Statement by the President on Department of Defense Initiatives to Combat Sexual Assault in the Military
Statement by the President on Department of Defense Initiatives to Combat Sexual Assault in the Military
I applaud the initiatives that Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have announced to further combat sexual assault in the military. The men and women of the United States military deserve an environment that is free from the threat of sexual assault, and in which allegations of sexual assault are thoroughly investigated, offenders are held appropriately accountable, and victims are given the care and support they need. Elevating these cases to a higher level of command review is a very important step. I believe that sexual assault has no place in our military. I thank Secretary Panetta and Chairman Dempsey and look forward to seeing continued progress on this important issue.
EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20503
April 23, 2012
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
S. 1925 – Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011
(Sen. Leahy, D-VT, and 60 cosponsors)
The Administration strongly supports Senate passage of S. 1925 to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark piece of bipartisan legislation that first passed the Congress in 1994 and has twice been reauthorized. That Act transformed the Nation’s response to violence against women and brought critically needed resources to States and local communities to address these crimes.
The Administration is pleased that S. 1925 continues that bipartisan progress and targets resources to address today’s most pressing issues. Sexual assault remains one of the most underreported violent crimes in the country. The bill provides funding through State grants to improve the criminal justice response to sexual assault and to better connect victims with services. The bill also seeks to reduce domestic violence homicides and address the high rates of violence experienced by teens and young adults. Reaching young people through early intervention can break the cycle of violence.
The Administration strongly supports measures in S. 1925 that will bring justice to Native American victims. Rates of domestic violence against Native American women are now among the highest in the United States. The bill builds on the Tribal Law and Order Act – which President Obama signed on July 29, 2010 – to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of tribal justice systems and will provide additional tools to tribal and Federal prosecutors to address domestic violence in Indian country. The Administration also supports the important leadership role of the Office on Violence Against Women and believes that all victims should have access to critically needed services and protections.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO COLLEGE REPORTERS Via Telephone Aboard Air Force One En Route Boulder, Colorado
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO COLLEGE REPORTERS
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Boulder, Colorado
4:05 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hey, everybody. Thanks for being on the call. And first of all, let me apologize if the connection sounds fuzzy. As was just mentioned, I’m joining you guys on Air Force One.
I’m just leaving North Carolina; I was at UNC-Chapel Hill. Now I’m on my way to the University of Colorado at Boulder. And tomorrow we’re going to be at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. And what we’re doing is going to schools to talk to students directly about the critical importance of the possibility that 7.4 million students with federal student loans would see their interest rates double on July 1st unless Congress steps up and does what it needs to do.
I’ve always believed that we should be doing everything we can to help put higher education within reach for every single American student — because the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average. And it’s never been more important. Unfortunately, it’s also never been more expensive. And most of you guys I’m sure have reported about this and know this — students who take out loans to pay for college graduate owing an average of $25,000 a year. And I know what this is like, because when Michelle and I graduated from college and law school we had enormous debts, and it took us a lot of years to pay off. So that’s probably why I feel this thing so personally.
For a lot of working families, the idea of owing that much money means higher education is simply out of reach for their children. And for the first time now we’ve got Americans owing more debt on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.
The key point here is, is that in America, higher education can’t be a luxury. It’s an economic imperative that every family has got to be able to afford. We’ve already taken some important steps to make college more affordable. So, for example, we extended Pell grants to 3 million more students, and we signed a tax credit worth up to $10,000 to help middle-class families cover the cost of tuition. We’ve eliminated a major expense for young people by allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s health insurance plans until they’re 26.
But there’s clearly more work to be done. And that’s why I’m going to colleges across the country. I want to talk to students right now about how we can make higher education more affordable, and what’s at stake right now if Congress doesn’t do something about it.
So the key point I want to make: If Congress doesn’t act on July 1st, interest rates on Stafford loans, on student loans from the federal government will double. Nearly 7.5 million students will end up owing more on their loan payments. And that would be, obviously, a tremendous blow. And it’s completely preventable.
And for some time now, I’ve been calling on Congress to take steps to make higher education more affordable, to prevent these interest rates from doubling, and to extend the tuition tax credit that has saved middle-class families millions of dollars, but also, to double the number of work/study jobs over the next five years.
And instead, over the past few years, Republicans in Congress have voted against new ways to make college more affordable for middle-class families, even while they’re voting for huge tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires — tax cuts that, by the way, would have to be paid for by cutting things like education and job-training programs that give students new opportunities to work and succeed.
So the bottom line here is we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. Making it harder for our young people to afford higher education, allowing them to earn their degrees — that’s nothing more than cutting our own future off at the knees. And Congress has to keep interest rates on student loans from doubling, and they need to do it now.
And I have to say, from my perspective, this is a question of values. We can’t let America become a country where a shrinking number of people are doing really well, a growing number of people struggle to get by, and you’ve got fewer ladders for people to climb into the middle class and to get opportunity. We’ve got to build an economy where everybody is getting a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody is playing by the same set of rules. That’s ultimately how the middle class gets stronger. And that’s an economy that’s built to last.
So I’m going to take this issue to every part of the country this year. I’m going to keep focusing on it until Congress passes legislation to keep interest rates low and to continue to give students the chance to get the college education they need for the jobs of today, but also for the jobs of tomorrow.
