WEEKLY ADDRESS: “Investments in Education, Innovation, and Infrastructure are an Essential Down Payment on our Future”
WEEKLY ADDRESS: “Investments in Education, Innovation, and Infrastructure are an Essential Down Payment on our Future”
WASHINGTON – In this week’s address, President Obama said that he expects Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to find common ground as Congress focuses on a short term budget next week. The President will consider any serious ideas to reduce the deficit, regardless of which party proposes them. In fact, the President has already proposed freezing domestic spending, which would cut the deficit by $400 billion and bring this kind of spending to the lowest level, as a percentage of our economy, since the Eisenhower administration. But, cutting investments in education and innovation would hinder our ability to out-compete the rest of the world. While the President recognizes that everyone needs to be willing to sacrifice, we cannot sacrifice our country’s ability to win the future.
The audio and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, Saturday, February 26, 2011.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
February 26, 2011
Over the last month, I’ve been traveling the country, talking to Americans about how we can out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build the rest of the world. Doing that will require a government that lives within its means, and cuts whatever spending we can afford to do without. But it will also require investing in our nation’s future – training and educating our workers; increasing our commitment to research and technology; building new roads and bridges, high-speed rail and high-speed internet.
In cities and towns throughout America, I’ve seen the benefits of these investments. The schools and colleges of Oregon are providing Intel – the state’s largest private employer – with a steady stream of highly-educated workers and engineers. At Parkville Middle School outside of Baltimore, engineering is the most popular subject, thanks to outstanding teachers who are inspiring students to focus on their math and science skills.
In Wisconsin, a company called Orion is putting hundreds of people to work manufacturing energy-efficient lights in a once-shuttered plant. And in the small community of Marquette, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, widely accessible high-speed internet has allowed students and entrepreneurs to connect to the global economy. One small business, a third-generation, family-owned clothing shop called Getz’s is now selling their products online, which has helped them double their workforce and make them one of America’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies in a recent listing.
Each of these places reminds us that investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure are an essential down payment on our future. But they also remind us that the only way we can afford these investments is by getting our fiscal house in order. Just like any family, we have to live within our means to make room for things we absolutely need.
That’s why I’ve called for a freeze on annual domestic spending over the next five years – a freeze that would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, bringing this kind of spending to its lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President. Just to be clear, that’s lower than it was under the past three administrations, and lower than it was under Ronald Reagan.
Now, putting this budget freeze in place will require tough choices. That’s why I’ve frozen salaries for hardworking civil servants for three years, and proposed cutting programs I care about deeply, like community action programs in low-income neighborhoods. I’m not taking these steps lightly – but I’m taking them because our economic future demands it.
Still, a freeze in annual domestic spending is just a start. If we’re serious about tackling our long-run fiscal challenges, we also need to cut excessive spending wherever we find it – in defense spending, spending in Medicare and Medicaid, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes.
I’m willing to consider any serious ideas to help us reduce the deficit – no matter what party is proposing them. But instead of cutting the investments in education and innovation we need to out-compete the rest of the world, we need a balanced approach to deficit reduction. We all need to be willing to sacrifice, but we can’t sacrifice our future.
Next week, Congress will focus on a short-term budget. For the sake of our people and our economy, we cannot allow gridlock to prevail. Both Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate have said they believe it’s important to keep the government running while we work together on a plan to reduce our long-term deficit.
Given that, I urge and expect them to find common ground so we can accelerate, not impede, economic growth. It won’t be easy. There will be plenty of debates and disagreements, and neither party will get everything it wants. Both sides will have to compromise.
That’s what it will take to do what’s right for our country. And I look forward to working with members of both parties to produce a responsible budget that cuts what we can’t afford, sharpens America’s competitive edge in the world, and helps us win the future. Thanks everyone, and have a nice weekend.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AND GOVERNOR GREGOIRE OF WASHINGTON IN AN EXCHANGE OF TOASTS AT THE 2011 GOVERNORS’ DINNER
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AND GOVERNOR GREGOIRE OF WASHINGTON
IN AN EXCHANGE OF TOASTS
AT THE 2011 GOVERNORS’ DINNER
State Dining Room
7:14 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, good evening, everybody. Welcome to the White House. I want to start by acknowledging your outstanding chair, Christine Gregoire, for her wonderful work — (applause) — and your vice chair, Dave Heineman, for his wonderful work. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
I want to welcome some of you back, and I want to welcome those who are here for the first time. I know some of you may be confused and think this is the Oscars. (Laughter.) There are some similarities. First of all, everybody looks spectacular. And the second thing is, if I speak too long the music will start playing. (Laughter.) So I’m going to be very brief.
I know that the last couple of years have not been easy in a lot of your states. People have been struggling. Folks have lost jobs. Businesses have shuttered. We went through the toughest recession since the Great Depression. And nobody has felt it more than folks back home, and you see it each and every day. You have to respond in ways that go beyond just ideology or rhetoric.
The thing about governors is you’re in charge and people know where to find you, and they expect you to help them during tough times. And many of you over the last two years have done extraordinary work. Many of you are expected for the next two years, next four years, or however long it may be, to do extraordinary work.
The main message I want to deliver tonight, in addition to asking you to have some fun this evening, is to know that you’ve got a partner here in the White House. If you look around the room, we come from a lot of different parts of the country and people may have different perspectives, but one thing that we all absolutely share is the belief in the American Dream and the confidence that when our people get opportunities, they’ve got the ingenuity and the stick-to-it-ness and the drive to succeed.
And our job is to make sure that we are doing everything possible to ensure that each child gets a good education; that somebody who has a great idea is able to start a business and run with it; that we’re looking after our people, including those who are most vulnerable; and that we’re going to be bequeathing to the next generation the kind of America that will make us proud and assuring that the 21st century will be the American century just like the 20th century was.
We can’t do that by ourselves. There’s extraordinary diversity among our states, and that’s a great strength. That’s why our federal system is the laboratory for democracy, because in each of your states you guys are trying all kinds of things. And oftentimes your best ideas end up percolating up and becoming models and templates for the country.
But we’re also one nation and our goal has to be to find ways to find common ground and to work together, and I’m confident that we can do that moving forward.
So I want to propose a toast: Not only to all the governors who are here, but also to all their spouses, who put with life in politics. (Laughter.) It’s not always easy, but I hope your families, given all the sacrifices you’re making, feel that it’s worth it, because I certainly believe that the work that you’re doing each and every day is making an extraordinary contribution to our country.
Thank you very much. Cheers.
(An exchange of toasts is offered.)
And with that, I’d like Christine to come up and offer a few words, as well.
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: Well, thank you, Mr. President. On behalf of all of the governors of our great country and their guests, we are delighted to be here. I want to thank you for your tremendous leadership through what is a very, very challenging time for our country.
And if I might, I’d like to say a big thanks to our First Lady Michelle Obama, who has left a wonderful message across America that we stand with our men and women in service and we support our military families. (Applause.)
Mr. Vice President, thank you for being our partner, for taking our calls and calling us, and making sure that we are there for you and you are there for us. And to Dr. Jill Biden, thank you for being a symbol for all of the people in America for what higher education really means.
And to all of you who are members of the Cabinet, thank you for your friendship. Thank you for being with us. Thank you for reaching out, listening to us.
So, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the nation’s governors, I propose a toast to the President of the United States. Sir, we stand with you as you deliver a message across the world of peace and democracy, as you bring back to America the kind of economic recovery we all need, and as you give hope to all of the children of America.
To the President of the greatest nation in the world, President Obama. Thank you.
(An exchange of toasts is offered.)
THE PRESIDENT: All right. Let’s start dinner, and everybody have fun.
Statement by the President on Bahrain
I welcome the announcement by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa about making important changes to the cabinet and restating his commitment to reform. The United States supports the national dialogue initiative led by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, and encourages a process that is meaningful, inclusive, non sectarian, and responsive to the people of Bahrain. The dialogue offers an opportunity for meaningful reform and for all Bahrainis to forge a more just future together. As a long standing partner of Bahrain, the United States continues to believe that Bahrain’s stability will be enhanced by respecting the universal rights of the people of Bahrain and reforms that meet the aspirations of all Bahrainis.
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENTTO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVESAND THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
February 25, 2011
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)Pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act(50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.)
(IEEPA), I hereby report that I haveissued an Executive Order (the “order”) that takes steps withrespect to the situation in Libya.
I have determined that the actions of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi,his government, and close associates, including extreme measures against the people of Libya, constitute an unusual andextraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policyof the United States. The order declares a national emergencyto deal with this threat.The order blocks the property and interests in property ofpersons listed in the Annex to the order, who I have determinedmeet the first or second of the six criteria set forth below.
The order also provides criteria for designations of personsdetermined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultationwith the Secretary of State: to be a senior official of the Government of Libya; to be a child of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi; to be responsible for or complicit in, or responsible forordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, or to haveparticipated in, the commission of human rights abusesrelated to political repression in Libya; to have materially assisted, sponsored, or providedfinancial, material, logistical, or technical support for,or goods or services in support of the activities describedabove or any person whose property and interests inproperty are blocked pursuant to the order; to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purportedto act for or on behalf of, any person whose property andinterests in property are blocked pursuant to the order; or to be a spouse or dependent child of any person whoseproperty and interests in property are blocked pursuantto the order.
In addition, the order blocks the property and interests inproperty of the Government of Libya.2I have delegated to the Secretary of the Treasury the authority,in consultation with the Secretary of State, to take suchactions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations,and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA, as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of the order.
All executive agencies of the United States Government are directedto take all appropriate measures within their authority to carryout the provisions of the order.Additionally, the Secretary of State is suspending all existing licenses and other approvals for the export of defense articlesand services to Libya.
The order, a copy of which is enclosed, became effective at8:00 p.m. eastern standard time on February 25, 2011.
Statement by the President on Libya Sanctions
The Libyan government’s continued violation of human rights, brutalization of its people, and outrageous threats have rightly drawn the strong and broad condemnation of the international community. By any measure, Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable. These sanctions therefore target the Qaddafi government, while protecting the assets that belong to the people of Libya.
Going forward, the United States will continue to closely coordinate our actions with the international community, including our friends and allies, and the United Nations. We will stand steadfastly with the Libyan people in their demand for universal rights, and a government that is responsive to their aspirations. Their human dignity cannot be denied.
White House Announces Jeremy Bernard as Social Secretary
The White House today announced Jeremy Bernard has been named Special Assistant to the President and Social Secretary. He joins the White House staff from the U.S. Embassy in Paris, where he serves as Senior Advisor to the Ambassador. Prior to this role, he worked as the White House Liaison to the National Endowment for the Humanities.
“Jeremy shares our vision for the White House as the People’s House, one that celebrates our history and culture in dynamic and inclusive ways. We look forward to Jeremy continuing to showcase America’s arts and culture to our nation and the world through the many events at the White House,” the President said.
“I am deeply humbled to join the White House staff as Social Secretary and support President Obama and the First Lady in this role,” said Jeremy Bernard. “I have long admired the arts and education programs that have become hallmarks of the Obama White House and I am eager to continue these efforts in the years ahead.”
“I look forward to working with Jeremy to continue the great work of the Social Office, from fun and educational student workshops to elegant State Dinners that welcome world leaders to the White House. Jeremy’s creativity, perspective and skills will be a welcome addition to our East Wing team, as we showcase the White House and celebrating America’s arts and culture,” said Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama.
“What stood out in Jeremy’s work at the National Endowment for the Humanities was his humor, good will, and high standard of professionalism,” said National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Jim Leach.
A native of San Antonio, Texas, Bernard currently serves as Senior Advisor to the Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy of Paris. He served as the White House Liaison to the National Endowment for the Humanities from 2008 to 2010. Previously, Bernard was a California Finance Consultant for the Obama for American campaign. He was a Principal of B&G Associates from 2007 to 2009, Vice-President of Mapleton Investments from 1999 to 2006 and Director of Government Affairs of Falcon Cable TV from 1996 to 2006. Appointed by President Clinton, Bernard served on the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and was a member of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2009. He previously served as a board member of A.N.G.L.E. (Access Now for Gay & Lesbian Equality) and the National Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. He was also a member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s LGBT Advisory Committee, the Los Angeles Police LGBT Advisory Committee and the Los Angeles Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Committee.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT “IN PERFORMANCE AT THE WHITE HOUSE:
THE MOTOWN SOUND”
7:31 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, everybody. Please have a seat. Tonight we continue one of my favorite traditions here at the White House by celebrating the music that’s at the heart of the American story. And as we come to the end of Black History Month, I can’t think of a better way to do it than by honoring the legendary sound of Motown. (Applause.)
I want to start by thanking our performers here tonight: Natasha Bedingfield, Sheryl Crow, Jamie Foxx, Gloriana, Nick Jonas, Ledisi, John Legend, Amber Riley, Mark Salling, Seal, Jordin Sparks, Smokey Robinson — (applause) — and because we weren’t sure that was enough, we thought we might throw Stevie Wonder in there. (Applause.) And obviously we are grateful for all the other Motown legends who are gracing us with their presence. Thank you for being here.
