NOMINATIONS SENT TO THE SENATE:
Henry S. Ensher, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria.
Kenneth J. Fairfax, of Kentucky, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Deepa Gupta, of Illinois, to be a Member of the National Council on the Arts for a term expiring September 3, 2016. (New Position)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON AMERICA’S ENERGY SECURITY
11:36 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Everybody, please have a seat. Please have a seat. It is wonderful to be back at Georgetown. (Applause.)
We’ve got a number of acknowledgements. First of all, I just want to thank President DeGioia for his outstanding leadership here, but also for his hospitality.
We also have here Secretary Steven Chu, my Energy Secretary. Where is Steven? There he is over there. (Applause.) Secretary Ken Salazar of the Interior Department. (Applause.) Secretary Tom Vilsack, our Agriculture Secretary. (Applause.) Ray LaHood, our Transportation Secretary. (Applause.) Lisa Jackson, our EPA Administrator. (Applause.) Nancy Sutley, who is our Council on Environmental Quality director, right here. (Applause.)
A couple of great members of Congress — Congressman Jay Inslee of Washington. Where’s Jay? There he is over there. (Applause.) And Rush Holt of New Jersey is here. (Applause.) We’ve got — he didn’t bring the weather with him — but the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, is in the house. (Applause.) Mayor Scott Smith of Mesa, Arizona, is here. (Applause.)
And most importantly, the students of Georgetown University are in the house. (Applause.)
I want to start with a difficult subject: The Hoyas had a tough loss, Coach. (Laughter.) Coach is here, too, and I love Coach Thompson. I love his dad and the great tradition that they’ve had. (Applause.) And it turned out VCU was pretty good. (Laughter.) I had Georgetown winning that game in my bracket, so we’re all hurting here. (Laughter.) But that’s what next year is for.
We meet here at a tumultuous time for the world. In a matter of months, we’ve seen regimes toppled. We’ve seen democracy take root in North Africa and in the Middle East. We’ve witnessed a terrible earthquake, a catastrophic tsunami, a nuclear emergency that has battered one of our strongest allies and closest friends in the world’s third-largest economy. We’ve led an international effort in Libya to prevent a massacre and maintain stability throughout the broader region. (Applause.)
And as Americans, we’re heartbroken by the lives that have been lost as a result of these events. We’re deeply moved by the thirst for freedom in so many nations, and we’re moved by the strength and the perseverance of the Japanese people. And it’s natural, I think, to feel anxious about what all of this means for us.
And one big area of concern has been the cost and security of our energy. Obviously, the situation in the Middle East implicates our energy security. The situation in Japan leads us to ask questions about our energy sources.
In an economy that relies so heavily on oil, rising prices at the pump affect everybody -– workers, farmers, truck drivers, restaurant owners, students who are lucky enough to have a car. (Laughter.) Businesses see rising prices at the pump hurt their bottom line. Families feel the pinch when they fill up their tank. And for Americans that are already struggling to get by, a hike in gas prices really makes their lives that much harder. It hurts.
If you’re somebody who works in a relatively low-wage job and you’ve got to commute to work, it takes up a big chunk of your income. You may not be able to buy as many groceries. You may have to cut back on medicines in order to fill up the gas tank. So this is something that everybody is affected by.
Now, here’s the thing -– we have been down this road before. Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon. I remember because I was in the middle of a presidential campaign. Working folks certainly remember because it hit a lot of people pretty hard. And because we were at the height of political season, you had all kinds of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians — they were waving their three-point plans for $2 a gallon gas. You remember that — “drill, baby, drill”
– and we were going through all that. (Laughter.) And none of it was really going to do anything to solve the problem. There was a lot of hue and cry, a lot of fulminating and hand-wringing, but nothing actually happened. Imagine that in Washington. (Laughter.)
The truth is, none of these gimmicks, none of these slogans made a bit of difference. When gas prices finally did fall, it was mostly because the global recession had led to less demand for oil. Companies were producing less; the demand for petroleum went down; prices went down. Now that the economy is recovering, demand is back up. Add the turmoil in the Middle East, and it’s not surprising that oil prices are higher. And every time the price of a barrel of oil on the world market rises by $10, a gallon of gas goes up by about 25 cents.
The point is the ups and downs in gas prices historically have tended to be temporary. But when you look at the long-term trends, there are going to be more ups in gas prices than downs in gas prices. And that’s because you’ve got countries like India and China that are growing at a rapid clip, and as 2 billion more people start consuming more goods — they want cars just like we’ve got cars; they want to use energy to make their lives a little easier just like we’ve got — it is absolutely certain that demand will go up a lot faster than supply. It’s just a fact.
So here’s the bottom line: There are no quick fixes. Anybody who tells you otherwise isn’t telling you the truth. And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we finally get serious about a long-term policy for a secure, affordable energy future.
We’re going to have to think long term, which is why I came here, to talk to young people here at Georgetown, because you have more of a stake in us getting our energy policy right than just about anybody.
Now, here’s a source of concern, though. We’ve known about the dangers of our oil dependence for decades. Richard Nixon talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil. And every President since that time has talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil. Politicians of every stripe have promised energy independence, but that promise has so far gone unmet.
I talked about reducing America’s dependence on oil when I was running for President, and I’m proud of the historic progress that we’ve made over the last two years towards that goal, and we’ll talk about that a little bit. But I’ve got to be honest. We’ve run into the same political gridlock, the same inertia that has held us back for decades.
That has to change. That has to change. We cannot keep going from shock when gas prices go up to trance when they go back down — we go back to doing the same things we’ve been doing until the next time there’s a price spike, and then we’re shocked again. We can’t rush to propose action when gas prices are high and then hit the snooze button when they fall again. We can’t keep on doing that.
The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity, our long-term security on a resource that will eventually run out, and even before it runs out will get more and more expensive to extract from the ground. We can’t afford it when the costs to our economy, our country, and our planet are so high. Not when your generation needs us to get this right. It’s time to do what we can to secure our energy future.
And today, I want to announce a new goal, one that is reasonable, one that is achievable, and one that is necessary.
When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third. That is something that we can achieve. (Applause.) We can cut our oil dependence — we can cut our oil dependence by a third.
I set this goal knowing that we’re still going to have to import some oil. It will remain an important part of our energy portfolio for quite some time, until we’ve gotten alternative energy strategies fully in force. And when it comes to the oil we import from other nations, obviously we’ve got to look at neighbors like Canada and Mexico that are stable and steady and reliable sources. We also have to look at other countries like Brazil. Part of the reason I went down there is to talk about energy with the Brazilians. They recently discovered significant new oil reserves, and we can share American technology and know-how with them as they develop these resources.
But our best opportunities to enhance our energy security can be found in our own backyard — because we boast one critical, renewable resource that the rest of the world can’t match: American ingenuity. American ingenuity, American know-how.
To make ourselves more secure, to control our energy future, we’re going to have to harness all of that ingenuity. It’s a task we won’t be finished with by the end of my presidency, or even by the end of the next presidency. But if we continue the work that we’ve already begun over the last two years, we won’t just spark new jobs, industries and innovations — we will leave your generation and future generations with a country that is safer, that is healthier, and that’s more prosperous.
So today, my administration is releasing a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that outlines a comprehensive national energy policy, one that we’ve been pursuing since the day I took office. And cutting our oil dependence by a third is part of that plan.
Here at Georgetown, I’d like to talk in broad strokes about how we can achieve these goals.
Now, meeting the goal of cutting our oil dependence depends largely on two things: first, finding and producing more oil at home; second, reducing our overall dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.
This begins by continuing to increase America’s oil supply. Even for those of you who are interested in seeing a reduction in our dependence on fossil fuels — and I know how passionate young people are about issues like climate change — the fact of the matter is, is that for quite some time, America is going to be still dependent on oil in making its economy work.
Now, last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003. And for the first time in more than a decade, oil we imported accounted for less than half of the liquid fuel we consumed. So that was a good trend. To keep reducing that reliance on imports, my administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production — as long as it’s safe and responsible.
I don’t think anybody here has forgotten what happened last year, where we had to deal with the largest oil spill in [our] history. I know some of the fishermen down in the Gulf Coast haven’t forgotten it. And what we learned from that disaster helped us put in place smarter standards of safety and responsibility. For example, if you’re going to drill in deepwater, you’ve got to prove before you start drilling that you can actually contain an underwater spill. That’s just common sense. And lately, we’ve been hearing folks saying, well, the Obama administration, they put restrictions on how oil companies operate offshore. Well, yes, because we just spent all that time, energy and money trying to clean up a big mess. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t have amnesia. I remember these things. (Laughter.) And I think it was important for us to make sure that we prevent something like that from happening again. (Applause.)
Now, today, we’re working to expedite new drilling permits for companies that meet these higher standards. Since they were put in, we’ve approved 39 new shallow-water permits; we’ve approved seven deepwater permits in recent weeks. When it comes to drilling offshore, my administration approved more than two permits last year for every new well that the industry started to drill. So any claim that my administration is responsible for gas prices because we’ve “shut down” oil production, any claim like that is simply untrue. It might make for a useful sound bite, but it doesn’t track with reality.
What is true is we’ve said if you’re going to drill offshore you’ve got to have a plan to make sure that we don’t have the kind of catastrophe that we had last year. And I don’t think that there’s anybody who should dispute that that’s the right strategy to pursue.
Moreover, we’re actually pushing the oil industry to take advantage of the opportunities that they’ve already got. Right now the industry holds tens of millions of acres of leases where they’re not producing a single drop. They’re just sitting on supplies of American energy that are ready to be tapped. That’s why part of our plan is to provide new and better incentives that promote rapid, responsible development of these resources.
We’re also exploring and assessing new frontiers for oil and gas development from Alaska to the Mid- and South Atlantic states, because producing more oil in America can help lower oil prices, can help create jobs, and can enhance our energy security, but we’ve got to do it in the right way.
Now, even if we increase domestic oil production, that is not going to be the long-term solution to our energy challenge. I give out this statistic all the time, and forgive me for repeating it again: America holds about 2 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. What that means is, is that even if we drilled every drop of oil out of every single one of the reserves that we possess — offshore and onshore — it still wouldn’t be enough to meet our long-term needs. We consume about 25 percent of the world’s oil. We only have 2 percent of the reserves. Even if we doubled U.S. oil production, we’re still really short.
So the only way for America’s energy supply to be truly secure is by permanently reducing our dependence on oil. We’re going to have to find ways to boost our efficiency so we use less oil. We’ve got to discover and produce cleaner, renewable sources of energy that also produce less carbon pollution, which is threatening our climate. And we’ve got to do it quickly.
Now, in terms of new sources of energy, we have a few different options. The first is natural gas. Recent innovations have given us the opportunity to tap large reserves –- perhaps a century’s worth of reserves, a hundred years worth of reserves -– in the shale under our feet. But just as is true in terms of us extracting oil from the ground, we’ve got to make sure that we’re extracting natural gas safely, without polluting our water supply.
That’s why I’ve asked Secretary Chu, my Energy Secretary, to work with other agencies, the natural gas industry, states, and environmental experts to improve the safety of this process. And Chu is the right guy to do this. He’s got a Nobel Prize in physics. He actually deserved his Nobel Prize. (Laughter and applause.) And this is the kind of thing that he likes to do for fun on the weekend. (Laughter.) He goes into his garage and he tinkers around and figures out how to extract natural gas. (Laughter.)
I’m going to embarrass him further. (Laughter.) Last year, when we were trying to fill — figure out how to close the cap, I sent Chu down to sit in the BP offices, and he essentially designed the cap that ultimately worked, and he drew up the specs for it and had BP build it, construct it. So this is somebody who knows what he’s doing. (Applause.) So for those of you who are studying physics, it may actually pay off someday. (Laughter.)
But the potential for natural gas is enormous. And this is an area where there’s actually been some broad bipartisan agreement. Last year, more than 150 members of Congress from both sides of the aisle produced legislation providing incentives to use clean-burning natural gas in our vehicles instead of oil. And that’s a big deal. Getting 150 members of Congress to agree on anything is a big deal. And they were even joined by T. Boone Pickens, a businessman who made his fortune on oil, but who is out there making the simple point that we can’t simply drill our way out of our energy problems.
So I ask members of Congress and all the interested parties involved to keep at it, pass a bill that helps us achieve the goal of extracting natural gas in a safe, environmentally sound way.
Now, another substitute for oil that holds tremendous promise is renewable biofuels -– not just ethanol, but biofuels made from things like switchgrass and wood chips and biomass.
If anybody doubts the potential of these fuels, consider Brazil. As I said, I was just there last week. Half of Brazil’s vehicles can run on biofuels — half of their fleet of automobiles can run on biofuels instead of petroleum. Just last week, our Air Force — our own Air Force — used an advanced biofuel blend to fly a Raptor 22 — an F-22 Raptor faster than the speed of sound. Think about that. I mean, if an F-22 Raptor can fly at the speed of — faster than the speed of sound on biomass, then I know the old beater that you’ve got, that you’re driving around in — (laughter) — can probably do so, too. There’s no reason why we can’t have our cars do the same.
In fact, the Air Force is aiming to get half of its domestic jet fuel from alternative sources by 2016. And I’m directing the Navy and the Department of Energy and Agriculture to work with the private sector to create advanced biofuels that can power not just fighter jets, but also trucks and commercial airliners.
So there’s no reason we shouldn’t be using these renewable fuels throughout America. And that’s why we’re investing in things like fueling stations and research into the next generation of biofuels. One of the biggest problems we have with alternative energy is not just producing the energy, but also distributing it. We’ve got gas stations all around the country, so whenever you need gas you know you can fill up — it doesn’t matter where you are. Well, we’ve got to have that same kind of distribution network when it comes to our renewable energy sources so that when you are converting to a different kind of car that runs on a different kind of energy, you’re going to be able to have that same convenience. Otherwise, the market won’t work; it won’t grow.
Over the next two years, we’ll help entrepreneurs break ground for four next-generation biorefineries -– each with a capacity of more than 20 million gallons per year. And going forward, we should look for ways to reform biofuels incentives to make sure that they’re meeting today’s challenges and that they’re also saving taxpayers money.
So as we replace oil with fuels like natural gas and biofuels, we can also reduce our dependence by making cars and trucks that use less oil in the first place. Seventy percent of our petroleum consumption goes to transportation — 70 percent. And by the way, so does the second biggest chunk of most families’ budgets goes into transportation. And that’s why one of the best ways to make our economy less dependent on oil and save folks more money is to make our transportation sector more efficient.
Now, we went through 30 years where we didn’t raise fuel efficiency standards on cars. And part of what happened in the U.S. auto industry was because oil appeared relatively cheap, the U.S. auto industry decided we’re just going to make our money on SUVs, and we’re not going to worry about fuel efficiency. Thirty years of lost time when it comes to technology that could improve the efficiency of cars.
So last year, we established a groundbreaking national fuel efficiency standard for cars and trucks. We did this last year without legislation. We just got all the parties together and we got them to agree — automakers, autoworkers, environmental groups, industry.
So that means our cars will be getting better gas mileage, saving 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program — 1.8 billion. Our consumers will save money from fewer trips to the pump -– $3,000 on average over time you will save because of these higher fuel efficiency standards. And our automakers will build more innovative products. Right now, there are even cars rolling off the assembly lines in Detroit with combustion engines — I’m not talking about hybrids — combustion engines that get more than 50 miles per gallon. So we know how to do it. We know how to make our cars more efficient.
But going forward, we’re going to continue to work with the automakers, with the autoworkers, with states, to ensure the high-quality, fuel-efficient cars and trucks of tomorrow are built right here in the United States of America. That’s going to be a top priority for us. (Applause.)
This summer, we’re going to propose the first-ever fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks. And this fall, we’ll announce the next round of fuel standards for cars that builds on what we’ve already done.
And by the way, the federal government is going to need to lead by example. The fleet of cars and trucks we use in the federal government is one of the largest in the country. We’ve got a lot of cars. And that’s why we’ve already doubled the number of alternative vehicles in the federal fleet. And that’s why today I am directing agencies to purchase 100 percent alternative fuel, hybrid, or electric vehicles by 2015. All of them should be alternative fuel. (Applause.)
Going forward, we’ll partner with private companies that want to upgrade their large fleets. And this means, by the way, that you students, as consumers or future consumers of cars, you’ve got to make sure that you are boosting demand for alternative vehicles. You’re going to have a responsibility as well, because if alternative-fuel vehicles are manufactured but you guys aren’t buying them, then folks will keep on making cars that don’t have the same fuel efficiency. So you’ve got power in this process, and the decisions you make individually in your lives will say something about how serious we are when it comes to energy independence.
We’ve also made historic investments in high-speed rail and mass transit, because part of making our transportation sector cleaner and more efficient involves offering all Americans, whether they are urban, suburban, or rural, the choice to be mobile without having to get in a car and pay for gas.
Still, there are few breakthroughs as promising for increasing fuel efficiency and reducing our dependence on oil as electric vehicles. Soon after I took office, I set a goal of having one million electric vehicles on our roads by 2015. We’ve created incentives for American companies to develop these vehicles, and for Americans who want them to buy them.
So new manufacturing plants are opening over the next few years. And a modest $2 billion investment in competitive grants for companies to develop the next generation of batteries for these cars has jumpstarted a big new American industry. Pretty soon, America will be home to 40 percent of global manufacturing capacity for these advanced batteries.
And for those of you who are wondering what that means, the thing that’s been holding back electric vehicles is the battery that stores that electricity, that energy. And the more efficient, the more lightweight we can make those batteries, the easier it is to manufacture those cars at a competitive price.
And if we can have that industry here in the United States of America, that means jobs. If those batteries are made here, the cars are made here. Those cars are made here, we’re putting Americans back to work.
Now, to make sure we stay on this goal we’re going to need to do more -– by offering more powerful incentives to consumers, and by rewarding the communities that pave the way for the adoption of these vehicles.
Now, one other thing about electric cars — and you don’t need to talk to Chu about this — it turns out electric cars run on electricity. (Laughter.) And so even if we reduce our oil dependency, and we’re producing all these great electric cars, we’re going to have to have a plan to change the way we generate electricity in America so that it’s cleaner and safer and healthier. We know that ushering in a clean energy economy has the potential of creating untold numbers of new jobs and new businesses right here in the United States. But we’re going to have to think about how do we produce electricity more efficiently.
