Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 2765, H.R. 5874 and S. 1749
On Tuesday, August 10, 2010, the President signed into law:
H.R. 2765, the “Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act,” or the “SPEECH Act,” which amends title 28, United States Code, to prohibit recognition and enforcement of certain foreign judgments;
H.R. 5874, which provides supplemental appropriations to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) of the Department of Commerce to help support efforts to reduce patent pendency and reform USPTO operations to make them more effective; and
S. 1749, the “Cell Phone Contraband Act of 2010,” which Prohibits providing or attempting to provide cell phones and similar wireless devices to Federal prisoners and possessing, obtaining, or attempting to obtain such devices by Federal prisoners.
Statement by President Obama on the Passing of Former Senator Ted Stevens
WASHINGTON – Below please find a statement by President Obama on the passing of former Senator Ted Stevens:
“A decorated World War II veteran, Senator Ted Stevens devoted his career to serving the people of Alaska and fighting for our men and women in uniform. Michelle and I extend our condolences to the entire Stevens family and to the families of those who perished alongside Senator Stevens in this terrible accident.”
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON TEACHER JOBS
11:43 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. One of the biggest challenges of this recession has been its impact on state and local communities. With so many Americans unemployed or struggling to get by, states have been forced to balance their budgets with fewer tax dollars, which means that they’ve got to cut critical services and lay off teachers and police officers and firefighters.
It’s one thing for states to get their fiscal houses in order and tighten their belts like families across America — because families have been doing it, there’s no reason that states can’t do it, too. That’s a welcome thing. But we can’t stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe. That doesn’t make sense. And that’s why a significant part of the economic plan that we passed last year provided relief for struggling states — relief that has already prevented hundreds of thousands of layoffs.
And that’s why today we’re trying to pass a law that will save hundreds of thousands of additional jobs in the coming year. It will help states avoid laying off police officers, firefighters, nurses and first responders. And it will save the jobs of teachers like the ones who are standing with me today. If we do nothing, these educators won’t be returning to the classroom this fall. And that won’t just deprive them of a paycheck, it will deprive the children and parents who are counting on them to provide a decent education. It means that students in Illinois and West Virginia who count on Rachel and Shannon are going to be not getting the education that they deserve. It will deprive countless cities and towns of the law enforcement officials and first responders who risk their lives to keep us out of harm’s way. It will cost us jobs at a time when we need to be creating jobs. In other words, it will take us backwards at a time when we need to keep this country moving forward.
Now, this proposal is fully paid for, in part by closing tax loopholes that encourage corporations to ship American jobs overseas. So it will not add to our deficit. And the money will only go toward saving the jobs of teachers and other essential professionals.
It should not be a partisan issue. I heard the Republican Leader in the House say the other day that this is a special interest bill. And I suppose if America’s children and the safety of our communities are your special interests, then it is a special interest bill. But I think those interests are widely shared throughout this country — a challenge that affects parents, children and citizens in almost every community in America should not be a Democratic problem or a Republican problem. It is an American problem.
I’m grateful that two Republicans joined Democrats to pass this proposal in the Senate last week. And I’m equally grateful that Speaker Pelosi has called back the House of Representatives to a special session so that they can vote as well.
I urge members of both parties to come together and get this done so that I can sign this bill into law. I urge Congress to pass this proposal so that the outstanding teachers who are here today can go back to educating our children. America is watching and America is waiting for Washington to act. So let’s show the nation that we can.
I want to thank Rachel as well as Shannon not only for being here today, but for the extraordinary work that they’re doing each and every day with special education children, with kindergarteners so they’re getting off to a right start. And I also want to thank Arne Duncan, who has been doing as much as anybody all across the country to try to emphasize how important it is to make sure that we are providing a first-class education to every single one of our children.
This bill helps us do that. And so it’s time for Democrats and Republicans to come together and get it done.
Thank you very much, everybody.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT A DSCC FINANCE EVENT
August 9, 2010
4:34 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, everybody. It is wonderful to be with you. And I just first of all want to thank Russell and Dori for the wonderful hospitality in a gorgeous home. So thank you very much. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)
And I want to also say thank you for doing such a great job training my Ambassador Ron Kirk. (Laughter.) He has been doing yeoman’s work internationally, and I know it’s because he has such good friends in Dallas who, along with Matrice, keep him straight. (Laughter.) So we are pleased to have him in the administration. He is just a great friend as well as a great national leader.
And thanks to all of you who’ve done so much not only to help support my campaign in 2008 but to help Democrats here in Texas, here in Dallas County, and all across the United States of America.
I was down in Austin before we came here and I mentioned that Austin was really the first big rally we had after I had just announced that I was running for President of the United States back in February of 2007. We had more than 20,000 people show up. And so I have a lot of friends in Texas, a lot of friends in Dallas, a lot of friends in Austin.
And I was reminded of a story Abraham Lincoln used to tell about a guy who came to see him looking for patronage work. He had really tried to get in to see the President, and back then security was a little more lax than it is now. And eventually he got an audience with the President, and he looked at Lincoln and he said, “You know, I am responsible for you being in office. If it wasn’t for me, you would not be here.” And Lincoln said, “Is that true?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “Well, I forgive you.” (Laughter.)
There are times, given all the grey hairs that I’ve been accumulating here over the last two years, that I understand Lincoln’s joke. But obviously being President is the most extraordinary privilege that anyone could have, and with it comes such sober responsibilities. That’s particularly at a time of great national challenge.
All of you remember the wonderful spirit that existed in Washington on that very cold January day when I was sworn in, but I think we also have to remind ourselves that in the previous six months we had already lost three million jobs; that the financial system had all but locked up and was on the verge of meltdown. The month that I was sworn in, we lost 750,000 jobs; subsequently, we lost 600,000 jobs in each month after that. The stock market plunged; the country had lost trillions of dollars worth of wealth. And people were talking about us possibly tipping into a Great Depression.
And so we knew we had to act quickly, and we did. And as a consequence of the actions we took — not all of which were popular at the time — we were able to stabilize the financial system and get finance circulating again. We were able to stabilize the economy, stop just the complete bloodletting of jobs throughout the economy. And whereas we were losing 750,000 jobs every single month, we’re now — we have now seen private sector job growth for seven consecutive months. Where we were contracting at a rate of 6 percent per quarter, we’re now growing once again.
And so there is a sense that we are now moving in the right direction, but understanding that we’ve got to move a little faster. We’ve got to keep on going. Because there are a lot of people here in Dallas, there are a lot of people all across America, who are struggling. I see it every single time I pick up a letter from a constituent who’s working hard, has sent out resume after resume, and yet just haven’t gotten hired yet; or the person who was laid off just on the verge of retirement and they’re trying to figure out how can I ever possibly afford to retire; what are we going to do because our — we had saved for our child’s college education but now we’re on the verge of losing our house and we’re having to make that horrible choice between our child’s future and the needs of the present.
So we’ve got some big challenges out there. And the question we’re going to have in this election is whether we’re going to continue down a path of creating greater opportunity, making that opportunity available to all people — are we going to become more competitive in this 21st century economy — or are we are going to go backwards to the exact same policies that got us into this mess in the first place?
And if you don’t think that’s what the choice is, you haven’t been paying attention to what the other side is offering for November. I mean, this is not a situation where the Republicans, having run the economy into the ground, having taken record surpluses when Bill Clinton left office and turned them into record deficits, this is not a situation where they’ve done a bunch of reflection here. They didn’t go off into the desert and say to themselves, “Boy, we really screwed up.” (Laughter.)
“You know, I don’t know exactly what we did wrong here, but, gosh, things did not work out the way we expected. Let’s come up with some new ideas for moving the country forward in how we’re going to educate our kids and provide health care to all Americans and make sure that we’ve got the highest college graduation rates once again, that research and development and innovation here in this country is on the move.”
That’s not what’s happened. They are not offering a single idea that is new. All they are offering is retreads of what they’ve offered before.
And so what they’re counting on in this election is amnesia. (Laughter.) They’re counting on you not remembering the disastrous consequences of economic policies that, by the way, had caused problems for working-class families, for middle-class families, before the recession hit, before the crisis hit. We had had almost a decade of sluggish growth, sluggish job growth, and incomes and wages that had flat-lined even as the cost of health care, the cost of college tuition, the cost of energy had all skyrocketed.
And so they are not offering a single new idea. They are counting on you forgetting that it was a consequence of these policies that got us into this mess in the first place.
You know, I’ve been using the analogy of the folks who drove the car into the ditch. And so we decided, you know what, we’re going to do the responsible thing. We put on our boots, we got into the mud, we got into the ditch. We pushed, we shoved, we’re sweating. They’re standing on the sidelines sipping a Slurpee — (laughter) — sort of watching us, saying, “Well, you’re not pushing hard enough,” or “Your shoulder is not positioned the right way,” giving us a whole bunch of advice on how to push — not lifting a finger to help.
And finally we get this car up back on the road again, and finally we’re ready to move forward again. And these guys turn around and say, “Give us the keys.” Well, no, you can’t have the keys back — you don’t know how to drive. (Applause.) You don’t know how to drive.
They don’t know how to drive. And I also want to point out, by the way, when you want to go forward in a car, what do you do? You put it in “D.” (Laughter.) When you want to go backwards, you put it in “R.” (Laughter.) We cannot go backwards — we’ve got to move forwards. That’s what we’re fighting for in this election — moving forwards. (Applause.)
Think about what we’ve done over the last 20 months to move the country forward. Not only did we prevent another Great Depression, not only did we stabilize the financial system, but we have finally enshrined the idea that every American should be able to get health care that’s affordable and nobody should be bankrupt when they get sick. (Applause.)
We’ve done so, by the way, combining those reform efforts with the strongest patient bill of rights than we’ve ever seen, so that insurance companies can’t drop your coverage; can’t deny you coverage because you’ve got a preexisting condition; making sure that young people are able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26 years old; eliminating lifetime limits that were causing people great hardship; and reducing costs so that the Medicare trustees just last week said that as a consequence of health reform we have extended the life of Medicare for another 12 years — meaning this was one of the most important deficit-reduction steps that we could have taken. (Applause.)
We have instituted a financial regulatory reform package that makes sure that we’re not going to have taxpayers bailouts again; at the same time, making sure that you as consumers are not being taken advantage of, so that credit card companies can’t just raise your rates arbitrarily on existing balances, or mortgage companies can’t have hidden fees, or mortgage brokers can’t steer you into more expensive interest rates on your mortgage.
We have instituted housing reform. We have instituted credit card reform. We have made sure that tobacco companies can’t market to our kids. We have raised national mileage standards on cars and trucks — the first time in 30 years — so that we have the opportunity now to make sure that the clean energy cars of the future are made right here in the United States of America.
We have created wind turbine plants and solar plants all across America, and are creating an advanced battery manufacturing industry in this country. Where we used to have 2 percent of that market, we’re going to have 40 percent of that market by 2015, in five years. Oh, and by the way, we’ve also appointed two Supreme Court Justices — (applause.)
So that’s what we’ve got to offer, and we’re just getting started. Because we’ve got more work to do. The problem we’ve got right now is we’ve got folks on the other side of the aisle who have spent 20 months politicking while we’ve spent those 20 months governing. They’ve been thinking about the next election instead of the next generation.
I mean, think about it. When the leader of the Republicans on the House side was asked, “What’s your idea for job creation,” he said, “Repeal health care reform.” (Laughter.) I don’t know what jobs that would create except maybe for the guys who are paid to deny you claims.
When they asked them about Wall Street reform, they said, no, we think actually the status quo is okay. Now, think about this. You have the worst financial crisis since the 1930s and they said no to reforming the system.
When we had a crisis down in the Gulf — unprecedented oil spill — and I went down there and I met with fishermen and small business owners who were being devastated economically and were seeing their way of life potentially threatened, and we made sure that BP was going to be accountable to those folks and put together a $20 billion fund to make sure they were getting paid off, what happened? The guy who would be in line to chair the Energy Committee on behalf of the Republicans apologized to BP. Said we are sorry about the President shaking you down. That’s how he characterized our efforts to make sure that people were treated fairly after a big oil company wrecked their livelihood.
So across the board, what you see is a governing philosophy on their part that basically comes down to we’re going to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest among us — folks who don’t need those tax cuts and weren’t even asking for them, which would cost $700 billion — these are the folks who say they’re concerned about the deficit but are willing to spent $700 to those who are luckiest and least in need in our society.
Their agenda is we’re going to eliminate rules and regulations that rein in special interests, and then we’re going to cut the middle class loose, say you’re on your own. You can’t afford health care? Tough luck, you’re on your own. You can’t afford to send your kids to college? Tough luck, you’re on your own. You can’t afford to retire? Too bad, you’re on your own.
That is the philosophy that held sway in Washington for eight years before I came in, and that is what they want to go back to.
So I just want everybody here to understand very clearly, this is a sharp and clear choice. If you are interested in a clean energy future in which we continue to build our solar industry and wind power and biodiesel and natural gas and we are shaping a strategy to wean ourselves off our dependence on foreign oil, then you better go out there and support those Democratic members of Congress. Because the other side is just going to say no to that.
If you are interested in ending tax cuts for companies that ship jobs overseas, and instead want tax cuts to go to small businesses like the bill that we’ve got right now in the Senate that would eliminate capital gains for small businesses, would be additional tax cuts on top of the eight tax cuts we’ve already given to small businesses so far, then you’d better go out there and help some Democratic candidates. Because the other side is not interested in helping folks who are starting things up — they’re interested in the special interests who can afford to hire lobbyist in Washington.
If you’re interested in things like equal pay for equal work — because I’ve got two daughters and I want to make sure they’re treated just like any boys as they’re coming up — then you better make sure that you’re working on behalf of these Democratic candidates out here. Because we’ve got a big job ahead of us.
I was just down in Austin talking about education. We have gone in a single generation from ranking number one in college graduates to ranking number 12 in this country. We cannot compete if we lose our edge when it comes to having the best colleges and the best universities in the country, but also the best-trained workers.
Which is why one of the things that we did — didn’t get a lot of notice over the last 20 months, but one of the most important thing we did was we eliminated the middleman on the federal student loan program and obtained an additional $60 billion to provide student loans to millions of more young people all across America. (Applause.) By the way, the other side said no to that. The other side wouldn’t have anything to do with it. They thought it was a bad idea.
So we’re going to have choice after choice on every single issue that you care deeply about. If you care about education, if you care about health care, if you care about civil rights and equal pay for equal work, if you care about consumer protections, if you care about jobs and growth in this economy — if you care about building a new foundation so that we’re not just going back to the same tired, worn-out theories that didn’t work for the last decade but are instead instituting something that’s going to work for the 21st century — then we’re going to need you to really step up and work hard in this election.
Now, that’s hard to do at a time when people are feeling like, boy, this is a polarized electorate and it makes people dispirited — all the yelling and the shouting and the cable chatter and the punditry. And I’ll be honest with you, sometimes Democrats, we’re our own worst enemies, because we can do great stuff and somehow still feel depressed. (Laughter.) You know, there’s — sometimes we do a little too much handwringing. Say, well, you know, I don’t know, I wish we had gotten that public option. Well, that’s great, but we got 31 million people health insurance and we’re reducing costs for people and we are — (applause) — consumer protections when it comes to the health insurance industry.
We have had an extraordinary record of accomplishment over the last 20 months, and we can continue those efforts but we’re going to need you in this election season. We’ve got to have you talking to your friends, we’ve got to have you talking to your neighbors, your coworkers. We’re going to need you to contribute to congressional candidates who are going to have very tough races out there.
And part of what’s happened in this landscape is the Supreme Court — those of you who don’t think the Supreme Court matters, their ruling in Citizens United, which said that corporations, including potentially foreign corporations, can go ahead and spend unlimited amounts without disclosing who they are during election season — means that you’re going to have a whole bunch of organizations like Americans for Prosperity — (laughter) — spending millions of dollars trying to roll back reforms that we’ve initiated. And you won’t even know who they are, because right now the law says they don’t have to disclose who they are.
Now, we’re going to try to change that. We’ve got legislation in the Senate and the House that says, you know what, the least we can do is, on behalf of our democracy, is to make sure that if somebody is spending millions of dollars to try to influence an election, they’ve got to disclose who they are. That’s the least we can do, so the American people know who’s out there making these arguments. (Applause.)
But the other side won’t have any of that. Because they want help and support from those special interests, and they don’t want to face up to the consequences if the American people knew who was paying for these ads.
So we’ve got some tough work ahead of us. We’ve got some headwinds because we’re still working our way out of this hole. We’re going to have a lot of money on the other side. They think that the American people have forgotten how badly they mismanaged this economy. And the only way we are going to win is if all of you are engaged and informed and are out there engaging and informing other people.
But in the end, I’m confident you can do that. Remember, when I started this fascinating journey, not a lot of people knew who I was. In fact, nobody could pronounce my name. But there were people all across America who had this basic sense that we had put off for too long some things that were holding this country back and who believed that there’s nothing we can’t accomplish when a group of citizens decide it’s time to go out and about and bring about change.
That sense of fundamental optimism, that sense that this country still has its best days ahead of it, that belief that if we make sure that our young people get the educational opportunities they deserve, if we are spurring innovation, if we are making sure that we have a free market that works because it’s got rules of the road that work for everybody and not just those who are well connected in Washington, that belief that America works best when it’s inclusive and everybody has a shot at the American Dream — that’s what propelled me into office. That’s what moved so many of you to get involved. That’s what we’re going to have to rekindle over the next several months. I’m confident we can do it.
And when we do — if you guys are working hard, if you’re making those phone calls and sending out those emails and doing what needs to be done — I feel very optimistic not just about the next election, but more importantly I feel optimistic about the next generation.
Thank you very much everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)
Statement of President Barack Obama on Secretary Gates Reform Agenda
Today, Secretary Gates advanced our effort to invest in the defense capabilities that we need in the 21st century, while being responsible and accountable in spending taxpayer dollars.
