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LSU Summer Reading Program features a book about Hurricane Katrina

Just five days before Aug. 29, 2007 – the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina – New Orleans author Jed Horne urged the class of 2011 to actively work toward New Orleans’ rebuilding and recovery.

“Shake yourself alive. Do not fall prey to Katrina fatigue. Study Katrina. Make it a part of your life,” Horne said to the incoming freshman class assembled for Academic Convocation in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. “We owe the dead to learn the lessons from Katrina.”

 Horne’s book, Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City, was chosen as the 2007 selection for LSU’s Summer Reading Program (SRP). The program, which started four years ago, aims to create a common academic experience for all entering freshmen. Each year, the SRP selection committee selects a new book, and the author is invited to speak at Academic Convocation and participate in small group discussions on the Friday before the first day of classes.

Horne, who is the former metro editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Times-Picayune newspaper, gives Breach of Faith readers a front-row look at Hurricane Katrina and the drama of New Orleans’ collapse into chaos and its continuing struggle to survive. The book also sheds light on the political, racial, and social class tensions surrounding one of the nation’s darkest disasters.

During Horne’s presentation to nearly 3,000 students, he told them they “are perched on the edge of what amounts to a 100-mile bomb crater,” and that they are positioned to take maximum advantage of New Orleans as a laboratory for its own reinvention. 

“You have a golden opportunity for volunteerism. You don’t just have an opportunity, but a responsibility,” Horne said. “A responsibility that comes with privilege. And you are all deeply privileged both by a higher education and a higher education that is generously subsidized by Louisiana taxpayers, many of them who are New Orleanians.”

Since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, LSU students and faculty have been deeply involved in the recovery and rebuilding efforts throughout south Louisiana. Directly after the storm, the University’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center and Carl Maddox Fieldhouse served as the nation’s largest field hospital. Hundreds of students, faculty, and staff volunteered in these facilities. Dozens of service-learning classes have been developed to study and help solve problems for those wanting to move back into their homes. In addition, LSU faculty in nearly every field of study is engaged in research that is relevant to any community that encounters a natural disaster.

This fall, Volunteer LSU, the student-based volunteer branch of the University, is organizing a fall service events on October 27 to lend a hand with the rebuilding and recovery efforts in New Orleans. Also, dozens of professors are moving the classroom out into the field as they encourage their students to tackle issues pertinent to Louisiana’s recovery.

Community Connection

Breach of Faith not only created dialogue amongst LSU students and faculty, but amongst the Baton Rouge Community as well. Horne’s book initiated a community-wide book club know as One Book One Community (OBOC). LSU partnered with Baton Rouge Community College, The East Baton Rouge Parish Library, Forum 35, Redstick Internet Services, The Random House Publishing Group, Southern University, and YWCA of Greater Baton Rouge.

As part of OBOC, community readers listened to the author speak at a free event on Thursday, August 23, at the Cox Communications Academic Center for Student Athletes. Approximately 500 readers met the author and participated in the talk.

Discussions about Breach of Faith are continuing throughout the fall. For more information about upcoming discussion groups, visit http://www.readonebook.org.

Michelle Spielman | LSU Office of Public Affairs
Fall 2007

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