Bush returns to New Orleans for 10th anniversary of Katrina

Bush Praises Resilience of New Orleans' Schools on Katrina Anniversary


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former President George W. Bush returned Friday to New Orleans — the scene of one of his presidency's lowest points — to tout the region's recovery from the nation's costliest natural disaster on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

He and Laura Bush visited the oldest public school in the city — Warren Easton Charter High School, which was closed for a year because of storm damage and then reopened as a charter school. Bush visited the same school on the storm's first anniversary, and the library foundation of his wife helped rebuild it.

SEE MORE: Special coverage on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

The Bushes met with students and were greeted by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and former Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco, who fought hard to get federal aid during Katrina. Laura Bush wore a purple dress to honor the school's colors.

The school's success is a rare bright spot from what was an extremely trying time for Bush, who was vilified for his administration's lackluster response to the catastrophic storm.

His record was marred by initially flying over New Orleans in Air Force One without touching down to show his support in the flooded city, to his "Heckuva job, Brownie" praise for his Federal Emergency Management Agency director, Michael Brown.

See photos of the former President's previous visits to the Gulf Coast:

27 PHOTOS
Katrina 10 year: George W. Bush previous visits to Gulf Coast
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Bush returns to New Orleans for 10th anniversary of Katrina
UNSPECIFIED - AUGUST 31: In this handout photo provided by the White House, U.S. President George W. Bush looks out over devastation from Hurricane Katrina as he heads back to Washington D.C. August 31, 2005 aboard Air Force One. Bush cut short his vacation and returned to Washington to monitor relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Paul Morse/White House via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 2: US President George W. Bush (L) walks with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff across the South Lawn of the White House before leaving for the region devastation by Hurricane Katrina September 2, 2005 in Washington, DC. Bush is headed for three southern US states ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and said that the emergency response to the victims of the Hurricane are not acceptable. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Mobile, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush (L) thanks US Coast Guardsmen for their efforts in Hurricane Katrina upon his arrival 02 September 2005 at a Coast Guard Base in Mobile, AL, Bush, on a day-long visit to the battered states of Alabama, Mississippi and the flooded and lawless city of New Orleans, Louisiana, said the region seemed to have been 'obliterated by the worst kind of weapon you can imagine.' AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Baton Rouge, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush (L) walks with Lt General Russ Honore as he arrives to inspect the Emergency Operations Center 05 September 2005 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Bush is returning to visit US Gulf Coast areas battered by Hurricane Katrina, stopping in Louisiana and Mississippi. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
BILOXI, MS - SEPTEMBER 2: U.S. President George W. Bush (L) sits with Patrick Wright on the steps of what was his parents' house September 2, 2005 in Biloxi, Mississippi. Wright's parents survived the storm despite being inside the home while it was destroyed. Bush visited the town of Biloxi, in parts completely devastated, during his tour of the Gulf Coast to view damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
BILOXI, MS - SEPTEMBER 2: U.S. President George W. Bush hugs hurricane victim Sandra Patterson, whose home was destroyed, September 2, 2005 in Biloxi, Mississippi. Bush visited the town of Biloxi, in parts completely devastated, during his tour of the Gulf Coast to view damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Biloxi, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush (2nd-L) consoles Kevin Miller (R) and sisters Bromwynne (2nd-R) and Kim Bassier (L) while touring Hurricane Katrina damage in Biloxi, Mississippi, 02 September, 2005. Bush toured areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina on foot for the first time Friday and acknowledged that early results of relief efforts were 'not acceptable.' Kicking off a day-long visit to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, Bush expressed astonishment at the destruction, saying: 'It's as if the entire Gulf Coast were obliterated by the worst kind of weapon you can imagine.' AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
New Orleans, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush (C) speaks at the New Orleans International Airport 02 September, 2005, after surveying the damage left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Bush was joined by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (L), Lousiana Governor Kathleen Blanco (R) and Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown (2nd-L). AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
President George W. Bush greets workers at the Statewide Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge, La., as he makes his second visit to the scene of Hurricane Katrina's fury. The president, who's still under fire for the sluggish federal response to the storm and flooding that turned the Gulf Coast into swampland and rubble, promised, 'This is just the beginning of a huge effort.' (Photo by Craig Warga/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 11: U.S. President George W. Bush walks toward Marine One prior to his departure from the White House September 11, 2005 in Washington, DC. Bush is going to Louisiana and Mississippi for his third visit since the area was hit by Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President George W. Bush (C), Mayor Ray Nagin (2nd R) and Lousiana Governor Blanco (2nd L) all duck under a downed powerline as Vice Admiral Thad Allen (L) pushes it away while touring through an area of New Orleans, Louisiana, where the flood waters recently receeded 12 September 2005. It will be months before it can call itself 'The Big Easy' again, but New Orleans is slowly edging back from the brink as it enters its third week since Hurricane Katrina unleashed her fury. But entire neighborhoods are still stewing in a quagmire of mud and foul floodwater that in some cases almost reach up to rooftops. Some suburbs have been obliterated and the death toll, though lower than feared, still climbs steadily. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President George W. Bush, Mayor Ray Nagin, Lousiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and Vice Admiral Thad Allen tour through an area of New Orleans, Louisiana, standing in the back of a military truck, where the flood waters recently receeded 12 September 2005. It will be months before it can call itself 'The Big Easy' again, but New Orleans is slowly edging back from the brink as it enters its third week since Hurricane Katrina unleashed her fury. But entire neighborhoods are still stewing in a quagmire of mud and foul floodwater that in some cases almost reach up to rooftops. Some suburbs have been obliterated and the death toll, though lower than feared, still climbs steadily. