We couldn’t bear to listen to the president’s State of the Union Speech Monday night, but we were happy to find this in the transcript:

“Tonight the armies of compassion continue the march to a new day in the Gulf Coast. America honors the strength and resilience of the people of this region. We reaffirm our pledge to help them build stronger and better than before. And tonight I’m pleased to announce that in April we will host this year’s North American Summit of Canada, Mexico, and the United States in the great city of New Orleans. [Applause.]”

New Orleans, 1936 (detail) by Walker Evans. Library of Congress.

New Orleans, 1936 (detail) by Walker Evans. Library of Congress.

The Presidential Debates commission in its wisdom deemed the great city not ready to host a presidential debate in the fall—not ready like, say, Oxford, Mississippi, with its thousands of hotel rooms and convention infrastructure. But the leaders of Canada and Mexico and the United States will come for the annual “Three Amigos Summit.” [See our friend Oyster’s take on this news, “Thank You for That,” at Your Right Hand Thief.]

We remain dissatisfied with the administration’s indifference to the city’s troubles—and with Congress’s passivity too, for that matter—but we are happy that the North American Summit will bring attention back to this stricken but proud, recovering city. Amigos and armies of compassion are welcome.

As the April summit draws closer, we urge activists and Democratic party leaders to seize the moment and hold large-scale campaign events, John Edwards–style, with local music and food for all, to draw attention to New Orleans’s people, economy, and environment. Show the nation—the long-neglected, forgotten public—that We are all New Orleanians.

Obama, Edwards, Clinton, other candidates should come here to affirm their dedication to the best attributes of the Democratic ideals: using government positively to improve people’s lives through health care, education, environmental protection, employment programs, help for workers, investment in infrastructure and transportation. As John Edwards did in announcing his candidacy from a front yard in the Ninth Ward, Democrats and activists can show how New Orleans, which was suffering from spending cuts in infrastructure and social services before Katrina, epitomizes the national disorders that the Democratic party is best prepared to remedy.

But, hear ye, the public must keep up the pressure, relentless pressure, to be heard over the moneyed voices of the big-time campaign contributors and political action committees. Keep up the pressure on the news media to train their all-seeing eyes on New Orleans and environs—and on the National Needs listed above. See our Political Action page for action steps and contact information for Congress and the White House, and How to Help to find contact info for the major news organizations.

There are possibilities for positive change in this country. Much depends on who wins in November. But that’s just the beginning.