President Obama’s Remarks At Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony For Former Senator Edward William Brooke
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT THE CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL CEREMONY
IN HONOR OF FORMER SENATOR EDWARD WILLIAM BROOKE
11:20 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: It is an extraordinary privilege to be here today. And let me begin by acknowledging this distinguished group gathered on the platform: our extraordinary Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi; Majority Leader Harry Reid; Republican leader Mitch McConnell; majority leader Steny Hoyer; Republican leader John Boehner; Senator John Kerry; Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton; Representative Patrick Kennedy; my dear friend, Vicki Kennedy; to our honoree, Senator Edward Brooke, his wife, Anne, and family.
It is a great privilege to be here today as we confer the Congressional Gold Medal on a man who’s spent his life breaking barriers and bridging divides across this country — Senator Edward Brooke.
Now, with his lifetime of achievement, Ed is no stranger to a good awards ceremony. He’s been through a few of these. (Laughter.) He’s won the Bronze Star, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, honorary degrees from 34 colleges and universities, and more. So he’s a pro when it comes to getting awards. But I think today’s honor bears a unique significance: bestowed by this body of which he was an esteemed member; presented in this place where he moved the arc of history; surrounded by so many — myself included — who have followed the trail that he blazed.
Ed’s journey to this day was, by any measure, an unlikely one. Raised nearby in a neighborhood so fiercely segregated that black residents needed a note from a white person to pass through — at a time when so many doors of opportunity were closed to African Americans, others might have become angry or disillusioned. They might have concluded that no matter how hard they worked, their horizons would always be limited, so why bother? But not Ed Brooke.
Serving in a segregated army, barred from facilities at the base where he trained, he fought heroically in Europe, leading a daring daylight attack against a heavily armed enemy. Rejected from Boston’s old-line firms despite his success in law school, he established his own practice, handling everything from wills and divorces to real estate and criminal cases.
And when he ran for statewide office in Massachusetts, and one reporter pointed out that he was black, Republican, and Protestant, seeking office in a white, Democratic, and Catholic state — and also, quote, “…a carpetbagger from the South and…poor” — Ed was unfazed. It was, to say the least, an improbable profile for the man who would become the first African American state attorney general, and the first popularly elected African American senator.
But that was Ed Brooke’s way — to ignore the naysayers, reject the conventional wisdom, and trust that ultimately, people would judge him on his character, his commitment, his record and his ideas. He ran for office, as he put it, “…to bring people together who had never been together before.” And that he did.
I don’t know anyone else whose fan base includes Gloria Steinem, Barney Frank, and Ted Kennedy — as well as Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, and George W. Bush. (Laughter.) That’s a coalition-builder. (Laughter and applause.) And few have matched his reach across the aisle — from working with Birch Bayh to protect Title IX so girls can compete on a level playing field, to sponsoring the Fair Housing Act with Walter Mondale and small business legislation with Ted Kennedy — one of the many bills he would sponsor with the senior senator from Massachusetts.
He didn’t care whether a bill was popular or politically expedient, Democratic or Republican — he cared about whether it helped people, whether it made a difference in their daily lives. That’s why he fought so hard for Medicare, for mass transit and the minimum wage, for civil rights and women’s rights. It’s why he became a lifelong advocate for affordable housing, establishing protections that are the standard to this day.
So it’s a record that defies the labels and categories for which he had little use and even less patience. When pressed to define himself, he’d offer phrases like “creative moderate,” or “a liberal with a conservative bent.” But in truth, Ed Brooke’s career was animated not by a faith in any particular party or ideology, but rather, by a faith in the people he served.
Ed always got to see the best in people — because that was the effect he had. Maybe it was his old-fashioned manners — his unfailing courtesy and warmth. Maybe it was his charm and charisma — known to melt even the staunchest adversary. Or maybe it was his genuine interest in people’s stories — the way he listened to their concerns and worked to ease their struggles. Whatever it was, even if people didn’t fully agree with him, they saw how hard he fought for them and how much he respected them, and they respected him back. They rose to meet his esteem for them. Around Ed, people wanted to be their better selves.
