Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan is in the hot seat. As he should be. How could two complete strangers infiltrate a state event without the batting of an eyelash? Tareq and Michaele Salahi breezed into the state dinner given in the honor of the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, sat in the company of world leaders and dignitaries, cheesed it up with Vice President Biden and greeted President Barack Obama with a hand-shake.
As part of a publicity stunt to impress the top brass at the BRAVO media network, Michaele Tareq pulled out all the stops to land a role on the yet to be cast reality series “THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF D.C.” To get the nod, Michaele decided that she would take matters into her own hands: crash the ultimate high society party to appear as if she, and husband Tareq, are influential movers and shakers with big connects.
Turns out that the only thing Michaele and Tareq Salahi have succeeded in doing is creating a world-wind of controversy and immense concern as to the safety of President Obama. A lawyer for the Salahis stated that the pair were invited to the affair, contrary to what the guest list showed, and will grant interviews to the media next week.
Amid the backlash regarding the apparent breach in security surrounding the President and the First Lady, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan issued the following statement:
November 27, 2009MEDIA ADVISORY
STATEMENT BY DIRECTOR MARK SULLIVAN
(Washington, D.C.) – On Friday, November 27, 2009, United States Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan issued the following statement:
“The Secret Service is deeply concerned and embarrassed by the circumstances surrounding the State Dinner on Tuesday, November 24.
The preliminary findings of our internal investigation have determined established protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint, verifying that two individuals were on the guest list.
Although these individuals went through magnetometers and other levels of screening, they should have been prohibited from entering the event entirely. That failing is ours.
The Secret Service safely processed more than 1.2 million visitors last year to the White House complex. In the last several years, the agency has successfully protected more than 10,000 sites for the President, Vice President and other Secret Service protectees, screening more than 7 million people through magnetometers at campaign related events, with more than 1 million during the Inauguration alone.
Even with these successes, we need to be right 100% of the time. While we have protocols in place to address these situations, we must ensure that they are followed each and every time.
As our investigation continues, appropriate measures have been taken to ensure this is not repeated.
The men and women of the U.S. Secret Service are committed to providing the highest level of security for those we are charged to protect, and we will do whatever is necessary to accomplish this mission.”
According to varied reports, the Salahis manuevered and manipulated their way through several layers of Secret Service constructed security. Obviously, somewhere down the line, the Secret Service dropped the ball. The real question, the burning question is: Where did the breach in security actually occur? According to the Salahis’ attorney, Michaele and Tareq were invited and on the list. Somewhere between two check points, a Secret Service agent (s) either perused the guest list, saw their name and granted them passage, or did not see the Salahis listed and granted them access solely based on their appearances.
However, the unnerving aspect of the entire episode is simply that President Obama’s top security was breached. This is entirely unacceptable. The President is not safe. If two aspiring cuckoos looking to make it big on a ‘reality show’ can crash a state dinner held at the White House, where one would definitely expect the Secret Service to be lurking in every crevice and crack, and actually shake the Commander in Chief’s hand, what does this really mean? What kind of message is being sent?
This is the second security breach under the watch of Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan. The first? That shoe throwing incident in Iraq involving an irate Iraqi journalist and President George W. Bush. But who knew someone would take off their shoes and throw them at the President of the United States?
But, also lets not forget the health care reform town hall meetings. Remember all of those ridiculous gun-toting fanatics that the Secret Service allowed to just hang around outside the places where President Obama was speaking? There was one particular man that carried what appeared to be an assault weapon. Why weren’t these folks picked up and hauled off to jail by the Secret Service? Obviously, they posed a real threat to the President.
Michaele and Tariq Salahi have earned their fifteen minutes of fame. In the quest for television notoriety, their greed, phoniness, selfishness, and sheer vanity laid bare a serious security sink hole that needs to be addressed when it comes to the protection of the President and the First Family. Rep. Edolphus Town, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee commented Friday that “the incident compromised the safety and security of the President and undermined our confidence in the protection we expect of the Secret Service.”
Rep. Town wants the House of Representatives to investigate the state dinner security breach. Yet, before the investigation even begins, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan should fire the Secret Service agents responsible for the so-called clearance of the Salahis, and then tenure his resignation.
Sources report that federal charges are coming down the pipe, too! I respectfully ask Michaele and Tariq Salahi: Was it worth it?
Hope it was.
Statement by the President on Native American Heritage Day
“Tomorrow, Americans everywhere will observe our National Day of Thanksgiving. It will be a time of celebration and reflection as we gather with family and friends to count our blessings and remember those less fortunate. But it will also be a time to remember how this holiday began– as a harvest celebration between European settlers and the American Indians who had been living and thriving on the continent for thousands of years.”
“That is why on Friday, I encourage every American to join me in observing Native American Heritage Day. My Administration is committed to strengthening the nation to nation relationship with tribal governments. But it is also important for all of us to understand the rich culture, tradition and history of Native Americans and their status today- and to appreciate the contributions that First Americans have made, and will continue to make to our Nation.”
Statement by the President on Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha
Michelle and I would like to send our best wishes to all those performing Hajj this year, and to Muslims in America and around the world who are celebrating Eid-ul-Adha. The rituals of Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha both serve as reminders of the shared Abrahamic roots of three of the world’s major religions.
During Hajj, the world’s largest and most diverse gathering, three million Muslims from all walks of life – including thousands of American Muslims – will stand in prayer on Mount Arafat. The following day, Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid-ul-Adha and distribute food to the less fortunate to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son out of obedience to God.
This year, I am pleased that the Department of Health and Human Services has partnered with the Saudi Health Ministry to prevent and limit the spread of H1N1 during Hajj. Cooperating on combating H1N1 is one of the ways we are implementing my administration’s commitment to partnership in areas of mutual interest.
On behalf of the American people, we would like to extend our greetings during this Hajj season – Eid Mubarak.
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT INDIAN STATE DINNER PRESS PREVIEW
State Dining Room
2:00 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Welcome, everyone. How are you all doing? It’s good to see you.
Well, as Desiree mentioned, this is a very exciting time here at the White House and we are just excited to welcome all of you. We’ve got a big day going on — this is our first official state visit of the Obama administration. It’s very exciting for us.
And today the President is welcoming and working with India’s Prime Minister Singh. And this evening, tonight the President and I are going to be hosting our first state dinner — and we’re hosting for the Prime Minister and his wife, Mrs. Kaur, who we met earlier today.
So one of the things we thought — and I don’t know about all of you — is whether you wonder, what are these state dinners all about and these state visits? Because when I was your age I didn’t know what they were doing. So we thought it would be fun to take a little time to expose you to what’s going to happen today and this evening. So that’s why you are all here today and we’re really excited to have you.
These state visits and dinners are a really important part of our nation’s diplomacy. Throughout history, they’ve given U.S. presidents — and the American people — the opportunity to make important milestones in foreign relations. So these dinners and events are really critical to what we do internationally. And they’ve helped build stronger ties with nations as well as people around the world. That’s what President Obama and Prime Minister Singh are doing today.
And I know that all of us on our team here at the West Wing and the East Wing, we wish that we could include many, many more people in today’s events and this evening’s events because it’s not often that you get to do this. But even with a house like the White House, there’s only so many people that we can invite. So one of the ways that First Ladies in the past have tried to include the broader public in on what’s going on is by holding these types of events where we invite the press to share some of the incredible behind-the-scenes work that goes into planning and pulling off this amazing day.
But today we’re also doing something a little different by having you all here. As our mentees know, one of the things we’ve talked about that the President and I have tried to do is really open up this White House to our neighbors here in Washington, D.C., especially to local students and to children in our community. Because what we know is that even though many of you guys live just a few minutes, maybe a little bit away from here — but you’re close — these events probably seem like they’re miles and miles away, like they’re just untouchable.
So that’s why we really tried to think about ways to include kids in the community all throughout today’s event. At the opening ceremonies today we invited about 50 students from local schools to attend the welcoming event. And that’s why we’re so happy to have you guys here with us today. And for those of you who don’t know, these girls are a part of our young women who participate in the White House Leadership and Mentoring Program. And we’re really thrilled to have you guys here, because this is your White House and we want you to be a part of what we do here.
So, how do we get this stuff done? The President and I are going to host this really neat dinner outside in the tent. But we describe it, it’s sort of like a swan, where we’re kind of calm and serene above water — but we’re paddling like mad, going crazy underneath, trying to look smooth. But there’s a lot of work that goes into making this happen and we have a lot of people who are helping to put it together. And it takes everyone at the White House and the State Department and the Military Office who’ve worked so hard to put all of the events together today — the guest list, the invitations, the place settings that you see here, you’ve got to figure out who sits where — all that fun stuff.
It takes all the folks in the kitchen — we have our incredible White House Chef Cris Comerford — who some of you guy met — and the rest of our kitchen staff. And tonight, we’re going to include a guest chef tonight, a gentleman by the name of Marcus Samuellson — and he’s one of the finest chefs in the country, who is going to cook the dinner this evening. Cris, Marcus and our kitchen staff are working on a wonderful menu tonight that you’ll be able to share in a little bit. It’s going to showcase the best of American cooking. It’s going to include the freshest ingredients from area farmers and purveyors. And because of all of the hard work of some other kids in the community, we’ve got this wonderful White House kitchen garden out in the South Lawn and we’re going to use some of the herbs from that garden in tonight’s dinner as well.
But there’s also more to the dinner than just the food, even though that’s going to be exciting. Dinners like these also need great entertainment. So who do we have tonight? We’ve got someone you guys probably know a lot about: Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson is going to sing tonight — yay! But also have A.R. Rahman. He’s also an Oscar winner and he helped create some of the music for the film “Slumdog Millionaire.” I don’t know if you guys got to see that movie — incredible movie. We’re also going to have Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, who’s a Chicago hometown guy and we’re pleased to have him. And we’re also going to have the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Marvin Hamlisch, who’s one of the greatest composers in this country.
So it’s going to be an incredible night for a lot of our guests. And in just a few minutes, you’re going to hear a little bit more about the whole process of state visits and dinners from White House Historian, Bill Allman. He’s going to give you a little bit of the background to how these things have worked in the past. And you’re also going to hear about the importance of protocol from Tanya Turner, who is a protocol officer from the State Department. And protocol is critical — protocol, how you stand, how you sit, who walks where — all of that is really important. So Tanya is going to share with us how all that works and how we think about it.
But before I turn it over to them, I just want to take a few moments to share with everyone here also why today means so much to me, personally.
As you’ve seen from this year, I have been on the other side of these visits and dinners — as a guest in many countries. Since becoming First Lady, I’ve had the opportunity to visit eight countries with my husband, the President. And in each and every country, during each and every visit, I have been moved by the warmth and gracious hospitality that our hosts and the citizens of the countries that we visited have extended to the President and to me.
It means a great deal when you’re visiting and your hosts make you feel like you’re at home, like they’re excited to see you. It means the world.
Each visit has also been unique and profound in its own way. It’s not just the pomp and circumstances and the lights and the cameras and the fancy dresses. But when we’ve gone to other countries we’ve done some incredible things. We’ve seen the Jewish Quarter in Prague; we visited the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican; we’ve been to the Coliseum in Rome; and the American Cemetery on the beaches of Normandy in France, where the world comes to honor the brave soldiers who died there.
These places are more than just monuments to history, truly. They compel us to see the world through a broader lens — not just from your own backyard or your school or your neighborhood — but they teach us to look at the world broadly and to look at our place in it in a different way; to respect and admire each other’s culture and traditions in a very different way; and to honor all the values and the interests we have in common across the world.
You see this not in the pomp and circumstances, but in the people that you meet. We’ve met tons of incredible people over the course of our trips: the children, and the nuns who care for them, at a beautiful orphanage that I visited in Russia; young girls, girls just like many of you, that I got to spend some time with in London at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, it was an amazing day; the nurses in the maternal health clinic in Ghana, in Africa, that we got to see.
See, all these people — you know, the children, these caretakers, the girls, their teachers, these nurses and mothers that you’ve seen, that we met — what you learn is that they all want the same things as you do, as we do. Folks around the world, they want to live in peace; they want to pursue their dreams just like you guys do — and they have big, huge dreams just like you; and they hope for a brighter future for the next generation, just like we hope for you. Doesn’t matter where you’re from — these dreams are the same.
So what we figure out from these visits is that all across the world — non matter what our religions or races are — that we are all building that future together. And building that future is not just the job of any one country alone. No one country can do it by themselves. It’s the responsibility of all our countries all over the world to work together. And that’s why the President has worked so hard to begin what he’s called a new era in our relations with the world and other countries. He’s worked to strengthen diplomacy. He’s worked to renew old alliances, so that we’re talking differently with countries and people that we haven’t talked to before. He’s building new partnerships — and these partnerships he hopes will be based on mutual trust and respect.
