this State.
I welcome this opportunity to tell you, the people of Louisiana, you're not alone. The entire Nation has been following your ordeal. I know many here have lost their homes and life's possessions. But I also know that with every rise in the water level, the spirit and determination of the people of Louisiana have risen as well.
The entire country has watched the volunteers who have been filling and stacking sandbags. You exemplify the concept of neighbor helping neighbor, which is the very basis of our way of life.
You know, in Washington, there's a very famous statue of our soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima. Well, maybe the sight of volunteers keeping back the force of river waters by lifting sandbags would make another dramatic statue symbolizing America's character.
I've just returned from visiting a flood-ravaged area in this part of the State, and what we've seen has given human shape to the statistics the Nation has been hearing about Louisiana: 2 dead, hundreds injured, nearly 10,000 homeless, thousands of dwellings damaged or destroyed. I'm told in the Monroe area alone, 2,000 homes have been damaged, 12,600 acres of farmland have also been damaged.
The flood, whether in Louisiana or Mississippi or in Arkansas, remains as dangerous today as it was in ancient Biblical times.
Louisiana's public officials are doing everything possible to lessen the disaster. I've been briefed by your Governor, Dave Treen, Congressman Huckaby, and Mayor Powell of Monroe. They're working hard to ease the impact of disaster.
And let me add that Louisiana local officials in the parishes and towns have been doing a tremendous job as well. And as you'd expect, the National Guard and the Red Cross are on the scene, and the Salvation Army.
You can take pride in the way your whole State is pulling together to meet this crisis. As in past national disasters, the entire Nation wants to come to your aid. Federal and State officials are working now to assess the extent of the damage. I know Governor Treen is framing a request that portions of Louisiana be declared a disaster area. I have told Governor Treen that I approve that request. The Federal Government will provide every bit of assistance possible and without delay. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are already at work. We must all do everything we can to help our neighbors in Louisiana rebuild their lives.
I know the crest of the flood may not yet have arrived and that the situation may become still more difficult, but please know the rest of America is standing with you. You have our respect, our prayers, and a helping hand. With your courage and the Nation's support, Louisiana will come through the flood and then you'll do what is in every American's blood -- rebuild with hope and determination.
And may I just add that any of you who would like to help in this disaster, you could direct that help earmarked for this particular disaster in contributions to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
Thank you, and God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 3:46 p.m. on a regional radio hookup from a radio station in the flood area of Monroe, following a tour of the stricken area. The President stopped in Monroe on his way to Washington, D.C., from Palm Springs, Calif.