Remarks By President Barack Obama At Fort Hood Memorial Service: “We Need Not Look To The Past For Greatness, Because It Is Before Our Very Eyes.”
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Memorial Service at Fort Hood
November 10, 2009
We come together filled with sorrow for the thirteen Americans that we have lost; with gratitude for the lives that they led; and with a determination to honor them through the work we carry on.
This is a time of war. And yet these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle. They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great American community. It is this fact that makes the tragedy even more painful and even more incomprehensible.
For those families who have lost a loved one, no words can fill the void that has been left. We knew these men and women as soldiers and caregivers. You knew them as mothers and fathers; sons and daughters; sisters and brothers.
But here is what you must also know: your loved ones endure through the life of our nation. Their memory will be honored in the places they lived and by the people they touched. Their life’s work is our security, and the freedom that we too often take for granted. Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – that is their legacy.
Neither this country – nor the values that we were founded upon – could exist without men and women like these thirteen Americans. And that is why we must pay tribute to their stories.
Chief Warrant Officer Michael Cahill had served in the National Guard and worked as a physician’s assistant for decades. A husband and father of three, he was so committed to his patients that on the day he died, he was back at work just weeks after having a heart attack.
Major Libardo Eduardo Caraveo spoke little English when he came to America as a teenager. But he put himself through college, earned a PhD, and was helping combat units cope with the stress of deployment. He is survived by his wife, sons and step-daughters.
Staff Sergeant Justin DeCrow joined the Army right after high school, married his high school sweetheart, and had served as a light wheeled mechanic and Satellite Communications Operator. He was known as an optimist, a mentor, and a loving husband and father.
After retiring from the Army as a Major, John Gaffaney cared for society’s most vulnerable during two decades as a psychiatric nurse. He spent three years trying to return to active duty in this time of war, and he was preparing to deploy to Iraq as a Captain. He leaves behind a wife and son.
Specialist Frederick Greene was a Tennessean who wanted to join the Army for a long time, and did so in 2008 with the support of his family. As a combat engineer he was a natural leader, and he is survived by his wife and two daughters.
Specialist Jason Hunt was also recently married, with three children to care for. He joined the Army after high school. He did a tour in Iraq, and it was there that he re-enlisted for six more years on his 21st birthday so that he could continue to serve.
Staff Sergeant Amy Krueger was an athlete in high school, joined the Army shortly after 9/11, and had since returned home to speak to students about her experience. When her mother told her she couldn’t take on Osama bin Laden by herself, Amy replied: “Watch me.”
Private First Class Aaron Nemelka was an Eagle Scout who just recently signed up to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the service – diffuse bombs – so that he could help save lives. He was proudly carrying on a tradition of military service that runs deep within his family.
Private First Class Michael Pearson loved his family and loved his music, and his goal was to be a music teacher. He excelled at playing the guitar, and could create songs on the spot and show others how to play. He joined the military a year ago, and was preparing for his first deployment.
Captain Russell Seager worked as a nurse for the VA, helping veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress. He had great respect for the military, and signed up to serve so that he could help soldiers cope with the stress of combat and return to civilian life. He leaves behind a wife and son.
Private Francheska Velez, the daughter of a father from Colombia and a Puerto Rican mother, had recently served in Korea and in Iraq, and was pursuing a career in the Army. When she was killed, she was pregnant with her first child, and was excited about becoming a mother.
Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Warman was the daughter and granddaughter of Army veterans. She was a single mother who put herself through college and graduate school, and served as a nurse practitioner while raising her two daughters. She also left behind a loving husband.
Private First Class Kham Xiong came to America from Thailand as a small child. He was a husband and father who followed his brother into the military because his family had a strong history of service. He was preparing for his first deployment to Afghanistan.
These men and women came from all parts of the country. Some had long careers in the military. Some had signed up to serve in the shadow of 9/11. Some had known intense combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some cared for those did. Their lives speak to the strength, the dignity and the decency of those who serve, and that is how they will be remembered.
That same spirit is embodied in the community here at Fort Hood, and in the many wounded who are still recovering. In those terrible minutes during the attack, soldiers made makeshift tourniquets out of their clothes. They braved gunfire to reach the wounded, and ferried them to safety in the backs of cars and a pick-up truck.
One young soldier, Amber Bahr, was so intent on helping others that she did not realize for some time that she, herself, had been shot in the back. Two police officers – Mark Todd and Kim Munley – saved countless lives by risking their own. One medic – Francisco de la Serna – treated both Officer Munley and the gunman who shot her.
It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know – no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice – in this world, and the next.
These are trying times for our country. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the same extremists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans continue to endanger America, our allies, and innocent Afghans and Pakistanis. In Iraq, we are working to bring a war to a successful end, as there are still those who would deny the Iraqi people the future that Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed so much for.
As we face these challenges, the stories of those at Fort Hood reaffirm the core values that we are fighting for, and the strength that we must draw upon. Theirs are tales of American men and women answering an extraordinary call – the call to serve their comrades, their communities, and their country. In an age of selfishness, they embody responsibility. In an era of division, they call upon us to come together. In a time of cynicism, they remind us of who we are as Americans.
We are a nation that endures because of the courage of those who defend it. We saw that valor in those who braved bullets here at Fort Hood, just as surely as we see it in those who signed up knowing that they would serve in harm’s way.
We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes.
We are a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses. And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln’s words, and always pray to be on the side of God.
We are a nation that is dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal. We live that truth within our military, and see it in the varied backgrounds of those we lay to rest today. We defend that truth at home and abroad, and we know that Americans will always be found on the side of liberty and equality. That is who we are as a people.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day. It is a chance to pause, and to pay tribute – for students to learn of the struggles that preceded them; for families to honor the service of parents and grandparents; for citizens to reflect upon the sacrifices that have been made in pursuit of a more perfect union.
For history is filled with heroes. You may remember the stories of a grandfather who marched across Europe; an uncle who fought in Vietnam; a sister who served in the Gulf. But as we honor the many generations who have served, I think all of us – every single American – must acknowledge that this generation has more than proved itself the equal of those who have come before.
We need not look to the past for greatness, because it is before our very eyes.
This generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have volunteered in a time of certain danger. They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known. They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different and difficult places. They have stood watch in blinding deserts and on snowy mountains. They have extended the opportunity of self-government to peoples that have suffered tyranny and war. They are man and woman; white, black, and brown; of all faiths and stations – all Americans, serving together to protect our people, while giving others half a world away the chance to lead a better life.
