FACT SHEET: President Obama to Sign the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012
Will Extend the Bank’s Authority Through 2014 and Increase Its Portfolio Cap to $140 Billion to Help U.S. Businesses Sell Their Products and Services Around the World
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama will sign the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012, a bipartisan bill that will reauthorize the Bank to continue financing U.S. exports, and ensure a level playing field for U.S. businesses, at no cost to American taxpayers.
The President believes that a critical component of building stronger and more durable domestic economic growth is ensuring that U.S. workers and businesses can compete successfully in global markets. Doing so requires promoting U.S. export of goods and services overseas, which is why the President launched the National Export Initiative (NEI) in 2010, with the goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years while supporting two million new export-related jobs. This legislation will allow the Export-Import Bank to continue financing U.S. exports to meet global competition.
America continues to make historic progress under the NEI, despite challenges in the global economy. U.S. exports over the past 12 months are higher than any previous 12-month period in history, reaching $2.15 trillion, over 36% above the level of exports in 2009. This record-breaking level of exports supported 9.7 million exports-related jobs in 2011, an increase of 1.2 million exports-related jobs since 2009.
The Export-Import Bank is playing an important role in contributing to this progress. Last year, the Bank set export finance records for the third straight year. Overall authorizations hit $32.7 billion, supporting $40 billion in export sales and 290,000 American jobs at more than 3,600 U.S. companies. More than 85% of these transactions were for small businesses. The Bank is on track to meet the growing demand for export financing this fiscal year, as well, and small business transactions currently account for more than 22% of the Bank’s overall authorizations.
As we create export opportunities for our businesses and workers, the President will continue to ensure that U.S. exporters have a level global playing field on which to compete. The U.S. will pursue its longstanding goal of minimizing trade-distorting financing of exports from our global competitors. However, as long as our global competitors provide official export financing, America will do the same.
Under the NEI, the Administration has been working tirelessly on behalf of U.S. exporters since day one. Through the direct counseling of more than 12,000 U.S. companies, federal trade agencies have supported nearly $140 billion in U.S. exports, and through the recent launch of the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center, the President has brought an unprecedented level of focus and cooperation around investigating unfair trade practices around the world. The Administration has also worked to expand access to overseas markets for U.S. exporters by resolving outstanding issues with pending trade agreements, negotiating new market access, and deepening engagement in major emerging markets, such as the Free Trade Agreements the President signed with Korea, Colombia, and Panama.
Key Elements of the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012
The reauthorization legislation includes the following provisions:
- · Extending the Bank’s Authority: The Bank’s authority to approve new export financing is extended to September 30, 2014.
- · Increasing the Bank’s Portfolio Limit: The Bank’s financing authority is increased immediately to $120 billion and will be further stepped up to $140 billion, while requiring the Bank to submit a business plan and maintain a low default rate.
- · Focusing the Bank’s Mission: The Bank will provide additional information on its business planning, default rates, and its support for small business and the U.S. textile industry. In addition, the GAO will evaluate the role of the Bank in the world economy, the Bank’s risk management, and its underwriting and fraud prevention procedures.
- · Enhancing Transparency: The Bank will provide the public with an opportunity to comment on transactions of more than $100 million through Federal Register notification.
- · Updating Technology: The Bank is given authority to use part of its fee income to update its information technology systems.
- · Reviewing Existing Policies: The Bank will conduct reviews of its economic impact procedures and domestic content policies.
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY H.R. 5854 – Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 5854 – Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013
(Rep. Rogers, R-KY)
Last summer, the Congress and the President came to a bipartisan agreement to put the Nation on a sustainable fiscal course in enacting the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). The BCA created a framework for more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction and provided tight spending caps that would bring discretionary spending to a minimum level needed to preserve critical national priorities. Departing from the bipartisan agreement reached in the BCA and departing from the caps it put in place, the House of Representatives put forward a topline discretionary funding level for fiscal year (FY) 2013 that would cost jobs and hurt average Americans, especially seniors, veterans, and children. The funding level would also degrade many of the basic Government services on which the American people rely such as air traffic control and law enforcement. In addition, these cuts were made in the context of a budget that fails the test of balance, fairness, and shared responsibility by giving millionaires and billionaires a tax cut and paying for it through deep cuts, including to discretionary programs.
The appropriations bill for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies funds critical priorities, but given the House’s topline discretionary level for FY 2013, enactment of H.R. 5854 would require harmful cuts to other critical priorities such as education, research and development, job training, and health care as other appropriations bills are constructed.
If the President were presented with H.R. 5854, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
The Administration would like to take this opportunity to share additional views regarding the Committee’s version of H.R. 5854, making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, and for other purposes.