Over the years, he made an impression on just about everyone he encountered, including a young Congressman named John F. Kennedy, whom he met back in 1952. The two men had a lively conversation, and as they parted ways, the future President said, “You know, you ought to be a Democrat.” (Laughter.) And Ed smiled and replied, “You know, you ought to be a Republican.” (Laughter.)
It was a sentiment that many in my party would share, including the President’s brother, our dear friend, Ted Kennedy. While Ted campaigned vigorously for Ed’s Democratic opponent, the two later became lifelong friends. And four decades later, Ted would campaign even more vigorously to secure Ed’s nomination for this medal.
So while we grace Senator Brooke with this honor today, perhaps a better tribute to him would be to embrace that spirit: to compete aggressively at the polls, but then work selflessly together to serve the nation we love. (Applause.) To look for the best in each other, to give each other the benefit of the doubt, and to remember that we’re here for a purpose far greater than the sum of our own hopes, needs and ambitions. That’s the legacy of our friend, Senator Edward Brooke. And may we each do our part to carry it forward.
Thank you. God bless you. Congratulations, Senator Brooke. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts
WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key administration posts:
- Philip E. Coyle III , Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs, Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Lawrence G. Romo, Director, Selective Service System
President Obama said, “These talented public servants will make valuable additions to my administration as we work to bring real change to the American people. I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”
President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals today:
Philip E. Coyle III, Nominee for Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs, Office of Science and Technology Policy
Philip E. Coyle III currently serves as a Senior Advisor to the President of the World Security Institute, and to its Center for Defense Information, a Washington D.C.-based national security study center. In 2005 and 2006, Coyle served on the nine-member Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), appointed by President George W. Bush and nominated by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Prior to this appointment, Mr. Coyle served on Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Base Support and Retention Council. From September 1994, through January 2001, Mr. Coyle was Assistant Secretary of Defense and Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, in the Department of Defense, and is the longest serving Director in the 25 year history of the Office. In this capacity, he was the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense on test and evaluation in the DOD. Mr. Coyle has 40 years experience in national security research, development, and testing matters. From 1959 to 1979, and again from 1981 to 1993, Mr. Coyle worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, California. Over those 33 years Mr. Coyle worked on a variety of nuclear weapons programs and other high technology programs. Mr. Coyle also served as Deputy Associate Director of the Laser Program at LLNL. Mr. Coyle retired from the Laboratory in 1993 as Laboratory Associate Director and deputy to the Director. In recognition of his years of service to the Laboratory and to the University of California, the University named Mr. Coyle Laboratory Associate Director Emeritus. During the Carter Administration, Mr. Coyle served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs in the Department of Energy (DOE). In this capacity he had oversight responsibility for the nuclear weapons research, development, production and testing programs of the Department, as well as the DOE programs in arms control, non-proliferation, and nuclear safeguards and security.
Lawrence G. Romo, Nominee for Director, Selective Service System
Lawrence G. Romo, Lieutenant Colonel USAFR (Ret.), is the Soldier and Family Assistance Program Manager for the U.S. Army 5th Recruiting Brigade. He is also an Admissions Liaison Officer for the United States Air Force Academy. Prior to these positions, from 1992 – 1999, he was the Transition Assistance Program Specialist at Kelly Air Force Base and aided military personnel as they transitioned into the civilian job market. Mr. Romo was also the Chairman of Bexar County Veterans Committee and a member of the American Legion, American GI Forum, and the Military Officers Association of America. He currently serves as Chairman of the San Antonio Commission for Children and Families for the City of San Antonio, Texas. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Air Force Academy and a Master of Education degree from Montana State University – Northern (formerly Northern Montana College).