In today’s wars, there is not always a simple ceremony that signals our troops’ success – no surrender papers to be signed, or capital to be claimed. But the measure of their impact is no less great – in a world of threats that no know borders, it will be marked in the safety of our cities and towns, and the security and opportunity that is extended abroad. And it will serve as testimony to the character of those who serve, and the example that you set for America and for the world.
Here, at Fort Hood, we pay tribute to thirteen men and women who were not able to escape the horror of war, even in the comfort of home. Later today, at Fort Lewis, one community will gather to remember so many in one Stryker Brigade who have fallen in Afghanistan.
Long after they are laid to rest – when the fighting has finished, and our nation has endured; when today’s servicemen and women are veterans, and their children have grown – it will be said of this generation that they believed under the most trying of tests; that they persevered not just when it was easy, but when it was hard; and that they paid the price and bore the burden to secure this nation, and stood up for the values that live in the hearts of all free peoples.
So we say goodbye to those who now belong to eternity. We press ahead in pursuit of the peace that guided their service. May God bless the memory of those we lost. And may God bless the United States of America.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters onboard Air Force One Tuesday that an ongoing investigation into the tragedy of Ft. Hood and alleged gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan is currently underway. The FBI and the Department of Defense are jointly and cooperatively in this investigation to “figure out what would motivate an individual to carry the type of act that the major carried out,” Gibbs explained.
The Press Secretary also shot down earlier news reports that President Obama had made a decision regarding American troop numbers in Afghanistan. Some media outlets have reported that the President plans to add an addition 30,000 to 40,000 troops to combat Al-Queda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Gibbs denied that the President had made any crucial decisions about American troops in Afghanistan and would meet with his National Security team on Wednesday to discuss four options on the table.
PRESS BRIEFING BY
PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:20 P.M. EST
MR. GIBBS: Good afternoon. Before we get going on questions I just want to reiterate again that — I think most of you know that we’ll be doing a briefing call on Asia, on the Asia trip. I think as most of you all know, based on the events of last week and the changes to the President’s schedule this week, our departure to Japan will be delayed by a day. We head to Japan, spend the same amount of time there, one fewer days in Singapore, and then pick up as previously scheduled.
In terms of why, obviously the President had a fairly full schedule tomorrow, which, as you all know, has been changed to go to Fort Hood for the memorial service, where the President will speak and see victims’ families. So as I said, late last week before we tried to do a week ahead that the schedule was in some flux, and that is largely how it has come out now.
Q Can you go through the week ahead now?
Q Yes, what was on the schedule tomorrow that he’s doing Wednesday?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know exactly what got moved around. I know that obviously you’ve seen today, tomorrow almost exclusively is the trip down to Fort Hood. I think the highlight Wednesday — two highlights obviously — participating in Veterans Day activities first at the White House and then at Arlington National Cemetery. And then later in the day, there will be a meeting to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan. And I honestly do not know when we depart on Thursday, but I should figure that out because I’ve got to pack.
Other than that, take us away.
Q Robert, is that the Sit Room meeting on Wednesday?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, sir.
Q And what number is that?
MR. GIBBS: Is it eight? Sounds like eight? I don’t honestly — it seems to have sort of — runs around.
Q What does the White House — well, one thing first, on the meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister tonight. Why is that closed, no press avail, the statements? What is the thinking there?
MR. GIBBS: Well, the President obviously is — will meet later today with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss a full range of issues –
Q — want to meet with him? This meeting was –
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, as you know, our schedule since late last week has been up in the air. The President was supposed to speak on Tuesday to the same group that Prime Minister Netanyahu is speaking to. He obviously looks forward to sitting down with the Prime Minister tonight — and continue to work together to address issues like Middle East peace and the threat that’s posed by Iran.
Q And then separately, what does the White House know about any contacts by the Fort Hood shooter or ties to al Qaeda?
MR. GIBBS: Obviously, Jennifer, this is a continuing investigation that’s being led jointly by DOD and FBI. The President has been very clear with everyone that no stone should be left unturned to figure out how and why this happened, and to ensure that it never happens again. I think the FBI will have updates on their investigation later on this afternoon and I think that’s the best place to go for that information.
Q Has there been a determination about whether it was terrorist — an act of terrorism?
MR. GIBBS: I think the FBI is the best place to address that. I do not know that they have a lot more on motive, but they’ll have updates this afternoon.
Q Iran has charged three U.S. citizens with espionage. Does this expose the limits of the administration’s efforts to reach out to Tehran, and could it undermine efforts to get a nuclear deal?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me start by saying that these three hikers — Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd — are innocent young people who should be released by the Iranian government and their release should be expedited. We have not heard confirmation through our Swiss counterparts about charges.
As it relates to Iran, I guess I would have two different — make two different points. One, this is an important — the events of the next few days and the past few days are important for Iran to contemplate as they make decisions, moving forward. They have to essentially agree to their previous agreement on the research reactor, and I think the world is watching and waiting for their conclusive decisions on that.
With how Iran is dealt with, when that decision is made, I would point you to what President Medvedev said, which was — over the weekend — which was if Iran fails to take steps in its control to demonstrate its responsibility to the world, then sanctions may be necessary.
Q So you definitely link the charging of the three citizens with espionage with why the –
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I was giving a broader answer. I think, again, notwithstanding whether or not they’ve been charged, they should be released as they’re innocent.
Q If President Obama is having the Sit Room meeting tomorrow on Af-Pak, should –
MR. GIBBS: Wednesday –
Q I’m sorry, Wednesday — should we then expect that his announcement will come after the Asia trip?
MR. GIBBS: I’ve not been told when it’s going to be, but I think it is doubtful that it will happen prior to Thursday.
Q And would it — is it conceivable that it would happen during his trip to Asia?
MR. GIBBS: Not likely, I wouldn’t think.
Q The White House reached out specifically to Congressman Cao during the health care negotiations before the vote and right before the vote. What did the White House tell the congressman?
MR. GIBBS: Well, this wasn’t — those conversations didn’t happen just this weekend. Nancy-Ann had met with him many weeks ago. He obviously is somebody who was interested in talking about what was in the President’s health reform proposal and obviously made a decision that it was in the best interest of his constituents.