Over the years, this room has hosted some of the most talented musicians in the world, from classical to country. But Motown is different. No one knows exactly when jazz began. Nobody knows who the first person was to sing a freedom song. But we know where Motown came from. We know it was born in the basement of a house on West Grand Boulevard in the Motor City — Detroit. (Applause.) And we know it started with a man named Berry Gordy, who is here with us tonight. Stand up, Berry. (Applause.)
Now, apparently Berry tried a lot of things before following his heart into music. A high school dropout, he failed as a record store owner, competed as an amateur boxer, finally took a job earning $85 a week on the assembly line at the local Lincoln-Mercury plant. And it was there, watching the bare metal frames transformed into gleaming automobiles, that Berry wondered why he couldn’t do the same thing with musicians, and help turn new talent into stars.
And before long, he quit his job at the plant, borrowed $800, and set up shop in a little house with a banner across the front that read “Hitsville, U.S.A.” His family thought he was delusional. (Laughter.) But as Berry said, “People thought the Wright Brothers had a stupid idea, so I say, ‘Bring on the stupid ideas.’”
As it turned out, Berry could recognize talent and potential better than anybody else in the business. It began with Smokey Robinson, who stopped by the Motown house with a group of friends calling themselves the Miracles. Then came one of Smokey’s neighbors -– a high school senior named Diana Ross, who started out working as a secretary. One of the Miracles brought along his little brother, who invited a 10-year-old blind kid named Stephen Hardaway Judkins to tag along. (Laughter.) And then there was a group called the Jackson Five, fresh from amateur night at the Apollo, that Gladys Knight told Berry he just had to see.
Pretty soon, the basement studio was turning out hits faster than Detroit was turning out cars. From 1961 to 1971, Motown produced 110 Top 10 hits from artists like Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops and The Supremes. In the process, Motown’s blend of tight lyrics, catchy melodies and deep soul began to blur the line between music that was considered either “black” or “white.” As Smokey Robinson said, “I recognized the bridges that were crossed, the racial problems and the barriers that we broke down with music. I recognized that because I lived it.”
Along the way, songs like “Dancing in the Streets” and “What’s Going On” became the soundtrack of the civil rights era. Black artists began soaring to the top of the pop charts for the first time. And at concerts in the South, Motown groups literally brought people together –- insisting that the ropes traditionally used to separate black and white audience members be taken down.
So, today, more than 50 years later, that’s the Motown legacy. Born at a time of so much struggle, so much strife, it taught us that what unites us will always be stronger than what divides us. And in the decades since, those catchy beats and simple chords have influenced generations of musicians, from Sheryl Crow to the Jonas Brothers.
So to everybody watching, both here and at home, let’s take a trip back to that little studio in Detroit and enjoy the unmistakable sound of Motown. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts
WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:
- Thelma Duggin, Member, Board of Trustees of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
- Marcia Cruz-Correa, Member, National Cancer Advisory Board
- Kevin J. Cullen, Member, National Cancer Advisory Board
- Olufunmilayo Falusi Olopade, Member, National Cancer Advisory Board
- Jonathan M. Samet, Member, National Cancer Advisory Board
- Bill Sellers, Member, National Cancer Advisory Board
President Obama said, “These dedicated individuals bring a wealth of experience and talent to their new roles and I am proud to have them serve in this Administration. I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”
President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:
Thelma Duggin, Appointee for Member, Board of Trustees of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Thelma Duggin is President of the AnBryce Foundation, an organization that provides long-term academic and leadership enrichment programs to underserved youth. Prior to joining the AnBryce Foundation, Ms. Duggin was a Senior Vice President at UnitedHealth Group (UHG). Before joining UHG, she served as President of Americhoice of New York and Americhoice of New Jersey, Inc. Ms. Duggin previously served as a Special Assistant to President Reagan and Director of the 50 States Project for Women, and as Coordinator of Minority Affairs to Former Secretary of Transportation, Elizabeth Dole. Ms. Duggin completed the General Management program at Harvard Business School and was a resident fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She holds a B.S. degree from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, and an honorary doctorate from Morris Brown College.
Marcia Cruz-Correa, Appointee for Member, National Cancer Advisory Board
Marcia Cruz-Correa, M.D., Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Visiting Associate Professor of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Surgical Oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. She is the Basic and Translational Scientific Director at the UPR Comprehensive Cancer Center and a medical staff member at the VA Caribbean Health Care System in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Dr. Cruz-Correa is also a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. At UPR, Dr. Cruz-Correa leads a Gastrointestinal Oncology Program. She is also involved in conducting clinical research trials evaluating the role of various chemo-preventive methods. Prior to this, Dr. Cruz-Correa founded the first population-based familial colorectal cancer registry in Puerto Rico. Dr. Cruz-Correa is a council member of the Minorities in Cancer Research of the American Association of Cancer Research, previous Chair of the Diversity Committee of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), and current Chair of the Membership Committee of the ASGE. She is President of the Puerto Rico Gastroenterology Association, and leads the Puerto Rico Colorectal Cancer Coalition. She holds a B.S. in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico, an M.D. from the University of Puerto Rico Medical School, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Investigation and Genetic Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Kevin J. Cullen, Appointee for Member, National Cancer Advisory Board
Kevin J. Cullen, M.D. is currently the Director of the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland, which under his leadership became a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center in 2008. He is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland and is head of its program in oncology. Dr. Cullen was previously Professor of Medicine, Oncology and Otolaryngology at Georgetown University, where he also served as interim director of the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown. He serves on the external advisory boards of several NCI designated cancer centers. He has chaired two working groups for the NCI and is a member of the National Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society. He is the author of numerous journal publications and has served on review panels for the NCI, the Veterans Administration Research Program and other organizations. He was named one of Washington’s Best Physicians byWashingtonian Magazine and has been the recipient of the Special Achievement Award from the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society South Atlantic Division Service Award, and the Ulman Cancer Fund Hope Award. Dr. Cullen holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School.
Olufunmilayo Falusi Olopade, Appointee for Member, National Cancer Advisory Board
Olufunmilayo Falusi Olopade is the Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine & Human Genetics, Associate Dean for Global Health, and Director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago. She is also a practicing clinician and Director of the University’s Cancer Risk Clinic. In her clinical work, Dr. Olopade is an authority on cancer risk assessment, prevention, and individualized treatment based on risk factors and quality of life. She also works with educators, doctors, government officials and pharmaceutical companies to improve access to quality education and medical care in low-income communities. Dr. Olopade has received numerous professional honors and awards, including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the ASCO Young Investigator Award, the James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award, and the Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award, among others. She holds an M.B.B.S. from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, completed her residency in internal medicine at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in hematology and oncology at the University of Chicago.
Jonathan M. Samet, Appointee for Member, National Cancer Advisory Board
Jonathan M. Samet, M.D. is Professor and Flora L. Thornton Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) and Director of the USC Institute for Global Health. From 1994 to 2008, Dr. Samet was Professor and Chairman of the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Previously, he was Professor and Chief of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Division of the Department of Medicine at the University of New Mexico. His research has addressed health risks posed by environmental agents, including active and passive smoking, indoor and outdoor air pollution, cancer occurrence among diverse populations, and patterns of cancer care. Dr. Samet presently chairs the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine. Dr. Samet holds an A.B. from Harvard College, an S.M. from the Harvard School of Public Health, and an M.D. from the University of Rochester.
Bill Sellers, Appointee for Member, National Cancer Advisory Board
Dr. William Sellers is currently Vice President and Global Head of Oncology for the Novartis Institutes of BioMedical Research, where he oversees small molecule and antibody-based drug discovery efforts in oncology. Dr. Sellers was formerly the Principal Investigator at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He was also an Associate Member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Dr. Sellers’ has won research funding from a number of organizations including the National Cancer Institute, the Damon-Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, and the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation. His research has been recognized with the Abbott Bioresearch Award, the Tisch Family Outstanding Investigator Award, and the National Institutes of Health, Physician-Scientist Award. He currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board, Caring for Carcinoid Foundation, and the Scientific Advisory Board, Mt. Sinai Medical Center. He holds a B.S. in Biology from Georgetown University and an M.D. from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT MOTOWN MUSIC SERIES STUDENT WORKSHOP
State Dining Room
1:35 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Well, isn’t this exciting?
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my goodness. Well, hello, everyone. It is great to have you all here today. This is really good.
Let me start by recognizing the three or four gentlemen who have joined me on stage: our dear friend, John Legend, who has just been amazing in so many ways; Mr. Smokey Robinson, who needs no introduction, who has been such a dear friend — (applause); Mr. Berry Gordy, who — (applause) — just is; and Mr. Bob Santelli from the Grammy Museum, who’s going to get us started. (Applause.)
Thank you. Thank you all so much. It means so much to us. I know it means so much to all these students to have you here to spend this kind of quality time. This doesn’t happen often, you do realize that.
Not only getting these gentlemen on the stage together, but the fact that you all have this kind of access, and you’re sitting where, in the White House — (laughter) — that’s something else.
But of course I want to thank all of you, all the students, for coming out today. I’m excited because you all are coming from all over the country, from schools all over the country, and of course from my hometown, Chicago. (Cheering.) We’ve got some of my neighborhood schools. We’ve got DuSable and Kenwood and Hyde Park — I’m not going to go into it because I’m going to leave out a few, but we are so excited to have you all here.
And I also understand that you’re going to get to stay a little bit and see some of the performance, as well. So hopefully this is an exciting visit to Washington for you. It is a thrill for us to have you here.
When we moved in this — to this house a couple years ago, we wanted to open these doors as wide as we could, especially for young people like you. And this music series is one of the ways that we’re doing that. We have held workshops for all different types of music: classical, country, we’ve done some jazz, we’ve done some Broadway, we’ve even done some music from the Civil Rights movement. We did that last February for Black History Month. It was a wonderful event. And we did something for modern dance. So we’re starting to move into other genres, as well.
We do all this because we believe that “the People’s House” shouldn’t be just a nickname. We believe that Prime Ministers and VIPs shouldn’t be the only ones who feel comfortable walking through these doors. We feel that everyone should feel like they belong here, sitting right here in the State Dining Room.
And I hope you realize through this experience that no one here is any different than you all are, whether that’s Smokey Robinson or John Legend or me or my husband, because we are all reflected in you. We see ourselves in you. I say that all the time when I am talking to young people. We were all sitting where you were at some point in time, if you can believe that. We were teenagers once. (Laughter.) Not so funny. We were! (Laughter.)
We went to some of the same high schools that you all did. We went to schools like you. We carried around backpacks. We didn’t have computers and iPods, but, you know, we talked to each other on the phone every now and then. We had to dial with the rotary dial — (laughter) — but things were a little different.
But we liked to hang out with our friends. We were into music. You know, I even used to know what the latest dances were and taught my brother. I don’t know that now.
But we had homework to do. And sometimes our parents embarrassed us, like we now embarrass our children. And growing up, we all had our own dreams. And that’s what today is about. It’s about the dreams of kids who grew up knowing that they had a song to sing, and that everyone will want to hear that song.
And it all started with Mr. Gordy in 1960. He was a young man in Detroit with a great idea. He wanted to be one of the very first African Americans to own a record label. So he got an $800 loan from his family — they owe you big time, right? — (laughter) — and started recording music out of his apartment.
And soon he bought a house to record from, and it became home to some of the most popular musicians in the country: Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Temptations, the Supremes, the Jackson Five, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Supremes. Gladys Knight will be here soon, as well. And one of my personal favorites — I say this all the time — who? Who’s my favorite? Stevie Wonder, yes, indeed.
And as Motown rose, so did the forces of change in this country. During that time, it was the time of King and Kennedy, it was a time of marches and rallies and groundbreaking civil rights laws. And Motown’s music was so much more than just a soundtrack. It was a heartbeat.
As one of the members of The Four Tops once said, ”Back in the ’60s, when we weren’t allowed to go certain places, our music crept into people’s homes … into their living rooms, their kitchens, their cars.”
Motown helped pave the way for people in this country to look at one another a little differently, because something changed when little girls all across the country saw Diana Ross on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was a change that happened. Something changed when teenagers turned up the volume on the Temptations song, no matter where they lived, in Birmingham or Boston, in Detroit or Denver.
Motown made music for all people, no matter what you looked like, no matter where you came from. And that is why we are so proud, my husband and I, to share Motown’s story as we continue to celebrate Black History Month. See, the people that we’re going to be talking about, that we’re going to hear from, that we’re going to listen to — the songs, the music — these are true trailblazers, because as you know, there wouldn’t be an Usher if there wasn’t a Smokey Robinson. You know, there wouldn’t be an Alicia Keys without a Gladys Knight.
But the thing that I want you all to remember is that nobody’s name is printed on the Billboard Top 10 at birth. Nobody is born into this. Neither Mr. Gordy nor Smokey Robinson were born into greatness or wealth. Diana Ross grew up in a housing project. And John Legend is the son of a seamstress and a factory worker. And they are good people.