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 3548 — Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009
(Rep. McDermott, D-Washington, and 49 cosponsors)
The Administration supports providing additional weeks of unemployment benefits to Americans who are suffering from long-term joblessness due to the economic downturn. Millions of Americans want employment but cannot find it, and the Administration is committed to supporting these Americans as they look for work and struggle to raise their families and pay their bills. In addition to assisting struggling families, helping unemployed workers is an effective way to boost the economy and an important part of the Administration’s broader efforts to move swiftly and aggressively to jump start job creation and grow our economy. At the same time, fiscal responsibility is central to the medium-term recovery of the economy and the creation of jobs. The Administration therefore supports the fiscally responsible approach to expanding unemployment benefits embodied in the bill.
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Rally for Creigh Deeds
Old Dominion University
October 27, 2009
Hello, Virginia! It is good to be back in Norfolk and it is good to be back in Virginia, a place that has been so good to me. And I’m proud to stand up here with two Virginia leaders; two men who wake up every day thinking about your future; your family’s future; and the future of this commonwealth – your Governor, Tim Kaine, and your next Governor, Creigh Deeds.
Now, one of the things I like so much about Virginia is that you’ve got a good pattern emerging here. And it began with Mark Warner, who is doing an extraordinary job as your senator. Eight years ago, he recognized that the old tired politics of division weren’t serving the American people or the people of Virginia very well. He saw an awful lot of arguing going on, but not a whole lot of doing. So he thought, you know what, let’s try something different. Let’s run a campaign that proves that we’re all in this together – that there is not a northern Virginia, or a southern Virginia, or a coastal Virginia; there is one commonwealth of Virginia.
And he governed in a way that wasn’t ideological, but pragmatic. He focused on what works, and he made it work not by pushing people apart, but by bringing them together. He shaped a better kind of politics here in the commonwealth, and made the long-term investments necessary to make Virginia competitive in the global economy and to chart a course to growth and success.
Then Tim Kaine came in and built on that legacy. He invested in education so that every child in Virginia could have the tools they need to succeed. He refused to be distracted by petty politics, and even through tough times, he remained focused on his vision for Virginia’s future. And because of the tradition they established, Virginia became one of the best-managed states in the country; a state that was able to make critical investments even as it was dealing with a fiscal crisis; and a state that became better-positioned to navigate some of the toughest economic times we’ve seen in the history of this nation. All because of leadership based on smart decisions, sound investments, and a renewed civility to our politics.
But here’s the thing, Virginia. It wasn’t just a stroke of good luck. These guys didn’t just come out of nowhere. It’s because you stood up and chose that kind of politics. And in one week, you’ll have the opportunity to continue that tradition. You’ll have the opportunity to elect someone who is cut from that very same cloth; someone who listens to folks even when we don’t always agree; someone who focuses not on the short-term politics of an issue, but on a practical and pragmatic vision for the future of this commonwealth – and that man is Creigh Deeds.
This is a man who, for more than two decades – as a county prosecutor, as a delegate, as a state senator – has asked for nothing more than to serve you. When Virginia families needed to make sure their children were safe, he wrote Megan’s Law and advocated for the Amber Alert program. When Mark Warner needed help reforming the budget and controlling spending amidst a financial crisis, it was Creigh Deeds who he turned to; and even in the face of that crisis, they had the foresight to make record investments in education and lay a foundation for Virginia’s long-term growth. And when Tim Kaine needed support for a new pre-kindergarten program that will give Virginia’s kids a better start in life, Creigh Deeds was there.
Again and again, Creigh Deeds has been there for the people of Virginia. Now he needs you to be there for him.
There’s no doubt this is a tough race. It was always going to be. Even though Virginia’s been moving in the right direction, it’s still a pretty evenly-split state with some pretty independent-minded folks. And that’s good. That’s healthy. We are at our best when engaged in great debate where ideas are tested and assumptions are challenged. That’s how we strengthen our proposals. That’s how our democracy works.