Q Is there anything that — in terms of stimulus money going to New Orleans, or is there anything beyond the health care reform bill that –
MR. GIBBS: Not that I know of.
Q Not that you know? And in terms of — just one other thing on the meeting. Originally I know you guys have been –
MR. GIBBS: Which meeting?
Q I’m sorry, the announcement about the Afghanistan –
MR. GIBBS: Oh, okay.
Q Originally you guys have been shooting for before the strategy, and certainly that was not an official deadline, but you guys have been shooting for that. What’s the reason for taking a little bit more time?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I mean, I think, Jake, the President wants to make sure that, as I’ve said on numerous occasions, take the time necessary to get the decision right. We’re at a pivotal moment and I think the President wants to ensure that he has all that he needs and has heard from all that have equities in this in order to make a decision of import.
Q But what has — what could he not have gotten already? I mean, what did he not have already –
MR. GIBBS: Well, suffice to say, if he had gotten everything he needed, we probably wouldn’t be meeting on Wednesday.
Q Can you give us just an idea, though, of the kind of thing you’re talking about?
MR. GIBBS: No.
Q Are the Chiefs coming back?
MR. GIBBS: Say again? I don’t think this is specifically with Joint Chiefs. I think this is more what has been done — let me check exactly on the manifest. I think it is more in line with the groups that we had seen in here earlier.
Q But you said — I’m sorry to butt in but –
MR. GIBBS: — the Joint Chiefs later on — I don’t obviously –
Q — another one?
MR. GIBBS: — close the door on the fact that there could be more.
Q On health care, Robert, the President, in his written statement late Saturday, I believe, said again that he wants this done by the end of the year — he wants the Senate to move by the end of the year, but I don’t think I heard that in the Rose Garden yesterday. Was that just a little — like he just didn’t mention the deadline, or how firm is the deadline in terms of by the end of this year?
MR. GIBBS: It didn’t change overnight. I mean, it didn’t change from Saturday night after the vote to Sunday. So, I mean, the President still wants to get this done by the end of the year.
Q And on the meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I just wanted to follow up. I understand the schedule has been in flux, but why no television cameras? Is it because you don’t want to highlight the fact that there’s not a lot of progress in these talks so far?
MR. GIBBS: No, the President wanted to have a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. That’s what we’re doing. I’m sure, Ed, that the contents of the meeting generally seem to be well read out and I trust that this time will be no different.
Q But typically the President will go on camera if he wants to highlight what is a key initiative for him, and if Mideast peace is that important you would think that he would want to do that.
Q Well, like the date didn’t change from Saturday night to Sunday, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the President thinks no less of the importance of the Middle East peace process on simply by subtracting one television camera.
Q And the last thing, on settlements. Last week, Secretary Clinton was in Israel, and suggested — she wanted to praise the Israelis for some progress on settlements. And the Palestinians were upset because the U.S. policy has been a complete freeze on settlements.
MR. GIBBS: Policy dating back several decades, yes.
Q Right, but specifically it was emphasized in the early days of this administration. And the Palestinians felt like maybe there were some back-peddling. Can you just clear up — there was a sense that she seemed to be shifting last week.
MR. GIBBS: No, no, again, I judge from your question — the policy of the United States government for many decades has been no more settlements. That’s not something that is new to this administration. It’s something that I think has gotten disproportionate media coverage, but it’s not a policy difference in this administration and previous administrations.
Q Thank you. On the health care bill, does — the President supports, endorses, whatever you want to call it, the House bill. He’s made that very clear. Does he support the abortion funding restrictions in the House bill?
MR. GIBBS: The President, Chip, as you know, went to Capitol Hill to rally support for the bill. That bill is now through the House, which we’re quite pleased about. The Senate, once we get budget numbers from CBO, will become — that will move to the Senate floor. I don’t doubt that you’ll have a somewhat different bill. That’s the way this process works, and we’ll iron out differences as they come.
Q What’s his position on abortion funding restrictions?
MR. GIBBS: I think you heard the President in front of Congress several months ago, and we’ll continue to make progress.
Q So then he wouldn’t support anything like the provision that’s in the House bill?
MR. GIBBS: I’m not going to become a negotiator from Capitol Hill — on Capitol Hill from the podium.
Q Would he accept something that goes beyond what the Hyde amendment does?
MR. GIBBS: We will wait to see what health care reform brings.
Q So there could be something then in the end that goes beyond current law in restricting abortion funding?
MR. GIBBS: Chip, I wish we were having this conversation as the last part of this process, but as your network and others have pointed out, there are miles to go before we sleep.
Q Can I follow up on the Fort Hood — the President is getting briefed how frequently on that and by whom?
MR. GIBBS: Certainly as developments warrant, and again, the President’s daily briefing this morning in the Oval began with an update on the situation in Fort Hood.
Q Is there any concern with going down there — I know often when Presidents go places, hurricane zones and things like that — was there any concern that by going he could interfere with all of his entourage and security, could interfere in this investigation?
MR. GIBBS: No. And as we talked about late last week, I think Friday, this was — obviously the President wanted to go, but wanted to do it at a time that was most convenient for the families of the victims. As I said, families are coming in from all over the country, and we wanted to make sure that our schedule was worked around their schedule. But I have heard nothing to suggest that there were any concerns with his presence on the way down there tomorrow.
Q Robert, one quick question on Afghanistan. There have been reports that he’s waiting for another set of recommendations, or a set of recommendations, from the Pentagon. Do you know — is that true? And has he received that set of recommendations, an additional –
MR. GIBBS: I think — I don’t know what additional recommendations he’s gotten. I know the Pentagon was working on additional recommendations.
Q You don’t know if he’s received those yet?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know.
Q So it could be a ways off, if he hasn’t even received this next round of recommendations.
MR. GIBBS: Other than to characterize it as in the coming weeks, I don’t have any further guidance.
Q Will he keep working on it while he’s in Asia?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think there’s no doubt that this is a topic that will be addressed in some of the meetings that he has throughout the trip. I think, along with things like Iran and non-proliferation and North Korea, I think in meeting with people throughout the trip, this will certainly be a topic.
I mean, obviously — I mean, for one, the Japanese obviously have been — have given generously in finances for the training of an Afghan national security force. So this will –
Q — you think he’ll actually work on his decision on –
MR. GIBBS: Oh, absolutely. The President spends time on this each and every day, regardless of where he is.