But they’ve shown us that with enough hard work and a willingness to take some risks, anyone can make it. And this isn’t just true for careers in entertainment or sports. The Motown story is really a metaphor for life.
So whatever your passions are –- whether it’s business, or law, or science, teaching, social services –- with dedication and focus, there is truly nothing that you all can’t do. And if you ever doubt that, just look up on this stage for a second and remember what you can do.
So what I’m asking you all to do now is to really take full advantage of this opportunity, because I’m going to turn the stage over to these individuals who are going to make themselves available to you. So I want you all to ask questions. You don’t seem like a shy bunch, so — but take full advantage. Ask questions and find out about how they reached their dreams so that you can figure out some strategies for reaching yours.
Don’t be shy. Ignore the cameras. Hopefully — I don’t know if they’re leaving or not, but if they stay, just ignore them. (Laughter.) And make sure you get all that you can from these men.
And I’m going to leave because I’ve got other stuff to do, but I am so grateful to all of you for taking the time not just to be here this evening, but doing this, because this is really what it’s all about. It’s not this evening’s performance. It’s what’s going to happen in this room right now that makes this program so special.
So thank you all. And I want to introduce the man who’s going to get us started, Mr. Bob Santelli, who’s the Executive Director of the Grammy Museum. And I will see you guys doing great things, right?
MRS. OBAMA: All right, thank you, have fun. (Applause.)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
5:07 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Secretary Clinton and I just concluded a meeting that focused on the ongoing situation in Libya. Over the last few days, my national security team has been working around the clock to monitor the situation there and to coordinate with our international partners about a way forward.
First, we are doing everything we can to protect American citizens. That is my highest priority. In Libya, we’ve urged our people to leave the country and the State Department is assisting those in need of support. Meanwhile, I think all Americans should give thanks to the heroic work that’s being done by our foreign service officers and the men and women serving in our embassies and consulates around the world. They represent the very best of our country and its values.
Now, throughout this period of unrest and upheaval across the region the United States has maintained a set of core principles which guide our approach. These principles apply to the situation in Libya. As I said last week, we strongly condemn the use of violence in Libya.
The American people extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all who’ve been killed and injured. The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop.
The United States also strongly supports the universal rights of the Libyan people. That includes the rights of peaceful assembly, free speech, and the ability of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. They are not negotiable. They must be respected in every country. And they cannot be denied through violence or suppression.
In a volatile situation like this one, it is imperative that the nations and peoples of the world speak with one voice, and that has been our focus. Yesterday a unanimous U.N. Security Council sent a clear message that it condemns the violence in Libya, supports accountability for the perpetrators, and stands with the Libyan people.
This same message, by the way, has been delivered by the European Union, the Arab League, the African Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and many individual nations. North and south, east and west, voices are being raised together to oppose suppression and support the rights of the Libyan people.
I’ve also asked my administration to prepare the full range of options that we have to respond to this crisis. This includes those actions we may take and those we will coordinate with our allies and partners, or those that we’ll carry out through multilateral institutions.
Like all governments, the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need, and to respect the rights of its people. It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities, and face the cost of continued violations of human rights.
This is not simply a concern of the United States. The entire world is watching, and we will coordinate our assistance and accountability measures with the international community. To that end, Secretary Clinton and I have asked Bill Burns, our Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, to make several stops in Europe and the region to intensify our consultations with allies and partners about the situation in Libya.
I’ve also asked Secretary Clinton to travel to Geneva on Monday, where a number of foreign ministers will convene for a session of the Human Rights Council. There she’ll hold consultations with her counterparts on events throughout the region and continue to ensure that we join with the international community to speak with one voice to the government and the people of Libya.
And even as we are focused on the urgent situation in Libya, let me just say that our efforts continue to address the events taking place elsewhere, including how the international community can most effectively support the peaceful transition to democracy in both Tunisia and in Egypt.
So let me be clear. The change that is taking place across the region is being driven by the people of the region. This change doesn’t represent the work of the United States or any foreign power. It represents the aspirations of people who are seeking a better life.
As one Libyan said, “We just want to be able to live like human beings.” We just want to be able to live like human beings. It is the most basic of aspirations that is driving this change. And throughout this time of transition, the United States will continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice, and stand up for the dignity of all people.
Thank you very much.
END 5:14 P.M. EST
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT ENTREPRENEUR BREAKOUT SESSION OF WINNING THE FUTURE FORUM ON SMALL BUSINESS
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February 22, 2011
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT ENTREPRENEUR BREAKOUT SESSION
OF WINNING THE FUTURE FORUM ON SMALL BUSINESS
Cleveland State University
11:58 A.M. EST
MS. MILLS: So, Mr. President, we were just talking about you and how much you love doing this and how much you enjoy hearing from the small businesses. And raise your hand who is a small business in here.
THE PRESIDENT: There you go.
MS. MILLS: Okay, there you go. And I thought you might want to meet Al, from Bubba’s BBQ.
THE PRESIDENT: I just gave you a plug. (Laughter.)
MS. MILLS: He says he’s still shaking, you know.
THE PRESIDENT: Where are the samples? (Laughter.)
MR. BAKER: Well, I brought pictures, but –
THE PRESIDENT: Pictures? (Laughter.)
MR. BAKER: Mr. President, I spent 13 years in the NFL, and I’ve never been shaken until today. (Laughter.)
MS. MILLS: There you go.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the — listen, everybody, welcome. And it’s great to see you. As I just mentioned when we were all together, the goal here really is to hear from you. And I just want to emphasize in this panel the whole issue of entrepreneurship and why it’s so important.
The truth is, is that large companies are critically important to our economy. They export. They employ thousands of people. And they also provide contracts to small businesses. So there’s a little bit of an artificial separation sometimes — if large businesses are doing well, then small businesses also have an opportunity for great success.
But here’s the unique thing about small businesses. Small businesses that grow into medium-sized and large businesses, that’s the key to the future, because it’s the new products, it’s the new services, things that nobody else thought of before that are going to help absorb all the talented Americans out there who are looking for careers, and the large companies, there’s only going to be so much additional employment that they add, partly because they’re getting more and more efficient.
So what we want to figure out is how can we help you succeed. Now, many of you are already succeeding, so you can help us understand what it takes to help others succeed. The most important ingredients, obviously, are your work ethic, your — you initially have an idea, you’re willing to take risks, you’re willing to try to talk your family into going along with it, you’re willing to hustle and scrape to get the financing, to market, to expand sales. We understand that you are the most important ingredient to success.
But there are a number of things that continually come up when it comes to what we’re hearing in small businesses: problems with access to capital, problems with being able to connect with consumers and markets when you don’t have a lot — a big infrastructure and a lot of capital that you can expend; problems in terms of finding the right employees.
So the goal here is to really get a sense of what you think are the things that we could be most helpful in ensuring your success and the success of other small businesses in the future.
And as I said, we’re very lucky to have Steve Case here, who is somebody who grew a small business to a large business and was at the cutting edge of the technological revolution that we’ve seen over the last 20 years that has changed everything. And he is going to be working as our chairman for public/private partnership that tries to continue to encourage additional entrepreneurship.
So, with that, I’m just going to — I’m going to spend most of my time listening. I will turn it over to you, Karen, or Steve, or others.
MS. MILLS: Well, we have a few small businesses, and I want to just ask Philip, maybe he’ll — I’m going to cold call a few people — makes the smallest microwave oven in the world.
THE PRESIDENT: Is that right?
MS. MILLS: So you think we can’t make microwaves here. That’s pretty innovative, huh?
THE PRESIDENT: How big is it?
MR. DAVIS: It’s 0.73 cubic feet, 10.5 inches wide, 10 inches deep and about a foot high. It has a handle. You can carry it around. People put it on their boats and campers, dorm rooms and bedrooms. And we made microwave technology portable. And that’s — in terms of innovation, the Chinese are great at manufacturing, but never before had anyone broken the one cubic foot barrier, so I had an idea back in 2004, and in 2007 made my first trip to China, with no money down convinced them to make the prototype, and then we had a chance to get into the sales in Sharper Image, then last year went on Amazon.com, and now we’re selling it directly off of our own website.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s outstanding.
MR. DAVIS: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: So, at this point, how many microwaves are you selling?
MR. DAVIS: We’ve sold — since it’s been on the market, we’ve sold over 5,000.
THE PRESIDENT: Outstanding.
MR. DAVIS: So we’re hoping this year that this will be our breakthrough year. It’s been an exciting ride for us. But one of the things that we find challenging is, for example, access to capital, because we have a lot of demand for our product in Europe. We get emails all the time from France and Spain and Germany asking for the iWavecube –
MS. MILLS: Export it.
MR. DAVIS: Yes, we could export it. But the challenge is, we don’t have the capital to make the run because it’s a different voltage system, it’s 220 versus 120 here. And so we need money in order to grow into the European market, but the European Union is 500 million people compared to 300 million here in the U.S. So that little bit of capital would help us grow.
And my recommendation to you, Mr. President, would be that if you could figure out a way to change the tax policy so that when people invest in small businesses, perhaps the capital gains on an investment would perhaps be not taxed. Let’s say if you put in $10,000 or $20,000, if you doubled your investment the first $20,000 would be –
THE PRESIDENT: Now, I don’t want to interrupt you, but that is such a good idea that we actually implemented it last year.
MR. DAVIS: Did not hear about it.
THE PRESIDENT: You did not hear about it? Karen, do you want to talk a little bit about –
MS. MILLS: Well, in fact, in the set of tax cuts that the President enacted — the 17 tax cuts — I want to make sure you all, when you do your taxes, make sure you ask about the 17 tax cuts because it’s money back in your pocket. One of them is if you invest in a small business, certain criteria, you don’t pay capital gains. You don’t pay capital gains.
THE PRESIDENT: You see there? Now, this was not a setup. (Laughter.)
MS. MILLS: No, this was not a setup.
THE PRESIDENT: I just want to –
MS. MILLS: I was going to say you did that one already. It was his promise.
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, we reduced capital gains to zero for investments in small business.
MR. DAVIS: Then that word needs to get out because I think that helps the investor make the decisions of where to allocate his capital. But that’s a great step in helping entrepreneurs gain access to capital.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ll make sure that Karen gets everybody the information. Now, what we’re going to do is, I’m sure, distribute information on all these tax credits that are available as part of the follow-up to this conversation. But congratulations on the success.
MR. DAVIS: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
MS. MILLS: Now, Ariane has a construction company. I like this because it’s a woman-led construction company.
MS. KIRKPATRICK: I have a company, AKA Construction Management Team. And actually we started off with a franchise and we actually had the opportunity to (inaudible) when you became President –
THE PRESIDENT: Nice.
MS. KIRKPATRICK: And we did such a good job that we got more jobs, more opportunities. And I was asked if I would be interested in doing a project at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where I took lessons every Saturday. So I was proud to be part of it, but you had to be a union company. Being a minority female, I was scared to make that jump and my affiliations with the organization of President’s Council — I talked to many of my mentors in that organization and I studied it and I prayed on it for approximately about six, seven months before I made that leap. And I finally did. And it’s actually been the best decision I’ve made.
I’ve only been in business for almost two years now. I’ve done it with no capital, no access, just with the pennies and dimes and nickels I have in my pocket. And I’ve been able to carry a payroll. I’ve been able to pay my union bills, insurance, everything on time. But I’m stressed because I have no access to capital.
You talked about being a risk-taker. I’ve always been a risk-taker, but I never was a smart risk-taker. So I’ve had some credit issues. So I’ve had some barriers, some personal barriers that I’ve had to overcome to get to the next level. So those more so are some of my problems, on how do I overcome those personal barriers, being a risk-taker — wanting to be an entrepreneur, wanting to be a part of that future and win — how do I win with those barriers that I have.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Well, this access to capital issue is going to, I suspect, keep on coming up. Obviously one of the key things that we’ve done — and I’ll talk about this in another panel that I’ll be joining — is both through the SBA, where we expanded the loan guarantee program, increased the size of loans that could be taken out and reduced fees, that is providing a lot of capital, particularly at a time when small businesses were getting hammered during this past two years of recession.
But through Treasury we’re also doing a range of programs, including, by the way, assisting state governments in their own programs so that they can start providing lending and counseling closer to the ground.
MS. MILLS: We’ve got some new platforms — our community advantage program that’s designed exactly for your issue. So I’ll talk about that, actually, later in the program.
But I want to get a couple other guys in here. Joe, talk about your –
MR. LOPEZ: Mr. President, thank you and welcome to Cleveland. I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve had one company since 1989 — it’s New Era Builders, a general contractor; and started another business called Sierra Metals. We just changed the name to Aster Elements. We’re fortunate enough to follow the trend in the country where there’s a lot of construction — and that was in Las Vegas and that was City Center. And at one time that was $9 billion worth of construction.
We followed the pendulum, did a lot of work. Now we’re back, but we’ve always been focused in Northeast Ohio. My biggest challenge right now, and I think the challenge for a lot of, also, entrepreneurs, is not the working capital but when we have contracts that are good contracts with viable entities, whether they’re banks or law firms or such like that, we still have to wait the 90 days plus –
THE PRESIDENT: To get paid.