I have long said that we need to change the way that Washington works so that it works better for the American people. That’s why we undertook the Accountable Government Initiative — to make government more open and responsive to the American public, and to cut waste and inefficiencies that squander the people’s hard-earned money. This effort is particularly important when it comes to our national defense, since waste and inefficiency there detracts from our efforts to focus resources on serving our men and women in uniform, and to invest in the future capabilities we need.
Today’s announcement by Secretary Gates is another step forward in the reform efforts he has undertaken to reduce excess overhead costs, cut waste, and reform the way the Pentagon does business. The funds saved will help us sustain the current force structure and make needed investments in modernization in a fiscally responsible way. Change is never easy, and I applaud Secretary Gates and his team for undertaking this critical effort to support our men and women in uniform and strengthen our national security. These reforms will ensure that our nation is safer, stronger, and more fiscally responsible.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON HIGHER EDUCATION AND THE ECONOMY
University of Texas
2:05 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Hello, Austin! (Applause.) Hello, Longhorns! (Applause.) It is good to be back. It is good to be back.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, Obama!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. (Applause.) I love Austin. Love Austin. I remember — by the way, anybody who’s got a seat, feel free to take a seat. (Laughter.) I remember paying you a visit during the campaign. (Applause.) Mack Brown gave me a tour of the stadium, along with Colt and a couple other guys. And I got a photo with the Heisman. (Laughter.) I rubbed the locker room’s Longhorns for good luck. (Applause.) And I’m just saying, it might have had something to do with how the election turned out. (Applause.) There might be a connection there.
I also remember the first time that I came to Austin on the campaign. And there are a number of friends who are here who have been great supporters; I want to make mention of them. Representative Lloyd Doggett is here, a great friend. (Applause.) Senator Kirk Watson is here. (Applause.) Congressman Sheila Jackson Lee is here. (Applause.) Mayor Leffingwell is here. (Applause.) And your own president, Bill Powers, is in the house. (Applause.)
But this is back in 2007, February 2007. It was just two weeks after I had announced my candidacy. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true — my hair was not gray back then. (Laughter.) Not many people thought I had much of a shot at the White House. (Applause.) Let me put it this way, a lot of folks in Washington didn’t think I had a shot at the White House. (Laughter.) A lot of people couldn’t pronounce my name. (Laughter.) They were still calling me Alabama or Yo’ Mama — that was — (laughter.)
So then I come to Austin, this was back in February of 2007. And it was a drizzly day, and that usually tamps down turnout. But when I got to the rally over at Auditorium Shores there was a crowd of over 20,000 people –- 20,000 people. (Applause.) It was people of all ages and all races and all walks of life.
And I said that day, all these people, they hadn’t gathered just for me. You were there because you were hungry to see some fundamental change in America — (applause) — because you believed in an America where all of us — not just some of us, but all of us — no matter what we look like, no matter where we come from, all of us can reach for our dreams. All of us can make of our lives what we will; that we can determine our own destiny. And that’s what we’ve been fighting for over the past 18 months.
I said then that we’d end the Iraq war as swiftly and as responsibly as possible –- and that is a promise that we are keeping. This month we will end combat operations in Iraq. (Applause.)
I said we’d make health insurance more affordable and give you more control over your health care -– and that’s a promise we’re keeping. And by the way, young people are going to be able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26 because of the law that we passed. (Applause.)
I said we’d build an economy that can compete in the 21st century — because the economy that we had even before the recession, even before the financial crisis, wasn’t working for too many Americans. Too many Americans had seen their wages flat-line, their incomes flat-line. We were falling behind and unable to compete internationally. And I said we need an economy that puts Americans back to work, an economy that’s built around three simple words — Made in America. (Applause.) Because we are not playing for second place. We are the United States of America, and like the Texas Longhorns, you play for first — we play for first. (Applause.)
Now, when it comes to the economy, I said that in today’s world we’re being pushed as never before. From Beijing to Bangalore, from Seoul to San Paolo, new industries and innovations are flourishing. Our competition is growing fiercer. And while our ultimate success has and always will depend on the incredible industriousness of the American worker and the ingenuity of American businesses and the power of our free market system, we also know that as a nation, we’ve got to pull together and do some fundamental shifts in how we’ve been operating to make sure America remains number one.
So that’s why I’ve set some ambitious goals for this country. I’ve called for doubling our exports within the next five years, so that we’re not just buying from other countries, I want us to sell to other countries. (Applause.) We’ve talked about doubling our nation’s capacity to generate renewable energy by 2012, because I’m actually convinced that if we control the clean energy future, then our economic future will be bright — building solar panels and wind turbines and biodiesel and — (applause.)
And I want us to produce 8 million more college graduates by 2020, because — (applause) — because America has to have the highest share of graduates compared to every other nation.
But, Texas, I want you to know we have been slipping. In a single generation, we’ve fallen from first place to 12th place in college graduation rates for young adults. Think about that. In one generation we went from number one to number 12.
Now, that’s unacceptable, but it’s not irreversible. We can retake the lead. If we’re serious about making sure America’s workers — and America itself — succeeds in the 21st century, the single most important step we can take is make — is to make sure that every one of our young people — here in Austin, here in Texas, here in the United States of America — has the best education that the world has to offer. That’s the number one thing we can do. (Applause.)
Now, when I talk about education, people say, well, you know what, right now we’re going through this tough time. We’ve emerged from the worst recession since the Great Depression. So, Mr. President, you should only focus on jobs, on economic issues. And what I’ve tried to explain to people — I said this at the National Urban League the other week — education is an economic issue. Education is the economic issue of our time. (Applause.)
It’s an economic issue when the unemployment rate for folks who’ve never gone to college is almost double what it is for those who have gone to college. Education is an economic issue when nearly eight in 10 new jobs will require workforce training or a higher education by the end of this decade. Education is an economic issue when we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that countries that out-educate us today, they will out-compete us tomorrow.
The single most important thing we can do is to make sure we’ve got a world-class education system for everybody. That is a prerequisite for prosperity. It is an obligation that we have for the next generation. (Applause.)
And here is the interesting thing, Austin. The fact is we know what to do to offer our children the best education possible. We know what works. It’s just we’re not doing it. And so what I’ve said is, let’s get busy. Let’s get started. (Applause.) We can’t wait another generation. We can’t afford to let our young people waste their most formative years. That’s why we need to set up an early learning fund to challenge our states and make sure our young people, our children, are entering kindergarten ready for success. (Applause.) That’s something we’ve got to do. (Applause.)
We can’t accept anything but the best in America’s classrooms. And that’s why we’ve launched an initiative called Race to the Top, where we are challenging states to strengthen their commitment to excellence, and hire outstanding teachers and train wonderful principals, and create superior schools with higher standards and better assessments. And we’re already seeing powerful results across the country.
But we also know that in the coming decades, a high school diploma is not going to be enough. Folks need a college degree. They need workforce training. They need a higher education. And so today I want to talk about the higher education strategy that we’re pursuing not only to lead the world once more in college graduation rates, but to make sure our graduates are ready for a career; ready to meet the challenges of a 21st century economy.
Now, part one of our strategy is to make college more affordable. I suspect that that’s something you’re all interested in. (Applause.) I don’t have to tell you why this is so important. Many of you are living each day with worries about how you’re going to pay off your student loans. (Applause.) And we all know why. Even as family incomes have been essentially flat over the past 30 years, college costs have grown higher and higher and higher and higher. They have gone up faster than housing, gone up faster than transportation. They’ve even gone up faster than health care costs, and that’s saying something. (Laughter.)
So it’s no wonder that the amount student borrowers owe has risen almost 25 percent just over the last five years. Think about that. Just in the last five years, the debt of students has done up 25 percent.
And this isn’t some abstract policy for me. I understand this personally, because Michelle and I, we had big loans to pay off when we graduated. I remember what that felt like, especially early in your career where you don’t make much money and you’re sending all those checks to all those companies. And that’s why I’m absolutely committed to making sure that here in America, nobody is denied a college education, nobody is denied a chance to pursue their dreams, nobody is denied a chance to make the most of their lives just because they can’t afford it. (Applause.) We are a better country than that, and we need to act like we’re a better country than that. (Applause.)
Now, there are a couple of components to this. Part of the responsibility for controlling these costs falls on our colleges and universities. Some of them are stepping up. Public institutions like the University of Maryland, University of North Carolina, some private institutions like Cornell, they’re all finding ways to combat rising tuition without compromising on quality. And I know that your president is looking at some of these same approaches to make sure that the actual costs of college are going down. I want to challenge every university and college president to get a handle on spiraling costs.
So university administrators need to do more to make college more affordable. But we, as a nation, have to do more, as well. So that’s why we fought so hard to win a battle that had been going on in Washington for years, and it had to do with the federal student loan program.
See, under the old system, we’d pay banks and financial companies billions of dollars in subsidies to act as middlemen. See, these loans were guaranteed by the federal government. But we’d still pass them through banks, and they’d take out billions of dollars in profits. So it was a good deal for them, but it wasn’t a very good deal for you. And because these special interests were so powerful, this boondoggle survived year after year, Congress after Congress.
This year, we said, enough is enough. (Applause.) We said we could not afford to continue subsidizing special interests to the tunes of billions of dollars a year at the expense of taxpayers and of students. So we went to battle against the lobbyists and a minority party that was united in their support of this outrageous status quo. And, Texas, I am here to report that we won. (Applause.) We won. (Applause.)
So as a result, instead of handing over $60 billion in subsidies to big banks and financial institutions over the next decade, we’re redirecting that money to you, to make college more affordable for nearly 8 million students and families across this country. Eight million students will get more help from financial aid because of these changes. (Applause.)
We’re tripling how much we’re investing in the largest college tax credit for our middle-class families. And thanks to Austin’s own Lloyd Doggett — (applause) — that tax credit is now worth $2,500 a year for two years of college. And we want to make it permanent so it’s worth $10,000 over four years of college — $10,000. (Applause.)
And because the value of Pell grants has fallen as the cost of college keeps going up, the cap on how much Pell grants are worth, we have decided to offer more support for the future so the value of Pell grants don’t erode with inflation, they keep up with inflation. And we’re also making loan repayments more manageable for over 1 million more students in the coming years, so students at UT-Austin, and across this country, don’t graduate with massive loan payments each month. All right, that’s — we’re working on that right now. (Applause.)
Now, I should mention, by the way, we’re also making information more widely available about college costs and completion rates so you can make good decisions. You can comparison-shop. And we’re simplifying financial aid forms by eliminating dozens of unnecessary questions. You should not have to take — you should not have to have a PhD to apply for financial aid. (Applause.) You shouldn’t have to do it. (Applause.) I want a bunch of you to get PhDs, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want you to have to do it for your financial aid form. (Laughter.)
So if you’re married, for example, you don’t need to answer questions anymore about how much money your parents have made. If you’ve lived in the same place for at least five years, you don’t need to answer questions about your place of residency. Soon, you’ll no longer need to submit information you’ve already provided on your taxes. And that’s part of the reason why we’ve seen a 20 percent jump in financial aid applications, because we’re going to make it easier and make the system more accessible. (Applause.)
So college affordability is the first part of the strategy that we’re pursuing. The second part is making sure that the education being offered to our college students — especially, by the way, our students at community colleges — (applause) — that it’s preparing them to graduate ready for a career. See, institutions like the UT are essential to our future, but community colleges are, too. (Applause.) They are great, under-appreciated assets that we have to value and we have to support. (Applause.)
So that’s why we’re upgrading our community colleges, by tying the skills taught in our classrooms to the needs of local businesses in the growth sectors of our economy. And we’re giving companies an assurance that the workers they hire will be up to the job. We’re giving students the best chance to succeed. We’re also that way giving America the best chance to thrive and to prosper. And that’s why we’re also reinvesting in our HBCUs and Hispanic Serving Institutions — (applause) — like Huston-Tillotson and St. Edwards. (Applause.)
The third part of our strategy is making sure every student completes their course of studies. I want everybody to think about this. Over a third of America’s college students and over half of our minority students don’t earn a degree, even after six years. So we don’t just need to open the doors of college to more Americans; we need to make sure they stick with it through graduation. That is critical. (Applause.)
And that means looking for some of the best models out there. There are community colleges like Tennessee’s Cleveland State that are redesigning remedial math courses and boosting not only student achievement but also graduation rates. And we ought to make a significant investment to help other states pick up on some of these models.
So we’ve got to lift graduation rates. We’ve got to prepare our graduates to succeed in this economy. We’ve got to make college more affordable. That’s how we’ll put a higher education within reach for anybody who is willing to work for it. That’s how we’ll reach our goal of once again leading the world in college graduation rates by the end of this decade. That’s how we’ll lead the global economy in this century, just like we did in the last century. (Applause.)
When I look out at all the young people here today, I think about the fact that you are entering into the workforce at a difficult time in this country’s history. The economy took a body blow from this financial crisis and this great recession that we’re going through. But I want everybody here to remember, at each and every juncture throughout our history we’ve always recognized that essential truth that the way to move forward, in our own lives and as a nation, is to put education first.
It’s what led Thomas Jefferson to leave as his legacy not just the Declaration of Independence but a university in Virginia. (Applause.) It’s what led a nation that was being torn apart by civil war to set aside acreage, as a consequence of President Lincoln’s vision, for the land-grant institutions to prepare farmers and factory workers to seize the promise of an Industrial Age. It’s what led our parents and grandparents to put a generation of returning GIs through college, and open the doors of our schools and universities to people of all races, which broadened opportunity, and grew our middle class, and produced a half a century of prosperity. (Applause.)
And that recognition -– that here, in this great country of ours, education and opportunity, they always go hand in hand -– that’s what led the first president of the University of Texas to say, as he dedicated the cornerstone of the original Main Building: “Smite the rocks with the rod of knowledge, and fountains of unstinted wealth will gush forth.”
That’s the promise at the heart of UT-Austin. But that is also the promise at the heart of our colleges and of our universities, and it is the promise at the heart of our country –- the promise of a better life; the promise that our children will climb higher than we did. That promise is why so many of you are seeking a college degree in the first place. That’s why your families scrimped and saved to pay for your education.
And I know that as we make our way through this economic storm, some of you may be worried about what your college degree will be worth when you graduate, and how you’re going to fare in this economy, and what the future holds. But I want you to know, when I look out at you –- when I look into the faces of America’s young men and women –- I see America’s future, and it reaffirms my sense of hope. It reaffirms my sense of possibility. It reaffirms my belief that we will emerge from this storm and we will find brighter days ahead, because I am absolutely confident that if you keep pouring yourselves into your own education, and if we as a nation offer our children the best education possible, from cradle through career, not only will America — workers compete and succeed, America will compete and succeed. (Applause.)
And we will complete this improbable journey that so many of you took up over three years ago. And we’re going to build an America where each of us, no matter what we look like or where we come from, can reach for our dreams and make of our lives what we will. (Applause.)
Thank you, Austin. Thank you, Texas. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you. Good luck to the T.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT A DNC FINANCE EVENT
Four Seasons Hotel
12:55 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Hello, Austin! Thank you so much. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Please have a seat, have a seat, have a seat. Well, first of all, thank you, Linda, for that terrific introduction. I would have heard it again. (Laughter.) I would have been happy.
A few other great friends — your own, somebody from Texas, but who is doing a great job internationally on behalf of all the American people as my Trade Representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk is here. (Applause.) More importantly, Ambassador Ron Kirk’s mom is here. (Applause.)
A wonderful congressman who is battling day in, day out on behalf of the people of Texas and the folks in his district — Lloyd Doggett is here. (Applause.) I want to thank Mayor Lee Leffingwell for his hospitality. (Applause.) Texas Democratic Party chair Boyd Richie and his lovely wife Betty are here. (Applause.) And our DNC deputy national finance chair Kirk Rudy is here. (Applause.)
It’s good to be back in Texas. And it’s really good to be back in Austin. (Applause.) I just love Austin, Texas. I do. Every time I come here I like the people, I like the food, I like the music. I like that there are a bunch of Democrats here. (Laughter.) I like that, too. (Applause.) It is wonderful. And as I look out throughout this crowd, there’s so many of you who did so much on behalf of our campaign, on behalf of my election. You were with us when we were up; you were with us when we were down — and you will recall we had some down days. And I know that if it weren’t for you I might not be standing here as President of the United States. So, to all my good friends here in Texas, thank you very much for everything that you’ve done. (Applause.)
Of course, whenever I talk to my supporters I am reminded of a story Abraham Lincoln liked to tell: A man comes to the White House demanding to see the President — and this is at a time when things were a little more relaxed in terms of security — so he insists that he was a big supporter of President Lincoln. Finally he gets through reception, gets an audience with the President, and says, “If it weren’t for me you would not be President of the United States.” And President Lincoln says, “I forgive you.” (Laughter.)
It is an extraordinary honor, obviously, to be your President. But I will also say that the last few years have been incredibly challenging for so many people throughout America. You know that here. It’s certainly true all across the country.
Eighteen months ago, when I took office, after nearly a decade of economic policies that has given us little more than sluggish job growth, sluggish economic growth, falling incomes, falling wages, a record deficit, all which culminated in the worst recession that we had experienced since the Great Depression — that’s what we were walking into.
The month I was sworn in, we lost 750,000 jobs — just in that one month. We had lost 3 million jobs in the previous six months. The next month we lost 600,000. So we were facing what many economists thought might be a return not just to a recession but a Great Depression.
Now, we didn’t get to that point by accident. We got there after nearly 10 years of an economic theory in Washington that was pretty straightforward: You cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans, you cut back rules and enforcement when it comes to special interests, and then you cut the middle class loose to fend for themselves.
So if you’re a young person who couldn’t afford to go to college, tough luck, you’re on your own. If you’re a child here in Texas that doesn’t have health insurance, them’s the breaks, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. If you’re a worker who had been laid off, maybe short of retirement, and couldn’t find anything that would allow you to pay the bills or pay the mortgage, that’s too bad, you’re on your own. Now, on the other hand, if you’re a Wall Street bank or an insurance company or an oil company, then you got to write your own ticket.
