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.
Statement by President Barack Obama on the Violence in Cote d’Ivoire
I strongly condemn the abhorrent violence against unarmed civilians in Cote d’Ivoire. I am particularly appalled by the indiscriminate killing of unarmed civilians during peaceful rallies, many of them women, including those who were gunned down as they marched in support of the legitimately elected President Alassane Ouattara. Reports indicate that the women were shot to death by security forces loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo. On March 8—the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day—we saw pictures of women peacefully rallying with signs that said, “Don’t shoot us”—a strong testament to the bravery of women exercising their right of peaceful assembly.
The United States remains deeply concerned about escalating violence, including the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis and its impact in Cote d’Ivoire and neighboring countries. All armed parties in Cote d’Ivoire must make every effort to protect civilians from being targeted, harmed, or killed. The United States reiterates its commitment to work with the international community to ensure that perpetrators of such atrocities be identified and held individually accountable for their actions.
As we have said since the election results in Cote d’Ivoire were certified: the people of Cote d’Ivoire elected Allasane Oattara as their President, and Laurent Gbagbo lost the election. Former President Gbagbo’s efforts to hold on to power at the expense of his own country are an assault on the universal rights of his people, and the democracy that the Cote d’Ivoire deserves. The people of Cote d’Ivoire have extraordinary talent and potential, and they deserve leadership that is responsive to their hopes and aspirations. It is time for former President Gbagbo to heed the will of his people, and to complete a peaceful transition of power to President Oattara.
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts
WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:
- Dereth Glance, Commissioner, International Joint Commission, Department of State
- Rich Moy, Commissioner, International Joint Commission, Department of State
- Daniel B. Shapiro, Ambassador to Israel, Department of State
- Ben S. Bernanke, U.S. Alternate Governor, International Monetary Fund
- Christopher B. Howard, Member, National Security Education Board
President Obama said, “These fine public servants bring both a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles. Our nation will be well-served by these individuals, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”
Ben S. Bernanke is being nominated to continue his service as U.S. Alternate Governor to the International Monetary Fund; he would hold this position in addition to his post as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:
Dereth Glance, Nominee for Commissioner, International Joint Commission, Department of State
Dereth Glance is currently the Executive Program Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a non-profit citizens environmental and public health advocacy organization in New York and Connecticut. Previously, Ms. Glance worked for Defenders of Wildlife, Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana, and the Michigan League for Human Services. Ms. Glance is a board member for the Clean Water Network, a coalition of state, regional, and national organizations. She also serves on the New York State Great Lakes Basin Advisory Council and the Clean Water Collaborative. Ms. Glance is a board member for the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency and chairs the Recycling Committee. She also chairs the Community Participation Working Group for the Onondaga Lake Bottom Superfund sub-site and serves on the Outreach Committee for the Onondaga Lake Partnership. Ms. Glance earned a B.A. in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy from the James Madison College of Public Affairs at Michigan State University.
Rich Moy, Nominee for Commissioner, International Joint Commission, Department of State
Rich Moy is a Senior Fellow at the Center of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy at the University of Montana and a land and water consultant. From 1981 to 2008, Mr. Moy worked as Water Management Bureau Chief for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation where he focused on using collaborative, strategic and science-based approaches for solving water policy, planning and management issues. In that capacity, Mr. Moy worked with the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the Canadian federal government on water quality, wildlife, fisheries, apportionment, and landscape issues. Prior to that, Mr. Moy directed Montana’s involvement in the High Plains Research Experiment for 4 years and before that, worked as a park ranger and ecologist for Glacier National Park. Recently, Mr. Moy served as chair of the Flathead Basin Commission which has a statutory duty to protect water quality and the environment of the largest fresh water lake west of the Mississippi River. Mr. Moy holds an M.A. and B.A. from the University of Montana.