But one of the things that the President has said is that this new era of engagement can’t just be between governments — you know, it’s not just about the presidents and prime ministers getting along. This new era of engagement also has to be between the people — the diplomats, the business leaders, the scientists, the health care workers. And yes, the teachers and the students. Young people just like you are a part of building that future and that engagement, the ability to exchange with one another as young people as you are is critical.
And that’s why the President, when he goes to another country he makes it a point to visit and to speak with students all around the world — whether he was in Europe or Cairo or China — he always reaches out to young people. And we need to expand that type of educational exchange, so that students like all of you here have the opportunity to experience and learn from other cultures — and to share your own culture, however unique and different, with other parts of the world.
Deepening these ties is one of the things that the President and the Prime Minister are working on today, one of the reasons for the trip and the state dinner is for these leaders to work together — whether it’s along the lines of working on the economy or climate change or global health — they know that young people like you, students, our future leaders are among America’s greatest ambassadors and India’s greatest ambassadors as well. In fact, India sends more students to study in this country than any other country — this year alone more than 100,000 students from India came here to America to study somewhere.
So by doing that they learn from us, and we learn from them in a very fundamental way. And as a result of those interactions, we’re all the richer for it. And after today’s visit, we’ll hopefully expand these exchanges even more. And who knows, maybe one of you all sitting at this table, one of our little mentees, will be living and studying somewhere in India — maybe New Delhi or Mumbai or Bangalore. Just imagine that, start thinking about your future in that way. This visit at this table is the beginning of that for all of you. Because, again, governments alone can’t build the future that we want for the world. That’s the job for each and every one of us.
So that’s one of the lessons for today. It’s our job — and that’s one of the lessons of the relationship between the United States and India.
Back when the President was a senator, he kept a picture of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of India, in his office. And it was before he was a senator, he was always a big supporter and admirer of Gandhi, because Gandhi inspired so many people — in India and all around the world — with his example of dignity and tolerance and peace. And with a simple call, Gandhi would say: To be the change we wish to see in the world — we are that change. We are that change.
So again, today is a celebration of the great ties between the world’s two largest democracies — that’s the United States and that’s India. But it’s also an opportunity to deepen those ties — and a reminder to be the change that each of us seeks — whether that’s in your home or in your school or in your community or in your country, you are all the change that we need.
So I’ll stop lecturing and I will now turn it over to Bill and to Tanya, who will talk a bit more about the history and protocol. And then we get to test out some of the food.
So again, we are proud to see you, happy to see you. We’re going to see you again in December, because we’re going to do some more fun stuff. I know we have three new mentees here. Can you guys, the new mentees, raise your hands? I see some new faces. Welcome. It’s good to have you. We’re going to have a lot of fun. Just ignore them, pretend that they’re not here. (Laughter.) And I’ll turn it over to Bill. Thank you guys, so much.
Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Thursday, November 26, 2009
For centuries, in peace and in war, in prosperity and in adversity, Americans have paused at this time of year to gather with loved ones and give thanks for life’s blessings. This week, we carry on this distinctly American tradition. All across our country, folks are coming together to spend time with family, to catch up with old friends, to cook and enjoy a big dinner – and maybe to watch a little football in between.
As always, we give thanks for the kindness of loved ones, for the joys of the previous year, and for the pride we feel in our communities and country. We keep in our thoughts and prayers the many families marking this Thanksgiving with an empty seat – saved for a son or daughter, or husband or wife, stationed in harm’s way. And we say a special thanks for the sacrifices those men and women in uniform are making for our safety and freedom, and for all those Americans who enrich the lives of our communities through acts of kindness, generosity and service.
But as much as we all have to be thankful for, we also know that this year millions of Americans are facing very difficult economic times. Many have lost jobs in this recession – the worst in generations. Many more are struggling to afford health care premiums and house payments, let alone to save for an education or retirement. Too many are wondering if the dream of a middle class life – that American Dream – is slipping away. It’s the worry I hear from folks across the country; good, hard-working people doing the best they can for their families – but fearing that their best just isn’t good enough. These are not strangers. They are our family, our friends, and our neighbors. Their struggles must be our concern.
That’s why we passed the Recovery Act that cut taxes for 95 percent of working people and for small businesses – and that extended unemployment benefits and health coverage for millions of Americans who lost their jobs in this turmoil. That’s why we are reforming the health care system so that middle-class families have affordable insurance that cannot be denied because of a pre-existing condition or taken away because you happen to get sick. We’ve worked to stem the tide of foreclosures and to stop the decline in home values. We’re making it easier to save for retirement and more affordable to send a son or daughter to college.
The investments we have made and tough steps we have taken have helped break the back of the recession, and now our economy is finally growing again. But as I said when I took office, job recovery from this crisis would not come easily or quickly. Though the job losses we were experiencing earlier this year have slowed dramatically, we’re still not creating enough new jobs each month to make up for the ones we’re losing. And no matter what the economists say, for families and communities across the country, this recession will not end until we completely turn that tide.
So we’ve made progress. But we cannot rest – and my administration will not rest – until we have revived this economy and rebuilt it stronger than before; until we are creating jobs and opportunities for middle class families; until we have moved beyond the cycles of boom and bust – of reckless risk and speculation – that led us to so much crisis and pain these past few years.
Next week, I’ll be meeting with owners of large and small businesses, labor leaders, and non-for-profits from across the country, to talk about the additional steps we can take to help spur job creation. I will work with the Congress to enact them quickly. And it is my fervent hope – and my heartfelt expectation – that next Thanksgiving we will be able to celebrate the fact that many of those who have lost their jobs are back at work, and that as a nation we will have come through these difficult storms stronger and wiser and grateful to have reached a brighter day.
Thank you, God bless you, and from my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON PARDONING OF THE NATIONAL TURKEY
11:41 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Welcome to the White House. On behalf of Sasha and Malia and myself, we’re thrilled to see you. I want to thank Walter Pelletier, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and Joel Brandenberger, its president, for donating this year’s turkey. His name is “Courage,” and he traveled here from Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he was raised under Walter’s own precious care.
THE PRESIDENT: There you go. (Laughter.)
Now, the National Turkey Federation has been bringing its finest turkeys to the White House for more than 50 years. I’m told Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson actually ate their turkeys. You can’t fault them for that; that’s a good-looking bird. (Laughter.) President Kennedy was even given a turkey with a sign around its neck that said, “Good Eatin’, Mr. President.” But he showed mercy and he said, “Let’s keep him going.” And 20 years ago this Thanksgiving, the first President Bush issued the first official presidential pardon for a turkey.
Today, I am pleased to announce that thanks to the interventions of Malia and Sasha — because I was planning to eat this sucker — (laughter) — “Courage” will also be spared this terrible and delicious fate. Later today, he’ll head to Disneyland, where he’ll be grand marshal of tomorrow’s parade. And just in case “Courage” can’t fulfill his responsibilities, Walter brought along another turkey, “Carolina,” as an alternate, the stand-in.
Now, later this afternoon, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and I will take two of their less fortunate brethren to Martha’s Table, an organization that does extraordinary work to help folks here in D.C. who need it the most. And I want to thank Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pennsylvania, for donating those dressed birds for dinner. So today, all told, I believe it’s fair to say that we have saved or created four turkeys. (Laughter.)
You know, there are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office. And then there are moments like this — (laughter) — where I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland. (Laughter.) But every single day, I am thankful for the extraordinary responsibility that the American people have placed in me. I am humbled by the privilege that it is to serve them, and the tremendous honor it is to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the finest military in the world — and I want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to every service member at home or in harm’s way. We’re proud of you and we are thinking of you and we’re praying for you.
When my family and I sit around the table tomorrow, just like millions of other families across America, we’ll take time to give our thanks for many blessings. But we’ll also remember this is a time when so many members of our American family are hurting. There’s no question this has been a tough year for America. We’re at war. Our economy is emerging from an extraordinary recession into recovery. But there’s a long way to go and a lot of work to do.
In more tranquil times, it’s easy to notice our many blessings. It’s even easier to take them for granted. But in times like these, they resonate a bit more powerfully. When President Lincoln set aside the National Day of Thanksgiving for the first time — to celebrate America’s “fruitful fields,” “healthful skies,” and the “strength and vigor” of the American people — it was in the midst of the Civil War, just when the future of our very union was most in doubt. So think about that. When times were darkest, President Lincoln understood that our American blessings shined brighter than ever.
This is an era of new perils and new hardships. But we are, as ever, a people of endless compassion, boundless ingenuity, limitless strength. We’re the heirs to a hard-earned history and stewards of a land of God-given beauty. We are Americans. And for all this, we give our humble thanks — to our predecessors, to one another, and to God.
So on this quintessentially American holiday, as we give thanks for what we’ve got, let’s also give back to those who are less fortunate. As we give thanks for our loved ones, let us remember those who can’t be with us. And as we give thanks for our security, let’s in turn thank those who’ve sacrificed to make it possible, wherever they may be.
Now, before this turkey gets too nervous that Bo will escape and screw up this pardon — (laughter) — or before I change my mind, I hereby pardon “Courage” so that he can live out the rest of his days in peace and tranquility in Disneyland.
And to every American, I want to wish you, on behalf of myself, Malia, Sasha, and Michelle, the happiest of Thanksgivings. Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AND PRIME MINISTER SINGH OF INDIA
AT STATE DINNER
Dinner Tent on South Lawn
9:00 P.M. EST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good evening, everyone. On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House. Aapka Swagat Hai. (Applause.)
Many of you were here when I was honored to become the first President to help celebrate Diwali — the Festival of Lights. (Applause.) Some of you were here for the first White House celebration of the birth of the founder of Sikhism — Guru Nanak. (Applause.) Tonight, we gather again, for the first state dinner of my presidency — with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, as we celebrate the great and growing partnership between the United States and India.
As we all know, in India some of life’s most treasured moments are often celebrated under the cover of a beautiful tent. It’s a little like tonight. We have incredible food and music and are surrounded by great friends. For it’s been said that “the most beautiful things in the universe are the starry heavens above us and the feeling of duty within us.”
Mr. Prime Minister, today we worked to fulfill our duty –bring our countries closer together than ever before. Tonight, under the stars, we celebrate the spirit that will sustain our partnership — the bonds of friendship between our people.
It’s a bond that includes more than two million Indian Americans who enrich every corner of our great nation — leaders in government, science, industry and the arts — some of whom join us tonight. And it’s the bond of friendship between a President and a Prime Minister who are bound by the same unshakable spirit of possibility and brotherhood that transformed both our nations — a spirit that gave rise to movements led by giants like Gandhi and King, and which are the reason that both of us can stand here tonight.
And so, as we draw upon these ties that bind our common future together, I want to close with the words that your first Prime Minister spoke at that midnight hour on the eve of Indian independence, because Nehru’s words speak to our hopes tonight: “The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the great triumphs and achievements that await us…The past is over and it is the future that beckons us now.”
So I propose a toast to all of you.
Does the Prime Minister get a glass? Thank you.
Just logistically, we want to make sure the Prime Minister has a glass here. (Laughter.)
To the future that beckons all of us. Let us answer its call. And let our two great nations realize all the triumphs and achievements that await us.
(A toast is offered.)
PRIME MINISTER SINGH: Mr. President; the First Lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama; distinguished guests. I feel privileged to be invited to this first state banquet, Mr. President, under your distinguished presidency. You do us and the people of India great honor by this wonderful gesture on your part. We are overwhelmed by the warmth of your hospitality, the courtesy you have extended to us personally, and the grace and charm of the First Lady. (Applause.)
Mr. President, your journey to the White House has captured the imagination of millions and millions of people in India. You are an inspiration to all those who cherish the values of democracy, diversity, and equal opportunity. (Applause.)
Mr. President, I can do no better than to describe your achievements in the words of Abraham Lincoln who said — and I quote — “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years.” (Applause.)
Mr. President, we warmly applaud the recognition by the Nobel Committee of the healing touch you have provided and the power of your idealism and your vision. (Applause.)
Mr. President, your leadership of this great nation of the United States coincides with a time of profound changes taking place in the world at large. We need to find new pathways of international cooperation that respond more effectively to the grave challenges caused by the growing interdependence of nations. As two leading democracies, India and the United States must play a leading role in building a shared destiny for all humankind.
Mr. President, a strong and sustained engagement between our two countries is good for our people and, equally, it is highly important for the world as a whole. We are embarking on a new phase of our partnership. We should build on our common values and interests to realize the enormous potential and promise of our partnership.
