Statement of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
Last night, intelligence and law enforcement agencies discovered potential suspicious packages on two planes in transit to the United States. Based on close cooperation among U.S. government agencies and with our foreign allies and partners, authorities were able to identify and examine two suspicious packages, one in East Midlands, United Kingdom and one in Dubai. Both of these packages originated from Yemen. As a result of security precautions triggered by this threat, the additional measures were taken regarding the flights at Newark Liberty and Philadelphia International Airports.
The President was notified of a potential terrorist threat on Thursday night at 10:35, by John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism. The President directed U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the Department of Homeland Security, to take steps to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and to determine whether these threats are a part of any additional terrorist plotting. The President has received regular updates from his national security team since he was alerted to the threat.
DHS Statement on Increased Security Precautions
Release Date: October 29, 2010
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
“As a precaution, DHS has taken a number of steps to enhance security. Some of these security measures will be visible while others will not. The public may recognize specific enhancements including heightened cargo screening and additional security at airports. Passengers should continue to expect an unpredictable mix of security layers that include explosives trace detection, advanced imaging technology, canine teams and pat downs, among others. As always, we remind the public to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity to local law enforcement.”
FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Highlights Unprecedented Coordination across Federal Government to Combat Violence Against Women
FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Highlights Unprecedented Coordination across Federal Government to Combat Violence Against Women
As part of ongoing Administration efforts to reduce domestic and sexual abuse, HHS, HUD, DOJ, Treasury, Labor and FDIC announce new initiatives to protect victims of abuse, provide resources to prevent abuseToday, the Obama Administration is highlighting unprecedented coordination and cooperation across the entire government to protect victims of domestic and sexual violence and enable survivors to break the cycle of abuse. As part of this ongoing government-wide effort, HHS, HUD, DOJ, Treasury, Labor and FDIC today announced new initiatives to protect victims of abuse and provide resources for families and communities to prevent abuse. Violence is still a significant barrier in many women’s lives, and this Administration is committed to taking concrete action to reduce domestic violence in this country.
One-in-every-four women experiences domestic violence during their lifetimes and more than 20 million women in the U.S. have been victims of rape. Approximately 15.5 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year. The impact of abuse lingers for years, both for victims and their children.In response, the President has called on every agency in the Federal government to be part of the solution to ending violence against women. Domestic violence and sexual assault are not just criminal justice issues – the scope and far-reaching effects of violence require a coordinated response across the Federal government.The initiatives announced and highlighted today demonstrate a broad, comprehensive response to reducing violence against women.
Specifically, these concrete actions include steps to:• Protect Children and Break the Cycle of Violence• Improve Legal Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence• Increase Sexual Assault Arrests and Successful Prosecutions• Help Victims Regain Housing and Financial IndependenceProtect Children and Break the Cycle of ViolenceIntervening early to reach children and young families experiencing domestic and sexual violence is a crucial element of our strategy to end violence against women. Without intervention, children who witness violence are at greater risk of developing behavioral problems, psychiatric disorders, school failure, and violence against others.
• Through the Affordable Care Act’s new Pregnancy Assistance Fund, 5 states (NC, NM, OR, VA, and WA) will start this month providing help for pregnant women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence. High schools, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) offices, health clinics, and child welfare agencies will have tools to2reach vulnerable women and connect them with services. One in twelve adult women are abused during pregnancy and 25-50% of adolescent mothers experience domestic violence before, during, or just after pregnancy. Children born to abused mothers are 30% more likely to require intensive care upon birth.
• The Affordable Care Act’s new Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program provides $1.5 billion over five years to States for evidence-based home visitation services. The law requires every state to consider domestic violence as one of six benchmarks in improving the health and safety of families in at-risk communities. Nurses, social workers, educators, child development specialists or other well-trained staff will promote the health and well-being of children and their families in these communities, intervening early to reduce rates of domestic violence and child abuse.
The HHS Head Start program is reaching out to pregnant women and parents of young children to prevent and respond to domestic violence. Head Start centers in 6 states (AL, FL, MI, MT, NM, and SC) are launching a community-based Safe Families, Safe Homes early education curriculum. This effort will help Head Start staff and community partners identify and respond to young children exposed to violence. This week, HHS is also sending guidance to thousands of Head Start and other early childhood programs across the country and urging them to address domestic violence by providing these programs with information about the Safe Families, Safe Homes curriculum and other available resources.
• The Attorney General has launched the Defending Childhood Initiative to protect children from the harmful consequences of witnessing violence. The initiative will work to prevent exposure to all types of violence and build children’s resiliency to recover and thrive when violence does occur.
The new HHS Enhancing Services for Children and Youth Exposed to Domestic Violence program supports innovative, evidence-informed services for children exposed to domestic violence. Starting this month, projects in four states (AK, NJ, ID, and WI) and a national clearinghouse will help children heal from the trauma of abuse and build stronger community services.Improve Legal Protections for Victims of Domestic ViolenceProviding victims with greater access to legal assistance and civil protection orders are essential strategies in reducing abuse. Studies show that access to legal services helps victims escape from abusive relationships, and that access to counsel has reduced domestic violence by as much as 21%. Protective orders are effective in reducing the level of violence and fear of harm for many victims, but they must be properly enforced.
• Today, the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, in partnership with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, is releasing new tools for communities to improve enforcement of protective orders. Civil Protection Orders: A Guide for Improving Practice will keep victims and their children safe by providing guidance to advocates, attorneys, judges, law enforcement officers, and prosecutors to ensure that protective orders are issued, served and enforced throughout the United Sates.3
• Today, the Department of Justice, with assistance from the White House, is launching Access to Justice for Domestic Violence Victims, a pilot project to encourage more commitment from the private bar to provide pro bono legal services to victims of domestic violence. Beginning in New Orleans and Baltimore, private law firms will hire law students who have participated in law school clinics and defer their start dates while they work at domestic violence service providers. The lawyers will help victims secure protective orders, navigate the family courts, and access safe housing. Access to Justice will encourage ongoing pro bono partnerships between private law firms, domestic violence service providers and law school clinics.Increase Sexual Assault Arrests and Successful ProsecutionsOne in six women and one in thirty-three men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, but fewer than 1 in 6 rapes are reported to the police. Women who have been raped have high rates of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts.
