freeSpeech: Douglas Brinkley

Most American cities boast a distinctive architectural landmark that anchors their skyline. Since 1975, in New Orleans, it's been the steel-framed Superdome, which serves as the emblem of city.

Last year, however, Hurricane Katrina transformed "The Bubble," from a Citadel of pride to one of civic shame.

During Katrina, more than 20,000 displaced people eventually made their way to the doomed arena. Most soon regretted their decision.

As the winds clawed at the edifice, confusion reigned. Rapes were reported. Families huddled together in fear. Garbage piled up in putrid heaps. To top it all off, two gaping holes emerge in the roof, sending rain pounding down on the Astroturf.

What a difference a year makes.

The holes have been fixed. And tonight, the Saints will play their home opener in the dome against the Atlanta Falcons. Expectations for victory are sky-high.

Some critics are dismissing the NFL hoopla as a juvenile diversion. Isn't there something morally bankrupt about pinning the city's immediate future on a football game? Perhaps?

But tonight, New Orleanians will be pulling together for a common purpose: Reclaiming their beloved Dome.

And when Bush appears on the field – Reggie Bush, that is – you'll hear a thunderous roar, which will signify that New Orleans is back.

Dr. Douglas Brinkley currently serves as director of the Theodore Roosevelt Center for American Civilization and Professor of History at Tulane University. Before coming to Tulane, Dr. Brinkley served as Stephen E. Ambrose Professor of History and Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans. He completed his bachelor's degree at Ohio State University and received his doctorate in U.S. Diplomatic History from Georgetown University in 1989.

He won the Benjamin Franklin Award for The American Heritage History of the United States (1998), was awarded the Business Week Book of the Year Award for Wheels for the World, and was also named 2004 Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. He has received honorary doctorates from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut

Dr. Brinkley is contributing editor for Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Times Book Review, and American Heritage. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, Boston Globe, Rolling Stone, and The Atlantic Monthly, he is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Century Club. He lives in New Orleans with his wife Anne and two children Benton and Johnny.