Q On the Fort Hood investigation, does the White House believe that at some point they will have to be the final arbiter on who takes the lead in the investigation or who prosecutes — who takes the lead on the prosecution, Justice or the military?
MR. GIBBS: I have not heard a discussion about that.
Q Right now it’s still a joint investigation. When you say it’s the FBI and the military working together, it’s a joint investigation. This has to do with the death penalty and the various –
MR. GIBBS: Truthfully, Chuck, I don’t — I have not heard a discussion about that part of it. The notion of obviously a joint investigation — during the initial incident, the Department of Defense called the FBI, and the investigation at that juncture was run jointly by the FBI and the DOD. I have not, though, heard discussions of who brings charges and where.
Q So we could be days away from that, weeks away from that? There’s just no –
MR. GIBBS: Weeks away from –
Q From charges being –
MR. GIBBS: I mean, obviously — yes, I would point you to either one of those institutions.
Q Neither one — the Justice Department or the Department of Defense — hasn’t asked the White House to make a jurisdictional decision?
MR. GIBBS: No. Certainly not that I’m aware of, no.
Q On health care, what is the Christmas deadline? Is the Christmas deadline to get a bill on the President’s desk to sign, or is the Christmas deadline to get a bill out of the Senate and out of the House?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I can assure you if we get a bill out of the Senate and the House somewhere around Christmas, the President won’t take a lot of time in trying to sign it.
Q No, I understand that, but the separate bill. I’m talking about the separate Senate — if this deadline –
MR. GIBBS: Well, we want to get health care done by the end of the year.
Q You mean signed?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, if it gets to his desk, I can assure you there’s not a huge amount of gap between when it gets here –
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I understand, I understand. Understand if I say he’s going to sign it, let’s assume conference has happened, right? Let’s assume we’ve got a bill that is ready for the President to –
Q Is that a realistic –
MR. GIBBS: I’m just a bill.
Q Is that a realistic deadline or are you guys ramping up pressure on Senator Reid to make this deadline?
MR. GIBBS: No, no, we’ve been doing this for how many months?
Q And we’ve had different deadlines –
MR. GIBBS: And when we say the end of the year, we’ve got a pretty firm end-of-the-year deadline.
Q And this is to sign a bill end of the year, but to get a bill –
MR. GIBBS: How much clearer could I be? Seriously, how much clearer could I be? Do you think it’s ambiguous?
Q Have the deadlines gotten moved?
MR. GIBBS: I’ve just answered this question three times, right?
Q The deadline is the end of the year to sign?
MR. GIBBS: Please send a transcript to [MR. TODD’S EMAIL REDACTED].
Q All right, all right. So that means — I mean, I just –
MR. GIBBS: I just answered this three times, Chuck. Three times. The President — let me do this just so I’m clear, all right. I don’t know if you want to alert the networks to break in. The President wants to sign health care before the end of the year. Anybody have a follow-up?
Q I do.
Q I just have one question.
Q Jonathan? (Laughter.)
Q On the trip schedule, the President had intended to leave initially on Wednesday. That was always going to be Veterans Day, and I’m confused why he’s not leaving on Wednesday now.
MR. GIBBS: Because all of what he was going to do Tuesday, while he travels to Texas is now going to take place either crammed into later today or crammed into the latter half of Wednesday past what had previously been scheduled as a breakfast here and a trip to Arlington National Cemetery.
Q It’s not because he’s — he wants to stay in — he was going to do those Veterans Day events before he left anyway?
MR. GIBBS: Absolutely. No, the two events that were always on his schedule prior to leaving at that point on Wednesday would have been — I think it’s a closed-press breakfast here before traveling to Arlington late morning.
Q Okay. And back on the abortion question. Candidate Obama campaigned as a pro-choice Democrat. This was a big debate between he and Hillary Clinton, who was more pro-choice.
MR. GIBBS: I don’t completely remember that debate, but go ahead.
Q But anyway, he was a pro-choice Democrat and now he’s — the House has passed some of the strictest legislation restricting abortion that we’ve seen in a very long time. I mean, can Barack Obama, who campaigned as a pro-choice Democrat, sign legislation with this language?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Jonathan, we’ll — ask me that right before Christmas and the end of the New Year.
Q Robert, did the FBI director brief the President today on Fort Hood?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know if the — I don’t know if Director Mueller was here today in the PDB. He was — I want to make sure I got my dates right — he was here –
MR. GIBBS: Thursday night was the first meeting. It was about 6:20 p.m. that evening. Director Mueller was in that meeting with Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen the day of the shooting and was part of the PDB, the extended PDB, on Friday morning. I don’t know if — I don’t believe he was over here this morning, but let me double-check.
Q On health care, does the President believe that a single Republican vote makes the House passed bill bipartisan?
MR. GIBBS: By definition.
Q No, really.
MR. GIBBS: Mark, I don’t doubt that the President hopes, or wished that more Republicans would recognize that there are people in their districts that they represent, as we’ve talked about, that are suffering from the skyrocketing cost of health care; who own small businesses that have to either let workers go or drop the insurance coverage that they want to provide; or that represent many that are discriminated against by the practices of insurance companies. Look, the President would love for this to be — to pass unanimously. He understands that for whatever reason, some in the party have decided to make a political statement about this.
Q I noticed that both John Boehner and Mitch McConnell used the word “monstrosity” to believe the bill passed on Saturday night. How do you bridge a gap like that, when they’re using a word of that –
MR. GIBBS: Who was it?
Q Both McConnell and Boehner.
MR. GIBBS: Well, remember, Boehner announced his opposition to this three months ago. So the notion that he thinks that –
Q Well, you can be against something without regarding it as a “monstrosity.”
MR. GIBBS: Yes, but again, he — when in the process three months you’ve decided you’re against the bill, I’m not sure that there’s anything the President can say or do that’s ever going to convince somebody like that, that — despite the fact that on the House and the Senate side, Republican ideas have become part of the bill; despite the fact that even when Republican members came back from recess in early September after spending most of August at home, you heard statements like the American people understand we have to address the issue of health care reform; or you see poll after poll done by many of you guys that show the American people want to see something done this year. I don’t know how many more different data points of evidence you need to understand that this is a continual problem that the American people have faced, and it has to be addressed.
Q May I ask a follow-up on the bill signing question?
MR. GIBBS: Sure.