Military Construction. The Administration appreciates the Committee’s support for critical military construction projects, but strongly opposes incremental funding of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System Complex in Romania. The incremental funding of this project runs counter to sound budgeting principles and fiscal discipline.
Civilian Pay Freeze. The Administration objects to sections 129, 231, and 232, as well as any other effort to reduce pay for civilian personnel that would effectively extend the freeze on civilian pay through FY 2013. As the President stated in his FY 2013 Budget, a permanent pay freeze is neither sustainable nor desirable. The Administration encourages the Congress to support the proposed 0.5 percent pay raise.
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). The Administration appreciates the Committee’s support for ANC programs, which will help address the Cemetery’s burial and other operating issues.
The Administration strongly opposes problematic policy and language riders that have no place in funding legislation, including, but not limited to, the following provision in this bill:
Project Labor Agreements (PLAs). The Administration strongly opposes the provision that would effectively prohibit use of project labor agreements on Federal construction projects funded under this bill. PLAs can provide structure and stability to large construction projects, and allow agencies to complete these projects more efficiently. They can also help ensure compliance with laws and regulations governing workplace safety and health, equal employment opportunity, and labor and employment standards.
The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress as the FY 2013 appropriations process moves forward.
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 5743 – Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2013
(Rep. Rogers, R-MI)
The Administration appreciates the continued support of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for intelligence activities, and notwithstanding the concerns outlined below, does not oppose House passage of H.R. 5743, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013.
The Administration has serious concerns with the amounts authorized in the classified annex, particularly if these funding levels were included in an appropriations bill, because they exceed the President’s Budget. Further, the Administration objects to unrequested authorizations for some classified programs that were reduced in the President’s Budget because they are lower in priority and would support deficit reduction efforts. The Administration asks the congressional committees to ensure that the final amounts appropriated for the Intelligence Community for FY 2013 are authorized.
The Administration appreciates that the bill repeals some dated and obsolete statutory reporting requirements. Further reducing unnecessary reporting requirements will help to alleviate the burden associated with these requirements in a resource-constrained environment.
The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to address its concerns.
FACT SHEET: MEMORIAL DAY AND COMMEMORATION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE VIETNAM WAR
This Memorial Day, we honor the men and women who have defended our nation, and mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. On Memorial Day, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will participate in an event at Arlington National Cemetery. The President, Vice President, First Lady and Dr. Biden will also attend an event at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Prior to these events, the President and First Lady Michelle Obama will meet with Gold Star Families. On Friday, the Vice President and Dr. Biden attended an event to honor the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp.
Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War
“This month, we’ll begin to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, a time when, to our shame, our veterans did not always receive the respect and the thanks they deserved — a mistake that must never be repeated.” — President Obama, May 16, 2012
The Memorial Day gathering at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall marks the beginning of the national commemoration of the Vietnam War’s 50th anniversary program and is a joint effort between the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the National Park Service and the Department of Defense.
The Federal Government will partner with State and local governments, private organizations, and communities across America to launch the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War—a 13-year program to honor and give thanks to a generation of proud Americans who saw our country through one of the most challenging missions we have ever faced and pay tribute to the more than 3 million men and women who answered the call of duty with courage and valor. The events and activities that are a part of this commemoration will:
- · Thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action, for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.
- · Highlight the service of the armed forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of federal agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations that served with, or in support of, the armed forces.
- · Pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War.
- · Highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to the military research conducted during the Vietnam War.
- · Recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies of the United States during the Vietnam War.
REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN AT THE COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY OF THE UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY
REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
AT THE COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY OF THE
UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY
United States Military Academy
West Point, New York
10:22 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) It’s a great honor to be here.
Distinguished guests; soldiers and officers, friends and family of those graduating today, academy faculty and staff and, most of all, cadets on the cusp of being commissioned in the United States Army, it is an honor — it is an honor — to be here on this magnificent campus whose graduates for more than two centuries have played a leading role in nearly every chapter of our nation’s history.
Before there was a military academy here on the Hudson, before even the United States was the United States of America, at the height of the Revolutionary War, General George Washington considered West Point so strategically vital he called it the “key to the continent.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I would respectfully stipulate that West Point is even more important to our nation today. The 1,032 cadets gathered here are the key — the key — to whatever challenges the world has in store.
The Class of 2012, four years ago you were among the most promising high school graduates on the planet; your future limited only by the reach of your imaginations, but at an age when no one would have blamed you for having no idea what you wanted to do with your lives, and in an era when the sacrifice required of our military had never been greater, you chose –- you chose — to turn your considerable talents, your strength of purpose, but even more importantly, the strength of your intellects to serving your country and enrolling at the Academy, that, for all its merits, is no one’s idea of an easy ride.
That choice is your class motto: “For more than ourselves.” For more than ourselves. Just imagine what this world would be if it adopted that same notion. You have.
