WEEKLY ADDRESS: “We Can’t Wait” to Strengthen the Economy and Create Jobs
WASHINGTON—In this week’s address, President Obama told the American people that we can’t wait for Congress to take action to grow the economy and create jobs, and highlighted the executive actions he took this week to help families save thousands of dollars by refinancing their mortgages, put veterans to work, and lower the cost of student loans. The President continued to urge Congress to do its part and pass the American Jobs Act now, which will put more money in the pockets of middle class families, create jobs and strengthen our economy right away.
The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, Saturday, October 29, 2011.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
Saturday, October 29, 2011
This week, a new economic report confirmed what most Americans already believe to be true: over the past three decades, the middle class has lost ground while the wealthiest few have become even wealthier. In fact, the average income for the top one percent of Americans has risen almost seven times faster than the income of the average middle class family. And this has happened during a period where the cost of everything from health care to college has skyrocketed.
Now, in this country, we don’t begrudge anyone wealth or success – we encourage it. We celebrate it. But America is better off when everyone has had the chance to get ahead – not just those at the top of the income scale. The more Americans who prosper, the more America prospers.
Rebuilding an economy where everyone has the chance to succeed will take time. Our economic problems were decades in the making, and they won’t be solved overnight. But there are steps we can take right now to put people back to work and restore some of the security that middle-class Americans have lost over the last few decades.
Right now, Congress can pass a set of common-sense jobs proposals that independent economists tell us will boost the economy right away. Proposals that will put more teachers, veterans, construction workers and first responders back on the job. Proposals that will cut taxes for virtually every middle class family and small business in America. These are the same kinds of proposals that both Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past. And they should stop playing politics and act on them now.
These jobs proposals are also paid for by asking folks who are making more than a million dollars a year to contribute a little more in taxes. These are the same folks who have seen their incomes go up so much, and I believe this is a contribution they’re willing to make. One survey found that nearly 7 in 10 millionaires are willing to step up and pay a little more in order to help the economy.
Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress aren’t paying attention. They’re not getting the message. Over and over, they have refused to even debate the same kind of jobs proposals that Republicans have supported in the past – proposals that today are supported, not just by Democrats, but by Independents and Republicans all across America. And yet, somehow, they found time this week to debate things like whether or not we should mint coins to celebrate the Baseball Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, they’re only scheduled to work three more weeks between now and the end of the year.
The truth is, we can no longer wait for Congress to do its job. The middle-class families who’ve been struggling for years are tired of waiting. They need help now. So where Congress won’t act, I will.
This week, we announced a new policy that will help families whose home values have fallen refinance their mortgages and save thousands of dollars. We’re making it easier for veterans to get jobs putting their skills to work in hospitals and community health centers. We reformed the student loan process so more young people can get out of debt faster. And we’re going to keep announcing more changes like these on a regular basis.
These steps will make a difference. But they won’t take the place of the bold action we need from Congress to get this economy moving again. That’s why I need all of you to make your voices heard. Tell Congress to stop playing politics and start taking action on jobs. If we want to rebuild an economy where every American has the chance to get ahead, we need every American to get involved. That’s how real change has always happened, and that’s how it’ll happen today.
WE CAN’T WAIT: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES TWO STEPS TO HELP BUSINESSES CREATE JOBS, STRENGTHEN COMPETITIVENESS
WE CAN’T WAIT: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES TWO STEPS TO HELP BUSINESSES CREATE JOBS, STRENGTHEN COMPETITIVENESS
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the Obama Administration announced it is taking two important steps to help U.S businesses create jobs and strengthen their competitiveness in a global economy. Through two Presidential Memoranda issued today, the Obama Administration will take steps to speed up the transfer of federal research and development from the laboratory to the marketplace, and it will create BusinessUSA, a one-stop, central online platform where small businesses and businesses of all sizes that want to begin or increase exporting can access information about available federal programs without having to waste time navigating the federal bureaucracy. These announcements are part of a series of executive actions to put Americans back to work and strengthen the economy because we can’t wait for Congressional Republicans to act.
“With too many families struggling and too many businesses fighting to keep their doors open, we can’t wait for Congress to take action,” President Obama said. “Today, I am directing my Administration to take two important steps to help American businesses create new products, compete in a global economy, and create jobs here at home.”
Accelerating Products from the Science Lab to the Marketplace
Breakthroughs in science and engineering create foundations for new industries, new companies, and new jobs. With world-class universities and federal laboratories, the United States has long led the world in this innovative process. As other countries begin to challenge American leadership in innovation, America must expand its ability to transfer science and engineering breakthroughs from the laboratory to the commercial marketplace. Today’s Presidential Memorandum directs all federal agencies with research facilities to accelerate this timeline in three key ways:
· It directs agencies to streamline and accelerate the process for private-public research partnerships, small business research and development grants, and university-startup collaborations. This will result in grants to startups being made 50% faster.
· It gives agencies more flexibility to partner with industry, encouraging them to create new partnerships with local communities, support the growth of regional innovation clusters, and share laboratory facilities with local businesses, among others.
· It will institute more accountability by directing agencies to develop a five-year plan with concrete goals and metrics to measure progress, including keeping track of how many patents each lab is generating.
Accelerating this timeline will help startups and small businesses around the country create new technologies, create new jobs and grow their companies while making more efficient use of the approximately $147 billion a year that the federal government invests in research and development. Over the years, federal agencies have supported a number of startups that have gone on to define an industry. Each one of these companies, for example, received a federal research grant:
· Qualcomm, a global American telecommunication corporation that designs and manufactures wireless communications equipment.
· Symantec, a global software giant — now the largest maker of security software for computers.
· The iRobot Corporation, which designs robots such as the Roomba, for home vacuuming, and the PackBot, for the US military.
Creating a Streamlined, Virtual One-Stop Shop to Help Businesses Grow and Hire
Today, the Obama Administration is also following through on President Obama’s commitment to launch a centralized, one-stop online platform to make it easier than ever for businesses small and large to access services to help them grow and hire. Today’s Presidential Memorandum directs the Administration to create within 90 days BusinessUSA, a one-stop shop for information regarding federal programs and services relevant to small businesses and businesses of all sizes that want to begin or increase exporting.
BusinessUSA will implement a “No Wrong Door” policy for small businesses and exporters by using technology to quickly connect businesses to the services and information relevant to them, regardless of where the information is located or which agency’s website, call center, or office they go to for help. And the more federal agencies continue to add content to BusinessUSA to encompass the full range of business programs and services, the more we will be able to reduce the confusing array of websites that exist today. To ensure that it is oriented towards the needs of the customer, BusinessUSA will be designed, tested, and built with the active feedback of U.S. businesses and relevant online communities and, to the extent possible, will integrate related state and local government services, as well as those of private sector partners.
To strengthen America’s competitiveness in the global economy, we need to equip businesses with the tools and information necessary to support innovation and job growth in the 21st century. Through BusinessUSA, small businesses and businesses who want to grow their exports will be able to find and access relevant programs, information, and other services from across the government rather than having to waste time navigating through the federal bureaucracy – thereby further streamlining and coordinating federal programs to reduce costs and provide customer-oriented service. These changes were called for by the President’s Jobs Council, the President’s Export Council and small and medium sized businesses across the country as part of broad outreach by the Government Reorganization Initiative.
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA AND PRIME MINISTER PETR NEČAS OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC BEFORE BILATERAL MEETING
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AND PRIME MINISTER PETR NEČAS OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC
BEFORE BILATERAL MEETING
3:21 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I want to extend a heartfelt welcome to Prime Minister Nečas and his delegation. This gives me a chance to return the hospitality that the Czech people have provided me on the two occasions that I’ve had an opportunity to visit. I’ve always been someone who not only wanted to visit but — wanted to visit the Czech Republic, but also because I come from Chicago — we’ve got a lot of people who are originally from the Czech Republic, and they’ve made enormous contributions to our country as well.