Our expanding cooperation in areas of social and human development, science and technology, energy, and other related areas will improve the quality of lives of millions of people in our country. The success of the nearly 2.7 million strong American community is a tribute to our common ethos. They have enriched and deepened our ties, and I thank them profoundly from the core of my heart. (Applause.)
Mr. President, I convey my very best wishes to you. Mr. President, as you lead this great nation, I look forward to working with you to renew and expand our strategic partnership. I wish you and the people of America a very, very happy Thanksgiving. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to join me in a toast to the health and happiness of President Barack Obama and the First Lady, Mrs. Obama, the friendly people of the United States of America, and stronger and stronger friendship between India and the United States of America.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Cheers.
(A toast is offered.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you, everybody. Enjoy your evening. (Applause.)
President Obama Launches “Educate To Innovate” Campaign For Excellence In Science, Engineering, Technology And Math Education!
PRESIDENT OBAMA LAUNCHES “EDUCATE TO INNOVATE” CAMPAIGN FOR EXCELLENCE IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING & MATH (STEM) EDUCATION
Nationwide effort includes over $260 million in public-private investments to move American students to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade
President Obama today launched the “Educate to Innovate” campaign, a nationwide effort to help reach the administration’s goal of moving American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade.
Speaking to key leaders of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) community and local students, President Obama announced a series of high-powered partnerships involving leading companies, foundations, non-profits, and science and engineering societies dedicated to motivating and inspiring young people across America to excel in science and math.
“Reaffirming and strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation is essential to meeting the challenges of this century,” said President Obama. “That’s why I am committed to making the improvement of STEM education over the next decade a national priority.”
The new partnerships, with accompanying major commitments from philanthropic organizations and individuals, mark a dramatic first wave of responses to the President’s call at the National Academy of Sciences this spring for a national campaign to raise American students “from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math over the next decade.” Each of the commitments—valued together at over $260 million in financial and in-kind support—will apply new and creative methods of generating and maintaining student interest and enthusiasm in science and math, reinvigorating the pipeline of ingenuity and innovation essential to America’s success that has long been at the core of American economic leadership.
Among the initiatives announced by the President are:
- Five public-private partnerships that harness the power of media, interactive games, hands-on learning, and 100,000 volunteers to reach more than 10 million students over the next four years, inspiring them to be the next generation of makers, discoverers, and innovators. These partnerships represent a combined commitment of over $260 million in financial and in-kind support.
- A commitment by leaders such as Sally Ride (the first female astronaut), Craig Barrett (former chairman of Intel), Ursula Burns (CEO, Xerox), Glenn Britt (CEO, Time Warner Cable), and Antonio Perez (CEO, Eastman Kodak) to increase the scale, scope, and impact of private-sector and philanthropic support for STEM education. This coalition, with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, will recruit private sector leaders to serve as champions for STEM at the state level; mobilize resources to help scale successful STEM innovations; and raise awareness of the importance of STEM among parents and students.
- An annual science fair at the White House, showcasing the student winners of national competitions in areas such as science, technology, and robotics.
President Obama has identified three overarching priorities for STEM education: increasing STEM literacy so all students can think critically in science, math, engineering and technology; improving the quality of math and science teaching so American students are no longer outperformed by those in other nations; and expanding STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and minorities.
The Obama Administration has already taken bold action in the STEM education arena by directing that the $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” school grant program assure a competitive preference to states that commit to improving STEM education. “The Department of Education takes the STEM competitive priority very seriously – and states should as well,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
But while federal leadership is necessary, a real change in STEM education requires the participation of many elements of society, including governors, philanthropists, scientists, engineers, educators, and the private sector. That is why the President’s speech at the National Academy of Sciences challenged all Americans to join the cause of elevating STEM education as a national priority.
“America needs a world-class STEM workforce to address the grand challenges of the 21st century, such as developing clean sources of energy that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and discovering cures for cancer,” said John Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “It is extremely gratifying to see this first and very robust set of responses to the President’s call to action.”
Background on Educate to Innovate: A National Campaign for Excellence in
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education (STEM)
Today at the White House, President Obama launched the “Educate to Innovate” campaign, a nationwide effort to help reach the administration’s goal of moving American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade. President Obama announced a series of partnerships involving leading companies, universities, foundations, non-profits, and organizations representing millions of scientists, engineers and teachers that will motivate and inspire young people across the country to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
President Obama believes that reaffirming and strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation is essential to meeting the challenges of this century. A growing number of jobs require STEM skills, and America needs a world-class STEM workforce to address the “grand challenges” of the 21st century, such as developing clean sources of energy that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and discovering cures for diseases. Success on these fronts will require improving STEM literacy for all students; expanding the pipeline for a strong and innovative STEM workforce; and greater focus on opportunities and access for groups such as women and underrepresented minorities.
In a speech to the National Academies of Sciences this spring, President Obama announced a commitment to raise America from the middle to the top of the pack internationally in STEM education over the next decade. At that time President Obama also challenged governors, philanthropists, scientists, engineers, educators, and the private sector to join with him in a national campaign to engage young people in these fields. The partnerships announced today are the initial response to this “call to action.”
Additionally, to help meet this goal, the President’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund provides a competitive advantage to states that commit to a comprehensive strategy to improve STEM education. Race to the Top will challenge states to dramatically improve their schools and student achievement by raising standards, using data to improve decisions and inform instruction, improving teacher effectiveness, using innovative and effective approaches to turn around struggling schools and making it possible for STEM professionals to bring their experience and enthusiasm into the classroom. These reforms will help prepare America’s students to graduate ready for college and career, and enable them to out-compete any worker, anywhere in the world.
Public Private Partnerships
Time Warner Cable’s “Connect a Million Minds” Campaign: Time Warner Cable, in partnership with FIRST Robotics and the Coalition for Science After School, is launching a campaign to connect over one million students to highly-engaging after-school STEM activities that already exist in their area. Time Warner Cable will use its media platform, Public Service Announcements, 47,000 employees, and a “connectamillionminds.com” website where over 70,000 parents and community members have already pledged to connect a child to STEM. Time Warner Cable has made a commitment of $100 million over the next five years to support this campaign, and will target 80 percent of its corporate philanthropy to STEM.
Discovery Communications’ “Be the Future” Campaign: Discovery Communications, in partnership with leading research universities and federal agencies, is launching a five-year, $150 million cash and in-kind “Be the Future” campaign. This will create content that reaches more than 99 million homes, including a PSA campaign across Discovery’s 13 U.S. networks, a dedicated commercial-free educational kids block on the Science Channel, and programming on the “grand challenges” of the 21st century such as their landmark Curiosity series. Discovery Education will also create rich, interactive education content that it will deliver at no cost to approximately 60,000 schools, 35 million students, and 1 million educators, and through a partnership with the Siemens Foundation, will create STEM Connect, a national education resource for teachers.
Sesame Street’s Early STEM Literacy Initiative: Celebrating its 40th Anniversary, and with First Lady Michelle Obama appearing on the first episode, Sesame Street, in partnership with PNC Bank, is announcing a major focus on science and math for young children and a $7.5 million investment in the effort. Sesame Street’s new season kicked-off with “My World is Green & Growing,” which will be part of a two-year science initiative designed to increase positive attitudes towards nature, deepen children’s knowledge about the natural world and encourage behavior that shows respect and care for the environment. Twenty of the 26 new episodes will have a focus on STEM; 13 focus on science and seven focus on math. In addition, Sesame Workshop, in partnership with PNC Bank’s Grow Up Great Program, is announcing a new math initiative for preschool children entitled Math is Everywhere.
“National Lab Day,” Bringing Hands-on Learning to Every Student: National Lab Day is a historic grassroots effort, online at nationallabday.org, to bring hands-on learning to 10 million students by upgrading science labs, supporting project-based learning, and building communities of support for STEM teachers. The effort is a partnership between science and engineering societies representing more than 2.5 million STEM professionals and almost 4 million educators, with strong financial support from the Hidary Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and industry partners. Collectively, this partnership is committed to working with more than 10,000 teachers and 1 million students within a year, and 100,000 teachers and 10 million students over the next four years.
National STEM Game Design Competitions: The MacArthur Foundation, Sony Computer Entertainment America, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and its partners (the Information Technology Industry Council, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, and Microsoft) are launching a nationwide set of competitions that include the design of the most compelling, freely-available STEM-related videogames for children and youth. The competitions will include the 2010 Digital Media and Learning Competition, a $2 million yearly effort supported by the MacArthur Foundation that advances the most innovative approaches to learning through games, social networks and mobile devices. One of the competitions will be open only to children, to help them develop 21st century knowledge and skills through the challenge of game design. This year Sony will participate in one segment of the competition and encourage the development of new games that build on the existing popular video game Little Big Planet.
WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama’s Overseas Trip Focused on Better Relations with Asia and Creating Jobs at Home
WASHINGTON – In this week’s address, President Barack Obama described the progress made during his trip to Asia, and detailed steps the administration is taking to spur job creation. The President explained how increasing exports to Asia Pacific nations can create hundreds of thousands of jobs in America and described the upcoming jobs forum which will host CEOs, labor unions, economists, and nonprofits.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Hi. I’m recording this message from Seoul, South Korea, as I finish up my first presidential trip to Asia. As we emerge from the worst recession in generations, there is nothing more important than to do everything we can to get our economy moving again and put Americans back to work, and I will go anywhere to pursue that goal.
That’s one of the main reasons I took this trip. Asia is a region where we now buy more goods and do more trade with than any other place in the world – commerce that supports millions of jobs back home. It’s also a place where the risk of a nuclear arms race threatens our security, and where extremists plan attacks on America’s soil. And since this region includes some of the fastest-growing nations, there can be no solution to the challenge of climate change without the cooperation of the Asia Pacific.
With this in mind, I traveled to Asia to open a new era of American engagement. We made progress with China and Russia in sending a unified message to Iran and North Korea that they must live up to their international obligations and either forsake nuclear weapons or face the consequences. As the two largest consumers and producers of energy, we developed a host of new clean energy initiatives with China, and our two nations agreed to work toward a successful outcome at the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen – an outcome that leads to immediate action to reduce carbon pollution. And I spoke to young men and women at a town hall in Shanghai and across the internet about certain values that we in America believe are universal: the freedom of worship and speech; the right to access information and choose one’s own leaders.
But above all, I spoke with leaders in every nation I visited about what we can do to sustain this economic recovery and bring back jobs and prosperity for our people – a task I will continue to focus on relentlessly in the weeks and months ahead.
This recession has taught us that we can’t return to a situation where America’s economic growth is fueled by consumers who take on more and more debt. In order to keep growing, we need to spend less, save more, and get our federal deficit under control. We also need to place a greater emphasis on exports that we can build, produce, and sell to other nations – exports that can help create new jobs at home and raise living standards throughout the world.
For example, if we can increase our exports to Asia Pacific nations by just 5%, we can increase the number of American jobs supported by these exports by hundreds of thousands. This is already happening with businesses like American Superconductor Corporation, an energy technology startup based in Massachusetts that’s been providing wind power and smart grid systems to countries like China, Korea, and India. By doing so, it’s added more than 100 jobs over the last few years.
Increasing our exports is one way to create new jobs and new prosperity. But as we emerge from a recession that has left millions without work, we have an obligation to consider every additional, responsible step we can take to encourage and accelerate job creation in this country. That’s why I’ve announced that in the next few weeks, we’ll be holding a forum at the White House on jobs and economic growth. I want to hear from CEOs and small business owners, economists and financial experts, as well as representatives from labor unions and nonprofit groups, about what they think we can do to spur hiring and get this economy moving again.
It is important that we do not make any ill-considered decisions – even with the best of intentions – particularly at a time when our resources are so limited. But it is just as important that we are open to any demonstrably good idea to supplement the steps we’ve already taken to put America back to work. That’s what I hope to achieve in this forum.
Still, there is no forum or policy that can bring all the jobs we’ve lost overnight. I wish there were, because so many Americans – friends, neighbors, family members – are desperately looking for work. But even though it will take time, I can promise you this: we are moving in the right direction; that the steps we are taking are helping; and I will not let up until businesses start hiring again, unemployed Americans start working again, and we rebuild this economy stronger and more prosperous than it was before. That has been the focus of our efforts these past ten months – and it will continue to be our focus in the months and years to come.
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts
WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key administration posts:
- Maria Sally Matiella , Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management, Department of Defense
- Paul L. Oostburg Sanz, General Counsel of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense
- Solomon B. Watson IV, General Counsel of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense
- Kathleen S. Tighe, Inspector General, Department of Education
- Orlan Johnson, Chair, Board of Directors of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation
· Sharon Y. Bowen, Vice-Chair, Board of Directors of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation
President Obama said, “These talented and dedicated individuals will be valued additions to my administration as we work to put our country back on the path to prosperity. I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years.”
