This June, AAUW is headed to New Orleans! That’s right — we’re holding our 2013 National Convention June 9–12 in the Big Easy. We can’t wait to titillate our taste buds with some spicy jambalaya; stroll through beautiful, historic neighborhoods; and learn and share with fellow AAUW members. We’re also eager to celebrate the city and the people who can still “laissez les bons temps rouler” after experiencing one of the most devastating natural disasters in human history — a hurricane that flooded nearly 80 percent of New Orleans. Images of residents clinging to their roofs while awaiting rescue helicopters are indelibly etched on our minds. But we rejoiced as New Orleans was rebuilt and grieved with them again when the BP oil spill fouled the picturesque and unique beauty of its waterways and coastline.
But the indomitable spirit of New Orleans and its people fight on. On the fifth anniversary of Katrina, the city’s gross domestic product was almost $9 billion higher than it was in 2005, and its population had returned to nearly 80 percent of pre-Katrina levels. Tourism — New Orleans’ biggest employer and largest source of tax revenue — brought 10.1 million visitors to the city in 2004. Only 3.7 million visitors arrived in 2006, but by 2008, the city was entertaining 7.6 million tourists.
“New Orleans is turning a corner,” says AAUW intern and New Orleans native Brooke Ochsner. “The greatest hardship for the city was having to convince outsiders that our beloved community deserved to be rebuilt. That we should not be washed away and forgotten but that we had potential. As a city, we developed a sense of pride that I have yet to see elsewhere.”
After four years of being away at college, Ochsner says that what she misses most about New Orleans is how the city “embraces the richness of the simple moments like listening to live music, or sitting outside with friends and some cold drinks, or devouring a crusty, fried shrimp po’ boy.” She remembers how “things move a little slower in this beautiful old place … families still lay out picnics and throw Frisbees along the powerful Mississippi river.” AAUW is thrilled to soak up some of that richness — not to mention getting our hands around a piping hot po’ boy! We will be grateful to play a small role in supporting the local economy and honoring this proud city.
Come join us as we savor the gumbo, sway with the jazz, and marvel at the vibrancy, color, and diversity that is New Orleans. Take a moment to enjoy all it has to offer and to celebrate our 2013 National Convention with a cause. What is that cause? Celebrating women and girls — as well as hope and recovery of all kinds!
This post was written by AAUW Member-Focused Leadership Programs Manager Stephanie Kraemer.