Every year since 2006, Gambit has selected as New Orleanians of the Year people who helped lead our area's rebound after Hurricane Katrina. They have included first responders, nonprofit volunteers, activists, civic and business leaders, the New Orleans Saints and federal prosecutors.
Now, seven years later, we feel New Orleans has turned the corner — and the world has taken notice, thanks in large part to the efforts of this year's New Orleanians of the Year: James Carville and Mary Matalin.
Political combatants by profession, happily married couple by choice, Matalin and Carville officially made New Orleans their home in 2008 — but they each fell in love with the city long before that.
"It was love at first sight, even before I knew who James Carville was," Matalin says, recalling her first visit to New Orleans in the 1980s. "I have the same feeling today as the first time I came to New Orleans — it takes my breath away. The sounds, the smells, the sights — it's a place apart."
Carville couldn't agree more. "We don't live in a place, we live in a culture," he says. "And wherever we are today as a city, after Katrina, we're further than where most people thought we'd be seven years ago. You're never where you need to be or want to be, but we're much improved."
Matalin and Carville do much more than tout the city's progress, however. They actively help make it happen by opening their home, their hearts and their Rolodexes to dozens of local nonprofits. They also co-chair this year's Super Bowl. In ways large and small, public and not so public, they generously and passionately embody the simple criterion that Gambit has used to select New Orleanians of the Year since 1983: They make a positive difference for New Orleans.