MR. LOPEZ: — to get paid. Mr. President, when it costs us, whether it’s $30,000 or $50,000 or $100,000 a week in payroll and we’re waiting nine or 10 weeks later to get paid, and the margin is so small, we can’t grow, although we have the right deliverables and the right skill sets and the right talent to a point that we want to grow the business and have other investors, European investors, that we want to carry their products and to do — go national.
So we have a problem with that of how to make the working capital regular — always on an incoming basis versus waiting for the 90-day payday. Because the 90-day payday just puts you out for another four weeks and then you have to do it again and again. Those are issues that I think most of the fabricators here, or manufacturers, or even construction personnel have issues with. That’s one problem.
I think the other problem is that being a contractor we’re very successful through the SBA program, through the SBA office here — very successful and we did very well with that. Some of the issues that I have with that, or I think most people, is that same thing — the government takes their time, you’re making payroll, putting your process through the –
THE PRESIDENT: Processing for a loan?
MR. LOPEZ: Not for the loan, just for –
THE PRESIDENT: Or for the contracts?
MR. LOPEZ: For the contracts.
THE PRESIDENT: So if you’ve gotten a government contract.
MR. LOPEZ: If you’ve got a government contract sometimes it takes you 60 days to get paid. And we know the government is good for it. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say this. In a Cabinet meeting that we just recently had, I instructed Karen to work with all of our agencies to make sure that we are cutting back on the amount of time that it takes for vendors to get paid to the government, at least at the federal level. So that’s where I’ve got some control.
Steve, maybe you — I don’t know, maybe you have some suggestions in terms of in the private sector, obviously, if you’re a small company you may be at a disadvantage working with a large company, and their attitude is if the contract says you got to be paid in 90 days, we’re going to hold on to that money until the 90th day. And I don’t know whether that’s just a discrepancy in bargaining power that makes it hard for small businesses in that situation. But this is something that obviously I’ve heard. On the government level we can start doing something about it; in the private sector, Steve, you might have some better ideas on it.
MR. CASE: I don’t really have better ideas. I think you’re right that once it’s set up, whatever the precedence, whether it’s 60 days or 90 days, it’s pretty hard to move and people generally assume they’re not going to pay until they need to, with the exception being to the extent you’ve really been able to differentiate and people really believe you’re an essential part of their value chain. Sometimes there’s a little bit more flexibility, but generally people are trying to hold their money as long as possible.
But I’m really here just to listen and also to celebrate everything you’ve done. It really — I view entrepreneurs as our great American heroes who really create the products and services that drive the economy and create the jobs and preserve our national competitiveness. I’m really here more as a cheerleader and a listener to understand your stories and your needs.
PARTICIPANT: Mr. President, is there a way that you could pledge some of those contracts that are viable, that are solid contracts to get working capital?
MS. MILLS: Absolutely. That’s something that we do quite a bit of in bank lending and in SBA lending. So those are some of the avenues that we can talk about in order to make sure there’s more working capital. I hear all the time that working capital for growth is as hard to get as any other kind of capital. And we’re doing a very good job right now on real estate lending and on equipment capital, and we’re working hard on working capital as well.
One of the things, though — I want to underline what the President said about what he said to everyone in the Cabinet about small business contracting. He has told all of us around the table that the small business contracting programs are a real big priority, and that we know that gives oxygen into your revenue lines. And we also know that it’s good for the agencies because they get the most innovative entrepreneurs working for them. And usually the CEO is right there at the table helping them out.
So this is something that everybody across the administration under the President’s leadership is pushing forward on, and I hope that lots of you work with us at the SBA to get qualified to bid on these contracts because I there’s going to be a really good positive momentum in government contracting for small business going forward. And they’re going to pay on time.
THE PRESIDENT: Anybody else? Jeff?
MR. WADSWORTH: I come from a slightly different background and I have a big organization, but we spin out small companies. We have our own venture fund because we’re fortunate enough to have a major invention that created money and we created a venture fund; we have adults running it because it’s hard to run your own fund.
One of the big assets in this country in the investment the government makes in its national laboratories. Now, I just wanted to let you know we’re working closely with Secretary Chu to try and remove those barriers. This 90-day thing comes up there. We believe the contractors for those laboratories could take that risk and — because we need and we hear constantly from industry that we have to move at the speed of business. And there’s a massive investment there that is untapped in my mind, and that we need to make it easier for businesses to work.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. And Steve Chu is already talking to you about it.
STATEMENT FROM WHITE HOUSE DRUG POLICY DIRECTOR KERLIKOWSKE REGARDING OPERATION “PILL NATION”
Lexington, Kentucky – Today, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, released the following statement regarding Operation “Pill Nation.”
“I commend the Drug Enforcement Administration for today’s swift and decisive action against those who have been senselessly fueling our Nation’s prescription drug epidemic. The proliferation of rogue “pill mill” operations has caused massive harm to citizens in Florida, throughout the Southeast, and across our Nation. The vast majority of medical professionals practice medicine with honor and integrity. It is unconscionable that this very small number of doctors trained to ‘do no harm’ would willingly endanger lives or prolong the misery of addiction for any American for the sake of an easy profit. Today’s arrests not only begin the process of bringing to justice those who have broken the law but also reinforce the enduring efforts of drug treatment providers and community leaders throughout America who are working each day to rescue and protect our citizens from the destruction of prescription drug abuse.”
While prescription drugs have benefits when used properly, they are also increasingly abused by teens and young adults. Today, prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 27,000 people died from drug overdose deaths in 2007 – these deaths are driven primarily by prescription drug pain relievers. The rate of deaths has risen five-fold since 1990 and has never been higher. Prescription drugs are now involved in more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. Because prescription drugs are legal, they are easily accessible, often from a home medicine cabinet. Further, some individuals who misuse prescription drugs, particularly teens, believe these substances are safer than illicit drugs because they are prescribed by a healthcare professional and sold behind the counter.
The Obama Administration’s National Drug Control Strategy provides a blueprint for reducing prescription drug abuse by supporting the expansion of prescription drug monitoring programs, encouraging community prescription take-back initiatives, informing the public of the risks of prescription drug abuse and overdose, recommending disposal methods to remove unused medications from the home, and supporting education for patients and healthcare providers.
To learn more about prescription drug abuse or for tips on how to properly dispose of unneeded prescription drugs visitwww.WhiteHouseDrugPolicy.gov
President Obama Announces Key Administration Post
WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Carl Shapiro as a member of the Council of Economic Advisors.
President Obama said, “Carl Shapiro has demonstrated knowledge and dedication throughout his career. I am grateful that he has chosen to take on this important role, and I look forward to working with him in the months and years to come.”
Once confirmed, Carl Shapiro will replace Cecilia Rouse, who will be leaving the Council of Economic Advisers to return to Princeton University.
President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key Administration post:
Carl Shapiro, Nominee for Member, Council of Economic Advisors
Carl Shapiro is the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Economics at the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice, where he supervises more than fifty Ph.D. economists in the Antitrust Division’s Economic Analysis Group. He served previously in this capacity from 1995-1996. Professor Shapiro is on leave from the University of California at Berkeley, where he is the Transamerica Professor of Business Strategy at the Haas School of Business and Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics. He has been a Professor at UC Berkeley since 1990. Prior to joining the Department of Justice, Professor Shapiro consulted extensively for a wide range of clients, mostly in the area of antitrust economics. Professor Shapiro is the co-author, with Hal R. Varian, of the 1999 book, Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy. He earned his Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981.
Readout of President Obama’s Meeting on the Reauthorization of ESEA
Today, President Obama had a productive meeting with Senators Tom Harkin, Mike Enzi, Jeff Bingaman, and Lamar Alexander. The President reiterated his strong belief that the nation’s economic future is being decided every day in classrooms across the country, and that reforming education through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is a key priority this year. During the bipartisan meeting, the President discussed his desire to find common ground on the need to re-define the federal role in education, so that it is more flexible and better focused on responsibility, reform, and results. He discussed raising expectations for students and schools, boosting teacher effectiveness, and providing greater flexibility to support innovation and improvements throughout public education – including fostering a Race to the Top in our schools and providing incentives and rewards to help students make significant strides and succeed. The President looks forward to continuing this vital, bipartisan work to ensure America’s students have the skills they need to out-educate and out-compete the world and win the future.
* Representatives John Kline, George Miller, Duncan Hunter, and Dale Kildee were called back to Congress for a vote, they departed before the meeting began.
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts
WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:
- Michelle Gavin, Ambassador to the Republic of Botswana, Department of State
- Thomas M. Harrigan, Deputy Administrator of Drug Enforcement, Department of Justice
- Mara Rudman, Assistant Administrator for the Middle East, U.S. Agency for International Development
The President also announced his intent to appoint several individuals to key Administration posts. Their biographies are below.
President Obama said, “I am grateful that these talented and dedicated individuals have agreed to take on these important roles and devote their talents to serving the American people. I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years.”
President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:
Michelle Gavin, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Botswana, Department of State
Michelle Gavin most recently served as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Africa on the National Security Staff. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Ms. Gavin was an Adjunct Fellow for Africa and an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Before joining CFR, Ms. Gavin served as legislative director to U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO). She had previously spent six years serving as the primary foreign policy adviser to Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), where she worked on a broad range of initiatives, including the creation of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and the reform of U.S. policy relating to HIV/AIDS treatment abroad. She has also served as the staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on African Affairs. Ms. Gavin earned an MPhil in International Relations from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and a B.A. from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
Thomas M. Harrigan, Nominee for Deputy Administrator of Drug Enforcement, Department of Justice
Thomas M. Harrigan is currently the Chief of Operations in the Drug Enforcement Administration at the U.S. Department of Justice. He was appointed to this position in 2008 and is the principal advisor to the DEA Administrator on all enforcement-related matters. Mr. Harrigan began his career as a Special Agent with the DEA in 1987 and was reassigned to the Bangkok, Thailand Country Office in 1991. Since then, he has served as Group Supervisor in the Newark Field Division, Staff Coordinator in the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs, Chief of the Dangerous Drugs and Chemicals Section, and Deputy Chief in the Office of Domestic Operations. He also served as Senior Advisor to the Chief of Domestic Operations and as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge in the Washington Field Office. In 2004, Mr. Harrigan was appointed to the Senior Executive Service to serve as the Chief of Enforcement Operations. In this role, Mr. Harrigan served as the principal deputy for the Chief of Operations and directed the re-organization of DEA’s Operations Division. He is the recipient of numerous agency awards and commendations, including the Presidential Rank award of Distinguished Executive in December 2009. Mr. Harrigan has an M.A. in Education from Seton Hall University.
Mara Rudman, Nominee for Assistant Administrator for the Middle East, U.S. Agency for International Development
Mara Rudman is currently Deputy Envoy and Chief of Staff to the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace at the Department of State. In early 2009, Ms. Rudman served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary for the National Security Council. From 2005-2009, she led Quorum Strategies, LLC, an international strategic consulting firm, and was a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where she focused on national security issues and advised Middle East Progress. She served as a deputy national security advisor and National Security Council chief of staff to President Clinton from 1999-2001, and earlier in her career, as chief counsel to the House Foreign Affairs Committee under Chairman Lee Hamilton (D-IN). She also has worked as a vice president and general counsel for The Cohen Group, a Washington-based consultancy founded by former Secretary of Defense William Cohen; and she worked previously for Rep. Gerry E. Studds (D-MA). Ms. Rudman holds an A.B. summa cum laude from Dartmouth College and a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School.
President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:
James Hamilton, Appointee for Member, Board of Governors of the United Service Organizations, Incorporated
James Hamilton is a partner with the law firm Bingham McCutchen LLP. His principal practice areas are civil and criminal litigation, congressional and other investigations, and advising clients on government and professional ethics. Mr. Hamilton previously served as the Assistant Chief Counsel of the Senate Watergate Committee and on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. He served as the Clinton-Gore transition counsel for nominations and confirmations. He served as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in Germany and is the author of The Power to Probe: A Study of Congressional Investigations and many articles on legal and public affairs.
Lisa Borin Ogden, Appointee for Member, Board of Governors of the United Service Organizations, Incorporated
Lisa Borin Ogden most recently served as Special Assistant to the President in the White House Presidential Personnel Office. Prior to that, she served as Legislative Assistant to then Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., where her focus was on energy, the environment, transportation, agriculture and telecommunications. Ms. Ogden has a B.A. from Emory University and received her J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law.
Bob King, Appointee for Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
Bob King was elected as President of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) in 2010. From 1998 until 2010, he served three four-year terms as a Vice President at UAW. In his final term as Vice President, he directed the Ford, Severstal, and Competitive Shops/Independent Parts Suppliers Departments of the UAW. Before this, Mr. King served nine years as the Union’s Director for most of Wayne, Monroe, and Washtenaw Counties in Michigan. He also chaired the UAW-Ford Negotiating Committee twice. Mr. King is a life member of the NAACP and a member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women.