Daniel B. Shapiro, Nominee for Ambassador to Israel, Department of State
Daniel B. Shapiro is currently Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa on the National Security Staff at the White House, a position he has held since January of 2009. Mr. Shapiro served as a Senior Policy Advisor with a focus on Middle East policy on the Obama for America campaign and the Obama-Biden Transition. From 2007 to 2008, Mr. Shapiro was Vice President of Timmons and Company, and from 2001 to 2007, he served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. Prior to that, Mr. Shapiro served as Director for Legislative Affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton Administration. From 1995 to 1999, he was a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, and from 1993 to 1995, he served as a Professional Staff Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Shapiro holds an A.M. from Harvard University and a B.A. from Brandeis University.
Ben S. Bernanke, Nominee for U.S. Alternate Governor, International Monetary Fund
Ben S. Bernanke is currently serving in his second term as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Dr. Bernanke also serves as Chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee. He originally took office as Chairman on February 1, 2006, when he also began a 14-year term as a member of the Board. Before his appointment as Chairman, Dr. Bernanke was Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, from June 2005 to January 2006. In addition, he was a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 2002 to 2005. From 1996 to 2002, Dr. Bernanke was the Howard Harrison and Gabrielle Snyder Beck Professor of Economics and Public Affairs and Chair of the Economics Department at Princeton University. Before that, Dr. Bernanke served in various teaching roles at Princeton University, Stanford University, New York University and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Bernanke holds a B.A. in economics from Harvard University (summa cum laude) and a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Christopher B. Howard, Nominee for Member, National Security Education Board
Dr. Christopher B. Howard is the twenty-fourth President of Hampden-Sydney College located near Richmond, Virginia. From 2005-2009 he served as the Vice President for Leadership & Strategic Initiatives at the University of Oklahoma (OU). Prior to his position at OU, Dr. Howard worked in General Electric’s Corporate Initiatives Group and in international project management, sales, marketing and strategic planning at Bristol-Myers Squibb. He remains a reserve Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, earned a bronze star for his military service in Afghanistan, and is currently the Reserve Air Attaché to Liberia. He is a co-founder and trustee of the Impact Young Lives Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that provides travel opportunities and mentors for disadvantaged South African university students. Dr. Howard is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow and a member of the Association of American Rhodes Scholars Board of Trustees. Dr. Howard holds an M. Phil. and D. Phil. from the University of Oxford where he was a Rhodes Scholar, an MBA with distinction from the Harvard Business School, and a B.S. from the United States Air Force Academy.
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H. R. 1 – Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011
(Rep. Rogers, R-Kentucky)
The Administration strongly opposes Senate passage of H.R. 1, making appropriations for the Department of Defense and the other departments and agencies of the Government for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2011, and for other purposes. As stated previously, the Administration is committed to cutting spending and reducing the deficit so that current Government spending does not add to the debt, and has put forward a plan to do just that. However, the Administration does not support deep cuts that will undermine our ability to out-educate, out-build, and out-innovate the rest of the world. The unbalanced bill would undermine the Nation’s economic recovery and its ability to succeed in a complex global environment. If the President is presented with a bill that undermines critical priorities or national security through funding levels or restrictions, contains earmarks, or curtails the drivers of long-term economic growth and job creation while continuing to burden future generations with deficits, the President will veto the bill.
The Administration strongly supports Senate passage of the Inouye substitute amendment 149, which responds to the Administration’s call to meet the House half-way in achieving the $102 billion in reductions that advocates for H.R. 1 have proposed. The amendment is a fair compromise and, unlike H.R. 1, does not undermine the Nation’s economic recovery and long-term growth.
The Administration will continue to work with the Congress to reduce spending and do so in a manner that reflects sound economic policy, protects key investments, and allows critical Government functions to operate without interruption for the remainder of the fiscal year underway.
Statement by the President on the Passing of David Broder
Like so many here in Washington and across the country, Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of a true giant of journalism, David Broder. David filed his first story from our nation’s capital before starting as a junior political writer on the 1960 presidential election. In the decades that followed, he built a well-deserved reputation as the most respected and incisive political commentator of his generation – winning a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Watergate and earning the affectionate title of Dean of the Washington press corps. Through all his success, David remained an eminently kind and gracious person, and someone we will dearly miss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this difficult time.