President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals today:
Maria Sally Matiella, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management, Department of Defense
Mary Sally Matiella has 29 years of Federal employment, working in accounting and budget positions with the Army, Air Force, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and Office of the Secretary of Defense. She most recently served as Assistant Chief Financial Officer for Accounting at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and has previously served as Chief Financial Officer for U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Staff Accountant for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), and Financial Manager for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Over her Federal career, Ms. Matiella has worked on military installations in the United States, Panama, and Germany. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree and M.B.A. from the University of Arizona.
Paul L. Oostburg Sanz, Nominee for General Counsel of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense
Paul L. Oostburg Sanz is currently the General Counsel of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services where he has advised on the passage of the annual National Defense Authorization Act; detainee policy; the activities of the Department of Defense to counter the illicit narcotics trade; matters related to the Southern Command, and international legal issues. From 2001-2006, he was the Deputy Chief Counsel for the Democratic Staff of the Committee on International Relations in the House (HIRC) where he focused on foreign and security assistance as well as the Western Hemisphere, in addition to his counsel responsibilities. From 1999-2001, Mr. Oostburg Sanz clerked for the federal district court in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 1994, he conducted political party training in South Africa during the first all-inclusive national elections, as a Project Officer for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. From 1991-1993, he served in the Peace Corps in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, teaching English in secondary schools. Mr. Oostburg Sanz holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School, an M.P.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University, and a B.S.F.S. from the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University.
Solomon B. Watson IV, Nominee for General Counsel of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense
From 1989 until 2005, Solomon B. Watson IV served as General Counsel of The New York Times Company. As General Counsel, Mr. Watson was responsible for the management of the legal, governance, and compliance functions of the company and its operating units. Mr. Watson joined the legal department of The Times Company in December 1974, and became Corporate Secretary in 1979. Mr. Watson was also a member of the company’s management executive committee. Mr. Watson retired from the company as Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer in December 2006. Mr. Watson, member of the New York and Massachusetts State Bar Associations, was an Associate in the Boston law firm of Bingham, Dana & Gould before joining The Times Company. Among other professional activities, Mr. Watson was a member of the Advisory Board of the Agent Orange Settlement Fund. Mr. Watson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Howard University and a Juris Doctorate degree from Harvard Law School. Mr. Watson served in the U.S. Army as a Lieutenant in Military Police Corps from 1966 to 1968 and was awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation medals for service while stationed in Vietnam.
Kathleen S. Tighe, Nominee for Inspector General, Department of Education
Kathleen S. Tighe is currently the Deputy Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She assists the Inspector General in overseeing the office, evaluating priorities, and collaborating with the Department, Congress, and the public. She previously served as Counsel and Assistant Counsel to the Inspector General at the General Services Administration for fourteen years. From 1988 to 1991, Ms. Tighe was a Trial Attorney in the Fraud Section of the Department of Justice Civil Division. She litigated cases under the civil False Claims Act and related statutes. Prior to her government service, Ms. Tighe was in private practice with the law firm Lewis, Mitchell & Moore in Vienna, Virginia where she practiced government and private contract litigation. She earned her B.A. with distinction from Purdue University in 1976, her M.A. in international relations from American University in 1979, and her J.D. with honors from George Washington University in 1983.
Orlan Johnson, Chair, Nominee for Board of Directors of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation
Orlan Johnson is a Partner in the Business Department of the Law firm Saul Ewing LLP. His practice focuses on general corporate and securities matters, complex business transactions and federal and state regulatory issues in business and securities transactions including proxy solicitations, bankruptcy, equity and debt offerings. Prior to joining Saul Ewing, Mr. Johnson was Of Counsel at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLP where he served as co-head of its regulatory practice in the Washington, DC office. Previously, he served as a Staff Attorney and Branch Chief in the Division of Investment Management for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Johnson is an adjunct professor of law at Howard University School of Law where he has taught Securities Regulation classes. Mr. Johnson received his B.A. from Andrews University and his J.D. from Howard University School of Law.
Sharon Y. Bowen, Nominee for Vice-Chair, Board of Directors of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation
Sharon Y. Bowen is a corporate partner in the New York office of Latham & Watkins LLP. Ms. Bowen has counseled clients and handled transactions in a wide range of industries, including financial services, retail and REITs on both domestic and international matters. She has represented some of the leading investment banks, corporations and private equity firms. Her breadth of experience encompasses many areas such as finance, acquisitions, private equity and corporate governance. Ms. Bowen serves as Co-Chair of the firm’s Diversity Committee and Chair of the Diversity Hiring Subcommittee. She serves on the Boards of Northwestern Law School (Chair), the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and PENCIL, and was selected to the DirectWomen Board Institute. She has also served on various city, state and national bar association committees and is a frequent speaker at industry events. Ms. Bowen earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia, with distinction, and J.D. and M.B.A. from Northwestern University.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE TROOPS
Osan Air Base
Osan, Republic of Korea
3:40 P.M. KST
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Osan! (Applause.) It is good to be here! (Applause.) Thank you so much.
First of all, please give Staff Sergeant Randy Gray a big round of applause for the outstanding introduction. (Applause.) I want to thank Randy for his service as one of the “Best Warriors” in the United States Army. (Applause.) Randy is a reminder that our noncommissioned officers are the strength of America’s military. So thanks to Randy and to all the NCOs. (Applause.)
Thank you, Lieutenant Colonel Glover, for the invocation. And please give a big round of applause to Katherine Dennison for singing our National Anthem. (Applause.) To the 8th Army Band — where you guys at? There they are, up there. (Applause.) You look fantastic. To all the airmen and soldiers behind me — you guys make a pretty good photo op. (Laughter.) We are grateful for your service.
I want to thank your local leaders at Osan for welcoming me here today, including Brigadier General Michael Keltz and Colonel Tom “Big” Deale. (Applause.) Your great senior enlisted leaders, including Command Sergeant Major Robert Winzenried and Chief Master Sergeant Michael Williams. (Applause.)
We are joined by America’s outstanding representatives here in the Republic of Korea: I want you guys to give it up for Ambassador Kathleen Stephens and General “Skip” Sharp. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) This is a wonderful story that I just heard — that the day Skip Sharp was born in West Virginia, his dad was here — serving in the Korean War. And that just says something about the extraordinary tradition of your family and service to our country, and we salute you for that. We are grateful to you. Thank you so much.
Listen, it is great to be here at Osan Air Base. We’ve got the 51st Fighter Wing. (Applause.) We’ve got the 7th Air Force and — (applause) — Air Forces Korea. (Applause.) But I know we have folks from all across U.S. Forces Korea. We’ve got the 8th Army and Army Forces Korea. (Applause.) We’ve got the Naval Forces Korea. (Applause.) We’ve got Marine Forces Korea (Applause.) Special Operations Command. (Applause.) And we’ve got a whole lot of DOD civilians, too. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. (Applause.)
Now, Joanne Sharp and Michelle Remington were there to greet me, and I see that we’ve got a whole lot of spouses and family here. (Applause.) To you and all the spouses back home, I just want to remind you that you serve and sacrifice, too, and America honors you as well.
And we are joined by our great allies: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Lee and Mrs. Hwang. We are so nice — so grateful that you are here. (Applause.) Thank you. Members of the Republic of Korea armed forces, and to all our KATUSA partners — your English is better than my Korean — (laughter) — but let me say: Katchi Kapshida. (Applause.) For those of you guys who have not been doing your homework while you’re in Korea, that means: We go together. (Applause.)
And to your neighbors — the people of Osan and this country — for more than a half a century, your steadfast resolve has earned you the respect of the world. And your hospitality to Americans serving far from home has earned you the gratitude of the United States. On behalf of us all, thank you to the people of the Republic of Korea. (Applause.)
Today, I’m finishing my first visit to Asia as President. In Tokyo, we renewed and deepened the U.S.-Japan alliance. In Singapore, we worked with leaders from across the Asia Pacific to strengthen the global economic recovery. And in China, we worked to advance the partnership between our two countries on global issues — because cooperation between the United States and China will mean a safer, more prosperous world for all of us, including right here on the Korean peninsula.
In Seoul, President Lee and I reaffirmed the enduring alliance between our countries — an alliance rooted in shared sacrifice, common values, mutual interest and mutual respect. And as we look to the future with a shared vision of our alliance for the 21st century, I made it clear — America’s commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea will never waver, and our alliance has never been stronger.
And I want to deliver, actually, just a quick story, go a little off script. President Lee talked to me about what it was like when he was a young child here in Korea, this country having been torn by war, and the poverty that still existed in the country. And he said, I hope the American people understand how grateful we are for what you’ve done, because we would not be the extraordinarily strong, prosperous nation that we are, had it not been for the sacrifices of your armed services and the continued contributions that you’ve made.
And I thought, when the President of a country that’s become so successful says that America, and America’s armed services in particular, had something to do with the extraordinary success of their country — he said, that’s something you should take great pride in. And I want all of you to know that, because you are carrying that tradition on right here at Osan.
I couldn’t come to the Republic of Korea without coming to see you to deliver a simple message — a message of thanks to you and your families. Because of all the privileges of serving as President, I have no greater honor than serving as
Commander-in-Chief of the finest military that the world has ever known. (Applause.)
At every stop on my journey, one truth is clear: The security that allows families to live in peace in Asia and America, the prosperity that allows people to pursue their dreams, the freedoms and liberties that we cherish — they’re not accidents of history; they are the direct result of the work that you do, the strong alliances that we have. That’s the legacy that you are carrying forward. It is no exaggeration to say that the progress we’ve seen not just in Korea but in this part of the world would not have been possible without the security and stability provided by generations of American men and women in uniform. It has transformed the lives of millions of people.
Many people have to wait a lifetime to see the difference they’ve made. But you see the legacy of your service, and you only have to look around. Like generations before you, you’ve helped keep the peace on this peninsula, working with the wonderful people of the Republic of Korea as they forged a vibrant democracy, and an example that the world admires of progress and tradition go hand in hand.
Backed by our alliance, this is one of the world’s most dynamic economies — and one of America’s largest trading partners — bringing prosperity and opportunity to both our people. That’s the legacy of our armed services.
Backed by our alliance, the Republic of Korea has taken on a leadership role, promoting security and stability around the world. In Iraq. In Afghanistan. In the waters off the Horn of Africa. And here in Asia, helping to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. That makes us all more secure. That, too, is part of your legacy.
But the story of your service goes beyond this peninsula. For you are members of a generation that has earned your place among the greatest in American history. You volunteered in a time of war, knowing that you could be sent into harm’s way. Many of you served in Iraq. (Applause.) You’ve given people a chance at self-government there. Others among you served in Afghanistan. (Applause.) And you’ve denied a safe have to those who attacked us eight Septembers ago — and would do so again if given the opportunity. Others among you will deploy yet again.
So you and your families have served tour after tour, year after year. And while you made sacrifices that few Americans will ever truly understand, I want to assure you — every American appreciates what you do. I say today, on behalf of the American people: We thank you for your service. We honor you for your sacrifices. And just as you’ve fulfilled your responsibilities to your nation, your nation will fulfill its responsibilities to you.
So as Commander-in-Chief, here’s the commitment I make. We’ll make sure you can meet the missions we ask you to go on. That’s why we’re increasing the defense budget, to keep you the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military in the world.
We’ve increased the size of the Army and Marines Corps ahead of schedule. We’ve approved a temporary increase in the Army. And we’ve halted reductions in the Navy and the Air Force — which will give you more time home between deployments. And it will help us to put an end, once and for all, for stop-loss for those who’ve done their duty.
We’ll spend our defense dollars wisely. So we’re cutting tens of billions of dollars in waste and unnecessary projects that even the Pentagon says it doesn’t need — so that we can spend that money on building the 21st century military that we do need so we can maintain our military superiority.
And I promise you this: I will not hesitate to use force to protect the American people or our vital interests. But I will also not risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary. (Applause.) And when it is necessary, America will back you up to the hilt. We’ll give you the strategy, the clear mission, the equipment and the support you need to get the job done. That’s the promise I make to you.
As you fulfill your duties, we’re going to take care of your families. That’s why we’re increasing pay. (Applause.) That’s what’s called an applause line in the business. (Laughter.) That’s why we’re increasing child care. That’s why we’re increasing support to help spouses and families deal with the stress and separation of war. And I want to commend General Sharp for working to normalize your tours — so more of your families can join you here in Korea. And everywhere I go, from what I’ve heard, there’s an extraordinary quality of life here for our troops. The fact that we can extend these tours a little bit longer just provides more stability and security for your families.