And part of the reason I wanted to be on this call is to let you know, very personally, I need your help on this. I need you all to tell your readers and your listeners why they’ve got to speak up, why they’ve got to speak out. Let Congress know that they need to do the right thing. And for those of you on Twitter, use the hashtag #dontdoublemyrate. That’s #dontdoublemyrate.
Because we don’t want Congress to double the interest rates on so many students. We need to reward hard work and responsibility. And part of that is keeping interest rates on student loans low so more Americans get a fair shot at an affordable college education, the skills they need to find a good job, a clear path to the middle class that’s not blocked by a mountain of debt. And the time to act is right now, and I’m going to need your help getting that message out.
So thanks so much to all of you for being on the call. And thanks for taking the time to shine a light on this important issue. And I know that our team is going to be on the phone call after I hang up. They can answer a bunch of specific details that you may have.
Talk to you soon. Bye-bye.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, North Carolina
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
1:13 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! (Applause.) Hello, North Carolina! (Applause.) What’s up, Tar Heels? (Applause.)
Now, first of all, I want to thank Domonique for that unbelievable introduction. Wasn’t she good? (Applause.) You can tell she will be an outstanding teacher.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, President Obama!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back, I do. (Applause.) Love North Carolina. I love North Carolina. (Applause.) I do. Every time I come down to this state I just love it that much more. (Applause.) I said a while back, the thing about North Carolina is even the folks who don’t vote for me are nice to me. (Laughter.) I can’t say that about everyplace. (Laughter.)
Now, I want to issue a quick spoiler alert: Later today, I am getting together with Jimmy Fallon — (applause) — and the Dave Matthews Band — (applause) — right here on campus. We’re going to tape Jimmy’s show for tonight — so I want everybody to tune in, make sure it has high ratings. (Laughter.) It’s a Dave Matthews fan right here.
We’ve got some wonderful people who are here who are doing a great job for you guys. First of all, your Governor, Bev Perdue, is in the house. Give her a big round of applause. (Applause.) There she is. We’ve got your Congressman, Dave Price — Congressman David Price. (Applause.) Congressmen GK Butterfield. (Applause.) Congressman Brad Miller. (Applause.) Your Mayor, Mark Kleinschmidt. (Applause.) Chancellor of UNC, Holden Thorp. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: It is great to be back on the Lady Tar Heels’ home court. (Applause.) This is an arena with some serious hoops history. I know the men’s team used to play here back in the day. I just want to remind you right off the bat — I picked UNC to win it all in March Madness. (Applause.) Want to point out. And if Kendall hadn’t gotten hurt — (laughter) — who knows where we might have been.
I saw McAdoo, by the way, at the airport. He came by and said hello, which I was excited — so I just want you to know I have faith in you guys. (Applause.)
Now, it’s always good to begin with some easy applause lines — talk about the Tar Heels. (Laughter.) But the reason I came to Chapel Hill today is to talk about what most of you do here every single day — and that’s study, I assume. (Laughter.) Higher education is the single most important investment you can make in your future. (Applause.) So I’m proud of all of you for doing what it takes to make that investment — for the long hours in the library — I hope — (laughter) — in the lab, in the classroom. This has never been more important.
Whether you’re here at a four-year college or university, or you’re at a two-year community college, in today’s economy, there’s no greater predictor of individual success than a good education. (Applause.) Right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average. The incomes of folks with a college degree are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma. A higher education is the clearest path into the middle class. (Applause.)
Now, I know that those of you who are about to graduate are wondering about what’s in store for your future. Not even four years ago, just as the global economy was about to enter into freefall, you were still trying to find your way around campus. And you’ve spent your years here at a time when the whole world has been trying to recover, but has not yet fully recovered from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in most of our lifetimes — and that includes your teachers.
Our businesses have added more than 4 million jobs over the past two years, but we all know there’s still too many Americans out there looking for work or trying to find a job that pays enough to cover the bills and make the mortgage. We still have too many folks in the middle class that are searching for that security that started slipping away years before the recession hit.
So we’ve still got a lot of work to do to rebuild this economy so that it lasts, so that it’s solid, so that it’s firm. But what I want you to know is that the degree you earn from UNC will be the best tool you have to achieve that basic American promise — the idea that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family and own a home, send your own kids to college, put a little away for retirement. (Applause.) That American Dream is within your reach. (Applause.)
And there’s another part of this dream, which is the idea that each generation is going to know a little bit more opportunity than the last generation. That our kids — I can tell you now as a parent — and I guarantee you, your parents feel this about you — nothing is more important than your kid’s success. You want them to do better than you did. (Applause.) You want them to shoot higher, strive more, and succeed beyond your imagination.
So keeping that promise alive is the defining issue of our time. I don’t want this to be a country where a shrinking number of Americans are doing really, really well, but a growing number of people are just struggling to get by. That’s not my idea of America. (Applause.) I don’t want that future for you. I don’t want that future for my daughters. I want this forever to be a country where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules. (Applause.) That’s the America I know and love. That’s the America within our reach.
I think back to my grandfather. He had a chance to go to college because this country decided every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it, should be able to go to college. (Applause.) My mother was able to raise two kids by herself because she was able to get grants and work her way through school. (Applause.) I am only standing here today, Michelle is only who she is today — (applause) — because of scholarships and student loans. That gave us a shot at a great education. We didn’t come from families of means, but we knew that if we worked hard we’d have a shot.