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 20: (L-R) U.S. Army Lt. General Russel Honore, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Larry Hereth and U.S. Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen greet U.S. President George W. Bush on the flight deck of the USS Iwo Jima September 20, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. President Bush traveled to the Gulf Cosat to survey damage from Hurrican Katrina as rescue efforts and clean up continue in the areas hit by the deadly storm over three weeks ago. The Iwo Jima is expected to move to safer waters along with four other Navy ships as the region braces for Hurricane Rita. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Covington, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush wields a hammer as he participates in a Habitat for Humanity project in Covington, Louisiana 11 October, 2005.The president had dinner 10 October with state and local officials in New Orleans to discuss the recovery effort and to focus on housing the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This is Bush's eighth trip to the region since Katrina struck six weeks ago, leaving an estimated 350,000 families homeless. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
BAY St LOUIS, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush (L) speaks to reporters at the newly reopened Delisle Elementary School in Bay St Louis, Mississippi, 11 October, 2005 as First Lady Laura Bush (C) and school superintendant Sue Matheson(R) look on. The school sustained damage from Hurricane Katrina. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
New Orleans, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush (L) speaks beside New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (R) during a round table discussion with small business owners and community leaders 12 January 2006 in New Orleans, LA. Four months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, the Big Easy is limping into the new year with most of its residents still homeless and mounds of storm debris still littering the historic French Quarter. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
New Orleans, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush (C), Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco (R) and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin listen to an explanation during an inspection tour 08 March, 2006, in New Orleans. Much of New Orleans was flooded after Hurricane Katrina sent water gushing through failed levees. Bush touring hurricane affected states of Louisiana and Mississippi to survey recovery efforts. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Biloxi, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush delivers the Commencement Address to graduating studends, friends, and family, at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College 11 May, 2006, in the Hurricane Katrina devastated area of Biloxi, Mississippi. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 29: In this photo provided by the White House, President George W. Bush shakes hands with legendary musician Fats Domino, wearing a National Medal of Arts, after the President presented it to him Aug. 29, 2006, at the musician's home in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana. The medal was a replacement medal for the one - originally awarded by President Bill Clinton - that was lost in the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Eric Draper/White House via Getty Images)
New Orleans, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush greets surprised morning diners at Betsy's Pancake House where he went for breakfast with New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin 29 August 2006 in New Orleans. Bush is in New Orleans to commemorate the one year anniversary of hurricane Katrina. AFP PHOTO/Tim SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
New Orleans, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush hold a roundtable discussion on her Gulf Coast School Library Recovery Initiative 29 August 2006 at Warren Easton Senior High School in New Orleans. President Bush is New Orleans to commemorate the one year anniversary of hurricane Katrina. AFP PHOTO/Tim SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
New Orleans, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush (C) walks with New Orleans Saints players Joe Horn (R) and Deuce Mcallister (L) after arriving aboard Marine One at Louis Armstrong International Airport 29 August 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana. One year after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Bush mourned Hurricane Katrina's victims and promised to do right by its survivors. AFP PHOTO / TIM SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 29: U.S. President George W. Bush speaks in the auditorium of the Warren Easton Senior High School in New Orleans, Louisiana on Tuesday, August 29, 2006. Bush promised that federal officials are better prepared to face a disaster of the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina, which flooded New Orleans, wrecked the Gulf Coast and exposed government failure 'at all levels,'' Bush said today at a New Orleans high school where he marked the one-year anniversary of Katrina's landfall. (Photo by Scott Saltzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Biloxi, UNITED STATES: US President George W Bush watches 5th graders covert measurements during class at the Samuel J. Green Charter School 01 March, 2007 in New Orleans, Louisiana. President Bush is traveling to the Gulf Coast and New Orleans fell victim to Hurricane Katrina two years ago. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 1: U.S. President George W. Bush speaks during a visit to Samuel J. Green Charter School on March 1, 2007 in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was the president's first visit in six months to the city still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by A.J. Sisco-POOL/Getty Images)
US President George W. Bush holds the hand of Leah Chase, the owner of Chase Dooky restaurant, where he and First Lady Laura Bush are to take part in a dinner with Louisiana cultural and community leaders 28 August 2007 in New Orleans. Bush is visiting New Orleans and parts of the Mississippi coast ravaged two years ago by Hurricane Katrina. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President George W. Bush speaks on Mississippi rebuilding efforts 29 August 2007 at the Our Lady of the Gulf Parish Community Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Bush is visiting Louisiana and Mississippi on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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The monster storm set off a "confluence of blunders" that Bush's approval ratings never recovered from, said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University and author of "The Great Deluge," a detailed account of the first days after Katrina. "That's when I think his presidency started on a downward trend."