Q Thank you. One other option, although nobody wants it, is for Congress to attach a health care bill to an omnibus budget reconciliation bill just like they did with COBRA. If that’s the only way it could get to the President’s desk, would he sign that as well?
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously the President wants the process to move forward, as it’s doing. And as continue to make progress, we don’t see any need to change the process.
Q But what if you don’t make progress?
MR. GIBBS: Then we’ll look at alternatives.
Q Is the President going to have remarks at Arlington on Wednesday after the wreath laying?
MR. GIBBS: That I don’t honestly know, but I will double-check.
Q And will there be a readout after the Netanyahu meeting tonight?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, we can get you a readout.
Q To everybody?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q To revisit Iowa briefly and the pro-choice debate that went on there, there were those in the Hillary Clinton camp who said because then-state senator Obama voted “present” on some votes, he was insuffiently pro-choice, and that was sort of fought out a little bit —
MR. GIBBS: Oh, that’s what you’re talking about. I mean, I think that was –
Q I’m just saying it came up.
MR. GIBBS: I think that was handled by people that the President had worked with, representing those groups, which largely dismissed that argument.
Q Which leads me to the question now — some of those groups — NARAL and Planned Parenthood — have condemned the language in the House bill and want it repealed. Does the White House agree or disagree with NARAL and Planned Parenthood’s interpretation of the bill currently?
MR. GIBBS: I’m not going to get deeply into this, except to say that we will work on this and continue to seek consensus and common ground.
Q In pursuit of what — just passing the bill?
MR. GIBBS: Health care reform.
Q Okay. But not resolving abortion to the satisfaction of NARAL or Planned Parenthood?
MR. GIBBS: I think this obviously is something that will have to be addressed in order to get to that point.
Q Does the President agree with Army Chief of Staff Casey who said yesterday, “As horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse”?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think the President agrees with General Casey that — look, having sat through the meeting with the Joint Chiefs, there is tremendous pride for an all-volunteer armed forces in this country. That’s I think a pride shared by the Joint Chiefs as well as the Commander-in-Chief. And there are people of many different ethnicities and many different religions that serve with great honor and distinction in our military today, and the President certainly hopes that that continues.
Q To the families who might wonder if that diversity is so important that it’s — losing it would be worse than losing their own family member, do you understand how some might think that is elevating diversity over human life or –
MR. GIBBS: I do not believe that in any way, shape, or form that’s what General Casey was saying.
Q And you would not want anyone to jump to that conclusion –
MR. GIBBS: I wouldn’t, no.
Q Okay. On climate change, the heavy negotiations for the United Nations and the EU have now become somewhat more publicly vocal in their criticism of the administration in their interpretation it’s not working hard enough to bring climate change legislation and an agreement to Copenhagen, to have something that’s substantive that can be a part of the overall negotiations. A, how do you react to that? And B, does the President need, does the administration need Senate passage of a climate change bill to seek a deal within the confines of the U.N. climate change talks?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t give those comments a whole lot of credence. We are closer to an energy and climate bill becoming law than has ever — we’ve ever gotten with the passage of it through the House of Representatives. And the notion that one country stands in the way of addressing climate change would be to forget countries like China, India, Brazil, and others that have to also be brought along in this process. So with all due respect, I don’t give those comments a whole lot of credence.
Q The Af-Pak meeting that’s on Wednesday, was that originally scheduled for Tuesday?
MR. GIBBS: I believe it was, but the schedule obviously — we knew fairly — we knew on Thursday the schedule for Friday and the remainder of the days before the trip would change. I don’t know if it originally was today or whether it was going to be on Tuesday.
Q And can you talk a little bit about what he’s going to do down in Fort Hood? Is there time set aside to meet families?
MR. GIBBS: There — and this is preliminary and we’re working on getting more as the schedule itself changes — the President will meet with families of those that lost a loved one last week, as well as speak to the larger memorial that will take place at the base and address a community obviously saddened and stricken by the events of last week.
Q Is the First Lady going to do anything separate from him?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know the answer to that. I know she’s with him. My sense is she will be with him when he sees the families.
Q And in terms of the investigation itself, leaving the details to the FBI and military investigators, does the White House view the suspect as a terrorism suspect at this point? Or is this somebody who is a lone figure?
MR. GIBBS: That should be addressed by the FBI. That’s who has equities in all of that.
Q Robert, may I ask a follow-up on the Fort Hood questions?
MR. GIBBS: Sure.
Q It has been reported today that the suspect in the Fort Hood shooting is now conscious as of this afternoon. Do you know if law enforcement has begun to ask questions of him regarding causes or motives, or any of the circumstances regarding these acts?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know if interviews have begun. Obviously, to say the least, law enforcement are eager to talk. And I think that’s obviously part of the reason why this is a continuing investigation where we still need information to draw firm conclusions.
Q Robert, I know we’ve got a conference call this afternoon, but I just need to ask you very briefly about the trip. In general terms, it’s been asserted that the President is going to a region where countries are increasingly assertive and not so reflexively — I don’t want to say submissive, but they don’t — they don’t reflexively agree to America’s view, especially a place like Japan with a new government; China, which of course, has been increasing economic — does the President subscribe to that view? Does he worry about that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think that is — I guess I’ll leave it at this. I think the President believes obviously that many of the places he’s going to and the leaders that he’ll see — I mean, keep in mind we’ll meet with President Medvedev as part of this. So he’ll meet with leaders in places that we’re not necessarily stopping on — that he believes that the United States and these countries have a series of mutual interests, and that by working together, we can make progress on those mutual interests.
As it relates to what you said a minute ago, I think if you look back at where people predicted different efforts would be, remember, right after the North Koreans test-fired their long-range — test-fired a long-range missile, it was widely presumed that there was nothing that could be done to address those actions, largely because the U.N. Security Council wouldn’t address the geopolitics of certain countries. It took a couple of weeks of tough diplomacy, but Susan Rice and the United Nations worked out a unanimous Security Council resolution to address what happened in North Korea.
I think if you look at where we are with Iran, we’ve never been at a point that we are now, unified with the P5-plus-1. So I think the President understands that each country has interests, and where we have mutual interests we can work together to make progress.
Q Robert, a follow-up. What’s on the agenda for the meeting with Medvedev?
MR. GIBBS: Obviously we’ll continue to talk through issues that they’ve spent time working on, most notably the START Treaty that expires I believe the 5th of December, and continue discussions about North Korea and Iran.
