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.)