Praise for President Obama’s Choice to Nominate Gary Locke to be Ambassador to China
Below please see some statements of support from business leaders on the President’s choice to nominate Gary Locke to be Ambassador to China.
John Frisbie, President, US-China Business Council (USCBC)
“Gary Locke is a great choice to serve as the next US Ambassador to China. As a former elected official, he understands how ordinary Americans view the relationship with China. With his background as secretary of Commerce, he understands that trade and investment ties with China are important to American jobs and economic prosperity. Secretary Locke made China one of his top priorities as Commerce secretary. He is focused on results, measured by both export growth and solving market access issues, and he understands how China works. He will be a respected and effective US Ambassador to China.”
Jim McNerney, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO, The Boeing Company
“I applaud President Obama’s decision to nominate Secretary Gary Locke as the next United States Ambassador to China. Gary Locke’s experience as the Secretary of Commerce, the Governor of Washington State, and various positions in the private sector will serve him well in helping to manage the United States’ important and complex relationship with China. While leading the Department of Commerce and serving on the President’s Export Promotion Cabinet, Secretary Locke has vigorously promoted the National Export Initiative, advocated for fair international trade policies, and initiated important reforms of export-control regulations. Upon confirmation, we look forward to Secretary Locke’s work as our next Ambassador in Beijing.”
Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company and Chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council
“Secretary Locke’s leadership roles in business and government, combined with his recent success in strengthening U.S.-China commercial relations makes him ideally suited to be a strong and effective Ambassador to China. Over the long run, innovation, economic growth and diplomatic harmony are most effectively achieved by free and fair trade and open dialogue. For these reasons, we are extremely pleased to see Secretary Locke nominated for this vital role.”
Robert A. Iger, President and CEO, The Walt Disney Company
“Under Secretary Locke’s leadership, the Department of Commerce was focused on creating the kind of strong, supportive environment required for American businesses to thrive in the face of increasing global competition. I’m confident he’ll bring the same level of leadership and advocacy to his new role, representing the interests of our nation in China.”
Jim Rogers, CEO, Duke Energy
“Gary Locke has advanced our country’s relationship with China while serving as Commerce Secretary and his nomination as U.S Ambassador to China is an inspired choice. Locke’s personal China roots run deep and there is no one in the Administration as passionate about more aggressively developing trade and diplomatic relationships between our two nations. We saw Locke’s passion first-hand when we participated in his trade mission to China last year, and we are eager to continue to work with him after he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as our new Ambassador to China.”
Bob Pisano, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA)
“Secretary Locke has a strong record in support of American workers and businesses whose livelihoods are dependent on exports. And, he has an outstanding record of championing intellectual property rights. As Ambassador to China, he will be an important advocate in a nation where the theft and illegal distribution of American movies, television shows, music, software and other forms of intellectual property is a major threat to American competitiveness. Likewise, he will help lead efforts to ensure that the Chinese marketplace is opened up to American products that face far too many restrictions. We look forward to working with Secretary Locke in his new role on these issues that are so critical to the film and television industry and its 2.4 million employees.”
Harold (Terry) McGraw III, Chairman, President and CEO, The McGraw-Hill Companies
“The business community is grateful to Gary Locke who has been a tireless advocate for American trade and exports. He brought a Governor’s discipline and sense of purpose to the job of Commerce Secretary and focused on improving commercial ties with our major trading partners such as China and India.
Gary will be steadfast as Ambassador to China in promoting access for American companies and ensuring that fair trading conditions are met.”