• The Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is launching a new national campaign to reduce sexual violence in the United States by improving the criminal justice system response, increasing services for victims, and changing attitudes. Today, the White House Council on Women and Girls and the Department of Justice held the first ever national roundtable on sexual violence at the White House. Over the next six months, OVW will hold regional forums around the country to engage the public in their sexual assault reduction campaign. In the 2011 budget, President Obama has proposed doubling funding for VAWA programs serving victims of sexual assault.
• Reducing the backlog of rape kits can be a powerful way to get rapists off the streets. Today, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is launching a new effort to identify long term solutions to the DNA backlog of sexual assault cases. In up to 5 jurisdictions, the project will team researchers with law enforcement agencies, crime labs, prosecutors, and victim advocates. The teams will identify underlying causes of the backlog, create new systems for tracking, screening and testing DNA evidence, and apply strategies to prevent backlogs from developing in the future. As a result of this project, NIJ aims to eliminate backlogs and develop innovative practices that can be adapted nationwide.Help Victims Regain Housing and Financial IndependencePerpetrators of domestic violence often create serious obstacles that prevent victims from achieving economic independence and self-sufficiency. Without financial independence and a stable place to live, victims and their children are trapped with nowhere else to go. As a result, victims of domestic violence are often forced to choose between staying in an abusive relationship or facing economic hardship, poverty, and homelessness. But when victims improve their economic stability, they increase their likelihood of living separately from their abusers.
• Today, Secretary Donovan is releasing much-anticipated rules that provide guidance to housing authorities and landlords to evict perpetrators of abuse, keep their properties safe, and make sure victims do not lose their housing due to crimes committed against4them. Prior to the passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 2005, victims of domestic violence were afraid to call the police or seek help because their landlords might find out about the assault and evict them. VAWA created new protections for victims in publicly assisted housing, but rules governing these provisions were never finalized.
• Last month, the Department of the Treasury and the White House convened domestic violence organizations, asset-building experts, credit union organizations, and other financial educators to determine ways to help victims build credit, access safe financial products, and save for the future. Treasury is working with the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, its MyMoney.gov website, the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, and its private sector and government partners to connect domestic violence organizations with existing financial education and access resources.
• The FDIC is also helping victims recover from financial abuse by updating their popular Money Smart financial literacy curriculum to include information for victims of domestic violence. The new Money Smart curriculum will be available Friday, October 29th.
• Two weeks ago, HHS launched a new coordinated effort to ensure that more victims of domestic violence file for Federal refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit, use low-cost tax preparation services, and use tax time as an opportunity to access tools like savings bonds that help them save for the future.
• Access to non-traditional job training can be an important tool for victims of domestic violence to rebuild financial stability. In the coming weeks, the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau is releasing A Woman’s Guide to Green Jobs and coordinating with Wider Opportunities for Women and the National Network to End Domestic Violence to make sure that survivors have access to new green jobs.
• Today, in partnership with the Family Violence Prevention Fund, the Office on Violence Against Women is launching a new virtual resource for employers to address the impacts of domestic violence in the workplace. http://www.workplacesrespond.org provides new tools for employers, including interactive training and customized model policies to keep victims safely employed.Respond to Urgent Needs with the President’s 2011 Budget Request
• In response to the need to strengthen services to victims, the President’s 2011 budget proposed an additional $130 million to help victims find shelter, counseling, legal assistance, transitional housing and other direct services. $100 million of the increase is from the Crime Victims’ Fund, which does not consist of taxpayer dollars; it is self-sustaining and supported by criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, and penalties for federal offenders.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON SMALL BUSINESSES AND THE ECONOMY
American Cord & Webbing Co., Inc.
Woonsocket, Rhode Island
4:53 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thanks so much. Please, everybody have a seat.
It is just wonderful to be at American Cord and Webbing. And thank you — I just saw all the great work that’s being done here. I want to acknowledge a few friends here in the first row. First of all, your outstanding senior senator Jack Reed. We’re so proud of him. (Applause.) And your equally outstanding junior senator, Sheldon Whitehouse is here. (Applause.) My dear friend, Congressman Patrick Kennedy. (Applause.) And I want to just say right now, Providence mayor Dave Cicciline soon could have another job. (Applause.) Congressman Jim Langevin is just a great friend and an inspiration to all of us. (Applause.) We’ve got Woonsocket mayor Leo Fontaine is here. Where’s Mr. Mayor? There he is, right there. (Applause.) And of course somebody all of you know, Mark Krauss. Where’s Mark? (Applause.) And Ray Velino, right here. (Applause.)
You guys are pretty popular. (Laughter.) That’s nice.
It is great to be here in Rhode Island, and it is great to be here at American Cord and Webbing. I just had a chance to take a quick tour and see the outstanding work that so many of the workers are doing here. These guys make webbing, cords, buckles, plastic and metal hardware for sporting goods, outdoor goods, travel gear. They are also making customized leashes for Bo — (laughter) — that I am very proud of, and it is clear that they take enormous pride in what they do.
This is a third-generation company, and Mark was telling me how it got started with his grandfather in 1917, and it’s just a testament to American ingenuity and American entrepreneurship. And now he’s got four beautiful kids, along with his lovely wife. And one of them or two of them may end up continuing the business once Mark decides he’s ready to retire. But that looks like a long ways off. (Laughter.) He looks pretty young and pretty fit.
Like most small businesses, American Cord and Webbing has gone through some tough times in the past few years. Early in 2009, they lost customers and had to lay off some workers. But they buckled down — that was a pun. (Laughter.) You got that? You catch that one? And then invested in new products and pursued new customers. And over the past year, they’ve hired back all the workers they had to lay off. And today business is going well. (Applause.)