But I’ll tell you what we don’t need right now. What we don’t need are politicians who are more interested in scoring points than solving problems. What we don’t need are politicians who say we should go back to the policies of yesteryear when it was those very same policies that got us into this mess in the first place. We’ve had enough of those kinds of politicians. We don’t need any more. What we need now are leaders who are committed to moving us forward. What we need are leaders who will fight on behalf of hardworking men and women, on behalf of middle class families, on behalf of the people of Virginia. What we need are more leaders like Creigh Deeds.
Creigh Deeds realizes that Virginia faces tough challenges, and solving them will require more than just lip service in political ads – it will require a realistic vision. When you’re governing, as Tim would tell you, nothing comes for free. Governing means you have to prioritize. You have to make tough choices. And you also have to recognize that change doesn’t happen overnight.
But if we make the right decisions now; then five, ten, fifteen years down the road, we’ll look back and realize that we’re in a much better place than we otherwise would have been. That’s what’s happened with the sound decisions Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have made. Virginia is in a better place today than it otherwise would have been. And that’s what you can expect with Creigh Deeds. As a consequence of the choices he’ll make in office – choices that improve transportation, that give our children every chance in life, that continue the thoughtful pro-business policies in the Warner-Kaine tradition – Virginia will keep moving down the right path.
Virginia will keep moving toward giving every child the world-class education they need to compete for any job in the world. Virginia will keep moving toward a secure energy future that frees our nation from the grip of foreign oil and creates millions of new jobs that pay well right here in America. Virginia will keep moving toward a stronger economy that works for all Americans and allows folks to retire with some dignity and some respect. And yes, Virginia will keep moving toward a health care system that finally makes quality insurance affordable for Americans who don’t have coverage; that finally offers stability and security to Americans who do; and that finally slows the skyrocketing costs that are crushing our families, our businesses, and our state and federal budgets.
Opportunity in every corner of Virginia. That’s what matters to Creigh Deeds. And that’s what he will keep fighting for if the people of Virginia give him that chance.
Now, I know there are folks here who may still be cynical about politics. I know that there are folks watching or listening who are skeptical about whether their elected leaders can or will do anything about the problems they face. And you’ve got a right to be. Year after year, decade after decade, you’ve seen progress stymied by special interests and partisan gridlock, whether it’s in Richmond or Washington.
But I’ve come here today because you have the opportunity to elect a man who represents a better kind of politics. He’s not perfect – none of us are. He may not be slick or polished. His hair might get frizzy sometimes; his suits might get rumpled. But I hope that’s not what will determine your vote. I hope you’ll vote based on how good a governor he’ll be for the people of Virginia. And I have every confidence Creigh Deeds will be a terrific governor. He’s smart. He’s honest. He’s devoted to the people of this commonwealth and to the American Dream that he discovered and lived here. He’ll always be straight with you about the challenges you face, and he’ll be out there every single day working as hard as he can to meet them.
So I’m urging you to cast aside the cynics and the skeptics and anyone who says this race is as good as over. Because the final word doesn’t belong to them – it belongs to you. And nobody knows that better than I do.
Last year, before we won the primary here, and before we won here in November, few gave us a chance. Remember that? The pundits and the pollsters and everyone who spends all their time focused on who’s up and who’s down thought we were cooked. But you proved differently, Virginia. You helped lead a movement of Americans who believed that their voices could make a difference – a movement of young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay and straight, disabled and not who stepped into that voting booth and demanded something better.
We have just begun to deliver on the change you voted for, and we need a partner like Creigh Deeds to help us finish what we started. So if you were fired up last year, then we need you out there working just as hard right now, knocking on doors, making phone calls, talking to your friends and neighbors and telling them what’s at stake. And if you’re willing to do that; if you’re willing to not only cast your vote for Creigh Deeds but get out the vote for Creigh Deeds; then he won’t just win an election; but we will do what previous generations have done and build something better to leave our children and secure our future. Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.