Q Robert, I have a question on Fort Hood and also abortion. I understand you’re leaving the determination of whether this was an act of terrorism up to the FBI. But what is the White House’s definition of an act of terrorism?
MR. GIBBS: I’m not a law enforcement official, Mara. This obviously is a continuing investigation, and if you’ve got questions about where that investigation is, I think the FBI is going to –
Q — I just want to know if there is a definition of an act of terrorism that you –
MR. GIBBS: I’m not going to get into the back-and-forth of this.
Q All right. One other question about the House vote. The President has been pretty clear all along that in terms of abortion he thought the status quo should be left untouched; in other words, the Hyde amendment should stand. Does he believe that the Stupak amendment enshrines Hyde, in terms of the health care exchanges, or goes beyond it?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I’m going to leave the answer –
Q I’m not asking if you’re for or against.
MR. GIBBS: No, I understand –
Q I just want to know what you think it does.
MR. GIBBS: I understand. I’m going to leave it at the earlier answer that we’re going to continue to work through and make progress on these issues.
Q Robert, as far as you know, has the President decided on number of troops, additional troops he’d like to send to Afghanistan?
MR. GIBBS: No, no. Despite the many chances to read otherwise throughout the weekend. Safe to say if he’d made a decision, I think we could free up at least part of his Wednesday.
Q What about a proportional breakdown between trainers, for example, and combat troops, anything like that –
MR. GIBBS: No, no.
Q — or any thought to where they might come from?
MR. GIBBS: Well, thought from where they might come from?
Q Fort Campbell comes to mind.
MR. GIBBS: Oh, I mean, look, I think — I mean, obviously there’s — we know where very specialized troops are, but I don’t think that the President has — I doubt we’ve have gotten to identifying what fort they’re at without getting to a number.
Q Also, just to circle back to something you said earlier, is the President consulting outside groups or particular people outside the Situation Room to talk about the Afghanistan review strategy?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me make sure I understand. Is he having discussions outside of the meetings, or is he talking to participants throughout the process that are different than just those in the meeting itself?
Q Yes. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Wait a minute, that’s my answer. I know that the President has had occasion to talk about the issue of Afghanistan outside of that — outside of those meetings and outside of just those participants, yes.
Q Robert, outside government –
MR. GIBBS: Yes. Outside — yes.
Q — different countries?
MR. GIBBS: At some point obviously there will be very fulsome discussions with our NATO partners. I don’t know if we’re at that point in the process.
Q Is India among them?
MR. GIBBS: I wouldn’t get into listing details.
Q Robert, a question on circulation? On circulation?
MR. GIBBS: That’s a seemingly — hold on, Lester, before I take the premise of your — we could go into health care, we could go into newspapers, we could go into –
Q Yes, yes.
MR. GIBBS: Yes. (Laughter.)
Q What is the President’s — the first — what is the President’s reaction —
MR. GIBBS: I didn’t agree to two, but I’m happy to try with one.
Q Thank you.
MR. GIBBS: We’ll circulate an answer.
Q We had 10 up here. But what is the President’s reaction to the Audit Bureau of Circulation’s report that in the six months ending on September the 30th, American daily newspapers, most of which are liberal and pro-Obama — (laughter) — fell 10 points –
MR. GIBBS: Have you read The Washington Post today? Have you read The Washington Post any day?
Q I do, every day. I always keep an eye on the enemy.
MR. GIBBS: What did you say?
Q I always keep an eye on the enemy.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I’ll give them an equal amount of time and a microphone of sufficient size to respond. (Laughter.)
Look, obviously the President is a voracious consumer of news, likes to read newspapers every day. I would — I think if you pick up many of the newspapers with which you discussed — I notice that there was an article in The New York Times today about the circulation drop in the New York Post, and I’m not sure I would categorize that as a liberal pro-Obama newspaper. And please, would you just — if you can cc your question to Fred Hiatt I’m happy to have a conversation about the liberalism –
Q One follow-up, because they had 10. They had 10.
MR. GIBBS: Was that one? Does that count as one?
Q What was the President’s reaction to the more than 2,000-page health care bill which so few congressmen read being passed by only five votes and costing more than a trillion dollars, on which 39 Democrats voted no?
MR. GIBBS: He could not be more pleased. (Laughter.)
Q What is your circulation?
MR. GIBBS: Spotty at best. (Laughter.)
Q On health care reform –
MR. GIBBS: Yes, ma’am.
Q — does consensus and common ground negate the original mandate to cover all Americans?
MR. GIBBS: I’m sorry, say that one more time.
Q Does consensus and common ground negate the original mandate to cover all Americans?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President believes that and in order to get certainly many of the important insurance reforms that the President has discussed, covering all Americans is a must.
Q Now, also on Fort Hood, the suspect, has he — has this White House gotten information from federal agents or the Army that he was considered a conscientious objector –
MR. GIBBS: Again, I would point you to the FBI with specific questions about the investigation.
Q And then back on the issue of terror — not terrorizing, terrorism, just terror — the definition of terror: “one that instills intense fear; also the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group” – also, one more – “panic, an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety.” These people at Fort Hood went through those feelings. We clearly saw it. Would you classify, from the definitions that I gave —
MR. GIBBS: Again, I’m not a law enforcement official, April. I will say this. I think the entire country from — certainly from the very first reports that we got about this, and my communications about that with the President, we have — I think everybody has been shocked and dismayed at what happened, and pass our thoughts, our prayers, and our condolences on to those who suffered loss for loved ones in this incident.
Q Do you believe there was terror there at least? Could you at least say terror?
MR. GIBBS: I’ve now had three opportunities to be a law enforcement officer.
Q — but I’m serious, from the definitions.
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I’m not — if you have investigation questions, the FBI is the place.
Q Thanks, Robert. First, two questions. One, on health care. Could you say to what degree the White House will get involved in negotiations in the Senate regarding the provisions, whether it’s going to be the abortion provision or the public option?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think the White House obviously has spent a lot of time — staff work every day with Capitol Hill, and I’m sure when Senator Reid and others want our opinion on different ideas, they’ll ask for them.
Q And another question, this is regarding actually — a Tony Blankley column from a week or so back, made a comparison –
MR. GIBBS: Tony –
Q Tony Blankley.
MR. GIBBS: Oh, okay, I thought you said Tony Blinken — I was going to say, I didn’t know the Vice President’s National Security Advisor was writing columns. Go ahead, I’m sorry. I was getting a flashback for a moment — speaking of circulation. (Laughter.) Go ahead.
