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.