Robert Holleyman, President and CEO, Business Software Alliance (BSA)
“Secretary Locke is an exceptionally well-qualified and respected choice to be US Ambassador to China. He is an energetic and effective champion for US industry in general and for software companies and other copyright holders in particular. The software industry faces an enormous challenge with rampant piracy in China. Secretary Locke, working with President Obama, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, has succeeded in elevating the use of illegal software and other intellectual property concerns to the top of the bilateral economic agenda. BSA looks forward to continuing to work with Secretary Locke to achieve progress through his new position.”
Wendell P. Weeks, Chairman and CEO, Corning Incorporated
“Secretary Locke has a unique combination of talent and experience to enhance the level of cooperation between the United States and China. As Governor of the nation’s most trade-dependant state and as the Secretary of Commerce, he has clearly developed an understanding of the complex economic and political forces that drive our bilateral relationship. And, he has an appreciation for Chinese culture that will certainly enable him to earn the confidence of his host government.”
Dave Cote, Chairman and CEO, Honeywell
“I believe the appointment of Gary Locke as U.S. Ambassador to China is an inspired choice. He was action oriented as Commerce Secretary and I have no doubt he’ll be the same way in China. We need comprehensive and thoughtful engagement with the Chinese. Locke’s experience in working through tough issues at Commerce and as Governor of Washington make him uniquely qualified for this role. He is well respected in China and here in the United States and I believe he is the right person for this role.”
Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo
“This is good news. I’m very pleased that Secretary Locke will become our new ambassador to China. Over these past few years, I’ve traveled overseas with him and have been impressed with both his cooperative, business-friendly approach and his strong commitment to the critically important issue of creating good jobs.”
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN ANNOUNCING SECRETARY GARY LOCKE
AS THE NEW AMBASSADOR TO CHINA
Diplomatic Reception Room
10:55 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. As many people know, our current Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, has decided to step down from his current job. During his tenure, Jon has been an outstanding advocate for this administration and for this country. He made a real sacrifice in moving his family out of the state that they loved and has helped to strengthen our critical relationship with the Chinese government and the Chinese people. And so I am very grateful for his service.
In replacing Ambassador Huntsman, I can think of nobody who is more qualified than Gary Locke. More than 100 years ago, Gary’s grandfather left China on a steamship bound for America, where he worked as a domestic servant in Washington State. A century later, his grandson will return to China as America’s top diplomat.
In the years between these milestones, Gary has distinguished himself as one of our nation’s most respected and admired public servants. As our country’s first Chinese-American governor, he worked tirelessly to attract jobs and businesses to Washington State, and he doubled exports to China.
Two years ago, I asked Gary to continue this work as Commerce Secretary. I wanted him to advocate for America’s businesses and American exports all around the world, make progress on our relationship with China, and use the management skills he developed as governor to reform a complex and sprawling agency.
He has done all that and more. He’s been a point person for my National Export Initiative, and last year, Gary’s department led an historic number of trade missions that helped promote American businesses and support American jobs. He’s overseen an increase in American exports, and particularly exports to China, a country we recently signed trade deals with that will support 235,000 American jobs.
As Commerce Secretary, Gary oversaw a Census process that ended on time and under budget, returning $2 billion to American taxpayers. He’s earned the trust of business leaders across America by listening to their concerns, making it easier for them to export their goods abroad, and dramatically reducing the time it takes to get a patent. When he’s in Beijing, I know that American companies will be able to count on him to represent their interests in front of China’s top leaders.
As one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, our relationship with China is one of the most critical of the 21st century. Over the last two years we worked hard to build a relationship that serves our national interest -– addressing global security issues and expanding opportunities for American companies and American workers. Continued cooperation between our countries will be good for America, it will be good for China, and it will be good for the world.
As the grandson of a Chinese immigrant who went on to live the American Dream, Gary is the right person to continue this cooperation. I know he will bring the same skills and experience that he brought to Commerce Secretary to this new position that he’s about to embark on.
I want to thank him and I also want to thank his gorgeous and extraordinary family, who’s standing here — Mona, Emily, Dylan, and Maddy. It’s always tough to move families. Maddy just turned 14 today, so I was commiserating –
SECRETARY LOCKE: Emily.