Now, in addition to producing it, we actually also have to think about making sure we’re not wasting energy. I don’t know how we’re doing on the Georgetown campus, Mr. President, but every institution and every household has to start thinking about how are we reducing the amount of energy that we’re using and doing it in more efficient ways.
Today, our homes and businesses consume 40 percent of the energy that we use, and it costs us billions of dollars in energy bills. Manufacturers that require large amounts of energy to make their products, they’re challenged by rising energy costs. And so you can’t separate the issue of oil dependence from the issue of how we are producing generally — more energy generally.
And that’s why we’ve proposed new programs to help Americans upgrade their homes and businesses and plants with new, energy-efficient building materials — new lighting, new windows, new heating and cooling systems -– investments that will save consumers and business owners tens of billions of dollars a year, and free up money for investment and hiring and creating new jobs and hiring more workers and putting contractors to work as well.
The nice thing about energy efficiency is we already have the technology. We don’t have to create something new. We just have to help businesses and homeowners put in place the installation, the energy-efficient windows, the energy-efficient lighting. They’ll get their money back. You will save money on your electricity bill that pays for those improvements that you made, but a lot of people may not have the money up front, and so we’ve got to give them some incentives to do that.
And just like the fuels we use in our cars, we’re going to have to find cleaner renewable sources of electricity. Today, about two-fifths of our electricity come from clean energy sources. But we can do better than that. I think that with the right incentives in place, we can double our use of clean energy. And that’s why, in my State of the Union address back in January, I called for a new Clean Energy Standard for America: By 2035, 80 percent of our electricity needs to come from a wide range of clean energy sources — renewables like wind and solar, efficient natural gas. And, yes, we’re going to have to examine how do we make clean coal and nuclear power work.
Now, in light of the ongoing events in Japan, I want to just take a minute to talk about nuclear power. Right now, America gets about one-fifth of our electricity from nuclear energy. And it’s important to recognize that nuclear energy doesn’t emit carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So those of us who are concerned about climate change, we’ve got to recognize that nuclear power, if it’s safe, can make a significant contribution to the climate change question.
And I’m determined to ensure that it’s safe. So in light of what’s happened in Japan, I’ve requested a comprehensive safety review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to make sure that all of our existing nuclear energy facilities are safe. And we’re going incorporate those conclusions and lessons from Japan in design and the building of the next generation of plants. But we can’t simply take it off the table.
My administration is leading global discussions towards a new international framework in which all countries who are operating nuclear plants are making sure that they’re not spreading dangerous nuclear materials and technology.
But more broadly, a clean energy standard can expand the scope of clean energy investments because what it does is it gives cutting-edge companies the certainty that they need to invest. Essentially what it does is it says to companies, you know what, you will have a customer if you’re producing clean energy. Utilities, they need to buy a certain amount of clean energy in their overall portfolio, and that means that innovators are willing to make those big capital investments.
And we’ve got to start now because — think about this — in the 1980s, America was home to more than 80 percent of the world’s wind capacity, 90 percent of the world’s solar capacity. We were the leaders in wind. We were the leaders in solar. We owned the clean energy economy in the ‘80s. Guess what. Today, China has the most wind capacity. Germany has the most solar capacity. Both invest more in clean energy than we do, even though we are a larger economy and a substantially larger user of energy. We’ve fallen behind on what is going to be the key to our future.
Other countries are now exporting technology we pioneered and they’re going after the jobs that come with it because they know that the countries that lead the 21st century clean energy economy will be the countries that lead the 21st century global economy.
I want America to be that nation. I want America to win the future. (Applause.)
So a clean energy standard will help drive private investment in innovation. But I want to make this point: Government funding will still be critical. Over the past two years, the historic investments my administration has made in clean and renewable energy research and technology have helped private sector companies grow and hire hundreds of thousands of new workers.
I’ve visited gleaming new solar arrays that are among the largest in the world. I’ve tested an electric vehicle fresh off the assembly line. I mean, I didn’t really test it — I was able to drive like five feet before Secret Service said to stop. (Laughter.) I’ve toured factories that used to be shuttered, where they’re now building advanced wind blades that are as long as 747s, and they’re building the towers that support them. And I’ve seen the scientists that are searching for the next big breakthrough in energy. None of this would have happened without government support.
I understand we’ve got a tight fiscal situation, so it’s fair to ask how do we pay for government’s investment in energy. And as we debate our national priorities and our budget in Congress, we’re going to have to make some tough choices. We’re going to have to cut what we don’t need to invest in what we do need.
Unfortunately, some folks want to cut critical investments in clean energy. They want to cut our research and development into new technologies. They’re shortchanging the resources necessary even to promptly issue new permits for offshore drilling. These cuts would eliminate thousands of private sector jobs; it would terminate scientists and engineers; it would end fellowships for researchers, some who may be here at Georgetown, graduate students and other talent that we desperately need to get into this area in the 21st century. That doesn’t make sense.
We’re already paying a price for our inaction. Every time we fill up at the pump, every time we lose a job or a business to countries that are investing more than we do in clean energy, when it comes to our air, our water, and the climate change that threatens the planet that you will inherit -– we’re already paying a price. These are costs that we are already bearing. And if we do nothing, the price will only go up.
So at moments like these, sacrificing these investments in research and development, in supporting clean energy technologies, that would weaken our energy economy and make us more dependent on oil. That’s not a game plan to win the future. That’s a vision to keep us mired in the past. I will not accept that outcome for the United States of America. We are not going to do that. (Applause.)
Let me close by speaking directly to the students here — the next generation who are going to be writing the next great chapter in the American story. The issue of energy independence is one that America has been talking about since before your parents were your age, since before you were born. And you also happen to go to a school [in a town] that for a long time has suffered from a chronic unwillingness to come together and make tough choices. And so I forgive you for thinking that maybe there isn’t much we can do to rise to this challenge. Maybe some of you are feeling kind of cynical or skeptical about whether we’re actually going to solve this problem. But everything I have seen and experienced with your generation convinces me otherwise.
I think that precisely because you are coming of age at a time of such rapid and sometimes unsettling change, born into a world with fewer walls, educated in an era of constant information, tempered by war and economic turmoil — because that’s the world in which you’re coming of age, I think you believe as deeply as any of our previous generations that America can change and it can change for the better.
We need that. We need you to dream big. We need you to summon that same spirit of unbridled optimism and that bold willingness to tackle tough challenges and see those challenges through that led previous generations to rise to greatness -– to save a democracy, to touch the moon, to connect the world with our own science and our own imagination.
That’s what America is capable of. That’s what you have to push America to do, and it will be you that pushes it. That history of ours, of meeting challenges -– that’s your birthright. You understand that there’s no problem out there that is not within our power to solve.
I don’t want to leave this challenge for future Presidents. I don’t want to leave it for my children. I don’t want to leave it for your children. So, yes, solving it will take time and it will take effort. It will require our brightest scientists, our most creative companies. It will require all of us –- Democrats, Republicans, and everybody in between -– to do our part. But with confidence in America and in ourselves and in one another, I know this is a challenge that we will solve.
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Tom Donilon
National Security Advisor to the President
Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference
March 29, 2011
The Prague Agenda: The Road Ahead
Thank you very much Jessica. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to speak at Carnegie’s 2011 International Nuclear Policy Conference. I look around this room and see so many familiar faces who have been leaders in the topics of nuclear weapons, arms control, and nonproliferation. Your fresh ideas, insights, and serious thinking about these issues have never been more valuable to me than in my current position. I have spent enough hours on these topics over the past two years in the White House to see firsthand how valuable the fresh intellectual capital you provide is. Thank you for all that you do.
The reason I have spent so much time on these issues is quite straightforward: President Obama. In the course of briefing the President every day—I think I passed the 400 morning briefing point recently—chairing interagency meetings, and coordinating U.S. government policy, I’ve seen firsthand how the President’s deep commitment and personal involvement is the driving force behind our nuclear strategy.
As a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate, President Obama made nuclear nonproliferation the centerpiece of his national security agenda. When he came into office, we had a full range of difficult legacy issues to address—two wars, combating terrorism, a deep financial crisis. The President was, however, determined to also pursue an affirmative agenda—what the United States, and American leadership, would stand for in the world. And at the center of that affirmative agenda was a new nuclear strategy for the United States.
Two years ago in his speech in Prague, the President declared his vision for achieving the “peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” and he laid out a plan of action for near term practical steps to move in that direction. There are four interrelated elements to the President’s Prague agenda.
First, to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons by those states that already possess nuclear weapons, starting first with Russia and the U.S. which together still control over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
Second, to prevent additional countries from acquiring nuclear weapons by strengthening the international non-proliferation regime and by holding accountable those states that have violated their obligations, such as Iran and North Korea.
Third, to prevent nuclear terrorism by securing vulnerable nuclear materials and strengthening international cooperation on nuclear security.
Fourth, to develop new mechanisms to support the growth of safe and secure nuclear power in ways that reduce the spread of dangerous technologies.
During the two years since the Prague speech, we have made significant progress in each of these four areas.
- In June 2009, in response to North Korea’s second nuclear test, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1874, which imposes the toughest sanctions to date against North Korea, including additional measures to interdict shipments of prohibited cargo to and from North Korea.
- In September 2009, the United Nations Security Council—meeting for the first time under the chairmanship of a U.S. President—unanimously approved Resolution 1887, endorsing the key elements of President Obama’s Prague agenda.
- In April 2010, President Obama hosted a historic Nuclear Security Summit of 47 nations and three international organizations in Washington at which leaders pledged specific steps to prevent nuclear terrorism and support the President’s proposal to lock down all vulnerable nuclear materials in four years. This was the largest gathering of nations hosted by the United States since the UN founding conference in San Francisco in 1945.
- Also in April, President Obama issued an updated Nuclear Posture Review that reduces the role of nuclear weapons in our overall defense posture by declaring that the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear forces is to deter nuclear attacks against the U.S. and our allies and partners. While there still is a narrow range of contingencies where American nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring conventional or chemical or biological weapons attacks, we have committed to take concrete steps to make deterring nuclear use the sole purpose of our nuclear forces. Our new doctrine also extends U.S. assurances by declaring that we will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their non-proliferation obligations.
- In May, the NPT Parties met for a successful Review Conference, approving a final document endorsing a balanced approach to advance the three pillars of nuclear nonproliferation, peaceful uses, and disarmament.
- In December, after years of negotiations, the IAEA Board of Governors took a major step—approving the establishment of an IAEA fuel bank, which will help assure the reliability of fuel supply and assist countries to use nuclear energy without building fuel cycle facilities.
- Finally, just before Christmas, the Senate approved the New START Treaty, which President Obama and President Medvedev signed last April in Prague. By significantly reducing levels of U.S. and Russia deployed strategic weapons, the Treaty represents a commitment by the world’s two largest nuclear powers to the goal of disarmament. In addition, the Treaty strengthens the reset in relations between Washington and Moscow that is helping us to address the most urgent proliferation threats we face in Iran and North Korea.
Those of you who know me know that I’m not prone to hyperbole or, for that matter, seeing the upside in things. But all in all, I think it’s fair to say that the two years since the President’s Prague speech have been exceedingly productive. Despite this progress, however, we will not rest on our laurels. And I can tell you with certainty that President Obama won’t. Despite the many pressing global challenges that are competing for his attention, he has directed us to keep up the momentum and lay the ground work for additional progress.
So, with this in mind, I’d like to discuss our plans to advance each of the four dimensions of the President Prague agenda.
First, to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons, we are beginning to implement the New START Treaty with Russia. Last week, we exchanged data with Russia on nuclear facilities, and the Bilateral Consultative Commission, the Treaty’s implementing body, is launching its first meetings in Geneva this week. On-site inspections conducted under the Treaty will begin next month. When the Treaty is fully implemented, it will result in the lowest number of deployed nuclear warheads since the 1950s, the first full decade of the nuclear age.
As we implement New START, we’re making preparations for the next round of nuclear reductions. Under the President’s direction, the Department of Defense will review our strategic requirements and develop options for further reductions in our current nuclear stockpile, which stands at approximately 5,000 warheads, including both deployed and reserve warheads. To develop these options for further reductions, we need to consider several factors, such as potential changes in targeting requirements and alert postures that are required for effective deterrence.
Even as we consider further reductions, President Obama has also made clear that the United States will retain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal necessary to defend the U.S. and our allies and partners for as long as nuclear weapons exist. To ensure that objective, President Obama is seeking major funding increases to upgrade the Department of Energy’s nuclear complex. Indeed, as we made clear during the START debate, we intend to invest $85 billion in the nation’s nuclear infrastructure over the next 10 years.
We will need Congress to support the President’s budget to ensure these critical investments are made. These investments will not only ensure a safe, secure and effective arsenal. They will also facilitate arms reductions. In fact, if Congress approves the President’s funding program for the nuclear complex, it allow us to reduce the size of our nuclear stockpile because we will be able to maintain a robust hedge against technical problems with a much smaller reserve force.
Once it is complete, this review of our strategic requirements will help shape our negotiating approach to the next agreement with Russia, which we believe should include both non-deployed and nonstrategic nuclear weapons. A priority will be to address Russian tactical nuclear weapons. We will work with our NATO allies to shape an approach to reduce the role and number of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, as Russia takes reciprocal measures to reduce its nonstrategic forces and relocates its nonstrategic forces away from NATO’s borders.
In advance of a new treaty limiting tactical nuclear weapons, we also plan to consult with our allies on reciprocal actions that could be taken on the basis of parallel steps by each side. As a first step, we would like to increase transparency on a reciprocal basis concerning the numbers, locations, and types of nonstrategic forces in Europe. We will consult with our European allies and invite Russia to join with us to develop this initiative.
Achieving the next round of strategic arms reductions will be an ambitious task that will take time to complete. No previous arms control agreement has included provisions to limit and monitor non-deployed warheads or tactical warheads. To do so will require more demanding approaches to verification. We are ready to begin discussions soon with Russia on transparency and confidence building measures that could provide the basis for creative verification measures in the next round of U.S.-Russia nuclear arms reductions.
In parallel with these discussions with Russia, President Obama is committed to developing and deploying an effective missile defense system to defend the U.S. and its allies against emerging missile threats from such countries as Iran and North Korea. The Phased Adaptive Approach approved by President Obama in 2009 provides a more effective and a more timely response to the most likely missile threats that we will face in coming years. It is widely regarded as a substantial improvement over the prior program. And NATO fully embraced this new approach at the Lisbon summit last November. And when you think how contentious the subject of missile defense has been, especially in Europe, for many years, this is a very significant milestone and a tribute to what’s possible when the United States works with allies and partners in a spirit of mutual respect and mutual interest.
As the President has repeatedly said, our missile defense program does not threaten Russia’s strategic deterrent. Against this background, President Obama and President Medvedev have agreed to develop a program of U.S.-Russia missile defense cooperation. We believe that such cooperation can provide assurances to Russia that our missile defenses will not undercut strategic stability, while enhancing the ability of both nations to defend against emerging missile threats. For example, shared early warning data can increase the effectiveness of our missile defense system in Europe, while the U.S. and NATO retain the responsibility for defending themselves against ballistic missile threats.
Even as the U.S. and Russia move to reduce our nuclear arsenals, we must also support multilateral arms control efforts that can help to constrain the programs of other countries that possess nuclear weapons. While the U.K. and France have substantially reduced their arsenals from Cold War levels, a nuclear build up is underway in Asia, as several countries are modernizing and expanding their nuclear forces.
China’s nuclear arsenal remains much smaller than the arsenals of Russia and the United States. Nonetheless, the lack of transparency in China’s program, including its pace and scope and the strategy and doctrine guiding it, raises questions about China’s future strategic intentions. To address these issues, our Nuclear Posture Review proposes that the U.S. and China engage in a strategic security dialogue that can increase confidence and ease concerns that drive nuclear expansion. We have encouraged our Chinese counterparts to begin a dialogue with us on the nuclear strategies, policies, and programs of both sides—and we will continue to do so. We cannot have a truly comprehensive relationship with China without dialogue on strategic issues.
At the same time, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty – the CTBT – and the Fissile Material Cut off Treaty – the FMCT – can help to limit the modernization and expansion of arsenals among countries that already have nuclear weapons, even in the absence of a new arms control measures that would cap and reduce all nuclear arsenals.
Let me first address the Test Ban Treaty. We are committed to working with members of both parties in the Senate to ratify the CTBT, just as we did for New START. We have no illusions that this will be easy. But we intend to stress three essential points as we make our case to the Senate and the American people. First, CTBT ratification serves America’s national security interests because it will help lead others to ratify the treaty and thus strengthen the legal and political barriers to a resumption of nuclear testing, which would fuel the nuclear build up in Asia.
Second, more than a decade since the Senate last considered – and rejected – the CTBT, we are in a stronger position to effectively verify the Treaty through the global monitoring system set up under the Treaty and our own strengthened national capabilities.
Third, our experience with the stockpile stewardship program has demonstrated that the U.S. can maintain an effective and reliable nuclear arsenal without nuclear testing. In fact, as I noted, President Obama has funded, and is committed to continue funding for, the U.S. nuclear laboratories at increased levels to ensure that we have the facilities, resources and personnel needed to retain the nuclear forces to defend the United States and our allies.
On the FMCT, President Obama has announced his support for a new international treaty to verifiably end the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. Such a treaty would clearly reduce the risks of proliferation and nuclear terrorism. Our preference is to negotiate the FMCT within the Conference on Disarmament, but it is becoming increasing doubtful that the Conference can achieve consensus to begin such negotiations. As a consequence, we will begin consultations with our allies and partners to consider an alternative means to begin FMCT negotiations. To be successful, we will encourage all permanent members of the Security Council and other relevant parties to participate in this effort.
To advance the second element of the President’s Prague agenda—non-proliferation—we’re continuing our efforts to strengthen the international non-proliferation regime, as proposed by Security Council Resolution 1887 and the NPT Review Conference. In particular, we’re working with the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure that the Agency has the resources, technology, and authority it needs to conduct effective monitoring and inspections, especially when doubts are raised about whether nations are fulfilling their international obligations. We have strongly supported the agency’s investigations of the North Korean-supplied Al Kibar reactor in Syria and nuclear weaponization activities in Iran. We encourage Director General Amano to report to the Board of Governors on the results of these investigations as soon as possible.