This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of all who are willing to work for it. That’s what makes us special. That’s what made us an economic superpower. That’s what kept us at the forefront of business and science and technology and medicine. And that’s a commitment we have to reaffirm today in 2012. (Applause.)
Now, everybody will give lip service to this. You’ll hear a lot of folks say, yes, education is important — it’s important. (Laughter.) But it requires not just words but deeds. And the fact is, that since most of you were born, tuition and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled. And that forces students like you to take out a lot more loans. There are fewer grants. You rack up more debt. Can I get an “amen”?
THE PRESIDENT: Now, the average student who borrows to pay for college now graduates with about $25,000 in student loan debt. That’s the average — some are more. Can I get an “amen” for that?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes — because some folks have more debt than that.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Amen! (Laughter and applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Americans now owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards. And living with that kind of debt means that this generation is not getting off to the same start that previous generations — because you’re already loaded up with debt. So that means you’ve got to make pretty tough choices when you are first starting out. You might have to put off buying a house. It might mean that you can’t go after that great idea for a startup that you have, because you’re still paying off loans. Maybe you’ve got to wait longer to start a family, or save for retirement.
When a big chunk of every paycheck goes towards loan debt, that’s not just tough on you, that’s not just tough for middle-class families, it’s not just tough on your parents — it’s painful for the economy, because that money is not going to help businesses grow. I mean, think about the sooner you can start buying a house, that’s good for the housing industry. The sooner you can start up that business, that means you’re hiring some folks — that grows the economy.
And this is something Michelle and I know about firsthand. I just wanted everybody here to understand this is not — I didn’t just read about this. (Laughter and applause.) I didn’t just get some talking points about this. I didn’t just get a policy briefing on this. Michelle and I, we’ve been in your shoes. Like I said, we didn’t come from wealthy families.
So when we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt. When we married, we got poorer together. (Laughter and applause.) We added up our assets and there were no assets. (Laughter.) And we added up our liabilities and there were a lot of liabilities, basically in the form of student loans. We paid more in student loans than we paid on our mortgage when we finally did buy a condo. For the first eight years of our marriage, we were paying more in student loans than what we were paying for our mortgage. So we know what this is about.
And we were lucky to land good jobs with a steady income. But we only finished paying off our student loans — check this out, all right, I’m the President of the United States — (applause) — we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago. (Laughter.) That wasn’t that long ago. And that wasn’t easy, especially because when we had Malia and Sasha, we’re supposed to be saving up for their college educations, and we’re still paying off our college educations.
So we have to make college more affordable for our young people. That’s the bottom line. (Applause.) And like I said, look, not everybody is going to go to a four-year college or university. You may go to a community college. You may go to a technical school and get into the workforce. And then, it may turn out that after you’ve had kids and you’re 35, you go back to school because you’re retraining for something new. But no matter what it is, no matter what field you’re in, you’re going to have to engage in lifelong learning. That’s the nature of the economy today. And we’ve got to make sure that’s affordable.
That’s good for the country; it’s good for you. At this make-or-break moment for the middle class, we’ve got to make sure that you’re not saddled with debt before you even get started in life. (Applause.) Because I believe college isn’t just one of the best investments you can make in your future — it’s one of the best investments America can make in our future. This is important for all of us. (Applause.)
We can’t price the middle class out of a college education. Not at a time when most new jobs in America will require more than a high school diploma. Whether it’s at a four-year college or a two-year program, we can’t make higher education a luxury. It’s an economic imperative. Every American family should be able to afford it. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Amen!
THE PRESIDENT: So that’s why I’m here. Now, before I ask for your help — I’ve got something very specific I’m going to need you to do. But, North Carolina, indulge me. I want to briefly tell you what we’ve already done to help make college more affordable, because we’ve done a lot.
Before I took office, we had a student loan system where tens of billions of taxpayer dollars were going to banks, not students. They were processing student loan programs except the student loans were federally guaranteed so they weren’t taking any big risks, but they were still taking billions of dollars out of the system. So we changed it.
Some in Washington fought tooth and nail to protect the status quo, where billions of dollars were going to banks instead of students. And they wanted to protect that. They wanted to keep those dollars flowing to the banks.
One of them said — and I’m going to quote here because it gives you a sense of the attitudes sometimes we’re dealing with in Washington. They said, it would be “an outrage” — if we changed the system so that the money wasn’t going through banks and they weren’t making billions of dollars of profits off of it — said it was “an outrage.”
And I said, no, the real outrage is letting these banks keep these subsidies without taking any risks while students are working two or three jobs just to get by. That’s an outrage. That’s an outrage. (Applause.)
So we kept at it, we kept it at — we won that fight. Today, that money is going where it should be going — should have been going in the first place — it’s going directly to students. We’re bypassing the middleman. That means we can raise Pell grants to a higher level. More people are eligible. More young people are able to afford college because of what we did. (Applause.) Over 10 years, that’s going to be $60 billion that’s going to students that wasn’t going to students before. (Applause.)
Now, then, last fall, I acted to cap student loan payments faster, so that nearly 1.6 million students who make their payments on time will only have to pay 10 percent of their monthly income towards loans once they graduate. (Applause.) Now, this is useful — this is especially helpful for young people who decide, like Domonique, to become teachers, or maybe they go into one of the –
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Social work.
