Senate Democrats

Reid statement on Tsunami resolution

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement on the Tsunami Resolution introduced in the United States Senate today.

Remarks as prepared.

Senator Harry Reid

Our Response to a Natural Disaster

January 4, 2005

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet with a group of Nevadans who came from various countries in southern Asia.

These people came to our country for the opportunity to realize their hopes and dreams. They love America … but they also feel an abiding love for their native lands and cultures.

Nine days ago, one of the greatest natural catastrophes in history struck southern Asia.

As I saw the horrible scenes of death and destruction, I couldn’t help but wonder if any of those Nevadans had lost friends or loved ones in the disaster.

And I couldn’t help thinking that in today’s world, there is no such thing as an isolated event. We are all connected like never before.

The earthquake that caused the deadly tsunami was estimated at 9.0 on the Richter Scale – making it one of the strongest quakes ever recorded.

The death toll is 150,000 and counting. Tens of thousands of people are still missing … and millions have lost their homes.

We are all affected by this catastrophic loss. We all share the anguish of the mothers who have lost a child … and we feel the bewilderment and fear of a child who has lost her parents.

And we all want to help.

Since this tragedy nine days ago, the world has seen an outpouring of aid for the victims of the tsunami.

The American people have opened their hearts and their wallets, donating millions and millions of dollars to groups like the Red Cross that are working to provide relief from this disaster.

Two former Presidents, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, have agreed to lead the charitable efforts in the United States.

Our government got off to a slow start. Frankly, I was disappointed by the President’s initial pledge of $15 million for the victims of this disaster – less than half of what he is spending on his inaugural ceremonies this month. Equally disappointing was the fact the President waited several days before publicly addressing this terrible disaster. As each day passed without a Presidential appearance, it seemed as if the Administration was not connected to the tragic events in Asia. Was not aware of the magnitude of the disaster that befell millions. Was not willing to do its fair share to ease the suffering. That was the wrong message to send.

Since then, we have increased our commitment, and the United States has provided aircraft, ships and helicopters to help deliver food, water and clothing to those who need it.

The response of the American people, and of our government, is important for many reasons.

Obviously, our efforts help relieve the suffering of the tsunami victims. But they also help show the world what kind of nation and people we are.

Through our response to this tragedy, we have an opportunity and an obligation to show the people in the affected region and the world that the United States cares; that our great military strength is matched by our compassion; and that our penchant to help those in need knows no color, no race, no religion or creed.

When we see the pictures of the children whose parents were washed away in the tsunami, we don’t ask whether they are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish or Christian.

It is enough to know that they are human beings, that they are suffering, and that we are connected to them.

This was a tragedy of epic, global proportion.

It called for a global response.

And when global action is needed, the world looks to the United States for leadership. So, I commend the President for finally stepping up to assume this mantle of leadership. I take heart from his words that the Administration’s latest offer of assistance will not be this great nation’s last word. He will have my support as these relief efforts move forward over the coming months.

I am pleased to be here today to co-sponsor this Resolution with Majority Leader Frist, expressing sympathy for the victims of this terrible event … expressing appreciation for the outpouring of help from the American people … and pledging that our government is committed to a long-term effort to relieve the suffering from this epic disaster.