Cappy McGarr, Appointee for General Trustee, Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Cappy McGarr serves as Managing Partner of the U.S. Renewable Energy Group and President of the capital management firm MCM Interests, LLC. Mr. McGarr serves on the boards of the Foundation for the National Archives and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the founder of the University of Texas Sports Journalism Program in the College of Communications and the University’s annual McGarr Symposium in Sports Journalism. He also served as Chairman of the University of Texas at Austin Development Board from 2001 to 2002. Mr. McGarr was appointed by President Clinton to the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, serving from 1996 to 2002. He is an executive producer and creator of the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize, the nation’s highest award for humor, and in 2009 was nominated for an Emmy Award for the production honoring George Carlin. Mr. McGarr is also an executive producer and creator of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the nation’s highest honor for popular song.
Al Tarasiuk, Appointee for Chief Information Officer of the Intelligence Community, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Al Tarasiuk is a career senior intelligence officer at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). From 2005 to 2010, Mr. Tarasiuk served as Chief Information Officer at the CIA. In this role, he supported cyber defense and also served as the CIA’s Senior Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer. Prior to being appointed CIO, Mr. Tarasiuk was Director of CIA’s Information Services Center. In his early years at CIA, Mr. Tarasiuk served overseas in an operational role with the National Clandestine Service. He began his federal career as a project engineer with Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. In January 2011, he received the National Intelligence Reform Medal from the Director of National Intelligence for significant accomplishments leading to the transformation and integration of the U.S. Intelligence Community. Mr. Tarasiuk holds a B.S.E.E. from New Jersey Institute of Technology and a M.S. from the George Washington University.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON AMERICA’S GREAT OUTDOORS INITIATIVE
5:05 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, welcome to the White House, everybody. It is great to have you here. What better place to hold our Great Outdoors event than right here, inside the East Room. (Laughter.) We thought it might be a little chilly for some of you. Not the folks from Montana. (Laughter.) Now, while an indoor celebration of the great outdoors may seem strange, it is worth noting that the White House is actually inside a 82-acre national park –- including an area once found to have the “densest squirrel population known to science.” (Laughter.) This is true. So we’ve got that going for us. (Laughter.)
I want to thank Sally for the terrific introduction. I asked her if she brought me any gear. She said that Secret Service wouldn’t let her — otherwise she would have. (Laughter.)
I also want to make a couple of acknowledgements — people who have worked so hard on this initiative, and I want to make sure that they get all the credit in the world: my great Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, is here. (Applause.) My outstanding Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. (Applause.) Tom is still recovering from the Super Bowl — big Steelers fan. (Laughter.) Went down to the game, all that stuff. Had the towel. (Laughter.)
Administrator of the EPA, Lisa Jackson. (Applause.) Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley. (Applause.) Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo Ellen Darcy. (Applause.) And somebody I am just thrilled to have here because this is my model for public service and just not only a great former senator but also just a class act and a wonderful gentleman, who I have not seen in a while — John Warner of the great Commonwealth of Virginia. (Applause.) Best to you, John. Thank you.
We also have — in addition to Sally, I want to make sure that everybody knows who’s standing behind me here — Dusty Crary, who’s a rancher from Rocky Mt. Front Advisory Committee — Dusty. (Applause.) Sam Solomon, the president and CEO of the Coleman Company. (Applause.) John Tomke, president Sporting Conservation Council, Ducks Unlimited. (Applause.) Troy Uentillie, Navaho Nation member and the Sherman BIE School. (Applause.) And Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. (Applause.)
All these folks have just done a lot of work to make this day possible.
Now, in 1786, Thomas Jefferson described the view from Monticello: “How sublime to look down into the workhouse of nature,” he wrote. “To see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder, all fabricated at our feet.” To most Americans at the time, Jefferson’s experience was a familiar one. The vast majority of the continent was wilderness. No matter where you lived, you didn’t have to travel far to find acres of open fields and unspoiled forests.
But in the years that followed, Americans began to push westward. Cities sprang up along riverbanks and railroad tracks. The nation grew so fast that by 1890, the census director announced that he could no longer identify an American “frontier.” And yet, in the midst of so much expansion, so much growth, so much progress, there were a few individuals who had the foresight to protect our most precious national treasures -– even in our most trying times.
So at the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln agreed to set aside more than 60 square miles of land in the Yosemite Valley -– land he had never seen -– on the condition that it be preserved for public use. Teddy Roosevelt, of course, our greatest conservation President, wrote that “there is nothing more practical in the end than the preservation of beauty.” Even FDR, in the midst of the Great Depression, enabled the National Park Service to protect America’s most iconic landmarks –- from Mount Rushmore to the Statue of Liberty. So conservation became not only important to America, but it became one of our greatest exports, as America’s beauty shone as a beacon to the world. And other countries started adopting conservation measures because of the example that we had set.
Protecting this legacy has been the responsibility of all who serve this country. But behind that action, the action that’s been taken here in Washington, there’s also the story of ordinary Americans who devoted their lives to protecting the land that they loved.
That’s what Horace Kephart and George Masa did. This is a wonderful story. Two men, they met in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina — each had moved there to start a new life. Horrified that their beloved wilderness was being clear-cut at a rate of 60 acres a day, Horace and George worked with other members of the community to get the land set aside. The only catch was that they had to raise $10 million to foot the bill.
But far from being discouraged, they helped rally one of the poorest areas in the country to the cause. A local high school donated the proceeds from a junior class play. Preachers held “Smokey Mountain Sunday” services and encouraged their congregations to donate. Local businesses chipped in. And students from every grade in the city of Asheville -– which was still segregated at the time –- made a contribution.
So stories like these remind us what citizenship is all about. And by the way, last year Michelle and I, we were able to walk some of the trails near Asheville and benefit from the foresight of people that had come before us. Our daughters, our sons were able to enjoy what not only Teddy Roosevelt did but what ordinary folks did all across the country. It embodies that uniquely American idea that each of us has an equal share in the land around us, and an equal responsibility to protect it.
And it’s not just the iconic mountains and parks that we protect. It’s the forests where generations of families have hiked and picnicked and connected with nature. It’s the park down the street where kids play after school. It’s the farmland that’s been in the family longer than anybody can remember. It’s the rivers where we fish, it’s the forests where we hunt.
These days, our lives are only getting more complicated, more busy, and we’re glued to our phones and our computers for hours on end. I have to — Michelle and I, we’re constantly having to monitor our kids, get outside. Turn off the TV. Put away the Skype. (Laughter.)
Cars and buses shuttle us from one place to another. We see our kids spending more and more time on the couch. For a lot of folks, it’s easy to go days without stepping on a single blade of grass.
At times like these, we have to ask ourselves: What can we do to break free from the routine and reconnect with the world around us? What can we do to get our kids off the couch and out the door? And by the way, because I’m a smart husband, I, here, want to point out all the great things that Michelle is doing with the “Let’s Move” initiative to help kids stay active and healthy. (Applause.)
Today, our open spaces are more precious than ever -– and it’s more important than ever that we come together to protect them for the next generation.
So, in my first months of office I signed a public lands bill — that many of you worked on — that designated two million acres of wilderness, over 1,000 miles of wild and scenic rivers and three national parks. (Applause.) I’m very proud of that. And some of the members of Congress who worked with us on that are here today, and we’re very proud of them.
But at a time when America’s open spaces are controlled by a patchwork of groups, from government to land trusts to private citizens, it’s clear that conservation in the 21st century is going to take more than just what we can do here in Washington. Just like the story of the Great Smoky Mountains, meeting the new test of environmental stewardship means finding the best ideas at the grassroots level. It means helping states, communities and non-profits protect their own resources. And it means figuring out how the federal government can be a better partner in those efforts.
And that’s why, last year, we launched the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Over the last 10 months, members of my administration have held more than 50 listening sessions with over 10,000 people -– from hunters and fishermen to tribal leaders and young people. And together, we’ve laid the foundation for a smarter, more community-driven environmental strategy.
To make it easier for families to spend time outside no matter where they live, we’re going to work with cities and states to build and improve urban parks and waterways, and make it easier to access public lands.
To encourage young people to put down the remote or the video games and get outside, we’re going to establish a new Conservation Service Corps so they can build a lifelong relationship with their natural heritage. And this is something I know Ken cares deeply about. (Applause.)
To help set aside land for conservation and to promote recreation, we’re proposing to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, for only the third time in our history. (Applause.) And we’re intending to pay for it with existing oil and gas revenues, because our attitude is if you take something out of the Earth, you have a responsibility to give a little bit back to the Earth. (Applause.)
So these are the right steps to take for our environment. But they’re also the right steps to take for our country. They help spur the economy. They create jobs by putting more Americans back to work in tourism and recreation. They help inspire a new generation of scientists to learn how the world works. They help Americans stay healthier by making it easier to spend time outside. And they’ll help carry forth our legacy as a people who don’t just make decisions based on short-term gains of any one group but on what’s best for the entire nation in the long run.
So working together to protect the environment we share, lifting up the best ideas wherever we find them, preserving the great outdoors for our children and for their children — that’s our responsibility.
The great Rachel Carson once wrote that “The real wealth of the nation lies in the resources of the Earth -— soil, water, forests, minerals, wildlife… Their administration is not properly, and cannot be, a matter of politics.” Something more than politics. That was the call echoed by Jefferson and Lincoln and Roosevelt. It’s the call that has driven generations of Americans to do their part to protect a small slice of the planet. And it’s the call that we answer today.
So I’m grateful to all of you for the great work that you’ve already done. Keep it up. Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
President Obama Announces Plan for Community-Based Conservation through the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative
President Obama Announces Plan for Community-Based Conservation through the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama today announced the Administration’s action plan, under the America’s Great Outdoors initiative, to achieve lasting conservation of the outdoor spaces that power our nation’s economy, shape our culture, and build our outdoor traditions. This initiative seeks to reinvigorate our approach to conservation and reconnect Americans, especially young people, with the lands and waters that are used for farming and ranching, hunting and fishing, and for families to spend quality time together. Recognizing that many of these places and resources are under intense pressure, the President established the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative last April to work with the American people in developing a conservation and recreation agenda that makes sense for the 21st century.
The report released today outlines ways in which the Federal Government will help empower local communities to accomplish their conservation and recreation priorities by recognizing that the best ideas come from outside of Washington. Last summer, senior Administration officials held 51 listening sessions across the country to gather input from Americans about the outdoor places and activities that they value most. These sessions drew more than 10,000 participants and more than 105,000 written comments, shaping an action plan that, based on local initiatives and support, which when implemented will result in:
- Accessible parks or green spaces for our children.
- A new generation of great urban parks and community green spaces.
- Newly-restored river restorations and recreational “blueways” that power economic revitalization in communities.
- Stronger support for farmers, ranchers, and private landowners that help protect rural landscapes and provide access for recreation.
- The reinvestment of revenues from oil and gas extraction into the permanent protection of parks, open spaces, wildlife habitat, and access for recreational activities.
- A 21st century conservation ethic that builds on local ideas and solutions for environmental stewardship and connecting to our historic, cultural, and natural heritage.
“With children spending half as much time outside as their parents did, and with many Americans living in urban areas without safe access to green space, connecting to the outdoors is more important than ever for the economic and physical health of our communities,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “Through the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, this Administration will work together with communities to ensure clean and accessible lands and waters, thriving outdoor cultures and economies, and healthy and active youth.”
“The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative is born out of a conversation with the American people about what matters most to them about the places where they live, work, and play,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. “It’s about practical, common-sense ideas from the American people on how our natural, cultural, and historic resources can help us be a more competitive, stronger, and healthier nation. Together, we are adapting our conservation strategies to meet the challenges of today and empowering communities to protect and preserve our working lands and natural landscapes for generations to come.”
“America’s farmlands and woodlands help fuel our economy and create jobs across the rural areas of our country,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This plan seeks to work in partnership with landowners, conservation groups, states and others to conserve our working lands and our public lands and to reconnect Americans – especially our nation’s youth – with opportunities to stay active. This blueprint was developed with input from the over 100,000 Americans in all corners of our country who joined our national listening sessions and who contributed their ideas online.”
“This initiative is an effort to reconnect Americans with the valuable resources all around them and shape a 21st century plan for protecting our great outdoors,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “It is important that our waters, lands and greenspaces are brought back into our daily lives. President Obama’s initiative will help make these critical resources a national focus once again, and involve people of every background in conservation of the places that we hold dear.”
Specifically, the report calls for fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund; establishing a 21st century Conservation Service Corps to engage young Americans in public lands and water restoration; and extending the deduction for conservation easement donations on private lands beyond 2011, among other measures.
The full report and additional information is available at: www.americasgreatoutdoors.gov.
PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE PRESIDENT
South Court Auditorium
10:59 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Please have a seat. I figured that I’d give Jay one more taste of freedom — (laughter) — before we lock him in a room with all of you, so I’m here to do a little downfield blocking for him. Before I take a few questions, let me say a few words about the budget we put out yesterday.
Just like every family in America, the federal government has to do two things at once. It has to live within its means while still investing in the future. If you’re a family trying to cut back, you might skip going out to dinner, you might put off a vacation. But you wouldn’t want to sacrifice saving for your kids’ college education or making key repairs in your house. So you cut back on what you can’t afford to focus on what you can’t do without.
