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President Obama Welcomes the Saints & the New Orleans Spirit

As the Gulf Coast fights to emerge from another tragedy, their football team is a reminder of what they've made it through before.

Having the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints here at the White House this morning, there was a sense of hope and almost lightheartedness – nobody forgot that Louisiana is still in the midst of yet another tragedy, but it was reminder that New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast has seen the worst before and come out fighting.

The President gave a few remarks on why so many Americans had a soft spot for the Saints:

So this was an unbelievable season.  After decades of frustration, the Saints finally won the big one.  The “ain’ts” and the “sad sacks” gave way to the “Who Dats.”  Local musicians even gave a jazz funeral to retire the “ain’ts” nickname.  But I think we all know that this season meant far more than that to the City of New Orleans -– and to all Americans, really.

Look, I’m a Bears fan.  I’m not going to lie.  (Laughter.)  But this was a big win for the country -- not just for New Orleans -- because five years ago, this team played its entire season on the road.  It didn’t have a home field.  The Superdome had been ruined by Hurricane Katrina.  The heartbreaking tragedies that unfolded there when it was used as a shelter from that terrible storm lingered all too fresh in a lot of people’s minds.

And back then, people didn’t even know if the team was coming back.  People didn’t know if the city was coming back.  Not only did the team come back – it took its city’s hands and helped its city back on its feet.  This team took the hopes and the dreams of a shattered city and placed them squarely on its shoulders.

And so these guys became more than leaders in the locker room -– they became leaders of an entire region.  And the victory parade that we saw earlier this year made one thing perfectly clear, that New Orleans and the New Orleans Saints are here to stay.

Te President also spoke about the team's commitment to their community, and the government’s commitment to keep doing everything necessary for as long as it takes in the wake of the Deepwater BP oil spill:

This entire team has worked with Habitat for Humanity to rebuild neighborhoods in New Orleans.  Many of these guys and the coaches and the players run foundations to help children in need.  All of them are off to Walter Reed later this morning to spend some time with wounded warriors who served our country.

And obviously the Gulf region has spent the last few months besieged by yet another crisis.  But last week we received the news that we had hoped for.  Yesterday, we learned that a procedure to prevent any more oil from spilling with a cement plug appears to have succeeded.  And the final steps will be taken later in August when the relief well is completed.  But what is clear is that the battle to stop the oil from flowing into the Gulf is just about over.

Our work goes on, though.  I made a commitment to the people of the Gulf Coast that I would stand by them not just until the well was closed but until they recovered from the damage that’s been done.  And that’s a commitment my administration is going to keep.

So with the ongoing reopening of Gulf fisheries, we’re excited that fishermen can go back to work and Americans can confidently and safely enjoy Gulf seafood once again.  We’re certainly going to enjoy it here at the White House.  In fact, we had some yesterday.

President Obama Welcomes the New Orleans Saints

President Barack Obama greets players during an event honoring the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the East Room of the White House August 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

More on the seafood tomorrow…