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May 12, 2011

Resilience of the City of Memphis, Tennessee

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The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Cohen) for 5 minutes.

Mr. COHEN. Madam Speaker, I represent the Tennessee Ninth Congressional District, which is Memphis. Memphis has been in the news quite a bit these past few weeks, and partly it's been for a bad reason: a flood, the greatest flood since 1937 on the Mississippi River. There has been a massive flow of water across lands and into our downtown and other areas, and it's affected a lot of people. I have toured the damage. There are at least 1,500 people whose homes have been lost. They are in shelters. They have lost possessions.

[Time: 10:20]

But the city of Memphis is coming together with a lot of volunteerism to help those people, and the Federal Government, through FEMA and the Corps of Engineers, is doing all it can to protect property and protect people and offer them shelter and food. And because it's a disaster area, we'll be helping them get back on their feet once again. It's a tragedy for those people and a tragedy for a lot of other people up and down the river.

But the fact is the city of Memphis is open and open for business, and most of the city of Memphis is not affected by the flood. Contrary to what you might see on the news, the entire city is not underwater. The business sections, most of the city, are totally dry, and people are going to work, flying Federal Express planes all over the world to deliver packages. International Paper and all the businesses that are there are fully operational.

Our Memphis Grizzlies are still alive and playing tonight in the NBA Western finals, and the people of Memphis are filling the FedEx Forum when they play and cheering them on and bringing the city together in the spirit that Memphians have come together for years.

The city of Memphis has had problems over the years. A yellow fever epidemic in the 1870s almost destroyed the city, but it didn't. The city came back and came back even stronger.

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King on the 4th of April, 1968, was an awful moment in our city history and one we had to overcome. But the city did. And on that site, the Lorraine Motel, has been built a great civil rights museum, the National Civil Rights Museum, like a phoenix from the ashes telling the story of the civil rights movement and the movement out of slavery and out of Jim Crow into an era where an African American could and has been elected President of these United States.

The city of Memphis and the people have an indomitable spirit. They have come back from problems in the past and will continue to do so.

Yesterday, the city of Memphis received great news when President Obama announced that of all the schools that applied in this Nation in the Race to the Top program to be recognized and to be honored by his presence as the commencement speaker for graduation, that Booker T. Washington High School, a high school created in the 1800s, a Jim Crow school, an African American school in the 1800s, which has done spectacularly well in academics, increased their graduation rate from the fifties into the 81st percentile, best in the State on algebra scores and other scores, and great improvement and shown innovation, was chosen as the school in the country to have the President come to their graduation. He will speak at the Booker T. Washington High School graduation next Monday in Memphis. It will be his

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first visit to Memphis, and the city of Memphis has looked forward to his visit. I look forward to his visit, and have encouraged the President to come to Memphis, and I hope he'll come more times after that.

But for those students and other students who need to have inspiration and hope, particularly at this time when there is flood and many people have been dispossessed, it's so important that the President be there and give those students hope and encourage them to continue to make good grades and to lift themselves up.

Many of the students at Booker T. Washington lived in housing projects, Cleaborn Homes, which was recently demolished to make way for a HOPE VI project, the fifth of six in the city of Memphis, which has gotten rid of projects but given people private residences or apartments and a better way of life. Those students saw their homes destroyed, but they've worked hard in their school and stayed at Booker T. Washington High School and will be honored by the President's visit.

They, like everybody else in Memphis, cheer for the Memphis Grizzlies, and the Grizzlies cheer towel is one that I bring you today. ``Believe Memphis.'' Believe Memphis has carried the Grizzlies, an eighth-seeded team, to the championship game. The city believes. The city is strong. We urge you to come to Memphis, have some ribs, have some music and enjoy our hospitality.

(House of Representatives - May 11, 2011)

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