And that’s what we’ve done with this year’s budget. When I took office, I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term. Our budget meets that pledge and puts us on a path to pay for what we spend by the middle of the decade.
As a start, it freezes domestic discretionary spending over the next five years, which would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and bring annual domestic spending to its lowest share of the economy since Dwight Eisenhower.
Now, some of the savings will come through less waste and more efficiency. To take just one example, we’ll give — we’ll save billions of dollars by getting rid of 14,000 office buildings, lots, and government-owned properties that we no longer need. And to make sure special interests are not larding up legislation with special projects, I’ve pledged to veto any bills that contain earmarks.
Still, even as we cut waste and inefficiency, this budget freeze will also require us to make some tough choices. It will mean freezing the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years. It will mean cutting things I care about deeply, like community action programs for low-income communities. And we have some conservation programs that are going to be scaled back. These are all programs that I wouldn’t be cutting if we were in a better fiscal situation. But we’re not.
We also know that cutting annual domestic spending alone won’t be enough to meet our long-term fiscal challenges. That’s what the bipartisan fiscal commission concluded; that’s what I’ve concluded. And that’s why I’m eager to tackle excessive spending wherever we find it -– in domestic spending, but also in defense spending, health care spending, and spending that is embedded in the tax code.
Some of this spending we’ve begun to tackle in this budget -– like the $78 billion that Secretary Gates identified in defense cuts. But to get where we need to go we’re going to have to do more. We’ll have to bring down health care costs further, including in programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficits. I believe we should strengthen Social Security for future generations, and I think we can do that without slashing benefits or putting current retirees at risk. And I’m willing to work with everybody on Capitol Hill to simplify the individual tax code for all Americans.
All of these steps are going to be difficult. And that’s why all of them will require Democrats, independents, and Republicans to work together. I recognize that there are going to be plenty of arguments in the months to come, and everybody is going to have to give a little bit. But when it comes to difficult choices about our budget and our priorities, we have found common ground before. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill came together to save Social Security. Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress eventually found a way to settle their differences and balance the budget. And many Democrats and Republicans in Congress today came together in December to pass a tax cut that has made Americans’ paychecks a little bigger this year and will spur on additional economic growth this year.
So I believe we can find this common ground, but we’re going to have to work. And we owe the American people a government that lives within its means while still investing in our future — in areas like education, innovation, and infrastructure that will help us attract new jobs and businesses to our shores. That’s the principle that should drive this debate in the coming months. I believe that’s how America will win the future in the coming years.
So with that, let me take a few questions. And I’m going to start off with Ben Feller of AP.
Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. You’ve been talking a lot about the need for tough choices in your budget, but your plan does not address the long-term crushing costs of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — the real drivers of long-term debt. Can you explain that? Where is your leadership on that issue and when are we going to see your plan?
And if I may, sir, on the foreign front, the uprising in Egypt has helped prompt protests in Bahrain, in Yemen, and Iran. I’m wondering how you balance your push for freedoms in those places against the instability that could really endanger U.S. interests.
THE PRESIDENT: On the budget, what my budget does is to put forward some tough choices, some significant spending cuts, so that by the middle of this decade our annual spending will match our annual revenues. We will not be adding more to the national debt. So, to use a — sort of an analogy that families are familiar with, we’re not going to be running up the credit card any more. That’s important — and that’s hard to do. But it’s necessary to do. And I think that the American people understand that.
At the same time, we’re going to be making some key investments in places like education, and science and technology, research and development that the American people understand is required to win the future. So what we’ve done is we’ve taken a scalpel to the discretionary budget rather than a machete.
Now, I said in the State of the Union and I’ll repeat, that side of the ledger only accounts for about 12 percent of our budget. So we’ve got a whole bunch of other stuff that we’re going to have to do, including dealing with entitlements.
Now, you talked about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The truth is Social Security is not the huge contributor to the deficit that the other two entitlements are.
I’m confident we can get Social Security done in the same way that Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill were able to get it done, by parties coming together, making some modest adjustments. I think we can avoid slashing benefits, and I think we can make it stable and stronger for not only this generation but for the next generation.
Medicare and Medicaid are huge problems because health care costs are rising even as the population is getting older. And so what I’ve said is that I’m prepared to work with Democrats and Republicans to start dealing with that in a serious way. We made a down payment on that with health care reform last year. That’s part of what health care reform was about. The projected deficits are going to be about $250 billion lower over the next 10 years than they otherwise would have been because of health care reform, and they’ll be a trillion dollars lower than they otherwise would have been if we hadn’t done health care reform for the following decade.
But we’re still going to have to do more. So what I’ve said is that if you look at the history of how these deals get done, typically it’s not because there’s an Obama plan out there; it’s because Democrats and Republicans are both committed to tackling this issue in a serious way.
And so what we’ve done is we’ve been very specific in terms of how to stabilize the discretionary budget, how to make sure that we’re not adding additional debt by 2015. And then let’s together, Democrats and Republicans, tackle these long-term problems in a way that I think will ensure our fiscal health and, at the same time, ensure that we’re making investments in the future.
Q But when is that happening?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re going to be in discussions over the next several months. I mean this is going to be a negotiation process. And the key thing that I think the American people want to see is that all sides are serious about it and all sides are willing to give a little bit, and that there’s a genuine spirit of compromise as opposed to people being interested in scoring political points.
Now, we did that in December during the lame duck on the tax cut issue. Both sides had to give. And there were folks in my party who were not happy, and there were folks in the Republican Party who were not happy. And my suspicion is, is that we’re going to be able to do the same thing if we have that same attitude with respect to entitlements.
But the thing I want to emphasize is nobody is more mindful than me that entitlements are going to be a key part of this issue — as is tax reform. I want to simplify rates. And I want to, at the same time, make sure that we have the same amount of money coming in as going out.
Those are big, tough negotiations, and I suspect that there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs in the months to come before we finally get to that solution. But just as a lot of people were skeptical about us being able to deal with the tax cuts that we did in December but we ended up getting it done, I’m confident that we can get this done as well.
Now, with respect to the situation in the Middle East, obviously, there’s still a lot of work to be done in Egypt itself, but what we’ve seen so far is positive. The military council that is in charge has reaffirmed its treaties with countries like Israel and international treaties. It has met with the opposition, and the opposition has felt that it is serious about moving towards fair and free elections. Egypt is going to require help in building democratic institutions and also in strengthening an economy that’s taken a hit as a consequence of what happened. But so far at least, we’re seeing the right signals coming out of Egypt.
There are ramifications, though, throughout the region. And I think my administration’s approach is the approach that jibes with how most Americans think about this region, which is that each country is different, each country has its own traditions; America can’t dictate how they run their societies, but there are certain universal principles that we adhere to. One of them is we don’t believe in violence as a way of — and coercion — as a way of maintaining control. And so we think it’s very important that in all the protests that we’re seeing in — throughout the region that governments respond to peaceful protesters peacefully.
The second principle that we believe in strongly is in the right to express your opinions, the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly that allows people to share their grievances with the government and to express themselves in ways that hopefully will over time meet their needs.
And so we have sent a strong message to our allies in the region, saying let’s look at Egypt’s example as opposed to Iran’s example. I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt when, in fact, they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully in Iran.
And I also think that an important lesson — and I mentioned this last week — that we can draw from this is real change in these societies is not going to happen because of terrorism; it’s not going to happen because you go around killing innocents — it’s going to happen because people come together and apply moral force to a situation. That’s what garners international support. That’s what garners internal support. That’s how you bring about lasting change.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Getting back to the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, what concerns do you have about instability, especially in Saudi Arabia, as the demonstrations spread? Do you see — foresee any effects on oil prices? And talking about Iran, can you comment about the unrest there more? What is your message to the Iranian people — in light of there was some criticism that your administration didn’t speak out strongly enough after their last — the demonstrations in Iran after their elections? Excuse me.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s okay. Well, first of all, on Iran, we were clear then and we are clear now that what has been true in Egypt should be true in Iran, which is that people should be able to express their opinions and their grievances and seek a more responsive government. What’s been different is the Iranian government’s response, which is to shoot people and beat people and arrest people.
And my hope and expectation is, is that we’re going to continue to see the people of Iran have the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedoms and a more representative government, understanding that America cannot ultimately dictate what happens inside of Iran any more than it could inside of Egypt. Ultimately these are sovereign countries that are going to have to make their own decisions. What we can do is lend moral support to those who are seeking a better life for themselves.
Obviously we’re concerned about stability throughout the region. Each country is different. The message that we’ve sent even before the demonstrations in Egypt has been, to friend and foe alike, that the world is changing; that you have a young, vibrant generation within the Middle East that is looking for greater opportunity, and that if you are governing these countries, you’ve got to get out ahead of change. You can’t be behind the curve.
And so I think that the thing that will actually achieve stability in that region is if young people, if ordinary folks end up feeling that there are pathways for them to feed their families, get a decent job, get an education, aspire to a better life. And the more steps these governments are taking to provide these avenues for mobility and opportunity, the more stable these countries are.
You can’t maintain power through coercion. At some level, in any society, there has to be consent. And that’s particularly true in this new era where people can communicate not just through some centralized government or a state-run TV, but they can get on a smart phone or a Twitter account and mobilize hundreds of thousands of people.
My belief is that, as a consequence of what’s happening in Tunisia and Egypt, governments in that region are starting to understand this. And my hope is, is that they can operate in a way that is responsive to this hunger for change but always do so in a way that doesn’t lead to violence.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Actually, I’m going to have to get my glasses out to read these –
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a bad sign there, Chip. (Laughter.)
Q A little fine print — a little fine print in the budget, Mr. President. You said that this budget is not going to add to the credit card as of about the middle of the decade. And as Robert Gibbs might say, I’m not a budget expert and I’m not an economist, but if you could just explain to me how you can say that when, if you look on page 171, which I’m sure you’ve read — (laughter) — it is the central page in this — the deficits go from $1.1 trillion down to $768 billion, and they go down again all the way to $607 billion in 2015, and then they start to creep up again, and by 2021, it’s at $774 billion. And the total over those 10 years, the total debt is $7.2 trillion on top of the $14 trillion we already have. How can you say that we’re living within our means?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, here’s — let me be clear on what I’m saying, because I’m not suggesting that we don’t have to do more. We still have all this accumulated debt as a consequence of the recession and as a consequence of a series of decisions that were made over the last decade. We’ve piled up, we’ve racked up a whole bunch of debt. And there is a lot of interest on that debt.
So, in the same way that if you’ve got a credit card and you’ve got a big balance, you may not be adding to principal — you’ve still got all that interest that you’ve got to pay. Well, we’ve got a big problem in terms of accumulated interest that we’re paying, and that’s why we’re going to have to whittle down further the debt that’s already been accumulated. So that’s problem number one.
And problem number two we already talked about, which is rising health care costs and programs like Medicaid and Medicare are going to — once you get past this decade, going to start zooming up again as a consequence of the population getting older and health care costs going up more rapidly than incomes and wages and revenues are going up.
So you’ve got those two big problems. What we’ve done is to try to take this in stages. What we say in our budget is let’s get control of our discretionary budget to make sure that whatever it is that we’re spending on an annual basis we’re also taking in a similar amount. That’s step number one.
Step number two is going to make — is going to be how do we make sure that we’re taking on these long-term drivers and how do we start whittling down the debt. And that’s going to require entitlement reform and it’s going to require tax reform.
And in order to accomplish those two things, we’re going to have to have a spirit of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. And I think that’s possible. I think that’s what the American people are looking for. But what I think is important to do is not discount the tough choices that are required just to stabilize the situation. It doesn’t solve it, but it stabilizes it. And if we can get that done, that starts introducing this concept of us being able to, in a serious way, cooperate to meet this fiscal challenge. And that will lay the predicate for us being able to solve some of these big problems over the course of the next couple of years as well.
So, again, I just want to repeat, the first step in this budget is to make sure that we’re stabilizing the current situation. The second step is going to be to make sure that we’re taking on some of these long-term drivers. But we’ve got to get control of the short-term deficit as well, and people are going to be looking for a signal for that, and the choices that we have made are some pretty tough choices — which is why I think you have been seeing some grumblings not just from the other party but also from my own party about some of the decisions that we make.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Everything you have talked about — tax reform, the entitlement reform, two parties coming together just happening in December in your fiscal commission. You had a majority consensus to do all this. It has now been shelved. It seems that you have not taken — I guess my question is what was the point of the fiscal commission? If you have this moment where you had Tom Coburn, your conservative friend in the United States Senate, sign on to this deal; Judd Gregg was also on this thing; you had Dick Durbin, your good friend from Illinois, Democrat — everything you just described in the answer to Chip and the answer to Ben just happened. Why not grab it?
THE PRESIDENT: The notion that it has been shelved I think is incorrect. It still provides a framework for a conversation.