And because of you, because you do dedicate yourself, while thousands of colleges and universities across America are proudly celebrating graduations today and throughout the year and any time this year, only at West Point, and the other outstanding service academies, does the entire United States of America swell with pride at the accomplishment you’re celebrating today. (Applause.) All of America.
No one is prouder, of course, than your families, and deservedly so. Military service is by its very nature, as anyone who has ever worn the uniform knows, by its very nature a family endeavor.
Among you are 426 cadets with a military parent, including 80 of you with a mother or father who has graduated from this very academy.
Then there is Cadet Adam Scott, of Lorton, Virginia, who graduates today. (Applause.) He was preceded at West Point by two grandfathers; his father, Bruce; his sisters Katherine and Kerney and his brother Andrew. (Applause.) Adam, I guess Annapolis was never much of a choice for you. (Laughter.)
Same goes for Cadets Brian and Larry LoRusso. (Applause.) Two lacrosse stars from Rocky Point, New York. Celebrating with us today is his brother Kevin, who graduated from West Point in ’09, another brother Nick, who graduated five years ago and is watching as I speak all the way from Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. (Applause.)
Cadets, let’s give a shout-out for Nick and all the other warriors in Afghanistan! They’re incredible. (Applause.)
You’re about to join the finest warriors in history, and they’re out there now. May God go with them.
Today, as each of you awaits the officer’s oath that will take you across one great threshold in American life, on behalf of President Obama, your Commander-in-Chief, your entire government, and I believe the entire nation, it is my honor to simply say congratulations. Congratulations. (Applause.)
Savor the moment. You’ve earned this. Savor this day. You’ll remember it the rest of your lives.
Every cadet passing through these halls; every hapless plebe rubbing General Sedgwick’s spurs for good luck; every firstie forged through this crucible called West Point; everyone who ever touched the George C. Marshall plaque in the stadium and thought, when the time comes, I’ll be ready for that mission, whatever it might be; every single generation that has preceded you at West Point has faced daunting challenges upon receiving its commissions, especially in times of war. But your generation, the 9/11 Generation, is more than worthy of the proud legacy that you will inherit today.
Most of you were in elementary school on September 11, 2001, when your nation was attacked; old enough to remember, perhaps, but young enough that that tragic day need not have shaped your lives. But for so many of you, it did just that.
As you and your immediate predecessors came of age, 2,800,000 of you were moved to join our military, knowing full well that you were likely to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. As General Odierno and I have talked often on my multiple trips to Afghanistan[sic] with him, hundreds of thousands of you have laced up those combat boots and walked across those barren deserts and snow-capped mountains where 24 members of this graduating class have already served. (Applause.)
Cadet Ben Ordiway served in Iraq during some of the darkest days of that war. (Applause.) When his first sergeant recommended that he apply for West Point, he spent two weeks studying for the SAT at FOB Caldwell; hopped on a roundtrip flight to Baghdad to take the exam. I’d call that an unusual testing environment. (Laughter.) Very few applicants have to solve math problems and write essays while taking incoming mortar fire. (Laughter.)
Indeed, the challenges these wars present to young warriors are perhaps the most daunting in our nation’s history because in addition to fighting for your country, your predecessors and you will be asked to do so much more.
You are asked to take on tasks once reserved only for those with years of seniority and take on responsibilities far beyond the base or the battlefield.
Young men and women steeped in military doctrine have had to master the intricacies of tribal politics, deal with issues ranging from electricity to unemployment, currency exchange to taxation. You are a remarkable, remarkable, remarkable group.
It has been one of the singular honors of my life to be assigned by President Obama to oversee our policy in Iraq, to see firsthand the accomplishments of our warriors during my multiple trips in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq as both a U.S. senator, and as Vice President.
President Obama and I came to office determined to end the war in Iraq responsibly, and today our troops are home. (Applause.)
Last December, after nine long years, I had the great privilege –- the great privilege of standing before our commanders and troops in Baghdad on the eve of their departure. And as I told them that day: “In the finest American tradition, having carried out your mission, you’re leaving. Taking nothing with you but your experiences, your achievements, and the pride associated with a hard job well done.”
That’s what America does. (Applause.)
In Afghanistan, President Obama laid out a clear strategy. Our commanders refocused and redoubled their efforts on disrupting, dismantling and ultimately destroying — defeating al Qaeda, reversing the Taliban’s momentum and training the Afghan Security Forces to prevent extremists from gaining ground. Since then, we’ve taken out — you have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s senior leadership.
And in a mission that will go down in the annals of intelligence and special operations, some of America’s most gifted security professionals tracked down Osama bin Laden — after the trail had gone cold. And in one of the most incredibly daring raids, they delivered justice to the architect of a harmful ideology — a hateful ideology with no place in the modern world and the man responsible for the deaths of almost 3,000 innocents on our soil. They got him. (Applause.)