THE PRESIDENT: — social work or one of the helping professions. (Applause.) And they may not get paid a lot of money, but they’ve got a lot of debt. And so being able to cap how much per month you’re paying as a percentage of your income gives you a little bit more security knowing you can choose that profession.
And then we wanted every student to have access to a simple factsheet on student loans and financial aid, so you can have all the information you need to make your own choices about how to pay for college. And we set up this new consumer watchdog called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — (applause) — and so they’re now putting out this information. We call it “Know Before You Owe.” Know before you owe. It’s something Michelle and I wish we had had when we were in your shoes — because sometimes we got surprised by some of this debt that we were racking up.
So that’s what we’ve done. But it’s not enough just to increase student aid. We can’t keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition or we’ll run out of money. And colleges and universities, they’ve got to do their part also to keep college costs down. (Applause.) So I’ve told Congress to steer federal aid to those schools that keep tuition affordable, that provide good value, that serve their students well. And we’ve put colleges on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from just going up every single year a lot faster than inflation, then funding you get from taxpayers, at least at the federal level, will go down — because we need to push colleges to do better, and hold them accountable if they don’t. (Applause.)
Now, public universities know well, and Governor Perdue knows well — states also have to do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. (Applause.) I know that Bev is fighting hard to make tuition affordable for North Carolina families. That’s a priority for her. But last year, over 40 states cut their higher education spending. And these budget cuts have been among the largest factors in tuition increases at public colleges over the past decade. So we’re challenging states to take responsibility. We told them, if you can find new ways to bring down the cost of college and make it easier for students to graduate, then we’ll help you do it.
But I want everybody here, as you’re thinking about voting, make sure you know where your state representative and your state senator stands when it comes to funding higher education. (Applause.) They’ve got to be responsible. They’ve got to be accountable as well to prioritize higher education. (Applause.)
All right. So helping more families, helping more young people afford a higher education; offering incentives for states and colleges and universities to keep their costs down — that’s what we’ve been doing. Now Congress has to do their part.
They need to extend the tuition tax credit that we put in place back when I came into office. It’s saving middle-class families thousands of dollars. (Applause.) Congress needs to safeguard aid for low-income students, like Pell grants, so that today’s freshmen and sophomores know that they’ll be able to count on it. (Applause.) That’s what Congress has to do. Congress needs to give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work/study jobs over the next five years. (Applause.) That’s what Congress needs to do.
And then there’s one specific thing — and now this is where you come in — there’s one specific thing that Congress needs to do right now to prevent the interest rates on student loans, federal student loans, from shooting up and shaking you down. So this is where you come in. I want to explain this, so everybody listen carefully.
Five years ago, Congress cut the rate on federal student loans in half. That was a good thing to do. But on July 1st — that’s a little over two months from now — that rate cut expires. And if Congress does nothing, the interest rates on those loans will double overnight.
So I’m assuming a lot of people here have federal student loans. The interest rates will double unless Congress acts by July 1st. And just to give you some sense of perspective — for each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt — an extra thousand dollars. That’s basically a tax hike for more than 7 million students across America — more than 160,000 students here in North Carolina alone. Anybody here can afford to pay an extra $1,000 right now?
AUDIENCE: No! (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I didn’t think so. So stopping this from happening should be a no-brainer. Helping more of our young people afford college, that should be at the forefront of America’s agenda. It shouldn’t be a Republican or a Democratic issue. (Applause.) This is an American issue.
The Stafford loans we’re talking about, they’re named after a Republican senator. The Pell grants that have helped millions of Americans earn a college education, that’s named after a Democratic senator. When Congress cut those rates five years ago, 77 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for it — along with a couple hundred Democrats — (laughter) — including the Democrats who are here. (Applause.)
So this shouldn’t be a partisan issue. And yet, the Republicans who run Congress right now have not yet said whether or not they’ll stop your rates from doubling. We’re two months away. Some have hinted that they’d only do it if we cut things like aid for low-income students instead. So the idea would be, well, all right, we’ll keep interest rates low if we take away aid from other students who need it. That doesn’t make sense.
One Republican congresswoman said just recently — I’m going to quote this because I know you guys will think I’m making it up — (laughter).
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We trust you. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no. She said she had “very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt because there’s no reason for that.”
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: I’m just quoting here. I’m just quoting. She said, students who rack up student loan debt are just sitting on their butts, having opportunity “dumped in your lap.”
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: I mean, I’m reading it here, so I didn’t
make this up. Now, can you imagine saying something like that? Those of you who have had to take out student loans, you didn’t do it because you’re lazy. You didn’t do it lightly. You don’t like debt. I mean, a lot of you, your parents are helping out, but it’s tough on them. They’re straining. And so you do it because the cost of college keeps going up and you know this is an investment in your future.
So if these folks in Washington were serious about making college more affordable, they wouldn’t have voted for a budget that could cut financial aid for tens of millions of college students by an average of more than $1,000.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Absolutely! (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: They certainly wouldn’t let your student loan rates double overnight. So when you ask them, well, why aren’t you making this commitment? They say, well, we got to bring down the deficit. Of course, this is the deficit they helped run up over the past decade. (Applause.) Didn’t pay for two wars. Didn’t pay for two massive tax cuts. And now this is the reason why you want students to pay more?