Q It does pertain to national security, actually. He made a comparison with the long investigation into the CIA leak in the previous administration and that similar legal issues could apply in the CIA leak from “political officials” in a news story about Karzai’s brother working for the CIA. My question is, is the Justice Department going to look into this matter? And would there possibly be a special prosecutor in this case, as well?
MR. GIBBS: I have heard nothing about that, but if you have a question about that I’d ask the Department of Justice.
Q Thank you, Robert.
Q Something on climate change — Reuters just is reporting that the EPA has sent over its final proposal on carbon dioxide, whether it should be regulated as a dangerous — sent it to the White House. A, can you confirm that? And B, how would that fit within the conversation we were having earlier about administration steps on climate change?
MR. GIBBS: Well, certainly we can check. I think there was a — look, there’s a court order, right — there’s a Supreme Court order that this is an issue that has to be dealt with. The President has said throughout this process that the way to deal with this is through legislation. I would point out that many people in the newspaper this morning that work for or CEOs of power companies that said, this also ought to be addressed through legislation. That’s what we’re trying to do and that’s what we hope to do.
Q Thank you, Robert.
WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key administration posts:
- Joshua Gotbaum, Director, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
- Raul Perea-Henze, Assistant Secretary of Policy and Planning, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Carrie Hessler Radelet, Deputy Director of the United States Peace Corps
- Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, Representative of the United States Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council, with rank of Ambassador, United States Mission to the United Nations
- Laura Kennedy, Representative of the United States to the Conference on Disarmament, with the rank of Ambassador, Department of State
President Obama will also appoint four individuals to serve on the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission. Their names and bios are below.
President Obama said, “These individuals will be important additions to our administration as we work to put our nation back on a path to prosperity and make our world more secure. I am grateful for their decision to serve and look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”
President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals today:
Joshua Gotbaum, Nominee for Director, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
Joshua Gotbaum, currently an Operating Partner at Blue Wolf Capital, has for three decades helped manage and advise public, private, and nonprofit institutions. From 2003 – 2005, he led and managed the successful reorganization of Hawaiian Airlines as its Chapter 11 Trustee. In 2001, he was the first CEO of The September 11th Fund, a charity with over $500 million in assets whose grants helped more than 100,000 affected by the attacks. During the Clinton Administration, Mr. Gotbaum was Executive Associate Director and Controller in the Office of Management and Budget; Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Economic Policy; and Assistant Secretary of Defense. For more than a decade, Mr. Gotbaum was an investment banker with Lazard Frères in New York and London. He advised businesses, unions and governments on a diverse range of mergers, acquisitions and restructurings, in steel, transportation, and many other industries. During the Carter administration, he served on the White House staff and in the Department of Energy. Mr. Gotbaum holds a B.A. from Stanford, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and an M.P.P. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Raul Perea-Henze, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of Policy and Planning, Department of Veterans Affairs
Dr. Raul Perea-Henze has spent nearly 25 years in both the public and private sectors. Most recently, he was a Senior Executive in Global Health Policy and Medical Operations for Merck and Co., Inc. and Pfizer. Prior to these assignments, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Management & Budget and Senior Health Care Advisor at the White House during the Clinton Administration. He was also a Management Consultant with The Growth Strategy Group, International, Inc. specializing in global strategy in the health sector for a number of years; a senior official in New York City Government; and an Adjunct Professor of Health Policy at New York University. Dr. Perea-Henze graduated from the University of Chihuahua School of Medicine in Mexico, and obtained a Master’s Degree in Public Health – with concentration in Health Policy & Management- from Yale University, School of Medicine.
Carrie Hessler Radelet, Nominee for Deputy Director of the United States Peace Corps
Carrie Hessler Radelet is the Director of the Washington, DC office of John Snow, Inc. (JSI) and JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc, a global public health organization, where she oversees the management of programs in more than 30 countries. She has worked in the field of public health for the past two decades, specializing in HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health, working in more than 25 countries around the world. She was a Johns Hopkins Fellow with USAID in Indonesia and assisted the Indonesian government to develop its first national AIDS strategy. She later assisted in the development of the strategy for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Ms. Radelet was a Board member of the National Peace Corps Association and served on the steering committee for the US Coalition for Child Survival. She was the founder of Special Olympics in The Gambia. Ms. Radelet served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Western Samoa, where she taught high school and helped design a national public awareness campaign on disaster preparedness. Ms. Radelet received her B.A. from Boston University and her Master’s in Health Policy and Management from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, Nominee for Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations Human Rights Council, with rank of Ambassador
Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe is an Affiliated Scholar at the Center for international Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Her research has focused on norms on use of force, UN reform, and the international rule of law. Her 2006 Ph.D. dissertation entitled: “Humanitarian Military Intervention: The Moral Imperative Versus the Rule of Law,” addressed conflicting legal and ethical justifications for humanitarian military intervention. Previously, Ms. Donahoe was a litigation associate at Fenwick & West in Silicon Valley, where she served technology clients in intellectual property and commercial disputes. Prior to that, she was a teaching fellow at Stanford Law School and law clerk to the Honorable William H. Orrick. Ms. Donahoe has worked with various human rights organizations including The Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights, where she did research on the nexus between US foreign policy and human rights, and Amnesty International’s Ginneta Sagan Fund, where she did strategy work related to human rights concerns of women and children. She received her B.A. from Dartmouth College, a Masters in Theology from Harvard University, her J.D. from Stanford Law School, an M.A. in East Asian Studies from Stanford University, and her Ph.D. in Ethics from the University of California’s Graduate Theological Union.
Laura E. Kennedy, Nominee for Representative of the United States to the Conference on Disarmament, with the rank of Ambassador, Department of State
Laura E. Kennedy, a member of the Senior Foreign Service, was most recently Deputy Commandant at the National War College since 2007. Prior to that, she was a member of the State Department’s Board of Examiners from 2005-2007. From 2004-2005 she was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR). She served as the Dean of the State Department’s Senior Seminar from 2004-2005. Ms. Kennedy was Ambassador to Turkmenistan from 2001-2003 where she focused on support for civil society as well as support for operations in neighboring Afghanistan. She was the Deputy Chief of Mission, United States Mission to the United Nations from 1998-2001. From 1995-1997 she was the Director of the Office of Central Eurasian Affairs. She has also held postings in Moscow (twice), Vienna (to the negotiations on conventional forces in Europe) and Ankara. She has been detailed as charge at the new U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, as a guide at an official exchange exhibit in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Tajikistan. Ms. Kennedy holds a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.A. from American University.