Let me say first at the top, the Prime Minister just came from Brussels, where he was part of the negotiations around the eurozone crisis. I’m glad to see that progress was made in the recent meetings. I think it is an important first step. We’ve seen that, although it’s very complicated, obviously the countries of the eurozone and all of Europe are committed to the European project and are intent on making sure that it continues.
So we’ve seen that the message that they are going to deal with this in a serious way has calmed markets all around the world. It will help lay the predicate for long-term economic growth not only in Europe but around the world. The key now is to make sure that it is implemented fully and decisively, and I have great confidence in the European leadership to make that happen.
With respect to the relationship between the United States and the Czech Republic, it continues to be strong. The Czech Republic is one of our greatest allies and has provided the kind of support and cooperation on both security and non-security issues that is a mark of a true ally. As a fellow NATO member, we have consistently reaffirmed our Article 5 commitment that says that an attack on any one of us is an attack on all of us, and that we have to make sure that we continue to have the kind of strong mutual defense posture that’s required. And the Czech Republic has reflected that commitment in the extraordinary efforts it has made in Afghanistan, for which we are deeply appreciative.
I will tell you that when you talk to American commanders in Afghanistan and you ask them who are some of our best and most effective partners, they consistently say the Czech Republic. And so we are very grateful for their contributions, and we are going to be working and collaborating with them as we move into a transition process where we increasingly make sure that Afghans are taking the security lead in their country.
We also are going to have an opportunity to discuss a range of economic and commercial ties and issues. We want to continue to deepen our relationship around research and development, around civil nuclear power, around how we can strengthen trade between our two countries. And so, over all, I think it’s fair to say that, although the relationship between the United States and the Czech Republic economically is very strong, it can always be stronger. And we’re going to look for additional opportunities for collaboration.
Finally, let me just say that the Czechs continue to inspire the world with their own transition from being behind the Iron Curtain to freedom and democracy. And so their strong stance on issues of human rights and democracy and freedom around the world is extraordinarily important. And I know the Prime Minister is committed to making sure that the Czech Republic continues to send a signal around the world, whether it’s in the wake of the Arab Spring, or other countries where freedom and democracy have not yet been achieved, that they are able to continue to set a great example and provide the kind of leadership and technical assistance that’s so important for many of these countries.
So, overall, Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you for your leadership not only in our bilateral relations, but the Czech Republic’s leadership in many multilateral fora. We want to welcome you and I hope that you enjoy your stay here.
PRIME MINISTER NEČAS: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President, for your kind words. Thank you for your hospitality you have shown to me and to my delegation.
We are indeed allies in numerous endeavors in Europe and around the world. We are together in Afghanistan. We are ready to work together on the process of transition in this country.
We are preparing a major summit in Chicago, Mr. President’s hometown, and also, as he stated, we have many Czech connections.
It will be necessary to create a framework for keeping our defense capability in the current economical situation. I would like to discuss the issue of the project to create a special helicopter pilot training center of excellence, as a part of a Smart Defense initiative within NATO.
We would like to discuss, of course, the economical situation — the situation on both sides of the Atlantic, vis-à-vis the current crisis of eurozone, and last but not least, the promotion of human rights and democracy around the world.
We would like to discuss our participation within Open Government Partnership initiative, and of course, a discussion concerning center for civil nuclear cooperation — because we do appreciate your strong leadership, your announcement that you’d like to have a vision of a world without nuclear weapons that was announced in Prague.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Welcome.
Q Mr. President, do you think that the deal in Europe will help prevent another recession?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: There has been progress. And so the key now is to make sure that there’s strong follow-up, strong execution of the plans that have been put forward. But I was very pleased to see that the leaders of Europe recognize that it is both in Europe’s interest and the world’s interest that the situation is stabilized. And I think they’ve made significant progress over the last week. And the key now is just to make sure that it drives forward in an effective way.
But it will definitely have an impact on us here in the United States. If Europe is weak, if Europe is not growing, as our largest trading partner, that’s going to have an impact on our businesses and our ability to create jobs here in the United States.
Thanks. Thank you so much.
Fact Sheet: The United States and the Czech Republic – NATO Allies and Partners in Prosperity and Democracy
Fact Sheet: The United States and the Czech Republic –
NATO Allies and Partners in Prosperity and Democracy
Today President Obama hosted Prime Minister Petr Necas of the Czech Republic for a meeting in the Oval Office. The visit highlighted the three main areas of our bilateral relations: security cooperation, economic and commercial ties, and cooperation in support of democracy, open government and human rights around the world.
Security Cooperation. U.S.-Czech security cooperation is rooted in shared values, NATO membership, and joint efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere, where our soldiers and civilians serve bravely side-by-side.
- · Afghanistan. The Czech Republic has been a part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) since 2002 and is committed to remaining in Afghanistan through the completion of transition to Afghan securityresponsibility in 2014. Roughly 700 Czech soldiers, including Special Forces, operate without caveats or restrictions in one of the most challenging areas of Afghanistan. The United States greatly appreciates that the Czech Republic answered the call for more trainers and mentors in late 2010 and increased the size of its contingent by 200, which is directly in support of Afghan transition. The Czechs’ civilian-staffed Provincial Reconstruction Team in Logar province, co-located with United States forces, works to increase the effectiveness and extend the reach of the Afghan government, while providing infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy. The Czech contingent also includes aviators who are training Afghan pilots and crews to fly and maintain helicopters. Since 2002, the Czech Republic has contributed over $100 million in bilateral aid to Afghanistan.
- · NATO. The Czech Republic is a strong supporter of the European Phased Adaptive Approach and our common efforts to create a NATO territorial missile defense capability. With U.S. participation, the Czech Republic hosts a NATO Center of Excellence for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense, helping NATO’s military commanders and civilian decision-makers meet the potential threat of WMD attacks.
- · Reciprocal Defense Procurement Agreement. The United States and the Czech Republic intend to negotiate and sign in the coming months a Memorandum of Understanding that would facilitate trade in defense items and further strengthen bilateral commercial relations.
Civil Nuclear and Commercial Cooperation. The United States and the Czech Republic share a long history of civil nuclear cooperation based on shared interests, including promoting economic prosperity, supporting regional stability, and strengthening energy security. In the past year, the United States and the Czech Republic have taken a number of steps to continue deepening the bilateral relationship.
- · Creation of a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Center in Prague. In December 2010, the United States and the Czech Republic signed a Joint Declaration on Civil Nuclear Energy expressing the commitment of both nations to cooperate on current and future civil nuclear projects and to encourage scientific and research cooperation. Given the existing and expected future cooperation between the two countries in these areas, the United States and Czech Republic have agreed to establish a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Center in Prague to facilitate and coordinate joint work.
- · Broader R&D Cooperation. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman announced in September 2011 a series of innovative programs, including joint research and academic exchanges, to expand bilateral civil nuclear cooperation between the United States and Czech Republic.
- · Czech Nuclear Education Network. Texas A&M University and the Czech Nuclear Education Network (CENEN) signed in May 2011 a memorandum of understanding that targets several areas of intensive cooperation, including an exchange of students and faculty, joint research and development projects, and exchange of scientific materials.
- · Nuclear Safety Cooperation. Our two national regulators, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Czech State Office for Nuclear Safety (SUJB), work closely together on nuclear safety, to include holding regular coordination meetings. Earlier this year, an SUJB representative attended the annual NRC conference and, in August 2011, a six-member team of NRC officials visited their Czech counterparts to discuss initiatives on: counterfeit, fraudulent and suspect items; approaches to physical security and cyber-terrorism; and the AP 1000, the new nuclear reactor design from Westinghouse Electric.
