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Gaspard promises rapid and aggressive response

By Henri Cauvin and Theola Labbé-DeBose
White House political director Patrick Gaspard told non-governmental organizations on a conference call Wednesday that the White House and the rest of the American government were moving "rapidly and aggressively" to address the crisis in Haiti.

A Haitian America, Gaspard made clear the situation there is deeply personal to him.

"As a Haitian American who is himself struggling to contact friends and loved ones, I can well appreciate the profound sadness we're all feeling at the this horrific moment," he told those on the call, which was sponsored by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement.

He urged Haitian Americans to think not only in terms of material support for their ancestral land but to think about the sweeping emotional toll that the earthquake will take on their families and friends. "This is a time when we all have to serve as grief counselors," he said.

Gaspard said that after several months of review and deliberation, the Obama administration had been prepared to announce a new policy framework for the country. That will, of course, have to be revisited, but he said no one should expect Haiti to fall off the administration's radar.

"Irrespective of what's on CNN, Haiti has been in the hearts and minds of the president and the secretary of of state and the special envoy to the Haiti, Bill Clinton," Gaspard said. "On this issue, we're not following the headlines and Haiti will continue to be central to our work going forward."

Additionally, he stressed that he was glad to see and hear of waves of volunteerism across the country and said that the administration would be working hard to coordinate the relief effort, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, so it will be cohesive.

"This is a time that we need to remember more than ever that [ital] l'union fait la force[ital]," Gaspard said in pitch-perfect French, making reference to the Haitian national motto meaning Strength Through Unity. "It's time for all of us to gather together and bring all of our resources to bear at the moment," he told the various aid groups during the call.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 13, 2010; 5:04 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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