The world’s efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons are, of course, challenged by Iran and North Korea. I have spent an enormous amount of time on these challenges. North Korea has conducted nuclear tests, revealed a previously covert enrichment program, and continues to develop long range missiles. As President Obama has said, “North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program is increasingly a direct threat to the security of United States and our allies.”
For its part, Iran continues to pursue an enrichment program in defiance of numerous UN Security Council resolutions and refuses to cooperate with the IAEA to resolve questions about its past weaponization activities. Of all NPT parties – and we have made this point directly to the Iranians — Iran is the only country that has been unable to convince the International Atomic Energy Agency that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Unless we can meet the challenge posed by Iran and North Korea, additional countries in the Middle East and East Asia could well leave the NPT and develop their own nuclear weapons, thus reversing any movement towards disarmament. Moreover, Iran and North Korea are challenging the viability and credibility of the treaties and institutions that form the bedrock for disarmament. No matter how much we strengthen the regime on paper, it will be meaningless if countries feel they can violate the rules with impunity. As President Obama said in his Prague speech, “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons.”
On North Korea, since President Obama took office, we have made clear that we were prepared to talk directly with the North Koreans and that we are open to an agreement that would also provide security for North Korea. The Six-Party Joint Statement of 2005 provides the framework for such an agreement. At the same time, President Obama made clear that North Korea can never find the security that it seeks unless if fulfills its commitments to complete denuclearization and abides fully by the terms of its international obligations. We and our partners have underscored that North Korea must begin taking irreversible steps towards denuclearization before it can obtain the benefits it seeks from the international community.
North Korea chose not to take such a path, instead reverting to its old pattern of provocation followed by demands for compensation. We have refused to reinforce that pattern. Instead, we have tightened international sanctions, including financial measures and an arms embargo. We have established an unprecedented level of cooperation with our allies South Korea and Japan, and worked closely with China and Russia as well.
In response to this solidarity and pressure, in recent months North Korea has begun talking about a return to Six Party Talks, which it declared irrevocably dead last summer, and been making other gestures indicating a desire to return to talks. What we are insisting upon is that negotiations not repeat the old pattern, but rather that North Korea first needs to engage with the South and address issues surrounding its military provocation and then take significant and irreversible steps toward the goal of denuclearization. Those steps must include monitored suspension of their newly declared uranium enrichment program.
President Obama has also long understood the regional and international consequences of Iran becoming a nuclear weapons’ state. That is why we are committed to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. From his first days in office, he has made clear to Iran that it has a choice: it can act to restore the confidence of the international community in the purposes of its nuclear program by fully complying with the IAEA and Security Council resolutions, or it can continue to shirk its international obligations, which will only increase its isolation and the consequences for the regime. There is no escaping or evading that choice.
Already, Iran is facing sanctions that are far more comprehensive than ever before, and as a result it finds it hard to do business with any reputable bank internationally; to conduct transactions in Euros or dollars; to acquire insurance for its shipping; to gain new capital investment or technology infusions in its antiquated oil and natural gas infrastructure—and it has found in that critical sector, alone, close to $60 billion in projects have been put on hold or discontinued. Other sectors are clearly being affected as well as leading multinational corporations understand the risk of doing business with Iran and are no longer doing so.
Unless and until Iran complies with its obligations under the NPT and all relevant UN Security Council resolutions, we will continue to ratchet up the pressure. We will not close the door on diplomacy. Like all NPT Parties, Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear energy. But it also has a responsibility to fulfill its obligations. There are no short-cuts and we will not take our eye off the ball. Even with all the events unfolding in the Middle East, we remain focused on the strategic imperative of ensuring that Iran does acquire not nuclear weapons.
We look to others who share our desire for disarmament to join us in giving Pyongyang and Tehran a clear choice between full compliance and increasing pressure and consequences.
With regard to the third element of the President’s nuclear strategy – nuclear security – the idea to host a Nuclear Security Summit in Washington was President Obama’s personal initiative and reflects his conviction that nuclear terrorism poses the most extreme threat to international security. The President was very satisfied that the Washington summit built high level political support for nuclear security and created a concrete work plan to support a global effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years.
With about one year to go before the next Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul in spring 2012, we are very confident that we will be able to demonstrate significant progress toward fulfilling the work plan agreed to in Washington. Since April 2009, for example, thousands of kilograms of nuclear materials – hundreds of bombs worth – at over 20 sites around the world have already been removed or eliminated.
Notably, Kazakhstan has moved 13 tons of fissile material to more secure internal storage, and fissile material has been entirely removed from Libya, Chile, Turkey, Serbia, and Romania. And Ukraine and Belarus have committed to removing all the Highly Enriched Uranium from their territories by the time of the Seoul summit. We are working at home and around the world to convert research reactors so they no longer use HEU fuel. In locations where material elimination is not possible, we have worked with other governments to lock down materials through robust security enhancements. Countries are also beefing up transport security and response forces.
But nuclear security is more than about protecting material with guards, guns, and gates. It also means addressing the human element by establishing a security culture and training programs for the personnel responsible for protecting nuclear materials. Since the Washington summit, we have signed agreements with Japan, China, South Korea, and India to establish and work together at regional “Centers of Excellence” to provide training and education for nuclear security officials. During the President’s recent trip, Brazil agreed to consider establishing a similar regional center for Latin America. Other training facilities are being established in Italy, Kazakhstan and Algeria.
Nuclear security requires funding, but it is money well spent. For its part, the Obama Administration has committed an additional $10 billion to the Global Partnership to help countries pay for nuclear and biosecurity upgrades. In this respect, I want to emphasize the President’s commitment to securing adequate funding for the U.S. nuclear security and nonproliferation programs in the FY 2011 and FY2012 budgets. Even in these difficult financial times, we cannot afford to skimp on essential national security needs.
Finally, we’re making progress on the fourth element of President Obama’s Prague agenda—building a new international framework to support peaceful uses of nuclear energy without increasing the risk of proliferation. Clearly, all nations with nuclear energy programs will need to take full account of the lessons to be learned from the Fukushima accident in Japan, since the safe operation of nuclear power plants and safe storage of nuclear waste must be our paramount concern, wherever we live. Here in the United States, we will test our assumptions, review our procedures, and strengthen our regulations. This crisis also highlights the importance of strengthening the IAEA’s mandate to establish and continuously improve nuclear safety standards and guidance, and supporting the agency’s programs to assist Member States in the application of those standards.
At the same time, the need for low-carbon sources of electricity will continue to grow in the decades ahead, which means that nuclear power will remain an important element in the global energy portfolio. And we must be just as vigilant in minimizing proliferation risks as we are in minimizing safety risks. That is why the United States has been working with nations around the world to ensure that they can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation.
In this respect, we will continue to work within the Nuclear Suppliers Group to reach agreement on tougher criteria governing the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies for civil purposes. We will also continue to work with the IAEA to implement the fuel bank concept and other multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle. And we are committed to developing commercial concepts for nuclear fuel leasing, so all countries can benefit from nuclear energy without spreading dangerous technology and materials.
In conclusion, despite many pressing challenges around the world and here at home, I am here to express President Obama’s strong and enduring commitment to the Prague agenda. As the President noted in Prague, “some argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be stopped, cannot be checked — that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and people possess the ultimate tools of destruction.” He said, “such fatalism is a deadly adversary” tantamount to conceding “that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.” This we cannot accept.
We cannot succeed without your help. This community of international nuclear experts and former officials, think tank and business people, academics and activists—you provide the essential bedrock for government action. You are often able to do things that governments can’t or won’t do. We look to you to stimulate initiatives, build public support, provide constructive advice and hatch creative ideas.
Working as partners, we can fulfill the Prague agenda and we can move closer to the vision that we share—the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. Thank you very much.
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts
WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:
- Henry S. Ensher, Ambassador to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, Department of State
- Kenneth J. Fairfax, Ambassador to the Republic of Kazakhstan, Department of State
- Deepa Gupta, Member, National Council on the Arts
The President also announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:
- Nisha Desai Biswal, Member, Congressional-Executive Commission on the People’s Republic of China
- Michael C. Camuñez, Member, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
- Susan H. Hildreth, Member, Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center
- Gary Hirshberg, Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
- Edwin Schlossberg, Member, Commission of Fine Arts
- Lesley Weiss, Member, Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad
Nisha Desai Biswal, Michael C. Camuñez, and Susan H. Hildreth will continue serving in their current roles in addition to these appointments.
President Obama said, “I am grateful these accomplished men and women have agreed to join this Administration, and I’m confident they will serve ably in these important roles. 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:
Henry S. Ensher, Nominee for Ambassador to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, Department of State
Henry S. Ensher most recently served as the United States Senior Civilian Representative in southern Afghanistan. Immediately prior to that assignment, he was Director of the Office of Afghanistan Affairs in the Department of State. Mr. Ensher joined the Foreign Service in 1983 and his overseas assignments include Hermosillo, Jeddah, Muscat, Damascus, Vienna, Algiers, Tel Aviv and Baghdad. He also directed political affairs for Iraq within the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in 2006. Mr. Ensher received his B.A. from Loyola Marymount University.
Kenneth J. Fairfax, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Kazakhstan, Department of State
Kenneth Fairfax is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and currently serves as the Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at the American Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. Prior to this assignment, Mr. Fairfax served as Principal Officer and Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, a position he has also held at the U.S. Consulate General in Krakow. Prior to that, he served as Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. His other overseas assignments include Vancouver, British Columbia, Seoul and Pusan, Korea. He began his Foreign Service career in 1987 as an Economics and Commercial Officer at Embassy Muscat. Mr. Fairfax has also served as the Director for both Nuclear Materials Security and Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia Affairs at the National Security Council. Prior to joining the State Department, Mr. Fairfax worked as an economic consultant and in the computer industry in the San Francisco Bay Area. He holds a B.A. with High Honors from Oberlin College.
Deepa Gupta, Nominee for Member, National Council on the Arts
Deepa Gupta is a Program Officer for Media, Culture and Special Initiatives at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in Chicago. In this role, she manages the Foundation’s grantmaking in arts and culture in Chicago and the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. She previously served as a senior associate at McKinsey and Company. She is a board member of the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois and an advisory board member of the Cure JM Foundation. Ms. Gupta earned her M.B.A. from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University and an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She has an A.B. in Public Policy and Biology from the University of Chicago.
President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:
Nisha Desai Biswal, Appointee for Member, Congressional-Executive Commission on the People’s Republic of China
Nisha Desai Biswal currently serves as Assistant Administrator for Asia at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Prior to this position Ms. Biswal served as the Majority Clerk for the State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee on the Committee on Appropriations in the U.S. House of Representatives which has jurisdiction over the State Department, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other aspects of the international affairs budget. Ms. Biswal provided staff support to Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey and Subcommittee Chairwoman Nita Lowey in managing the appropriations and oversight of the U.S. international affairs budget. Ms. Biswal was the Director of Policy and Advocacy at InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S. based international humanitarian and development non-governmental organizations. She previously served on the professional staff of the House International Relations Committee where she was responsible for South and Central Asia policy as well as oversight of the State Department and USAID. Ms. Biswal worked at the U.S. Agency for International Development where she served as Special Assistant to the Administrator. During her four years at USAID, Ms. Biswal also worked in the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, the Office of Transition Initiatives, and served as chief of staff in the Management Bureau. Ms. Biswal has also worked with the American Red Cross both in their Washington headquarters and overseas as an international delegate in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Ms. Biswal holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia.
Michael C. Camuñez, Appointee for Member, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
Michael C. Camuñez currently serves as Assistant Secretary for Market Access and Compliance, Department of Commerce. Prior to this appointment, Mr. Camuñez served as Special Counsel to the President in the Office of the White House Counsel. He has also served as Special Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel. Mr. Camuñez also worked on the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Project as part of the Agency Review Team. Prior to joining the administration, Mr. Camuñez was a partner in the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, where he represented Fortune 500 companies, officers and directors in a range of matters involving domestic and international commercial disputes. He also advised U.S. companies doing business abroad in Latin America and Europe on corporate compliance, anti-corruption, and the risks associated with foreign investment and multinational business transactions. From 1991-1993 he served as the Program Officer and Director of the National Service Demonstration Program at the bipartisan U.S. Commission on National Service in Washington, DC. From 1993 to 1995 he served as the Senior Policy Advisor for national service in the Clinton Administration, where he helped lead the effort to establish the Corporation for National Service and its signature program, AmeriCorps. He has also served on numerous boards, including as President of the Mexican American Bar Foundation in Los Angeles County and as a member of the Stanford Law School Board of Visitors. He was appointed by Democratic and Republican governors to the board of California’s public service commission, which he chaired from 2005-2007 with California First Lady Maria Shriver. From 2007 until his appointment in the administration, Mr. Camuñez also served as a member of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. He is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, the West Coast Affiliate of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Stanford Law School.
Susan H. Hildreth, Appointee for Member, Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center
Susan Hildreth recently was appointed by President Obama as the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Before joining the IMLS, Susan H. Hildreth was the city librarian of The Seattle Public Library. She was previously appointed as California’s state librarian by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Prior to her position as California state librarian, Ms. Hildreth was at the San Francisco Public Library, where she served as deputy director and then city librarian. Her background also includes five years as deputy library director at the Sacramento Public Library, several years as Placer County’s head librarian and four years as library director for the Benicia Public Library, all in California. She began her career as a branch librarian at the Edison Township Library in New Jersey. Ms. Hildreth is active in the American Library Association and served as president of the Public Library Association in 2006. She has a master’s degree in library science from State University of New York, a master’s degree in business administration from Rutgers University and a bachelor of arts, cum laude, from Syracuse University.
Gary Hirshberg, Appointee for Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
Gary Hirshberg is Chairman, President, and CEO of Stonyfield Farm, a leading organic yogurt producer and is managing director of Stonyfield Europe, a partnership with Groupe Danone, with brands in Canada, Ireland, and France. He serves as a member on the corporate boards of Honest Tea, Applegate Farms, The Full Yield, Peak Organic Brewing, O’Naturals, Sweetgreen, and Glenisk (Ireland). He is also a member of the board of Danone Communities Fund which is advancing sustainable micro-enterprises in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Senegal among other countries.
Edwin Schlossberg, Appointee for Member, Commission of Fine Arts
Edwin Schlossberg is the founder and principal of ESI Design, an internationally recognized firm that designs interactive environments for learning and communicating. Mr. Schlossberg specializes in integrated experiential museums and retail and large scale cultural facilities including the recently designed Shanghai Corporate Pavilion for the World Expo in Shanghai. He has written more than ten published works, has had numerous one man art shows and his work is in the collections of many major museums. He teaches and lectures widely including at Columbia University. He is on several non profit boards and founded the partnership desigNYC that matches designers and community organizations in need of pro-bono support. He graduated from the Columbia University with a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in Science and Literature.
Lesley Weiss, Appointee for Member, Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad
Lesley Weiss is Director of Community Services and Cultural Affairs for NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia. Ms. Weiss coordinates democracy initiatives, community education and revitalization efforts in the countries of the former Soviet Union. She monitors government compliance in the areas of free emigration and religious and cultural rights. Ms. Weiss, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, travels frequently to the region where she works closely with government, NGO and community representatives on the restitution and preservation of Jewish communal property, cemetery restoration, and Holocaust remembrance and memorialization.
FACT SHEET: America’s Energy Security
Rising prices at the pump affect everybody – workers and farmers; truck drivers and restaurant owners. Businesses see it impact their bottom line. Families feel the pinch when they fill up their tank. For Americans already struggling to get by, it makes life that much harder. That’s why we need to make ourselves more secure and control our energy future by harnessing all of the resources that we have available and embracing a diverse energy portfolio. With an ultimate goal of reducing our dependence on oil, in the near term we must responsibly develop and produce oil and gas at home, while at the same time leveraging cleaner, alternative fuels and increasing efficiency. And beyond our efforts to reduce our dependence on oil, we must focus on expanding cleaner sources of electricity – keeping America on the cutting edge of clean energy technology so that we can build a 21st century clean energy economy and win the future.
Reducing oil imports
In 2008, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By 2025 – a little over a decade from now – we will have cut that by one-third.
- Expanding Safe and Responsible Domestic Oil and Gas Development and Production:
o Implementing critical safety reforms: In response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama Administration has launched rigorous and comprehensive environmental and safety reforms to ensure the responsible development of offshore oil and gas resources.
o Identifying underdeveloped resources: The President asked the Department of the Interior (DOI) to issue a report on the status of unused oil and gas leases. That report showed that 57 percent of all leased onshore acres and 70 percent of offshore leased acres are inactive – meaning that they are neither being explored or developed.
o Developing incentives for expedited development and production: DOI is developing incentives for expedited development of oil and gas production from existing and future leases. For its offshore leasing program, the DOI has already begun to employ incentives, including the shortening of some lease terms to encourage earlier development, and requiring drilling to begin before an extension can be granted on a lease. DOI is also evaluating the potential use of graduated royalty rate structures, such as those adopted by the State of Texas, to encourage more rapid production.
- Securing Access to Diverse and Reliable Sources of Energy: The U.S. is acting in the international arena to moderate global oil demand and secure additional supplies of liquid fuels and clean energy. We are working with our international partners to increase natural gas supplies, replace oil with natural gas in power generation, and increase responsible oil production in a manner that ensures safety . We are also increasing sustainable bioenergy production, building a new international framework for nuclear energy, and promoting energy efficiency.
- Developing Alternatives to Oil, Including Biofuels and Natural Gas: Some of our most effective opportunities to enhance our energy security can be found in our own backyard. We are committed to finding better and smarter ways to use these abundant energy resources. That means:
o Expanding biofuels markets and commercializing new biofuels technologies: Corn ethanol is already making a significant contribution to reducing our oil dependence, but increasing market share will require overcoming infrastructure challenges and commercializing promising cellulosic and advanced biofuels technologies. To help achieve this goal, the Administration has set a goal of breaking ground on at least four commercial-scale cellulosic or advanced bio-refineries over the next two years. And as we do all of these things, we will look for ways to reform our biofuels incentives to make sure they meet today’s biofuels challenges and save taxpayers money.
o Encouraging responsible development practices for natural gas: The Administration is committed to the use of this important domestic resource, but we must ensure it is developed safely and responsibly. To that end the Administration is focused on increasing transparency about the use of fracking chemicals, working with state regulators to offer technical assistance, and launching a new initiative to tap experts in industry, the environmental community and states to develop recommendations for shale extraction practices that will ensure the protection of public health and the environment.
