STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
5:35 P.M. EDT
MR. BARDEN: Hello. My name is Mark Barden. Just four months ago, my wife Jackie and I lost our son, and our children, James and Natalie, they lost their little brother Daniel. Daniel was a first-grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our sweet, 7-year-old Daniel was one of 20 children, six adults lost on December 14th. I have to say it feels like it was just yesterday.
In our deepest grief, we were supported by the love of our families and comforted by the love and prayers we received from millions of America, from every corner of the country.
What happened in Newtown can happen anywhere. In any instant, any dad in America could be in my shoes. No one should feel the pain. No one should feel our pain or the pain felt by the tens of thousands of people who’ve lost loved ones to senseless gun violence.
And that’s why we’re here. Two weeks ago, 12 of us from Newtown came to meet with U.S. senators and have a conversation about how to bring common-sense solutions to the issues of gun violence. We came with a sense of hope, optimistic that real conversation could begin that would ultimately save the lives of so many Americans. We met with dozens of Democrats and Republicans and shared with them pictures of our children, our spouses, our parents who lost their lives on December 14th.
Expanded background checks wouldn’t have saved our loved ones, but still we came to support the bipartisan proposal from two senators, both with “A” ratings from the NRA — a common-sense proposal supported by 90 percent of Americans. It‘s a proposal that will save lives without interfering with the rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.
We’ll return home now, disappointed but not defeated. We return home with the determination that change will happen — maybe not today, but it will happen. It will happen soon. We’ve always known this would be a long road, and we don’t have the luxury of turning back. We will keep moving forward and build public support for common-sense solutions in the areas of mental health, school safety, and gun safety.
We take strength from the children and loved ones that we lost, and we carry a great faith in the American people.
On behalf of the Sandy Hook Promise, I would like to thank President Obama, Vice President Biden for their leadership and for standing strong and continuing to fight for a safer America. I would like to thank Senators Toomey, Manchin, Schumer and Kirk on coming together to seek common ground on legislation that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals and save lives.
And I would like to thank Connecticut’s Senators Blumenthal and Murphy. They’ve been right with us. They stood by us right from the very beginning. From the first few hours after this tragedy they were with us.
We will not be defeated. We are not defeated, and we will not be defeated. We are here now; we will always be here because we have no other choice. We are not going away. And every day, as more people are killed in this country because of gun violence, our determination grows stronger.
We leave Washington hoping that others, both here and across the country, will join us in making the Sandy Hook Promise, a pledge that we’d had great hope that more U.S. senators would take literally. I’d like to end by repeating the words with which the Sandy Hook Promise begins: Our hearts are broken. Our spirit is not.
Thank you. It is now my great pleasure to introduce the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
THE PRESIDENT: A few months ago, in response to too many tragedies — including the shootings of a United States Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, who’s here today, and the murder of 20 innocent schoolchildren and their teachers –- this country took up the cause of protecting more of our people from gun violence.
Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders –- not just to honor the memory of their children, but to protect the lives of all our children. And a few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn’t worth it. They blocked common-sense gun reforms even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery.
By now, it’s well known that 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks that make it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun. We’re talking about convicted felons, people convicted of domestic violence, people with a severe mental illness. Ninety percent of Americans support that idea. Most Americans think that’s already the law.
And a few minutes ago, 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate just voted for that idea. But it’s not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea.
A majority of senators voted “yes” to protecting more of our citizens with smarter background checks. But by this continuing distortion of Senate rules, a minority was able to block it from moving forward.
I’m going to speak plainly and honestly about what’s happened here because the American people are trying to figure out how can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen. We had a Democrat and a Republican -– both gun owners, both fierce defenders of our Second Amendment, with “A” grades from the NRA — come together and worked together to write a common-sense compromise on background checks. And I want to thank Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey for their courage in doing that. That was not easy given their traditional strong support for Second Amendment rights.
As they said, nobody could honestly claim that the package they put together infringed on our Second Amendment rights. All it did was extend the same background check rules that already apply to guns purchased from a dealer to guns purchased at gun shows or over the Internet. So 60 percent of guns are already purchased through a background check system; this would have covered a lot of the guns that are currently outside that system.
Their legislation showed respect for gun owners, and it showed respect for the victims of gun violence. And Gabby Giffords, by the way, is both — she’s a gun owner and a victim of gun violence. She is a Westerner and a moderate. And she supports these background checks.