Support for Democracy, Open Government and Human Rights around the World. The United States and Czech Republic cooperate closely in supporting human rights, open government and democracy around the world. The Czech Republic’s successful and peaceful transition from a Communist regime to a thriving democracy make it a model for other countries in transition to follow. The United States appreciates the Czech Republic’s serving as an unwavering defender of human rights and democracy worldwide, including by hosting Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in Prague.
- · Middle East and North Africa. The Czech Republic supported the NATO intervention in Libya and Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg visited Benghazi June 29, offering early support to the Transitional National Council (TNC). The Czech government has provided substantial medical supplies to Benghazi, and has offered to assist in training the TNC in the areas of rule of law and the role of a free media. In Egypt, the Czech Republic has provided training to assist in reforming state security agencies. The United States and Czech Republic share a strong commitment to Israel’s security.
- · Iran. The Czech Republic has been a leader within the EU on holding Iran accountable for its abuse of human rights and its failure to comply with its international obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty.
- · Cuba. Within the EU, the Czech Republic is a strong advocate for human rights in Cuba. The Czech Republic provides humanitarian aid, training, and other support for journalists, dissidents and their families.
- · Burma. The Czech Republic provides valuable humanitarian and development aid in support of Burmese refugees and internally displaced persons on the border with Thailand and Malaysia. The Czech Republic stands by Burmese dissidents and democracy advocates, and is a strong advocate for EU and UN sanctions against the regime.
- · Eastern Partnership. The Czech Republic launched the European Union’s Eastern Partnership initiative under its EU presidency in 2009, and has championed providing a European perspective and forum for discussing travel, trade and strategic relations to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The Czech Republic has provided transition and development assistance, both bilaterally and through the International Visegrad Fund.
- · Open Government Partnership. In September, the Czech Republic announced its intent to join the 47-member Open Government Partnership. The Czech Republic is a strong defender of human rights and democracy promotion worldwide, and it is demonstrating its leadership on these issues by fulfilling its OGP commitment to develop a domestic action plan and by working with OGP to advance its values in the region and around the world. The United States and the Czech Republic are exploring establishing an Open Government and Democracy Center in Prague to facilitate bilateral and regional cooperation.
Fact Sheet: The United States and Czech Republic: Civil Nuclear Cooperation
The United States and the Czech Republic share a long history of cooperation based on shared values and shared interests, including promoting economic prosperity, supporting regional stability and strengthening energy security. In the energy sector, the United States and the Czech Republic have taken a number of steps over the past two years to continue deepening our bilateral relationship:
- · Prague Vision. Within his first 100 days in office, President Obama traveled to Prague to lay out his nuclear agenda, including his vision for a world free of nuclear weapons and his commitment to the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear power around the world. He called for new frameworks of international cooperation which allow nations that play by the rules to access nuclear energy without increasing proliferation risks and which better harness nuclear energy to meet the demand for low-carbon electricity.
- · Launch of Economic and Commercial Dialogue. Building on the framework President Obama articulated in Prague in April 2009, the Department of Commerce led a civil nuclear trade policy mission to the Czech Republic in July 2010. This mission, which was led by Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez, included a representative from the U.S. Department of Energy and approximately 15 senior representatives from the civil nuclear industry. In conjunction with this visit, Under Secretary Sánchez also launched the U.S.-Czech Economic and Commercial Dialogue in December 2010. The Dialogue, which includes representatives from U.S. and Czech government agencies, has four main goals: to increase bilateral business development and trade promotion; to facilitate investment expansion; to foster innovation; and to identify and resolve market access issues.
- · Joint Declaration on Civil Nuclear Commercial Cooperation. That same month, then-U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Czech Republic Minister of Industry and Trade Martin Kocourek also joined together to sign a joint declaration expanding cooperation in civil nuclear energy research and development (R&D) and strengthening commercial relations between our two nations.
Cooperative Scientific and Technical Initiatives. The Joint Declaration specifically recognized the importance of partnering on nuclear R&D efforts, which is why the U.S. Department of Energy, Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade, Czech Nuclear Research Institute Řež, U.S. Embassy in Prague, Texas A&M, and the Czech Nuclear Education Network (CENEN) joined together last month to announce a series of cooperative scientific and technical initiatives. These R&D programs will leverage each country’s areas of expertise to help advance the development of safe and secure nuclear energy in both countries. The collaboration will focus on the following areas:
- · Creation of a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Center in Prague. The United States and the Czech Republic will establish a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Center in Prague to facilitate and coordinate joint work. The center will build on current collaboration in the nuclear field. In addition to working on nuclear energy activities, experts from both countries will continue to collaborate on nuclear security issues such as material control and accounting, physical protection and other safeguards. Common projects announced by the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy during his recent visit to Prague could serve as test cases for beginning collaboration through the center
- · Research with Texas A&M and Czech Universities. Texas A&M University will collaborate with several Czech universities, including Brno University of Technology, the Czech Technical University, and the University of West Bohemia, to research ways of improving the efficiency of reactor core analyses and identify additional ways to continue improving the safety of nuclear materials and technologies.
- · Fluoride Volatility Research. Researchers from the U.S. Savannah River and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and the Czech Nuclear Research Institute Řež will work together to share information on fluoride volatility methods and how they can be employed to treat used nuclear fuel. This will include a bilateral workshop conducted at Řež this winter to review current R&D efforts and identify common research objectives and opportunities for additional collaboration.
- · High School Science Teacher Exchanges. The United States and the Czech Republic will also be launching an exchange program for high school science teachers, which will be administered and funded by the state of Texas through the Nuclear Power Institute and the Center for Large Scale Scientific Simulation. During the spring of 2012, two Texas high school science teachers will visit the Czech Republic for a week, and two Czech high school teachers will visit Texas for a week to learn from one another. The program will facilitate the continued collaboration between teachers and academics in both countries and will help encourage students to enter nuclear energy fields.
Nuclear Safety and Security. Both countries have also joined together to advance nuclear safety and security in the Czech Republic and across Central and Eastern Europe:
- · Cooperation Between National Regulators. In 2010, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) extended its Technical Cooperation and Exchange Arrangement with the Czech nuclear regulator, the State Office for Nuclear Safety (SUJB), for an additional four years. Under this arrangement, the NRC and SUJB are working together on new reactor designs, security and incident response, code applications, and accident research. The regulators are also continuing personnel exchanges, and are collaborating to review digital instrumental and control activities at the Temelin nuclear plant.
- · Regional Workshop. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy partnered with the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SUJB and the NRC, to conduct a regional Nuclear Safety Workshop on October 10-13, 2011, in Prague. The information exchange workshop provided an opportunity for Central European countries to share technical information and best practices on trends and advances in nuclear safety, including lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. The workshop included a discussion of management practices, safety assessment and verification methods, reactor and plant life extension R&D requirements, accident management, emergency preparedness and public communication, safety culture and related areas that can enhance the safe operation of the current fleet of nuclear power plants.
- · Nuclear Terrorism. The United States and the Czech Republic are also working together to address the threats of nuclear terrorism around the world. The Czech Republic is a key partner in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, including contributing $25,000 earlier this fall to support the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration’s work in Georgia. This funding will be used to install physical protection upgrades at the Secondary Standards Laboratory calibration facility in Tbilisi. This latest effort builds on earlier nuclear security accomplishments between our two countries, including the removal of nearly 95 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) in 2005 and 2007, and the conversion of the VR-1 Sparrow reactor and the Řež research reactor from HEU to low-enriched uranium. Unlike HEU, low-enriched uranium cannot be redirected for use in a nuclear weapon.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT PRESENTATION OF THE NATIONAL MEDALS OF SCIENCE AND THE NATIONAL MEDALS OF TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT PRESENTATION OF
THE NATIONAL MEDALS OF SCIENCE
AND THE NATIONAL MEDALS OF TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION
2:09 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome, everybody. Please have a seat. It is a great pleasure to be with so many outstanding innovators and inventors. And I’m glad we could convince them all to take a day off — (laughter) — to accept our nation’s highest honor when it comes to inventions and innovation, and that is the National Medals of Science, and the National Medals of Technology and Innovation.