And in the process, those warriors sent a message to the world that if you harm America, we will follow you to the end of the Earth. (Applause.)
And now, as you saw at NATO — the NATO Conference in Chicago earlier this week, the President has formed a consensus among the 50 nations at our side on how best to responsibly end this war and bring our young men and women home.
The entire surge announced by President Obama in his speech right here on this campus in Eisenhower Hall will return this summer. And our drawdown will continue thereafter, even as we continue to build up Afghanistani forces so they can assume full responsibility for their country.
The cost of these wars, the longest in our nation’s history, have been extraordinary — 4,422 service members, 4,422 Fallen Angels, have paid the ultimate price in Afghanistan [sic]; 1,868 in Afghanistan; and more than 30,000 have been injured, some of whom will require medical care for the rest of their lives.
And here at this citadel of American virtue, 87 Fallen Angels in the West Point family, including Second Lieutenant David Rylander, whom some of you knew, and who was killed earlier this month in an IED attack in Afghanistan.
Our hearts go out to his family. The President and I, indeed all Americans, stand in awe of — in awe of his and all that went before him’s commitment and to their sacrifice.
Our country owes these heroes and their families a debt of gratitude we will never be able to fully repay, but one that we will never forget because institutions like this continue to stand — one that we honor today. And here at this academy and every other academy and every place where military personnel gather, we’ll never forget. We remember every day.
Winding down these long wars is enabling us to replace and rebalance our foreign policy, to take on the full range of challenges that will shape the 21st century, challenges different than those of the 20th century.
When President Obama and I came to office, we were convinced that our nation had reached a strategic turning point, requiring us to rebalance our foreign policy. While we will maintain a substantial, vigilant presence in the Middle East — and partners with the Afghanis — that will outlast our combat mission, we are now able to begin to focus our attention and resources on other regions and other challenges that will be incredibly critical to our nation’s future in the 21st century.
We are revitalizing America’s alliances, and particularly NATO, the greatest military alliance the world has ever known because — because, as the President has rightly said, Europe is the cornerstone of our engagement with the world.
We learned during the Libya campaign, which saved thousands of innocents and helped topple a murderous dictator, that there is almost nothing — nothing we cannot accomplish when NATO and our partners act decisively, and when we actually share the burden of the responsibility.
And at this week’s Summit in NATO — excuse me, in Chicago, NATO strengthened its defense capabilities for the years ahead, including adding equipment it had not had, only we had, by acquiring a fleet of unmanned aircraft for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Rebalancing our foreign policy also means refocusing on the most dynamic region of the world’s economy, the global economy, Asia. The United States has long been and will remain a Pacific power and a critical provider of peace, prosperity and security of this vital region.
The most critical relationship to get right is that between the United States and China. Every day, the affairs of our nations and the livelihoods of our citizens grow more connected.
How we manage this relationship between the world’s two largest economy, although we’re still almost three times as large as theirs, how we do this will help shape the 21st century.
This obviously doesn’t mean we’ll always see eye-to-eye, including on issues like human rights. Nor does it mean we will not compete with each other economically. As I said when I was in China, we Americans welcome this competition, which drives us to do better, and to be better because there’s no doubt that America can compete, and America will win whenever, and wherever, the playing field is level. (Applause.)
Ultimately, that is what America is focused on in the Asia Pacific, empowering cooperative relationships, clear rules of the road so that that region can continue its peaceful development, and that our people can prosper.
We’ve also forged stronger relationships with emerging powers like India, Russia, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa; and all of these efforts are helping advance American interests at home and around the world.
Add to that, that we dealt with potentially the gravest threat to mankind. We’ve reduced our reliance on nuclear weapons and the size of our arsenal, and in the New START Treaty we got the Russians to reduce theirs as well.
We brought the world together to secure nuclear materials and prevent those materials from getting into the hands of terrorists, and we isolated countries like Iran and North Korea whose nuclear programs threaten not only us, but world peace and stability.
At the same time we demonstrated that we don’t have to choose between protecting our country and living the values we preach. We shut down secret prisons overseas and we banned torture. It was the right thing to do. It enhanced our power of our persuasion around the world, and the security of our soldiers around the world.
President Obama also knew we needed to ensure our military was postured to meet these new objectives and new challenges. And just as General George C. Marshall wanted a West Point graduate for that pivotal mission, when World War II hung in the balance, President Obama determined that we needed a new defense strategy to meet the needs of this country, and he turned, as Marshall called for — turned to graduates of this great institution and other service academies.