We know how this approach turned out. So when I took office, we put in place a new economic plan — a plan that rewards hard work instead of greed; a plan that rewards responsibility instead of reckless; a plan that focused on our middle class, making them more secure, and making sure that our country was competitive over the long run so the jobs and industries of the future weren’t going to China or India or Germany, but were going to the United States of America, right here.
And instead of spending money on special interest tax loopholes that don’t create American jobs, we said we’re going to make smart investments in education and innovation and clean energy that will benefit all people and our entire economy. Instead of giving special interests free rein to write their own regulations, we demanded new accountability from Washington to Wall Street so that big corporations had to play by the same rules as small companies and by individuals. That’s only fair.
Now, it took us nearly a decade to dig ourselves into a very deep hole. And so I’m here to tell you that it’s going to take us some more time to dig our way out of that hole. The devastation that has touched so many of our families, so many of our communities, that is going to take some time to heal. And I hear those stories firsthand wherever I travel. I hear about them in the letters that I receive every night that I read from people who are doing their best to keep on striving towards that American Dream, but keep on hitting a bunch of road blocks and are looking for help. So the road to recovery is long and it’s filled with challenges. And I’m under no illusion that we’ve gotten there yet. We’ve got a lot more work to do.
But here is the thing I want everybody here to understand, because you were part of that journey that we started three years ago. After 19 months in office, we are on the right track. (Applause.) An economy that was shrinking by up to 6 percent when I took office is now growing — not as fast as we want, but it is growing.
We were losing all those jobs every month. We’re now adding private sector jobs — seven consecutive months now that we’ve seen private sector job growth. It’s being offset some because state and local budgets are getting hammered so hard that they’re laying off folks even as the private sector is starting to pick up. But we’re moving in the right direction.
And so the last thing we can afford to do at this critical juncture in our history is to go back to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place. And that is what this November election is going to be all about. Are we going to move forward, or are we going to move backwards? Policies that crashed the economy, that undercut the middle class, that mortgaged our future — do we really want to go back to that? Or do we keep moving this country forward?
Now, when we talk about this going back thing, I notice some Republicans say, well, he just wants to bash the previous administration. He’s looking backwards. He’s trying to take the focus off the tough economic situation that a lot of people are feeling. No, no, no.
The reason we’re focused on it is because the other side isn’t offering anything new. I mean it would be one thing if having run the economy into the ground, having taken record surpluses and turned them into record deficits, if having presided over the meltdown of our financial system, that they had gone off into the desert for a while and reflected — (laughter) — and said, boy, we really screwed up. What we were selling didn’t work. It badly damaged the American economy, and now we’re going to come back with a whole new set of ideas.
But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, they are trotting out the exact same ideas that got us into this mess in the first place. Their big economic plan is to renew the tax cuts that helped to turn surpluses into deficits — tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. And once you get past that, they don’t have another new idea. That’s it.
In fact, when the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives was asked, what’s your big jobs plan, he said, well, we should repeal health care. (Laughter.) That was it. I don’t know how that would create jobs other than maybe for folks who want to deny you coverage for health care. But it sure isn’t a new plan.
And so we’ve got a choice between a forward-looking agenda that is rebuilding the structure of this economy so it’s working for all Americans, or just going back to the same stuff that got us into this mess.
In fact, I’ve been traveling around the country trying to use an analogy here, and it’s as if these guys took the car, drove it into the ditch, then — so we put our boots on, we walked down into the ditch, into the mud. We pushed; we shoved. Meanwhile, they’re standing back, they’re watching us — (laughter) — drinking a Slurpee or something — (laughter) — and saying, well, you’re not pushing fast enough and you should push this way instead of that way. And they had a lot of commentary, but they sure weren’t putting their shoulder behind pushing.
And finally we get this car up on level ground. Finally we get it back on the road. And these guys turn to us and say, “Give us the keys back.” (Laughter.) Well, no, you can’t have the keys back because you don’t know how to drive. (Laughter.) You do not know how to drive and so you can’t have the keys back. (Applause.)
Now, here’s another interesting thing — I want you guys to think about this. If you have a car and you want to go forward, what do you do? You put it in “D.” (Laughter.) When you want to go backwards, what do you do? You put it in “R.” (Applause.) I’m just saying. That’s no coincidence. (Laughter.) We are not going to give them the keys back.
What they’re really counting on is amnesia. That’s their basic theory in this election. They know they messed up, and they know that we pulled the country out of the problems that we were in. But they figure, well, you know what, he’s been in office long enough, and this was a deep enough, tough enough recession, and things aren’t where people know they should be, and so maybe they’ll forget that actually this was the result of our economic policies, so we’ll just offer the same policies.
But I think the American people are smarter than that. I think they understand that if we want the kind of America for our children and our grandchildren that we truly hope for, then we’ve got to move in a new direction — not only to solve some of these short-term economic problems but to lay a foundation for long-term economic growth.
And what does that mean? That means that instead of giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas, we’ve got to give tax breaks to companies that are creating jobs right here in the United States of America. We have started to do that. (Applause.) We’ve given eight tax cuts to small businesses so far, and we are not done.
But you know what? The other side has resisted every attempt. We’ve got a bill right now that was pending in the Senate to provide assistance to small businesses. Now, this should be as American as apple pie. Small businesses create two out of every three jobs in America. So we put together a package, paid for — doesn’t add to the deficit — that would help small businesses get loans, would eliminate the capital gains rate for small business start-ups. The Chamber of Commerce endorses it. Now, let me tell you — (laughter) — the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t always go out of its way to say nice things about me.
And yet we still can’t get it moving through the Senate, because these folks — their basic theory is, we don’t want to do anything that helps the President move the country forward, because they’re thinking about the next election instead of the next generation.
We’ve got a different approach. We’ve started to jumpstart a homegrown clean energy economy. All across the country you’re seeing wind turbines and solar panels and biodiesel that is being built right here in the United States of America. We have single-handedly started a advanced battery manufacturing industry right here. We used to have 2 percent of the batteries that go into electric cars. We’re going to have 40 percent of that industry right here in the United States of America by 2015, thanks to some of the work that we’ve already done.
Now, the other side, they don’t want to do that. They’ve been saying no to a clean energy future. We’ve said we needed 21st-century infrastructure that could put people back to work, particularly all those folks who’ve been laid off of the construction industry now that the housing bubble has burst — put them to work not just rebuilding roads and bridges, dams and sewer lines, all the traditional infrastructure, but building a smart grid that can carry energy efficiently all across America. Or creating broadband lines into rural areas so that they can compete in the global economy.
Or the others say — what did the other side say? They said no — because they’re thinking about the next election instead of the next generation. No to small business tax cuts. No to clean energy jobs. No to infrastructure projects. I have to say, though, they do show up at the ribbon-cuttings for the infrastructure projects. (Laughter.) Lloyd knows this. They will fulminate and say it’s going to be Armageddon if we pass all this stuff, but then they’re cheesin’ and grinnin’ right there — (laughter) — got the shovel all ready — (laughter) — sending out the press releases.
But the point is that there’s been a fundamental lack of seriousness on the other side. We have spent the last 20 months governing. They spent the last 20 months politicking. Now we’ve got three months to go, and so we’ve decided, well, we can politick for three months. They’ve forgotten I know how to politick pretty good. (Laughter and applause.) And so I’m happy to make this argument — (applause) — I am happy to have this debate over the next several months about what their vision of the future is, because they don’t have one. They are trying to move us backwards, and we need to move us forward.
So I just want everybody here to understand. Here in Texas, there’s been some controversy around the issues of health care. No state stands to benefit more from our health care reform than the state of Texas, which has so many people who are insured in this state. (Applause.)
The health insurance reform we passed, it’s not just preventing insurers from denying you coverage. It’s cutting taxes for small business owners that cover their employees, by up to 35 percent of the premiums they’re paying for their employees. It’s saying to young people, you can stay on your parent’s health insurance until you’re 26 so that there’s not that gap in coverage just as they’re starting their careers. It’s providing assistance to seniors, so that they can help to deal with that doughnut hole that was created by the prescription drug plan. And slowly, this plan is going to eliminate it.
And then there was just news last week that showed that because of our health reform plan, the life of Medicare is going to be extended for an additional 12 years. It has made Social Security — it has made Medicare stronger for the next generation, as well as this generation.
And in the meantime, it has enshrined a basic principle, which is, in a country as wealthy as ours, nobody should go bankrupt just because they get sick, and no child should go without basic preventive care. Those are basic principles that we should all be able to agree on — unless you’re thinking about the next election instead of the next generation.
The other party has pledged to repeal Wall Street reform. Now, this gives you some indication of what this election should be about. Here we have a situation in which the recklessness of a few on Wall Street — and I don’t want to paint with a broad brush here. There are some people on Wall Street and in banks across America that do right by their customers. But a handful of folks took exorbitant bets with huge leverage and other people’s money and almost brought this entire economy to a halt. Businesses, large and small, couldn’t get credit. Everybody was panicked. The stock market plunged. People lost trillions of dollars worth of wealth. And we are going to be digging ourselves out from that destructive force for years to come.
Now, you would think in the aftermath of that, that anybody sensible would say, you know what, we need to have some stronger rules of the road in place, not to stifle innovation, not to strangle the free market, but rather to make sure that everybody is playing by some basic rules; that financial institutions are making their money by providing good products and good services to their customers, instead of trying to game the system.
And yet, if you ask the Republican leaders in Washington, they all want to repeal the reforms that we just passed. Makes no sense — unless you’re thinking about the next election, or you’re thinking about the special interests that you’ve been working with hand in glove for the last 20 months or the last decade. It doesn’t make sense — unless you’re only thinking about the next election.
We’re in a college town here. One of the things we did was we said we’ve got to make college more affordable to all Americans. And yet a system where the government was guaranteeing loans but they were sending them through financial institutions who were skimming billions of dollars in profits — and so we said, you know what, let’s just cut out the middleman, give that money directly to young people. We’re now providing more than a million young people loans that they weren’t getting before because of this single measure that we took. (Applause.) But we got no help from the other side. We got no help from the other side.
For years, the other side did nothing about the fact that too many women aren’t paid the same as men for doing the exact same work. We decided to pass a law that says we mean what we say, equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) We didn’t get help on that.
They want to talk about tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. We provided 95 percent of working families here in America a tax cut. We believe in trying to keep taxes low for folks who really need help, especially at a time when their incomes and their wages are flat-lining. But for you to talk about being a deficit hawk, that you want responsible
deficit hawk, that want responsible governance, and then you’re willing to argue for $700 billion worth of tax cuts for people who don’t need them and weren’t even asking for them? That tells me you’re thinking about the next election instead of the next generation.
And then most recently we’ve got the crisis in the Gulf. Now, thankfully, because of incredibly hard work by people from all across government, we are now finally able to say that the well is contained and we could get a permanent kill of that well over the next couple of weeks. But the kind of damage that’s been done, obviously, to the Gulf has been tremendous. And small business owners and fishermen who’ve been impacted, when you talk to them directly, and they start tearing up because these are businesses and a way of life that has been in their families for generations they feel like may be lost — that prompted me to say to BP, we want you to be responsible, do the right thing, and put in place $20 billion to make sure that these folks get paid, because they were not at fault in this crisis.
And what does the ranking member, who would be the chairman of the Energy Committee if the Republicans took over the House next year, what did he have to say? He apologized to BP; said, I’m sorry. I’m sorry the President shook you down. I think he may have added in there, Chicago shakedown. (Laughter.) I’m not sure. Maybe it was somebody else. Apologized to BP because we decided we needed to hold a company accountable for the environmental devastation and the economic devastation that had been caused in the Gulf.
I don’t even think he was thinking about the next election. (Laughter.) I don’t know what he was thinking about. But it’s consistent with a governing philosophy that says there shouldn’t be any rules on the most powerful forces. They should be able to operate unconstrained.
Right now all around this country there are groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, who are running millions of dollars of ads against Democratic candidates all across the country. And they don’t have to say who exactly the Americans for Prosperity are. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation. You don’t know if it’s a big oil company, or a big bank. You don’t know if it’s a insurance company that wants to see some of the provisions in health reform repealed because it’s good for their bottom line, even if it’s not good for the American people.
A Supreme Court decision allowed this to happen. And we tried to fix it, just by saying disclose what’s going on, and making sure that foreign companies can’t influence our elections. Seemed pretty straightforward. The other side said no.
They don’t want you to know who the Americans for Prosperity are, because they’re thinking about the next election. But we’ve got to think about future generations. We’ve got to make sure that we’re fighting for reform. We’ve got to make sure that we don’t have a corporate takeover of our democracy.
So, Austin, the bottom line is this: We’ve traveled a long way over the last 19 months, in large part thanks to folks like you. We have had historic challenges and we’ve had historic responses. But right now the choice is between whether we go back to those policies that got us into this mess, or we continue with the policies that are getting us out of this mess.
And I’m confident that the American people — when they’re focused, as tough as these times are, they’re going to say, you know what, we can’t go back to policies that were eroding our middle class, and leaving jobs to move overseas, and leaving our incomes and wages stagnant and vulnerable to forces that we don’t have any control over. I’m confident that the American people want something different.
Yes, it’s hard. Washington, a lot of times during the course of these last 19 months, the pundits have written or they’ve talked to our press people and they say, what’s the President doing? Doesn’t he know some of these steps that he’s taking don’t poll well? Yes, I do. I have pollsters, too. (Laughter.) They tell me before any decision, boy, this is really unpopular. (Laughter.) Our decision on the autos was really unpopular, and we now have an auto industry that has posted profits in all three auto companies for the first time in a long time. And we’re going to pretty soon get all our taxpayer dollars back that my administration put in, because of the steps that we took. (Applause.) And we’ve hired 50,000 new autoworkers and saved about a million jobs. But at the time, it was really unpopular. It polled really well. But you did not elect me to just try to do what was politically expedient at the moment.
You supported me to do what was right, and that’s what we’ve been doing. You did not elect me to think about how I could get reelected; you hired me to make sure that I was thinking about how your children and your grandchildren are going to have an America that is strong and vibrant and competitive all around the world. (Applause.) That’s why you put us in charge. (Applause.)
So, Austin, I am here to tell you we are going to keep on moving this country forward, but we are going to need your help. We are going to need your help because this is a tough environment. People are frustrated. People have been traumatized by what’s taken place over the last couple of years. And members of Congress, who’ve been taking tough votes, courageous votes, folks like Lloyd have time and again stood up against the prevailing political winds in order to do what’s right. They are going to need your help. (Applause.)
So I need you to make phone calls. I need you to write — I need you to talk to your friends. I need you to talk to your neighbors. I need you to help them raise money. I need you to get information out. I need you to have the same kind of passion and the same kind of hope that helped elect me a couple of years ago.
And it’s places like this and supporters like you that ultimately are going to make all the difference. If you are standing with us, I’m absolutely confident we’re going to do well in November. But understand this: More importantly, I’m absolutely confident that America is going to be back not just to as strong as we were before this crisis, but stronger than we’ve been before.
Thank you so much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON THE SENATE CONFIRMATION VOTE
3:56 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I am very pleased that the Senate has just voted to confirm Elena Kagan as our nation’s 112th Supreme Court Justice. And I want to thank the Senate Judiciary Committee, particularly its Chairman, Senator Leahy, for giving her a full, fair and timely hearing.
Over the past two months, the committee has scrutinized Elena’s record as a scholar, as a law school dean, as a presidential advisor, and as Solicitor General. And after 17 hours of testimony during which she answered more than 540 questions, I’d say they got a pretty good look at Elena Kagan. They’ve gotten a good sense of her formidable intelligence, her rich understanding of our Constitution, her commitment to the rule of law, and her excellent — and occasionally irreverent — sense of humor. And they have come to understand why, throughout her career, she has earned the respect and admiration of folks from across the political spectrum — an achievement reflected in today’s bipartisan vote.
But today’s vote wasn’t just an affirmation of Elena’s intellect and accomplishments. It was also an affirmation of her character and her temperament; her open-mindedness and even-handedness; her determination to hear all sides of every story and consider all possible arguments. Because Elena understands that the law isn’t just an abstraction or an intellectual exercise. She knows that the Supreme Court’s decisions shape not just the character of our democracy, but the circumstances of our daily lives — or, as she once put it, that “behind the law there are stories — stories of people’s lives as shaped by the law, stories of people’s lives as might be changed by law.”
So I am confident that Elena Kagan will make an outstanding Supreme Court Justice. And I am proud, also, of the history we’re making with her appointment. For nearly two centuries, there wasn’t a single woman on our nation’s highest court. When Elena takes her seat on that bench, for the first time in our history, there will be three women.
It is, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently stated, “one of the most exhilarating developments” — a sign of progress that I relish not just as a father who wants limitless possibilities for my two daughters, but as an American proud that our Supreme Court will be more inclusive, more representative, and more reflective of us as a people than ever before.
Thanks very much, everybody.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE AFL-CIO EXECUTIVE COUNCIL
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
11:15 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Please have a seat. Thank you.
It is good to spend my birthday with some good friends. (Laughter.) And as I look around the room, there are very few of you who I haven’t, in some form or fashion, worked directly with on an issue — some of you dating back to when I was in the state legislature, some of you who I’ve worked with in the United States Senate, and all of you who I’ve had the opportunity to work with as President of the United States.
So I am grateful. And I want to first of all thank Rich, not only for inviting me here, not only for I know making clear my commitment to all of you during an earlier session today, but also for your outstanding leadership of the labor movement. And we very much appreciate everything that you do. (Applause.)
I want to thank Liz and Arlene for bucking up Rich all the time — (laughter) — and making him look good. This is a shared leadership, and we are very proud of them. I want to thank all the members of the Executive Council, all my brothers and sisters in the AFL-CIO.
Together, you are fighting for the hardworking men and women in this country after nearly 10 years of struggle. The middle class has been struggling now for about a decade — 10 years in which folks felt the sting of stagnant incomes and sluggish job growth and declining economic security, as well as at least eight years in which there was a profound animosity towards the notion of unions.
It’s going to take some time to reverse all that’s been done, but we’re on the right track. We’re moving forward. And that’s what I’m going to want to talk to you about briefly today.