Part of the challenge here is that this town — let’s face it, you guys are pretty impatient. If something doesn’t happen today, then the assumption is it’s just not going to happen. Right? I’ve had this conversation for that last two years about every single issue that we worked on, whether it was health care or “don’t ask, don’t tell,” on Egypt, right? We’ve had this monumental change over the last three weeks — well, why did it take three weeks? (Laughter.) So I think that there’s a tendency for us to assume that if it didn’t happen today it’s not going to happen.
Well, the fiscal commission put out a framework. I agree with much of the framework; I disagree with some of the framework. It is true that it got 11 votes, and that was a positive sign. What’s also true is, for example, is, is that the chairman of the House Republican budgeteers didn’t sign on. He’s got a little bit of juice when it comes to trying to get an eventual budget done, so he’s got concerns. So I’m going to have to have a conversation with him, what would he like to see happen.
I’m going to have to have a conversation with those Democrats who didn’t vote for it. There are some issues in there that as a matter of principle I don’t agree with, where I think they didn’t go far enough or they went too far. So this is going to be a process in which each side, both in — in both chambers of Congress go back and forth and start trying to whittle their differences down until we arrive at something that has an actual change of passage.
And that’s my goal. I mean, my goal here is to actually solve the problem. It’s not to get a good headline on the first day. My goal is, is that a year from now or two years from now, people look back and say, you know what, we actually started making progress on this issue.
Q What do you say, though — it looks like, no, you first; no, you first — and nobody — everybody says –
THE PRESIDENT: But there will –
Q — but nobody wants to talk about –
THE PRESIDENT: Chuck, there was this — this was the same criticism people had right after the midterm election. If you had polled the press room and the conventional wisdom in Washington after the midterm, the assumption was there’s no way we were going to end up getting a tax deal that got the majority of both Democrats and Republicans. It was impossible, right? And we got it done.
So this is not a matter of you go first or I go first. This is a matter of everybody having a serious conversation about where we want to go, and then ultimately getting in that boat at the same time so it doesn’t tip over. And I think that can happen.
Julianna Goldman. There you are.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Your budget relies on revenue from tax increases to multinational corporations that ship jobs overseas and on increases on the oil and gas industry. You’ve been calling on this for years. And if you couldn’t get it through a Democratic Congress, why do you think you’ll be able to get it through now? And also doesn’t it blunt your push for deficit-neutral corporate tax reform?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I continue to believe I’m right. (Laughter.) So we’re going to try again. I think what’s different is everybody says now that they’re really serious about the deficit. Well, if you’re really serious about the deficit — not just spending, but you’re serious about the deficit overall — then part of what you have to look at is unjustifiable spending through the tax code, through tax breaks that do not make us more competitive, do not create jobs here in the United States of America.
And the two examples you cite I think most economists would look at and they’d say these aren’t contributing to our long-term economic growth. And if they’re not, why are we letting some folks pay lower taxes than other folks who are creating jobs here in the United States and are investing? Why are we not investing in the energy sources of the future, just the ones in the past, particularly if the energy sources of the past are highly profitable right now and don’t need a tax break?
So I think what may have changed is if we are going to get serious about deficit reduction and debt reduction, then we’ve got to look at all the sources of deficit and debt. We can’t be just trying to pick and choose and getting 100 percent of our way.
The same is true, by the way, for Democrats. I mean, there are some provisions in this budget that are hard for me to take. You’ve got cities around the country and states around the country that are having a tremendously difficult time trying to balance their own budgets because of fallen revenue. They’ve got greater demands because folks have lost their jobs; the housing market is still in a tough way in a lot of these places. And yet part of what this budget says is we’re going to reduce Community Development Block Grants by 10 percent. That’s not something I’d like to do. But — and if it had come up a year ago or two years ago, I would have said no. Under these new circumstances, I’m saying yes to that. And so my expectation is, is that everybody is going to have to make those same sorts of compromises.
Now, with respect to corporate tax reform, the whole concept of corporate tax reform is to simplify, eliminate loopholes, treat everybody fairly. That is entirely consistent with saying, for example, that we shouldn’t provide special treatment to the oil industry when they’ve been making huge profits and can afford to further invest in their companies without special tax breaks that are different from what somebody else gets.
Q — you can’t eliminate those –
THE PRESIDENT: Well, what is absolutely true is that it’s going to be difficult to achieve serious corporate tax reform if the formula is, lower our tax rates and let us keep all our special loopholes. If that’s the formula, then we’re not going to get it done. I wouldn’t sign such a bill, and I don’t think the American people would sign such a bill.
If you’re a small business person out on Main Street, and you’re paying your taxes, and you find out that you’ve got some big company with billions of dollars in far-flung businesses all across the world, and they’re paying a fraction of what you’re paying in taxes, you’d be pretty irritated — and rightfully so.
And so the whole idea of corporate reform — corporate tax reform — is, yes, let’s lower everybody’s rates so American businesses are competitive with businesses all around the world; but in order to pay for it, to make sure that it doesn’t add to our deficit, let’s also make sure that these special interest loopholes that a lot of lobbyists have been working very hard on to get into the tax code — let’s get rid of those as well.
All right. April Ryan. Caught you by surprise, April.
Q You did, sir. Thank you. Mr. President, I want to focus in on the least of these. You started your career of service as a community organizer and now we are hearing from people like — organizations like the CBC is saying rebuilding our economy on the backs of the most vulnerable Americans is something that is simply not acceptable, like the cuts to the Community Service Block Grants, Pell Grants, heating oil assistance, and freezing salaries of federal workers. Now, Roderick Harrison, of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, says it’s not good to make these types of cuts at a time of recession, instead of doing it at a time of recovery.
And also I need to ask you, have you been placing calls for your friend, Rahm Emanuel, for his mayoral campaign in Chicago? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I’ll take the last question first. I don’t have to make calls for Rahm Emanuel. He seems to be doing just fine on his own. And he’s been very busy shoveling snow out there. (Laughter.) I’ve been very impressed with that. I never saw him shoveling around here. (Laughter.)
Let me use Pell Grants as an example of how we’re approaching these difficult budget choices in a way that is sustainable but preserves our core commitment to expanding opportunity. When I came into office I said I wanted to once again have America have the highest graduation rates, college graduation rates, of any country in the world — that we had been slipping. And so I significantly increased the Pell Grant program by tens of billions of dollars. And so millions of young people are going to have opportunities through the Pell Grant program that they didn’t before, and the size of the Pell Grant itself went up.
What we also did, partly because we were in a recessionary situation and so more people were having to go back to school as opposed to work, what we also did was, for example, say that you can get Pell Grants for summer school. Now we’re in a budget crunch. The take-up rate on the Pell Grant program has skyrocketed. The costs have gone up significantly. If we continue on this pace, sooner or later what’s going to happen is we’re just going to have to chop off eligibility. We’ll just have to say, that’s it, we can’t do this anymore, it’s too expensive.
So instead what we said was how do we trim, how do we take a scalpel to the Pell Grant program, make sure that we keep the increase for each Pell Grant, make sure that the young people who are being served by the Pell Grant program are still being served, but, for example, on the summer school thing, let’s eliminate that. That will save us some money, but the core functions of the program are sustained. That’s how we’re approaching all these cuts.
On the LIHEAP program, the home heating assistance program, we doubled the home heating assistance program when I first came into office, in part because there was a huge energy spike, and so folks — if we had just kept it at the same level, folks would have been in real trouble. Energy prices have now gone down, but the costs of the program have stayed the same. So what we’ve said is, well, let’s go back to a more sustainable level. If it turns out that once again you see a huge energy spike, then we can revisit it. But let’s not just assume because it’s at a $5 billion level that each year we’re going to sustain it a $5 billion level regardless of what’s happening on the energy front.
That doesn’t mean that these aren’t still tough cuts — because there are always more people who could use some help across the country than we have resources. And so it’s still a tough decision, and I understand people’s frustrations with some of these decisions. Having said that, my goal is to make sure that we’re looking after the vulnerable; we’re looking after the disabled; we’re looking after our seniors; we’re making sure that our education system is serving our kids so that they can compete in the 21st century; we’re investing in the future, and doing that in a way that’s sustainable and that we’re paying for — as opposed to having these huge imbalances where there are some things that aren’t working that we’re paying a lot of money for; there’s some things that are underfunded. We’re trying to make adjustments so that we’ve got a sustainable budget that works for us over the long term.
And by the way, there are just some things that just aren’t working at all, so we’ve eliminated a couple hundred programs in this budget. On the education front, we’re consolidating from 33 programs to 11 programs. There is waste and inefficiency there that is long overdue, and we identify a number of these programs that just don’t work. Let’s take that money out of those programs that don’t work, and put in money — that money in programs that do.
Q — say is the President feeling our pain, especially as you were a community organizer –
THE PRESIDENT: I — look, I definitely feel folks’ pain.
Somebody is doing a book about the 10 letters that I get every day, and they came by to talk to me yesterday. And they said, what’s the overwhelming impression that you get when you read these 10 letters a day, and what I told them is I’m so inspired by the strength and resilience of the American people, but sometimes I’m also just frustrated by the number of people out there who are struggling, and you want to help every single one individually. You almost feel like you want to be a case worker and just start picking up the phone and advocating for each of these people who are working hard, trying to do right by their families; oftentimes, through no fault of their own, they’ve had a tough time, particularly over these last couple of years.
So, yes, it’s frustrating. But my job is to make sure that we’re focused over the long term: Where is it that we need to go? And the most important thing I can do as President is make sure that we’re living within our means, getting a budget that is sustainable, investing in the future and growing the economy. If I do that, then that’s probably the most help I can give to the most number of people.
Q Thanks, Mr. President. House Republicans, as you know, want to start cutting now, want to start cutting this year’s budget. Are you willing to work with them in the next few weeks so as to avoid a government shutdown? There’s been talk of a down payment on budget cuts that they would like to make for this year’s budget.
And also, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the attempts to get American diplomat Ray Davis freed from Pakistan. Some have criticized the administration for putting pressure too publicly on what is essentially a weak government, and I’m wondering if you could walk us through that process. Thanks.
THE PRESIDENT: My goal is to work with the Republicans, both on the continuing resolution — and for those who are watching that don’t know Washingtonese, the CR is a continuing resolution, a way to just keep government going when you don’t have an overall budget settled. And we didn’t settle our overall budget from last year, so this is carryover business from last year, funding vital government functions this year.
So I want to work with everybody, Democrats and Republicans, to get that resolved. I think it is important to make sure that we don’t try to make a series of symbolic cuts this year that could endanger the recovery. So that’s point number one.
What I’m going to be looking for is some common sense that the recovery is still fragile; we passed this tax cut package precisely to make sure that people had more money in their pockets, that their paychecks were larger, were provided these tax credits and incentives for businesses. But if the steps that we take then prompt thousands of layoffs in state or local government, or core vital functions of government aren’t performed properly, well, that could also have a dampening impact on our recovery as well.
So my measure is going to be are we doing things in a sensible way, meeting core functions, not endangering our recovery. In some cases, like defense, for example, Secretary Gates has already testified if we’re operating — even operating under the current continuing resolution is putting significant strains on our ability to make sure our troops have what they need to perform their missions in Afghanistan. Further slashes would impair our ability to meet our mission.
And so we’ve got to be careful. Again, let’s use a scalpel; let’s not use a machete. And if we do that, there should be no reason at all for a government shutdown. And I think people should be careful about being too loose in terms of talking about a government shutdown, because this has — this is not an abstraction. People don’t get their Social Security checks. They don’t get their veterans payments. Basic functions shut down. And it — that, also, would have a adverse effect on our economic recovery. It would be destabilizing at a time when, I think, everybody is hopeful that we can start growing this economy quicker.
So I’m looking forward to having a conversation. But the key here is for people to be practical and not to score political points. That’s true for all of us. And I think if we take that approach we can navigate the situation short term and then deal with the problem long term.
With respect to Mr. Davis, our diplomat in Pakistan, we’ve got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is — has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future, and that is if our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution.
We respect it with respect to diplomats who are here. We expect Pakistan, that’s a signatory and recognize Mr. Davis as a diplomat, to abide by the same convention.
And the reason this is an important principle is if it starts being fair game on our ambassadors around the world, including in dangerous places, where we may have differences with those governments, and our ambassadors or our various embassy personnel are having to deliver tough messages to countries where we disagree with them on X, Y, Z, and they start being vulnerable to prosecution locally, that’s untenable. It means they can’t do their job. And that’s why we respect these conventions, and every country should as well.
So we’re going to be continuing to work with the Pakistani government to get this person released. And obviously part of — for those who aren’t familiar with the background on this, a couple of Pakistanis were killed in a incident between Mr. Davis within — in Pakistan. So obviously, we’re concerned about the loss of life. We’re not callous about that. But there’s a broader principle at stake that I think we have to uphold.