THE PRESIDENT: Emily just turned 14 today, so I was commiserating with her as somebody who moved around a lot when I was a kid as well. I assured her it would be great 10 years from now. (Laughter.) Right now it’s probably a drag. But I’m absolutely confident that this is — we could not have better representative of the United States of America in this critical relationship than we’re going to get from the Locke family.
And, Gary, I wish you all the best of luck in Beijing. Thank you so much.
SECRETARY LOCKE: Thank you, Mr. President. Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. And I’m deeply humbled and honored to be chosen as your next ambassador to China.
It was a little over a century ago that my grandfather first came to America to work as a houseboy for a family in the state of Washington in exchange for English lessons. And he went back to China, had a family, and so my father was also born in China, and came over as a teenager a few years later. He then enlisted in the United States Army just before the outbreak of World War II, became part of that “greatest generation,” and saw action on the beaches of Normandy and on the march to Berlin, and then came back to Seattle to raise a family and start a small business.
My father never imagined that one of his children could ever serve as the Secretary of Commerce in the United States of America. And he was beaming with pride, Mr. President, the day you presided over my swearing-in ceremony. Sadly, Dad passed away this past January. But I know that if he were still alive, it would be one of his proudest moments to see his son named as the United States ambassador to his ancestral homeland.
I’m going back to the birthplace of my grandfather, my father, my mom and her side of the family, and I’ll be doing so as a devoted and passionate advocate for America, the country where I was born and raised.
As Commerce Secretary, I’ve helped open up foreign markets for American businesses so they can create more jobs right here in America. And I’m eager to continue that work in China and to help you, Mr. President, manage one of America’s most critical and complex diplomatic, economic, and strategic relationships.
I’m excited to take on this new challenge, as is my wife and our children — to varying degrees among the kids. (Laughter.) And we’ll be leaving Washington, D.C., with great memories and many new friends.
Being Commerce Secretary has been one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, thanks to the immensely talented and dedicated men and women within the Department of Commerce, in the White House, and within the Cabinet. And I’m proud of the work that we’ve done at the Commerce Department, delivering services faster, serving the needs of U.S. businesses and workers, saving taxpayers billions of dollars by being more efficient in everything that we do. And I’m confident that these accomplishments will stand the test of time.
Mr. President, I’m eager to assume this new position. And it’s a privilege and a solemn responsibility to serve you and the American people as the next United States ambassador to China. Thank you for the confidence and the trust that you’ve placed in me. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you so much.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT A DCCC FUNDRAISER
Museum of Fine Arts
March 8, 2011
6:33 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Everybody please have a seat. Have a seat.
Ed Markey, thanks for your extraordinary service and thanks for the very kind introduction. There are a few other people I want to make sure to introduce. First of all, our chief host, the outstanding mayor of this great city of Boston, Tom Menino. (Applause.) We’ve got Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray in the house as well. (Applause.) State senate president Therese Murray is here. (Applause.) The DCCC chairman Steve Israel. (Applause.) Somebody who has been just an extraordinary partner for me over the last several years, somebody who’s going to go down as one of the greatest Speakers in our history, Nancy Pelosi. (Applause.) And also, I’ve just got to point out, even though she’s going to blush and wave me off, a dear friend, somebody who I’ve just come to love, Vicki Kennedy is here. (Applause.)
And thank you to the museum for this spectacular setting. We have had quite a wild ride over the last two years. Many of you were early supporters of Nancy’s, early supporters of mine. Back in 2008, we were absolutely convinced that the country was moving in the wrong direction and we had a vision to make it right.