He turned to men like Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, West Point Class of ’76; and General Ray Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army, Class of ’74. The defense strategy they crafted provided a more agile, flexible force prepared for future challenges, better able to confront aggressors and project power, with strong partnerships to share the burden and smart investments in cutting-edge capabilities.
And we proposed a budget to fund that strategy, a budget that not only funds the strategy but first and foremost keeps faith with our wounded warriors, our veterans and their families because in America we all know our government has only one truly sacred obligation: Prepare those we send to war and care for their families and them when they come home. (Applause.)
No one knows better than this audience that America’s unique role in the world requires that we maintain the world’s finest fighting force. That’s a non-negotiable issue. And that’s exactly what this strategy does.
West Point has prepared you to lead us to face these new challenges, some of which we have yet to even contemplate, let alone encounter. Because as I said at the start, you are not only strong and committed, you are also some of our nation’s sharpest minds, with the training to take today’s missions — counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, training foreign armies — and the minds to adapt to tomorrow’s horizons, from cyberspace to outer space.
There is such a proud history here. Such a proud tradition. And I have no doubt that many of you in this class are not only going to make extraordinary contributions to the military but also to civilian life because West Point is in the business of producing — not only great officers –- it produces great leaders and great Americans.
As President Theodore Roosevelt said, upon West Point’s Centennial, 110 years ago next month, he said: “Your duty here at West Point has been to fit men to do well in war. But it is a noteworthy fact that you also have fitted them to do singularly well in peace. The highest positions in the land have been held, not exceptionally, but again and again by West Pointers.” West Pointers who have risen to the first rank in all occupations of civilian life.
Were he here today he’d only alter that quote slightly – young men and women are prepared to do that. (Applause.)
The Class of 2012, this is your destiny, to lead your country; for you are the leaders of your generation, that 9/11 Generation, which I predict will go down in history as the finest generation this nation has produced. (Applause.)
I’ve had many honors as Vice President of the United States, but none greater than being able to salute you today. May God Bless you and protect you and may God protect and bless all those who wear the uniform of the United States of America.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
May 26, 2012
This weekend, folks across the country are opening up the pool, firing up the grill, and taking a well-earned moment to relax. But Memorial Day is more than a three-day weekend. In town squares and national cemeteries, in public services and moments of quiet reflection, we will honor those who loved their country enough to sacrifice their own lives for it.
This Memorial Day, Michelle and I will join Gold Star families, veterans, and their families at Arlington National Cemetery. We’ll pay tribute to patriots of every generation who gave the last full measure of devotion, from Lexington and Concord to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Later that day, we’ll join Vietnam veterans and their families at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—the Wall. We’ll begin to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. It’s another chance to honor those we lost at places like Hue, Khe Sanh, Danang and Hamburger Hill. And we’ll be calling on you—the American people—to join us in thanking our Vietnam veterans in your communities.
Even as we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, we reaffirm our commitment to care for those who served alongside them—the veterans who came home. This includes our newest generation of veterans, from Iraq and Afghanistan.
We have to serve them and their families as well as they have served us: By making sure that they get the healthcare and benefits they need; by caring for our wounded warriors and supporting our military families; and by giving veterans the chance to go to college, find a good job, and enjoy the freedom that they risked everything to protect.
Our men and women in uniform took an oath to defend our country at all costs, and today, as members of the finest military the world has ever known, they uphold that oath with dignity and courage. As President, I have no higher honor than serving as their Commander-in-Chief. But with that honor comes a solemn responsibility – one that gets driven home every time I sign a condolence letter, or meet a family member whose life has been turned upside down.
No words can ever bring back a loved one who has been lost. No ceremony can do justice to their memory. No honor will ever fill their absence.
But on Memorial Day, we come together as Americans to let these families and veterans know that they are not alone. We give thanks for those who sacrificed everything so that we could be free. And we commit ourselves to upholding the ideals for which so many patriots have fought and died.
Thank you, God bless you, and have a wonderful weekend.
Statement from NSC Spokesman Tommy Vietor on the National Security Advisor’s Visit to Russia
During his May 3-4 visit to Moscow, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon discussed next steps in U.S. – Russia relations, including cooperation on security and economic issues. National Security Advisor Donilon’s constructive and wide ranging meetings with President-elect Putin, Security Council Secretary Patrushev, and Deputy Head of the Government Apparatus Ushakov are part of an ongoing series of high-level consultations on issues of mutual strategic interest. Both countries are looking forward to developing further their constructive partnership.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY
Washington-Lee High School
11:53 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Generals! (Applause.) Hello, Virginia! (Applause.) Well, let me first of all say, following Amirah is kind of tough. (Laughter.) She is really good. Give her a big round of applause for the great introduction. (Applause.) There are a couple of other people I want to introduce who are here today. First of all, my Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is here. Give him a round of applause. (Applause.) Your Congressman, Jim Moran, is here. (Applause.)