Q How serious have your threats been to the Pakistani government if they don’t hand him over?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m not going to discuss the specific exchanges that we’ve had. But we’ve been very firm about this being an important priority.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I want to go back to Egypt because there was some perception around the world that maybe you were too cautious during that crisis and were kind of a step behind the protesters. I know that, as you said, there was dramatic change in three weeks, and some of us wanted it to go even faster than that. But having said that, I realize it’s a complicated situation. It was evolving rapidly. But now as these protests grow throughout the Mideast and North Africa — you said before your message to the governments involved was make sure you’re not violent with peaceful protesters. But what’s your message to the protesters? Do you want them to taste freedom? Or do you want them to taste freedom only if it will also bring stability to our interests in the region?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, without revisiting all the events over the last three weeks, I think history will end up recording that at every juncture in the situation in Egypt that we were on the right side of history. What we didn’t do was pretend that we could dictate the outcome in Egypt, because we can’t. So we were very mindful that it was important for this to remain an Egyptian event; that the United States did not become the issue, but that we sent out a very clear message that we believed in an orderly transition, a meaningful transition, and a transition that needed to happen not later, but sooner. And we were consistent on that message throughout.
Particularly if you look at my statements, I started talking about reform two weeks or two-and-a-half weeks before Mr. Mubarak ultimately stepped down. And at each juncture I think we calibrated it just about right. And I would suggest that part of the test is that what we ended up seeing was a peaceful transition, relatively little violence, and relatively little, if any, anti-American sentiment, or anti-Israel sentiment, or anti-Western sentiment. And I think that testifies the fact that in a complicated situation, we got it about right.
My message I think to demonstrators going forward is your aspirations for greater opportunity, for the ability to speak your mind, for a free press, those are absolutely aspirations we support.
As was true in Egypt, ultimately what happens in each of these countries will be determined by the citizens of those countries. And even as we uphold these universal values, we do want to make sure that transitions do not degenerate into chaos and violence. That’s not just good for us; it’s good for those countries. The history of successful transitions to democracy have generally been ones in which peaceful protests led to dialogue, led to discussion, led to reform, and ultimately led to democracy.
And that’s true in countries like Eastern Europe. That was also true in countries like Indonesia, a majority Muslim country that went through some of these similar transitions but didn’t end up doing it in such a chaotic fashion that it ended up dividing the societies fundamentally.
Q But has it improved the chances of something like Mideast peace, or has it made it more complicated in your mind?
THE PRESIDENT: I think it offers an opportunity as well as a challenge. I think the opportunity is that when you have the kinds of people who were in Tahrir Square, feeling that they have hope and they have opportunity, then they’re less likely to channel all their frustrations into anti-Israel sentiment or anti-Western sentiment, because they see the prospect of building their own country. That’s a positive.
The challenge is that democracy is messy. So there — and if you’re trying to negotiate with a democracy, you don’t just have one person to negotiate with; you have to negotiate with a wider range of views.
But I like the odds of actually getting a better outcome in the former circumstance than in the latter.
All right. Mike Emanuel.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. The number one concern for many Americans right now is jobs. Taking a look at your budget, there are tax hikes proposed for energy, for higher-income people, and also for replenishing the state unemployment funds. Do you worry about the impact on jobs, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, actually, if you look at that budget, there’s a whole bunch of stuff in there for job creation. I think some folks noted, for example, our infrastructure proposals — which would create millions of jobs around the country — our investments in research and development and clean energy have the potential for creating job growth in industries of the future.
My belief that the high-end tax cuts for — or the Bush tax cuts for the high-end of the population — folks like me — my belief is, is that that doesn’t in any way impede job growth. And most economists agree.
We had this debate in December. Now, we compromised in order to achieve an overall package that reduced taxes for all Americans, and so I believe — I continue to believe that was a smart compromise. But when it comes to over the long term, maintaining tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, when that will mean additional deficits of a trillion dollars, if you’re serious about deficit reduction, you don’t do that.
And as I said, I think most economists — even ones that tend to lean to the right or are more conservative — would agree that that’s not — that’s not the best way for us to approach deficit reduction and debt reduction.
So I do think it’s important, as we think about corporate tax reform, as we think about individual tax reform, to try to keep taxes as simple as possible and as low as possible. But we also have to acknowledge that, in the same way that families have to pay for what they buy, government has to pay for what it buys. And if we believe that it’s important for us to have a strong military, that doesn’t come for free. We’ve got to pay for it. If we think that we have to take care of our veterans when they come home — and not just salute on Memorial Day but we actually have to work with folks who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury — well, that requires services that are very labor-intensive and expensive.
If we think it’s important that our senior citizens continue to enjoy health care in their golden years, that costs money. If we think that after a flood we help out our neighbors and our fellow citizens so that they can recover, we’ve got to pay for it.
So the circumstance that’s changed — earlier Julianna asked why I think I might get a deal. I think some of the questions here generally have centered about what’s going to be different this time. My hope is that what’s different this time is, is we have an adult conversation where everybody says here’s what’s important and here’s how we’re going to pay for it.
Now, there are going to be some significant disagreements about what people think is important. And then that’s how democracy should work. And at the margins I think that I’ll end up having to compromise on some things. Hopefully others will have that same spirit.
Q As part of that adult conversation, sir, what if they say deeper spending cuts before you consider tax hikes?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it just depends on what exactly you’re talking about. And I think that there should be a full, open debate with the American people: Are we willing to cut millions of young people off when it comes to student loans that help kids and families on their college education? Are we only serious about education in the abstract, but when it’s the concrete we’re not willing to put the money into it? If we’re cutting infant formula to poor kids, is that who we are as a people?
I mean, we’re going to have to have those debates — particularly if it turns out that making those cuts doesn’t really make a big dent in the long-term debt and deficits, then I think the American people may conclude let’s have a more balanced approach. But that’s what we’re going to be talking about over the next couple months. As I said, I know everybody would like to see it get resolved today. It probably will not be. (Laughter.) That’s a fair prediction.
All right, I’m going to take one last question here. Jackie Calmes.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I’d almost given up there.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, don’t give up. (Laughter.)
Q You’ve correctly suggested that the media can be impatient about seeing you — seeing both sides come to a deal, but this is your third budget, your third year of your presidency. You’ve said many times that you’d rather be a one-party — one-term President if it means you’ve done the hard things that need to be done. Now, I know you’re not going to stand there and invite Republicans to the negotiating table today to start hashing it all out, but why not? And since you’re not, though, what more are you doing to build the spirit of cooperation you mentioned earlier needs to happen before there is bipartisanship?
And finally, do you think the markets will wait two years?
THE PRESIDENT: I should have written all this down, Jackie. (Laughter.) I’m running out of room here in my brain.
Q I’m happy to repeat my question. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me just speak to this generally. It’s true that this is my third budget. The first two budgets were in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, so we had a different set of priorities. And I said it at the time — in each of those budgets, what I said was, the deficit’s going up and we are compiling some additional debt, but the reason is because it is so important for us to avoid going into a depression or having a longer recession than is necessary.
Because the most important thing that we had to do in order to limit the amount of increased debt and bigger deficits is to grow the economy some more. So that was our priority. That was our focus.
This third budget reflects a change in focus. The economy is now growing again. People are more hopeful. And we’ve created more than a million jobs over the last year. Employers are starting to hire again, and businesses are starting to invest again. And in that environment, now that we’re out of the depths of the crisis, we have to look at these long-term problems and these medium-term problems in a much more urgent and a much more serious way.
Now, in terms of what I’m doing with the Republicans, I’m having conversations with them and Democratic leadership. I did before this budget was released and I will do so afterwards. And I probably will not give you a play-by-play of every negotiation that takes place. I expect that all sides will have to do a little bit of posturing on television and speak to their constituencies, and rally the troops and so forth. But ultimately, what we need is a reasonable, responsible, and initially, probably, somewhat quiet and toned-down conversation about, all right, where can we compromise and get something done.
And I’m confident that will be the spirit that congressional leaders take over the coming months, because I don’t think anybody wants to see our recovery derailed. And all of us agree that we have to cut spending, and all of us agree that we have to get our deficits under control and our debt under control. And all of us agree that part of it has to be entitlements.
So there’s a framework there — that speaks, by the way, again, to the point I made with you, Chuck, about the commission. I think the commission changed the conversation. I think they gave us a basic framework, and within that framework we’re going to have to have some tough conversations and the devil is going to be in the details.
But, look, I was glad to see yesterday Republican leaders say, how come you didn’t talk about entitlements? I think that’s progress, because what we had been hearing made it sound as if we just slashed deeper on education or other provisions in domestic spending that somehow that alone was going to solve the problem. So I welcomed — I think it was significant progress that there is an interest on all sides on those issues.
In terms of the markets, I think what the markets want to see is progress. The markets understand that we didn’t get here overnight and we’re not going to get out overnight. What they want to see is that we have the capacity to work together. If they see us chipping away at this problem in a serious way, even if we haven’t solved a hundred percent of it all in one fell swoop, then that will provide more confidence that Washington can work.
And more than anything, that’s not just what the markets want; that’s what the American people want. They just want some confirmation that this place can work. And I think it can.
All right. Thank you, everybody.
President Obama Names Two to the United States District Court
WASHINGTON- Today, President Obama nominated Judge Timothy M. Cain and Judge Scott W. Skavdahl to United States District Court judgeships.
“I am honored to nominate these distinguished individuals to serve on the United States District Court bench,”said President Obama. “They have both demonstrated an unwavering commitment to justice throughout their careers, and I am confident they will continue to serve the American people with integrity.”
Judge Timothy M. Cain: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina
Judge Timothy M. Cain is a Family Court Judge in South Carolina’s Tenth Judicial Circuit, based in Oconee County, where he has served since 2000. His jurisdiction includes all domestic and family relationship matters, as well as most criminal cases involving minors under the age of 17. He has also sat as an Acting Associate Justice on the South Carolina Supreme Court in several cases by the designation of the Court’s Chief Justice. Prior to joining the bench, Judge Cain worked in private practice from 1990 to 2000, handling domestic relations, civil, transactional, and criminal matters, and served as the appointed County Attorney for Oconee County from 1992 to 2000. Judge Cain worked as a prosecutor in the Oconee County Solicitor’s Office from 1988 to 1990, and as an associate at the firm of Miley & Macaulay from 1986 to 1988, during which time he also worked as a part-time public defender. He received his J.D. in 1986 from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and his B.S. in 1983 from the University of South Carolina.
Judge Scott W. Skavdahl: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming
Judge Scott W. Skavdahl is a United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Wyoming. Prior to his appointment, he served as a judge on the Seventh Judicial District Court, in Casper, Wyoming, from 2003 to January 2011. Prior to being appointed to the state bench, Judge Skavdahl worked at the law firm of Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, where he was a partner from 1999 to 2003 and an associate from 1997 to 1998. Judge Skavdahl also served as a part-time United States Magistrate Judge from 2001 until his appointment to the state bench in 2003. From 1994 to 1997, he served as a judicial law clerk to Chief Judge William F. Downes of the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming. Prior to that, Judge Skavdahl worked as a litigation associate at Brown & Drew (now Brown, Drew & Massey) from 1992 to 1994. Judge Skavdahl received his J.D. in 1992 and his B.S. in 1989, both from the University of Wyoming.
White House to Celebrate Black History Month with Tribute to Motown’s Legacy Evening: Performances and Daytime Student Workshop to Highlight Motown Legends
Upcoming Guidance on “In Performance at the White House”
White House to Celebrate Black History Month with Tribute to Motown’s Legacy
Evening Performances and Daytime Student Workshop to Highlight Motown Legends
The President and First Lady will invite music legends and contemporary major artists to the White House on Thursday, February 24, 2011, for “The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House,” a concert celebrating Black History Month and the legacy of Motown Records.
The program will include tributes to Motown’s distinctive soul-infused pop music sound that solidified its popularity in American culture, and showcase Motown’s impact on all music. The event will include legends from Motown’s golden age and performances by artists from today, all in tribute to Motown’s 50-year legacy. Performers include Smokey Robinson, Natasha Bedingfield, Sheryl Crow, Jamie Foxx, Gloriana, Nick Jonas, Ledisi, John Legend, Amber Riley, Mark Salling, Seal and Jordin Sparks with Greg Phillinganes as the night’s music director. This concert will be held in the East Room at 6:30 p.m. and is a POOLED press event.
“The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House,” which is produced by public broadcaster WETA Washington, D.C., in association with Bounce, a division of AEG, and the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), will be broadcast on PBS stations nationwide on Tuesday, March 1 at 8 p.m. (ET). The program will also be broadcast via the American Forces Network on March 11 to American service men and women and civilians at U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world.
As she has done with previous White House music events, the First Lady will host a special daytime event for students. The First Lady will welcome more than 100 students from California, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington, D.C. to take part in an interactive student workshop event: “The Sound of Young America: The History of Motown.” Beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the State Dining Room, The GRAMMY Museum’s Executive Director Bob Santelli will lead the students in a discussion about the history of Motown’s long-lasting legacy, ranging from its beginnings in the city of Detroit to its effect on the music industry. Featured performers from the evening event will share their experiences as well as answer student questions about the music and entertainment world. “The Sound of Young America” will stream live on www.whitehouse.gov, www.pbs.org/whitehouse, www.grammymuseum.org andwww.blackpublicmedia.org.