They just voted to keep giving billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to big oil companies that are raking in record profits.
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: They just voted to let millionaires and billionaires keep paying lower tax rates than middle-class workers and their secretaries.
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: They even voted to give an average tax cut of at least $150,000 to folks like me, the wealthiest Americans — a tax cut paid for by cutting things like education and job training programs that give students new opportunities to work and succeed.
Now, that’s their priorities. And that doesn’t make any sense. Do we want to keep tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who don’t need them and didn’t ask for them? Or do we want to make sure that they’re paying their fair share? (Applause.) Do we want to keep subsidizing big oil, or do we want to make sure we’re investing in clean energy? (Applause.) Do we want to jack up interest rates on millions of students, or do we want to keep investing in things that will help us and help them in the long-term — things like education and science, and a strong military and care for our veterans? (Applause.) We can’t do both. We can’t have it both ways. We’ve got to make a choice about what our priorities are. (Applause.)
You know, I’ve said this before, but I’m just going to keep on repeating it: In America, we admire success. We aspire to it. I want everybody to be rich. I want everybody to work and hustle and start businesses and study your tails off to get there. (Laughter.) But America is not just about a few people doing well. America is about giving everybody a chance to do well. (Applause.) Everybody — not just a few — everybody. (Applause.) That’s what built this country. That’s what the American Dream is all about.
A lot of us had parents or grandparents who said, maybe I can’t go to college, but some day my son, he’ll go to college and I’ll be so proud of him. A lot of us had parents or grandparents who said, maybe I can’t start my own business, but maybe some day my daughter, she’s going to start her own business, she’s going to work for herself. (Applause.) A lot of us had parents or grandparents who said, I may be an immigrant, but I believe that this is a country where no matter what you look like and where you come from, no matter what your name is, you can make it if you try. (Applause.)
North Carolina, that’s who we are. That’s our values. That’s what we’re about. So, no, “set your sights lowe” — that’s not an education plan. “You’re on your own” — that’s not an economic plan. We can’t just cut our way to prosperity.
Previous generations made the investments necessary for us to succeed, to build a strong middle class, to create the foundation for America’s leadership in science and technology and medicine and manufacturing. And now it’s our turn. We’ve got to do the right thing. I want one of you to discover the cure for cancer, or the formula for fusion, or the next game-changing American industry. (Applause.) And that means we’ve got to support those efforts.
So if you agree with me, I need your help. I need you to tell your member of Congress, we’re not going to set our sights lower. We’re not going to settle for something less. Now, all of you are lucky, you already have three congressmen who are on board. So don’t — you don’t need to call them. (Laughter and applause.) They’re already doing the right thing. But I’m asking everyone else who’s watching or following online — call your member of Congress. Email them. Write on their Facebook page. Tweet them — we’ve got a hashtag. (Laughter.) Here’s the hashtag for you to tweet them: #dontdoublemyrate. (Applause.) All right? I’m going to repeat that — the hashtag is #dontdoublemyrate. You tweet — everybody say it just so everybody remembers it.
AUDIENCE: Don’t double my rate.
THE PRESIDENT: Don’t double my rate — it’s pretty straightforward.
Your voice matters. So stand up. Be heard. Be counted. Tell them now is not the time to double interest rates on your student loans. Now is the time to double down on smart investments to build a strong and secure middle class. Now is the time to double down on building an America that lasts.
THE PRESIDENT: You — absolutely. (Applause.)
You and me, all of us here, every single one of us — we’re here only because somebody, somewhere, felt responsibility not just for themselves, but they felt responsibility for something larger. It started with them feeling responsible for their families. So your parents sacrificed, your grandparents sacrificed to make sure you could succeed. But then they thought bigger than that. They thought about their neighborhood, they thought about their community, they thought about their country. Now –
AUDIENCE MEMBER: The planet.
THE PRESIDENT: They thought about the planet. And now it’s our turn to be responsible. It’s our turn to keep that promise alive.
And no matter how tough these times have been, no matter how many obstacles that may stand in our way, I promise you, North Carolina, there are better days ahead. (Applause.) We will emerge stronger than we were before. Because I believe in you. I believe in your future. I believe in the investment you’re making right here at North Carolina. (Applause.) That tells me that you share my faith in America’s future. And that’s what drives me every single day — your hopes, your dreams. And I’m not quitting now because, in America, we don’t quit. (Applause.) We get each other’s backs. We help each other get ahead.
And if we work together, we’ll remind the world just why it is that America’s the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
Statement by the Press Secretary on the Horn of Africa Humanitarian Crisis
In 2011, the worst drought in 60 years struck the Horn of Africa. The United Nations declared famine in six regions of Somalia, threatening the lives of over 250,000 Somalis, and requiring urgent humanitarian assistance for more than 13.3 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and other parts of Somalia. The international community responded and famine conditions abated in January 2012. Nevertheless, today, more than 9 million people still remain in need of emergency assistance in Horn of Africa.
To prevent a worsening of the fragile humanitarian situation and more people requiring emergency aid, the United States Government is providing an additional $120 million to those in need of emergency assistance in the Horn of Africa. This assistance is targeted to avoid the crisis from escalating in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia where the lateness and insufficiency of rains are expected to have a significant negative impact on crop production. We commend Ethiopia and Kenya for building the resiliency of their nations to mitigate the shock of food insecurity and drought, as well as their effort to host and provide a safe place for Somali refugees. This contribution brings the total U.S. assistance for the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa to more than $1.1 billion since the crisis began in 2011.