And before we came out, I had a chance to meet with Amirah and her mom, but also a couple other of your classmates. Brendan Craig is here, and his dad. (Applause.) And also Rina Castaneda and her mom. (Applause.) Let me just say, they represented you really well. Those were three impressive seniors. Thanks for hanging out with me on a Friday. I know that you’re happy not because I’m here. There are seniors in the crowd — (applause) — and you’re excited about graduating. I know the juniors are excited to get the seniors — (applause) — they’re excited to get the seniors out so they’ll be at the top of the heap.
You’ve got prom coming up. (Applause.) I guess you’ve already got your dress all picked out, huh? (Laughter.) All right. You’ve got final exams.
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: You’ve got a great summer coming up. (Applause.) And then, more than 90 percent of this year’s seniors from this school are going to some sort of post-secondary education, whether it is a 4-year college, community college, vocational. (Applause.) That makes us proud. That is a testament to your principal, who is doing a great job. So we’re very proud of him. Thank you. (Applause.)
Now, I know a lot of you — certainly a lot of your parents — are focused on how you’re going to pay for college. And that’s what I was talking to your classmates and some of your parents about. That’s why I’m here. But first, I want to say something about the economy that we’re going to be working to rebuild for you — because not only do we want you to have a good education, we want to make sure that you’re getting a job after you graduate. (Applause.)
Now, this morning, we learned that our economy created 130,000 private sector jobs in April. And the unemployment rate ticked down again. So after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, our businesses have now created more than 4.2 million new jobs over the last 26 months — more than 1 million jobs in the last six months alone. (Applause.)
So that’s the good news. But there are still a lot of folks out of work, which means that we’ve got to do more. If we’re going to recover all the jobs that were lost during the recession, and if we’re going to build a secure economy that strengthens the middle class, then we’re going to have to do more. And that’s why, next week, I’m going to urge Congress, as they start getting back to work, to take some actions on some common-sense ideas, right now, that can accelerate even more job growth. That’s what we need, and my message to Congress is going to be, just saying “no” to ideas that will create new jobs is not an option. There’s too much at stake for us not to all be rowing in the same direction. And that’s true for you and that’s true for your parents. (Applause.)
Now, that’s in the short term. But in the long run, the most important thing we can do for our economy is to give all of you and all Americans the best education possible. That’s the most important thing we can do. (Applause.) That means helping our schools hire and reward the best teachers — and you’ve got some great teachers here. (Applause.) That means stepping up our focus on math and science — something I tell Malia and Sasha every day. (Applause.) You’re solid on math? Okay, I like to hear that. (Laughter.) That means giving more Americans the chance to learn the skills that businesses are looking for right now. And in the 21st century, it also means higher education cannot be a luxury — it is an economic imperative that every American should be able to afford.
Now, my grandfather had the chance to go to college because this country decided that every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it. And on a bipartisan basis, the GI Bill was created that allowed him to go to college. My mother was able to raise two kids by herself because she was also able to get grants and loans to work her way through school. Michelle and I are only where we are because scholarships and student loans gave us a shot at a great education. We didn’t come from a wealthy background, but this country gave us a chance at a good education.
This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of everybody who is willing to work for it. That’s what makes us special. That’s the kind of investment in our own people that helped us lead the world in business and science and technology and medicine. That’s what made us an economic superpower.
But, unfortunately, since you guys were born — which doesn’t seem that long ago to me — (laughter) — maybe it does to you — the cost of going to college has more than doubled. And that means students have to take out more loans. It’s now to the point where the average student who borrows to pay for college graduates with about $25,000 worth of debt — $25,000. And Americans now owe more for their student loans than they do on their credit cards.
Now, I want to give you guys some relief from that debt. I don’t want you to start off life saddled with debt. And I don’t want your parents to be taking on so much debt as well. (Applause.) Because when you start off already owing a lot of money graduating from school it means making a lot of really tough choices, like maybe waiting longer to buy a house, or to start a family, or to chase that career that you really want.
And like I said, Michelle and I know about this. We graduated from college and law school with a truckload of student loan debt. We got married and together we got poorer. (Laughter.) After we graduated, we were lucky enough to land good jobs, so it was still a great investment for us to go to college and law school. But we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago. And I know some of your teachers here probably can relate.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Woohoo! (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: When we should have been starting to save up for Malia’s and Sasha’s college educations, we were still paying off our educations.
So we can’t price the middle class out of a higher education. We’ve got to make college more affordable. That’s why we fixed a broken student loan system that was giving tens of billions of dollars to big banks, and we said, let’s use that money to help more people afford college. That’s why we strengthened aid for low-income students. (Applause.) That’s why we fought to set up a new, independent consumer watchdog agency that’s now working with every student and their parents to access a simple factsheet on student loans and financial aid, so you can make your own choices, the best choices, about how to pay for college. We call it “Know Before You Owe.” Know before you owe.