I hope you don’t mind me interjecting, though, a topic, because it’s in the news right now and I want to make sure that all of you are aware of it.
One place in our country where people have faced particular struggles in the last few months is in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the BP oil spill. So it was very welcome news when we learned overnight that efforts to stop the well through what’s called a “static kill” appear to be working — and that a report out today by our scientists show that the vast majority of the spilled oil has been dispersed or removed from the water. So the long battle to stop the leak and contain the oil is finally close to coming to an end. And we are very pleased with that. (Applause.)
Our recovery efforts, though, will continue. We have to reverse the damage that’s been done, we will continue to work to hold polluters accountable for the destruction they’ve caused, we’ve got to make sure that folks who were harmed are reimbursed, and we’re going to stand by the people of the region however long it takes until they’re back on their feet.
Now, beyond the Gulf, many of those who’ve been hit hardest by the economic upheaval of recent years have been the people that you represent. For generations, manufacturing was the ticket to a better life for the American worker.
But as the world became smaller, outsourcing, an easier way to increase profits, a lot of those jobs shifted to low-wage nations. So, many who held those jobs went to work in the construction industry, as we had the housing boom. But when the subprime mortgage crisis hit, when those mortgages were called up on Wall Street, that bubble burst, leaving devastation everywhere.
So now we’ve got millions of our fellow Americans swept up in that disaster — hardworking people who’ve been left to sit idle for months and even years as their lives have been turned upside down.
And there’s one last element to it, obviously. Having been plunged into a recession, it also means that teachers and firefighters and people who are providing public services each and every day are threatened because tax revenues at the state level and at the local levels have crashed. And so you have a perfect economic storm that’s hit our middle class directly in every region, every segment of this country.
You know the stories — I don’t need to tell you. You know what happens when a plant closes and hundreds of your members are suddenly without work and an entire community is devastated. You know how hard it is for somebody who’s worked his whole life to be unable to find a job. And that pain goes beyond just the financial pain. It goes to who they are as a person. It hits them in their gut.
Having a conversation with your spouse and saying, you know, maybe we can’t afford this house anymore; maybe we’re going to have to give up on being able to save for our kids’ college education — that goes directly to people’s identities, to their cores. And this is something that all of you know all too well.
But I’m here to tell you, we are not giving up and we are not giving in. We are going to keep fighting for an economy that works for everybody, not just for a privileged few. (Applause.) We want an economy that rewards, once again, people who work hard and fulfill their responsibilities, not just people who game the system. And that’s been at the heart of the economic plan that we put in place over the past year and a half.
And I want to thank the AFL-CIO for all you’ve done to fight for jobs, to fight for tax cuts for the middle class, to fight for reforms that will rein in the special interests, and to fight for policies that aren’t just going to rebuild this economy but are actually going to put us on a long-term path of sustainable growth that is good for all Americans.
Because of you, we’ve been able to get a lot done over the last 20 months. Together, we’re jumpstarting a new American clean energy industry — an industry with the potential to generate perhaps millions of jobs building wind turbines and solar panels, and manufacturing the batteries for the cars of the future, building nuclear plants, developing clean coal technology. There are other countries that are fighting for those jobs, in China and India and in Germany and other parts of Europe. But the United States doesn’t play for second place. As long as I’m President, I’m going to keep fighting night and day to make sure that we win those jobs, that those are jobs that are created right here in the United States of America and that your members are put to work. (Applause.)
So the message I want to deliver to our competitors — and to those in Washington who’ve tried to block our progress at every step of the way — is that we are going to rebuild this economy stronger than before, and at the heart of it are going to be three powerful words: Made in America. Made in America. (Applause.)
That’s why we’re finally enforcing our trade laws — in some cases for the very first time. That’s why we’re fighting for tax breaks for companies that invest here in the United States as opposed to companies that are investing overseas or that keep their profits offshore. Because it is my belief — and I know it’s the belief of this room — that there are no better workers than U.S. workers. There are no better workers than your members. (Applause.) And they are absolutely committed to making sure that America is on the rise again. And we are going to keep moving forward with them — not moving backwards but moving forward with them.
As we rebuild our economy, we’re going to rebuild America as well. Over the last 20 months, bulldozers and backhoes have been whirring in communities across the country, as construction crews from local companies repair roads and bridges, railways and ports. That was part of our plan, and it’s put hundreds of thousands of folks to work. But there’s a lot more to do to rebuild our infrastructure for the 21st century, and a lot more Americans who are ready and willing to do that work. So that, too, is an area where we’ve got to keep moving forward.
We’re going to have to cut taxes for middle-class families, and after a tough fight, we finally extended emergency unemployment assistance for folks who had lost their jobs. (Applause.) We passed the Fair Pay Act to help put a stop to pay discrimination. We’ve reversed the executive orders of the last administration that were designed to undermine organized labor. I’ve appointed folks who actually are fulfilling their responsibilities to make sure our workplaces are safe, whether in a mine or in an office, a factory or anyplace else. And we are going to keep on fighting to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. (Applause.)
With your help, we passed health reform, enshrining the idea that everybody in America should be able to get decent health care and shouldn’t go bankrupt when they get sick — health reform that is preventing insurers from denying and dropping people’s coverage; that’s lowering the price of prescription drugs for our seniors. It’s going to make health care more affordable for everybody, including businesses, which means they can hire more workers.
Together, we passed Wall Street reform, to protect consumers in our financial system and put an end to taxpayer bailouts and stop the abuses that almost dragged our economy into another Great Depression.
Now, the steps we’re taking are making a difference, but the fact is — and Rich mentioned this — it took us nearly a decade to dig ourselves into the hole that we’re in. It’s going to take a lot longer than any of us would like to climb out of that hole. And I’d be lying to you if I thought that all these changes are going to be happening overnight. We’ve still got some tough times ahead. And your members obviously are bearing the brunt of a lot of those tough times.
But here’s what we’re not going to do. We’re not going to go back to digging the hole. We’re not going to go back to the policies that took Bill Clinton’s surplus and in eight years turned it into record deficits. (Applause.) We’re not going back to policies that saw people working harder and harder but falling further and further behind. We’re not going back to policies that gave corporate special interests free rein to
write their own rules, and produced the greatest economic crisis in generations. We are not going back to those ideas.
Because as hard as it is out there right now for a lot of folks, as far as we’ve got to go, what’s clear is that our nation is headed in the right direction. Our economy is growing again instead of shrinking. We’re adding jobs in the private sector instead of losing them. America is moving forward.
And we’re moving forward largely without any help from the opposition party — a party that has voted no on just about every turn. No on making college more affordable. No on clean energy jobs. No on broadband. No on high-speed rail. No on water and highway projects. That doesn’t stop them from showing up at the ribbon cuttings. (Applause.) It doesn’t stop them from sending out press releases. They’ve even said no to tax cuts for small businesses and 95 percent of working families. They just said no to a small business tax cut again just last week.
As we speak, they’ve been trying to block an emergency measure to save the jobs of police officers and firefighters and teachers and other critical public servants across the country who may be laid off because of state and local budget cuts.
And as if that was not enough, now they’re talking about repealing this and repealing that. I guess they want to go back to hidden credit card fees and mortgage penalties buried in the fine print. They want to go back to a system that allowed for taxpayer bailouts. They want to go back to allowing insurance companies to discriminate against people based on preexisting conditions. They would repeal the tax cuts for small businesses that provide health care for their employees. They want to go backwards; we want to move America forward.
And that’s what the choice is going to be in this upcoming election, and all your members need to understand it. I know if you’re talking to a lot of your locals, I’m sure they’re feeling like, boy, change is not happening fast enough; we are still hurting out here. They’re frustrated. They’ve got every right to be frustrated. And I am happy, as President of the United States, to take responsibility for making decisions now that are going to put us in a strong position down the road. And they need to know that, that we’re going to be working with you to make sure that we’re putting ourselves in a position where folks are working and working for a good wage and good benefits.
But you have to remind them for the next three months, this election is a choice. You’ve got these folks who drove America’s economy into a ditch, and for the last 20 months, we put on our boots and we got into the mud and we’ve been shoving that car out of the ditch inch by inch, and they’ve been standing on the side the whole time watching, telling us, no, you’re not pushing hard enough, you’re not doing it the right way — not lifting a finger to help. And now we’ve finally got that car up on the blacktop there, about to drive, and they say they want the keys back. (Laughter.) Well, you can’t have the keys, because you don’t know how to drive. (Laughter.) You don’t know how to drive. (Laughter.) You’re not going to get the keys back. (Applause.) You’re not going to get them back.
Somebody pointed out to me that when you’re in a car and you want to go forward, you put it in “D.” (Laughter.) You want to go back in the ditch, you put it on “R.” (Laughter.) So I just want everybody to think about that. (Applause.)
All right, let me close by saying this. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit — not a few weeks ago, just a few days ago — I had the opportunity to visit a Chrysler plant in Detroit. This is a place obviously that’s been harder hit than just about anywhere, not just during this financial crisis but for a couple of decades now. The auto industry alone lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in the year before I took office. So we had to make a very difficult decision when I became President about whether to walk away from American automakers or help them get back on their feet.
And I decided we couldn’t walk away from what could be a million middle-class jobs. So we told the automakers that we would give them temporary assistance if they restructured to make themselves competitive for the 21st century. And most of the “Just Say No” crowd in Washington didn’t agree with this decision. And let’s face it, it was not popular in the polls. A lot of people weren’t happy with that decision. But today, all three U.S. automakers are operating at a profit for the first time in more than five years. They’ve had the strongest job growth in more than 10 years — 55,000 workers have been hired. Instead of a planned shutdown, the plant that I was at is staying open this summer just to meet increased demand. They’ve even added another shift.
Now, just a few weeks before I visited that auto plant, 14 of its employees won the lottery. This is a true story. Now you’d think they would have decided to retire, cash out, walk away. But most of them didn’t. They’re staying on their jobs. And the guy who bought the ticket — was a guy named William Shanteau — took the money and he bought his wife one of the Jeep Cherokees that they make at the plant. (Applause.) And then he bought a bunch of American flags for his hometown, because he loves his country, just like he loves the company that he works for and the workers that he works with and the union that represents him.
And he’s going to keep on showing up every day because he loves that plant, he loves his coworkers, and he loves the idea of making something right here in the United States that’s worth something. He loves the idea of being productive and creating something of value for people.
That’s the true character of our people. That’s been the essence of the AFL-CIO. That’s why even in these difficult times, I remain confident about our future, because of people like that, because of the workers that I meet all across this country, members of your unions who get up every morning and put in a hard day’s work to build a company, build a future, support their families.
As Americans, they don’t give up. They don’t quit. I don’t give up. I don’t quit. The AFL-CIO does not give up. It does not quit. If we stand together, then I am absolutely confident that we are going to rebuild America, not just to where it was before this financial crisis, but stronger than it has ever been. That is a commitment that I am making to you. Thank you for the commitment that you’ve made to me. God bless you. Thank you guys. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. TRUMKA: Mr. President, on behalf of our full Executive Council, first of all, let me thank you for sharing your special day with us, and let us wish you again a happy birthday.
Two, let us thank you for all that you’ve done for every working American out there. I know you’re pressed for time.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m a little disappointed there wasn’t a cake, though. (Laughter.) I’m going to have to talk to Secret Service.
MR. TRUMKA: You got to talk to those guys, because they nixed the cake.
THE PRESIDENT: They’re probably eating it right now. (Laughter.)
MR. TRUMKA: They are. They got it all over them.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s some good cake.
MR. TRUMKA: He has a little bit on him –
THE PRESIDENT: Had some frosting on his — I noticed that, all right. (Laughter.)
MR. TRUMKA: We know you only have time for one question. Mr. President, when I was working coalminer, I understood from personal experience how my parents and my grandparents formed a union and changed coalmining from a life-threatening journey through poverty into reasonably safe and well-paid jobs. Now, so many Americans now work in bad jobs — jobs with no benefits, jobs with — that don’t pay a living wage, jobs that aren’t safe, jobs where they have no voice.
Now, we’re going into a congressional election three months from today, and I think it’s fair to say that workers’ hopes for congressional action to protect workers’ rights and to create jobs have been frustrated by a Republican minority that has filibustered every matter in front of them, every single thing that’s been good for us.
I just want to ask you, what advice do you have for workers as the election approaches, particularly for workers who are trying to organize to have a voice on the job?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you guys don’t need advice from me, but let me tell you what I see out there. We were hurt by this recession, badly hurt. This is going to take some time to recover. Unemployment is at unacceptably high levels.
But as I said before, we’d had challenges before the crisis hit. A lot of your membership had been hurting long before, partly because we just live in a more competitive world. There’s nothing we can do about that, that’s just the truth. But a lot of it also had to do with the fact that we put policies in place that were not good for working families. There’s a reason why incomes, wages, were stagnant for average workers, even while the costs were going up. And part of it had to do with the fact that we had a philosophy that said that providing help to workers, allowing them to collectively bargain, allowing them to negotiate for better benefits, that that all was something of the past instead of something we need for the future.
So on the one hand, I think everybody here understands we’ve got to be competitive in America. We’ve got to have competitive price structures. We’ve got to make the best products possible. Workers have to be invested in trying to help the companies they work for succeed. With respect to public employees, we’ve all got to work together to make sure that whatever we’re doing, whether it’s as firefighters or as teachers or postal workers, whatever it is, that we’re providing the best possible service. I think everybody understands that there’s no operation in the United States of America that shouldn’t be efficient and effective in doing what it does.
But it is my profound belief that companies are stronger when their workers are getting paid well and have decent benefits and are treated with dignity and respect. (Applause.) It is my profound belief that our government works best when it’s not being run on behalf of special interests, but it’s being run on behalf of the public interest, and that the dedication of public servants reflects that.
So FDR I think said — he was asked once what he thought about unions. He said, “If I was a worker in a factory and I wanted to improve my life, I would join a union.” (Applause.) Well, I tell you what. I think that’s true for workers generally. I think if I was a coalminer, I’d want a union representing me to make sure that I was safe and you did not have some of the tragedies that we’ve been seeing in the coal industry. If I was a teacher, I’d want a union to make sure that the teachers’ perspective was represented as we think about shaping an education system for our future.
And that’s why my administration has consistently implemented not just legislative strategies but also, where we have the power through executive orders, to make sure that those basic values are reflected.
I’m not telling anybody anything you don’t know. Getting EFCA through Senate is going to be tough. It’s always been tough; it will continue to be tough. We’ll keep on pushing. But our work doesn’t stop there. I mean, there’s a reason why we nominated people to the National Mediation Board that would ensure that folks in the rail industry and in the air industry were going to end up having a better deal. (Applause.)
We are going to make sure that the National Labor Relations Board is restored to have some balance so that if workers want to form a union, they can at least get a fair vote in a reasonable amount of time. And we don’t want, by the way, government dollars going in to pay for union busting. That’s not something that we believe in. That’s not right. That tilts the playing field in an unfair way. (Applause.)
So you’re going to have an administration that’s working alongside you. There are going to be times where we want to get something done and we can’t get it done, at least not immediately, and we’re going to just keep on at it. I think people have started to figure out I’m a persistent son of a gun. (Laughter.) I just stay on things if I think they’re the right thing to do. And we should be looking for opportunities, by the way, to make sure that the labor movement is, wherever possible, finding common ground with the business community, because I want America as a whole to be competitive.
One of the problems that we’ve had over the last decade is that so often the business community sees labor as the problem, and their basic attitude is, well, you know what, we’ll just go to wherever we don’t have any problems with labor and we can pay them the lowest wages and the fewest benefits, and then just ship the stuff back here, and our profits will be good. But over time, that hollows out America and hollows out our middle class. That makes us weaker, not stronger.
Now, on the other hand, when business and labor are working together, then we can compete against anybody, and we can knock down trade barriers in other countries, and we can start selling products around the world. And we make great products in this country. We’ve got the best workers in the world, the best universities in the world. Got the most dynamic economy in the world. We have the freest market system in the world. And all those things give us a huge competitive advantage if we’re all working together.
So my bottom line is this: I’m going to continue to work with all of you on behalf of working families around the country, and I’m going to continue to reach out to businesses to try to make the argument that what’s good for workers is going to be good for business. They’re your customers as well as your workers. And if they’ve got a decent living standard, that’s lifting the entire economy up. And they’re going to be buying more products and they’re going to be buying more services. And all of us are going to be growing together. And the 21st century is going to end up being the American century just like the 20th century was.
But we’re not going to be able to do it when we’re pitted against each other. And I’m actually confident that once we get through some of the political posturing and shenanigans that we’ve been seeing over the last several years, people are going to step back and say, you know what, the lesson we needed to learn out of hardship is, we’re all in this thing together. We are all in this thing together.
That’s what the union movement’s always been about. We’re stronger together than we are on our own. That is true within individual unions. That is true within industries. That is true for the country as a whole. And I hope that I will be your partner in trying to bring about that unity of purpose in the years to come.
All right? Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN A TELE-TOWN HALL FOR SENATOR BENNET
August 3, 2010
8:25 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody.
SENATOR BENNET: Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: How are you?
SENATOR BENNET: I’m not going to take any of your time. Thank you for — I’m doing great. How are you?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m great.
SENATOR BENNET: Good, thanks for joining us. And I’ll turn it over to you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, everybody, it’s great to talk to you. And by the way, I enjoyed Michael’s answer on education. He was right on point. And I want to thank all of you for joining us on this call tonight.
You know, Michael arrived in Washington just as I took office as President. And this was one of the toughest times in our country’s history. We’d just gone through nearly a decade of economic policies that weren’t working for ordinary families. It culminated in the worst recession of our lifetimes. And so what we needed were leaders who were willing to stand up to the status quo and the special interests and start moving this country in a new direction.
And Michael has been that kind of leader. He’s been a breath of fresh air in a town with a lot of hot air. And one of the things that I’ve discovered in Washington is there are basically two kinds of people who go into politics. There are folks who want to be something, and then there are folks who run because they want to do something, because they care about something bigger than themselves. And that’s Michael.