And when I first was sworn into office, I think a lot of us still didn’t fully understand the magnitude of the difficulties that this country was going to be going through. We lost 4 million jobs in the six months before I was sworn into office, and another 4 million before any of our economic policies had a chance to be put into place. And so when the rubble had cleared, when the dust had settled, this country was going through as tough a time economically, as tough a time financially, as any period since the 1930s. And it meant that we had to make a series of quick decisions, and oftentimes very unpopular decisions. And in that circumstance, there would have been an enormous temptation to resort to the expedient — to look at the polls, to put your finger out to the wind, and to put political security over America’s long-term security.
And nowhere was that more true than in the House of Representatives. This museum is filled with artifacts of America’s history. And as many of you know, the theory has always been the Senate is the saucer that cools the passions of the polity, and the House of Representatives, well, it’s boiling hot all the time. And because when you’re running for the House of Representatives you get a two-year term, you are very vulnerable to the spikes, the ups and downs of politics at any given moment.
And that’s why when I say I think Nancy is going to go down as one of our finest Speakers, when I say publicly “thank you” to an Ed Markey or a Steve Israel, I mean what I say. Because over the last two years, not only were we able to yank this economy out of a recession, not only were we able to get the economy growing again so that over the last 15 months we’ve seen the private sector add jobs. Not only were we able to help states and cities — and I think Mayor Menino will swear by the fact that all the work we did with the Recovery Act made a huge difference in terms of putting people back to work here in Boston and in the region on construction jobs and making sure that teachers weren’t laid off and police officers and cops were still doing their jobs — but under Nancy’s leadership, we were able to achieve historic health care legislation that over the next 10, 15, 20 years will end up benefiting millions of families all across the country and give them the kind of security that they could never imagine without it.
We were able to get “don’t ask, don’t tell” repealed. (Applause.) We were able to expand our investments in clean energy. We were able to make sure that we had the largest investment in infrastructure since Dwight Eisenhower. We were able to make sure that we had the largest investment in education. We expanded Pell Grants to provide access to our kids — for our kids to their college educations.
So we didn’t just rescue the economy — we put it on a stronger footing for the future. And along the way, we saved the auto industry and a few other things. (Applause.)
On foreign policy, we kept a promise to end combat in Iraq. (Applause.) And by the end of this year, our troops will be coming home. We put a plan in place to make sure that we begin transitioning in Afghanistan so that Afghans take the lead — (applause) — and that our young people are not the only ones carrying the burden of freedom in that region.
A busy docket, a lot on our plate, but leaders like Steve and Ed and Nancy were able to make that happen.
Now, here’s the good news. Because of these historic efforts, we are now turning the corner. We saw last week’s job report. We saw today confidence among small businesses the highest level that it’s been in three years. We can feel in pockets across the country the economy getting stronger — not as strong as it needs to be; there’s still millions of folks out there who are out of work; hundreds of thousands of people who are worried about losing their homes — but you can feel a sense of growing optimism, at least in the short term.
But Steve, Ed, Nancy, they didn’t run, they didn’t make all the sacrifices that they’ve made just for the short term, because we had problems even before this financial crisis. We’re looking towards the long term. And it’s the long-term battle for the heart and soul of this country that we’re going to be fighting over the next couple of years.
I just came from a wonderful school with Mayor Menino — TechBoston in Dorchester. (Applause.) And what a spectacular turnaround we’ve seen in this school. I mean, you’ve got kids from a tough neighborhood who were working on — what was it — spectrophotometry. And they were doing experiments in light spectrums and they were explaining this and that and the other, and we were nodding our heads pretending like we understood what they were talking about. (Laughter.)
Eighty-five percent of these kids are now intending to go to college. (Applause.) And the reason for this change is, first, a wonderful founder and principal of this school who’s recruited these extraordinary teachers. The Gates Foundation chipped in. You’ve got companies from around the region that have gotten involved. They’re focusing entirely on math and science and technology — although I was also in an AP government class where they were asking me about a wide range of Supreme Court decisions.
You could not be more impressed with the quality of these kids and the quality of the teaching. And you walked in the classroom and you could just feel this is a place where kids are learning.