It’s safe to say that this is a group that makes all of us really embarrassed about our old science projects. (Laughter.) You know, the volcano with the stuff coming out — (laughter) — with the baking soda inside — apparently, that was not a cutting-edge achievement — (laughter) — even though our parents told us it was really terrific.
But thanks to the men and women on the stage, we are one step closer to curing diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s. Because of their work, soldiers can see the enemy at night and grandparents can see the pictures of their grandchildren instantly and constantly. Planes are safer, satellites are cheaper, and our energy grid is more efficient, thanks to the breakthroughs that they have made.
And even though these folks have not sought out the kind of celebrity that lands you on the cover of People magazine, the truth is that today’s honorees have made a bigger difference in our lives than most of us will ever realize. When we fill up our cars, talk on our cell phones, or take a lifesaving drug, we don’t always think about the ideas and the effort that made it all possible. We don’t always ask ourselves how many sleepless nights went by and how many family dinners were sacrificed. But the folks behind me — they know. They worked those long nights. They made those sacrifices. They took on those challenges and ran those experiments and devoted their lives to expanding the reach of human understanding.
And that’s why we recognize them today. Because America has always been a place where good ideas can thrive and dreams can become real — where innovation is encouraged and the greatest minds in the world are free to push the very limits of science and technology.
To understand that, you don’t have to look any further than the people on this stage. Three-quarters of our honorees were born outside of the United States. From China, Germany, India, Canada and England, they searched for the best universities and the most advanced labs — and they found them here, because America is the best place in the world to do the work that they do.
And now more than ever, it’s critical that we make the investments necessary to keep it that way. We live in a global economy where companies and factories can be located anywhere there’s an Internet connection. And to compete in that economy, we can’t cut corners by paying workers less or building cheaper products. We won’t be able to engage in a race to the bottom — that’s not who we are.
The key to our success has always been and always will be our unparalleled ability to think up new ideas, create new industries, and lead the way in discovery and innovation. And that’s how the future will be won.
Right now, unfortunately, barely more than one in 10 of all undergraduate students are enrolled in what we call the STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math — areas that will be critical if America is going to compete for the jobs of the future. And that’s troubling, because no matter how many great minds we attract from around the world, it won’t be enough if we can’t grow some here at home.
That’s why we’ve worked to make college more affordable, why we’ve set a goal to train 100,000 new teachers in the next decade, and started a Race to the Top to encourage schools to improve the way they teach these subjects. That’s why we’re working with businesses to train more engineers, and help community colleges provide more workers with the skills that businesses need.
And just as we’re working to cultivate the next generation of thinkers, we’re also working to fast-track the next generation of doers. We’ve made historic investments in technology and research, made the most meaningful reforms to our patent process in 50 years, and made it easier for entrepreneurs to turn new ideas into new businesses and new jobs. I want to thank someone who helped make that happen — NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is here, and we’re very pleased to have him as well.
As the men and the women on this stage will tell you, nobody gets here on their own. Each of them succeeded because they had a great teacher, a great mentor, or a great partner. Some of them don’t have to look far for inspiration. In fact, I hear that Jackie Barton’s husband won the same award she’s getting today in 2006 — (laughter) — and they plan on displaying their medals next to each other on a mantle at home — which I would imagine will intimidate dinner guests. (Laughter.)
And just as each of today’s honorees has had someone in their lives who lit a spark, or kept that spark burning, they’ve paid it back by inspiring somebody else. When Peter Stang won this award, he made sure to thank the 100 post-doctoral and Ph.D. students he’s mentored over the years, because, as he said, “this recognizes their work as well.” When Jay Baliga first got interested in physics by picking up a book at the local bookstore, he remembered that and he now tells his students to go beyond the curriculum and come up with ideas of their own. When Richard Tapia remembers what it’s like growing up as a son of Mexican immigrants and the first one in his family to go to college, today, he is a world-class mathematician, but he, because of those memories, helps more young people –- especially women and minorities — to get involved in math and in science.
And in the end, that’s what today is all about. One of the best ways we can inspire more young people to think big, dream big dreams is by honoring the people who already do — folks who are smart and aren’t afraid to show it, but also folks who have taken that brilliance and gone out and changed the world.
Because that next generation is already coming; they’re already knocking on the door. A couple of weeks ago, I got a chance to meet the winners of the Google Science Fair. I want to point out that all three of them were girls. (Applause.) They had beat out 10,000 other applicants from over 90 countries. So I had them over to the Oval Office, and they explained their projects to me, and I pretended that I understood. (Laughter.)
One of the winners, Shree Bose, did her first experiment in second grade by trying to turn spinach blue. (Laughter.) In fourth grade, she built a remote-controlled garbage can. And for this science fair, at the age of 17, she discovered a promising new way to improve treatment for ovarian cancer — at 17. And she also told me very matter-of-factly that she’ll be going to medical school and getting a doctorate, and I suspect she will do so. (Laughter.) She did not lack confidence.
And it’s young people like Shree, but also the people on this stage, who make me incredibly hopeful about the future. Even at a time of great uncertainty, their stories remind us that there are still discoveries waiting to be made and unlimited potential waiting to be tapped. All we have to do is encourage it and support it.
So I want to congratulate today’s honorees for their extraordinary and inspiring work. We could not be prouder of all of you.
And now it is my privilege to present the National Medals of Science and the National Medals of Technology and Innovation. (Applause.)
(The citations are read and the medals are presented.)
MILITARY AIDE: Jacqueline K. Barton. The 2010 National Medal Science to Jacqueline K. Barton, California Institute of Technology, for discovery of a new property of the DNA helix long-range electron transfer, and for showing that electron transfer depends upon stacking of the base pairs and DNA dynamics. Her experiments reveal a strategy for how DNA repair proteins locate DNA lesions and demonstrate a biological role for DNA-mediated charge transfer. (Applause.)
Ralph L. Brinster. The 2010 National Medal of Science to Ralph L. Brinster, University of Pennsylvania, for his fundamental contributions to the development and use of transgenic mice. His research has provided experimental foundations and inspiration for broad progress in germ line genetic modification in a range of species, which has generated a revolution in biology, medicine and agriculture. (Applause.)
Shu Chien. The 2010 National Medal of Science to Shu Chien, University of California, San Diego, for pioneering work in cardiovascular physiology and bioengineering, which has had tremendous impact in the fields of microcirculation, blood rheology, and mechanotransduction in human health and disease. (Applause.)
Rudolf Jaenisch. (Applause.) The 2010 National Medal of Science to Rudolph Jaenisch, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for improving our understanding of epigenetic regulation of gene expression, the biological mechanisms that affect how genetic information is variably expressed. His work has led to major advances in our understanding of mammalian cloning and embryonic stem cells. (Applause.)
Peter J. Stang. The 2010 National Medal of Science to Peter J. Stang, University of Utah, for his creative contributions to the development of organic super-molecular chemistry, and for his outstanding and unique record of public service. (Applause.)
Richard A. Tapia. The 2010 National Medal of Science to Richard A. Tapia, Rice University, for his pioneering and fundamental contributions in optimization theory and numerical analysis, and for his dedication and sustained efforts in fostering diversity and excellence in mathematics and science education. (Applause.)
Srinivasa S.R. Varadhan. The 2010 National Medal of Science to Srinivasa S. R. Varadhan, New York University, for his work in probability theory, especially his work on large deviations from expected random behavior which has revolutionized this field of study during the second half of the 20th century, and become a cornerstone of both pure and applied probability. The mathematical insights he developed have been applied in diverse fields, including quantum field theory, population dynamics, finance, econometrics and traffic engineering. (Applause.)