Finally, we pledge to be there when you come home. I mean, it’s nice here, but we want you coming home. We’re improving care for our wounded warriors, especially those with Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury. We’re funding the Post-9/11 GI Bill — to give you and your families the chance to pursue your dreams. We’ve made the biggest commitment to our veterans through the largest percentage increase requested for the VA’s budget in more than 30 years.
So these are the commitments I make to you. Because you’ve always taken care of America, and America needs to take care of you. (Applause.) For you are the latest chapter in a long story of proud service — a story told in quiet places of reflection and tribute, including a memorial on the National Mall in Washington, not far from the White House.
There, between the monument to Washington and the memorial to Lincoln, you can find it — 19 statutes, a squad on patrol as they might have appeared on this peninsula six decades ago. Their packs on their backs. Clad in their helmets and ponchos. Carrying their rifles and radios. Every service — Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines. Every race — white, black, brown. Standing together. Serving together. Moving on. Pushing ahead. And etched into the black granite wall beside them, thousands of faces — the nurses, the mechanics, the support personnel who served alongside them.
There, at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, beside the tranquil waters that help us remember, are the statistics of their sacrifice — the wounded, the captured, the missing, the dead from that war. And under a bright American flag, etched in stone, are timeless words we know to be true: “Freedom is not free.”
Freedom is not free. And it is paid in the service and the sacrifice of all who wear America’s uniform. It was paid by their generation — from the Pusan perimeter to the landings at Inchon, from the skies of Mig Alley to the heroism of Heartbreak Ridge. It’s been paid by every generation since. And it’s being paid by you — in service that inspires us all. And for this, your country — and generations yet unborn — will be forever grateful.
So God bless you all. God bless the armed services, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AND PRESIDENT LEE OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA
BEFORE BILATERAL MEETING
Seoul, Republic of Korea
November 19, 2009
11:15 A.M. KST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Mr. President — I was telling the President, and I think the delegation would agree, that this was the most spectacular ceremony for a state visit that we’ve been involved with since we’ve traveled.
And I was saying that I especially enjoyed the traditional dress of some of the soldiers.
PRESIDENT LEE: (As translated.) But traditional uniforms are quite difficult to fight in. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s true, that’s true.
PRESIDENT LEE: Well, first of all, Mr. President, welcome. And you’re bringing very nice weather with you, because up until yesterday it was sub-zeros, frigid cold. (Laughter.)
Well, once again, Mr. President, welcome to the Asian region, and, of course, welcome to Korea. I know that your visit to Japan and China has been very successful.
And Mr. President, as we all like to say, you saved the best for last. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Mr. President, let me just say that we have been so gratified by the warmth with which we’ve been received here in the Republic of Korea.
And I think there’s every indication that the alliance between our two countries has never been stronger.
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts
WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key administration posts:
- Elizabeth Littlefield, President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation
- Harry K. Thomas, Jr., Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines
- David Adelman, Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore
President Obama said, “These individuals will represent our nation well and work to fulfill the important goal of strengthening our relationships abroad. I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years.”
President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals today:
Elizabeth Littlefield, Nominee for President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation
Elizabeth Littlefield is currently a Director of the World Bank and the CEO of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a multi-donor organization created to help build a large scale permanent microfinance industry providing flexible, high-quality financial services on a sustainable basis to the poor. Ms. Littlefield previously worked with JP Morgan, where she was the Managing Director in charge of JP Morgan’s Emerging Markets Capital Markets Division. As such, she oversaw JP Morgan’s capital markets business in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, Central Asia, Middle East and Africa. In parallel to her career in investment banking, Ms. Littlefield also spent a year and a half providing guidance to several start-up microfinance institutions in West and Central Africa and in Pakistan. She has served on the executive board of several organizations including Women’s World Banking, Profund, Africa International Financial Holding, the Mastercard Foundation, the Calvert Foundation, and E&Co. Littlefield is a graduate of Brown University and also attended Ecole Nationale de Sciences Politiques in Paris.
Harry K. Thomas, Jr., Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines
Harry K. Thomas, Jr. is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and served most recently as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources. He previously served as a Special Assistant to the Secretary and Executive Secretary of the Department. Thomas, who joined the Foreign Service in 1984, served as U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh from 2003 to 2005. He also served in the White House as the Director for South Asia at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2002. His other postings include: New Delhi, India; Harare, Zimbabwe; Kaduna, Nigeria; and Lima, Peru. He has served as Senior Watch Officer, Deputy Director, and Director of the State Department Operations Center; Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs; and Staff Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. Thomas holds a bachelors degree from the College of the Holy Cross.
David Adelman, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore
David Adelman has been a member of the State of Georgia Senate since being elected in 2002. He serves as Minority Whip and Chairman of the Urban Affairs Committee. Senator Adelman is an equity partner in the firm Sutherland Asbill and Brennan LLP where he has practiced law since 1993 representing energy and communications companies. Prior to entering private practice, Senator Adelman was an Assistant Attorney General in Georgia for three years. In addition to his commercial practice, for many years Senator Adelman has represented veterans pro bono before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He has been active in his community on domestic violence issues and served on the Board of the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority. Senator Adelman graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.A. and received an M.P.A. from Georgia State University and a J.D. from the Emory University School of Law.
White House Announces December Date for Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth
After Forum, President Obama to Kick-off White House to Main Street Tour with Stop in Allentown, Pennsylvania
WASHINGTON, DC- The Obama Administration announced plans today to hold the Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth on Thursday, December 3rd at the White House. The forum will be an opportunity for the President and the economic team to hear from some of the best and brightest CEOs, small business owners, and financial experts about ideas for continuing to grow the economy and put Americans back to work.
“During these difficult economic times, we have a responsibility to consider all good ideas to encourage and accelerate job creation in this country. At the forum next month, I am looking forward to hearing from the private sector, from CEOs and small business owners and from Americans struggling to make ends meet on how we can work together to create jobs and get this economy moving again,” said President Barack Obama.
The President will follow the forum with a visit to Allentown, Pennsylvania the following day where he will kick off a White House to Main Street Tour that will take him to cities and towns across the country over the course of the next few months. In an effort to spend some time out of Washington and take the temperature on what Americans are experiencing during these challenging economic times, the President will visit communities across the country over the next several months where he will speak with workers and share ideas for continued recovery.
Press coverage and additional details will be announced in the coming days for both the Forum on Jobs and Growth and the President’s trip to Allentown, Pennsylvania.
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE RELEASE OF THE ANNUAL HOUSEHOLD FOOD SECURITY REPORT
“As American families prepare to gather for Thanksgiving, we received an unsettling report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that found that hunger rose significantly last year. This trend was already painfully clear in many communities across our nation, where food stamp applications are surging and food pantry shelves are emptying.
It is particularly troubling that there were more than 500,000 families in which a child experienced hunger multiple times over the course of the year. Our children’s ability to grow, learn, and meet their full potential – and therefore our future competitiveness as a nation – depends on regular access to healthy meals.
My Administration is committed to reversing the trend of rising hunger. The first task is to restore job growth, which will help relieve the economic pressures that make it difficult for parents to put a square meal on the table each day. But we are also taking targeted steps to prevent Americans from experiencing hunger. Earlier this year, we extended help to those hit hardest by this economic downturn by boosting SNAP benefits. And Secretary Vilsack is working hard to make sure eligible families are able to access those benefits as well as the School Lunch and Breakfast Program. In addition, a bill I signed into law last month invests $85 million in new strategies to prevent children from experiencing hunger in the summer.
Hunger is a problem that we can solve together, and I look forward to working with Congress to pass a strong child nutrition bill that will help children get the healthy meals they need to grow and succeed – and help keep America competitive in the decades to come.”
The full USDA Household Food Security report can be viewed here: www.ers.usda.gov/features/householdfoodsecurity/
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
AT TOWN HALL MEETING WITH FUTURE CHINESE LEADERS
Museum of Science and Technology
1:18 P.M. CST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon. It is a great honor for me to be here in Shanghai, and to have this opportunity to speak with all of you. I’d like to thank Fudan University’s President Yang for his hospitality and his gracious welcome. I’d also like to thank our outstanding Ambassador, Jon Huntsman, who exemplifies the deep ties and respect between our nations. I don’t know what he said, but I hope it was good. (Laughter.)
What I’d like to do is to make some opening comments, and then what I’m really looking forward to doing is taking questions, not only from students who are in the audience, but also we’ve received questions online, which will be asked by some of the students who are here in the audience, as well as by Ambassador Huntsman. And I am very sorry that my Chinese is not as good as your English, but I am looking forward to this chance to have a dialogue.
This is my first time traveling to China, and I’m excited to see this majestic country. Here, in Shanghai, we see the growth that has caught the attention of the world — the soaring skyscrapers, the bustling streets and entrepreneurial activity. And just as I’m impressed by these signs of China’s journey to the 21st century, I’m eager to see those ancient places that speak to us from China’s distant past. Tomorrow and the next day I hope to have a chance when I’m in Beijing to see the majesty of the Forbidden City and the wonder of the Great Wall. Truly, this is a nation that encompasses both a rich history and a belief in the promise of the future.
The same can be said of the relationship between our two countries. Shanghai, of course, is a city that has great meaning in the history of the relationship between the United States and China. It was here, 37 years ago, that the Shanghai Communique opened the door to a new chapter of engagement between our governments and among our people. However, America’s ties to this city — and to this country — stretch back further, to the earliest days of America’s independence.
In 1784, our founding father, George Washington, commissioned the Empress of China, a ship that set sail for these shores so that it could pursue trade with the Qing Dynasty. Washington wanted to see the ship carry the flag around the globe, and to forge new ties with nations like China. This is a common American impulse — the desire to reach for new horizons, and to forge new partnerships that are mutually beneficial.
Over the two centuries that have followed, the currents of history have steered the relationship between our countries in many directions. And even in the midst of tumultuous winds, our people had opportunities to forge deep and even dramatic ties. For instance, Americans will never forget the hospitality shown to our pilots who were shot down over your soil during World War II, and cared for by Chinese civilians who risked all that they had by doing so. And Chinese veterans of that war still warmly greet those American veterans who return to the sites where they fought to help liberate China from occupation.
A different kind of connection was made nearly 40 years ago when the frost between our countries began to thaw through the simple game of table tennis. The very unlikely nature of this engagement contributed to its success — because for all our differences, both our common humanity and our shared curiosity were revealed. As one American player described his visit to China — “[The]people are just like us…The country is very similar to America, but still very different.”
Of course this small opening was followed by the achievement of the Shanghai Communique, and the eventual establishment of formal relations between the United States and China in 1979. And in three decades, just look at how far we have come.
In 1979, trade between the United States and China stood at roughly $5 billion — today it tops over $400 billion each year. The commerce affects our people’s lives in so many ways. America imports from China many of the computer parts we use, the clothes we wear; and we export to China machinery that helps power your industry. This trade could create even more jobs on both sides of the Pacific, while allowing our people to enjoy a better quality of life. And as demand becomes more balanced, it can lead to even broader prosperity.
In 1979, the political cooperation between the United States and China was rooted largely in our shared rivalry with the Soviet Union. Today, we have a positive, constructive and comprehensive relationship that opens the door to partnership on the key global issues of our time — economic recovery and the development of clean energy; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and the scourge of climate change; the promotion of peace and security in Asia and around the globe. All of these issues will be on the agenda tomorrow when I meet with President Hu.
And in 1979, the connections among our people were limited. Today, we see the curiosity of those ping-pong players manifested in the ties that are being forged across many sectors. The second highest number of foreign students in the United States come from China, and we’ve seen a 50 percent increase in the study of Chinese among our own students. There are nearly 200 “friendship cities” drawing our communities together. American and Chinese scientists cooperate on new research and discovery. And of course, Yao Ming is just one signal of our shared love of basketball — I’m only sorry that I won’t be able to see a Shanghai Sharks game while I’m visiting.
It is no coincidence that the relationship between our countries has accompanied a period of positive change. China has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty — an accomplishment unparalleled in human history — while playing a larger role in global events. And the United States has seen our economy grow along with the standard of living enjoyed by our people, while bringing the Cold War to a successful conclusion.
There is a Chinese proverb: ”Consider the past, and you shall know the future.” Surely, we have known setbacks and challenges over the last 30 years. Our relationship has not been without disagreement and difficulty. But the notion that we must be adversaries is not predestined — not when we consider the past. Indeed, because of our cooperation, both the United States and China are more prosperous and more secure. We have seen what is possible when we build upon our mutual interests, and engage on the basis of mutual respect.