He could have lived a comfortable life. Instead, he’s devoted himself to every assignment he’s undertaken to make a positive difference for his community and for the people of Colorado.
We saw that when he turned around Denver’s public schools, fighting for change and reform, making sure that young people got the opportunity they deserve. All across this country, people who care about school reform admire and know what Michael did in Denver, so he’s become the go-to guy for reforming America’s public schools in Congress. And he stood up in the Senate again and again these past 18 months on a whole host of issues related to opening up opportunity.
So he stood up to the insurance lobbies to help pass reforms that finally make health insurance affordable and stop people from getting insurance because of preexisting conditions.
He stood up against big corporations that are getting tax breaks for offshoring, when we should actually be giving tax breaks to companies that create jobs here in the United States; stood up to credit card companies that were taking advantage of people with hidden fees and unfair rate hikes, and mortgage lenders who tricked families into buying homes they couldn’t afford; and was one of the key people who I needed to make sure we passed Wall Street reform to prevent another financial crisis.
So Michael has been as good of a senator as I expected him to be when I first met him and he was still head of the public schools out in Denver. And I know there have been a lot of negative ads running against Michael in the last few weeks, which is sort of politics as usual. But when he came to Washington, he came to get things done and not just play the usual political games.
And he’s running a campaign that we can be proud of. He’s a public servant that we can be proud of. We need more folks like Michael in Washington.
And so the main reason I’m on this call is to make sure that everybody who’s listening is thinking not just about the next election but about the next generation. That’s how Michael approaches his job. And if you’re already supporting Michael, we need you to help in these final weeks, this final week, to knock on doors and make phone calls to everyone you know to get out the vote. And if you’re still trying to figure out what to do, I want you to support him, because Michael is somebody who has stood up on behalf of you, and we need to stand up on his behalf right now.
So I just want to say thank you to all of you for taking the time to join us. Thanks for staying engaged and interested. We need people who are involved in this process now more than ever. We’ve accomplished an incredible amount over the last 18 months, but we’ve got a lot more work to do. And Michael is the person that I want alongside me when we do it.
So make sure, guys, to go out there and cast your ballots for Michael. And I know that he’s going to be one of the best senators that Colorado’s ever had. All right?
SENATOR BENNET: Thank you, Mr. President. We deeply appreciate your taking the time to be on the call with everybody, and everything you’re doing. Let’s see if we can’t get Elena Kagan confirmed this week.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I think we’re going to get her confirmed. And after that we’re just going to keep on going to make sure that we create the kind of economy that’s working for all Americans.
So thanks for everything, Michael. Bye-bye.
SENATOR BENNET: All right, thank you.
President Obama Honors Winners of the 2010 Citizens Medal
13 winners from across the country visit White House to receive Presidential award for exemplary service for their fellow citizens
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama will welcome to the White House the 13 winners of the 2010 Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor.
“What unites these citizens – what makes them special – is the determination they share to find a wrong and right it; to see a need and meet it; to recognize when others are suffering and take it upon themselves to make a difference,” said President Obama. “These honorees’ lives stand as shining examples of what it means to be an American. And today, we have an opportunity to tell their stories; to say thank you; and to offer them a small token of our appreciation.”
The Citizens Medal was established in 1969 to recognize American citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens. This year, President Obama chose to use the 2010 Citizens Medal to recognize Americans whose work has had a significant impact on their communities but may not have garnered national attention. In a video message in January, the President called on members of the public to nominate people in their lives who have performed exemplary deeds of service, including:
· individuals who have a demonstrated commitment to service in their own community,
· who have helped their country or their fellow citizens through one or more extraordinary acts,
· whose service relates to a long-term or persistent problem, and/or
· whose service has had a sustained impact on others’ lives and provided inspiration for others to serve.
The recipients of the 2010 Citizens Medal are:
Roberta Diaz Brinton, Los Angeles, CA
Roberta Diaz Brinton has devoted her time and talents to improving science and technology education for Los Angeles students. As Director of the University of Southern California’s Science, Technology and Research (STAR) Program, Brinton has opened the doors of opportunity for thousands of disadvantaged and minority inner-city youth. Brinton receives the Citizens Medal for encouraging America’s next generations to reach for the stars.
Daisy M. Brooks, Chicago, IL
When a pregnant teenager with no place to stay arrived at her door, Daisy Brooks welcomed the young woman in. What followed was a lifelong commitment to helping many of North Chicago’s young mothers and their infants. Brooks opened Daisy’s Resource and Developmental Center to serve as a dormitory, school, and catalyst for young women to improve their lives. Brooks receives the Citizens Medal for offering guidance and support to young women across Chicago.
Betty Kwan Chinn, Eureka, CA
Touched by childhood tragedy, Betty Chinn brings hope to those who have fallen on hard times. Left homeless as a child in China, Chinn became mute. When she came to America, she found both her voice and her mission: aiding those without shelter on our own shores. Today, Chinn provides meals twice a day as expressions of gratitude to a welcoming nation. Chinn receives the Citizens Medal for renewing America’s promise by serving those in need.
Cynthia M. Church, Wilmington, DE
Cynthia Church turned a personal battle with cancer into a force for progress and change. Dismayed by the lack of resources for women of color with breast cancer, Church founded Sisters on a Mission, Inc, an African-American breast cancer support network in Delaware. Church receives the Citizens Medal for confronting the scourge of this terrible disease and working to halt its spread.
Susan Retik Ger, Needham, MA
Susan Retik Ger understands the importance of empowering women touched by personal tragedy. After losing her husband on September 11, 2001, she found cause in educating and training Afghan widows and their children. Her strength of spirit has healed hearts, fostering mutual understanding and brightening our common future. Retik Ger receives the Citizens Medal for advancing women’s rights and demonstrating the power of America’s ideals.
Mary K. Hoodhood, Grand Rapids, MI
Physical limitations have not hindered Mary K. Hoodhood’s determination to strengthen her community. Though a car accident left her paralyzed, Hoodhood began volunteering to feed the hungry through her local Meals on Wheels program. In 2001, Hoodhood founded Kids’ Food Basket which provides meals to thousands of children in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. Hoodhood receives the Citizens Medal for her remarkable efforts to nourish our nation’s children.
Kimberly McGuiness, Cave Spring, GA
Parent and advocate, Kimberly McGuiness has been a true champion for deaf students. Her persistent letters, phone calls, and visits to state legislators helped spur the passage of Georgia’s Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights. She has led workshops, counseled parents, and changed lives, raising awareness and support for deaf education. McGuiness receives the Citizens Medal for demonstrating the results one citizen can achieve for an entire community.
Jorge Muñoz, New York City, NY
Jorge Muñoz recognizes that we all have a stake in one another. By giving his time, energy, and resources to feeding the hungry, he has demonstrated the enduring American values of sacrifice and kindness. Muñoz receives the Citizens Medal for his service and dedication to creating a more hopeful tomorrow for the less fortunate among us.
Lisa Nigro, Chicago, IL
Beginning with a wagon full of coffee and sandwiches, Lisa Nigro’s mission to aid those living on the streets of Chicago has inspired us all. Her wagon gave way to a restaurant for homeless men and women, expanding with partner organizations to provide housing, job training, and vital support to Chicagoans affected by poverty. Nigro receives the Citizens Medal for her tireless service to her fellow citizens.
MaryAnn Phillips, Star Valley Ranch, WY
Caring for America’s injured service members, MaryAnn Phillips embodies strength and grace. An American citizen living in Germany, Phillips volunteers with Soldiers Angels at Landstuhl Air Force Base. She spends countless hours at the bedsides of our wounded warriors and their families, caring for them, encouraging them, and grieving with them. Phillips receives the Citizens Medal for putting her patriotism into action on behalf of our troops and our nation.
Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam, Shaftsbury, VT
Devoted to preserving our nation’s public lands, Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam has inspired thousands of America’s youth to protect our natural bounty. Her vision to offer land restoration and maintenance service opportunities became a reality with the birth of the Student Conservation Association. Putnam receives the Citizens Medal for helping ensure that our nation’s treasured public lands are enjoyed by future generations.
Myrtle Faye Rumph, Inglewood, CA
For decades, Myrtle Faye Rumph has lent her talent and compassion to impacting the lives of at-risk youth. Her commitment to reducing gun and gang violence in her community has steered countless young people away from dangerous habits, and altered the course of their futures. Rumph receives the Citizens Medal for replacing violence and despair with a beacon of hope and humanity.
Geo. J. Weiss, Jr., Marine, MN
George Weiss, Jr., a veteran of World War II and the United States Marine Corps, reflects our nation’s generous and selfless heart. In 1979, he founded the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad, which today consists of more than 125 volunteers who have performed final military honors for more than 55,000 deceased veterans. Weiss receives the Citizens Medal for his extraordinary service to our nation’s veterans and their families.
The Ongoing Administration-Wide Response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill
Key contact numbers
Report oiled shoreline or request volunteer information: (866) 448-5816
Submit alternative response technology, services or products: (281) 366-5511
Submit your vessel for the Vessel of Opportunity Program: (866) 279-7983
Submit a claim for damages: (800) 440-0858
Report oiled wildlife: (866) 557-1401
Deepwater Horizon Incident
Joint Information Center
Phone: (713) 323-1670
The Ongoing Administration-Wide Response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill
Prepared by the Joint Information Center
UPDATED July 22, 2010 7 PM
* For a full timeline of the Administration-wide response, visit the White House Blog.
PAST 24 HOURS
Admiral Allen Directs Vessels and Rigs to Prepare to Move Out of Harm’s Way Due to the Risk Posed by Tropical Storm Bonnie
“Due to the risk that Tropical Storm Bonnie poses to the safety of the nearly 2,000 people responding to the BP oil spill at the well site, many of the vessels and rigs will be preparing to move out of harm’s way beginning tonight. This includes the rig drilling the relief well that will ultimately kill the well, as well as other vessels needed for containment. Some of the vessels may be able to remain on site, but we will err on the side of safety.
“As I stated earlier today, I have directed BP to continue with the well shut in procedure while the work to kill the well is temporarily suspended. I have also directed BP to take measures to ensure the vessels operating the ROVs are the last to leave, and the first to return in order to maximize monitoring of the well. Monitoring of the site during the well integrity test remains one of the government’s highest priorities.
While these actions may delay the effort to kill the well for several days, the safety of the individuals at the well site is our highest concern. We are staging our skimming vessels and other assets in a manner that will allow us to promptly re-start oil mitigation efforts as soon as the storm passes and we can ensure the safety of our personnel.”
Vice President Biden Makes His Second Trip to the Gulf Coast
In his second trip to the Gulf Coast since the BP oil spill began, Vice President Joe Biden joined National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen in Theodore, Ala., to meet with response personnel, inspect boom and participate in a roundtable discussion with fisherman and small business owners. Click here to see photos of the visit.
Afterwards, the Vice President stressed the Administration’s commitment to restoring the Gulf Coast: “We’re not going to stop until this area, all the entire Gulf, has recovered; until the economy of the Gulf is revitalized and literally a way of life is restored. Because we’re not just talking about a natural ecosystem that’s in danger down here, we’re talking about an economic ecosystem. We’re also talking about a cultural ecosystem, a whole way of life,” he said. “Whatever it takes to make this Gulf right, we’re going to make it right.”
Rear Admiral Zukunft Provides Update on Severe Weather Response Plan
Federal On-Scene Coordinator Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft provided a briefing to inform Gulf Coast residents and answer questions about the impact weather is having on the ongoing response to the BP oil spill. The Unified Area Command is closely monitoring tropical weather—in consultation with the NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and FEMA—in order to ensure the safety of the more than 40,000 people currently assisting in the oil spill response effort.
To prepare for the possibility of severe weather, Zukunft has directed the movement of surplus response equipment to inland staging areas. These considerations are meant to protect people, boats, boom and other equipment while planning for the safe and speedy resumption of oil spill recovery after a storm. Yesterday, Zukunft sent a letter to local officials to provide an update on resource protection in case of a storm.
NOAA Re-Opens a Third of the Closed Fishing Area in Gulf Waters to Commercial and Recreational Fishing; Approximately 76 Percent of Gulf Waters Are Open
NOAA today re-opened 26,388 square miles of Gulf waters to commercial and recreational fishing—a third of the overall closed area—after consultation with FDA and under a re-opening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA, and the Gulf States. The closed area now measures 57,539 square miles—or approximately 24 percent of the Gulf of Mexico exclusive economic zone. Before the southern area was re-opened, 83,927 miles—or roughly 35% of Gulf federal waters—were closed to fishing.
Since mid-June, NOAA data have shown no oil in the area, and Coast Guard observers flying over the area in last 30 days have also not observed any oil. Additionally, trajectory models show the area is at a low risk for future exposure to oil, and fish caught in the area and tested by NOAA experts have shown no signs of contamination.
NOAA will continue to take samples for testing from the newly re-opened area, and the agency has also implemented dockside sampling to test fish caught throughout the Gulf by commercial fishermen. Additionally, the NOAA research vessel Nancy Foster took water samples in and around the area proposed for re-opening during early to mid July. No surface sheens were observed and no unusual readings potentially indicative of oil were obtained during these activities.
NOAA will continue to evaluate the need for fisheries closures based on the evolving nature of the spill and will re-open closed areas as appropriate. And NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) and the U.S. Coast Guard, in collaboration with state partners, continue to actively enforce the law in federal waters that have been closed to fishing—to balance economic and public health needs as a result of the BP oil spill. For more information about fishing closure enforcement, click here.
Personnel Continue Wildlife Rescue and Recovery Missions Across the Region
From the Houma, La., Incident Command Post, a total of 241 personnel, 83 vessels and four helicopters participated in reconnaissance and wildlife rescue and recovery missions. Shoreline clean-up operations continued on the northern Chandeleur Island chain, where crews removed 250 bags of oily sand and debris. From the Mobile, Ala., Incident Command Post, 201 volunteers searched for oil impacts and injured or oiled wildlife. To report oiled wildlife, call (866) 557-1401.
Approved SBA Economic Injury Assistance Loans Surpass $15 Million
SBA has approved 181 economic injury assistance loans to date, totaling more than $15 million for small businesses in the Gulf Coast impacted by the BP oil spill. Additionally, the agency has granted deferments on 707 existing SBA disaster loans in the region, totaling more than $3.7 million per month in payments. For information on assistance loans for affected businesses, visit the SBA’s Web site at www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance, call (800) 659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the hearing impaired), or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Administration Continues to Oversee BP’s Claims Process
The administration will continue to hold the responsible parties accountable for repairing the damage, and repaying Americans who’ve suffered a financial loss as a result of the BP oil spill. To date, 123,457 claims have been opened, from which more than $234.9 million have been disbursed. No claims have been denied to date. There are 1,118 claims adjusters on the ground. To file a claim, visit www.bp.com/claims or call BP’s helpline at 1-800-440-0858. Those who have already pursued the BP claims process and are not satisfied with BP’s resolution can call the Coast Guard at (800) 280-7118. Additional information about the BP claims process and all available avenues of assistance can be found at www.disasterassistance.gov.
By the Numbers to Date:
The administration has authorized the deployment of 17,500 National Guard troops from Gulf Coast states to respond to this crisis; currently, 1,653 are active.
Approximately 41,200 personnel are currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife and cleanup vital coastlines.
More than 4,300 vessels are currently responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts—in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.
More than 3.5 million feet of containment boom and 7.73 million feet of sorbent boom have been deployed to contain the spill—and approximately 821,000 feet of containment boom and 3.03 million feet of sorbent boom are available.
More than 34.7 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered.
Approximately 1.84 million gallons of total dispersant have been applied—1.07 million on the surface and 771,000 sub-sea. Approximately 577,000 gallons are available.
411 controlled burns have been conducted, efficiently removing a total of more than 11.14 million gallons of oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and wildlife. Because calculations on the volume of oil burned can take more than 48 hours, the reported total volume may not reflect the most recent controlled burns.
17 staging areas are in place to protect sensitive shorelines.
Approximately 630 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline is currently oiled—approximately 364 miles in Louisiana, 107 miles in Mississippi, 70 miles in Alabama, and 89 miles in Florida. These numbers reflect a daily snapshot of shoreline currently experiencing impacts from oil so that planning and field operations can more quickly respond to new impacts; they do not include cumulative impacts to date, or shoreline that has already been cleared.
Approximately 57,539 square miles of Gulf of Mexico federal waters remain closed to fishing in order to balance economic and public health concerns. Approximately 76 percent remains open. Details can be found at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/.
To date, the administration has leveraged assets and skills from numerous foreign countries and international organizations as part of this historic, all-hands-on-deck response, including Argentina, Belgium, Canada, China, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization, the European Union’s Monitoring and Information Centre, and the European Maritime Safety Agency.
For information about the response effort, visit www.RestoreTheGulf.gov.
For specific information about the federal-wide response, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/deepwater-bp-oil-spill.
To contact the Deepwater Horizon Joint Information Center, call (713) 323-1670.
To volunteer, or to report oiled shoreline, call (866) 448-5816. Volunteer opportunities can also be found here.
To submit your vessel as a vessel of opportunity skimming system, or to submit alternative response technology, services, or products, call 281-366-5511.
To report oiled wildlife, call (866) 557-1401.
For information about validated environmental air and water sampling results, visit www.epa.gov/bpspill.
For National Park Service updates about potential park closures, resources at risk, and NPS actions to protect vital park space and wildlife, visit http://www.nps.gov/aboutus/oil-spill-response.htm.
For Fish and Wildlife Service updates about response along the Gulf Coast and the status of national wildlife refuges, visit http://www.fws.gov/home/dhoilspill/.
For daily updates on fishing closures, visit http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov.
For information on assistance loans for affected businesses, visit the SBA’s Web site at www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance, call (800) 659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the hearing impaired), or email email@example.com.
To file a claim with BP, visit www.bp.com/claims or call BP’s helpline at (800) 440-0858. A BP fact sheet with additional information is available here. Those who have already pursued the BP claims process and are not satisfied with BP’s resolution, can call the Coast Guard at (800) 280-7118. More information about what types of damages are eligible for compensation under the Oil Pollution Act as well as guidance on procedures to seek that compensation can be found here.