We urge the international community to continue their support and assistance to those in need of emergency assistance in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia with the objective of building resiliency in order to save lives.
Fact Sheet: A Comprehensive Strategy and New Tools to Prevent and Respond to Atrocities
Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States. Our security is affected when masses of civilians are slaughtered, refugees flow across borders, and murderers wreak havoc on regional stability and livelihoods. America’s reputation suffers, and our ability to bring about change is constrained, when we are perceived as idle in the face of mass atrocities and genocide. Unfortunately, history has taught us that our pursuit of a world where states do not systematically slaughter civilians will not come to fruition without concerted and coordinated effort.
-Presidential Study Directive 10, August 4, 2011
President Obama has made the prevention of atrocities a key focus of this Administration’s foreign policy.
The Obama Administration has amassed an unprecedented record of actions taken to protect civilians and hold perpetrators of atrocities accountable. These include:
- · Leading international efforts to bring pressure to bear on the abusive Qadhafi and Asad regimes through the formation of Groups of Friends, the imposition of extensive sanctions, support for the opposition, and support for efforts to bring perpetrators of atrocities to justice;
- · Leadership in securing the passage of UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973, which authorized—in an unprecedented combination of measures—referral of the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court, an arms embargo, a no-fly zone, comprehensive sanctions against the Qadhafi regime that preserved Libya’s wealth for its people, and a mandate for the protection of civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack;
- · Leadership of a successful international military effort to protect civilians in Libya;
- · Spearheading the international effort to ensure a peaceful and orderly referendum and facilitate the independence of South Sudan;
- · Supporting regional efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army and apprehend Joseph Kony, including by sending military advisers to Central Africa;
- · Working with regional and international partners—including UN peacekeepers on the ground—to help protect civilians and bring about the end of a violent electoral standoff in Cote d’Ivoire;
- · Helping secure the creation of commissions of inquiry to investigate alleged gross violations of human rights (in Cote d’Ivoire, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, and Syria);
- · Engaging intensively to support the capture of priority figures wanted by international tribunals (including Goran Hadzic and Ratko Mladic);
- · Leading efforts to combat sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) through creating the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security; launching innovative pilot programs to prevent such violence and expand access to justice for victims in Kenya, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and supporting the appointment of a dedicated special representative position on SGBV in the UN Secretariat;
President Obama also recognizes that in order to counter atrocities more effectively, the U.S. government must prioritize this effort, strengthen and expand the tools available to us, and establish a level of organization that matches our commitment. In 2010, he created the first-ever White House position dedicated to preventing and addressing war crimes and atrocities. And in August 2011, he issued Presidential Study Directive 10 (PSD-10), declaring the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide to be a “core national security interest and core moral responsibility” of the United States, ordering the creation of a whole-of-government Atrocities Prevention Board (APB), and directing the National Security Advisor to lead a comprehensive review to assess the U.S. government’s anti-atrocity capabilities, and recommend reforms that would fill identified gaps in these capabilities.
President Obama announced today that he has approved the recommendations generated by the review, and he has directed his Administration to take a range of steps to strengthen the U.S. government’s ability to foresee, prevent, and respond to genocide and mass atrocities, including:
- · The APB will help the U.S. government identify and address atrocity threats, and oversee institutional changes that will make us more nimble and effective. Because strong organization and a whole-of-government approach is needed to counter atrocities effectively, the APB will include representatives of the Departments of State, Defense, Treasury, Justice, and Homeland Security, the Joint Staff, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Office of the Vice President–all of whom are at the Assistant Secretary level or higher and have been appointed by name by their respective Principals. The APB will meet at least monthly to oversee the development and implementation of atrocity prevention and response policy, and additionally on an ad hoc basis to deal with urgent situations as they arise. The Chair of the APB will be the NSS Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights. To ensure senior-level visibility into the work and progress the APB is making, the Deputies will meet at least twice a year, and Principals once a year, to review the work of the APB, and the Chair will report on this work annually in a memorandum to the President. After six months of operations, the Chair (in consultation with the Board) will begin preparation of a draft Executive Order for consideration by the President that will, as appropriate, publicly set forth the structure, functions, priorities, and objectives of the Board, provide further direction for its work, and include further measures for strengthening atrocity prevention and response capabilities as identified in the course of the Board’s work.
- · The intelligence community will collect and analyze information that allows us to better anticipate, understand, and counter atrocity threats:
o National Intelligence Estimate: The APB will monitor the National Intelligence Council’s preparation of the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on the global risk of mass atrocities and genocide.
o Congressional Reporting: The APB will also work with the Director of National Intelligence to include information about mass atrocity threats in his annual threat assessment testimony before Congress.
o Increased Collection and Analysis: The intelligence community will work internally and with our foreign partners to increase the overall collection, analysis, and sharing of information relating to atrocity threats and situations.
