This morning I was listening to an NPR story about President Eisenhower ordering troops from the 101st Airborne to escort nine black children to school at Central High fifty years ago. He did this against the wishes of Governor Faubus and the National Guard. There are so many parts of this story that are fascinating, heartbreaking, sobering. But the part that caught my ear this morning was a quote from President Eisenhower. Although the situation had been coming on for about a month, the very night the President saw the rioting on television, he ordered the 101st to Arkansas. They arrived the next day.
He said, "An extreme situation has been created in Little Rock. This challenge must be met, and with such measures as will preserve to the people as a whole their lawfully protected rights."
For some reason I immediately thought of Hurricane Katrina. I know these two events have little in common, but the "extreme situation" is what got me started. As I listened to the story of the Little Rock Nine, I was very impressed at how the President intervened, doing the right thing in a volatile, huge mess of a situation. Couldn't Mr. Bush have done something? Anything? I thought about it all day.