In fact, even the NRA used to support expanded background checks. The current leader of the NRA used to support these background checks. So while this compromise didn’t contain everything I wanted or everything that these families wanted, it did represent progress. It represented moderation and common sense. That’s why 90 percent of the American people supported it.
But instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill. They claimed that it would create some sort of “big brother” gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite. This legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry. Plain and simple, right there in the text. But that didn’t matter.
And unfortunately, this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose, because those lies upset an intense minority of gun owners, and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators. And I talked to several of these senators over the past few weeks, and they’re all good people. I know all of them were shocked by tragedies like Newtown. And I also understand that they come from states that are strongly pro-gun. And I have consistently said that there are regional differences when it comes to guns, and that both sides have to listen to each other.
But the fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun. There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this. It came down to politics — the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections. They worried that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-Second Amendment.
And obviously, a lot of Republicans had that fear, but Democrats had that fear, too. And so they caved to the pressure, and they started looking for an excuse — any excuse — to vote “no.”
One common argument I heard was that this legislation wouldn’t prevent all future massacres. And that’s true. As I said from the start, no single piece of legislation can stop every act of violence and evil. We learned that tragically just two days ago. But if action by Congress could have saved one person, one child, a few hundred, a few thousand — if it could have prevented those people from losing their lives to gun violence in the future while preserving our Second Amendment rights, we had an obligation to try.
And this legislation met that test. And too many senators failed theirs.
I’ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn’t make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question, who are we here to represent?
I’ve heard folks say that having the families of victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced. “A prop,” somebody called them. “Emotional blackmail,” some outlet said. Are they serious? Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don’t have a right to weigh in on this issue? Do we think their emotions, their loss is not relevant to this debate?
So all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.
But this effort is not over. I want to make it clear to the American people we can still bring about meaningful changes that reduce gun violence, so long as the American people don’t give up on it. Even without Congress, my administration will keep doing everything it can to protect more of our communities. We’re going to address the barriers that prevent states from participating in the existing background check system. We’re going to give law enforcement more information about lost and stolen guns so it can do its job. We’re going to help to put in place emergency plans to protect our children in their schools.
But we can do more if Congress gets its act together. And if this Congress refuses to listen to the American people and pass common-sense gun legislation, then the real impact is going to have to come from the voters.
To all the people who supported this legislation — law enforcement and responsible gun owners, Democrats and Republicans, urban moms, rural hunters, whoever you are — you need to let your representatives in Congress know that you are disappointed, and that if they don’t act this time, you will remember come election time.
To the wide majority of NRA households who supported this legislation, you need to let your leadership and lobbyists in Washington know they didn’t represent your views on this one.
The point is those who care deeply about preventing more and more gun violence will have to be as passionate, and as organized, and as vocal as those who blocked these common-sense steps to help keep our kids safe. Ultimately, you outnumber those who argued the other way. But they’re better organized. They’re better financed. They’ve been at it longer. And they make sure to stay focused on this one issue during election time. And that’s the reason why you can have something that 90 percent of Americans support and you can’t get it through the Senate or the House of Representatives.
So to change Washington, you, the American people, are going to have to sustain some passion about this. And when necessary, you’ve got to send the right people to Washington. And that requires strength, and it requires persistence.
And that’s the one thing that these families should have inspired in all of us. I still don’t know how they have been able to muster up the strength to do what they’ve doing over the last several weeks, last several months.
And I see this as just round one. When Newtown happened, I met with these families and I spoke to the community, and I said, something must be different right now. We’re going to have to change. That’s what the whole country said. Everybody talked about how we were going to change something to make sure this didn’t happen again, just like everybody talked about how we needed to do something after Aurora. Everybody talked about we needed change something after Tucson.
And I’m assuming that the emotions that we’ve all felt since Newtown, the emotions that we’ve all felt since Tucson and Aurora and Chicago — the pain we share with these families and families all across the country who’ve lost a loved one to gun violence — I’m assuming that’s not a temporary thing. I’m assuming our expressions of grief and our commitment to do something different to prevent these things from happening are not empty words.
I believe we’re going to be able to get this done. Sooner or later, we are going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it. And so do the American people.
Thank you very much, everybody.
President Obama Signs Massachusetts Emergency Declaration
The President today declared an emergency exists in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and ordered federal aid to supplement commonwealth and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from explosions on April 15, 2013, and covering eligible activities through April 22, 2013.
The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the counties of Middlesex, Norfolk, and Suffolk.
Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.