So this year, Mark expects to turn a profit. He’s going to invest in new machinery and new equipment. And just last month, this company was approved for an SBA loan that’s going to help them expand this facility by nearly half, which is going to be very exciting.
Now, this is important — not just for this particular business and these particular workers, but for America. It’s small businesses like this one, after all, that are the bricks and blocks, the cord and webbing, if you will, of our economy. But the financial crisis made it very difficult for them to get the loans that they needed to grow.
The recession meant that folks are spending less. And across the country, many small businesses that were once the cornerstones of their communities are now empty storefronts that haunt our main streets.
So the bottom line is, when our small businesses don’t do well, America doesn’t do well. So we all have a stake in helping our small businesses grow and succeed. And because small businesses create two out of every three new jobs in America, our economy depends on it.
And that’s why, over the past 20 months, we’ve done everything we can to boost small businesses like this one. And what’s guided us is a simple principle: Government can’t guarantee your success, can’t guarantee Mark’s success — he doesn’t expect it to — but government can knock down some of the barriers that stand in the way of small business success and help create the conditions where small businesses can grow and hire and create new products and prosper.
That’s why we’ve now passed, with the help of these outstanding members of Congress — 16 different tax cuts for America’s small businesses over the last couple years — 16 tax cuts over the last couple years. (Applause.)
We’ve passed tax cuts for hiring back unemployed workers. We’ve passed tax cuts for investing in new equipment. There are 4 million small businesses right now that are poised to get a tax break of up to 35 percent of the premiums they pay if they are providing health insurance to their employees — and that’s a tax break that can free up tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade facilities, buy new equipment, or hire a few new workers.
And last month, after plenty of political obstacles, after months in which thousands of small business owners across America were waiting for the loans and tax cuts they badly needed to grow their business and hire new employees, I signed into law the Small Business Jobs Act.
Now, that act extended provisions that helped support tens of thousands of new SBA loans under the Recovery Act, and it waived fees on those loans to save owners money on their payments -– something that saved this particular company more than $9,000.
In less than a month since that new law took effect, more than 3,600 small business owners have already received more than $1.4 billion worth of new loans, with more to come — and the SBA has already begun offering larger loans for small business owners who need them.
The law also accelerates $55 billion in new tax cuts for businesses both large and small that make job-creating investments over the next year. It eliminates capital gains taxes on key new investments made in small businesses until the end of this year. It dramatically increases the amount small businesses can write off on new equipment investments — and we want to do more, so that you can write it all off. These are tax cuts that can help America — help businesses like American Cord and Webbing that are making new investments right now. And it can help create jobs.
Finally, the law that we signed creates new initiatives to increase lending to small businesses. It strengthens state programs that spur private sector lending, and that’s a step that will support $15 billion in new small business loans across the country. And it sets up a new Small Business Lending Fund that will support Main Street banks that lend to Main Street businesses.
We’re doing all this because when times are tough, I believe we should be cutting taxes for small business owners. We should be cutting taxes for companies that are investing here in Rhode Island and here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
When new loans are hard to come by, I believe we should help free up lending. When some companies are shipping jobs overseas, we should be helping companies like this one — our small businesses, our manufacturers, our clean energy companies. I think those are pretty commonsense values that we can all agree on.
Now, I will confess I wish that Republican leaders in Congress had agreed earlier. They voted against these ideas again and again. They talk a good game about tax cuts and giving entrepreneurs the freedom to succeed when, in fact, they also ended up voting against tax cuts for the middle class; they voted against tax breaks for companies creating jobs here in the United States.
When you vote against small business tax relief and you hold up a small business jobs bill for months, that doesn’t do anything to support small businesses like this one. It doesn’t do anything to support the outstanding workers at this company. It’s just playing politics. If you’re going to talk a big game, then you need to deliver.
So I hope that my friends on the other side of the aisle are going to change their minds going forward, because putting the American people back to work, boosting our small businesses, rebuilding the economic security of the middle class, these are big national challenges. And we’ve all got a stake in solving them. And it’s not going to be enough just to play politics. You can’t just focus on the next election. You’ve got to focus on the next generation.
That’s how Mark’s company has succeeded by focusing on the next generation. And that’s how we have to think about our work in Washington. (Applause.)
So let me just again congratulate the company for doing the great work that you’re doing. Thank you for your hospitality. I know it’s always a big fuss when I show up. (Laughter.)
And to all of you here in Rhode Island and all across the country, when I tour plants like this, it makes me optimistic. We’ve got big problems, and it’s going to take some time to solve them. It took us a long time to get into this economic hole that we’ve been in.
And the recession that we inherited was so deep that it’s going to take some time to get out. But we are going to get out.
And I’m absolutely convinced that there are brighter days ahead for America — an America where businesses like this one aren’t just thriving, but are powering our economic growth; where workers like the ones who are here are rewarded for the work that you do; where our middle class is growing; where opportunity is shared by all our people, and the American Dream is back within the reach of those who are willing to work for it.
So that’s what we’re working for. That’s the guiding principle behind all of my administration’s activities is how do we make sure that the economy is growing, and that the middle class is growing — because that’s the beating heart of this economy. What you do here is a great example of what we’ve got to be able to do all across this country.
We’re proud of you, and I thank you so much for letting us join you here today and seeing the wonderful success that you’ve been able to accomplish.
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.)
WEEKLY ADDRESS: Warns of GOP Efforts to Repeal Wall Street Reform – Including Foreclosure Protections
WEEKLY ADDRESS: Warns of GOP Efforts to Repeal Wall Street Reform – Including Foreclosure Protections
WASHINGTON – In this week’s address, President Obama called out the Republican leadership in Congress for vowing to repeal Wall Street reform, which will protect Americans from unfair practices in mortgage transactions and foreclosures. The Wall Street reform law also set new rules so that taxpayers will never again be on the hook for a bailout if a big financial company goes under, helps rein in the secret deals and reckless gambling that nearly brought the financial system down, and set up the strongest consumer protections in history. The special interests fought hard against reform, spending millions to preserve a system that worked better for them than for middle class families. And now, the GOP leadership is calling for repealing this law and that would take the country backwards.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Over the past two years, we’ve won a number of battles to defend the interests of the middle class. One of the most important victories we achieved was the passage of Wall Street Reform.