Rakesh Agrawal. The 2010 National Medal of Technology and Innovation to Rakesh Agrawal, Purdue University, for an extraordinary record of innovations in improving the energy efficiency and reducing the cost of gas liquifaction and separation. These innovations have had significant positive impacts on electronic device manufacturing, liquefied gas production and the supply of industrial gases for diverse industries. (Applause.)
B. Jayant Baliga. The 2010 National Medal of Technology and Innovation to B. Jayant Baliga, North Carolina State University, for development and commercialization of the insulated gate bipolar transistor and other power semiconductor devices that are extensively used in transportation, lighting, medicine, defense, and renewable energy generation systems. (Applause.)
C. Donald Bateman. The 2010 National Medal of Technology and Innovation to C. Donald Bateman, Honeywell, for developing and championing critical flight-safety sensors now used by aircraft worldwide, including ground-proximity warning systems and wind-shear detection systems. (Applause.)
Yvonne C. Brill. The 2010 National Medal of Technology and Innovation to Yvonne C. Brill, RCA Astro Electronics, for innovation in rocket propulsion systems and geosynchronous and low Earth orbit communication satellites, which greatly improved the effectiveness of space propulsion systems. (Applause.)
Michael F. Tompsett. The 2010 National Medal of Technology and Innovation to Michael F. Tompsett, TheraManager, for pioneering work in materials and electronic technologies including the design and development of the first charge-coupled device imagers. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let’s, please, give one more big round of applause to the National Medals of Science, the National Medals of Technology and Innovation. (Applause.) We are very proud of them. And I hope all the young people who are either watching or who are here today take inspiration from the extraordinary work that they do.
I will say that the only problem with these wonderful awards is my military aides really have to practice reading the citations — (laughter) — because they are multi-syllabic. (Laughter.) But you did good. (Laughter and applause.)
All right, with that, I hope everybody enjoys this wonderful celebration and reception, and again, thank you so much for helping to make the world a better place.
Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)
Seven Counties Designated as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas
Counties in Four States to Receive Additional Federal Support to Combat Drug Trafficking; ONDCP Awards $10.6 Million in Resources to Target Drug Trafficking Networks and Prevent Drug Use Before it Start
Washington, D.C. –Today, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced the designation of seven new counties in Florida, Maryland, Ohio, and Virginia as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA). The designation will enable the counties to receive Federal resources to further the coordination and development of drug control efforts among Federal, State, local, and tribal law enforcement officers and allow local agencies to benefit from ongoing HIDTA initiatives working to reduce drug use and its consequences across the United States.
The newly designated counties are:
Brevard County in Florida, as part of the Central Florida HIDTA
Wicomico County in Maryland, as part of the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA
Adams and Scioto Counties, as part of the Ohio HIDTA
Lee, Scott, and Wise Counties in Southwest Virginia, as part of the Appalachia HIDTA
“Drugs place enormous obstacles in the way of our work to raise healthy children, maintain strong families, support economic prosperity, and protect communities from crime,” said Kerlikowske. “The innovative initiatives and support provided by the HIDTA program will play an important role in helping local authorities combat drug related violence and crime. Smart enforcement efforts like these serve as a key component of our balanced approach to drug control and complements the Obama Administration’s emphasis on preventing drug use before it starts through education and providing treatment to addicts.”
In addition to designating new counties, ONDCP also announced $10.6 million in discretionary funding to 27 HIDTAs to enhance targeted enforcement and drug prevention efforts nationwide. These resources will support domestic highway enforcement, combat the diversion of prescription drugs, target domestic marijuana cultivation, enhance parcel interdiction investigations, implement Native American initiatives, and provide funding for drug prevention and education activities at the local level.
Created by Congress in 1988, the HIDTA program provides assistance to Federal, State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug trafficking regions of the United States. Law enforcement organizations within HIDTAs assess drug-trafficking problems and design specific initiatives to decrease the production, transportation, distribution, and chronic use of drugs and money laundering. There are currently 28 HIDTAs, which include approximately 16 percent of all counties in the United States and 60 percent of the U.S. population. HIDTA-designated counties are located in 46 states, as well as in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.
Overall drug use in the United States has dropped substantially over the past thirty years. In response to comprehensive efforts to address drug use at the local, state, Federal, and international levels, the rate of Americans using illicit drugs today is roughly one third the rate it was in the late 70s. More recently, cocaine use has dropped by 40 percent, and methamphetamine use in America has been cut by half. In Fiscal year 2011, the Obama Administration spent over $10 billion on drug education and treatment and over $9 billion on drug-related law enforcement efforts in the U.S.
For More information about the HIDTA program and ONDCP visit:
The Office of National Drug Control Policy seeks to foster healthy individuals and safe communities by effectively leading the Nation’s effort to reduce drug use and its consequences.
President Obama Announces Another Key Administration Post
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key Administration post:
- · Thomas M. Hoenig- Vice Chairman, Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key Administration post:
Dr. Thomas M. Hoenig, Nominee for Vice Chairman, Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Dr. Thomas M. Hoenig was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City from 1991 to 2011. As the President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Dr. Hoenig directed Federal Reserve activities in the Tenth Federal Reserve District. Dr. Hoenig first joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in 1973 as an economist in the banking supervision area. He was named a Vice President in 1981 and Senior Vice President in 1986. In addition to his work at the Federal Reserve, he has served as an instructor of economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Dr. Hoenig is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and serves on the boards of directors of Midwest Research Institute and Union Station. He received a B.A. in Economics and Mathematics from Benedictine College and a M.A. and a Ph.D. in Economics from Iowa State University.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON ENDING THE WAR IN IRAQ
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:49 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end — for the sake of our national security and to strengthen American leadership around the world. After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011.
As Commander-in-Chief, ensuring the success of this strategy has been one of my highest national security priorities. Last year, I announced the end to our combat mission in Iraq. And to date, we’ve removed more than 100,000 troops. Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their country’s security.
A few hours ago I spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. I reaffirmed that the United States keeps its commitments. He spoke of the determination of the Iraqi people to forge their own future. We are in full agreement about how to move forward.
So today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.
Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq — tens of thousands of them — will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home. The last American soldier[s] will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops. That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.
But even as we mark this important milestone, we’re also moving into a new phase in the relationship between the United States and Iraq. As of January 1st, and in keeping with our Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq, it will be a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect.
In today’s conversation, Prime Minister Maliki and I agreed that a meeting of the Higher Coordinating Committee of the Strategic Framework Agreement will convene in the coming weeks. And I invited the Prime Minister to come to the White House in December, as we plan for all the important work that we have to do together. This will be a strong and enduring partnership. With our diplomats and civilian advisors in the lead, we’ll help Iraqis strengthen institutions that are just, representative and accountable. We’ll build new ties of trade and of commerce, culture and education, that unleash the potential of the Iraqi people. We’ll partner with an Iraq that contributes to regional security and peace, just as we insist that other nations respect Iraq’s sovereignty.
As I told Prime Minister Maliki, we will continue discussions on how we might help Iraq train and equip its forces — again, just as we offer training and assistance to countries around the world. After all, there will be some difficult days ahead for Iraq, and the United States will continue to have an interest in an Iraq that is stable, secure and self-reliant. Just as Iraqis have persevered through war, I’m confident that they can build a future worthy of their history as a cradle of civilization.
Here at home, the coming months will be another season of homecomings. Across America, our servicemen and women will be reunited with their families. Today, I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays.
This December will be a time to reflect on all that we’ve been though in this war. I’ll join the American people in paying tribute to the more than 1 million Americans who have served in Iraq. We’ll honor our many wounded warriors and the nearly 4,500 American patriots — and their Iraqi and coalition partners — who gave their lives to this effort.