- Cutting Costs at the Pump with More Efficient Cars and Trucks: The Administration is building on recent investments in advanced vehicles, fuel, technologies, high speed rail, and public transit:
o Setting historic new fuel economy standards: Standards for model years 2012-16 will raise average fuel economy to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, and save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles covered. In July, the Administration will also finalize the first-ever national fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for commercial trucks, vans and buses built in 2014 – 2018. These standards will cut oil use and promote the development and deployment of alternative fuels, including natural gas. The Administration is also developing the next generation of fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger vehicles 2017-2025 and expects to announce the proposal in September 2011.
o Paving the way for advanced vehicles: The President has set an ambitious goal of putting 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. To help us get there, the President’s FY 2012 Budget proposes a redesigned $7500 tax credit for consumers, competitive grants for communities that encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, and funding for R&D to drive innovation in advanced battery technology. At the same time, the President is calling on Congress to move forward with policies that can help unlock the promise of natural gas vehicles.
- Leading by Example With the Federal Fleet. The Federal government operates more than 600,000 fleet vehicles. We have already doubled the number of hybrid vehicles in the federal fleet. Today, the President is calling for administrative action directing agencies to ensure that by 2015, all new vehicles they purchase will be alternative-fuel vehicles, including hybrid and electric vehicles.
Innovating Our Way to a Clean Energy Future
Charting a path towards cleaner sources of electricity and greater energy efficiency, and remaining on the cutting edge of clean energy technology.
- Creating Markets for Clean Energy: To move capital off of the sidelines and into the clean energy economy – creating jobs in the process – we need to give businesses and entrepreneurs a clear signal that there will be a market for clean energy innovation. That’s why the Administration is committed to pursuing a Clean Energy Standard (CES), an ambitious but achievable goal of generating 80 percent of the Nation’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035 – including renewable energy sources like wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower; nuclear power; efficient natural gas; and clean coal.
- Cutting Energy Bills through More Efficient Homes and Buildings: Our homes, businesses and factories consume over 70 percent of the energy we use. By making smart investments in energy efficiency in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, we can improve U.S. competitiveness and protect our environment, while saving consumers money on electricity bills. That is why the Administration is on track to weatherize 600,000 low-income homes through Recovery Act investments, and why we remain committed to a series of policies that increase efficiency across sectors – including a HOMESTAR program to help homeowners finance retrofits, a “Better Buildings Initiative” to make commercial facilities 20 percent more efficient by 2020, and steps to promote industrial energy efficiency.
- Staying on the Cutting Edge through Clean Energy Research and Development: Through the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, we have invested in over 100 cutting-edge projects in areas ranging from smart grid technology, to carbon capture, to battery technology for electric vehicles. Past Budgets funded three “Energy Innovation Hubs” that explore building efficiency, fuel from sunlight, and nuclear reactor modeling and simulation. The FY 2012 Budget request more than doubles funding for ARPA-E and doubles the number of Hubs to include new Hubs that will advance smart grid technology, critical materials research, as well as batteries and energy storage.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT A DNC EVENT
Red Rooster Restaurant
New York, New York
6:52 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Everybody, have a seat. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. You guys are applauding the cornbread — (laughter) — which is basically cake. So those of you who think that you’re passing on dessert but are having two pieces of cornbread, I know those tricks. (Laughter.)
Look, it’s wonderful to see all of you. I’m going to be coming from table to table so I’m not going to give a long speech. The first thing I want to do — there has been some speculation about our DNC chair plunging back into the hurly-burly of electoral politics. I don’t know if these rumors are true, but what I do know is that I cannot imagine somebody who has been a better partner to me and a better friend to me than our DNC chair, Tim Kaine. (Applause.)
Since he happened to be a really great governor for the Commonwealth of Virginia, I suspect that, should he choose to do so, he would also be an outstanding senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia. But whatever decisions he makes, I just want everybody here to know that he has done an outstanding job for me and an outstanding job for the country. And so I could not be prouder of him.
The second thing I want to say is, obviously we gather in this wonderful setting, in historic Harlem, on a day in which we’re all thinking about our troops overseas and some very difficult challenges around the world. On one side of the world we’ve got one of our closest allies that’s going through just an unbelievable catastrophe, and we are doing everything we can to help them. Then in the Middle East and North Africa we are seeing the kind of transformative moment that typically only comes once in a generation, and we are having to make sure that we help to bend history in a way that is good for the people there and ultimately good for the American people.
And so this is a challenging time. And I could not do what I do — which is get up every morning and make the best possible decisions that I can on behalf of the American people — if I didn’t know that I had a lot of people out there rooting for me and a lot of friends supporting me. And each and every one of you in one way or another have been enormously supportive of our efforts.
And so, collectively, I want you all to know that I am very, very grateful for your friendship, grateful for your advice and good counsel, grateful for your prayers, and I want to let all of you know that I’m extraordinarily confident that as difficult as these days sometimes seem, that we’re going to emerge on the other side of these moments, and on the other side of my presidency, being able to look back and say that we did right by our children and our grandchildren and we’ve made this country and the world more prosperous and more secure.
So thank you for the great work that you guys have done. And with that, let me join your tables. I will not be eating because I was sneaking a little something in the back. (Laughter.) All right? But that also leaves me time to actually answer your questions. And hopefully I’ll be able to spend enough time — when you see somebody hovering over my shoulder that means I’m getting the hook. We’re only a few blocks away from the Apollo so — they won’t actually have a literal hook — (laughter) — I won’t get gonged or anything. But that does mean I’ve got to move over to the next table.
So thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)
100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE TRIANGLE SHIRTWAIST FACTORY FIRE- – - – - – -BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PROCLAMATION
100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE TRIANGLE SHIRTWAIST FACTORY FIRE- – - – - – -BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED
STATES OF AMERICA PROCLAMATION
On March 25, 1911, a fire spread through the cramped floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in lower Manhattan. Flames spread quickly through the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors — overcrowded, littered with cloth scraps, and containing few buckets of water to douse the flames — giving the factory workers there little time to escape. When the panicked workers tried to flee, they encountered locked doors and broken fire escapes, and were trapped by long tables and bulky machines. As bystanders watched in horror, young workers began jumping out of the windows to escape the inferno, falling helplessly to their deaths on the street below.By the time the fire was extinguished, nearly 150 individuals had perished in an avoidable tragedy. The exploited workers killed that day were mostly young women, recent immigrants of Jewish and Italian descent. The catastrophe sent shockwaves through New York City and the immigrant communities of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where families struggled to recognize the charred remains of their loved ones in makeshift morgues.
The last victims were officially identified just this year.A century later, we reflect not only on the tragic loss of these young lives, but also on the movement they inspired. The Triangle factory fire was a galvanizing moment, calling American leaders to reexamine their approach to workplace conditions and the purpose of unions. The fire awakened the conscience of our Nation, inspiring sweeping improvements to safety regulations both in New York and across the United States.
The tragedy strengthened the potency of organized labor, which gave voice to previously powerless workers. A witness to the fire, Frances Perkins carried the gruesome images of that day through a lifetime of advocacy for American workers and into her role as the Secretary of Labor and our country’s first female Cabinet Secretary.Despite the enormous progress made since the Triangle factory fire, we are still fighting to provide adequate working conditions for all women and men on the job, ensure no person within our borders is exploited for their labor, and uphold collective bargaining as a tool to give workers a seat at the tables of power.
Working Americans are the backbone of our communities and power the engine of our economy. As we mark the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, let us resolve to renew the urgency that tragedy inspired and recommit to our shared responsibility to provide a safe environment for all American workers.2
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 25, 2011, as the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. I call upon all Americans to participate in ceremonies and activities in memory of those who have been killed due to unsafe working conditions.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand thistwenty-fourth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.
FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA TO ADDRESS 2011 GRADUATING SENIORS
In the coming months, First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver commencement addresses at the University of Northern Iowa, Spelman College and Quantico Middle High School, and speak to graduates and families at West Point. These institutions all share a deep commitment to service, and have students that are actively involved in improving the world around them. From students who are volunteering in underserved communities to dedicated military families and troops who are preparing to protect our Nation, these graduates represent the spirit of service that defines America.
Mrs. Obama will begin her 2011 commencement addresses in Iowa, making her first visit as First Lady to a state she came to know and love during the 2008 campaign. A week later, Mrs. Obama will travel to Atlanta, Georgia to speak at Spelman College, a historically black liberal arts college for women who seek to change the world in meaningful ways. The two final visits underscore Mrs. Obama’s commitment to supporting and highlighting the strength of America’s military and their families. Mrs. Obama will address the class of 2011 at the United States Military Academy’s Graduation Banquet at West Point, N.Y., on the eve of their commissioning as 2nd Lieutenants in the U.S. Army. In her final address, Mrs. Obama will speak to the 26 graduating seniors of the Quantico Middle High School, whose parents serve at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia.
In 2009, Mrs. Obama spoke to the University of California, Merced’s first full senior class. She also addressed the Washington Math and Science Tech Public Charter High School Graduation in Washington DC. In 2010, Mrs. Obama addressed graduates of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, The George Washington University, and the Anacostia Senior High School.
FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA’S GRADUATION ADDRESS SCHEDULE
MAY 7, 2011 – The First Lady will address graduates of the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), a top-ranked school among Midwest public universities located in Northeast Iowa. UNI traditionally holds more than one ceremony, but this year’s will be combined so that the First Lady can address all 1,900 graduates.
MAY 15, 2011 – The First Lady will address more than 500 graduates of Spelman College located in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1881, Spelman College embraces a long-standing and life-changing commitment to academic rigor, community service and positive social impact.
May 20, 2011 – The First Lady will be making her first visit to West Point as the banquet speaker for the U.S. Military Academy Class of 2011. Held in the historic Cadet Mess, she will address an audience of just over 3,000 graduating cadets, their families and guests. This marks the final social event the cadets will take part in as a class prior to commencement and commissioning.
JUNE 3, 2011 – Mrs. Obama will speak to graduates of Quantico Middle High School in Quantico, Virginia. This Department of Defense Education Activity school is located on the Marine Corps Base at Quantico and serves military children. Every year, Mrs. Obama encourages Americans to make donations to the Toys for Tots program run by the Marine Corps; in 2009 she visited Quantico’s donation distribution center.
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 839 – HAMP Termination Act
(Rep. McHenry, R-NC, and 8 cosponsors)
The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 839, which would eliminate the Department of the Treasury’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). This program offers eligible homeowners an opportunity to lower their mortgage payments, helping individuals avoid foreclosure and leading to the protection of home values and the preservation of homeownership. The Administration is committed to helping struggling American homeowners stay in their homes, and has taken many steps over the last two years to stabilize what was a rapidly-declining housing market. As tens of thousands of responsible American homeowners struggling with their mortgages receive permanent assistance each month from HAMP, the Administration believes that continuation of HAMP is important to the Nation’s sustained economic recovery.
If the President is presented with H.R. 839, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT UNIVISION TOWN HALL
Bell Multicultural High School
10:37 A.M. EDT
MR. RAMOS: Mr. President, I have the first question. As a newscaster and as an anchor, I have to ask first. And I would like to ask something that everybody wants to know. I don’t know if you can give us something about the speech you’re going to give later on for us to listen to here at Univision. And we are going through a very difficult time. We’re going through three different wars at the same time. I was looking at the education budget in the country and it amazes me that every dollar that is being spent on education we spend $10 for war and the Department of Defense. Do we need to change that? What would you do?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I just want to say, Jorge, it’s wonderful to be with Univision. It’s wonderful to be here at Bell Multicultural. (Applause.) You guys are doing outstanding work.
I also want to make a confession, and that is that although I took Spanish in high school, I’m receiving translation through this earpiece. (Laughter.) But for all the young people here, I want you guys to be studying hard because it is critical for all American students to have language skills. And I want everybody here to be working hard to make sure that you don’t just speak one language, you speak a bunch of languages. That’s a priority. (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: Let’s talk about Libya.
THE PRESIDENT: Jorge, with respect to Libya, I am going to be addressing this issue tonight, and I’ve already discussed it on several occasions, including on your program.
Our involvement there is going to be limited both in time and in scope. But you’re absolutely right that we have a very large defense budget. Some of that is necessitated by the size of our country and the particular special role that we play around the globe. But what is true is that over the last 10 years, the defense budget was going up much more quickly than our education budget.
And we are only going to be as strong as we are here at home. If we are not strong here at home, if our economy is not growing, if our people are not getting jobs, if they are not succeeding, then we won’t be able to project military strength or any other kind of strength.
And that’s why in my 2012 budget, even though we have all these obligations — we’re still in Afghanistan; I have ended the war in Iraq, and we’ve pulled 100,000 troops out — (applause) — but we still have some commitments there — despite all that, my proposed budget still increases education spending by 10 percent, including 4 percent for non-college-related expenses. But we also increased the Pell Grant program drastically so all these outstanding young people are going to have a better chance to go to college. (Applause.)
So the larger point you’re making I think is right that we have to constantly balance our security needs with understanding that if we’re not having a strong economy, a strong workforce and a well-educated workforce, then we’re not going to be successful over the long term.
MR. RAMOS: Okay. Mr. President, one of the main problems here in the United States is that — with Hispanics especially — is that only one out of three of Hispanic students actually graduates from high school. They drop out. And Iris Mendosa, a student from this school has the first question. Iris?
Q Hello, Mr. President. My name is Iris Mendosa, and I attend Washington, D.C. Bell Multicultural High School. And my question is: What can we do to reduce the amount of students that drop out of school before graduating?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate the question. And I want to reiterate something that Mr. Conde said at the outset. This is an issue that’s not just important for the Latino community here in the United States; this is an issue that is critical for the success of America generally, because we already have a situation where one out of five students are Latino in our schools, and when you look at those who are 10 years old or younger, it’s actually one in four. So what this means is, is that our workforce is going to be more diverse; it is going to be, to a large percentage, Latino. And if our young people are not getting the kind of education they need, we won’t succeed as a nation.
Now, here’s what’s also important — that eight out of 10 future jobs are going to require more than a high school education. They’re going to require some sort of higher education, whether it’s a community college, a four-year college, at the very least some job training and technical training — all of which means nobody — nobody — can drop out. We can’t afford to have anybody here at Bell drop out. We can’t have anybody drop out anywhere in the country.
Now, there are some things that we know work. To the extent that young people are getting a good start in school and are falling behind, they’re less likely to drop out. So that’s why it’s important for us to invest in early childhood education. And my budget makes sure that we put more money into that. In K through 12, we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the highest-quality teachers. We have to make sure that we have parental involvement so that we are building a culture in our community. Everybody — businesses, philanthropies, churches, whoever these young people are interacting with, they’ve got to hear a message that they don’t have any choice, they’ve got to graduate, and everybody is going to be behind them.
We know that there’s some programs that will help young people catch up if they’ve already fallen behind. And one of the things that we’ve emphasized is something called Race to the Top, which is a program that says to states and school districts all across the country, if you design programs that are especially designed to get at those schools that are creating a lot of dropouts, that are not performing up to par, we’ll give you extra money if you are serious about reform.
So we’re going to have to take a comprehensive approach to make sure that we reduce dropout rates. And the last point I’ll make on this — there are about 2,000 schools in the country where the majority of dropouts take place. I mean, we can name them. We know what these schools are. And for us to put some extra help, some intensive help, into those schools to help turn them around is something that we’ve really got to focus on.
Mr. Conde and I were both at a school down in Miami that used to have a 60 percent dropout rate and now they’ve been able to reduce that drastically because they completely turned the school around — got a new principal, got — about a third of the teachers were new, had a whole new approach, had the whole community surround them.
We can do that with each of those 2,000 schools around the country, we can make a big difference. Great question. (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: As you know, the success in the students depends not only on good teachers and good administrators; it also depends on their parents.
Q I’m from Chile. And my daughter attends CHEC. I do know that the success of our children’s education also hinges on their parents. So my question is, how can we help to fight illiteracy and lack of language knowledge, English knowledge?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, the fact that you’re here shows that you’re a very involved parent and that’s where this has to start. No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, if you’re a parent, you are the single most important factor in whether your child is going to succeed. And so starting out very young, reading to your children — even if you yourself are not an English-language speaker, reading them in Spanish gets them used to the idea of reading and builds their vocabulary and will be building a foundation for learning.
Making sure that as your children get older, that you’re turning off the television set and making sure that they’re doing their homework — even if you as a Spanish-speaking person may not be able to help them with all their homework, you can make sure that they’re actually doing it. Parents making sure that they’re involved in their schools and going and meeting teachers. And I know that there are some schools where parents experience not a good interaction with the schools. The schools seem to push them away, particularly if English is not their native language. But you have rights as parents to make sure that your children are getting what they need. And the more you’re interacting with the teachers and the principals and the administrators, the more support you can provide to your child.
So those are all areas where parents can make a big difference. What we’re trying to do as the government is to make sure that we’re providing more incentives for schools to improve their parental involvement programs. We’re trying to make sure that schools are open and understand that it is up to them to provide a welcoming environment to parents so that they can be involved in their child’s education.
And specifically with respect to young people who are coming to school and English may not be their native language, we’ve got to make sure that we continue to fund strong programs, both bilingual education programs but also immersion programs that ensure that young people are learning English but they’re not falling behind in their subjects even as they are learning English.