Bush and his team were so deeply resented and mocked in New Orleans that Carnival paraders displayed him in effigy for years afterward.

At Warren Easton, at least, Bush could point to a success story.

"We have fond memories of his last visit," said Arthur Hardy, a celebrity in New Orleans for his expertise in all things Mardi Gras and Carnival, the city's signature festivity. Hardy graduated from the high school in 1965.

Photos from the visit today:

9 PHOTOS
Katrina 10 year: George W. Bush 2015 visit to New Orleans and Gulfport
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Bush returns to New Orleans for 10th anniversary of Katrina
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 28: Former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush visit the Warren Easton High School during an event to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The former President's visit came as the town prepares to honor the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed at least 1836 and is considered the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, on August 29. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 28: Former President George W. Bush speaks during an event at Warren Easton High School to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The former President's visit came as the town prepares to honor the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed at least 1836 and is considered the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, on August 29. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 28: Former President George W. Bush greets people during a visit to the Warren Easton High School to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The former President's visit came as the town prepares to honor the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed at least 1836 and is considered the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, on August 29. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 28: Students listen as former President George W. Bush speaks during an event at Warren Easton High School to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The former President's visit came as the town prepares to honor the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed at least 1836 and is considered the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, on August 29. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 28: Former President George W. Bush greets people as he attends an event at Warren Easton High School to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The former President's visit came as the town prepares to honor the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed at least 1836 and is considered the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, on August 29. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 28: Former President George W. Bush (2nd R) and former First Lady Laura Bush (L) visit the Warren Easton High School during an event to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The former President's visit came as the town prepares to honor the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed at least 1836 and is considered the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, on August 29. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 28: Former President George W. Bush greets a member of the Warren Easton High School marching band during a visit to the school to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The former President's visit came as the town prepares to honor the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed at least 1836 and is considered the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, on August 29. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 28: Former President George W. Bush sits with Ashantae Martin (L) and Ronjae Pleasant as he attends an event at Warren Easton High School to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The former President's visit came as the town prepares to honor the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed at least 1836 and is considered the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, on August 29. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 28: Former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a visit to the Warren Easton High School for an event to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The former President's visit came as the town prepares to honor the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed at least 1836 and is considered the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, on August 29. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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After New Orleans, the Bush family will visit Gulfport, Mississippi, to attend an event with state officials, including Gov. Phil Bryant and former Gov. Haley Barbour, a staunch Bush ally who was governor when Katrina hit.

The event in Mississippi will serve to thank first responders who helped after the hurricane.

Bush has deep ties to the Gulf Coast and New Orleans — both as an eastern Texan and as president. His administration oversaw more than $140 billion in spending to help the region recover from the disaster, his office said.

Bush largely took a hands-off approach, frequently saying that rebuilding was best left to locals. Much of the work was overseen by his appointees, however, and he's made frequent trips to the region since Katrina, his office said.

In 2006, Bush picked Warren Easton as an example of the city's comeback spirit.

The school had been badly flooded and had been facing closure before Bush's visit back then. Nearly every student who attended was considered homeless, living in FEMA trailers or sleeping on couches, school officials said.

Back then, Bush advocated for school reforms, supporting the city's efforts to expand charter schools and break up what was widely seen as a failing neighborhood school model. The old public school system was riddled with broken buildings, failing grades and pervasive corruption.

Since Katrina, New Orleans has become a living experiment for a city-wide charter system, with many schools reporting greater diversity and steady academic gains.

More Katrina coverage on AOL:
Obama walks New Orleans streets, says city 'moving forward'
Making waves: How Tulane student-athletes came together when Hurricane Katrina hit
Timeline illustrates 10 years of recovery in New Orleans

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