And finally, I would note that the end of war in Iraq reflects a larger transition. The tide of war is receding. The drawdown in Iraq allowed us to refocus our fight against al Qaeda and achieve major victories against its leadership — including Osama bin Laden. Now, even as we remove our last troops from Iraq, we’re beginning to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, where we’ve begun a transition to Afghan security in leadership. When I took office, roughly 180,000 troops were deployed in both these wars. And by the end of this year that number will be cut in half, and make no mistake: It will continue to go down.
Meanwhile, yesterday marked the definitive end of the Qaddafi regime in Libya. And there, too, our military played a critical role in shaping a situation on the ground in which the Libyan people can build their own future. Today, NATO is working to bring this successful mission to a close.
So to sum up, the United States is moving forward from a position of strength. The long war in Iraq will come to an end by the end of this year. The transition in Afghanistan is moving forward, and our troops are finally coming home. As they do, fewer deployments and more time training will help keep our military the very best in the world. And as we welcome home our newest veterans, we’ll never stop working to give them and their families the care, the benefits and the opportunities that they have earned.
This includes enlisting our veterans in the greatest challenge that we now face as a nation — creating opportunity and jobs in this country. Because after a decade of war, the nation that we need to build — and the nation that we will build — is our own; an America that sees its economic strength restored just as we’ve restored our leadership around the globe.
Thank you very much.
Statement by National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor on ETA Renouncing Violence
Yesterday’s announcement by ETA in Spain that it has renounced violence holds out the prospect of a historic step toward peace, although there is a long road ahead to realize this promise. In this moment of hope, our thoughts go out to the many victims who have suffered due to ETA’s actions over many decades. We recognize the courage of the Spanish government and the Spanish people in their enduring efforts to advance democracy and freedom in Spain and around the world. Spain and the United States are close allies in NATO and work together to promote shared values and interests within Europe and beyond.
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
S. 1723 – Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act of 2011
(Senator Menendez, D-New Jersey, and 9 cosponsors)
The Administration strongly supports passage of the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act, which will keep teachers in the classroom, police on the beat, and firefighters at work. The President sent these proposals to the Congress as part of the American Jobs Act and as a way to save jobs and get the economy growing again.
Although the recession officially ended in June 2009, declining revenues and the tapering of support from the Recovery Act meant budget cuts and hundreds of thousands of layoffs at the State and local levels. Additionally, in the coming school year, many school districts will have to make another round of difficult decisions that will cost jobs and put the education of the Nation’s children at risk.
S. 1723 provides States with $30 billion in relief to support almost 400,000 educator jobs nationwide next year – stopping as many as 280,000 teachers from being laid off and allowing school districts to go beyond that to rehire teachers or add new ones. S. 1723 also provides $5 billion to support the hiring and retention of public safety and first responder personnel. By supporting such jobs, the plan aims to keep communities safe from crime and able to maintain critical emergency response capabilities. S. 1723 is fully paid for through a surtax on those Americans making over $1 million per year. What is most important is putting Americans back to work right now and making sure the debt is not increased over time – and doing so in a way that is fair. S. 1723 meets that test.
By enacting S. 1723, the Congress and the President can work together to save jobs, protect children’s education, and keep communities safe. The Administration urges prompt and favorable action.
Statement by the President on the Senate Confirmation of John Bryson as Secretary of Commerce
As Secretary of Commerce, John Bryson will be a key member of my economic team, working with the business community to promote job creation, foster growth, and help open up new markets around the world for American-made goods. At such a critical time for our economy, I nominated John because I believe his decades of experience both in the public and private sector have given him a clear understanding of what it takes to put America on a stronger economic footing and create jobs. I’m confident he will help us do that, and I look forward to working closely with him in the months and years ahead.
The bloody and controversial regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Al-Gaddafi is officially over. NTC fighters trapped and confronted Gaddafi Thursday morning in his hometown of Sirte in District 2, Libya. Rebels then partially stripped a mortally wounded Gaddafi, paraded him in the public streets and prepared to transfer him to a hospital located in Misrata, according to reports from Al Jazeera. The former Libyan leader died in route to hospital.
President Barack Obama addressed the world shortly after confirmation was received:
“This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya.
“Just one year ago, the notion of a free Libya seemed impossible, but then the Libyan people rose up and demanded their rights.
“This is a momentous day in the history of Libya, the dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted.
“Across the Arab world, citizens have stood up to claim their rights. Youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship. And those leaders who try to deny their dignity will not succeed.
“For the region, today’s events prove once more that the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end.”
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT THE MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. MEMORIAL DEDICATION
The National Mall
11:51 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) Please be seated.
An earthquake and a hurricane may have delayed this day, but this is a day that would not be denied.
For this day, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s return to the National Mall. In this place, he will stand for all time, among monuments to those who fathered this nation and those who defended it; a black preacher with no official rank or title who somehow gave voice to our deepest dreams and our most lasting ideals, a man who stirred our conscience and thereby helped make our union more perfect.
And Dr. King would be the first to remind us that this memorial is not for him alone. The movement of which he was a part depended on an entire generation of leaders. Many are here today, and for their service and their sacrifice, we owe them our everlasting gratitude. This is a monument to your collective achievement. (Applause.)
Some giants of the civil rights movement –- like Rosa Parks and Dorothy Height, Benjamin Hooks, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth –- they’ve been taken from us these past few years. This monument attests to their strength and their courage, and while we miss them dearly, we know they rest in a better place.
And finally, there are the multitudes of men and women whose names never appear in the history books –- those who marched and those who sang, those who sat in and those who stood firm, those who organized and those who mobilized –- all those men and women who through countless acts of quiet heroism helped bring about changes few thought were even possible. “By the thousands,” said Dr. King, “faceless, anonymous, relentless young people, black and white…have taken our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” To those men and women, to those foot soldiers for justice, know that this monument is yours, as well.
Nearly half a century has passed since that historic March on Washington, a day when thousands upon thousands gathered for jobs and for freedom. That is what our schoolchildren remember best when they think of Dr. King -– his booming voice across this Mall, calling on America to make freedom a reality for all of God’s children, prophesizing of a day when the jangling discord of our nation would be transformed into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
It is right that we honor that march, that we lift up Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech –- for without that shining moment, without Dr. King’s glorious words, we might not have had the courage to come as far as we have. Because of that hopeful vision, because of Dr. King’s moral imagination, barricades began to fall and bigotry began to fade. New doors of opportunity swung open for an entire generation. Yes, laws changed, but hearts and minds changed, as well.
Look at the faces here around you, and you see an America that is more fair and more free and more just than the one Dr. King addressed that day. We are right to savor that slow but certain progress -– progress that’s expressed itself in a million ways, large and small, across this nation every single day, as people of all colors and creeds live together, and work together, and fight alongside one another, and learn together, and build together, and love one another.
So it is right for us to celebrate today Dr. King’s dream and his vision of unity. And yet it is also important on this day to remind ourselves that such progress did not come easily; that Dr. King’s faith was hard-won; that it sprung out of a harsh reality and some bitter disappointments.
It is right for us to celebrate Dr. King’s marvelous oratory, but it is worth remembering that progress did not come from words alone. Progress was hard. Progress was purchased through enduring the smack of billy clubs and the blast of fire hoses. It was bought with days in jail cells and nights of bomb threats. For every victory during the height of the civil rights movement, there were setbacks and there were defeats.
We forget now, but during his life, Dr. King wasn’t always considered a unifying figure. Even after rising to prominence, even after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King was vilified by many, denounced as a rabble rouser and an agitator, a communist and a radical. He was even attacked by his own people, by those who felt he was going too fast or those who felt he was going too slow; by those who felt he shouldn’t meddle in issues like the Vietnam War or the rights of union workers. We know from his own testimony the doubts and the pain this caused him, and that the controversy that would swirl around his actions would last until the fateful day he died.