But making college more affordable isn’t something government can or should do alone. I was mentioning to your classmates, we’re talking to colleges and universities about doing their part. And I’ve told Congress to steer federal aid to schools that keep tuition affordable and provide good value and serve their students well. If colleges and universities can’t stop their costs from going up, then the funding they get from taxpayers, it should go down. We should steer it to the schools that are really giving students the best deal.
And states have to do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. Last year, over 40 states cut their higher education spending. And these cuts have been among the largest drivers of public college tuition increases over the past decade. So we’ve told states, if you can find new ways to bring down the cost of college and make it easier for students to graduate, then we’re going to help you do it — which is good news. (Applause.)
Now, Congress also has to do its part. (Applause.) Right now, that means preventing the interest rates on federal student loans from doubling, which would make it harder for you to pay for college next year. The three classmates of yours that I met, they’re all getting Stafford loans to help pay for college. And these Stafford loans, right now, have a very low interest rate, because five years ago Congress cut the rate for these student loans in half. That was a good idea. It made college more affordable. But here’s the bad news –
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Uh-oh.
THE PRESIDENT: Uh-oh. (Laughter.) On July 1st — less than two months from now — that rate cut expires, and interest rates on those loans will double overnight.
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: That’s not good. For each year that college [sic] doesn’t act, the average student with these Stafford loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt. That’s like a $1,000 tax hike for more than 7 million students across America.
Now, let me ask, is that something that you can afford if you’re going to college?
THE PRESIDENT: You guys shouldn’t have to pay an extra $1,000 just because Congress can’t get its act together. This should be a no-brainer. This is something that we need to get done.
So the good news is, the Senate will vote next week on a bill that would keep student loan rates from doubling. And some Republican senators look like they might support it. I’m ready to work with them to make it happen. But unfortunately, rather than find a bipartisan way to fix this problem, the House Republicans are saying they’re only going to prevent these rates from doubling if they can cut things like preventive health care for women instead. So –
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: That’s not good. We shouldn’t have to choose between women having preventive health care and young people keeping their student loan rates low. (Applause.)
Some of the Republicans in the House are coming up with all sorts of different reasons why we should just let these rates double. One of them compared student loans to a “stage three cancer of socialism,” whatever that means. I don’t know. (Laughter.) Another warned that this is all about giving you a “free college education,” which doesn’t make sense because, of course, loans aren’t free; you’ve got to pay them back. The spokesman for the Speaker of the House said that we were — meaning me — we’re just talking about student loans to distract folks from the economy. Now, this makes no sense because this is all about the economy. (Applause.) Making sure our young people can earn the best possible education — that’s one of the best things we can do for the economy. Making sure college is available to everyone and not just a few at the top — that’s one of the best things we can do for our economy.
And I don’t think it’s fair when they suggest that students like you should pay more so we can bring down deficits that they helped to run up over the past decade. They just voted — (applause) — we’ve got to do something about our deficits. We paid for two wars with a credit card — debt that you’re going to have to pay off. We gave two tax cuts to folks that don’t need it and weren’t asking for it. The Republicans in the House just voted to keep giving billions of taxpayer dollars every year to big oil companies raking in record profits. They just voted to let millionaires and billionaires keep paying lower tax rates than middle-class workers. They even voted to give an average tax cut of at least $150,000 to every millionaire in America. And they want you to pay an extra $1,000 a year for college.
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, that doesn’t make sense. In America, we admire success. We aspire to it. I was talking to folks — Rina wants to study business, and I’m confident she’s going to be really wealthy some day and — (applause) — we want all of you to work and hustle and study your tails off and achieve your dreams. But America is not just about protecting a few people who are doing well. America is about giving everybody a chance to do well. That’s what makes us strong. That’s what the American Dream is all about. (Applause.) Everybody here, you’re only here, you’re only succeeding because somebody, somewhere, felt a responsibility not just to themselves, not even just to their own families, but to the country as a whole. And now it’s our turn to be responsible. It’s our turn to keep that promise alive for the next generation.
So if you agree with me, then I need all of you — I see a lot of cell phones here and a lot of — (laughter) — all kinds of stuff — (laughter) — I want you to send a message to Congress. Tell them, “don’t double my rate.” You should — “don’t double my rate.” You should call them, you should e-mail them, write on their Facebook page, tweet them. (Applause.) Teach your parents how to tweet. (Laughter.) And use the hashtag #dontdoublemyrate. Don’t double my rate. Don’t double it. (Applause.) I asked some students at the University of North Carolina and the University of Colorado and the University of Iowa to do this last week, and they got it trending worldwide for a while. There were, of course — there were more of them than there were of you. I had Jimmy Fallon’s help. (Laughter.)