And there’s a way to do that that is effective. We have schools that do it very well; there are some schools that don’t do it as well. We want to lift up those models that do it well. And parents should be demanding and insisting that even if your child is not a native English speaker, there is no reason why they can’t succeed in school, and schools have an obligation to make sure that those children are provided for. They have rights just like everybody else. (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: Thank you very much. Mr. President, in San Salvador, we had the opportunity to have a conversation regarding deportation, and I was telling you that your government has deported more immigrants than any other President before. And you also told me that many students in the United States, even though they are undocumented, are not deported. But Karen Montinado (ph) sent us this video, and I wanted for you to watch it together with me, and I want for you to give me your opinion regarding her experience:
Q My question for the President is why saying that deportations have stopped or the detention of many students like me? Why is it that we are still receiving deportation letters like this one?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Jorge, I said before we have re-designed our enforcement practices under the law to make sure that we’re focusing primarily on criminals. And so our deportation of criminals are up about 70 percent. Our deportation of non-criminals are down. And that’s because we want to focus our resources on those folks who are destructive to the community. And for a young person like that young woman that we just spoke to, who’s going to school, doing all the right things, we want them to succeed — which is why I have been such a strong proponent of the DREAM Act; why I reiterated during my — (applause) — why I reiterated during my State of the Union speech that we need to pass the DREAM Act. We came close in December. It almost happened.
And for those students here who aren’t familiar with what the DREAM Act says, basically what it says is if you’re a young person who came to this country with your parents, even if you were undocumented when you came here but you were a child — you didn’t make the decision — you’ve grown up as an American child, and we want your talents here in the United States. And if you have done right in your community, if you’ve been studying hard, if you’ve been working in school, you should be able to go ahead and get a process towards legalization and a process whereby you can be a full-fledged citizen in this country.
We almost were able to get it passed. We fell a few votes short. I believe that we can still get it done. But it’s going to be very important for all the viewers of Univision, all the students who are interested in this issue, we’ve got to keep the pressure up on Congress. And I have to say without being partisan that the majority of my party, the Democrats, I got their votes to get this passed, but we need a little bit of help from the other side. And so all of you need to contact your members of Congress, contact your members of the Senate, and let them know that this is something that is the right thing to do.
America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the President, am obligated to enforce the law. I don’t have a choice about that. That’s part of my job. But I can advocate for changes in the law so that we have a country that is both respectful of the law but also continues to be a great nation of immigrants. And the DREAM Act is a perfect example of a law that can help fix this.
Of course, I believe that we also have to have an even more comprehensive reform of our immigration system. It’s broken right now. We have to have secure borders. We have to make sure that businesses are not exploiting undocumented workers, but we have to have a pathway to citizenship for those who are just looking for a better life and contributing to our country. And I’ll continue to fight for that. (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: Mr. President, my question will be as follows: With an executive order, could you be able to stop deportations of the students? And if that’s so, that links to another of the questions that we have received through univision.com. We have received hundreds, thousand, all related to immigration and the students. Kay Tomar (ph) through univision.com told us — I’m reading — “What if at least you grant temporary protective status, TPS, to undocumented students? If the answer is yes, when? And if no, why not?”
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, temporary protective status historically has been used for special circumstances where you have immigrants to this country who are fleeing persecution in their countries, or there is some emergency situation in their native land that required them to come to the United States. So it would not be appropriate to use that just for a particular group that came here primarily, for example, because they were looking for economic opportunity.
With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed – and I know that everybody here at Bell is studying hard so you know that we’ve got three branches of government. Congress passes the law. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws.
There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President.
That does not mean, though, that we can’t make decisions, for example, to emphasize enforcement on those who’ve engaged in criminal activity. It also doesn’t mean that we can’t strongly advocate and propose legislation that would change the law in order to make it more fair, more just, and ultimately would help young people who are here trying to do the right thing and whose talents we want to embrace in order to succeed as a country. (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: You mentioned minutes ago — you talked about the DREAM Act. And you talk to parents and teachers and one of the things of the educational system in the United States is it allows them to go to elementary school and secondary studies, high school, but it doesn’t allow them to go to college. And Sonia Marlene (ph) has a question regarding the DREAM Act. And students have been frightened and they are saying publicly that they are undocumented and they are being at risk of deportation.
Q Thank you for being here in this forum. My name is Sonia Marlene(ph). And I’m a mother, a parent, an activist, and pro-undocumented young people. After the non-passing of the DREAM Act in Congress, many students asked me, why should I keep struggling to continue with my studies when I don’t have a future in this country? What should I answer to them, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that change in this country sometimes happens in fits and starts. It doesn’t happen overnight. If you think of the history of the civil rights struggle, though even after Brown v. Board of Education, there were still struggles to ensure that ultimately everybody was treated with dignity and respect.
I think with respect to the DREAM Act, as I said, it was very close to passage. We didn’t get it passed this time, but I don’t want young people to be giving up because if people in the past had given up, we probably wouldn’t have women’s rights, we wouldn’t have civil rights. So many changes that we’ve made had to do with young people being willing to struggle and fight to make sure that their voices are heard.
And one of the things just to reemphasize is if we’ve got talented young people here in the United States who are working hard, who aspire to college, in some cases want to serve in the military, want to serve our country, it makes no sense for us to send them away.
One of the strengths of America, compared to other countries, is that we’re always attracting new talent to our shores — people who reinvigorate the American Dream. And that has to continue in this generation. And so they should know, these young people should know that they have a President who believes in them and will continue to fight for them and try to make sure that they have full opportunities in this country. (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: Thank you. At the beginning of this show, Mr. President, we were saying why are 10 dollars spent in wars and a dollar on schools. Somebody else asked why do we help people who have more money instead of doing that to people who have less money.
The next question comes the Jimenes family, and so this is what they want to ask you: “Hello, Mr. President. California is one of the last on the list regarding spending in schools. However, it seems that there’s a lot of money for arms and for corporate bailouts but not for school budgets. How is it our children can stay strong in our country, can survive, if we don’t want to spend in their education today, a quality education?”
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the irony is, is that California used to be famous for having the best school system in the country. And that wasn’t that long ago. I mean, when I was a young person — I know I seem very old to all of you — (laughter) — but when I was a young person back in the ‘70s, ‘80s, everybody would say what a great public school system California had and what a great university system California had. But, unfortunately, most education funding is done at the state level. And in many states, what’s happened is that there have been various laws put in place that limit the ability to raise money for schools, partly by capping property taxes.
And, look, I’m somebody who believes that money is not everything when it comes to schools. You’ve got some great schools in low-income neighborhoods that don’t have a high tax base but you’ve got a dynamic principal, you’ve got great teachers, you’ve got parents who are rallying around the school. You can do well even if you don’t have a lot of money.
But money does make a difference in terms of being able to provide the resources, the supplemental help, the equipment, the technology, the science labs, all those things. And the fact of the matter of is, is that in most states what we need is for people to reprioritize.
Part of what happened in California was there were huge amounts of money spent on prisons and that drained away money from the school system. And if it turns out that it costs $16,000 or $17,000 or $20,000 for one inmate, and you could spend an extra $3,000 or $4,000 or $5,000 in a school to keep that — young people from going into prison in the first place, it’s a smart investment for us to invest in the schools first.
But what’s important, I think, for everyone to understand is this is typically a decision that’s made at the state level. And so in each of the states, wherever you’re watching — in Arizona, in New Mexico, in California, in Maryland — whatever state you’re in, you should be pressing your state legislatures and your governors to make sure that they are properly prioritizing education when it comes to the state budget, because just as a country is going to succeed because it’s got the best workers, the same is going to be true in states.
Companies can locate anywhere today, and they’re going to choose to locate in those places where they’ve got the most well-educated, best-trained workforce, because then that saves them money. They don’t have to re-train people. They know that whoever they hire they’re going to have good math skills and good science skills and good communication skills. So that’s a huge competitive advantage for any state in the country. And it’s important, I think, for you to make sure that all your state and local officials know this is something that you’re paying attention to.
But it’s a great question. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: One of the things that surprised me during this investigation that we ran through is that when I get eight Hispanic students together, only one of them, one out of eight of Hispanics will go to college. That I think is just a waste of talent and energy and their life. And Kenny Alvarado (ph) has a question regarding changing that number, who knows, that eight or seven can go, that most of them can actually attend school.
Q Hello, Mr. President, my name is Kenny Alvarado. I attend Bell Multicultural and I have great aspirations to be able to attend university. Before a student was able to receive two scholarships a year to pay for college. Now that student can only have one. What is your government going to do to keep the Pell scholarship without cutting the budget for education?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I expect you to go to college, so — I’m confident that you’re going to succeed. (Applause.) I believe in you.
Here’s what we’ve done over the last two years. First of all, we increased the level of Pell Grants so now you can get up to $800 more in Pell Grants every year than you were able to do two years ago because of changes that we made.
We also made Pell Grants available to millions more students around the country. So we expanded eligibility so that more young people could get access to student loans and grants that would help them pay for college.
The way we did this — the student loan program through the government had been previously funneled through banks, and the banks were taking out a profit on the student loan program, even though these were all loans that were guaranteed by the U.S. government — so the banks weren’t taking any risks. They were basically just processing these loans, but they were taking a couple billion dollars off the top in profits. And we said, well, why do we have to go through the banks? Why don’t we just give these loans directly to the students? That will save us billions of dollars. That way we can expand the program, make sure that more young people can go to college. So that’s what we have already implemented.
In addition, what we’ve said is that starting in 2014 — so right about when you guys are — some of you are starting college, in some cases some of you will be right in the middle of college — we’re going to institute a program whereby your loans repayments will not have to exceed more than 10 percent of your income.
Now, this is something very important for all of you, because — (applause) — I speak from experience. Michelle and I, we didn’t come from wealthy families. So we came from families a lot like yours, and we had to take out all these student loans to go to college and law school. By the time we were out, we had, I think between us, $120,000 worth of debt. It took us 10 years to pay it off. And we were lucky because we both got law degrees; we could make enough money to pay that debt.
But let’s say that we had wanted to teach, and we were only making — what’s a teacher making these days? (Laughter.) Not enough, is what somebody said. (Laughter.) Or you wanted to go into public service, or work for a non-profit. You might not be able to make enough to afford servicing $120,000 worth of debt, or $60,000 worth of debt. So what we said is we’re going to cap at 10 percent. And we will give you additional help if you go into helping professions like teaching that are so important to our future.
The bottom line is this. We’ve made enormous strides over the last two years. If you are working hard, if you guys are getting good grades in school, if you are ready to be admitted to college, there’s no reason why you should not be able to afford to go to college. We’re going to make sure that we’re helping to provide you the money you need. All right? (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: Well, thank you. Well, Kenny, the President of the United States wants for you to go to a university or college. We’ll talk to you in four more years, okay? (Laughter.)
Mr. President, one of the biggest tragedies is that — you don’t have to die to go to school and many of our students are suffering bad — bullying is what it’s called in English, they’re being abused at school. And you and your wife have been involved in a program to avoid that to happen. But the bottom line is at least one of four students go to school and instead of studying they are at risk of being wounded or even die. Jessica Bermudes (ph) sent us a video — I don’t know how many thousands of letters you receive, but you received one from her. And this is what she wrote:
“Mr. President, I wrote you a letter after my son passed away but you never answered. It’s been two years since he committed suicide and I haven’t been able to get any legal remedy that would do justice to my son. Compensation is not enough. Would you be willing to pass a federal law that sanctions bullying like the type my son suffered?”
THE PRESIDENT: Well, obviously we’re heartbroken by a story like that and we’ve been seeing reports in the news — and some young people here, you’ve probably seen young people who took their own lives because they had been experiencing such terrible bullying and peer pressure in the schools.
Now, look, bullying has always existed. I’ve said before when I was a kid, I was teased. I had a different name; I had an unusual background; I had big ears. (Laughter.) And so all of us have been bullied at some point — except maybe Jorge because Jorge was very handsome and cool in school, I’m sure. (Laughter.)
MR. RAMOS: I don’t think so.
THE PRESIDENT: So all of us have experienced this to some degree or another. But it’s gotten worse partly because of new communications. Right? You guys understand this better than I do, but Facebook, Twitters — (laughter) — you know, all that stuff makes for added pressure not just in school but also outside of school. You can’t escape it.
And so what we did was we had a conference at the White House where we convened interested groups from across the country — parent organizations, philanthropies, student organizations — to find ways that — strategies that we could put in place to reduce bullying.
Now, one of the most powerful tools, it turns out, is students themselves. And there are schools where young people have done surveys to find out how much bullying is taking place in school and how secure do you feel in the classroom. And then the students themselves started an entire campaign in the schools to say, we’re not going to tolerate bullying, and in fact, if we see somebody bullying, we’re going to call them out on it. And that peer pressure could actually end up making as much of a difference as just about anything.
But obviously we are interested in finding additional strategies for how we can reduce this epidemic of bullying that’s taking place. And the young people here, if you have suggestions in terms of how we should approach these problems, we want to listen to you. And if you go to the White House website, whitehouse.gov, that will give you a set of tools and strategies that we’re pursuing in terms of trying to make a difference on this issue. (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: As you know, Mr. President, we are pressuring parents for them to help their children, and this is what they’re telling us through Univision and univision.com, is that maybe they don’t speak English or they don’t have the time because they are working hard. Maybe they need to — they are concerned about immigration problems. But Margarita Gramajo (ph) is a parent, and she will speak for herself.
Q Good morning, Mr. President. My name is Margarita Gramajo (ph). I know many parents that don’t speak English, and they also have to work long hours to be able to feed their families. I would like to know what your government can do, how can you help these parents so they are better able to support their children’s education?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the first thing we can do is make sure that parents have economic opportunities, that they’ve got a job that pays a decent wage. Obviously, in many immigrant communities, families and parents may be working two or three jobs because they’re making such low wages. Oftentimes, they don’t have benefits, so if they get sick, they don’t have a place to turn and that becomes an added burden. And so, overall, one of the most important things we can do is just make life easier for those who don’t make a lot of money and are sometimes working in the underground economy.
And that’s why comprehensive immigration reform is important. That’s why our health care reforms that will provide health insurance for a lot of families that are out there is so important, because that will relieve some of the financial pressure and burden.
But when it comes to schools, as I said before, I want schools to welcome parents. I want schools to go out there actively calling parents and finding out how can we work with you to make sure your students can achieve. How can we enlist you in the project of making sure your young people graduate from high school, go to college and move on to a career? If a school is not doing that, if it’s not actively reaching out to parents, then it’s not doing its job.
And my Secretary of Education is sitting right in front of you, Arne Duncan. And he travels all across the country, and a lot of what we do when we talk to schools is telling them how important parental involvement is, and trying to recruit parents.
Now, if they don’t speak English, then it’s important for those schools to think about strategies to have translators in the schools to help them communicate with the teachers and the principals. If it turns out that the school budgets are tight and they can’t afford to hire translators, then we should enlist community members who are bilingual to come in and volunteer on parent-teacher meetings.
This is where philanthropies can make a big difference. This is where churches can make a big difference — because there’s no reason why the community can’t also mobilize to support parents to make sure that they are able to take the time to meet with teachers and support the overall process of education.
So I can’t make a parent who’s not interested, interested. Ultimately, that has to come from the parent, him or herself. But what I can do is make sure that the school knows how important the parent is, and that’s something that we are emphasizing in every program that we do. And when we evaluate, for example, programs like Race to the Top, where we’re looking to give extra money to schools, one of the criteria we look at is, do you have a smart plan for getting parents involved — because oftentimes that may be one of the indicators of success. All right? (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: One of the main concerns that parents have is not only that one out of four in school, but besides that, there’s a huge need for them to work and who are they going to leave their children with? Early development — who will take care of my child when they have to go to work? Belquiz Martinez (ph) has the next question, also from a mother, from a parent.
Q Well, good evening, Mr. President. My name is Belquiz Martinez (ph), and my children attend bilingual education. And this is my question. I would like to know what are you going to do — what your presidency is going to do to keep the bilingual programs and the early Head Start?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, one of the things that we’ve already done in my first two years as part of the Recovery Act was to put several billion additional dollars into Head Start programs and early childhood education programs.
The Latino community is a young population and so there are a lot of young kids, so they need high-quality early childhood education, high-quality daycare, high-quality Head Start programs, more than just about any other community. Unfortunately, actually, they are underrepresented in these programs, and we need to do more to provide that kind of support. So in our new budget we’re also putting additional resources into early childhood education.
This is something that will pay big dividends for the entire society down the road. Because what we know is, when kids get a good start, when they come to school prepared, then they are more likely to stay on grade level and not fall behind.
On the other hand, if a child comes to school and they don’t know their colors, they don’t know their letters, they’re not accustomed to being read to, then they’re starting off at a disadvantage. And kids can overcome those disadvantages — I’m somebody who never gives up on any kid — but, let’s face it, the longer they’re behind, the more discouraged they get. They may get turned off from school and ultimately they end up dropping out.
So we’re already putting more money into these programs. It’s not enough. Waiting lines for high-quality childcare is still too long. We’ve got to do more.
The other thing is, in addition to more money we have to reform many of these programs, because, frankly, sometimes a childcare program may look nice on the outside, but when you get inside it turns out that the instructors there, they’re not professionally trained, they don’t know anything about early childhood development. They’re basically just babysitters — which is fine if you’re going out for an evening with your spouse, but if these folks are going to be with your child each and every day for five hours, six hours, eight hours, you want somebody who knows — who’s been professionally trained and understands how to make sure that you’re giving a good foundation of learning to children.
And so we’re doing a lot of work in improving professional development and the quality of the programs, even as we increae the money to support subsidies for those programs. (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: We have talked about different topics, very important, giant concepts, but the main concerns of our children are more concrete. It’s about tests. When was the last time you took a test — do you remember that?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me tell you, I am tested every day. (Laughter.) I was tested when I appeared on Jorge’s program a couple of — four days ago. (Laughter.) He’s a very tough instructor, a tough — he’s a tough grader. (Laughter.)
MR. RAMOS: You passed your test. Lisa has a question regarding tests.
Q My name is Lisa and I’m going to attend my last year here at Bell Multicultural High School. Students go through a lot of tests. Could you reduce the amount of tests? For example, we found a student passes a test, he shouldn’t take the same test next year.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think probably what you’re referring to are standardized tests — because if you’re just talking about your math or your science or your English test, tough luck — (laughter) — you’ve got to keep on taking those tests, because that’s part of the way that teachers are going to know whether you’re making progress and whether you understand the subject matter.
What is true, though, is, is that we have piled on a lot of standardized tests on our kids. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a standardized test being given occasionally just to give a baseline of where kids are at. Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn’t a high-stakes test. It wasn’t a test where they had to panic. I mean, they didn’t even really know that they were going to take it ahead of time. They didn’t study for it, they just went ahead and took it. And it was a tool to diagnose where they were strong, where they were weak, and what the teachers needed to emphasize.