I raise all this because nearly 50 years after the March on Washington, our work, Dr. King’s work, is not yet complete. We gather here at a moment of great challenge and great change. In the first decade of this new century, we have been tested by war and by tragedy; by an economic crisis and its aftermath that has left millions out of work, and poverty on the rise, and millions more just struggling to get by. Indeed, even before this crisis struck, we had endured a decade of rising inequality and stagnant wages. In too many troubled neighborhoods across the country, the conditions of our poorest citizens appear little changed from what existed 50 years ago -– neighborhoods with underfunded schools and broken-down slums, inadequate health care, constant violence, neighborhoods in which too many young people grow up with little hope and few prospects for the future.
Our work is not done. And so on this day, in which we celebrate a man and a movement that did so much for this country, let us draw strength from those earlier struggles. First and foremost, let us remember that change has never been quick. Change has never been simple, or without controversy. Change depends on persistence. Change requires determination. It took a full decade before the moral guidance of Brown v. Board of Education was translated into the enforcement measures of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, but those 10 long years did not lead Dr. King to give up. He kept on pushing, he kept on speaking, he kept on marching until change finally came. (Applause.)
And then when, even after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed, African Americans still found themselves trapped in pockets of poverty across the country, Dr. King didn’t say those laws were a failure; he didn’t say this is too hard; he didn’t say, let’s settle for what we got and go home. Instead he said, let’s take those victories and broaden our mission to achieve not just civil and political equality but also economic justice; let’s fight for a living wage and better schools and jobs for all who are willing to work. In other words, when met with hardship, when confronting disappointment, Dr. King refused to accept what he called the “isness” of today. He kept pushing towards the “oughtness” of tomorrow.
And so, as we think about all the work that we must do –- rebuilding an economy that can compete on a global stage, and fixing our schools so that every child — not just some, but every child — gets a world-class education, and making sure that our health care system is affordable and accessible to all, and that our economic system is one in which everybody gets a fair shake and everybody does their fair share, let us not be trapped by what is. (Applause.) We can’t be discouraged by what is. We’ve got to keep pushing for what ought to be, the America we ought to leave to our children, mindful that the hardships we face are nothing compared to those Dr. King and his fellow marchers faced 50 years ago, and that if we maintain our faith, in ourselves and in the possibilities of this nation, there is no challenge we cannot surmount.
And just as we draw strength from Dr. King’s struggles, so must we draw inspiration from his constant insistence on the oneness of man; the belief in his words that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” It was that insistence, rooted in his Christian faith, that led him to tell a group of angry young protesters, “I love you as I love my own children,” even as one threw a rock that glanced off his neck.
It was that insistence, that belief that God resides in each of us, from the high to the low, in the oppressor and the oppressed, that convinced him that people and systems could change. It fortified his belief in non-violence. It permitted him to place his faith in a government that had fallen short of its ideals. It led him to see his charge not only as freeing black America from the shackles of discrimination, but also freeing many Americans from their own prejudices, and freeing Americans of every color from the depredations of poverty.
And so at this moment, when our politics appear so sharply polarized, and faith in our institutions so greatly diminished, we need more than ever to take heed of Dr. King’s teachings. He calls on us to stand in the other person’s shoes; to see through their eyes; to understand their pain. He tells us that we have a duty to fight against poverty, even if we are well off; to care about the child in the decrepit school even if our own children are doing fine; to show compassion toward the immigrant family, with the knowledge that most of us are only a few generations removed from similar hardships. (Applause.)
To say that we are bound together as one people, and must constantly strive to see ourselves in one another, is not to argue for a false unity that papers over our differences and ratifies an unjust status quo. As was true 50 years ago, as has been true throughout human history, those with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as “divisive.” They’ll say any challenge to the existing arrangements are unwise and destabilizing. Dr. King understood that peace without justice was no peace at all; that aligning our reality with our ideals often requires the speaking of uncomfortable truths and the creative tension of non-violent protest.
But he also understood that to bring about true and lasting change, there must be the possibility of reconciliation; that any social movement has to channel this tension through the spirit of love and mutuality.
If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain. He would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country — (applause) — with the knowledge that in this democracy, government is no distant object but is rather an expression of our common commitments to one another. He would call on us to assume the best in each other rather than the worst, and challenge one another in ways that ultimately heal rather than wound.
In the end, that’s what I hope my daughters take away from this monument. I want them to come away from here with a faith in what they can accomplish when they are determined and working for a righteous cause. I want them to come away from here with a faith in other people and a faith in a benevolent God. This sculpture, massive and iconic as it is, will remind them of Dr. King’s strength, but to see him only as larger than life would do a disservice to what he taught us about ourselves. He would want them to know that he had setbacks, because they will have setbacks. He would want them to know that he had doubts, because they will have doubts. He would want them to know that he was flawed, because all of us have flaws.
It is precisely because Dr. King was a man of flesh and blood and not a figure of stone that he inspires us so. His life, his story, tells us that change can come if you don’t give up. He would not give up, no matter how long it took, because in the smallest hamlets and the darkest slums, he had witnessed the highest reaches of the human spirit; because in those moments when the struggle seemed most hopeless, he had seen men and women and children conquer their fear; because he had seen hills and mountains made low and rough places made plain, and the crooked places made straight and God make a way out of no way.
And that is why we honor this man –- because he had faith in us. And that is why he belongs on this Mall -– because he saw what we might become. That is why Dr. King was so quintessentially American — because for all the hardships we’ve endured, for all our sometimes tragic history, ours is a story of optimism and achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth. And that is why the rest of the world still looks to us to lead. This is a country where ordinary people find in their hearts the courage to do extraordinary things; the courage to stand up in the face of the fiercest resistance and despair and say this is wrong, and this is right; we will not settle for what the cynics tell us we have to accept and we will reach again and again, no matter the odds, for what we know is possible.
That is the conviction we must carry now in our hearts. (Applause.) As tough as times may be, I know we will overcome. I know there are better days ahead. I know this because of the man towering over us. I know this because all he and his generation endured — we are here today in a country that dedicated a monument to that legacy.
And so with our eyes on the horizon and our faith squarely placed in one another, let us keep striving; let us keep struggling; let us keep climbing toward that promised land of a nation and a world that is more fair, and more just, and more equal for every single child of God.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA AND PRESIDENT LEE OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA IN AN EXCHANGE OF TOASTS AT STATE DINNER
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AND PRESIDENT LEE OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA
IN AN EXCHANGE OF TOASTS AT STATE DINNER
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (In progress) — representing one of America’s strongest allies and global partners, the Republic of Korea. (Applause.)
I also want to acknowledge two guests in particular. Another son of Korea dedicated to peace and security, the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, is here — (applause) — and our first Korean-American ambassador to the Republic of Korea, confirmed by the Senate today, Ambassador Sung Kim. (Applause.)
I’m going to be very brief tonight because President Lee has had a very full day and a very wet day — (laughter) — as well as extended meetings and press conferences, a State Department banquet, and an address to the Congress, which I understand went extraordinarily well. There is a reason why people call him “The Bulldozer.” He is unstoppable. (Laughter.)
Mr. President, today you have spoken with great eloquence about what America and our alliance has meant to your life and the life of your country. This evening, I want you and your countrymen to know what Korea and its people have meant to America.
The essence of our alliance, I think, is embodied in a concept that is uniquely Korean. It doesn’t translate that easily. But it reflects the deep affection, the bonds of the heart that cannot be broken and that grow stronger with time. Our Korean friends know it well — jeong.
In our country, we’ve felt this jeong in our vibrant Korean American communities, including in Hawaii where I grew up — a melting pot of cultures that made me who I am, and that taught me we can all live together in mutual trust and respect.
I felt this jeong during my visit to Korea, on Veterans Day, the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, when our proud veterans of that war, both Korean and American, came together to celebrate a shared legacy — a free, democratic and prosperous Republic of Korea.