But what I do expect from each of you on this and every other issue that you come to care about — I want you guys to realize your voice makes a difference. Your voice matters. I know sometimes it seems like it doesn’t, but I guarantee you, members of Congress, they pay attention. And if they start getting a lot of folks telling them they care deeply about something, it changes their mind. Sometimes, it changes their vote. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, what you look like, where you come from, or how much you have — your voice can make a difference. (Applause.) So tell Congress now is not the time to double your interest on your student loans. Now is the time to double down on our smart investments in building a strong and secure middle class. Now is the time to double down on building an America that lasts. And if we work together, I guarantee you we will meet our challenges.
When I met your classmates, when I look out at your faces, it gives me confidence about our future. (Applause.) I believe in you. And I believe you’re going to do great things. And I believe your generation will remind the world just why it is America is the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)
BREAKING NEWS: WHITE HOUSE RELEASES EXCERPTS OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S ADDRESS TO THE NATION FROM AFGHANISTAN
Excerpts of the President’s Address to the Nation from Afghanistan
As Prepared for Delivery –
“Already, nearly half the Afghan people live in places where Afghan Security Forces are moving into the lead. This month, at a NATO Summit in Chicago, our coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year. International troops will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghans, and fight alongside them when needed. But we will shift into a support role as Afghans step forward.
As we do, our troops will be coming home. Last year, we removed 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace, with more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.”
“My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda.
This future is only within reach because of our men and women in uniform. Time and again, they have answered the call to serve in distant and dangerous places. In an age when so many institutions have come up short, these Americans stood tall. They met their responsibilities to one another, and the flag they serve under. I just met with some of them, and told them that as Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder. In their faces, we see what is best in ourselves and our country.”
“As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America. An America where our children live free from fear, and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation.”
“This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.”
Fact Sheet: The U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement
In May 2010, in Washington, DC, President Obama and President Karzai committed our two countries to negotiate and conclude a strategic partnership that would provide a framework for our future relationship. On May 1, 2012, President Obama and President Karzai signed theEnduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) is a legally binding executive agreement, undertaken between two sovereign nations. The President’s goal in negotiating such an agreement has been to define with the Afghan Government what’s on the other side of Transition and the completed drawdown of U.S. forces. The agreement the President signed today will detail how the partnership between the United States and Afghanistan will be normalized as we look beyond a responsible end to the war. Through this Agreement, we seek to cement an enduring partnership with Afghanistan that strengthens Afghan sovereignty, stability and prosperity, and that contributes to our shared goal of defeating Al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates.
The Agreement signed today affirms that cooperation between Afghanistan and the United States is based on mutual respect and shared interests. In this Agreement, we commit ourselves to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Afghanistan. The Agreement is not only a signal of the United States’ long-term commitment to Afghanistan, but it enshrines our commitments to one another and a common vision for our relationship and Afghanistan’s future. U.S. commitments to support Afghanistan’s social and economic development, security, institutions and regional cooperation are matched by Afghan commitments to strengthen accountability, transparency, oversight, and to protect the human rights of all Afghans – men and women.
In addition to recognizing the progress that has been made together over the past 10 years, the Strategic Partnership Agreement includes mutual commitments in the areas of:
- · Protecting and Promoting Shared Democratic Values
- · Advancing Long-Term Security
- · Reinforcing Regional Security and Cooperation
- · Social and Economic Development
- · Strengthening Afghan Institutions and Governance
When it comes to an enduring U.S. presence, President Obama has been clear: we do not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan. Instead, the Strategic Partnership Agreement commits Afghanistan to provide U.S. personnel access to and use of Afghan facilities through 2014 and beyond. The Agreement provides for the possibility of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 2014, for the purposes of training Afghan Forces and targeting the remnants of al-Qaeda, and commits the United States and Afghanistan to initiate negotiations on a Bilateral Security Agreement to supersede our current Status of Forces Agreement. The United States will also designate Afghanistan a “Major Non-NATO Ally” to provide a long-term framework for security and defense cooperation.
To be clear, the Strategic Partnership Agreement itself does not commit the United States to any specific troop levels or levels of funding in the future, as those are decisions will be made in consultation with the U.S. Congress. It does, however, commit the United States to seek funding from Congress on an annual basis to support the training, equipping, advising and sustaining of Afghan National Security Forces, as well as for social and economic assistance.
Finally, the Strategic Partnership establishes implementing arrangements and mechanisms to ensure that we are effectively carrying out the commitments we’ve made to one another. To ensure the Strategic Partnership is effectively implemented, the Afghanistan-United States Bilateral Commission will be established, chaired by Foreign Ministers or their designees.