In addition, www.disasterassistance.gov has been enhanced to provide a one-stop shop for information on how to file a claim with BP and access additional assistance—available in English and Spanish.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT TOWN HALL WITH YOUNG AFRICAN LEADERS
2:07 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody, please have a seat. Have a seat.
Well, good afternoon, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House, and welcome to the United States of America. And that includes even our friends from Ghana, who beat us in the World Cup. (Laughter.) Where are you? Over there? That’s all right. It was close. We’ll see you in 2014. (Laughter.)
It’s my great privilege to welcome all of you to this Young African Leaders Forum. You’ve joined us from nearly 50 countries. You reflect the extraordinary history and diversity of the continent. You’ve already distinguished yourselves as leaders —- in civil society and development and business and faith communities —- and you’ve got an extraordinary future before you.
In fact, you represent the Africa that so often is overlooked — the great progress that many Africans have achieved and the unlimited potential that you’ve got going forward into the 21st century.
Now, I called this forum for a simple reason. As I said when I was in Accra last year, I don’t see Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world. Whether it’s creating jobs in a global economy, or delivering education and health care, combating climate change, standing up to violent extremists who offer nothing but destruction, or promoting successful models of democracy and development —- for all this we have to have a strong, self-reliant and prosperous Africa. So the world needs your talents and your creativity. We need young Africans who are standing up and making things happen not only in their own countries but around the world.
And the United States wants to be your partner. So I’m pleased that you’ve already heard from Secretary of State Clinton, and that we’re joined today by leaders from across my administration who are working to deepen that partnership every day.
I can’t imagine a more fitting time for this gathering. This year, people in 17 nations across Sub-Saharan Africa are proudly celebrating 50 years of independence. And by any measure, 1960 was an extraordinary year. From Senegal to Gabon, from Madagascar to Nigeria, Africans rejoiced in the streets —- as foreign flags were lowered and their own were hoisted up. So in 12 remarkable months, nearly one-third of the continent achieved independence —- a burst of self-determination that came to be celebrated as “The Year of Africa” — at long last, these Africans were free to chart their own course and to shape their own destiny.
Now, 1960, of course, was significant for another reason. Here in the United States of America it was the year that a candidate for president first proposed an idea for young people in our own country to devote a year or two abroad in service to the world. And that candidate was John F. Kennedy, and that idea would become the Peace Corps — one of our great partnerships with the world, including with Africa.
Now, the great task of building a nation is never done. Here in America, more than two centuries since our independence, we’re still working to perfect our union. Across Africa today, there’s no denying the daily hardships that are faced by so many — the struggle to feed their children, to find work, to survive another day. And too often, that’s the Africa that the world sees.
But today, you represent a different vision, a vision of Africa on the move — an Africa that’s ending old conflicts, as in Liberia, where President Sirleaf told me, today’s children have “not known a gun and not had to run”; an Africa that’s modernizing and creating opportunities — agribusiness in Tanzania, prosperity in Botswana, political progress in Ghana and Guinea; an Africa that’s pursuing a broadband revolution that could transform the daily lives of future generations.
So it’s an Africa that can do great things, such as hosting the world’s largest sporting event. So we congratulate our South African friends. And while it may have been two European teams in the final match, it’s been pointed out that it was really Africa that won the World Cup.
So once again, Africa finds itself at a moment of extraordinary promise. And as I said last year, while today’s challenges may lack some of the drama of 20th century liberation struggles, they ultimately may be even more meaningful, for it will be up to you, young people full of talent and imagination, to build the Africa for the next 50 years.
Africa’s future belongs to entrepreneurs like the small business owner from Djibouti who began selling ice cream and now runs his own accounting practice and advises other entrepreneurs — that’s Miguil Hasan-Farah. Is Miguil here? There he is right there. Don’t be shy. There you go. (Applause.)
As you work to create jobs and opportunity, America will work with you, promoting the trade and investment on which growth depends. That’s why we’re proud to be hosting the AGOA Forum this week to expand trade between our countries. And today I’ll also be meeting with trade, commerce, and agriculture ministers from across Sub-Saharan Africa. It’s also why our historic Food Security Initiative isn’t simply about delivering food; it’s about sharing new technologies to increase African productivity and self-sufficiency.
Now, no one should have to pay a bribe to get a job or to get government to provide basic services. So as part of our development strategy, we’re emphasizing transparency, accountability, and a strong civil society — the kind of reform that can help unleash transformational change. So Africa’s future also belongs to those who take charge of that kind of transparency and are serious about anti-corruption measures.
Africa’s future belongs to those who take charge of their health, like the HIV/AIDS counselor from Malawi who helps others by bravely sharing her own experience of being HIV-positive — that’s Tamara Banda. Where is Tamara? There she is right there. Thank you, Tamara. (Applause.) So our Global Health Initiative is not merely treating diseases; it’s strengthening prevention and Africa’s public health systems. And I want to be very clear. We’ve continued to increase funds to fight HIV/AIDS to record levels, and we’ll continue to do what it takes to save lives and invest in healthier futures.
Africa’s future also belongs to societies that protects the rights of all its people, especially its women, like the journalist in Ivory Coast who has championed the rights of Muslim women and girls —- Aminata Kane-Kone. Where is Aminata? There she is right there. (Applause.) To you and to people across Africa, know that the United States of America will stand with you as you seek justice and progress and human rights and dignity of all people.
So the bottom line is this: Africa’s future belongs to its young people, including a woman who inspires young people across Botswana with her popular radio show, called, “The Real Enchilada” —- and that’s Tumie Ramsden. Where’s Tumie? Right here — “The Real Enchilada.” (Applause.)
As all of you go to — as all of you pursue your dreams —- as you go to school, you find a job, you make your voices heard, you mobilize people —- America wants to support your aspirations. So we’re going to keep helping empower African youth —- supporting education, increasing educational exchanges like the one that brought my father from Kenya in the days when Kenyans were throwing off colonial rule and reaching for a new future. And we’re helping to strengthen grassroots networks of young people who believe — as they’re saying in Kenya today -— “Yes, Youth Can!” “Yes, Youth Can!” (Laughter and applause.)
Now, this is a forum, so we’ve devoted some time where I can answer some questions. I don’t want to do all the talking. I want to hear from you about your goals and how we can partner more effectively to help you reach them. And we want this to be the beginning of a new partnership and create networks that will promote opportunities for years to come.
But I do want to leave you with this. You are the heirs of the independence generation that we celebrate this year. Because of their sacrifice, you were born in independent African states. And just as the achievements of the last 50 years inspire you, the work you do today will inspire future generations.
So — I understand, Tumie, you like to Tweet. (Laughter.) And she shared words that have motivated so many — this is what Tumie said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, to learn more, to do more and become more, then you are a leader.”
So each of you are here today because you are a leader. You’ve inspired other young people in your home countries; you’ve inspired us here in the United States. The future is what you make it. And so if you keep dreaming and keep working and keep learning and don’t give up, then I’m confident that your countries and the entire continent and the entire world will be better for it.
So thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)
All right, with that, I’m going to take questions. Now, here are the rules — (laughter.) People, everybody who has a question, they can raise their hand. In order to be fair, I’m going to call girl, boy, girl, boy. We’re going to alternate. And try to keep your question relatively short; I’ll try to keep my answer relatively short, so I can answer as many questions as possible, because we have a limited amount of time. Okay?
I’m going to start with this young lady, right here. And please introduce yourself and tell me where you’re from also
Q Okay. Thank you very much. I will express myself in French, if that is –
THE PRESIDENT: That’s fine. Somebody will translate for me? Yes? Go ahead. Just make sure that you stop after each sentence, because otherwise she will forget what you had to say.
Q Thank you very much. (Speaks in French and is translated.) Mr. President, hello. And hello, everybody. I’m Fatima Sungo (phonetic) of Mali. I do have a question for you and I look forward to getting your answer. But before I do so, I’d like to begin by telling you, Mr. President, how truly honored and privileged we feel to be with you today, and how privileged we are to express the voices of African youth, of African young leaders, and of course fully appreciate your recognizing us and giving us the opportunity to be here, and also recognizing our own responsibility to take your voice back home.
I’d like to say that I’m convinced this is an important watershed moment, this is the beginning of important change, the wonderful initiative you had to call us all here. I wonder when did you see that particular light? When did you imagine that bringing us here would be such a good idea? I’m wondering what your thought process was, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, one of the things that happens when you’re President is that other people have good ideas and then you take credit for them. (Laughter.) So I want to make sure that I don’t take credit for my ideas — for these ideas — because the truth is my staff works so hard in trying to find new ways that we can communicate not just to the heads of state, but also at the grassroots.
And the reason, I think, is because when you think about Africa, Africa is the youngest continent. Many of the countries that you represent, half of the people are under 30. And oftentimes if all you’re doing is talking to old people like me, then you’re not reaching the people who are going to be providing the energy, the new initiatives, the new ideas. And so we thought that it would be very important for us to have an opportunity to bring the next generation of leaders together.
That’s point number one. Point number two — and I’m going to be blunt occasionally during this forum, so I hope you don’t mind — sometimes the older leaders get into old habits, and those old habits are hard to break. And so part of what we wanted to do was to communicate directly to people who may not assume that the old ways of doing business are the ways that Africa has to do business.
So in some of your countries, freedom of the press is still restricted. There’s no reason why that has to be the case. There’s nothing inevitable about that. And young people are more prone to ask questions, why shouldn’t we have a free press? In some of your countries, the problem of corruption is chronic. And so people who have been doing business in your country for 20, 30 years, they’ll just throw up their hands and they’ll say, ah, that’s the way it is.
But Robert Kennedy had a wonderful saying, where he said, some people see things and ask why, and others see things that need changing and ask, why not. And so I think that your generation is poised to ask those questions, “Why not?” Why shouldn’t Africa be self-sustaining agriculturally? There’s enough arable land that if we restructure how agriculture and markets work in Africa, not only could most countries in Africa feed themselves, but they could export those crops to help feed the world. Why not?
New infrastructure — it used to be that you had to have telephone lines and very capital intensive in order to communicate. Now we have the Internet and broadband and cell phones, so you — the entire continent may be able to leapfrog some other places that were more highly developed and actually reach into the future of communications in ways that we can’t even imagine yet. Why not?
So that’s the purpose of this. I also want to make sure that all of you are having an opportunity to meet each other, because you can reinforce each other as you are struggling and fighting in your own countries for a better future. You will now have a network of people that help to reinforce what it is that you’re trying to do. And you know that sometimes change makes you feel lonely. Now you’ve got a group of people who can help reinforce what you’re doing.
Okay. It’s a gentleman’s turn. This is why there are leaders, everybody has something to say. But you don’t have to snap. No, no, no. It’s a guy’s turn — this gentleman right here.
Q Mr. President, my name is Bai Best (phonetic) from Liberia. The late Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller was the first black — the first black psychiatrist in America and probably in the world. In my country in Liberia, where there are a lot of great people who make landmark accomplishments both in their nation and in the world, many of them are not recognized for their accomplishments. Today, Dr. Fuller’s name is etched where there is a medical — there is a psychiatric center named in his honor at a place in Boston. There are many other young African and young Liberian talented people who have great ideas and who want to come back home and contribute to their countries, to the development of their peoples. But many times, their efforts — their patriotic efforts — are stifled by corrupt or sometimes jealous officials in government and in other sectors. It’s an age-old problem. Many times, they want to seek — that basically leads them to seek greener pastures and better appreciation abroad instead of coming back home. What are your thoughts on this?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, this is a problem that’s not unique to Africa. Given different stages of development around the world, one of the problems that poorer countries often have is that the best educated and the most talented have opportunities elsewhere. And so there’s what’s called the “brain drain” — people saying, I can make 10 times as much money if I’m a doctor in London as I can if I’m a doctor back home.
And so this is a historic problem. Here is the interesting moment that we’re in, though — if you look at where the greatest opportunities are, they’re actually now in emerging markets. There are countries in Africa that are growing 7, 8, 9 percent a year. So if you’re an entrepreneur now with an idea, you may be able to grow faster and achieve more back home that you could here.
Now, it entails greater risk, so it may be safer to emigrate. But it may be that you can actually achieve more, more quickly back home. And so the question is for young leaders like yourselves, where do you want to have the most impact? And you’re probably going to have more impact at home whether you’re a businessman or woman, or you are a doctor or you are an attorney, or you are an organizer. That’s probably going to be the place where you can make the biggest change.
Now, you’re absolutely right, though, that the conditions back home have to be right where you can achieve these things. So if you want to go back home and start a business, and it turns out that you have to pay too many bribes to just get the business started, at some point you may just give up.
And that’s why one of the things that we’re trying to do — working with my team — when we emphasize development, good governance is at the center of development. It’s not separate. Sometimes people think, well, that’s a political issue and then there’s an economic issue. No. If you have a situation where you can’t start a business or people don’t want to invest because there’s not a clear sense of rule of law, that is going to stifle development.
If farmers have so many middlemen to get their crops to market that they’re making pennies when ultimately their crops are being sold for $10, over time that stifles agricultural development in a country. So what we want to do is make sure that in our interactions with your governments, we are constantly emphasizing this issue of good governance because I have confidence that you’ll be able to figure out what changes need to be made in your country.
I’ve always said the destiny of Africa is going to be determined by Africans. It’s not going to be determined by me. It’s not going to be determined by people outside of the continent. It’s going to be determined by you. All we can do is make sure that your voices are heard and you’re able to rise up and take hold of these opportunities. If you do that, I think that there are going to be a lot of people who — even if they’re educated abroad — want to come home to make their mark.
All right. Let’s see, I’m going to call on this young lady right here.
Q (Speaks in Portuguese and is translated.) Good afternoon, everyone. And thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity.
THE PRESIDENT: That sounds like Portuguese. (Laughter.)
Q It is, indeed, from Mozambique, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Great.
Q Knowing, Mr. President, that, of course, America is a reference point for democracy in the world, and that you, sir, are, indeed a protagonist in that context today, I would love to hear from you, sir, what you would recommend to the young people in Africa and to civil society, in particular, in terms of following principles of nonviolence and good governance and democratic principles in our country. Because, of course, our reality is very often quite starkly different. There are 80 percent abstentionism often in elections, and elections that, indeed, lack transparency. And all too often lead, alas, to social conflict. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say, first of all, that if you are — just as I said that you can’t separate politics from economics, you can’t separate conflict from development. So the constant conflict, often ethnically-based conflict, that has taken place in Africa is a profound detriment to development and it’s self-reinforcing.
If you have conflict and violence, that scares off investors. That makes it more difficult for business people to create opportunities, which means that young people then don’t have work, which means that they are more prone to be recruited in violent conflicts. And you can get a vicious cycle.
So I am a profound believer in not looking at violence as a solution to problems. And I think the moral and ethical power that comes with nonviolence when properly mobilized is profound.
Number two, I think the most important thing that maybe young people here can do is to promote the values of openness, transparency, honest debate, civil disagreements within your own groups and your own organizations, because that forms good habits. If you are part of an organization — and I’m going to speak to the men here, in particular — if you are part of an organization where you profess democracy but women don’t have an equal voice in your organization, then you’re a hypocrite, right? And that is something that — (applause.) And that is something that we have to be honest about. Oftentimes, women are not getting the same voice in African countries, despite the fact that they are carrying more than their fair share of burdens.
So within your own organizations, within your own networks, modeling good democratic practices, listening to people who you disagree with respectfully, making sure that everybody gets a seat at the table — all those things I think are very important.
Because part of what I’m going to — what I’m hoping for is that some of you will end up being leaders of your country some day. And if you think about it, back in the 1960s, when all these — your grandparents, great-grandparents were obtaining independence, fighting for independence, the first leaders, they all said they were for democracy. And then what ends up happening is you’ve been in power for a while and you say, well, I must be such a good ruler that it is for the benefit of the people that I need to stay here. And so then you start changing the laws, or you start intimidating and jailing opponents. And pretty soon, young people just like yourself — full of hope and promise — end up becoming exactly what they fought against.
So one of the things that I think everybody here has to really internalize is the notion that — I think it was Gandhi who once said you have to be the change that you seek. You have to be the change that you seek. And one of the wonderful things about the United States is that in my position as President there oftentimes where I get frustrated, I think I know more than some of my critics. And yet, we have institutionalized the notion that those critics have every right to criticize me, no matter how unreasonable I think they may be. And I have to stand before the people for an election, and I’m limited to two terms — it doesn’t matter how good a job I do. And that’s good, because what that means is that we’ve got to — we’ve instituted a culture where the institutions of democracy are more important than any one individual.
And, now, it’s not as if we’re perfect. Obviously, we’ve got all kinds of problems as well. But what it does mean is that the peaceful transfer of power and the notion that people always have a voice — our trust in that democratic process is one that has to be embraced in all your countries as well.
Okay? All right, it’s a gentleman’s turn. Let me try to get this side of the table here. This gentleman right here. I’m not going to get everybody, so I apologize in advance.
Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I’m from Malawi. Mr. President, HIV/AIDS is greatly affecting development in Africa. And if this continues, I’m afraid I think Africa has no future. And I think the young people like us must bring change. And we really need a strong HIV prevention program. But, again, access to treatment must be there.
I attended the recent World AIDS Conference in Vienna, and the critics were saying that the worst — the U.S. government is not supporting enough HIV/AIDS work in Africa through the PEPFAR and the Global Fund. But, again, on the other side, other HIV/AIDS activists are saying that Africa on its own has not mobilized enough resources to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic and they are largely depending on the West.
I think the challenge for us as African young leaders is to make sure that this comes to an end and we really need to reduce the transmission. I don’t know — from your perspective, what can we do to make sure that this comes to a stop? Otherwise, it’s greatly affecting development in Africa.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Well, let me start by just talking about the United States and what we’re doing. I had some disagreements with my predecessor, but one of the outstanding things that President Bush did was to initiate the PEPFAR program. It’s a huge investment in battling HIV/AIDS both with respect to prevention and also with respect to treatment. Billions of dollars were committed. We have built off of that.