- · Our diplomats will encourage more robust multilateral efforts to prevent and respond to atrocities. An effective atrocity prevention and response strategy – in which burdens are appropriately shared by other nations – will require cultivating deeper and broader support among our bilateral partners, as well as international and regional organizations:
o Diplomatic Initiative: The United States will engage with countries and other stakeholders around the world to expand and deepen international commitment and capacity to prevent and respond to atrocities.
o Peacekeeper Training: The United States will update our training programs for UN peacekeepers to focus on enhanced techniques for civilian protection, including prevention of sexual and gender-based violence.
o UN System Capacity: The United States will work with the United Nations to strengthen UN capacity for conflict prevention and crisis management, including through preventive diplomacy and mediation, especially when UN missions encounter escalating atrocity threats.
o Regional Capacity: The United States will also work with our partners to build the capacity of regionally-based organizations to prevent and respond to atrocities.
- · We will deploy new tools that the Obama Administration has developed:
o New Kinds of Targeted Sanctions: The President yesterday signed an Executive Order that authorizes sanctions and visa bans against those who commit or facilitate grave human rights abuses via information technology (“GHRAVITY sanctions”) related to Syrian and Iranian regime brutality. This novel sanctions tool allows us to sanction not just those oppressive governments, but the companies that enable them with technology they use for oppression and the “digital guns for hire” who create or operate systems used to monitor, track, and target citizens for killing, torture, or other grave abuses.
o Denying Entry to the United States: DHS and State will use the President’s visa ban on human rights abusers issued last August alongside other legal tools to deny perpetrators of serious violations of human rights or humanitarian law, or other atrocities, entry to the United States.
- · And we will add new tools and expanded capabilities to our arsenal:
o Civilian Surge: State and USAID will increase the ability of the United States Government to “surge” specialized expertise in civilian protection on a rapid response basis in crisis situations.
o Lessons Learned: Departments and agencies will compile after action “lessons-learned” reports (of the sort already performed by the U.S. Armed Forces) to record key innovations, areas of success, and issues requiring future work in the area of atrocity prevention and response.
o Awards for Innovation: USAID will, together with co-funder Humanity United, issue a “Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention” that will invite ideas—and award grants—for innovative technologies that strengthen the U.S. government’s capacity for early warning, prevention, and response with respect to mass atrocities. USAID will also issue a “Grand Challenge for Development” that will provide major investments—and leverage those investments with global partners—to bring to scale innovative tools, policy initiatives, and advocacy efforts that will strengthen efforts to prevent and respond to mass atrocities.
o Financial Levers: Treasury will position itself to more quickly use its financial tools to block the flow of money to abusive regimes and will explore with international partners the use of additional financial measures for preventing and responding to atrocities.
- · We will make our military and civilian workforce better equipped to prevent and respond to atrocities:
Ø DOD will further develop operational principles (i.e., doctrine) and planning techniques specifically tailored around atrocity prevention and response. The Joint Staff has prepared an appendix on mass atrocity response operations to be included in its Joint Publication on Peace Operations. This document will help ensure that forces have the training and knowledge to succeed in atrocity prevention missions.
Ø Geographic combatant commands will incorporate mass atrocity prevention and response as a priority in their planning, activities and engagements.
Ø DOD will routinely organize exercises incorporating mass atrocity prevention and response scenarios to test operational concepts supporting mass atrocity prevention and response.
Ø DOD will continue to develop more agile planning processes and tools so options can be developed quickly in emergency situations.
Ø The faculty from the service academies will meet at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum at the end of May 2012 to discuss how to incorporate mass atrocity and genocide prevention into their curricula.
Ø All departments and agencies that have a role in atrocity prevention and responses have been directed to begin to develop curricula and programs to train military and civilian personnel in civilian protection and atrocity prevention.
Ø These departments and agencies have also been directed to create performance incentives for work contributing to atrocity prevention.
- · We will hold accountable perpetrators of mass atrocities and genocide and support others who do the same:
o Denying Impunity in the United States: DOJ, DHS, and State will develop proposals that would strengthen the United States Government’s ability to prosecute perpetrators of atrocities found in the United States, and permit the more effective use of immigration laws and immigration fraud penalties to hold accountable perpetrators of mass atrocities.
o Denying Impunity Abroad: The U.S. government will support national, hybrid, and international mechanisms (including, among other things, commissions of inquiry, fact finding missions, and tribunals) that seek to hold accountable perpetrators of atrocities when doing so advances U.S. interests and values, consistent with the requirements of U.S. law. State, DOJ, and DHS will develop options for assisting with witness protection measures and providing technical assistance in connection with foreign and international prosecutions. And we will continue to work with Congress to expand State’s authority to make reward payments for information that leads to the arrest of foreign nationals indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide by international, hybrid, or mixed criminal tribunals.
- · And we will ensure that key decision-makers receive early warning and hear dissenting views. To ensure that information about potential or ongoing atrocities reaches key decision makers in a timely way, departments and agencies will be required to have “alert channels” that will allow individuals to share relevant unreported information about mass atrocities with the APB—including analysis or reporting that a superior may have blocked from being disseminated—without adverse professional consequences. Comparable procedures within the National Security Staff will ensure that information about atrocity threats and situations, reaches the President.
Fact Sheet: Mitigating and Eliminating the Threat to Civilians Posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army
Today, President Obama announced that the United States will continue the deployment of a small number of U.S. military advisors to assist Uganda and other regional forces pursuing the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and seeking to protect local populations. The President said that upon ordering the deployment last year that he directed his National Security Council to review our progress after 150 days. Having completed this review, he announced that our advisors will continue their efforts to support the regional forces. “This is part of our regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA and help realize a future where no African child is stolen from their family, no girl is raped and no boy is turned into a child soldier,” as the President said. The President made this announcement in remarks discussing the United States’ development of a comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to mass atrocities.