Too often what we’ve been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools. And so what we’ve said is let’s find a test that everybody agrees makes sense; let’s apply it in a less pressured-packed atmosphere; let’s figure out whether we have to do it every year or whether we can do it maybe every several years; and let’s make sure that that’s not the only way we’re judging whether a school is doing well.
Because there are other criteria: What’s the attendance rate? How are young people performing in terms of basic competency on projects? There are other ways of us measuring whether students are doing well or not.
So what I want to do is — one thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test. Because then you’re not learning about the world; you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math. All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and the little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test. And that’s not going to make education interesting to you. And young people do well in stuff that they’re interested in. They’re not going to do as well if it’s boring.
So, now, I still want you to know, though, you’re going to have to take some tests, man. (Laughter.) So you’re not going to get completely out of that. All right? (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: My host here is Maria Tukeva, the principal of Columbia Heights educational campus, and hers has to do with teachers and to hire the teachers and get better pay for the teachers.
Q Mr. President, first of all, thank you so much again for the great honor of your presence here. I have a very important problem. You know the lack of African American teachers and Latinos, they have to have role models they can relate to. How can we create a training and recruiting program for African Americans and Latino teachers? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I think this is a great question. This is a great question. I’m not sure I’m going to get these statistics exactly right, but I think that if the percentage of Latino students now is 20 percent, percentage of African American students might be 12-15 percent, the number of African American and Latino teachers may only be 3 or 4 percent, maybe 5 percent. And when it comes to male teachers, it’s even lower. That’s a problem.
So there are a couple things that we can do. Number one is I think it’s very important for us to say to young people who are thinking about a career, think about teaching. There’s no job that’s more important and is going to give you more satisfaction and will give you more impact and influence over your community than if you go into teaching.
And so we’re trying to constantly elevate teaching as a profession. And I think we as a society have to do that, because young people, they’re kind of seeing what appears to be valued. And if all they see are basketball players and rappers and — then that’s where they’ll gravitate to. And if, on the other hand, they see that teachers are being lifted up as important, then they’ll think about teaching as a career. So that’s part number one.
Part number two, we’re working to figure out how to do more recruitment in historically black colleges and universities, in Hispanic-serving institutions. We need to get in there and say to young people, consider teaching as a career. And I know that that’s something that Arne Duncan has emphasized.
I’m going to be giving a commencement at Miami Dade College, which, if I’m not mistaken, is the single largest institution serving Hispanic students in the country. President Padrón is here, who also happens to chair my Council on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Students. And one of the things that I want to do when I’m there, I’ll speak to the fact that I want a bunch of those young people going into teaching.
So we’ve got to go to where the students are, get them early, get them in the pipeline, provide them the outstanding training that they need, and make sure then they’re supported as they go through. Because part of the challenge in teaching, it’s not just enough to recruit the teacher. Once the teacher is in the classroom, they’ve got to have support systems in place, professional development in place, so that they can learn their trade.
Because it’s like anything else. I mean, there’s no job where you would just start off the first day and suddenly you know exactly what you’re doing. Jorge, I’m sure, was a very young person when he became a news anchor, but I’m sure he had to get some tips and he got better and better as time went on. Certainly that’s true for me as a public servant, as an elected official. Well, teachers are the same way.
So we’ve got to have professional development programs. We’ve got to have mechanisms to make sure that people succeed over time. But I’m confident that if we give them the opportunity, there are going to be a lot of young people who want to pursue this career. (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: Not long ago I was having a conversation with my son. He’s only 12 years old, and he couldn’t believe that I grew up in a world where there were no cell phones, no Internet, no computers. (Laughter.) So do you have your BlackBerry with you, or do you have an iPhone? What do you have?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I took my BlackBerry off for this show, because I didn’t want it going off, and that would be really embarrassing. But usually I carry a BlackBerry around.
MR. RAMOS: Do you have an iPad?
THE PRESIDENT: I do have an iPad.
MR. RAMOS: Your own computer?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve got my own computer.
MR. RAMOS: Very well. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I mean, Jorge, I’m the President of the United States. You think I’ve got a — (laughter and applause) — you think I’ve got to go borrow somebody’s computer? (Laughter.) Hey, man, can I borrow your computer? (Laughter.) How about you? You’ve got one?
MR. RAMOS: Okay, Diana has a question regarding computers. So go ahead, Diana.
Q Hello, Mr. President, my name is Diana Castillo (ph), and I attend Bell. My question is, do you believe that the new technology like iPads, computers, helps students in their education? And if that is so, what can be done so we can have access to this technology?
MR. RAMOS: A minute — I’m afraid I’ll have to tell the most powerful man in the world that he only has one minute.
THE PRESIDENT: Actually, the truth is it can make a difference. If the schools know how to use the technology well, especially now with the Internet, it means that students can access information from anywhere in the world. And that’s a powerful tool.
So a lot of schools that we’ve seen now have every student getting a computer. We visited a school up in — where was that? It was in Boston, at Boston Tech? Is that what it’s called? And each student gets a computer. And they were able to do science experiments and get the information right on the screen directly as they were working in the labs.
So what we want to do is encourage schools to use technology. But technology is not a magic bullet. If you have a computer, but you don’t have the content and you don’t have teachers who know how to design good classes around the computer, it’s not going to make a difference. So it’s not just the technology. We also have to make sure that we have the teachers that are trained to work with students so they can use that technology to explore all these — all the information that’s available out there today. (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: It’s my understanding that you also wanted to address our audience — last words.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I just want to thank again Univision for hosting this town hall. Part of the reason why we felt this was so important is because the Latino community in this country will be a key for our future success. And all of the young people who are sitting here are going to be a key to our success. And that means that everybody has to be involved in this project of lifting up graduation rates; lifting up performance in things like math and science; making sure that young people are getting education beyond high school so that they are prepared for the careers of the future.
And what I want to say is that the government can do its part — we can increase funding for education; we can make college more affordable through grant programs and loan programs — but we can’t do it alone. Ultimately, everybody has to be involved, and that includes the students here.
And I just want to say to all the young people here — this is a competitive world now, and you can’t expect to be able to just find a job just because you’re willing to work. If you haven’t prepared through a good education, you are going to be trapped in low-end jobs. And so you’ve got to bring an attitude of hard work and pursuing excellence each and every day. That’s what you have to bring to the classroom. That’s what we need as a country. And if we do — if we all work together, then I’m confident that not only is the Latino community going to succeed, but the American family is going to thrive and succeed in the 21st century. (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: Mr. President, the last thing I wanted to tell you — there are more than 50 million Hispanics and you are the first African American President. And with great education, of course, we hope that we have the first Latino president soon. Thank you for being here.
THE PRESIDENT: They may be sitting here. (Applause.) Who knows?
MR. RAMOS: Definitely. Thank you so much from Univision. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
FACT SHEET: Winning the Future: Out-Educating Our Global Competitors by Improving Educational Opportunities and Outcomes for Hispanic Students
FACT SHEET: Winning the Future: Out-Educating Our Global Competitors by Improving Educational Opportunities and Outcomes for Hispanic Students
Today, President Obama participated in a town hall meeting on education hosted by Univision at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, DC. The town hall, which provided the President an opportunity to talk with students, parents and teachers about the importance of out-educating our global competitors in order for America to win the future, will be broadcast on the Univision Network tonight March 28th at 7pm ET / PT, 6 pm CT.
In his State of the Union address, the President laid out his vision for America to win the future. The President made it clear that the most important contest we face today is not between Democrats and Republicans, but rather America’s contest with competitors across the globe for the jobs and industries of our time. To win that contest and secure prosperity for Hispanics and all Americans, we have to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.
In order to win the future we must win the race to educate our kids. Restoring the United States to its role as the global leader in education will require that we invest in strengthening and expanding educational opportunities for Hispanic students – from cradle to career. As the nation’s largest minority group, Hispanics number more than 11 million students in America’s public elementary and secondary schools and constitute more than 22 percent of all pre-K–12 students. More than one in five students enrolled in America’s schools is Hispanic. Yet, only about half of all Hispanic students earn their high school diploma on-time; those who do complete high school are only half as likely as their peers to be prepared for college. Only 13 percent of Hispanics hold a bachelor’s degree, and just 4 percent completed graduate or professional degree programs.
President Obama is working to reform America’s schools and to build a world-class education system that will deliver the complete and competitive education needed to prepare every child for college and careers. The Hispanic community will be key to meeting the President’s goal for the United States to have the best-educated workforce and the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
Below is a fact sheet outlining some of the advances the Obama Administration has already made to address many of these priorities. For this and more information on how the Administration is tackling issues important to the Hispanic community and all Americans, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/hispanic.
Raising the Bar: Promoting early Learning Opportunities for Hispanics
The years before kindergarten are the most critical for shaping a child’s foundation for later learning and America’s economic competitiveness depends on providing a high-quality learning environment for every child before they reach the kindergarten door. Compared to other minority groups, Hispanic children represent the largest segment of the early childhood population in the nation, but are less likely than any other group to be enrolled in center-based early education programs. By age 2, Hispanic children are less likely than their non-Hispanic peers to demonstrate expressive vocabulary skills. Preschool-aged Hispanic children also exhibit lower average scores in language and mathematics knowledge than their non-Hispanic peers.
President Obama has launched a comprehensive zero-to-five plan – to dramatically expand early childhood education and continue to improve its quality – aimed at supporting the health, well-being, and future educational success of our children.
The Obama Administration has invested $5 billion in early learning through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to bolster the existing framework of federal programs and services to reach our youngest children, including Head Start, Early Head Start, child care and IDEA services for infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children. 19 percent of the nation’s child care subsidy recipients are Hispanic children, and 33 percent of the nation’s Head Start children are Hispanic.
Each day, over 11 million children under the age of 5 spend time outside of the care of their parents, and in a wide variety of environments – each of which should promote and encourage their early learning and development. The Obama Administration’s newly proposed Early Learning Challenge Fund (ELCF) would issue a challenge to states to establish model systems of early childhood education and to fund and implement pathways that will improve access to high-quality programs, to ensure that a greater share of children kindergarten prepared for success.
Race to the Top: Advancing Excellence and Driving Reform
The Obama Administration’s Race to the Top program dedicates $4 billion to spur systemic reform and to embrace changes in education policies and practices that will improve teaching and learning in America’s schools. A total of 46 states plus the District of Columbia applied to compete for a Race to the Top award, including 32 states which made significant changes in laws or policies to promote education reforms that are consistent with the principles reflected under the program. President Obama has proposed to expand the competition to local school districts in his 2012 budget, requesting $900 million for a new Race to the Top competition.
- The 12 states that have been selected as Race to the Top winners – including Tennessee, Delaware, Rhode Island, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and the District of Columbia – reach approximately 22% of the nation’s Hispanic student population.
- The Obama Administration has also dedicated $350 million to support consortia of states as they work to replace the current low-quality, off-the-shelf assessments with others that measure college- and career-readiness, and that are more useful to teachers, parents and students. From the beginning, these tests will be designed to fully include English language learners and to ensure that they are appropriately assessed.
Preparing Hispanic Students for College and Careers
In today’s global economy, a high-quality education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a prerequisite to success. Because economic progress and educational achievement are linked, educating every American student to graduate from high school prepared for college and for a career is a national imperative. The President has articulated this as the goal of America once again having the highest proportion of college graduates by the year 2020. To achieve this goal, our Administration has advanced four reforms: improving access to rigorous coursework that prepares students for college and a career, and to assessments that accurately measure student learning growth; ensuring that all students, including our neediest students, are taught by the great teachers they need, in schools led by effective school leaders; ensuring better data and information to follow student learning and to inform teaching; and implementing strategies to transform and improve those schools that have been persistently low-performing. Undertaking these reforms will require both hard work and new ideas to support continuous improvement and spur innovation.
The Obama Administration’s Investing in Innovation Fund dedicated $650 million to support the development and scaling-up of innovative educational models and solutions that help close achievement gaps and improve outcomes for high-need students. Through a competitive preference to applicants who focused on serving English language learners (ELLs), several of the winning applications under the Fund will incorporate plans to improve the achievement of ELLs, including:
- The Saint Vrain Valley School District in Longmont, Colorado, which will implement a project to address the unmet needs of Hispanic and English language learners at Skyline High School and its feeder schools, providing a sequence of focused for students. Elementary students will improve their literacy skills through focused supports and expanded learning time; middle school students will improve their mathematics skills and knowledge with math labs and an augmented school year; high school students will have improved science learning opportunities through a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics certification track.
- The Exploratorium in San Francisco, California, which will work with Sonoma Valley schools on a five-year project to refine a implement a professional development approach to increase the percentage of elementary teachers who are highly effective in supporting the science learning of English language learners.
In September 2010, the Obama Administration announced planning grants for 21 nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education under the Promise Neighborhoods, a program designed to support a cradle-through-college continuum of services to meet the educational challenges of students growing up in high-poverty communities. President Obama has proposed $150 million in his 2012 budget to support implementation of Promise Neighborhoods projects. Several grantees are developing plans to improve the learning, educational success, and healthy development of students in Hispanic communities, including:
- The Eastside Promise Neighborhood project in San Antonio, where the United Way will enlist and engage partners to work with five schools and an early childhood center serving an ethnically diverse neighborhood with a Hispanic majority and a growing Mexican immigrant population. This project will improve parent engagement, provide professional development to preschool and school staff, and deliver resources for economic redevelopment and housing.
- The Community Day Care Center in Lawrence, MA, which will work with several schools to develop sustainable educational supports and solutions in a community that is 68% Hispanic, and in which 40% of adults lack a high school diploma.
- Proyecto Pastoral at Dolores Mission, which will work in the 30-block Boyle Heights area in Los Angeles, a community where more than 90% of residents are Hispanic and one-third of families are below the poverty line.
Research clearly demonstrates that as students fall behind academically, the probability that they will drop out increases. Hispanic students experience an unacceptably high dropout rate – a challenge exacerbated by the middle school achievement gap and by the fact that more than one-third of Hispanic high school students are academically below grade level.
To help place a greater share of Hispanic students on track to college and careers, the Obama Administration is dedicating over $4 billion in School Improvement Grants to implement bold reforms that will transform one in twenty schools in America.
- Approximately 5,000 schools, or 5% of the total, linger as persistently low-performing schools – schools that have failed to make academic progress year after year.
- At the high school level, roughly 2,000 schools – about 12 percent of all high schools – produce nearly half of our nation’s dropouts, and up to 75 percent of minority dropouts.
- Nearly 1,000 schools across the country have received funding thorough the Obama Administration’s School Improvement Program. Approximately 40% of these are high schools, and 22% serve middle school students.
Improving College Affordability and Access for Hispanics
Today, a higher education is not just a pathway to opportunity – it is a prerequisite. Over the next decade, nearly eight in ten new job openings in the U.S. will require some workforce training or postsecondary education. And of the thirty fastest growing occupations in America, half require at least a 4-year college degree. Rising levels of education are critical to creating shared economic growth.
America once had one of the most educated workforces in the world but today, only 40 percent of young adults have a college degree – ranking ninth in the world in college completion. While close to 70 percent of high school graduates in the United States enroll in college within two years, only 57 percent graduate within six years. For low-income and minority students, the completion rate is closer to 45 percent. Students from high-income families are almost eight times as likely as their low-income peers to earn a bachelors degree by age 24. Closing this college attainment gap is critical to restoring America’s standing as a global leader in higher education.
Last year, the President signed the Heath Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA) to help address college affordability, access and success, and to regain America’s standing as a world leader in higher education by the end of the next decade. This legislation will help the nation reach the President’s goal, in part by putting college in reach for a greater number of Hispanic students:
- Federal Financial Aid that Puts Students First. By shifting the nation’s student aid system to the Direct Loans program, the HCERA put an end to wasteful subsidies to banks and used savings to strengthen college access for America’s Pell Grant recipients. Together with previous investments, funding under HCERA will more than double the amount of resources available to Pell Grants since President Obama took office, growing the award from $4,730 in 2008 to $5,550 today. It is estimated that more than 150,000 additional Pell Grant awards would be made to Hispanic students by 2020.
- More Affordable Student Loans. To ensure that Americans can better manage their student loan payments, the HCERA provides student borrowers new choices in how they repay their loans, including an income-based repayment option to cap monthly repayments at 10 percent of income for borrowers after 2014, and to have loans forgiven after 20 years. Public service workers – such as teachers, nurses, and those in military service – will see any remaining debt forgiven after 10 years. It is estimated that this expanded benefit will benefit approximately 143,000 Hispanic borrowers between 2014 and 2020.
- Building American Skills Through Community Colleges. President Obama has proposed ushering in new innovations and reforms for the nation’s community colleges to raise graduation rates, build industry partnerships, expand course offerings, and improve career and educational pathways. The HCERA includes a $2 billion investment to help America’s community colleges develop, improve, and expand education and career training to workers.
- Strengthening Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Over half of America’s Hispanic undergraduates attend a Hispanic-Serving Institution – that is, a public or private nonprofit college or university that has a student body that is at least 25 percent Hispanic. Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) serve a higher proportion of low- and middle-income students than their peers, and together they enroll nearly sixty percent of the nation’s 4.7 million minority undergraduate students. To better reach the President’s 2020 goal, the HCERA invests over $2.5 billion in these institutions over the next decade – including $1 billion at America’s HSIs. This funding that can be used to renew, reform, and expand higher education programs to ensure that Hispanics are provided every chance to rise to their full potential, earn their degrees, and enter or re-enter the workforce.
FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA TO HOST MENTORING EVENTS WITH RENOWNED WOMEN TO CELEBRATE WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA TO HOST MENTORING EVENTS WITH RENOWNED WOMEN TO CELEBRATE WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
On Wednesday, March 30th, First Lady Michelle Obama will host a special event during the annual celebration of Women’s History Month at the White House. Mrs. Obama will bring together more than twenty accomplished women, each paving their way in a variety of fields, to serve as mentors and share their experiences with students in the Washington, D.C. metro area. These women will showcase the important role mentoring can play in the lives of young people as they encourage all students, particularly young women, to pursue their dreams.