So when you hear critics — what the critics are saying is that although I’ve increased the funding of the PEPFAR program, they would like to see it increased even more, which I’m sympathetic to, given the fact that the need is so great. But understand I’ve increased it; I haven’t decreased it — at a time when the United States is suffering from the worst economic — just coming out of the worst economic recession that we’ve seen since the 1930s. Nevertheless, because of our commitment to this issue, we’ve actually increased funding.
Now, we have couched it in a broader initiative we call the Global Health Initiative. Because even as we’re battling HIV/AIDS, we want to make sure that we are thinking not only in terms of treatment, but also in terms of prevention and preventing transmission.
We’re never going to have enough money to simply treat people who are constantly getting infected. We’ve got to have a mechanism to stop the transmission rate. And so one of the things we’re trying to do is to build greater public health infrastructure, find what prevention programs are working, how can we institutionalize them, make them culturally specific — because not every program is going to be appropriate for every country.
I will say that in Africa, in particular, one thing we do know is that empowering women is going to be critical to reducing the transmission rate. We do know that. Because so often women, not having any control over sexual practices and their own body, end up having extremely high transmission rates.
So the bottom line is we’re going to focus on prevention, building a public health infrastructure. We’re still going to be funding, at very high levels, antiviral drugs. But keep in mind, we will never have enough money — it will be endless, an endless effort if the transmission rates stay high and we’re just trying to treat people after their sick.
It’s the classic story of a group of people come upon all these bodies in a stream. And everybody jumps in and starts pulling bodies out, but one wise person goes downstream to see what’s exactly happening that’s causing all these people to drown or fall in the water. And that’s I think what we have to do, is go downstream to see how can we reduce these transmission rates overall.
And obviously — when I visited Kenya, for example — just in terms of education — Michelle and I, we both got tested near the village where my father was born. We got publicly tested so that we would know what our status was. That was just one example of the kinds of educational mechanisms that we can use that hopefully can make some difference.
All right? Okay, it’s a woman’s turn. Okay, this one right here.
Q Thank you, very much, Mr. President. And greetings from Ghana. We are looking forward fervently to 2014 – (laughter) — for a repeat. And I recollect that I was hosting a radio program the day of the match. And we have a football pundit in Ghana — he doesn’t speak English quite well, but very passionate. And so I was interviewing him about what the psyche of our boys should be ahead of the match. And he said to me, “This is not war, it is football. If it were to be war, then maybe we should be afraid because the might of America is more than us.” (Laughter.) This is football. They should go out there and be the best that they could be. And they did.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they did an excellent job. They were a great team.
Q Mr. President, my question now is that I hear a lot of young African leaders wonder how committed America would be to a partnership. I hear those who are cynical about the notion of partnership. They ask — and always they ask, partnership? What kind of fair partnership can exist between a strong and a weak nation?
And so as we prepare ourselves for the future, we ask the same question of America: How committed is your country to ensuring that the difficult decisions that young people have to make about trade, about agriculture, about support, are made — to the extent that they may not be in the interest of America? Because they tell me also that America will protect its interest over and above all else. Is America committed to ensuring a partnership that might not necessarily be beneficial to America, but truly beneficial to the sovereign interest of the countries that we represent?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say this. All countries look out for their interests. So — and I’m the President of the United States, so my job is to look out for the people of the United States. That’s my job, right? (Applause.)
Now, I actually think, though, that the interests of the United States and the interests of the continent of Africa greatly overlap. We have a huge interest in seeing development throughout Africa — because we are a more mature economy, Africa is a young and growing economy, and if you can buy more iPods and buy more products and buy more services and buy more tractors from us, that we can sell to a fast-growing continent, that creates jobs here in the United States of America.
We have a huge interest in your public health systems because if we’re reducing greatly HIV/AIDS transmissions in Africa, then that will have a positive effect on HIV rates internationally, because of the transmigration of diseases back and forth in an international world. And not to mention, if I’m not spending all this money on PEPFAR, that’s money I can spend somewhere else. So I’m going to be incentivized to see Africa do well. That’s in our interest.
And the truth of the matter is, is that whereas with some regions of the world, we do have some genuine conflicts of interest — let’s say on trade, for example — the truth is that the United States, we don’t have huge conflicts when it comes to trade because, frankly, the trade between the United States and Africa is so small, so modest, that very few U.S. companies, U.S. commercial interests are impacted.
That’s why AGOA, our trade arrangement with Africa — we can eliminate tariffs and subsidies and allow all sorts of goods to come in partly because you are not our primary competition.
Now, I don’t want to pretend that there aren’t ever going to be conflicts. There will be. There’s going to be difference in world views. There are going to be some agricultural products where there are certain interests in the United States or there are certain interests in Europe that want to prevent those from coming in, even though, in the aggregate, it would not have a huge impact on the U.S. economy. And so there are going to be occasional areas of tension. But overall, the reason you should have confidence that we want a partnership is because your success will enhance our position rather than reduce it.
Also Africa has some of our most loyal friends. Every survey that’s taken, when you ask what continent generally has the most positive views about America, it turns out Africa generally has a positive view of America and positive experiences. So I think that you should feel confident even if I’m not President that the American people genuinely want to see Africa succeed.
What the American people don’t want is to feel like their efforts at helping are wasted. So if at a time of great constraint, we are coming up with aid, those aid dollars need to go to countries that are actually using them effectively. And if they’re not using them effectively, then they should go to countries that are.
And one of the things that I’ve said to my development team is I want us to have high standards in terms of performance and evaluation when we have these partnerships — because a partnership is a two-way street. It means that, on the one hand, we’re accountable to you and that we have to listen to you and make sure that any plans that we have, have developed indigenously. On the other hand, it also means you’re accountable. So you can’t just say, give me this, give me that, and then if it turns out that it’s not working well, that’s not your problem. Right? It has to be a two-way street.
Okay, looks like this side has not gotten a question here. So how about this gentleman right here.
Q Thank you, Mr. President — I’m from Zimbabwe. Currently our government is in a transition between the former ruling party Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change. And within this same context, Zimbabwe is currently under restrictive measures, especially for those who are party in line with Robert Mugabe under the ZIDERA Act. How has been the success of ZIDERA — the formation of the inclusive government? Because in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe is still using the rhetoric of sanctions, racist, property rights abuse, human rights abuse, in violation to the rule of law. How has been the success of that towards the implementation — the success or the growth of young people?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you probably have a better answer than me. So you should be sharing with our team what you think would make the most sense. I’ll be honest with you — I’m heartbroken when I see what’s happened in Zimbabwe. I think Mugabe is an example of a leader who came in as a liberation fighter and — I’m just going to be very blunt — I do not see him serving his people well. And the abuses, the human rights abuses, the violence that’s been perpetrated against opposition leaders I think is terrible.
Now, Changerai has tried to work — despite the fact that he himself has been beaten and imprisoned, he has now tried to work to see if there is a gradual transition that might take place. But so far, the results have not been what we had hoped.
And this always poses a difficult question for U.S. foreign policy because, on the one hand, we don’t want to punish the people for the abuses of a leader; on the other hand, we have very little leverage other than saying, if there are just systematic abuses by a government, we are not going to deal with them commercially, we’re not going to deal with them politically, in ways that we would with countries that are observing basic human rights principles.
And so there have been discussions when I’ve traveled with leaders in the Southern African region about whether or not sanctions against Zimbabwe are or are not counterproductive. I will tell you I would love nothing more than to be able to open up greater diplomatic relationships and economic and commercial relationships with Zimbabwe. But in order to do so, we’ve got to see some signal that it will not simply entrench the same past abuses but rather will move us in a new direction that actually helps the people.
And Zimbabwe is a classic example of a country that should be the breadbasket for an entire region. It’s a spectacular country. Now, it had to undergo a transition from white minority rule that was very painful and very difficult. But they have chosen a path that’s different than the path that South Africa chose.
South Africa has its problems, but from what everybody could see during the World Cup, the potential for moving that country forward as a multiracial, African democracy that can succeed on the world stage, that’s a model that so far at least Zimbabwe has not followed. And that’s where I’d like to see it go. All right?
How much more time do I have, guys? Last question? I’m sorry — last question. Last question. No, it’s a young lady’s turn. This one right here.
Q Good afternoon, Mr. President, your excellencies. I am from Somalia. I came all the way here with one question, and that is, living in conflict in a country that has confused the whole world, and being part of the diaspora that went back to risk our lives in order to make Somalia a better place, especially with what we’re going through right now — how much support do we expect from the U.S.? And not support just in terms of financially or aid, but support as an ear, as a friend, as somebody who hears and listens to those of us who are putting our lives and our families at risk to defend humanity.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think you will have enormous support from the people of the United States when it comes to trying to create a structure and framework in Somalia that works for the Somali people.
Now, the history of Somalia over the last 20 years has been equally heartbreaking, if not more so. You have not had a effective, functioning government that can provide basic services. It’s been rife with conflict. And now the entire region is threatened because of radical extremists who have taken root in Somalia, taking advantage of what they perceive to be a failing state, to use that as a base to launch attacks, most recently in Uganda.
And obviously the United States expresses its deepest condolences to the lives that were lost in Kampala — at the very moment of the World Cup. And it offered two contrasting visions. You have this wonderful, joyous celebration in South Africa at the same time as you have a terrorist explosion in Kampala.
So we desperately want Somalia to succeed. And this is another example of where our interests intersect. If you have extremist organizations taking root in Somalia, ultimately that can threaten the United States as well as Uganda, as well as Kenya, as well as the entire region.
So right now you’ve got a transitional government that is making some efforts. I don’t think anybody expects Somalia anytime in the next few years to suddenly be transformed into a model democracy. Whatever governance structures take place in Somalia have to be aware of the tribal and traditional structures and clan structures that exist within Somalia. But certainly what we can do is create a situation where people — young people are not carrying around rifles, shooting each other on the streets. And we want to be a partner with Somalia in that effort, and we will continue to do so.
And some of it is financial, some of it is developmental, some of it is being able to help basic infrastructure. In some cases, we may try to find a portion of the country that is relatively stable and start work there to create a model that the rest of the country can then look at and say, this is a different path than the one that we’re taking right now.
But in the end, I think that this metaphor of the success of the World Cup and the bombing shows that each of you are going to be confronted with two paths. There’s going to be a path that takes us into a direction of more conflict, more bloodshed, less economic development, continued poverty even as the rest of the world races ahead — or there’s a vision in which people come together for the betterment and development of their own country.
And for all the great promise that’s been fulfilled over the last 50 years, I want you to understand — because I think it’s important for us to be honest with ourselves — Africa has also missed huge opportunities for too long. And I’ll just give you one example.
When my father traveled to the United States and got his degree in the early ’60s, the GDP of Kenya was actually on partner, maybe actually higher than the GDP of South Korea. Think about that. All right? So when I was born, Kenya per capita might have been wealthier than South Korea. Now it’s not even close. Well, that’s 50 years that was lost in terms of opportunities. When it comes to natural resources, when it comes to the talent and potential of the people, there’s no reason why Kenya shouldn’t have been on that same trajectory.
And so 50 years from now, when you look back you want to make sure that the continent hasn’t missed those opportunities as well. We want to make sure of that as well. And the United States wants to listen to you and work with you. And so when you go back and you talk to your friends and you say, what was the main message the President had — we are rooting for your success, and we want to work with you to achieve that success, but ultimately success is going to be in your hands. And being a partner means that we can be there by your side, but we can’t do it for you.
Okay, thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.)
Fact Sheet: The President’s Engagement in Africa
“I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world, as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect.”
President Obama, Accra, Ghana, July 2009
In 2010, seventeen countries across sub-Saharan Africa celebrate fifty years of independence. In honor of this important historic moment, in acknowledgement of the extraordinarily young demographic profile of the region, and as part of an effort to forge strong, forward-looking partnerships in the years ahead, President Obama is hosting a forum for young African leaders in Washington, D.C., from August 3 – 5. These 115 young leaders come from civil society and the private sector and represent more than forty countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
In Accra, the President highlighted a “simple truth” about our country’s connections with Africa: Africa’s prosperity can expand America’s prosperity. Africa’s health and security can contribute to the world’s health and security. And the strength of Africa’s democracy can help advance human rights for people everywhere.
He emphasized that “this mutual responsibility must be the foundation of our partnership.” And over the past year and a half, we have been focused on four areas that are critical to the future of Africa: strong and sustainable democratic governments, opportunity and development, strengthening public health, and the peaceful resolution of conflict. Here are some examples of actions the Administration has taken:
Addressing Global Issues
The Administration’s approach to development addresses issues at the core of Africa’s agenda.
· Feed the Future: In 2009, President Obama announced a $3 billion global food security initiative that has the support of the world’s major and emerging donor nations. To date, the United States has led international efforts to review nine comprehensive country strategies, commit new resources in support of those strategies, collaborate in the establishment and initial capitalization of the World Bank-led Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, and launch a new research and development program.
· Global Health Initiative: In May 2009, President Obama announced the Global Health Initiative (GHI), a six-year, $63 billion initiative which builds on the progress and success of PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Program on AIDS Relief) and also expands our global health effort and impact by including investments to strengthen health systems, improve maternal child health, address neglected tropical diseases, and foster increased research and development.
· Climate Change: The United States and nations across Africa are addressing the challenge of global climate change through the Copenhagen Accord and a range of international partnerships promoting clean energy technologies and climate-resilient development for Africans. The United States has more than tripled climate assistance this year. Support for international climate adaptation has increased tenfold, with a focus on helping the most vulnerable nations in Africa and around the world. U.S. climate-related appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 total $1.3 billion, and the Administration has requested $1.9 billion in appropriations for FY 2011.
Strengthening our Partnerships
The United States has elevated engagement with emerging and existing African powers, and has recently launched three new Strategic Dialogues to that effect:
· The United States and Angola have signed a new Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and have launched a new Strategic Partnership Dialogue, setting the stage for improved cooperation on energy, trade, security, and agriculture.
· Over the past year and a half, the U.S. relationship with South Africa has gone from strained to sound. We have institutionalized the new era of cooperation in a formal, ongoing U.S.-South Africa Strategic Dialogue and are working together on a range of issues from nonproliferation to agricultural development.
· April 2010 saw the formal establishment of the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission, a high-level mechanisms to address issues surrounding governance and transparency (including preparing for upcoming elections), energy and power, food security, and regional security.
Throughout the region, through diplomatic engagement and support to key institutions and civil society organizations, the United States has promoted good governance as a critical priority for the region.
· In Kenya, the United States has led international efforts to support Kenyan civil society and the reform agenda developed in the wake of early 2008 post-election violence.
· The administration launched the first ever high-level bilateral discussions with the African Union. In April of this year, Secretary of State Clinton and National Security Advisor General Jones, Ret., welcomed African Union leaders to Washington to hold the first annual high-level consultation with the AU. Attorney General Eric Holder followed up on this initiative by addressing the AU Summit in Kampala in July. At the ninth U.S.-sub Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, also known as the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), being held in Washington this week, USAID will sign a new partnership agreement with the African Union to advance prosperity, peace and stability.
Crisis Prevention and Response
· The Obama administration conducted a comprehensive review of our policies in Sudan and developed a strategy focused on addressing our multiple policy objectives in Sudan and the region, including resolution to the crisis in Darfur and implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. We have named a full-time Special Envoy who has re-energized and broadened the multilateral coalition addressing Sudan’s challenges.
· Following a comprehensive review of our policies on Somalia earlier this year, the President issued Executive Order 13536, the first E.O. focused on addressing the underlying factors contributing to instability in Somalia. The Administration’s policy on Somalia is the first comprehensive approach to addressing the counterterrorism, counterpiracy, humanitarian, and security and political concerns facing the beleaguered state.
· In central Africa, Secretary Clinton has elevated the issue of sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to a top priority, personally visiting eastern Congo in August, 2009, and directing that additional resources and innovative approaches be employed to combat this violence, end impunity and assist those affected.
· In Guinea, the United States was an international leader in condemning the September 28 massacre, supporting a return to constitutional order, and assisting in the electoral process that gave Guineans their first opportunity to vote in credible elections since their country became independent in 1958.
Encouraging Private Sector Growth
The United States is currently hosting the ninth United States – Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (AGOA Forum) in Washington, D.C., from August 2 – 3. Unlike previous Forums, this will be held not only in Washington but also in Kansas City, Missouri, from August 5 – 6, to allow for a deeper focus on agri-business. We are also emphasizing the role of women through a two-week AGOA Women’s Entrepreneurship Program to provide tools to better integrate African women into the global economy. In addition, as a follow up to President Obama’s Entrepreneurship Summit this past April, the Board of Directors of the United States Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) approved on June 24 up to $150 million in financing to support the establishment of a private equity investment fund designed to invest in companies in West Africa.
The most senior representatives of the Obama Administration have actively engaged on African issues.
President Obama directly laid out a comprehensive vision for U.S.-African engagement in Accra, Ghana, in 2009 during the earliest visit to sub-Saharan Africa by any President in his first year in office. In addition to holding a meeting with 25 African heads of state and African Commission Chairperson Jean Ping at the United Nations General Assembly last year, President Obama has also held bilateral meetings with President Zuma of South Africa, President Kikwete of Tanzania, President Mills of Ghana, President Jonathan of Nigeria, Prime Minister Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe, President Khama of Botswana, and President Sirleaf of Liberia.
Last summer, Secretary Clinton traveled to seven African countries (Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde). She continues to host and reach out to African leaders on a regular basis.
In June 2010, Vice President Biden traveled to Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa to address important bilateral issues in addition to holding numerous in-depth discussions on looming challenges in Sudan and Somalia.
GEITHNER OP-ED ON ECONOMIC RECOVERY
The full text of the op-ed by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is printed below. The piece, published in today’s New York Times, can be read online.