This was a bill designed to rein in the secret deals and reckless gambling that nearly brought down the financial system. It set new rules so that taxpayers would never again be on the hook for a bailout if a big financial company went under. And reform included the strongest consumer protections in history – to put an end to a lot of the hidden fees, deceptive mortgages, and other abusive practices used to tilt the tables against ordinary people in their financial dealings.
It was a tough fight. The special interests poured millions into a lobbying campaign to prevent us from reforming the system – a system that worked a lot better for them than for middle class families. Some in the financial industry were eager to protect a status quo that basically allowed them to play by their own rules. And these interests held common cause with Republican leaders in Washington who were looking to score a political victory in an election year.
But their efforts failed. And we succeeded in passing reform in the hopes of ensuring that we never again face a crisis like the one we’ve been through – a crisis that unleashed an economic downturn as deep as any since the Great Depression. Even today, we are still digging out of the damage it unleashed on the economy. Millions of people are still out of work. Millions of families are still hurting.
We’re also seeing the reverberations of this crisis with the rise in foreclosures. And recently, we’ve seen problems in foreclosure proceedings – mistakes that have led to disruptions in the housing markets. This is only one more piece of evidence as to why Wall Street Reform is so necessary. In fact, as part of reform, a new consumer watchdog is now standing up. It will have just one job: looking out for ordinary consumers in the financial system. And this watchdog will have the authority to guard against unfair practices in mortgage transactions and foreclosures.
Yet despite the importance of this law – and despite the terrible economic dislocation caused by the failures in our financial system under the old rules – top Republicans in Congress are now beating the drum to repeal all of these reforms and consumer protections. Recently, one of the Republican leaders in the Senate said that if Republicans take charge of Congress, repeal would be one of the first orders of business. And he joins the top Republican in the House who actually called for the law to be repealed even before it passed.
I think that would be a terrible mistake. Our economy depends on a financial system in which everyone competes on a level playing field, and everyone is held to the same rules – whether you’re a big bank, a small business owner, or a family looking to buy a house or open a credit card. And as we saw, without sound oversight and common-sense protections for consumers, the whole economy is put in jeopardy. That doesn’t serve Main Street. That doesn’t serve Wall Street. That doesn’t serve anyone. And that’s why I think it’s so important that we not take this country backward – that we don’t go back to the broken system we had before. We’ve got to keep moving forward.
Statement by the President on National Work and Family Month
National Work and Family Month serves as a reminder to all of us, especially working caregivers, their families, and their employers, that while we have made great strides as a nation to adopt more flexible policies in the workplace, there’s more we can do. Millions of Americans continue to struggle day-in and day-out to balance work and family life – to juggle their job responsibilities with caring for a child, an elderly relative, or a loved one with a disability. This is something Michelle and I understand – it wasn’t too long ago that we were both working full-time outside the home while raising two young daughters.
There are steps we can all take to help – implementing practices like telework, paid leave, and alternative work schedules – and my Administration is committed to doing its part to help advance these practices across the country. And within the federal government, we have followed the lead of many private sector companies when it comes to increasing workplace flexibility. Because at the end of the day, attracting and retaining employees who are more productive and engaged through flexible workplace policies is not just good for business or for our economy – it’s good for our families and our future.
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT THE WOMEN’S CONFERENCE
WITH CALIFORNIA FIRST LADY MARIA SHRIVER
10:02 A.M. PDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow, there’s a lot of women in this room. (Laughter.) It’s very good, very good. Well, thank you all so much. And thank you, Maria, for that right on point introduction. Thank you for your moving words today, and thank you for your courage and your candor in sharing your own experiences and inspiring so many other women, not just here in California but across the country.
Maria has been a great friend to me, and even if she was a little hesitant about the job at first, she has been a tremendous example of what a First Lady can and should be. (Applause.) She has shown us all the impact you can have when you live your life with spirit, and determination, and a singular focus on doing good in the world. So let us give Maria another rousing round of applause. (Applause.)
So, the last time I was here was a few years ago, when I was on a panel with four other wives of presidential candidates. And I have to tell you that it was truly one of the highlights of my time on the campaign trail, because amidst all the noise and the back-and-forth of a presidential election, this conference gave us the chance to step back, and to breathe, and actually have a conversation; to talk not just about politics, or what our husbands thought about this or that issue, but about the experience we were sharing, the challenges we faced and the things we were passionate about as wives, as mothers, and most importantly as women.
That is the beauty of this conference –- the space it provides for all of us as women to just be ourselves, let it hang loose a little bit, and speak honestly and openly about the issues that matter most to us.
And I’d like to do that once again today. I’d like to speak today about an issue that I care deeply about, and talk with you about how I came to this issue, and why it matters so much to me, and why I think it should matter to all women and all Americans.
It started a few years ago, in the months after my husband had begun his presidential campaign. Now, it had taken a little convincing to persuade me that this whole running-for-President thing was a good idea. And by “a little” convincing, I mean it was a lot of convincing, because we had two very young daughters at home, I had a full-time job that I loved, and I worried about what it would mean for our family. So it took me a while to get out of my own head, and to set aside my own fears and self interest, and focus on all the good that I believed a man like my husband could do as President.
But even once I was on board — (applause) — well, thank you for that — (applause) — but even once I was on board, I was reluctant to go out on the campaign trail myself. I didn’t like the idea of leaving my girls for days on end. I didn’t have a whole lot of experience on the stump. And to tell you the truth, I was scared. I was worried that I’d say the wrong thing. I was nervous that someone might ask a question that I didn’t know the answer to. And I have a tendency to do that thing a lot of women do, where you get 99 things right, but then you stress and beat yourself up over the one thing you mess up. (Laughter.) I know that sounds familiar in this room. (Laughter and applause.)
So I decided that I would focus on what I knew.