Now, money alone was not enough to make that happen. So it’s absolutely critical if we’re going to change our schools so that our kids can compete in the 21st century that we’re reforming those schools as well. And we can’t just settle on the status quo.
But money made a difference. Every kid in that school has a laptop, and when we went into that science lab they were all on Google Science because, as they explained to me, a lot of the Internet information is not accurate and so they’ve got to go to this particular site in order to get the best information. And those laptops cost money. These kids have a longer school year and longer days. Each class is 60 minutes long so that they can absorb all the information that they need. And some of them stay in school in July and August to make sure that they’re keeping up. That costs money.
So we as a country are going to have a series of decisions that we’ve got to make not just over the next two years but over the next 10 years, over the next 20 years, about what our priorities are, what our values are. Now, we’ve been living beyond our means as a country for too long, and we’re going to have to make some tough decisions about getting rid of programs that don’t work, about revamping government. Some of that will be painful. There will be some occasions where Democratic constituencies aren’t happy with us because we’re having to rationalize government. But it’s necessary.
But we’ve got to make sure that in that process of living within our means and driving down the deficit and driving down the debt, that we continue to invest in the American Dream; that we continue to invest in our kids; that we make sure that every young person in America is going to get the best-quality education, are going to be going to college, are going to be able to get a good job at the end of it.
We’re going to have to make an investment to make sure that research and development, the cutting-edge technologies that drive our economy, continue to happen right here in Boston. You go over to MIT, you go over to Harvard, and they’ll be the first ones to tell you if we don’t have federal research grants, a lot of the work we do is not going to happen. And if it’s not happening there, then all those biotech firms, all those medical advances aren’t going to be taking place here, or along Route 128.
We’re going to have to invest in infrastructure. I’ve been preaching this, and I know that I’m preaching to the choir when I talk to the mayor. We used to have the best stuff — best airports, best roads, best bridges, best ports. We don’t anymore. Anybody who’s gone through Beijing airport or ridden on a train in Europe, you know that we don’t have the best infrastructure. We’re way behind countries like South Korea in broadband and wireless. That’s not a recipe for the future.
And so part of our argument, part of why it is so important for Nancy and Ed and Steve to have you as allies over the next several years — this is not a matter of power, it’s not a matter of who’s up and who’s down in Washington. This has to do with whether the decisions we make now ensure the American Dream is strong and vibrant for the next generation and the generation after that. That’s what’s at stake.
I do not want us to look back 20 years from now and say, you know what, this is — this was the moment when we started thinking small instead of thinking big. When we started to turn on each other instead of coming together. Where we decided, you know what, there’s only so much, and so the job of politics is making sure that the haves have — keep their stuff and keep the have-nots at bay. That’s not an America that I envision for Malia and Sasha. That’s not the America that you envision for your kids and your grandkids. And so we’re going to have a lot of work to do.
Now, let me say this, I was with — after — while I was at TechBoston, what we’ve been doing is going around the country and organizing forums with young people. And we had college Democrats and college Republicans and other college leaders, because we just want them to be involved. My theory is, you get young people involved in civic life, you get young people involved in politics, something good is going to come out of it. (Applause.) That’s my belief.
And what was interesting, first of all, was how smart and civil they were to each other. So I was thinking about maybe sending them up to — (laughter) — Capitol Hill to see if we could learn some things. But somebody asked me how do we reinvigorate the population, the voter, after two very tough years — two and a half very tough years. How are we going to get them involved in the 2012 cycle when a lot of folks maybe feel disillusioned after the midterm elections? How do we recapture that magic that got so many young people involved for the very first time in 2008? And I had a series of suggestions. I said, look, if you want to get voters involved the first thing you need to do is listen, not talk, and find out what people care about and what they’re thinking about. And so much of what we call apathy is actually people just not caring about the things we think they should care about, and so we need to pay a little attention to how they’re thinking. But the other thing I said to these young people is part of the reason folks get disillusioned is because we think somehow that compromise means you’re unprincipled.
