The Medicare Supplemental Insurance Conference held in New Orleans this week — a few days I will not soon forget, both professionally and personally. Starting with the eerily empty airport and continuing on to a very empty Astor Crown Plaza with a trainee checking me in, and all about quite an empty city compared to what I had heard about New Orleans, especially on the heels of Jazz Fest. The city seems a shadow of its former self.

Any normal city has its share of burned out retails shops, but this was different. The magnitude of the situation and the considerable construction on Canal Street… I did not get the chance to tour the Levee-affected areas, but I heard it was quite moving. Bourbon Street seemed quite vacant, hardly anyone in the bars, with no problem getting a seat in the Oyster Bars.

But in the midst of it all, here is the First Lady, Laura Bush, sitting two tables over from me at Galatoire’s (ga-la-twaas), an upscale restaurant, encouraging three other women her age. The incongruity of it all struck me — still trying to process it. (All photos taken without flash in case you wondered.)

I heard that the Med Supp conference was the first large conference in New Orleans since “the storm” as they call it. The Astor Crown was VERY nice, but it was not hard to notice the ravaging it took due to the aftermath of the storm. But I’m glad the conference leadership team decided to keep the conference in New Orleans.

Here’s the thing. As much as I avoid a few of the industries the city is know for, I have a desire to see the city return to its fully-functional state. Universities, colleges, industries, etc. all have significant presences there. And it will always be the center of Jazz in the US if not the world. These seem important items to preserve. But more importantly, if we as a country let New Orleans fade to black or languish, what will that say about American culture and our collective heart?

On the business side of things, it was a great meeting and I hope the start of something special in the Medicare Insurance Industry. As things change over the next few years, it will be important to have a dedicated conference for the free exchange of ideas, best practices, prognostications, etc… Jesse Slome, thanks for putting it on. Leadership Team, thanks a million. BRAVO!!!!

Med Supp marketers: get online. MUST! MUST! MUST! MUST!