And as a working mom, I thought I knew a thing or two about the challenge of balancing a fulltime job and the round-the-clock needs of my family, juggling the recital and the conference calls, making the endless to-do lists that I never got through and often lost, feeling like I was falling short both at work and at home.
I also knew that I wasn’t alone — that every singe woman I knew, regardless of race, education, geographic location, income, we were all struggling to keep it together. And I believed that the voices of working women needed to be at the heart of creating any comprehensive agenda to move this country forward.
So I decided to start by meeting with groups of working women to listen to their concerns and talk with them about how I thought my husband could help.
So, of course, before I went out, I did my homework. I read my briefing books from cover to cover. I thought about all the issues that might come up. I thought about the answers to every question that I could imagine. And for the most part, I was prepared. For the most part, in the stories of the women I met, I recognized my own story.
But there was one group of women whose stories were new to me — and whose questions I often didn’t have answers to. I met them in every corner of this country, in every community — big cities, suburbs, and small towns. They were military spouses –- mainly women, but a few good men -– whose spouses were serving our country, putting their lives on the line to keep us safe.
And let me tell you, their stories took my breath away. These women, they told me about husbands who were on their third, or fourth, fifth deployment, away from home six, 12, 15 months at a time. They talked about missing birthdays and anniversaries, and about running a household all alone while trying to hide their worries from their spouses. They told me about answering all those questions from their kids about when daddy is coming home.
And some of these women were active duty military themselves, including some who were single moms. See, and these women worried about what would happen to their kids if both they and their husbands were deployed at the same time.
They talked about what it means to move every couple of years –- often far from their extended families.
They talked about having to find a new pediatrician, new childcare, new carpool, new church, a whole new life. They talked about helping their kids adjust to their seventh, eighth, ninth new school, and if their child had a special need, trying to find a school that would accommodate that child.
One woman I met was desperate to adopt a child. But she and her husband kept having to move before the state agency processed their forms. So they’d have to start the process all over again in a new state.
These women told me about how hard it is to find a job in a new town where you have no connections. How difficult it is to ace a job interview with an employer who’s reluctant to hire someone who might have to pick up and move in a couple of years. How frustrating –- and expensive –- it is to get new professional license or certification, as a teacher, social worker, real estate broker, every time you move.
Believe it or not, these women are out there paying for three or four different bar exams so that they can practice law in each new state where they move. And personally, if that were me, I’d have given up after the first or second time. (Laughter.)
And many of these women are just starting out. They’re still trying to complete their own educations. And it’s hard to do that when their credits don’t always transfer from school to school, or the nearest university doesn’t offer that program that they want or need, or they don’t qualify for in-state tuition and just can’t afford it.
Many of these women were younger than I was.
They had far less support and far fewer resources than I ever had. And every day, they were confronting challenges that I could barely even imagine.
So put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Ask yourself: How do I keep fears and anxieties from your kids when, as one mother wrote me, and this is a quote, “…a good day is when a military chaplain doesn’t knock on my door”? What do you say at Christmas, when the only gift your little girl asks for is for her father to come home? And when he does come home, are you prepared for those months of readjustment –- re-negotiating roles, and balancing responsibilities, rekindling your relationship when, in so many ways, both of you have changed? And what if he comes home wounded? Are you ready to be a round-the-clock caregiver, trying to make that person you love whole again?
So here I was, someone who’d always thought of myself as knowledgeable about women’s issues. I’d been reading about, thinking about, talking about, and living these issues my entire life, and here was one group of women for whom these issues were magnified ten-fold, a hundred-fold – and I had no idea.
I mean, you want to talk about equal pay? According to one report, military spouses make an average of $10,500 less a year than civilians, and there’s an even larger pay gap between college educated military and civilian spouses.
You want to talk about balancing work and family? Well, try doing that when your partner has an intense, dangerous, round-the-clock job, and that job is located halfway around the world.
You want to talk about confronting glass ceilings and succeeding in the professional world? Try doing that when you don’t live anywhere long enough to get promoted and gain seniority at your job.
And as I talked with these women, and learned more about their lives, I kept asking myself, how is it possible that I and so many other Americans know so little about the challenges they face?
I mean, like all Americans, I have always been awed by our men and women in uniform. I have always been inspired by the sacrifices they make for our country. So how is it that so many of us know so little about the sacrifices their families make?
Well, it turns out that one of the primary reasons is that military families simply don’t complain. They are strong and resilient and independent. They’re proud of their service to their country, and they’re more than willing to make the sacrifices that come with it. So no matter how tough it gets, because they’re so capable, they manage to keep everything together.
So many of us never hear about the challenges they’re facing. We never get that glimpse inside their lives. And so we think everything is fine. And as a result, too many military families feel invisible to their fellow Americans.
In one recent survey, more than half of military spouses –- more than half -– said they felt like their communities didn’t really support them. And that’s just unacceptable. Their loved ones protect every single one of us. Their service keeps our entire country safe. So their sacrifice should be our sacrifice. Supporting them is our solemn obligation as a grateful nation. (Applause.)
I will never forget what one of these women said to me during the campaign. She said, simply, and this is a quote, “I just want to make sure that military spouses are always heard, that we have a voice…” And I promised myself back then if people gave my husband the privilege of serving this country, I would do everything I could to be that voice.
And I got very lucky when my husband picked his running mate, because with Joe Biden came Jill Biden, who is a Blue Star Mom, and someone who knows a thing or two about the challenges facing military families. (Applause.) She is a tireless advocate for National Guard and Reserve families, and she has been a phenomenal partner in this work.
And as Jill and I have visited with military families across the country, it has become very clear that our work isn’t just about supporting them. It’s also about all they have to offer us. It’s about all they have to contribute to our workplaces and our communities.
I mean, the fact is that military spouses are some of the most talented, hard-working, public-spirited people I have ever met.
You want to meet someone who can multitask and think outside the box? Someone with a strong work ethic and a rock-solid sense of responsibility? Someone who can adapt to changing circumstances and work well in all kinds of situations with people? Well, that’s a pretty good description of your average military spouse.