And yet the success of that engagement depends upon understanding — on sustaining an open dialogue, and learning about one another and from one another. For just as that American table tennis player pointed out — we share much in common as human beings, but our countries are different in certain ways.
I believe that each country must chart its own course. China is an ancient nation, with a deeply rooted culture. The United States, by comparison, is a young nation, whose culture is determined by the many different immigrants who have come to our shores, and by the founding documents that guide our democracy.
Those documents put forward a simple vision of human affairs, and they enshrine several core principles — that all men and women are created equal, and possess certain fundamental rights; that government should reflect the will of the people and respond to their wishes; that commerce should be open, information freely accessible; and that laws, and not simply men, should guarantee the administration of justice.
Of course, the story of our nation is not without its difficult chapters. In many ways — over many years — we have struggled to advance the promise of these principles to all of our people, and to forge a more perfect union. We fought a very painful civil war, and freed a portion of our population from slavery. It took time for women to be extended the right to vote, workers to win the right to organize, and for immigrants from different corners of the globe to be fully embraced. Even after they were freed, African Americans persevered through conditions that were separate and not equal, before winning full and equal rights.
None of this was easy. But we made progress because of our belief in those core principles, which have served as our compass through the darkest of storms. That is why Lincoln could stand up in the midst of civil war and declare it a struggle to see whether any nation, conceived in liberty, and “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” could long endure. That is why Dr. Martin Luther King could stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and ask that our nation live out the true meaning of its creed. That’s why immigrants from China to Kenya could find a home on our shores; why opportunity is available to all who would work for it; and why someone like me, who less than 50 years ago would have had trouble voting in some parts of America, is now able to serve as its President.
And that is why America will always speak out for these core principles around the world. We do not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation, but we also don’t believe that the principles that we stand for are unique to our nation. These freedoms of expression and worship — of access to information and political participation — we believe are universal rights. They should be available to all people, including ethnic and religious minorities — whether they are in the United States, China, or any nation. Indeed, it is that respect for universal rights that guides America’s openness to other countries; our respect for different cultures; our commitment to international law; and our faith in the future.
These are all things that you should know about America. I also know that we have much to learn about China. Looking around at this magnificent city — and looking around this room — I do believe that our nations hold something important in common, and that is a belief in the future. Neither the United States nor China is content to rest on our achievements. For while China is an ancient nation, you are also clearly looking ahead with confidence, ambition, and a commitment to see that tomorrow’s generation can do better than today’s.
In addition to your growing economy, we admire China’s extraordinary commitment to science and research — a commitment borne out in everything from the infrastructure you build to the technology you use. China is now the world’s largest Internet user — which is why we were so pleased to include the Internet as a part of today’s event. This country now has the world’s largest mobile phone network, and it is investing in the new forms of energy that can both sustain growth and combat climate change — and I’m looking forward to deepening the partnership between the United States and China in this critical area tomorrow. But above all, I see China’s future in you — young people whose talent and dedication and dreams will do so much to help shape the 21st century.
I’ve said many times that I believe that our world is now fundamentally interconnected. The jobs we do, the prosperity we build, the environment we protect, the security that we seek — all of these things are shared. And given that interconnection, power in the 21st century is no longer a zero-sum game; one country’s success need not come at the expense of another. And that is why the United States insists we do not seek to contain China’s rise. On the contrary, we welcome China as a strong and prosperous and successful member of the community of nations — a China that draws on the rights, strengths, and creativity of individual Chinese like you.
To return to the proverb — consider the past. We know that more is to be gained when great powers cooperate than when they collide. That is a lesson that human beings have learned time and again, and that is the example of the history between our nations. And I believe strongly that cooperation must go beyond our government. It must be rooted in our people — in the studies we share, the business that we do, the knowledge that we gain, and even in the sports that we play. And these bridges must be built by young men and women just like you and your counterparts in America.
That’s why I’m pleased to announce that the United States will dramatically expand the number of our students who study in China to 100,000. And these exchanges mark a clear commitment to build ties among our people, as surely as you will help determine the destiny of the 21st century. And I’m absolutely confident that America has no better ambassadors to offer than our young people. For they, just like you, are filled with talent and energy and optimism about the history that is yet to be written.
So let this be the next step in the steady pursuit of cooperation that will serve our nations, and the world. And if there’s one thing that we can take from today’s dialogue, I hope that it is a commitment to continue this dialogue going forward.
So thank you very much. And I look forward now to taking some questions from all of you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
So — I just want to make sure this works. This is a tradition, by the way, that is very common in the United States at these town hall meetings. And what we’re going to do is I will just — if you are interested in asking a question, you can raise your hands. I will call on you. And then I will alternate between a question from the audience and an Internet question from one of the students who prepared the questions, as well as I think Ambassador Huntsman may have a question that we were able to obtain from the Web site of our embassy.
So let me begin, though, by seeing — and then what I’ll do is I’ll call on a boy and then a girl and then — so we’ll go back and forth, so that you know it’s fair. All right? So I’ll start with this young lady right in the front. Why don’t we wait for this microphone so everyone can hear you. And what’s your name?
Q My name is (inaudible) and I am a student from Fudan University. Shanghai and Chicago have been sister cities since 1985, and these two cities have conduct a wide range of economic, political, and cultural exchanges. So what measures will you take to deepen this close relationship between cities of the United States and China? And Shanghai will hold the World Exposition next year. Will you bring your family to visit the Expo? Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, thank you very much for the question. I was just having lunch before I came here with the Mayor of Shanghai, and he told me that he has had an excellent relationship with the city of Chicago — my home town — that he’s visited there twice. And I think it’s wonderful to have these exchanges between cities.
One of the things that I discussed with the Mayor is how both cities can learn from each other on strategies around clean energy, because one of the issues that ties China and America together is how, with an expanding population and a concern for climate change, that we’re able to reduce our carbon footprint. And obviously in the United States and many developed countries, per capita, per individual, they are already using much more energy than each individual here in China. But as China grows and expands, it’s going to be using more energy as well. So both countries have a great interest in finding new strategies.
We talked about mass transit and the excellent rail lines that are being developed in Shanghai. I think we can learn in Chicago and the United States some of the fine work that’s being done on high-speed rail.
In the United States, I think we are learning how to develop buildings that use much less energy, that are much more energy-efficient. And I know that with Shanghai, as I traveled and I saw all the cranes and all the new buildings that are going up, it’s very important for us to start incorporating these new technologies so that each building is energy-efficient when it comes to lighting, when it comes to heating. And so it’s a terrific opportunity I think for us to learn from each other.
I know this is going to be a major focus of the Shanghai World Expo, is the issue of clean energy, as I learned from the Mayor. And so I would love to attend. I’m not sure yet what my schedule is going to be, but I’m very pleased that we’re going to have an excellent U.S. pavilion at the Expo, and I understand that we expect as many as 70 million visitors here. So it’s going to be very crowded and it’s going to be very exciting.
Chicago has had two world expos in its history, and both of those expos ended up being tremendous boosts for the city. So I’m sure the same thing will happen here in Shanghai.
Thank you. (Applause.)
Why don’t we get one of the questions from the Internet? And introduce yourself, in case –
Q First shall I say it in Chinese, and then the English, okay?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes.
Q I want to pose a question from the Internet. I want to thank you, Mr. President, for visiting China in your first year in office, and exchange views with us in China. I want to know what are you bringing to China, your visit to China this time, and what will you bring back to the United States? (Applause.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The main purpose of my trip is to deepen my understanding of China and its vision for the future. I have had several meetings now with President Hu. We participated together in the G20 that was dealing with the economic financial crisis. We have had consultations about a wide range of issues. But I think it’s very important for the United States to continually deepen its understanding of China, just as it’s important for China to continually deepen its understanding of the United States.
In terms of what I’d like to get out of this meeting, or this visit, in addition to having the wonderful opportunity to see the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, and to meet with all of you — these are all highlights — but in addition to that, the discussions that I intend to have with President Hu speak to the point that Ambassador Huntsman made earlier, which is there are very few global challenges that can be solved unless the United States and China agree.
So let me give you a specific example, and that is the issue we were just discussing of climate change. The United States and China are the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, of carbon that is causing the planet to warm. Now, the United States, as a highly developed country, as I said before, per capita, consumes much more energy and emits much more greenhouse gases for each individual than does China. On the other hand, China is growing at a much faster pace and it has a much larger population. So unless both of our countries are willing to take critical steps in dealing with this issue, we will not be able to resolve it.
There’s going to be a Copenhagen conference in December in which world leaders are trying to find a recipe so that we can all make commitments that are differentiated so each country would not have the same obligations — obviously China, which has much more poverty, should not have to do exactly the same thing as the United States — but all of us should have these certain obligations in terms of what our plan will be to reduce these greenhouse gases.
So that’s an example of what I hope to get out of this meeting — a meeting of the minds between myself and President Hu about how together the United States and China can show leadership. Because I will tell you, other countries around the world will be waiting for us. They will watch to see what we do. And if they say, ah, you know, the United States and China, they’re not serious about this, then they won’t be serious either. That is the burden of leadership that both of our countries now carry. And my hope is, is that the more discussion and dialogue that we have, the more we are able to show this leadership to the world on these many critical issues. Okay? (Applause.)
All right, it’s a — I think it must be a boy’s turn now. Right? So I’ll call on this young man right here.
Q (As translated.) Mr. President, good afternoon. I’m from Tongji University. I want to cite a saying from Confucius: “It is always good to have a friend coming from afar.” In Confucius books, there is a great saying which says that harmony is good, but also we uphold differences. China advocates a harmonious world. We know that the United States develops a culture that features diversity. I want to know, what will your government do to build a diversified world with different cultures? What would you do to respect the different cultures and histories of other countries? And what kinds of cooperation we can conduct in the future?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: This is an excellent point. The United States, one of our strengths is that we are a very diverse culture. We have people coming from all around the world. And so there’s no one definition of what an American looks like. In my own family, I have a father who was from Kenya; I have a mother who was from Kansas, in the Midwest of the United States; my sister is half-Indonesian; she’s married to a Chinese person from Canada. So when you see family gatherings in the Obama household, it looks like the United Nations. (Laughter.)
And that is a great strength of the United States, because it means that we learn from different cultures and different foods and different ideas, and that has made us a much more dynamic society.
Now, what is also true is that each country in this interconnected world has its own culture and its own history and its own traditions. And I think it’s very important for the United States not to assume that what is good for us is automatically good for somebody else. And we have to have some modesty about our attitudes towards other countries.
I have to say, though, as I said in my opening remarks, that we do believe that there are certain fundamental principles that are common to all people, regardless of culture. So, for example, in the United Nations we are very active in trying to make sure that children all around the world are treated with certain basic rights — that if children are being exploited, if there’s forced labor for children, that despite the fact that that may have taken place in the past in many different countries, including the United States, that all countries of the world now should have developed to the point where we are treating children better than we did in the past. That’s a universal value.
I believe, for example, the same thing holds true when it comes to the treatment of women. I had a very interesting discussion with the Mayor of Shanghai during lunch right before I came, and he informed me that in many professions now here in China, there are actually more women enrolled in college than there are men, and that they are doing very well. I think that is an excellent indicator of progress, because it turns out that if you look at development around the world, one of the best indicators of whether or not a country does well is how well it educates its girls and how it treats its women. And countries that are tapping into the talents and the energy of women and giving them educations typically do better economically than countries that don’t.
So, now, obviously difficult cultures may have different attitudes about the relationship between men and women, but I think it is the view of the United States that it is important for us to affirm the rights of women all around the world. And if we see certain societies in which women are oppressed, or they are not getting opportunities, or there is violence towards women, we will speak out.
Now, there may be some people who disagree with us, and we can have a dialogue about that. But we think it’s important, nevertheless, to be true to our ideals and our values. And we — and when we do so, though, we will always do so with the humility and understanding that we are not perfect and that we still have much progress to make. If you talk to women in America, they will tell you that there are still men who have a lot of old-fashioned ideas about the role of women in society. And so we don’t claim that we have solved all these problems, but we do think that it’s important for us to speak out on behalf of these universal ideals and these universal values.
Okay? All right. We’re going to take a question from the Internet.
Q Hello, Mr. President. It’s a great honor to be here and meet you in person.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you.
Q I will be reading a question selected on the Internet to you, and this question is from somebody from Taiwan. In his question, he said: I come from Taiwan. Now I am doing business on the mainland. And due to improved cross-straits relations in recent years, my business in China is doing quite well. So when I heard the news that some people in America would like to propose — continue selling arms and weapons to Taiwan, I begin to get pretty worried. I worry that this may make our cross-straits relations suffer. So I would like to know if, Mr. President, are you supportive of improved cross-straits relations? And although this question is from a businessman, actually, it’s a question of keen concern to all of us young Chinese students, so we’d really like to know your position on this question. Thank you. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. Well, I have been clear in the past that my administration fully supports a one-China policy, as reflected in the three joint communiqués that date back several decades, in terms of our relations with Taiwan as well as our relations with the People’s Republic of China. We don’t want to change that policy and that approach.
