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Obama visits Memphis flood victims, school

Associated Press / May 17, 2011

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MEMPHIS — President Obama visited Memphis yesterday to comfort families affected when the river rose last week to within inches of the record set in 1937, inundating low-lying neighborhoods.

Downriver in Mississippi and Louisiana, crews kept watch on floodwalls and levees, including staff from the Army Corps of Engineers, various local levee districts, county sheriffs, municipal police forces, and private security details. Snow melt and rain have sent a relentless torrent of water down the Mississippi this spring.

With the Mississippi River still lapping near the top of Memphis’s protective levees, Obama met privately with families, emergency personnel, and volunteers who confronted floodwaters.

He also attended the commencement exercises at a struggling Memphis high school, hailing its academic transformation and telling graduates: “You inspire me. That’s why I’m here.’’

For the president, the trip was a chance to promote his education agenda while also attending to the latest natural disaster. Booker T. Washington High School, where he spoke, is in a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood, but graduation rates have risen impressively in three years.

“ Obama said: “Well, we are here today because every single one of you stood up and said, ‘Yes we can.’ Yes we can learn. Yes we can succeed.’’

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