President Obama will also appoint the following individuals to serve on the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission:
Peggy Noonan, Member, Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission
Peggy Noonan is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and the bestselling author of eight books on American politics, history and culture. Her work has been featured in TIME, Newsweek and The Washington Post, among other publications. She provides frequent political commentary on television. Ms. Noonan previously served as a Special Assistant to President Ronald Regan from 1984 to 1986. In 1988, she was chief speechwriter on the Presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush. Ms. Noonan has written on the Reagan Presidency, authoring When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan, as well as publishing Patriotic Grace, John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father, A Heart, a Cross and A Flag, and What I Saw at the Revolution.
John F. W. Rogers, Member, Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission
John F.W. Rogers is a managing director and member of the Management Committee of Goldman, Sachs & Co., where he serves as the firm’s chief of staff and secretary to the Board of Directors. Mr. Rogers served in the Reagan administration as an Assistant to the President and later as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. He was Undersecretary of State for Management in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. Mr. Rogers is Treasurer of the Ronald Reagan Foundation and Treasurer of the White House Historical Association. He currently serves as Chairman of the Advisory Board of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institute. He is the former Chairman of the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. He is also a former Member of the Board of Trustees of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and of the Fine Arts Committee of the U.S. Department of State. Mr. Rogers is a recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Alexander Hamilton Award, and the U.S. State Department’s Distinguished Service Award.
Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., Member, Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission
Frederick J. Ryan, Jr. is President and Chief Operating Officer of Allbritton Communications Company and President and Chief Executive Officer of POLITICO newspaper and Politico.com. Mr. Ryan served as Chief of Staff to former President Reagan from 1989 to 1995 and was instrumental in the design, construction and operation of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs. He previously was an Assistant to President Reagan, where he overlooked presidential appointments, scheduling, communication strategies and the White House Private Sector Initiatives program. Mr. Ryan serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation and is a trustee of The White House Historical Association, Ford’s Theatre, National Museum of American History and the Board of Councilors of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California.
Fred W. Smith, Member, Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission
Fred W. Smith is a Senior Partner at Peno Bottom Partners in Las Vegas. He served as the CEO of the Donrey Media Group, one of the largest privately held media companies in the United States, until it was sold in 1993, concluding his 42-year career at the company where he began as a classified advertising salesman. Mr. Smith has served as a trustee and director of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation since its inception in 1954 and has held the position of Chairman for the past twenty years. Under his leadership the Foundation has committed nearly $1.5 billion in its grant-making programs. In 1989 the University of Nevada System Board of Regents named Mr. Smith “Distinguished Nevadan of the Year.” Mr. Smith holds honorary doctorate degrees from three universities for his professional, philanthropic and civic accomplishments.
President Obama Launches Major Veterans Employment Initiative
Initiative Would Transform Federal Government into Model of Veterans Employment
Washington, DC – Today, the White House announced the launch of an initiative that is designed to transform the federal government into the model employer of America’s veterans. This evening, President Obama will be joined by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry to sign an Executive Order on the Employment of Veterans in the federal government, which establishes the Veterans Employment Initiative for the Executive Branch. The Initiative underscores to federal agencies the importance of recruiting and training veterans, aims to increase the employment of veterans within the Executive Branch, and helps recently hired veterans adjust to service in a civilian capacity.
“Honoring our sacred trust with America’s veterans means doing all we can to help them find work when they come home so they never feel as if the American Dream they fought to defend is out of reach for them and their families,” said President Obama. “But this initiative is about more than repaying our debt for their courageous service and selfless sacrifice. It’s also about continuing to fill the ranks of federal employees with men and women who possess the skills, dedication, and sense of duty that Americans deserve from their public servants. And few embody those qualities like our nation’s veterans.”
The Executive Order creates an interagency Council on Veterans Employment that will advise the President and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management on the veterans’ employment initiative. The Council will be chaired by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. OPM Director John Berry will serve as the Vice Chair and Chief Operating Officer of the Council.
“Veterans have shown unmatched dedication to public service,” said Secretary Shinseki. “They offer leadership and technical skills that are in high demand, whether in the public or private workforce. Not only does this initiative present an opportunity for Veterans to serve their Nation once again, the Nation will benefit from the education and training Veterans received in the Armed Forces. I am looking forward to working with Secretary Solis and Director Berry to achieve the objectives of this initiative across the federal government.”
“Veterans are an important part of our nation’s past, present and future. They deserve our full support as they reintegrate into the civilian workforce,” said Secretary Solis, “In signing this Executive Order, President Obama underscores his Administration’s commitment to our military men and women, and keeps us squarely on the path to achieving the goal of good jobs for everyone.”
“President Obama strongly believes in honoring the service of our veterans and he sees this initiative as an opportunity to put some real muscle behind that promise,” said Director Berry. “The strong sense of patriotism and public service held by members of our armed forces doesn’t leave them when they exit from active duty. It benefits our government to seize this opportunity to utilize their skills and dedication to service. The Veterans Employment Initiative will help our federal agencies identify qualified veterans, clarify the hiring process for veterans seeking employment with the federal government, and help our veterans adjust to civilian life once they are hired.”
The Order also establishes a Veterans Employment Program office within most federal agencies. These offices will be responsible for helping veterans identify employment opportunities within those federal agencies, providing feedback to veterans about their employment application status, and helping veterans recently employed by these agencies adjust to civilian life and a workplace culture often different than military service.
In addition, the Office of Personnel Management will issue a government-wide strategic plan that will focus on creating leadership commitment and an infrastructure in each agency to promote continued skills development and employment success for veterans. The strategic plan will also include marketing strategies aimed at agency hiring managers as well as veterans and transitioning service members.
“This Executive Order reflects the shared commitment across the Obama administration to hiring American veterans,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Veterans play a vital role in the Department of Homeland Security’s mission to protect the nation, which is why we have pledged to grow our veteran workforce to more than 50,000 Department-wide by 2012.”
At the end of Fiscal Year 2008, there were approximately 480,000 veterans working within the federal government.
For more information, visit: www.fedshirevets.gov