I am very pleased with the reduction of tensions and the improvement in cross-straits relations, and it is my deep desire and hope that we will continue to see great improvement between Taiwan and the rest of — and the People’s Republic in resolving many of these issues.
One of the things that I think that the United States, in terms of its foreign policy and its policy with respect to China, is always seeking is ways that through dialogue and negotiations, problems can be solved. We always think that’s the better course. And I think that economic ties and commercial ties that are taking place in this region are helping to lower a lot of the tensions that date back before you were born or even before I was born.
Now, there are some people who still look towards the past when it comes to these issues, as opposed to looking towards the future. I prefer to look towards the future. And as I said, I think the commercial ties that are taking place — there’s something about when people think that they can do business and make money that makes them think very clearly and not worry as much about ideology. And I think that that’s starting to happen in this region, and we are very supportive of that process. Okay?
Let’s see, it’s a girl’s turn now, right? Yes, right there. Yes. Hold on, let’s get — whoops, I’m sorry, they took the mic back here. I’ll call on you next.
Go ahead, and then I’ll go up here later. Go ahead.
Q Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’ll call on you later. But I’ll on her first and then I’ll call on you afterwards.
Q Okay, thank you. Mr. President, I’m a student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. I have a question concerning the Nobel Prize for Peace. In your opinion, what’s the main reason that you were honored the Nobel Prize for Peace? And will it give you more responsibility and pressure to — more pressure and the responsibility to promote world peace? And will it bring you — will it influence your ideas while dealing with the international affairs? Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. That was an excellent question. I have to say that nobody was more surprised than me about winning the Nobel Prize for Peace. Obviously it’s a great honor. I don’t believe necessarily that it’s an honor I deserve, given the extraordinary history of people who have won the prize. All I can do is to, with great humility, accept the fact that I think the committee was inspired by the American people and the possibilities of changing not only America but also America’s approach to the world. And so in some ways I think they gave me the prize but I was more just a symbol of the shift in our approach to world affairs that we are trying to promote.
In terms of the burden that I feel, I am extraordinarily honored to be put in the position of President. And as my wife always reminds me when I complain that I’m working too hard, she says, you volunteered for this job. (Laughter.) And so you — there’s a saying — I don’t know if there’s a similar saying in China — we have a saying: “You made your bed, now you have to sleep in it.” And it basically means you have to be careful what you ask for because you might get it.
I think that all of us have obligations for trying to promote peace in the world. It’s not always easy to do. There are still a lot of conflicts in the world that are — date back for centuries. If you look at the Middle East, there are wars and conflict that are rooted in arguments going back a thousand years. In many parts of the world — let’s say, in the continent of Africa — there are ethnic and tribal conflicts that are very hard to resolve.
And obviously, right now, as President of the United States, part of my job is to serve as Commander-in-Chief, and my first priority is to protect the American people. And because of the attacks on 9/11 and the terrorism that has been taking place around the world where innocent people are being killed, it is my obligation to make sure that we root out these terrorist organizations, and that we cooperate with other countries in terms of dealing with this kind of violence.
Nevertheless, although I don’t think that we can ever completely eliminate violence between nations or between peoples, I think that we can definitely reduce the violence between peoples — through dialogue, through the exchange of ideas, through greater understanding between peoples and between cultures.
And particularly now when just one individual can detonate a bomb that causes so much destruction, it is more important than ever that we pursue these strategies for peace. Technology is a powerful instrument for good, but it has also given the possibility for just a few people to cause enormous damage. And that’s why I’m hopeful that in my meetings with President Hu and on an ongoing basis, both the United States and China can work together to try to reduce conflicts that are taking place.
We have to do so, though, also keeping in mind that when we use our military, because we’re such big and strong countries, that we have to be self-reflective about what we do; that we have to examine our own motives and our own interests to make sure that we are not simply using our military forces because nobody can stop us. That’s a burden that great countries, great powers, have, is to act responsibly in the community of nations. And my hope is, is that the United States and China together can help to create an international norms that reduce conflict around the world. (Applause.)
Okay. All right? Jon — I’m going to call on my Ambassador because I think he has a question that was generated through the Web site of our embassy. This was selected, though, by I think one of the members of our U.S. press corps so that –
AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: That’s right. And not surprisingly, “in a country with 350 million Internet users and 60 million bloggers, do you know of the firewall?” And second, “should we be able to use Twitter freely” — is the question.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter. I noticed that young people — they’re very busy with all these electronics. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone. But I am a big believer in technology and I’m a big believer in openness when it comes to the flow of information. I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable. They can begin to think for themselves. That generates new ideas. It encourages creativity.
And so I’ve always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I’m a big supporter of non-censorship. This is part of the tradition of the United States that I discussed before, and I recognize that different countries have different traditions. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet — or unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged.
Now, I should tell you, I should be honest, as President of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time. I think people naturally are — when they’re in positions of power sometimes thinks, oh, how could that person say that about me, or that’s irresponsible, or — but the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear. It forces me to examine what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States.
And I think the Internet has become an even more powerful tool for that kind of citizen participation. In fact, one of the reasons that I won the presidency was because we were able to mobilize young people like yourself to get involved through the Internet. Initially, nobody thought we could win because we didn’t have necessarily the most wealthy supporters; we didn’t have the most powerful political brokers. But through the Internet, people became excited about our campaign and they started to organize and meet and set up campaign activities and events and rallies. And it really ended up creating the kind of bottom-up movement that allowed us to do very well.
Now, that’s not just true in — for government and politics. It’s also true for business. You think about a company like Google that only 20 years ago was — less than 20 years ago was the idea of a couple of people not much older than you. It was a science project. And suddenly because of the Internet, they were able to create an industry that has revolutionized commerce all around the world. So if it had not been for the freedom and the openness that the Internet allows, Google wouldn’t exist.
So I’m a big supporter of not restricting Internet use, Internet access, other information technologies like Twitter. The more open we are, the more we can communicate. And it also helps to draw the world together.
Think about — when I think about my daughters, Malia and Sasha — one is 11, one is 8 — from their room, they can get on the Internet and they can travel to Shanghai. They can go anyplace in the world and they can learn about anything they want to learn about. And that’s just an enormous power that they have. And that helps, I think, promote the kind of understanding that we talked about.
Now, as I said before, there’s always a downside to technology. It also means that terrorists are able to organize on the Internet in ways that they might not have been able to do before. Extremists can mobilize. And so there’s some price that you pay for openness, there’s no denying that. But I think that the good outweighs the bad so much that it’s better to maintain that openness. And that’s part of why I’m so glad that the Internet was part of this forum. Okay?
I’m going to take two more questions. And the next one is from a gentleman, I think. Right here, yes. Here’s the microphone.
Q First, I would like to say that it is a great honor for me to stand here to ask you the questions. I think I am so lucky and just appreciate that your speech is so clear that I really do not need such kind of headset. (Laughter.)
And here comes my question. My name is (inaudible) from Fudan University School of Management. And I would like to ask you the question — is that now that someone has asked you something about the Nobel Peace Prize, but I will not ask you in the same aspect. I want to ask you in the other aspect that since it is very hard for you to get such kind of an honorable prize, and I wonder and we all wonder that — how you struggled to get it. And what’s your university/college education that brings you to get such kind of prizes? We are very curious about it and we would like to invite you to share with us your campus education experiences so as to go on the road of success.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, let me tell you that I don’t know if there’s a curriculum or course of study that leads you to win the Nobel Peace Prize. (Laughter.) So I can’t guarantee that. But I think the recipe for success is the one that you are already following. Obviously all of you are working very hard, you’re studying very hard. You’re curious. You’re willing to think about new ideas and think for yourself. You know, the people who I meet now that I find most inspiring who are successful I think are people who are not only willing to work very hard but are constantly trying to improve themselves and to think in new ways, and not just accept the conventional wisdom.
Obviously there are many different paths to success, and some of you are going to be going into government service; some of you might want to be teachers or professors; some of you might want to be businesspeople. But I think that whatever field you go into, if you’re constantly trying to improve and never satisfied with not having done your best, and constantly asking new questions — “Are there things that I could be doing differently? Are there new approaches to problems that nobody has thought of before, whether it’s in science or technology or in the arts? — those are usually the people who I think are able to rise about the rest.
The one last piece of advice, though, that I would have that has been useful for me is the people who I admire the most and are most successful, they’re not just thinking only about themselves but they’re also thinking about something larger than themselves. So they want to make a contribution to society. They want to make a contribution to their country, their nation, their city. They are interested in having an impact beyond their own immediate lives.
I think so many of us, we get caught up with wanting to make money for ourselves and have a nice car and have a nice house and — all those things are important, but the people who really make their mark on the world is because they have a bigger ambition. They say, how can I help feed hungry people? Or, how can I help to teach children who don’t have an education? Or, how can I bring about peaceful resolution of conflicts? Those are the people I think who end up making such a big difference in the world. And I’m sure that young people like you are going to be able to make that kind of difference as long as you keep working the way you’ve been working.
All right? All right, this is going to be the last question, unfortunately. We’ve run out of time so quickly. Our last Internet question, because I want to make sure that we got all three of our fine students here.
Q Mr. President, it’s a great honor for the last question. And I’m a college student from Fudan University, and today I’m also the representative of China’s Youth (inaudible.) And this question I think is from Beijing: Paid great attention to your Afghanistan policies, and he would like to know whether terrorism is still the greatest security concern for the United States? And how do you assess the military actions in Afghanistan, or whether it will turn into another Iraqi war? Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think that’s an excellent question. Well, first of all, I do continue to believe that the greatest threat to United States’ security are the terrorist networks like al Qaeda. And the reason is, is because even though they are small in number, what they have shown is, is that they have no conscience when it comes to the destruction of innocent civilians. And because of technology today, if an organization like that got a weapon of mass destruction on its hands — a nuclear or a chemical or a biological weapon — and they used it in a city, whether it’s in Shanghai or New York, just a few individuals could potentially kill tens of thousands of people, maybe hundreds of thousands. So it really does pose an extraordinary threat.
Now, the reason we originally went into Afghanistan was because al Qaeda was in Afghanistan, being hosted by the Taliban. They have now moved over the border of Afghanistan and they are in Pakistan now, but they continue to have networks with other extremist organizations in that region. And I do believe that it is important for us to stabilize Afghanistan so that the people of Afghanistan can protect themselves, but they can also be a partner in reducing the power of these extremist networks.
Now, obviously it is a very difficult thing — one of the hardest things about my job is ordering young men and women into the battlefield. I often have to meet with the mothers and fathers of the fallen, those who do not come home. And it is a great weight on me. It gives me a heavy heart.
Fortunately, our Armed Services is — the young men and women who participate, they believe so strongly in their service to their country that they are willing to go. And I think that it is possible — working in a broader coalition with our allies in NATO and others that are contributing like Australia — to help train the Afghans so that they have a functioning government, that they have their own security forces, and then slowly we can begin to pull our troops out because there’s no longer that vacuum that existed after the Taliban left.
But it’s a difficult task. It’s not easy. And ultimately I think in trying to defeat these terrorist extremists, it’s important to understand it’s not just a military exercise. We also have to think about what motivates young people to become terrorists, why would they become suicide bombers. And although there are obviously a lot of different reasons, including I think the perversion of religion, in thinking that somehow these kinds of violent acts are appropriate, part of what’s happened in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan is these young people have no education, they have no opportunities, and so they see no way for them to move forward in life, and that leads them into thinking that this is their only option.
And so part of what we want to do in Afghanistan is to find ways that we can train teachers and create schools and improve agriculture so that people have a greater sense of hope. That won’t change the ideas of a Osama bin Laden who are very ideologically fixed on trying to strike at the West, but it will change the pool of young people who they can recruit from. And that is at least as important, if not more important over time, as whatever military actions that we can take. Okay?
All right, I have had a wonderful time. I am so grateful to all of you. First of all, let me say I’m very impressed with all of your English. Clearly you’ve been studying very hard. And having a chance to meet with all of you I think has given me great hope for the future of U.S.-China relations.
I hope that many of you have the opportunity to come and travel and visit the United States. You will be welcome. I think you will find that the American people feel very warmly towards the people of China. And I am very confident that, with young people like yourselves and the young people that I know in the United States, that our two great countries will continue to prosper and help to bring about a more peaceful and secure world.