And I felt this jeong in my friendship with President Lee. Mr. President, your life story — from crushing poverty to the presidency — is an inspiration. Your success, Korea’s success, speaks to the truth that, with education and hard work, anything is possible. It’s a spirit our countries share. You’ve described it in Korean, and in English, it translates as: “Yes, we can.” (Laughter and applause.) It sounds good in Korean, too. (Laughter.)
Finally, I would note that in our lives President Lee and I have both been blessed to find our better halves — leaders in their own right, advocates for women and young people, who we are proud to call our First Ladies. Mr. President, as we say in America, we both married up. (Laughter.)
And so I want to propose a toast — I believe this is mine — to our friends, President Lee and First Lady Kim, and to their delegation, most of all to the enduring alliance between our nations, a partnership of the heart that will never be broken. Cheers. Gun-bae.
(A toast is offered.)
PRESIDENT LEE: (As translated) First of all, Mr. President, Madam First Lady, distinguished guests, please allow me to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this warm reception extended to me, my wife and my delegation. Thank you very much.
And Mr. President and Madam First Lady, my visit to you in Washington, D.C. this time is especially special because before you are the President of the United States of America, you are a great, close friend of mine. And this is how I consider you as well as the Madam First Lady. So this visit is very, very special for all of us.
Ladies and gentlemen, the President just spoke about the Korean emotion that we call jeong in Korea. I think indeed President Obama knows that deep inside his heart he understands the essence of what we call jeong. Jeong can be explained in many different aspects, but one aspect of that is an individual that is humble and very strong inside. And I think President Obama exemplifies this trait of what we call jeong, and that is why we have a very special tie that we feel whenever I think about President Obama. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m a very, very honest guy — (laughter) — so what I say, I really mean it.
And also, Mr. President, I must thank you for one thing, because you have spoken so highly of the outstanding educational system of Korea, the dedication of its teachers and the determination of our Korean parents when it comes to educating their children. You have so many new teacher fans in Korea. (Laughter.) And I have to be very honest with you. I think there’s quite a number of them who like you more than they like me. (Laughter and applause.)
Mr. President, seriously, you do have a lot of teacher fans in Korea. But the real reason, when we look deep down inside, the reason why you are so popular among many Koreans is because everyone, including myself, are deeply impressed by your endless passion for learning and that this is very much a — very much reflected in your life story.
Mr. President, Madam First Lady, ladies and gentlemen, whenever I think about the United States and the people of America, I also have a very personal story in mind, which I would like to share with you briefly tonight. As you know, 60 years ago Korea used to be one of the poorest countries in the world, and my family was exceptionally poor, and we really had nothing to eat, nothing to wear. We had to rely on foreign aid for many, many years. And I remember — I think I was about nine or 10 years old — in my village there came an American missionary lady with boxes and containers full of used clothes that she would come to my village and hand out.
So, being a boy whose only wish at that time was to own and wear a pair of blue jeans, I decided to stand in line, along with many people. But I was a very small and shy boy — hard to imagine — (laughter) — so a lot of people were pushing and they were jostling about. So I ended up way at the end of the line. When my turn came, I went up to the American missionary lady and I asked for a pair of blue jeans, to which she said — she just looked at me and said, “Well, I’m sorry, I’m all out of blue jeans.” And of course I was devastated. I was heartbroken. And this kind American missionary lady takes one look at me and, out of sympathy, she hands me something out of the box. She handed me a small rubber ball. Now, this did little to console the boy who was crushed, because, after all, what was I going to do with a rubber ball?
And so, to this day — and I shared this story with President Obama — and I — when I finished the story I remember the President laughing a bit nervously, but — (laughter) — I told him, I said, “Mr. President, as you can see, I do not owe the United States anything, except” — (laughter) — “except maybe for a rubber ball.” (Laughter and applause.)
So, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. President, Madam First Lady, although half-jokingly I say that I do not owe the United States anything, but in reality my country and my people owe you tremendously. Which other country — no country came to aid the Republic of Korea 60 years ago when my country was being attacked by communists. No country sacrificed more than 37,000 lives defending freedom for the people of my country. So for that, for many, many years onwards, we will always, always be grateful to the American people. (Applause.)
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, just last night, the United States Congress passed and ratified the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. I’ve said this before, but please allow me to say it again: I am deeply appreciative and grateful to the leadership of Congress, to all the members of the United States Congress who supported this measure, and especially to the steadfast leadership of President Obama for pushing this through. (Applause.)
And also, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I know that there are those in the United States Congress who did not vote “yea” for this very important agreement. I think I see a few faces here who — (laughter) — but I’m very, very confident, ladies and gentlemen, that in one year or even less that these people who may be a little bit critical of this important agreement will say that they made a mistake, because they will see the visible results of this very important agreement. (Applause.)
And the thing that I want to prove the most, ladies and gentlemen, with the KORUS FTA is that many of those critics who were saying that the KORUS FTA was somehow going to make people lose their jobs — but really the KORUS FTA is going to create a lot of good, decent jobs for the people of America. And this is a point that I want to prove by implementing this agreement.
And, ladies and gentlemen, you see Mr. King seated at the head table here. As I was receiving guests, and when he came up to me and I was shaking hands, I thought to myself, this is my chance to explain to Mr. King that the KORUS FTA is going to create a lot of good jobs for his people and the members of his union. (Applause.)
Well, the fact that Mr. King accepted the invitation to be here tonight just goes to show that he believes in the essence and the core values of the KORUS FTA, so I have no worries. (Laughter.)
Mr. President, Madam First Lady, ladies and gentlemen, our relationship between our two countries began 130 years ago. Sixty years ago, our mutual defense treaty began what is considered to be one of the strongest military and political alliance that the world has ever known. Of course, we are here today to celebrate our journey of the last 60 years, one that has been — always been marked by triumphs, sometimes heartache, but always full of hope. And we are gathered here to reaffirm our friendship and to renew our common commitment towards our shared goals. I know that our relationship will go strong; it will become more mature and complete.
Mr. President, as we talked about over the last few days, we have many, many challenges that are facing us as a nation and as a member of the international community. We do not know when, what type of form or how it is going to strike us. There is a lot of uncertainty out there. But I believe in our friendship, because if we are faced with challenges, I know that we will overcome them and even come out stronger.
I just want to emphasize once again our alliance between the Republic of Korea and the United States. It ensures us that we are not alone — neither is Korea alone or the United States. So we can have confidence that we will be able to overcome any challenges that may face us.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I see the guests today, and I think a lot of you are people who are very much liked by the President and the Madam First Lady. I also see a few of you who I always wanted to see, and so I’m very happy that I have the chance to see and meet with you tonight.
So once again, Mr. President, Madam First Lady, thank you so much for this honor, and thank you for your invitation. (Applause.)
(In English) Now I’m going to propose a toast — for us. (Laughter.)
(As translated) Ladies and gentlemen, please join me now in a toast: First of all, for the health and well-being of President Obama and Madam First Lady, and, of course, for our everlasting friendship between our two countries.
(A toast is offered.)
Obama Administration Releases Creating Pathways to Opportunity Report Highlighting Work Done to Help Underserved Communities, Strengthen the Middle Class
Obama Administration Releases Creating Pathways to Opportunity Report Highlighting Work Done to Help Underserved Communities, Strengthen the Middle Class
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the White House released Creating Pathways to Opportunity, a report highlighting the work the Obama Administration has done to date to help Americans climb the ladder to the middle class and stay there. The report outlines the critical investments this Administration has made to lift and keep millions of Americans out of poverty, provide critical support to families throughout the economic downturn, and invest in long-term reforms to grow the middle class. It also outlines the direct impact that the American Jobs Act would have on underserved communities across the country.
“My administration has always been focused on helping more Americans – many of whom were struggling long before this recession hit – reach the middle class and stay there,” said President Obama. “To do that, we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. We need to do everything we can to create jobs and put more money in the pockets of working Americans. And that’s why Congress needs to do the right thing and pass the American Jobs Act.”
View the full report, which includes success stories from around the country, HERE