A full list of participants is below. Several of the guest mentors are associated with the Lifetime Network, an organization that has been a leader in celebrating women and in fostering mentorship in young girls. In support of the First Lady’s work on mentoring, Lifetime will launch a public outreach program which will include leading subsequent mentoring events across the country and producing a public service announcement campaign on the subject.
The First Lady has spoken frequently about the importance of encouraging and inspiring young people to achieve their full potential. She hosted a similar mentoring event with guest mentors and local high school students in March 2009, followed by similar events in Denver in November 2009 and Detroit in May 2010. She also started a White House leadership and mentoring initiative in November 2009 that paired White House staff as mentors with students at several local high schools. The program includes 20 young women who participate in monthly activities, such as learning about different careers and preparing for college.
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
1:45 PM – The First Lady will visit Ballou High School to meet with a group of students, share her experiences, and encourage them to strive for excellence while pursuing their career goals. This event will be open press but space is very limited; please RSVP with your vitals to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1:45 PM – During their visits to local schools, these guest mentors will give brief presentations on their backgrounds and then participate in a question and answer session with students. The list of women paired with local schools is below along with the appropriate media contact for each school. All visits are open press but space is very limited.
7:00 PM – The First Lady will invite the visiting women mentors to reconvene at the White House’s East Room for a dinner and program with 120 additional students from local schools and additional mentors from in and outside government. Performers include Ali Wentworth, Miri Ben-Ari and Anna Deveare Smith. The beginning of this program will be pooled press.
List of women mentors
- Miri Ben-Ari, Grammy Award winning violinist, recording artist, and philanthropist.
- General Dana Born, Dean of Faculty, United States Air Force Academy.
- Ambassador Nancy Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, and former U.S. Chief of Protocol for President George W. Bush.
- Geena Davis, Oscar award winning actress, producer, writer, philanthropist, and founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
- Dominique Dawes, Olympic gold medalist, motivational speaker, gymnastics coach, media analyst, and co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.
- Judith Jamison, award-winning dancer, choreographer, author, and Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
- Michelle Kwan, world renowned figure skater, Public Diplomacy Ambassador, and member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.
- Nina Lederman, Senior Vice-President of Series Programming and Development for Lifetime Networks.
- Ledisi, Grammy nominated recording artist, songwriter, and record producer.
- Lisa Leslie, Olympic Gold medalist and former WNBA professional basketball player.
- Vanessa Minnillo, actress, model, television host, and former Miss Teen USA.
- Ellen Ochoa, astronaut, engineer, and current Deputy Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
- Abbe Raven, President and CEO of A&E Television Networks.
- Tracee Ellis Ross, award-winning actress, producer, model, and philanthropist.
- Anna Deavere Smith, award-winning playwright, actress, and professor of Performance Studies at New York University.
- Hilary Swank, Two-time Academy Award Winning actress.
- Kerry Washington, award winning actress, philanthropist, and member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
- Ali Wentworth, comedienne, actress, correspondent, and author.
- Sherrie Westin, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Sesame Workshop.
- Alfre Woodard, award winning, film, stage, and television actress, and founder of Artists for a New South Africa.
- Louise Erdrich, Pulitzer Prize winning author.
- Rashida Jones, actress, screenwriter, board member to the International Peace Games and active philanthropist.
REVISED: Readout of the President’s Meeting with Members of Congress on Libya
On March 25, President Obama briefed a bipartisan, bicameral group of Members of Congress on the situation in Libya. The President and his team provided an update on accomplishments to date, including the full transfer of enforcement of the no-fly zone to NATO, and yesterday’s unanimous agreement among NATO allies to direct planning for NATO to assume command and control of the civilian protection component in accordance with UNSCR 1973. Following the briefing, the President answered multiple questions from the Members of Congress. The discussion lasted approximately one hour and took place in the White House Situation Room.
Joining from the Administration
Chief of Staff Bill Daley
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (via phone)
CJCS Mike Mullen
GEN Carter Ham (via via video conference)
Bipartisan bicameral group of members of Congress that participated (in person or by phone)
Speaker John Boehner
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell
Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl
Representative Adam Smith
Senator Carl Levin
Senator John McCain
Senator John Kerry
Senator Richard Lugar
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Representative Howard Berman
Senator Dianne Feinstein
Senator Saxby Chambliss
Representative Mike Rogers
Representative C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger
Senator Daniel Inouye
Senator Thad Cochran
Representative Hal Rogers
Representative Norm Dicks
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN ADDRESS TO THE NATION ON LIBYA
National Defense University
7:31 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Tonight, I’d like to update the American people on the international effort that we have led in Libya –- what we’ve done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.
I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform who, once again, have acted with courage, professionalism and patriotism. They have moved with incredible speed and strength. Because of them and our dedicated diplomats, a coalition has been forged and countless lives have been saved.
Meanwhile, as we speak, our troops are supporting our ally Japan, leaving Iraq to its people, stopping the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and going after al Qaeda all across the globe. As Commander-in-Chief, I’m grateful to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and to their families. And I know all Americans share in that sentiment.
For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That’s what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.
Libya sits directly between Tunisia and Egypt -– two nations that inspired the world when their people rose up to take control of their own destiny. For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant -– Muammar Qaddafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world –- including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents.
Last month, Qaddafi’s grip of fear appeared to give way to the promise of freedom. In cities and towns across the country, Libyans took to the streets to claim their basic human rights. As one Libyan said, “For the first time we finally have hope that our nightmare of 40 years will soon be over.”
Faced with this opposition, Qaddafi began attacking his people. As President, my immediate concern was the safety of our citizens, so we evacuated our embassy and all Americans who sought our assistance. Then we took a series of swift steps in a matter of days to answer Qaddafi’s aggression. We froze more than $33 billion of Qaddafi’s regime’s assets. Joining with other nations at the United Nations Security Council, we broadened our sanctions, imposed an arms embargo, and enabled Qaddafi and those around him to be held accountable for their crimes. I made it clear that Qaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power.
In the face of the world’s condemnation, Qaddafi chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people. Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. Water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misurata was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques were destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assaults from the air.
Confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis, I ordered warships into the Mediterranean. European allies declared their willingness to commit resources to stop the killing. The Libyan opposition and the Arab League appealed to the world to save lives in Libya. And so at my direction, America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass a historic resolution that authorized a no-fly zone to stop the regime’s attacks from the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people.
Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Qaddafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear.
At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Qaddafi declared he would show “no mercy” to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we wanted — if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.
It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.
We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Qaddafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit Qaddafi’s air defenses, which paved the way for a no-fly zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities, and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Qaddafi’s deadly advance.
In this effort, the United States has not acted alone. Instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition. This includes our closest allies -– nations like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey –- all of whom have fought by our sides for decades. And it includes Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who have chosen to meet their responsibilities to defend the Libyan people.
To summarize, then: In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians. It took us 31 days.
Moreover, we’ve accomplished these objectives consistent with the pledge that I made to the American people at the outset of our military operations. I said that America’s role would be limited; that we would not put ground troops into Libya; that we would focus our unique capabilities on the front end of the operation and that we would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners. Tonight, we are fulfilling that pledge.
Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and the no-fly zone. Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday. Going forward, the lead in enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners, and I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Qaddafi’s remaining forces.
In that effort, the United States will play a supporting role — including intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications. Because of this transition to a broader, NATO-based coalition, the risk and cost of this operation — to our military and to American taxpayers — will be reduced significantly.
So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear: The United States of America has done what we said we would do.
That’s not to say that our work is complete. In addition to our NATO responsibilities, we will work with the international community to provide assistance to the people of Libya, who need food for the hungry and medical care for the wounded. We will safeguard the more than $33 billion that was frozen from the Qaddafi regime so that it’s available to rebuild Libya. After all, the money doesn’t belong to Qaddafi or to us — it belongs to the Libyan people. And we’ll make sure they receive it.
Tomorrow, Secretary Clinton will go to London, where she will meet with the Libyan opposition and consult with more than 30 nations. These discussions will focus on what kind of political effort is necessary to pressure Qaddafi, while also supporting a transition to the future that the Libyan people deserve — because while our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people.
Now, despite the success of our efforts over the past week, I know that some Americans continue to have questions about our efforts in Libya. Qaddafi has not yet stepped down from power, and until he does, Libya will remain dangerous. Moreover, even after Qaddafi does leave power, 40 years of tyranny has left Libya fractured and without strong civil institutions. The transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the Libyan people will be a difficult task. And while the United States will do our part to help, it will be a task for the international community and –- more importantly –- a task for the Libyan people themselves.
In fact, much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya. On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all -– even in limited ways –- in this distant land. They argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, and America should not be expected to police the world, particularly when we have so many pressing needs here at home.
It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country -– Libya — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.
To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and -– more profoundly -– our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.
Moreover, America has an important strategic interest in preventing Qaddafi from overrunning those who oppose him. A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful –- yet fragile -– transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power. The writ of the United Nations Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling that institution’s future credibility to uphold global peace and security. So while I will never minimize the costs involved in military action, I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America.
Now, just as there are those who have argued against intervention in Libya, there are others who have suggested that we broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people, and do whatever it takes to bring down Qaddafi and usher in a new government.
Of course, there is no question that Libya -– and the world –- would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.
The task that I assigned our forces -– to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a no-fly zone -– carries with it a U.N. mandate and international support. It’s also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. If we tried to overthrow Qaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground to accomplish that mission, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.
To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.
As the bulk of our military effort ratchets down, what we can do — and will do — is support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We have intervened to stop a massacre, and we will work with our allies and partners to maintain the safety of civilians. We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supplies of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Qaddafi leaves power. It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Qaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power. But it should be clear to those around Qaddafi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on Qaddafi’s side. With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be.
Let me close by addressing what this action says about the use of America’s military power, and America’s broader leadership in the world, under my presidency.
As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than keeping this country safe. And no decision weighs on me more than when to deploy our men and women in uniform. I’ve made it clear that I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies and our core interests. That’s why we’re going after al Qaeda wherever they seek a foothold. That is why we continue to fight in Afghanistan, even as we have ended our combat mission in Iraq and removed more than 100,000 troops from that country.
There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and our common security -– responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us. They’re problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.
In such cases, we should not be afraid to act -– but the burden of action should not be America’s alone. As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.
That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown in Libya. Of course, even when we act as part of a coalition, the risks of any military action will be high. Those risks were realized when one of our planes malfunctioned over Libya. Yet when one of our airmen parachuted to the ground, in a country whose leader has so often demonized the United States –- in a region that has such a difficult history with our country –- this American did not find enemies. Instead, he was met by people who embraced him. One young Libyan who came to his aid said, “We are your friends. We are so grateful to those men who are protecting the skies.”
This voice is just one of many in a region where a new generation is refusing to be denied their rights and opportunities any longer.
Yes, this change will make the world more complicated for a time. Progress will be uneven, and change will come differently to different countries. There are places, like Egypt, where this change will inspire us and raise our hopes. And then there will be places, like Iran, where change is fiercely suppressed. The dark forces of civil conflict and sectarian war will have to be averted, and difficult political and economic concerns will have to be addressed.
The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. Only the people of the region can do that. But we can make a difference.
I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back, and that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed at one’s own people; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people.
Born, as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa, and that young people are leading the way. Because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States. Ultimately, it is that faith — those ideals — that are the true measure of American leadership.
My fellow Americans, I know that at a time of upheaval overseas — when the news is filled with conflict and change — it can be tempting to turn away from the world. And as I’ve said before, our strength abroad is anchored in our strength here at home. That must always be our North Star — the ability of our people to reach their potential, to make wise choices with our resources, to enlarge the prosperity that serves as a wellspring for our power, and to live the values that we hold so dear.
But let us also remember that for generations, we have done the hard work of protecting our own people, as well as millions around the globe. We have done so because we know that our own future is safer, our own future is brighter, if more of mankind can live with the bright light of freedom and dignity.
Tonight, let us give thanks for the Americans who are serving through these trying times, and the coalition that is carrying our effort forward. And let us look to the future with confidence and hope not only for our own country, but for all those yearning for freedom around the world.
Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you.
VPOTUS opened a bilateral statement with Moldovan PM Vlad Filat with comments on Japan: "The thoughts and prayers of the American people and I'm sure the Moldovan people when they find out are with our friends in Japan" who he said had suffered through a "mega-earthquake." "We the United States stand ready to do anything we can to help our Japanese friends as they deal with the aftermath of this tragedy."
Statement By The President On The Earthquake In Japan And The Resulting Tsunami Warning Throughout The Pacific
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 11, 2011 Statement By The President On The Earthquake In Japan And The Resulting Tsunami Warning Throughout The Pacific "Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis. The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial. The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy. We will continue to closely monitor tsunamis around Japan and the Pacific going forward and we are asking all our citizens in the affected region to listen to their state and local officials as I have instructed FEMA to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the US states and territories that could be affected."
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AND FIRST LADY
AT THE WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ON BULLYING PREVENTION
10:25 A.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Good morning. Thank you. (Applause.) Everyone, please. Good morning, and welcome to the White House.
I want to thank all of you for joining us here today to discuss an issue of great concern to me and to Barack, not just as President and as First Lady, but as a mom and a dad. And that is the problem of bullying in our schools and in our communities.
As parents, this issue really hits home for us. As parents, it breaks our hearts to think that any child feels afraid every day in the classroom, or on the playground, or even online. It breaks our hearts to think about any parent losing a child to bullying, or just wondering whether their kids will be safe when they leave for school in the morning.
And as parents, Barack and I also know that sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time, it’s really hard for parents to know what’s going on in our kids’ lives.
We don’t always know, because they don’t always tell us every little detail. We know that from Sasha. Sasha’s response is — “What happened at school today?” “Nothing.” (Laughter.) That’s it. It’s like, well, we’re taking you out of that school. (Laughter.)
So as parents, we know we need to make a real effort to be engaged in our children’s lives, to listen to them and be there for them when they need us. We need to get involved in their schools and in their activities so that we know what they’re up to, both in and out of the classroom. And when something is wrong, we need to speak up, and we need to take action.
That’s just what Jacqui Knight did. She’s a mom from Moore, Oklahoma, who’s here with us today. We got a chance to spend some time with her before. But when her child was bullied, she got together with other parents and planned community meetings where parents and students could share their stories. They also held meetings for the public to raise awareness about bullying. And they’ve been meeting with the school board and superintendent to discuss steps that they can take to keep their kids safe.
But parents aren’t the only ones who have a responsibility. We all need to play a role — as teachers, coaches, as faith leaders, elected officials, and anyone who’s involved in our children’s lives. And that doesn’t just mean working to change our kids’ behavior and recognize and reward kids who are already doing the right thing. It means thinking about our own behavior as adults as well.
We all know that when we, as adults, treat others with compassion and respect, when we take the time to listen and give each other the benefit of the doubt in our own adult lives, that sets an example for our children. It sends a message to our kids about how they treat others.
So we all have a lot of work to do in this country on this issue. And I hope that all of you, and everyone who is watching online, will walk away from this day, from this conference, with new ideas and solutions that you can all take back to your own schools and your own communities. And I hope that all of us will step up and do our part to keep our kids safe, and to give them everything they need to learn and grow and fulfill their dreams.
So with that, it is my pleasure to introduce this guy here — (laughter) — my husband and our President, President Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Well,
welcome to the White House. I want to thank Michelle for her introduction, and for marrying me — (laughter) — and for putting up with me.
I want to reiterate what Michelle said. Preventing bullying isn’t just important to us as President and First Lady; it’s important for us as parents — something we care deeply about.
We’re joined here by several members of Congress who’ve shown real leadership in taking up this cause. We’ve got a number of members of my administration with us today who are going to help us head up the efforts that come out of the White House on this issue. And I want to point out Judge Katherine O’Malley, the First Lady of Maryland. She is right here — Katherine. (Applause.) Thank you for being here. Thank you all for being here. You have a chance to make an enormous difference, and you already have.
Bullying isn’t a problem that makes headlines every day. But every day it touches the lives of young people all across this country. I want to thank all of you for participating in this conference. But more importantly, I want to thank you for being part of what’s a growing movement — led by young people themselves — to put a stop to bullying, whether it takes place in school or it’s taking place online.
And that’s why we’re here today. If there’s one goal of this conference, it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not. Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people. And it’s not something we have to accept. As parents and students, as teachers and members of the community, we can take steps — all of us — to help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe; a climate in which they all can feel like they belong.
As adults, we all remember what it was like to see kids picked on in the hallways or in the schoolyard. And I have to say, with big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune. (Laughter.) I didn’t emerge unscathed. But because it’s something that happens a lot, and it’s something that’s always been around, sometimes we’ve turned a blind eye to the problem. We’ve said, “Kids will be kids.” And so sometimes we overlook the real damage that bullying can do, especially when young people face harassment day after day, week after week.
So consider these statistics. A third of middle school and high school students have reported being bullied during the school year. Almost 3 million students have said they were pushed, shoved, tripped, even spit on. It’s also more likely to affect kids that are seen as different, whether it’s because of the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, the disability they may have, or sexual orientation.
And bullying has been shown to lead to absences and poor performance in the classroom. And that alone should give us pause, since no child should be afraid to go to school in this country.
Today, bullying doesn’t even end at the school bell — it can follow our children from the hallways to their cell phones to their computer screens. And in recent months, a series of tragedies has drawn attention to just how devastating bullying can be. We have just been heartbroken by the stories of young people who endured harassment and ridicule day after day at school, and who ultimately took their own lives. These were kids brimming with promise — kids like Ty Field, kids like Carl Walker-Hoover — who should have felt nothing but excitement for the future. Instead, they felt like they had nowhere to turn, as if they had no escape from taunting and bullying that made school something they feared. I want to recognize Ty’s mom and dad who are here today; Carl’s mother and sister who are here today. They’ve shown incredible courage as advocates against bullying in memory of the sons and the brother that they’ve lost. And so we’re so proud of them and we’re grateful to them for being here today. (Applause.)
No family should have to go through what these families have gone through. No child should feel that alone. We’ve got to make sure our young people know that if they’re in trouble, there are caring adults who can help and young adults that can help; that even if they’re having a tough time, they’re going to get through it, and there’s a whole world full of possibility waiting for them. We also have to make sure we’re doing everything we can so that no child is in that position in the first place. And this is a responsibility we all share — a responsibility we have to teach all children the Golden Rule: We should treat others the way we want to be treated.