Welcome to the Recovery
New York Times
August 3, 2010
By Timothy F. Geithner
The devastation wrought by the great recession is still all too real for millions of Americans who lost their jobs, businesses and homes. The scars of the crisis are fresh, and every new economic report brings another wave of anxiety. That uncertainty is understandable, but a review of recent data on the American economy shows that we are on a path back to growth.
The recession that began in late 2007 was extraordinarily severe, but the actions we took at its height to stimulate the economy helped arrest the freefall, preventing an even deeper collapse and putting the economy on the road to recovery.
From the start, President Obama made clear that recovery from a crisis of this magnitude would not come quickly and that the recovery would not follow a straight line. We saw that this past spring, when the European fiscal crisis posed a serious challenge to the markets and to business confidence, dampening investment and the rate of growth here.
While the economy has a long way to go before reaching its full potential, last week’s data on economic growth show that large parts of the private sector continue to strengthen. Business investment and consumption — the two keys to private demand — are getting stronger, better than last year and better than last quarter. Uncertainty is still inhibiting investment, but business capital spending increased at a solid annual rate of about 17 percent.
Together, private consumption and fixed investment contributed about 3.25 percent to growth. Even the surge in imports, which lowered the rate of increase of G.D.P., actually reflects healthy and growing American demand.
As the economists Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart have written, recoveries that follow financial crises are typically a hard climb. That is reality. The process of repair means economic growth will come slower than we would like. But despite these challenges, there is good news to report:
• Exports are booming because American companies are very competitive and lead the world in many high-tech industries.
• Private job growth has returned — not as fast as we would like, but at an earlier stage of this recovery than in the last two recoveries. Manufacturing has generated 136,000 new jobs in the past six months.
• Businesses have repaired their balance sheets and are now in a strong financial position to reinvest and grow.
• American families are saving more, paying down their debt and borrowing more responsibly. This has been a necessary adjustment because the borrow-and-spend path we were on wasn’t sustainable.
• The auto industry is coming back, and the Big Three — Chrysler, Ford and General Motors — are now leaner, generating profits despite lower annual sales.
• Major banks, forced by the stress tests to raise capital and open their books, are stronger and more competitive. Now, as businesses expand again, our banks are better positioned to finance growth.
• The government’s investment in banks has already earned more than $20 billion in profits for taxpayers, and the TARP program will be out of business earlier than expected — and costing nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars less than projected last year.
We all understand and appreciate that these signs of strength in parts of the economy are cold comfort to those Americans still looking for work and to those industries, like construction, hit hardest by the crisis. But these economic measures, nonetheless, do represent an encouraging turnaround from the frightening future we faced just 18 months ago.
The new data show that this recession was even deeper than previously estimated. The plunge in economic activity started an entire year before President Obama took office and was accelerating at the end of 2008, when G.D.P. fell at an annual rate of roughly 7 percent.
Panicked by the collapse in demand and financing and fearing a prolonged slump, the private sector cut payrolls and investment savagely. The rate of job loss worsened with time: by early last year, 750,000 jobs vanished every month. The economic collapse drove tax revenue down, pushing the annual deficit up to $1.3 trillion by last January.
The economic rescue package that President Obama put in place was essential to turning the economy around. The combined effect of government actions taken over the past two years — the stimulus package, the stress tests and recapitalization of the banks, the restructuring of the American car industry and the many steps taken by the Federal Reserve — were extremely effective in stopping the freefall and restarting the economy.
According to a report released last week by Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi, advisers to President Bill Clinton and Senator John McCain, respectively, the combined actions since the fall of 2007 of the Federal Reserve, the White House and Congress helped save 8.5 million jobs and increased gross domestic product by 6.5 percent relative to what would have happened had we done nothing. The study showed that government action delivered a powerful bang for the buck, and that the bank rescue on its own will turn a profit for taxpayers.
We have a long way to go to address the fiscal trauma and damage across the country, and we will need to monitor the ups and downs in the economy month by month. The share of workers who have been unemployed for six months or more is at its highest level since 1948, when the data was first recorded, and we must do more to ensure that they have the skills they need to re-enter the 21st-century economy. Small businesses are still battling a tough climate. State and local governments are still hurting.
There are urgent tasks to be undertaken to reinforce the recovery, and Congress should move now to help small business, to assist states in keeping teachers in the classroom, to increase investments in public infrastructure, to promote clean energy and to increase exports. And while making smart, targeted investments in our future, we must also cut the deficit over the next few years and make sure that America once again lives within its means.
These are considerable challenges, but we are in a much stronger position to face them today than when President Obama took office. By taking aggressive action to fix the financial system, reduce growth in health care costs and improve education, we have put the American economy on a firmer foundation for future growth.
And as the president said last week, no one should bet against the American worker, American business and American ingenuity.
We suffered a terrible blow, but we are coming back.
Timothy F. Geithner is the secretary of the Treasury.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT A DNC FINANCE EVENT
Hyatt Regency Hotel
12:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Everybody, please have a seat. Have a seat.
Well, we have some just extraordinary leaders here today. I want to acknowledge a few of them. First of all, please give another round of applause to your outstanding young mayor, Kasim Reed. (Applause.) Three wonderful members of Congress who are fighting day in, day out, on behalf of the people of Georgia but also on behalf of people all across this country — Congressman Sanford Bishop — (applause) — Congressman David Scott — (applause) — and one of the genuine heroes of this country, Congressman John Lewis. (Applause.)
Our Labor Commissioner and U.S. Senate candidate Michael Thurmond is in the house. (Applause.) Attorney General Thurbert Baker — (applause) — I think is here. If not, give him a round of applause anyway. Ag Commissioner Tommy Irvin. (Applause.) State party chair Jane Kidd. (Applause.) And the DNC Southern finance chair Daniel Halpern is in the house. (Applause.)
So, Atlanta, it is wonderful to be here, wonderful to be among so many good friends. A lot of people here worked hard on behalf of my campaign. I am reminded of the story President Lincoln told about one of his supporters who came to the White House seeking some patronage, seeking a job. And apparently in the outdoor reception area, he said, look, I want to see Lincoln personally because I’m responsible for him getting that job. Nobody did more than me. It’s payback time. So Lincoln lets him into his office. He says, sir, I understand that you take responsibility for me having this job. The guy says, that’s right. And Lincoln says, you’re forgiven. (Laughter.)
Look, we all know that the last few years have been extraordinarily challenging for the United States. Eighteen months ago, I took office after nearly a decade of economic policies that gave us sluggish growth, falling incomes, and a record deficit, and policies that culminated in the worst financial crisis that we’ve seen since the Great Depression. In the last six months of 2008, three million Americans lost their jobs. The month I was sworn, January of 2009, 750,000 Americans lost their jobs; 600,000 were lost a month later. All told, 8 million jobs lost as a consequence of this crisis.
Now, we didn’t get here by accident. We got here after 10 years of an economic agenda in Washington that was pretty straightforward: You cut taxes for millionaires, you cut rules for special interests, and you cut working folks loose to fend for themselves. That was the philosophy of the last administration and their friends in Congress. If you couldn’t find a job or you couldn’t go to college, tough luck — you’re on your own. But if you’re a Wall Street bank or an insurance company or an oil company, then you got to write your own ticket and play by your own rules. And we know how this turned out.
So when I took office, because of the help of some of the people in this room, we put forward a new economic plan — a plan that rewards hard work instead of greed; a plan that rewards responsibility instead of recklessness; a plan that’s focused on making our middle class more secure and our country more competitive in the long run — so that the jobs and industries of the future aren’t all going to China and India, but are being created right here in the United States of America.
Instead of spending money on tax breaks for folks who don’t need them and weren’t even asking for them, we’re making smart investments in innovation and clean energy and education that are going to benefit all of our people and our entire economy over the long run. (Applause.)
And instead of giving special interests free reign to do whatever they want, we’re demanding new accountability from Wall Street to Washington — so that big corporations have to play by the same rules that small businesses and entrepreneurs do.
Now, because the policies of the last decade got us in such a deep hole, it’s going to take some time for us to dig ourselves out. We’re certainly not there yet. But I want everybody to understand, after eighteen months, I can say with confidence we are on the right track. (Applause.)
When we were — instead of losing millions of jobs, we have created jobs for six straight months in the private sector. Instead of an economy that is contracting, we’ve got an economy that is expanding. So the last thing we would want to do is go back to what we were doing before.
And I want everybody in this room to understand, that is the choice in this election. (Applause.) The choice is — the choice is whether we want to go forward or we want to go backwards to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place.
Now, understand, it’d be one thing if the Republicans had seen the error of their ways. (Laughter.) Right? I mean, if after the rejections of 2006 and 2008, realizing, gosh, look at this big disaster that we caused and taking record surpluses into record deficits and causing all this hardship — we’re going to rethink our approach and go out in the wilderness for a while, come back with some new ideas. (Laughter.)
But that’s not what happened. It’s not like they’ve engaged in some heavy reflection. They have not come up with a single, solitary, new idea to address the challenges of the American people. They don’t have a single idea that’s different from George Bush’s ideas — not one. (Applause.)
Instead, they’re betting on amnesia. (Laughter.) That’s what they’re counting on. They’re counting on that you all forgot. They think that they can run the okey-doke on you. (Laughter.) Bamboozle you. (Laughter.)
I mean, think about it, these are the folks who were behind the steering wheel and drove the car into the ditch. So we’ve had to put on our galoshes, we went down there in the mud, we’ve been pushing, we’ve been shoving. They’ve been standing back, watching, say you’re not moving fast enough, you ain’t doing it right. (Laughter.) Why are you doing it that way? You got some mud on the car. Right? (Applause.)
That’s all right. We don’t need help. We’re just going to keep on pushing. We push, we push. The thing is slipping a little bit, but we stay with it. Finally — finally — we get this car out of the ditch, where we’re just right there on the blacktop. We’re about to start driving forward again. They say, hold on, we want the keys back. (Laughter and applause.) You can’t have the keys back — you don’t know how to drive. (Laughter and applause.) You don’t know how to drive.
And I do want to point out, when you get in your car, when you go forward, what do you do? You put it in “D.” When you want to go back, what do you do? (Laughter.) You put it in “R.” We won’t do want to go into reverse back in the ditch. We want to go forwards. We got to put it in “D.” (Applause.) Can’t have the keys back. (Laughter.)
The choice in this election is between policies that encourage job creation here in America or encourage jobs to go elsewhere. That’s why I’ve said instead of giving tax breaks to corporations that want to ship jobs overseas, we want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in the United States of America. (Applause.) And by the way, we’ve already cut taxes for businesses eight times since I’ve been President — eight times. And we want to do more, because small business owners are the lifeblood of this economy. (Applause.)
Right now, as we speak — as we speak, there’s a bill in the Senate that would cut taxes for small businesses, would help them get the loans they need to hire again. The members of Congress who are here, they already voted on this. They already passed this bill. And by the way, this is a bill that’s based on Democratic and Republican ideas. It’s been praised by groups like the Chamber of Commerce. They never praise me. (Laughter.) The National Federation of Independent Business. It’s a bill that’s fully paid for, doesn’t add to our deficit.
So you would think — Republicans say they’re the pro-business party, isn’t that what they say? You would think this is a bill that they would want to pass. And, yet, day after day, week after week, they keep on stalling this bill and stonewalling this bill and opposing this bill. Why? Pure politics.
They’re more interested in the next election than the next generation. And that’s why they can’t have the keys back — because we need somebody who is driving with a vision to the future. (Applause.) That’s what we’ve been doing over these last 20 months.
We’re also jumpstarting a homegrown, clean energy industry — because I don’t want to see the solar panels and the wind turbines and the biodiesel created in other countries. I don’t want China and Germany and Brazil to get the jump on us in the industries of the future. I want to see all that stuff right here in the United States of America, with American workers. And the investments we’ve made so far are expected to create 800,000 jobs by 2012 — 800,000 jobs in an industry of the future. (Applause.)
We want to create the infrastructure for the future — not just roads and bridges — but also the broadband lines and the smart grid lines that will ensure we stay competitively on top for years to come, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs all across the country in the process. So that’s our plan to create jobs right here in America — not just short term, but long term.
But the fact is, most of the members of the other party voted no on each and every one of these initiatives. No on tax cuts to small businesses. No to clean energy jobs. No to the railroad and highway projects.
Now, I want to point out that doesn’t stop them from showing up at the ribbon-cuttings. (Laughter and applause.) John, you notice that? They’ll be voting no — no, this is Obama’s — no, we don’t believe in recovery, we don’t believe in all this. And then you show up at that ribbon cutting, and they’re all there right in the front. Cheesing and grinning. (Laughter.) Sending out press releases. (Laughter.)
So a few weeks ago, the Republican leader of the House was asked, what’s your jobs plan if your party takes control of Congress next year? He said, well, you know, our number one priority — he was asked what’s your jobs plan — your number priority is to repeal the health care bill.
Now, this is a bill that makes sure that insurance companies can’t deny you coverage if you’ve got a preexisting condition, makes sure that young people can stay on their parents’ insurance till they’re 26, provides a 35 percent tax credit to small businesses that are doing the right thing, giving their employees health care, makes sure that companies can’t drop you when you get sick.
Now, I have no idea why you would want to repeal that in the first place, but I sure don’t understand how repealing it would create jobs, unless it’s for some folks in the insurance company who are being hired to deny you your claims. But that can’t be a real jobs plan.
Now, look, I may be wrong. Maybe they know something I don’t, or no other economist or expert understands. And if you think that’s a good idea, then you should vote for them.
But I’ve got a different view. The health insurance reform we passed isn’t just preventing insurance companies from denying you coverage — it’s making the coverage that you got more secure, and is ultimately going to lower costs for all Americans. And one of the most important things we can do to reduce our budget deficit is to get control of health care costs.
These guys don’t have a plan for that. They just have a plan to say no because they’re thinking about the next election instead of the next generation. And that’s the choice that we’re going to be making in this next election. The choice in this election is between policies that strengthen the hand of the special interests or strengthen America’s middle class.
They want to repeal health care — we’re not going to let it happen. We want to move forward. They pledged to repeal Wall Street reform. Here we’ve got the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Everybody knows, having looked at it, that the incentives on Wall Street were skewed and people were doing crazy things with other people’s money, making huge, risky bets and then expecting taxpayers to bail them out if it didn’t work out. So after all the hardship we’ve gone through to repair this economy, you’d think it would be common sense to say, let’s have some basic rules of the road in place to ensure that a crisis like this doesn’t happen again.
But what did the other party say? No. They want to go back to the status quo that got us into this same situation. The reforms we passed protect consumers and responsible bankers and responsible business owners. That’s what the free market is supposed to be about: setting some basic rules for the road so that everybody can compete — not on how to game the system, but how to provide good service and good products to customers.
Make sure that mortgage companies can’t give you a mortgage that you don’t understand. Make sure that credit card companies can’t jack up your rates without providing you some notification — common sense stuff. But they want to repeal it because they’re more interested in the next election than they are in the next generation. And that’s the choice that we will face in this next election.
If the other party wants to keep on giving taxpayer subsidies to big banks, that’s their prerogative. But that’s not what America is about. That’s not going to move us forward.
I’ll give you another example. We had a law in place when I took office in which the government was guaranteeing student loans, except they were going through financial middlemen who were taking out billions of dollars of profits issuing the loans. But the loans were guaranteed, so they weren’t taking any risks. They were just making billions of dollars of money.
We said, well, that doesn’t make sense at a time when young people are trying to get to college. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to cut out the middle man. We’ve added tens of billions of dollars to the student loans program. More than a million young people are going to get help that wouldn’t otherwise get help because of the decision we’ve made. (Applause.) What side do you think they were on? The other party voted no.
We passed a law to prohibit pay discrimination. My attitude is equal pay for equal work. Women should be paid just like men for doing the same job. (Applause.) They said no. They want to go backwards. We want to move forwards. (Applause.)
They want to extend the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. Now, I believe in tax cuts for the right folks. I kept my campaign promise — cut taxes for 95 percent of working Americans. But I don’t understand how do you get up here and talk about how you care so deeply about the deficit, and yet you want to perpetuate a tax cut that costs $700 billion, with a “B” — $700 billion — and would not provide the kind of economic growth or benefits for the vast majority of Americans. That’s the choice that we face in this election.
They voted to make sure that oil companies continue to get protected from some liabilities with respect to oil spills. How do you do that? We just spent all this time and energy trying to cap this well in the Gulf. You’d think it would make just common sense to ensure that oil companies are fully accountable. They voted no against that.
When we forced BP to put $20 billion aside to make sure those fishermen and store owners and hotel owners were protected — (applause) — and what happened? The guy who would be the chairman of the Energy Committee in the House apologized to BP. Sure did. Apologized. Said we engaged in a shakedown to protect ordinary families from the devastation that had taken place.
So look, you go across the board, Atlanta, there’s going to be a choice in this election. It’s the choice between special interest policies that led us into this mess and policies that are finally leading us out, that are finally helping America grow again, policies that are making middle-class Americans more secure and giving them greater opportunity.
I know this nation has been through incredibly difficult times. And I also know, by the way, that not all the steps we took have been popular. Folks in Washington, these pundits, sometimes they write — they’re all surprised — “President Obama went ahead with some of these steps like health care reform and helping the auto companies, and those weren’t popular.”
Well, I knew they weren’t popular. I’ve got pollsters too. (Laughter.) You don’t think I’ve got polls that tell me what’s popular and what’s not? But for the last 20 months, my job has been to govern.
So when I went to Detroit last week, and I look out and I see plants producing clean energy cars that otherwise would have been shut down, a million jobs that would have been lost, cars no longer made in America because the entire industry had collapsed, and I say, we made the right decision.
And now Ford and Chrysler and GM are all making a profit. They’ve all hired 55,000 workers back. (Applause.) They are on the move. They’re about to pay the taxpayers back for every investment that we made. (Applause.) Then I say to myself, I’m not here just to do what’s popular — I’m here to do what’s right.
And that’s the kind of leadership you need and you deserve. That’s the choice we face in this election. And, Democrats, if you work hard, as hard as you worked for me in 2008, we’re going to keep going forward. We are not going backwards. (Applause.)
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.) God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)