The United States remains deeply engaged in support of the governments and people of central Africa in their efforts to end the threat posed by the LRA and reduce the human consequences of the LRA’s atrocities. The United States is providing support for both military and civilian efforts to comprehensively address the LRA threat and help affected communities.
In May 2010, President Obama signed into law the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, which reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to support regional partners’ efforts to end the atrocities of the LRA in central Africa. As the President said at the time, “the legislation crystallizes the commitment of the United States to help bring an end to the brutality and destruction that have been a hallmark of the LRA across several countries for two decades, and to pursue a future of greater security and hope for the people of central Africa.”
The United States’ strategy outlines four key objectives: (1) the increased protection of civilians, (2) the apprehension or removal of Joseph Kony and senior LRA commanders from the battlefield, (3) the promotion of defections from the LRA and support of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of remaining LRA fighters, and (4) the provision of continued humanitarian relief to affected communities.
- · For more than two decades, the LRA has murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa. The LRA continues to commit atrocities in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.
- · As the President has said before, “the Lord’s Resistance Army preys on civilians – killing, raping, and mutilating the people of central Africa; stealing and brutalizing their children; and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. Its leadership, indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has no agenda and no purpose other than its own survival. It fills its ranks of fighters with the young boys and girls it abducts. By any measure, its actions are an affront to human dignity.”
- · The LRA’s top leaders are responsible for the murder, rape, and kidnapping of tens of thousands of men, women, and children over the last two decades, and we believe they should be brought to justice. In 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants against Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen for war crimes and crimes against humanity. (Two other senior leaders subject to an arrest warrant are now believed to be dead.)
Sustaining Pressure on LRA Leaders while Encouraging Defections and Protecting Civilians
- · Last October, the President authorized the deployment of a small number of U.S. military advisors to enhance the collaboration and capacity of the regional forces pursuing the LRA and seeking to protect local populations. We believe the advisors are making progress in their efforts, despite a difficult operating environment.
- · The Governments of Uganda, CAR, DRC and South Sudan, in collaboration with the African Union, continue to dedicate significant material and human resources to bring an end to the threat posed by the LRA. They are leading this effort, and the United States is committed to their efforts to keep the pressure on the LRA’s top leaders, encourage fighters to leave the group, and protect and assist civilians in need. Continuing the deployment is contingent on the continued leadership and collaboration of affected states.
- · The United States commends the governments in the region for their continued efforts to pursue top LRA commanders and protect local populations. They have made progress keeping the LRA from regrouping. However, there are significant challenges in pursuing top LRA commanders and protecting local populations across this vast, densely-forested area that lacks basic road and telecommunications infrastructure.
- · The United States is working with the governments in the region, the United Nations and non-governmental partners to increase opportunities for non-indicted LRA fighters and abductees to safely leave the group. We believe that targeted efforts to facilitate defections and support their reintegration, in parallel with increased military pressure, can help reduce the LRA’s capacity. We continue to call on non-indicted LRA fighters to leave the group and take advantage of opportunities for reintegration.
- · In addition, we are also working on other actions to protect civilians, including strengthening early warning networks and local protection planning, and providing humanitarian assistance to LRA-affected communities.
Partnering in Support of Regional Efforts
- · We are working closely with the African Union, the United Nations, and the European Union as well as the four affected governments.
- · We have a strong interest in working with our regional partners to enhance their capacity and cooperation to address shared threats to peace and security, such as the LRA, and to increase the protection of civilians.
Post-Conflict Recovery in Northern Uganda
- · The President has commended “the Government of Uganda for its efforts to stabilize the northern part of the country, for actively supporting transitional and development assistance, and for pursuing reintegration programs for those who surrender and escape from the LRA ranks.”
- · The Government of Uganda pushed the LRA out of Uganda by 2006, through a combination of military pressure and an aggressive campaign to encourage defections using its Amnesty Act. Since that time, the Ugandan government has overseen a significant recovery process in northern Uganda.
- · The United States has played a leading role, among other donors, in supporting northern Uganda’s recovery.
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY S.J. Res. 36 – Providing for Congressional Disapproval of the Rule Submitted by the National Labor Relations Board Relating to Representation Election Procedures
EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20503
April 23, 2012
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
S.J. Res. 36 – Providing for Congressional Disapproval of the Rule Submitted by
the National Labor Relations Board Relating to Representation Election Procedures
(Sen. Enzi, R-WY, and 44 cosponsors)
The Administration strongly opposes passage of S.J. Res. 36, which would overturn recent commonsense measures adopted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to streamline and modernize workplace elections and ensure that workers deciding if they wish to be represented by a union have a fair vote in a reasonable amount of time. The Administration is committed to supporting the right of workers to join and participate in a union and bargain for fair wages, benefits and a safe workplace. These rights are fundamental to better conditions for American workers and to an open, just, economically fair and prosperous society. S.J. Res. 36 attacks these bedrock American values.
If the President is presented with a Resolution of Disapproval that would reverse these measures adopted by the NLRB, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the Resolution.