So thank you very much everybody. Thank you. (Applause.)
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AND PRIME MINISTER VEJJAJIVA OF THAILAND
AFTER ASEAN-10 MEETING
5:16 P.M. SGT
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, good afternoon, everybody. We have just concluded the first ever meeting between a United States President and the leaders of all 10 ASEAN countries. And I’d like to thank my friends, Prime Minister Lee, for hosting, and Prime Minister Abhisit, for co-chairing this historic meeting.
As I said in Tokyo yesterday, the United States is a Pacific nation, and we enjoy deep historical ties to Southeast Asia — one of the most important and dynamic regions of the world. As the first U.S. President to have a personal connection to the region, I reaffirmed to my ASEAN friends that the United States is committed to strengthening its engagement in Southeast Asia both with our individual allies and partners, and with ASEAN as an institution.
During our meeting, we talked about how the United States and ASEAN can work together as close partners, both within this region and throughout the world. We discussed the importance of meeting common challenges like climate change, nuclear proliferation, and working together in support of G20 efforts to promote a sustained and balanced global economic recovery. And I reaffirmed the policy that I put forward yesterday in Tokyo with regard to Burma.
We also recognized the need for expanding high-level engagement on these and other major issues. I proposed sending Energy Secretary Steven Chu to the region next year to talk with his ASEAN counterparts about clean energy, and we agreed that our trade ministers should develop new initiatives to promote trade and investment that could create jobs and improve living standards in all our nations.
And finally, I stressed my strong support for ASEAN’s ambitious goal of creating a community by 2015, including its bold effort to achieve economic integration, which will contribute to a sustained and lasting prosperity within this region and throughout the world.
We know that there’s much work left to be done, but we also know that continued dialogue and engagement between our nations can help us meet the common challenges of the 21st century and achieve our common goals.
So it was an honor to take part in this historic meeting. I look forward to a second leaders meeting next year. And I am so appreciative that we had such an outstanding chair during the course of this meeting. Thank you very much.
PRIME MINISTER VEJJAJIVA: As the President just said, we just had an historic meeting with the leaders of ASEAN and the United States. This has been made possible not because of — just because of the longstanding partnership between individual countries in this region and the United States, and more than three decades of partnership between the U.S. and ASEAN — I think also due to his personal leadership and his commitment to reinvigorate engagement with the region.
We had a discussion on an impressive range of issues, particularly with the U.S. support for the community building efforts of ASEAN, ranging from issues like our cooperation on disaster management, trade and investment and the creation of the economic community in ASEAN, as well as providing support for some of the new institutions like the Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission, which will be going to the U.S. to talk with the experts and consultations next year.
ASEAN also stands ready to be a reliable partner of the U.S. in attacking the various global and regional challenges, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s the Doha Round, or counterterrorism and other security issues.
So this has been a historic meeting. We are pleased with the progress that this enhanced partnership has achieved. And we look forward to similar meetings next year.
FACT SHEET: APEC Leaders Meeting–Key Accomplishments
On November 15, President Obama participated in the 17th Annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ meeting in Singapore. APEC members account for 53% of global GDP, purchase 58% of U.S. goods exports, and represent a market of 2.7 billion consumers. In 2008, U.S. goods exports to the Asia-Pacific totaled $747 billion, an increase of 8.3% over 2007. During that same period, U.S. services exports to the region totaled $186.5 billion, up 7.7 percent.
U.S. Hosting of APEC in 2011. President Obama expressed his strong support for APEC and stated that the United States is a Pacific nation whose economic ties to the Asia-Pacific are strong and enduring. He pledged that under his Administration, the United States will be an active and engaged partner in APEC and the region. He announced that in 2011, when the United States hosts APEC, he looks forward to welcoming his fellow APEC leaders to Hawaii.
Balanced, Sustainable, and Inclusive Growth. APEC leaders endorsed the Pittsburgh G20 principles and agreed to implement the policies of the G20 Framework for Strong, Sustainable, and Balanced Growth, further expanding the global commitment to achieve more balanced growth that is less prone to destabilizing booms and busts. Leaders pledged to make growth more inclusive through APEC initiatives that will support development of small and medium enterprises, facilitate worker retraining, and enhance economic opportunity for women.
Regional Economic Integration. Despite strong export growth to the Asia-Pacific, the United States’ share of the total trade in the region has declined by three percent in the past five years. To improve U.S. competitiveness in this vital part of the world, President Obama announced to APEC leaders that the Administration, in close consultation with the U.S. Congress and stakeholders, will engage with current and potential future members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement to shape a broad-based, comprehensive, and high-standard platform to successfully integrate the economies of the Asia-Pacific. APEC leaders announced their commitment to accelerate economic integration and, to that end, endorsed a U.S.-Australia initiative in APEC to promote cross-border services trade in the region.
Facilitating Trade. APEC leaders took steps to facilitate increased trade in the region by simplifying complicated customs procedures and documentation resulting from the region’s numerous trade agreements, improving the region’s enforcement of intellectual property rights, and speeding the movement of goods across and within borders. They also announced an action plan designed to make it 25 percent cheaper, easier, and faster to conduct business in the region by 2015 by decreasing costs and streamlining processes associated with starting and operating a business in APEC economies.
Supporting the Multilateral Trading System. President Obama expressed his eagerness to complete an ambitious and balanced Doha agreement and called on others to join the United States at the negotiating table. APEC leaders instructed their trade ministers to work towards a successful conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda in 2010 and reaffirmed their commitment to refrain from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services.
Climate Change. President Obama urged all APEC member economies to work together to address the shared challenge of climate change. He and APEC leaders called for collective action by all economies and committed to reaching an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen in December.
Low Carbon and Green Growth. Demonstrating their will to advance energy security and “green” development, Leaders endorsed the G20 commitment to rationalize and phase out over the medium-term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption. Leaders commended APEC efforts to review its members’ energy efficiency policies and to foster regional trade in environmental goods and services, which would spur the growth of “green collar” jobs.
Food Security, Food Safety, and Secure Trade. Leaders instructed their officials to implement programs aimed at improving agricultural productivity and enhancing agricultural markets in the APEC region. Leaders also commended U.S.-led APEC initiatives that bring together public and private sector experts to promote international best practices that will improve regional food and product safety and combat trade in counterfeit medical products. They called for a continuation of APEC’s work in areas such as trade and aviation security, counter-terrorism financing, and emergency and disaster preparedness.
Remarks By First Lady Michelle Obama On Health Insurance Reform And Older Women: “Over Half Of All Women In America Don’t Have The Option Of Getting Insurance Through The Workplace”
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
ON HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM AND OLDER WOMEN
3:12 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, everybody. Thank you so much. First of all, forgive me — I’ve got children, and now I have a cold. (Laughter.) It goes along with the territory.
Let me begin by first thanking Tina Tchen, who’s doing an outstanding job as Director of the Office of Public Engagement by opening up this White House to the American people and organizing events like this one today. She’s just been a terrific asset and a dear friend — and let’s give her a round of applause. (Applause.)
And I also want to commend Nancy-Ann for her extraordinary leadership on health care — health insurance reform. I know my husband, who is traveling abroad right now, would agree with me when I say that without her, we wouldn’t have come this far, and because of her, we’re going to get the job done. So we are grateful to you, Nancy-Ann. (Applause.)
And of course, I want to thank all the women who are here today. This is a wonderful, lively group — I heard you all giggling earlier today. (Laughter.)
But I also want to thank the women who spoke today — to Kelly and Fran and Judy — for sharing their stories. What they’ve been through isn’t easy, and I’m grateful that they have been brave enough and open enough to share their stories with all of us. It takes a lot of courage.
These stories touch our hearts. They spark in us just a fundamental sense of unfairness. But the sad truth is none of these stories are unique. These kinds of stories are being told in city after city, town after town, all across America. They’re being told by women who lost their coverage when their husband lost a job, or their husband passed away. They’re being told by women who aren’t getting regular checkups because it’s simply too expensive. They’re being told my women living on fixed incomes who can’t afford the prescription drugs that they need.
All of these stories reflect the fundamental reality — and that is, women are among those struggling most under the status quo, the way things are. And women are among those who will benefit most from health insurance reform because the truth is that women, we have a special relationship with our health care system. In a lot of families that’s true because we are the health care system in so many ways. (Laughter.)
Eight in 10 mothers say they’re the ones responsible for choosing their children’s doctors, taking them to appointments, and managing the follow-up care. And over 10 percent of all women are now caring for a sick or elderly relative.
Our entire lives as women, we are asked to bear much of the responsibility for our family’s health and well-being. And yet, we often face special challenges when it comes to our own health insurance. Part of it has to do with the fact that women are more likely than men to do part-time work or to work in a small business — in jobs that are less likely to offer the kind of insurance that you really need. In fact, over half of all women in this country don’t have the option of getting insurance through the workplace at all.
But even women who do have insurance face inequities under the status quo. Because women make less than 80 cents for every dollar their male coworkers make, it’s more difficult for them to pay their premiums — especially when studies show that they’re paying far more than men for the same coverage.
And I don’t think anyone here will be surprised to learn that a recent study found that one-third of all women have either used up savings, taken on debt, or given up basic necessities just to pay their medical bills. And as many of you know firsthand, these kinds of problems — the problems of coverage and cost — only grow worse when you get older, making quality, affordable coverage harder to come by just — as we’ve seen today and heard today — just when you need it the most.
In the individual market, people in their early 60s are more than twice as likely to be denied coverage than people in their late 30s. Older women are more likely than men to face a chronic illness, but they’re less likely to be able to afford the cost of treating that illness. And in recent years, studies have shown that women over the age of 65 spend about 17 percent of their income on health care. And that’s just not right.
Our mothers and grandmothers, they have taken care of us all their lives; they’ve made the sacrifices that it takes to get us where we need to be. And we have an obligation to make sure that we’re taking care of them. It’s as simple as that. America has a responsibility to give all seniors the golden years they deserve and the secure, dignified retirement that they worked so hard to achieve. (Applause.)
And that’s exactly what health insurance reform is going to help us do in this country.
Now, I can tell you — I can’t tell, actually, what the bill that will ultimately land across my husband’s desk will look like — none of us can. But I can tell you just a few important ways that the insurance system will be impacted.
For starters — and this is very important — your insurance will not change unless you want it to change. So if things are great for you, you’re fine. (Laughter.) It will, however, become more stable and more secure, no matter what your situation is. There will be a cap on how much you can be charged in out-of-pocket expenses in a year or in a lifetime. So there will be a cap. It will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage for preexisting conditions. (Applause.) And that change alone will help us end the discrimination women face in our health care system. And also, insurance companies will be required to cover, at no extra cost, routine checkups and preventive care.
And I’d like to speak just a moment about what reform will mean for seniors, in particular.
There’s been a lot of misinformation on this topic so I want to be clear — Nancy-Ann mentioned this: Not a dime of the Medicare Trust Fund will be used to pay for reform. Health insurance reform will not endanger Medicare; it will make Medicare more stable and secure. (Applause.) By eliminating wasteful subsidies to private insurance and cracking down on fraud and abuse throughout the system, this administration believes that we can bring down premiums for all our seniors and extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund.
My husband believes that Medicare is a sacred part of America’s social safety net, and it’s a safety net that he will protect — he will protect with health insurance reform. And I know that many seniors on Medicare are also concerned about the cost of prescription drugs; we’ve heard about it here.
Right now, millions of seniors face huge out-of-pocket costs when their spending on drugs falls within a coverage gap. My husband is committed to closing that gap, which will save some seniors, as you’ve heard, thousands of dollars on medications and make prescription drugs more affordable for millions of older Americans. (Applause.)
So what we’re talking about — affordable prescription drugs for Americans who need them; Medicare that’s protected today and tomorrow; stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable coverage for Americans who don’t. That’s what reform will mean for older women, for seniors, and for all Americans.
So that’s why I believe in this so strongly. That’s why I believe in this so strongly.
But in the end, I’m not here just as a First Lady. That’s not why I’m doing this. I am here because I’m a daughter. I’m here because I have an extraordinary mother who is 72 years old — young. (Laughter and applause.) And I know there are countless women in this country who have loved ones who feel the same way about them as I do about my mother.
And when all is said and done, part of why I believe so strongly in reforming our health care system is because of the difference it will make for these women who gave us life — so simple — these women who raised us, these women who supported us through the years. They deserve better than the status quo. They deserve a health care system that heals them and lifts them up.
And that’s what my husband is committed to doing, to building that kind of system in the weeks and months to come.
So thank you all. Thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you all for your hard work and dedication, for listening, for being a part — and let’s get to work. Thank you so much. (Applause.)