And they haven’t just picked up skills from managing a military lifestyle. Believe it or not, on top of all their other responsibilities, military spouses also put in countless hours volunteering, both on and off-base. In a recent survey, 68 percent of military family members reported volunteering in the past year. That’s compared to just 27 percent of the general population.
And much of this work goes far beyond your typical volunteer efforts.
For example, you’ve all heard of Toys for Tots, right? Well, this program was actually founded by and run by the Marine Corps Reserve. Now, this is a massive, nationwide effort. In 2009, it was active in 691 communities in all 50 states, distributing more than 16 million toys to more than 7 million children. So this is a serious organizational challenge; one that military spouses play a major role in managing.
And then there are all these programs that most folks haven’t even heard about. How many of you know what a Family Readiness Group is, or an FRG? (Applause.) These are support organizations run by military spouses that serve hundreds of families at a time.
And here’s what an average day might look like for a spouse who’s serving as an FRG leader. She might spend her morning working on a communications strategy –- coordinating the unit’s website, newsletter, Facebook page. Over lunch, she might review the FRG’s budget, craft a spending plan for the coming year. In the afternoon, she’s going to meet with healthcare representatives to learn about new counseling resources, or maybe a team of volunteers to coordinate upcoming events. The evening might bring news that the deployed unit has sustained a casualty. So she’ll work late into the night, rounding up support for the affected family, and notifying other members about what happened.
Now, if she were doing this same kind of work at a company, she’d probably be a senior executive, maybe even a COO or a CEO. You see, that’s the level of talent that we’re talking about here.
So the question today is, how do we give these women -– and our male military spouses as well –- the chances they deserve to use their skills, and the support they need to juggle their responsibilities?
And there’s a reason I’m asking these questions here in this room filled with thousands of powerful, passionate, and compassionate women. And that’s because as women, I know that we all can relate to everything I’ve described today. We get it.
While most of us don’t experience these struggles to the same degree as military spouses, that feeling of being pulled in all directions, that nagging sense that you’re falling short both at work and at home, that tendency to worry about, and care for, everyone but yourself -– these things are universal.
And I’m reminded today of something that one military wife said during a discussion that we had down in Kentucky. When one of her fellow spouses was speaking, and got choked up for a minute, this woman jumped in and said, and this is a quote: “I don’t know this woman…I didn’t meet her before today…but when she leaves here, she will have my number. And she will be able to call me anytime…She’s got the support of this friend right here.”
You see, this is what we do for each other as women. It is what we do for our sisters and our girlfriends, for our mothers and our daughters. (Applause.) We show up. We show up at the door with some food. We show up at the door with some chocolate. And if things are really bad, we show up at the door with a bottle of wine, right? (Laughter and applause.) We take that shift in the carpool. We say, hey, send the kids over to my house right now. I’ll take them off your hands for a day, a night, a weekend, whatever you need.
So we, as women, we know how to reach out. We know how to support each other. And the question is, what can we as women do to support our military spouses? How can we as a nation give back to these families who’ve given so much?
As President, my husband has been working hard to strengthen support programs and counseling services and to increase funds for housing, and childcare, career development. He’s extended the Family and Medical Leave Act so more military families and caregivers can benefit from that. (Applause.) And we’re working with states to streamline requirements so that spouses don’t have to reapply for professional credentials and take new tests every time they move. (Applause.) Simple things. So government is doing a lot of important work on these issues.
But the truth is that there is so much more that each of us can do –- and there’s so much more that each of us should do -– right in our own communities, because it’s not enough to be proud. It’s not enough just to feel grateful. It’s time for each of us to act. It’s time for each of us to be that architect of change for these families in whatever way we can.
And you don’t have to know much about the military to help. You can help just by doing whatever it is you do best.
Are you a teacher, a school administrator, a member of the PTA? How about seeing what your school can do to better support military kids right in your own community?
Are you a lawyer, an accountant, maybe a counselor? How about offering your services pro bono to some military families in your area?
Do you own a small business or do Human Resources for a large one? How about making an effort to hire more military spouses, and making your workplace more military-spouse friendly?
Do you have a few hours in your week to volunteer? How about getting online and going to serve.gov to find out how you can serve military families in your own area?
The possibilities are endless. Things like this are the least we can do, considering everything that these women –- and men –- are doing for us. Their strength, and determination, and service, it inspires me every single day.
I’m inspired by the woman who told me about how much she missed her husband, but then said, simply: “…it’s not easy, we all put on our pretty clothes and our bold face and we stand up and we hold our head up high. We are the Army wives,” she said. “We are the ones who hold the fort down while they’re gone…”
I’m inspired by women like Connie Henline who stayed at the bedside of her husband for months after he was wounded in Iraq. And I’m inspired by their daughter, Brittany, who went from being an ordinary 15 year-old to acting as a mom for her younger siblings –- doing the errands, cooking meals, supervising homework while her mother was by her father’s bedside. When asked how someone so young could take on so much responsibility, she responded, “They needed me, and my priorities changed. My family came first.”
And I’m inspired by Gold Star Wives like Autumn Letendre. Autumn’s husband was killed in Iraq back in 2006. And in the years since, she’s become a passionate advocate for military families –- speaking across the country, attending military funerals to comfort loved ones, working to ensure that her husband’s memory lives on for her young son. And in a letter that she sent to military families, she wrote, “I may have lost the love of my life, but I have gained a life and a story that few in this great country have.”
You see, these women –- and men –- they are heroes. And it’s time that we recognize that the challenges they face and the obstacles they overcome and the contributions they make, all of that isn’t just a military issue. It’s an American issue. And more importantly, it’s a women’s issue. It is an issue that I believe should be on the agenda of every women’s conference –- right up there with equal pay, right up there with work-family balance, right up there with breaking the glass ceiling. (Applause.)
We have to talk about this. Their needs, and their concerns, should be on the agenda of every woman and every American, because they represent the very best this country has to offer. And it’s time that each of us did our part to give them the support they need, the recognition they deserve, and the gratitude they’ve earned. So I look forward to working with all of you in some way, shape or form to make that happen in the months and years ahead. We have a lot of work to do, but if we all work together as we know how, we can ensure that our military spouses always have a voice in this country.