The good news is, people are stepping up and accepting responsibility. They’re refusing to turn a blind eye to this problem. The PTA is launching a new campaign to get resources and information into the hands of parents. MTV is leading a new coalition to fight bullying online, and they’re launching a series of ads to talk about the damage that’s done when kids are bullied for the color of their skin or their religion or being gay or just being who they are. Others are leading their own efforts here today. And across the country, parents and students and teachers at the local level are taking action as well. They’re fighting not only to change rules and policies, but also to create a stronger sense of community and respect in their schools.
Joining this conference today is a young man I just had a chance to meet, Brandon Greene from Rhode Island. Brandon is 14 years old. Back in 6th grade, when he was just a kid, he did a class project on bullying. Now, two years later, it’s a school-wide organization with 80 members. They do monthly surveys in their school to track bullying rates. And what they realized is that stopping bullying isn’t just about preventing bad behavior — it’s also about working together and creating a positive atmosphere. So Brandon and his fellow committee members are now also doing activities like coat drives and community service at their school. And it’s making a real difference. So we’re very proud of Brandon and the great work he’s doing. (Applause.)
There are stories like this all across the country, where young people and their schools have refused to accept the status quo. And I want you all to know that you have a partner in the White House. As the former head of Chicago’s public schools, nobody understands this issue better than my Education Secretary, Arne Duncan. He’s going to be working on it, along with our Health Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius. Arne is going to head up our administration’s efforts, which began last year with a first-of-its-kind summit on bullying.
And we’re also launching a new resource called stopbullying.gov, which has more information for parents and for teachers. And as part of our education reform efforts, we’re encouraging schools to ask students themselves about school safety and how we can address bullying and other related problems — because, as every parent knows, sometimes the best way to find out what’s happening with our kids is to ask, even if you have to — if it’s in the case of Sasha, you have to keep on asking. (Laughter.)
Now, as adults, we can lose sight of how hard it can be sometimes to be a kid. And it’s easy for us to forget what it was like to be teased or bullied. But it’s also easy to forget the natural compassion and the sense of decency that our children display each and every day — when they’re given a chance.
A couple other young people that I just had a chance to meet — Sarah and Emily Buder, who are here from California. They’re right here next to the First Lady. And Sarah and Emily, they read a story about a girl named Olivia in a nearby town — this is a girl they didn’t know — who had faced a lot of cruel taunting in school and online because she had had an epileptic seizure in class. So they decided to write Olivia a letter, and asked their friends to do the same.
They figured they’d send Olivia about 50 letters. But in the months that followed, thousands and thousands of letters poured in from every corner of the country — it really tapped into something. A lot of the letters were from young people, and they wanted to wish Olivia well, and let her know that somebody out there was talking — was thinking about her, and let her know that she wasn’t alone. And because those children treated Olivia with that small measure of kindness, it helped Olivia see that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
The fact is, sometimes kids are going to make mistakes, sometimes they’re going to make bad decisions. That’s part of growing up. But it’s our job to be there for them, to guide them, and to ensure that they can grow up in an environment that not only encourages their talents and intelligence, but also their sense of empathy and their regard for one another.
And that’s what ultimately this conference is all about. And that’s why all the issues that we’re talking about really matter. And that’s how we’re going to prevent bullying and create an environment where every single one of our children can thrive.
So thank you for the good work that you’re already doing, and I’m sure you’re going to come up with some terrific ideas during the course of this conference. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
President and First Lady Call For a United Effort to Address Bullying
White House Highlights Private, Non-Profit, and Federal Commitments to Bullying Prevention
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the President and First Lady called for a united effort to address bullying at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention. Approximately 150 students, parents, teachers, non-profit leaders, advocates, and policymakers came together to discuss how they can work together to make our schools and communities safe for all students.
“If there’s one goal of this conference, it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not,” said President Obama. “Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people. And it’s not something we have to accept. As parents and students; teachers and communities, we can take steps that will help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe.”
“As parents, this issue really hits home for us. It breaks our hearts to think that any child feels afraid every day in the classroom, on the playground, or even online,” First Lady Michelle Obama said. “I hope that all of you – and everyone watching online – will walk away from this conference with new ideas and solutions that you can take back to your own schools and communities.”
Every day, thousands of children, teens, and young adults around the country are bullied. Estimates are that nearly one-third of all school-aged children are bullied each year – upwards of 13 million students. Students involved in bullying are more likely to have challenges in school, to abuse drugs and alcohol, and to have health and mental health issues. If we fail to address bullying we put ourselves at a disadvantage for increasing academic achievement and making sure all of our students are college and career ready.
The conference encouraged schools, communities, and the private sector to join together to combat bullying. Today the White House also highlighted private, non-profit, and federal commitments to bullying prevention.
Public-Private Partnerships, Commitments and Activities
Formspring and Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Formspring is a social network with over 22 million members, and is working with The MIT Media Lab, to develop new approaches to detect online bullying, and designing interfaces which help prevent it or mitigate it when it does occur. This approach uses a collection of common sense knowledge and reasoning techniques from artificial intelligence to understand online bullying at a deeper level than just words. MIT Media Lab and Formspring hope to build self-reflective interfaces that encourage social network participants to think sensibly about their behavior and suggest alternatives and coping strategies. Unlike spam filters, which work by collecting statistics on occurrences of particular words, the new MIT Media Lab and Formspring approach seeks to understand the intent behind the words. In addition, Formspring will discuss their corporate commitment to discovering & supporting the most advanced and meaningful technological innovations that can identify and curb online bullying and harassment.
MTV Networks: “A THIN LINE”
As part of MTV’s multi-year, award-winning A THIN LINE campaign, the network will launch a new anti-digital discrimination coalition, which will work with MTV to fight bullying and intolerance online (in partnership with the National Council of La Raza, Anti-Defamation League, Council on American-Islamic Relations, and GLAAD). MTV will also announce the forthcoming premiere of a poignant new feature film inspired by the true, tragic tale of Abraham Biggs – a 19-year-old who battled bipolar disorder and ultimately webcast his suicide after being egged on by a digital mob. The film will illustrate what can happen when we forget there’s a person on the other side of the screen, and serve as a powerful call to action to fight the spread of digital abuse. The network plans six new cyberbullying and digital discrimination public service announcements, encouraging bullying bystanders to support their friends, connect victims of digital abuse to resources, and drive home the serious impact typewritten words can have.
Facebook will unveil two new safety features in the coming weeks: a revamped multimedia Safety Center to incorporate multimedia, external resources from renowned experts, and downloadable information for teens. Additionally, they will create a new “Social Reporting” system to enable people to report content that violates Facebook policies so that it can be removed as soon as possible, while notifying parents or teachers of the content so that the reasons for its posting can be addressed.
SurveyMonkey—a “do-it-yourself” survey tool—allows anyone to survey people quickly and easily. More than 100 million people are interviewed in the education space each. The familiarity with the application, combined with its ease of use, create an opportunity to help students and administrators alike to use SurveyMonkey to collect information about the prevalence of bullying in schools. To facilitate data collection, SurveyMonkey has created a dedicated page for bullying detection which includes a 10 question survey that students can adopt in order to distribute and disseminate via email, on fliers, through Facebook, and elsewhere. The application is free to use.
National Education Association: “Bully-Free: It Starts with Me.”
The National Education Association (NEA) is launching a nationwide anti-bullying campaign entitled Bully-Free: It Starts with Me. Through this new online campaign, the NEA will identify and support caring adults in each school who will listen and act on behalf of bullied students in schools across America. The NEA will invite its members to join the campaign and will work to extend the campaign to the broader community. NEA will also release a new study on bullying in schools – based on a survey of more than 5,000 educators. Findings from the National Education Association’s Nationwide Study of Bullying: Teachers’ and Education Support Professionals’ Perspectives represents the first nationwide study of teachers’ and education support professionals’ perspectives on bullying and bullying prevention efforts.
American Federation of Teachers: “See a Bully, Stop a Bully, Make a Difference”
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is launching a national bullying campaign, See a Bully, Stop a Bully. Make a Difference, focused on raising bullying awareness and providing resources, training, and technical assistance for leaders and members. AFT will be hosting regional summits, holding a series of topical webinars, and developing new materials for the campaign, and incorporating it into their Back to School efforts. AFT is also working with various organizations including America’s Promise Alliance, the national PTA, AASA, GLAAD, NASP, ASCA, NEA, and GLSEN to amplify an anti-bullying message. The AFT has accelerated their efforts during the fall of 2010 in response to heightened awareness of bullying as well as the federal guidance issued by the Department of Education detailing the obligations of local school districts and state education departments to address bullying.
National PTA: “Connect for Respect”
National PTA is launching a campaign called Connect for Respect, asking PTAs nationwide to host a Connect for Respect event in their communities and to share resources with parents about bullying in the schools they serve. The campaign will also encourage parents to talk to their child about bullying and to advocate for policies and practices that create a safe school climate for all children. PTA will launch a communications campaign to promote Connect for Respect with PTA leaders and members across the country. PTA will issue five tip sheets for PTAs and for parents to increase their understanding of bullying, how to prevent it, and how to recognize if your child is the bully; create tools to share how to create a Connect for Respect event; and re-launch PTA.org/bullying, which will house all of the PTA resources.
National Association of Student Councils: “Raising Student Voice and Participation Bullying Challenge”
The National Association of Student Councils (NASC) declares its commitment to foster a national student-led conversation and call to action utilizing its Raising Student Voice & Participation (RSVP) process. Through RSVP, student councils can lead student summits to identify strategies and projects that address the problem of bullying. NASC will also involve its sister organizations, the National Honor Society (NHS) and National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) expanding its outreach to some 33,000 student groups in middle level and high schools around the nation. The NASC Raising Student Voice and Participation (RSVP) process was launched during the 2006-2007 school year.
National School Boards Association: “Students on Board for Bullying Prevention”
The National School Boards Association (NSBA) will launch a series of student conversations between boards of education and students in middle and high school. The conversations will be about the climate in their schools, and will be guided by questions from the research-based school climate surveys developed by the Council of Urban Boards of Education and by the Pearson Foundation’s Million Voices project.
The Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention
Early in the Obama Administration, six federal agencies (Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Justice, Defense, Agriculture, and Interior) joined together to establish the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Steering Committee to explore ways to provide guidance for individuals and organizations in combating bullying. This interagency group was recently joined by the National Council on Disability and the Federal Trade Commission. In August of last year, the Steering Committee brought together non-profit leaders, researchers, parents, and youth to begin the national discussion and identify issues requiring additional guidance and clarification. Since that convening, the Steering Committee has focused on the following activities:
- StopBullying.gov: This website will launch at today’s Conference to provide information from various government agencies on how children, teens, young adults, parents, educators and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying. The website will provide information on what bullying is, its risk factors, its warning signs and its effects. It will also provide details on how to get help for those that have been victimized by bullying.
- Enforcing Civil Rights Laws: Last October, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights issued guidance as a “Dear Colleague” letter to clarify issues of bullying and violation of federal education anti-discrimination laws. The guidance explains educators’ legal obligations to protect students from student-on-student racial and national origin harassment, sexual and gender-based harassment, and disability harassment.
- Shaping State Laws and Policies: In December of last year, Secretary Duncan issued a memo toGovernors and Chief State School Officers in each state providing technical assistance and outlining key components of comprehensive and effective state anti-bullying laws and policies.
In addition to the Steering Committee’s work, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has also created the Stop Bullying Now! Campaign to raise awareness about bullying; prevent and reduce bullying behaviors; identify interventions and strategies; and encourage and strengthen partnerships. SBN was developed by a steering committee and implementation work group that included more than seventy organizations from in and out of government. The campaign covers ages five to eighteen years old, and includes tool kits to encourage and empower youth to mentor younger children to take action again bullying.
The Department of Education’s Safe and Supportive Schools competitive grant program requires recipient states to measure school safety, which includes issues of bullying and harassment, at the building level by surveying students. Federal funds are available for interventions in those schools identified as having the greatest need. The Department of Education has awarded grants to 11 States for activities under this program.
Background on White House Conference on Bullying Prevention
On Thursday, March 10, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services will welcome students, parents, and teachers in addition to non-profit leaders, advocates, and policymakers to the White House for a Conference on Bullying Prevention. The Conference will bring together communities from across the nation that have been affected by bullying as well as those who are taking action to address it. Participants will speak about the effects of bullying and the work of students, parents, and teachers nationwide. The Conference will also showcase the work and commitments made by several non-profit and corporate leaders on this issue. StopBullying.gov provides information from various government agencies on how kids, teens, young adults, parents, educators and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying.
The Conference will begin at 10:30 am ET in the East Room with opening remarks from the President and First Lady on bullying prevention (open press), followed by a conversation with experts on effective programs and policies to prevent bullying, led by White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, at 11:00 am ET also in the East Room (open press).
Today’s Conference will also include breakout sessions (pooled press) to discuss effective policies and programs to prevent bullying followed by a wrap-up session in the South Court Auditorium at 2:00 pm ET, in which Secretaries Duncan and Sebelius along with Domestic Policy Advisor Melody Barnes will deliver remarks (open press). In order to engage audiences across the country, two of the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention breakout sessions will be live chats with Facebook and iVillage. The opening and wrap-up sessions will be live streamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live. Below is a list of the Conference on Bullying Prevention breakout sessions.
IN-SCHOOL POLICIES – Led by Tom Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil
Rights, Department of Justice and Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights,
Department of Education
Establishing clear and consistent policies in schools is key to establishing a climate in which it is clear that no bullying, regardless of form, type or severity, will be tolerated in school. Effective policies rely not only on carefully crafted policies but also on consistent implementation and messaging about the policies. This breakout will focus on the need for policies, their key components, and the tools for implementation.
IN–SCHOOL PROGRAMS – Led by Director of the Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes and Michael Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President & Counselor to the Senior Advisor for Strategic Engagement
Preventive education and supportive school structures are important elements in reducing bullying in schools. Yet, few evidence-based programs have proven effective at reducing bullying in the United States and those that have are cost-prohibitive for many schools. This breakout will focus on how schools can achieve the support necessary to implement effective bullying prevention strategies.
COMMUNITY BASED PROGRAMS – Led by John Gomperts, Director of AmeriCorps and Dr. Mary Wakefield, Administrator of Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services
Bullying does not just occur at schools and its effects can be felt throughout a community. Schools and communities must work together to help identify bullying, implement prevention strategies, and communicate a consistent message that bullying is not okay. This breakout will focus on how all stakeholders in a community can work together to prevent bullying.
CYBERBULLYING – Led by Aneesh Chopra, Associate Director for Technology, Office of Science and Technology Policy and Howard Schmidt Special Assistant to the President & Cybersecurity Coordinator, National Security Staff
Cyberbullying, or bullying through technology such as social networking sites, instant messages, or text messaging, presents a new challenge for broader bullying prevention considerations. Unlike traditional forms, cyberbullying can occur 24/7 to a wide audience and gives those who engage in the behavior a false sense of anonymity. Because cyberbullying can happen anywhere, at anytime, this breakout will focus on the additional challenges to addressing this behavior.
CAMPUS-BASED PROGRAMS – Led by Eduardo Ochoa, Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, Department of Education and Charlie Rose, General Counsel, Department of Education
When students reach college-age, the circumstances surrounding their peer relationships, change. For many young adults, college marks the first time they are living away from parents and family and the first time they are considered adults in the eyes of the law. This breakout will focus on the unique set of circumstances that make addressing “bullying” different and difficult on college campuses.
12:20 PM ET: A SPECIAL “FACEBOOK LIVE” EVENT – with Stephanie Cutter, Assistant to the President & Deputy Senior Advisor, Melody Barnes, White House Domestic Policy Advisor, Joe Sullivan, Facebook Chief Security Officer, and guests
White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, White House Deputy Senior Advisor Stephanie Cutter, Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan, MTV’s Vice President of Public Affairs Jason Rzepka and author Rosalind Wiseman will take live questions from the public via the White House Facebook account on bullying prevention.
Live online at: www.whitehouse.gov/live
1:15 PM ET: OPEN FOR QUESTIONS – with Secretary Sebelius
Kelly Wallace, iVillage Chief Correspondent, poses questions from the iVillage audience on bullying prevention to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
Live online at: www.whitehouse.gov/live
12:30 PM ET: Education Secretary to Discuss White House Conference on Bullying Prevention during National Press Call
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will discuss the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention during a national press call at 12:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 10. On the call, Duncan will be joined by Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS). OSDFS has led many of the Administration’s initiatives to help schools create healthy learning environments through its Safe and Supportive School grants program. The office has also initiated several discussions about the harmful impact of bullying and harassment on academic performance and the critical need to pursue prevention methods and programs to help protect students. Members of the media who want to join the call should dial 800-230-1074 and ask to join the “White House call.” No passcode is necessary.
2:00 PM ET: Administration Officials Deliver Closing Remarks at Conference Wrap Up Session
Secretary Sebelius, Secretary Duncan, and White House Domestic Policy Advisor Barnes hold a wrap up session summarizing the day.
Live online at: www.whitehouse.gov/live
President Obama Nominates Two to Serve as U.S. Marshals
WASHINGTON- Today, President Obama nominated Robert “Bobby” Mathieson and Juan Mattos Jr. to serve as U.S. Marshals.
“Throughout their careers, these dedicated law enforcement professionals have shown an unwavering commitment to public service,” said President Obama. “I am honored to nominate them to serve the American people as U.S. Marshals.”
Robert “Bobby” Mathieson: Nominee for United States Marshal for the Eastern District of Virginia
Robert “Bobby” Mathieson began his law enforcement career with the Virginia Beach Police Department in 1975. He retired in 2002 as a Master Police Officer to take a leadership position with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. In 2008, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. He currently serves as Director of Business Development for Virginia Beach-based Rileen Innovative Technologies.
Juan Mattos Jr.: Nominee for United States Marshal for the District of New Jersey
Juan Mattos Jr. began his law enforcement career with the New Jersey State Police as a Trooper in 1975. He rose through the ranks over the next thirty years to become a Lt. Colonel, a position he held from 2002 until his retirement in 2010. He currently serves as an Agent with the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office in Edison, New Jersey. Mattos obtained his bachelor’s degree from Jersey City State College and holds a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Monmouth University.