We’ve lost that sense that in a vibrant, robust democracy like this, there are going to be some vigorous arguments, and sometimes you’re not going to get 100 percent of what you want. In fact, you’re probably never going to get 100 percent of what you want; you’re going to get 80 percent of what you want, or 70 percent of what you want. And so because this is a room dominated by Democrats, I want everybody to understand that Ed, Steve, Nancy, just as they did over the last two years, over the next two years, there are going to be times where we’ve got to try to find common ground to solve problems. Not everything is a fight. Not everything has to be a battle to the death. There have to be times when we step back for a moment, and we say, you know what, we’re thinking as Americans and not as partisans. And that, too, is going to be I think a formula for our success in 2012, because when I’m proudest of our party is because I think our party is a practical party.
I think it’s a party of common sense. It’s a party whose origins are with working people who are thinking in practical, commonsense ways. And so on a whole range of issues, I think there’s nothing — there’s no weakness in us trying to reach out and seeing if we can find common ground. Now, there are going to be times where we can’t. I was born in Hawaii, what can I say? (Laughter.) I mean, I just — I can’t — (applause) — I can’t change those facts. (Laughter.)
And in these budget battles, I mean, there are going to be some things that we will not do because we think it’s wrong for the country, and we’re going to have some big fights about it. (Applause.) But I want to make sure everybody understands here that the choices we make now are so important for the country that we’re going to have to, wherever we can, try to build consensus and make decisions based not necessarily just on short-term politics, but also what’s good for the country in long term. And I think that when we do that, ultimately, that will be good politics. And when people look back on this era of politics, I hope that just as they do when they visit this museum and they see these portraits, they say, you know what, here were a group of leaders who weren’t just thinking short term, but were thinking long term in this long, extraordinary experiment we’ve had with democracy.
So let me just close by saying this: I could not be more confident about the future of this country. And part of the reason that I’m so confident are those kids that I met at TechBoston and those college students that I met in that roundtable. But part of the reason that I couldn’t be more confident is because of you.
I know a lot of the people in this room and the extraordinary contributions you’ve made in your own communities, starting businesses, helping on a whole range of civic efforts, and it gives me confidence to know that you are behind the DCCC and you’re behind Nancy Pelosi and you’re behind me. (Applause.) Because if we’ve got you behind us, I promise you we’re going to keep this thing going, not just for the next two years, but the next two years after that, the next two years after that, and we’re going to be leading America into a bright and prosperous future. Thank you, everybody. God bless you.
END 6:55 P.M. EST
Statement by the Press Secretary on recent violence in the Abyei region of Sudan
The United States deplores the recent violence in the Abyei region of Sudan and calls on Northern and Southern Sudanese leaders to take immediate steps to prevent future attacks and restore calm. This dangerous standoff is unacceptable for the Sudanese people, and we condemn the deployment forces by both sides. Their presence in Abyei stands in violation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and runs counter to efforts to reach agreement on the region’s final status
This past September, President Obama spoke of the two paths before the Government of Sudan: a path of peace, a path of fulfilled commitments, and greater engagement; and a path of continued conflict, continued obstruction, and greater, more painful isolation. The successful referendum was but one step toward fulfilling the Government of Sudan’s obligations under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The Government of South Sudan too must recommit itself to resolving the remaining contentious issues in dispute.
The United States welcomes the commitment made by the National Congress Party and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to establish a committee based in Abyei to review security arrangements relating to the annual migration. We urge this committee to immediately establish a presence in Abyei and to complete its security assessment and recommendations as quickly as possible. Both North and South must also provide the UN Mission in Sudan the full and unfettered access required to fulfill its mandate, which includes assessing the security and humanitarian situation where fighting has taken place and protecting civilians.
We call on Presidents Bashir and Kiir to meet as soon as possible and demonstrate that they are serious about making urgent progress in talks to resolve Abyei’s final status in a manner that addresses the needs of all communities and upholds the Abyei Protocol and the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.