So thank you all. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for your prayers and your support. God bless you all. Take care. (Applause.)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON THE AMERICAN OPPORTUNITY TAX CREDIT
1:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Before we get to what we’re here to talk about -– which is education -– I just want to say a quick word about what so far appears to be a successful rescue of the trapped Chilean miners.
This is obviously something that’s captivated the world’s attention and this rescue is a tribute not only to the determination of the rescue workers and the Chilean government, but also the unity and resolve of the Chilean people who have inspired the world. And I want to express the hopes of the American people that the miners who are still trapped underground will be returned home safely as soon as possible.
Let me also commend so many people of goodwill, not only in Chile, but also from the United States and around the world, who are lending a hand in this rescue effort -– from the NASA team that helped design the escape vehicle, to American companies that manufactured and delivered parts of the rescue drill, to the American engineer who flew in from Afghanistan to operate the drill.
Last night, the whole world watched the scene at Camp Esperanza as the first miner was lifted out from under more than 2,000 feet of rock and then embraced by his young son and family. And the tears they shed -– after so much time apart -– expressed not only their own relief, not only their own joy, but the joy of people everywhere. So it was a thrilling moment and we’re hopeful that those celebrations duplicate themselves throughout the rest of today.
Behind me I’ve got the Mohan family — Edward, Kathleen and Sarah — raise your hands. There we go. (Laughter.) I’ve got the O’Mealia family — Mary Ellen with her sons, Sean and Tom, and her daughters, Kelly and Leigh Anne. And we’ve got the Maynard family — Philip and Joanne with son, Gregory, and daughters Katherine and Elizabeth.
We just had a wonderful visit. And the reason we’re here today, all of us, is that one of the most important things that’s going to determine our long-term success is education. Over the past 21 months, as we’ve climbed our way out of this recession, I’ve often said that if we want Americans –- and America itself –- to succeed in the 21st century, we need to offer all of our young people the best education the world has to offer.
At a time 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, when most of the new jobs being created will require some higher education, when countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow, offering our children a world-class education isn’t just a moral obligation, it’s an economic imperative.
And that’s why, from the start of my administration, we’ve been doing everything we can to make that kind of education possible, from the cradle to the classroom, from college through a career. We’re reforming Head Start and challenging weak programs to compete for funds -– because if you’re receiving tax dollars you should be delivering results for our kids. We’re launching a Race to the Top in our states, which is raising standards and promoting excellence in teaching –- so our students, all of them, can graduate ready for college and a career.
We’re upgrading our undervalued community colleges so we can link students looking for work with businesses that are looking to hire. We’re eliminating tens of billions of dollars in wasteful subsidies for banks to profit as middlemen administering student loans, and we’re using that money to make college more affordable for millions of additional students.
And we’re offering middle-class families what’s called an American Opportunity Tax Credit -– a college tuition tax credit worth up to $2,500 a year. I am calling on Congress to make this tax credit permanent so it’s worth up to $10,000 for four years of college –- because we’ve got to make sure that in good times or bad, our families can invest in their children’s future and in the future of our country.
Today, the Treasury Department is putting out a report showing what a difference these college tuition tax credits are making. Over our first year in office, we’ve increased tax cuts for higher education by over 90 percent, and we’re helping the dream of a college degree — putting that dream within reach of more than 12 million students from working families.
And I’m so pleased that the families standing behind me could join me here today. Mary Ellen O’Mealia is a single mom who’s been working hard to put each of her four kids -– Sean, Kelly, Leigh Anne, and Tom –- through college. And it hasn’t been easy, but it’s been a little easier thanks to what we’ve done. Like Mary Ellen, Joanne and Philip Maynard, are able to put their son, Gregory, and daughters, Katherine and Elizabeth, through UMass Amherst, in part because of this American Opportunity Tax Credit. And this tax credit is making possible Kathleen and Edward Mohan to give their daughter Sarah the education she needs to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.
So all these families have benefited directly from this tax credit and they represent families all across the country from every state. What we need to do is to make it possible for America’s working families to do what the O’Mealias, the Maynards, and the Mohans have been able to do, and that’s to send their kids to college.
Now, if the Republicans in Congress had their way that would be more difficult. They’ve proposed cutting back on education by 20 percent. That means reducing financial aid for eight million students and leaving our community colleges without the resources they need to prepare our students for the jobs of the future.
Nothing would be more shortsighted. There’s an educational arms race taking place around the world right now –- from China to Germany, to India to South Korea. Cutting back on education would amount to unilateral disarmament. We can’t afford to do that. The nation that educates its children the best will be the nation that leads the global economy in the 21st century.
Now, ultimately, this is not just about making our economy more competitive. It’s not just about preparing our kids for the jobs of the future –- though all those things are absolutely essential. It’s also about who we are as a people. It’s about building a brighter future where every child in this country has a chance to rise above any barriers of race or faith or station, and they can fulfill their God-given potential; where the American Dream is a living reality. By opening the doors of college to anyone who wants to go, that’s a future we can help build together.
These three families represent those core values, represent those beliefs. The parents who are standing here have worked extraordinarily hard to make sure that their children have opportunities. And we need to reward that sense of responsibility, that sense of commitment to the next generation, by making sure they’re not having to do it alone.
So thank you all for being here. Thank you very much, everybody.
Readout of President Obama’s Briefing with DHS Secretary Napolitano and TSA Administrator Pistole on Transportation Security
Readout of President Obama’s Briefing with DHS Secretary Napolitano and TSA Administrator Pistole on Transportation Security
President Obama today met with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and TSA Administrator John S. Pistole to review the many enhancements that have been made to both aviation and surface transportation security. Today’s briefing was held in conjunction with the President’s regularly scheduled counterterrorism and homeland security briefing and was not prompted by any specific or credible threat.
The President was briefed on DHS’ strategic plans, including near-term efforts to improve security and minimize risk with a focus on mass transit and passenger rail security. A significant aspect of TSA’s security enhancements over the past year have included improved technology and procedures, strengthened partnerships with transportation stakeholders and expanded engagement with the international community.
The President stressed that DHS emphasis on mass transit and passenger rail security measures is a priority and again asked Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Pistole if they need anything.
Remarks By President Obama At The Signing Of The 21st Century Communications And Video Accessibility Act Of 2010
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT THE SIGNING OF
THE 21ST CENTURY COMMUNICATIONS
AND VIDEO ACCESSIBILITY ACT OF 2010
2:06 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Good to see you. Everybody, please have a seat. Well, it is wonderful to see all of you here today, to be with all of you. I want to make some special acknowledgements. We’ve got some legislators here who have been fighting on behalf of the disabilities community for a very long time. We’re so proud of the legislation I’m signing today, as well as legislation we signed earlier this week. So I want to acknowledge all of them.
First of all, responsible in large part for guiding this process through in the Senate — Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Representative Ed Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts. We also have here Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. Senator Barbara Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland. We’ve got Kent Conrad, as well as Byron Dorgan — the Dakota boys from North Dakota. (Laughter.)
We’ve got Representative Henry Waxman, who’s on so many important pieces of legislation this year, and we’re grateful to him. Mr. Julius Genachowski is here, who’s the chairman of the FCC. Where’s Julius? There he is right there — a classmate of mine, somebody who has just been a great friend for a long time.
And finally, we’ve got this guy. (Laughter.) Some of you may know him. I happened to be listening to him this morning when I woke up. He’s what I work out to. (Laughter.) He’s what I sweet-talk Michelle to. (Laughter.) Mr. Stevie Wonder is in the house. (Applause.) I was doing a little rendition of some of his music to him and he was kind enough not to laugh. (Laughter.)
Now, earlier this year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act right here in the White House. Many of you were here. And it was a moment for every American to reflect not just on one of the most comprehensive civil rights bills in our history, but what that bill meant to so many people. It was a victory won by countless Americans who refused to accept the world as it is, and against great odds, waged quiet struggles and grassroots crusades until finally change was won.
The story of the disability rights movement is enriched because it’s intertwined with the story of America’s progress. Americans with disabilities are Americans first and foremost, and like all Americans are entitled to not only full participation in our society, but also full opportunity in our society.
So we’ve come a long way. But even today, after all the progress that we’ve made, too many Americans with disabilities are still measured by what folks think they can’t do, instead of what we know they can do.
The fight for progress isn’t about sympathy, by the way — it’s about opportunity. And that’s why all of us share a responsibility to keep building on the work of those who came before us — one life, one law, one step at a time.
So today, we’re here to take two more steps on that journey. First of all, on Tuesday, I signed Rosa’s Law. This is named for a nine-year-old girl, right there — Rosa, wave to everybody. (Applause.) That’s some good waving there, Rosa. (Laughter.)
Rosa Marcellino — it’s so inspiring to have her here. As one of hundreds of thousands of Americans with Down Syndrome, Rosa worked with her parents and her siblings to have the words “mentally retarded” officially removed from the health and education code in her home state of Maryland.
Now, Rosa’s Law takes her idea a step further. It amends the language in all federal health, education and labor laws to remove that same phrase and instead refer to Americans living with an “intellectual disability.” Now this may seem to some people like a minor change, but I think Rosa’s brother Nick put it best — where’s Nick? You right there, Nick? You can wave, too. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
But I want everybody to hear Nick’s wisdom here. He said, “What you call people is how you treat them. If we change the words, maybe it will be the start of a new attitude towards people with disabilities.” That’s a lot of wisdom from Nick. (Applause.)
Nick and Rosa’s parents are all choking up because they’re really proud of their kids, and appropriately so.
Now, the bill I’m signing today into law will better ensure full participation in our democracy and our economy for Americans with disabilities. The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act will make it easier for people who are deaf, blind or live with a visual impairment to do what many of us take for granted — from navigating a TV or DVD menu to sending an email on a smart phone. It sets new standards so that Americans with disabilities can take advantage of the technology our economy depends on. And that’s especially important in today’s economy, when every worker needs the necessary skills to compete for the jobs of the future.
So together, these changes are about guaranteeing equal access, equal opportunity, and equal respect for every American. And they build on the progress that we’ve already made as an administration over the last 20 months.
Together, we put in place one of the most important updates to the ADA in 20 years by prohibiting disability-based discrimination by government entities and private businesses and by updating accessibility standards.
I issued an executive order focused on establishing the federal government as a model employer of Americans with disabilities.
We passed the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act — the first piece of comprehensive legislation aimed at addressing the challenge faced by Americans living with paralysis.
We reauthorized the Children’s Health Insurance Program, covering an additional 2.6 million children in need in 2009, including children with disabilities.
And the Affordable Care Act we passed will give every American more control over their health care — and will do more to give Americans with disabilities control over their own lives than any legislation since the ADA.
So equal access. Equal opportunity. The freedom to make of our lives what we will. Living up to these principles is an obligation we have as Americans — and to one another. Because, in the end, each of us has a role to play in our economy. Each of us has something to contribute to the American story. And each of us must do our part to continue on this never-ending journey towards building a more perfect union.
So I am so proud of the legislators here today. I want to thank all the advocates who helped bring this legislation about. And now I’m very proud to sign the bill. (Applause.)
Statement by President Obama on the Passing of Albertina Walker
Michelle and I are saddened by the passing of gospel great Albertina Walker. Ms. Walker was known for her Grammy Award winning voice and recognized by many as the ‘Queen of Gospel.’ Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, she started singing in her church youth choir at just four years old where she learned to spread the ‘Good News’ through song. She also performed before President Bill Clinton and was honored at the White House by President George W. Bush for her contributions to Gospel music. And she never forgot to give back, impacting her community through the Albertina Walker Scholarship Fund and many other charitable endeavors.
Ms. Walker’s voice and message has touched congregations across the nation. Though we have lost an American icon, her influence on gospel music will continue for generations. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and the countless lives she touched.