W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named James N. Russo as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
11:30 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I’ve just been briefed by my national security team, including FBI Director Mueller, Attorney General Holder, Secretary Napolitano, and my Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco, on the attacks in Boston. We continue to mobilize and deploy all appropriate law enforcement resources to protect our citizens, and to investigate and to respond to this attack.
Obviously our first thoughts this morning are with the victims, their families, and the city of Boston. We know that two explosions gravely wounded dozens of Americans, and took the lives of others, including a 8-year-old boy.
This was a heinous and cowardly act. And given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror. What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack, or why; whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual. That’s what we don’t yet know. And clearly, we’re at the beginning of our investigation.
It will take time to follow every lead and determine what happened. But we will find out. We will find whoever harmed our citizens and we will bring them to justice.
We also know this — the American people refuse to be terrorized. Because what the world saw yesterday in the aftermath of the explosions were stories of heroism and kindness, and generosity and love: Exhausted runners who kept running to the nearest hospital to give blood, and those who stayed to tend to the wounded, some tearing off their own clothes to make tourniquets. The first responders who ran into the chaos to save lives. The men and women who are still treating the wounded at some of the best hospitals in the world, and the medical students who hurried to help, saying “When we heard, we all came in.” The priests who opened their churches and ministered to the hurt and the fearful. And the good people of Boston who opened their homes to the victims of this attack and those shaken by it.
So if you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil — that’s it. Selflessly. Compassionately. Unafraid.
In the coming days, we will pursue every effort to get to the bottom of what happened. And we will continue to remain vigilant. I’ve directed my administration to take appropriate security measures to protect the American people. And this is a good time for all of us to remember that we all have a part to play in alerting authorities — if you see something suspicious, speak up.
I have extraordinary confidence in the men and women of the FBI, the Boston Police Department, and the other agencies that responded so heroically and effectively in the aftermath of yesterday’s events. I’m very grateful for the leadership of Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino. And I know that even as we protect our people and aggressively pursue this investigation, the people of Boston will continue to respond in the same proud and heroic way that they have thus far — and their fellow Americans will be right there with them.
Thank you very much. And you can expect further briefings from our law enforcement officials as the day goes on. When we have more details, they will be disclosed. What I’ve indicated to you is what we know now. We know it was bombs that were set off. We know that obviously they did some severe damage. We do not know who did them. We do not know whether this was an act of an organization or an individual or individuals. We don’t have a sense of motive yet. So everything else at this point is speculation. But as we receive more information, as the FBI has more information, as our out counterterrorism teams have more information, we will make sure to keep you and the American people posted.
Thank you very much, everybody.
HONORING THE VICTIMS OF THE TRAGEDY IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – - – - – - – BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA A PROCLAMATION
As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on April 15, 2013, in Boston, Massachusetts, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, April 20, 2013.
I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
BREAKING NEWS: PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA : “There Are No Republicans Or Democrats — We Are Americans, United In Concern For Our Fellow Citizens”
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
6:11 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Earlier today, I was briefed by my homeland security team on the events in Boston. We’re continuing to monitor and respond to the situation as it unfolds. And I’ve directed the full resources of the federal government to help state and local authorities protect our people, increase security around the United States as necessary, and investigate what happened.
The American people will say a prayer for Boston tonight. And Michelle and I send our deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims in the wake of this senseless loss.
We don’t yet have all the answers. But we do know that multiple people have been wounded, some gravely, in explosions at the Boston Marathon.
I’ve spoken to FBI Director Mueller and Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano, and they’re mobilizing the appropriate resources to investigate and to respond.
I’ve updated leaders of Congress in both parties, and we reaffirmed that on days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats — we are Americans, united in concern for our fellow citizens.
I’ve also spoken with Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino, and made it clear that they have every single federal resource necessary to care for the victims and counsel the families. And above all, I made clear to them that all Americans stand with the people of Boston.
Boston police, firefighters, and first responders as well as the National Guard responded heroically, and continue to do so as we speak. It’s a reminder that so many Americans serve and sacrifice on our behalf every single day, without regard to their own safety, in dangerous and difficult circumstances. And we salute all those who assisted in responding so quickly and professionally to this tragedy.
We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake — we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this; we’ll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.
Today is a holiday in Massachusetts — Patriots’ Day. It’s a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation. And it’s a day that draws the world to Boston’s streets in a spirit of friendly competition. Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people. I’m supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other, and move forward as one proud city. And as they do, the American people will be with them every single step of the way.
You should anticipate that as we get more information, our teams will provide you briefings. We’re still in the investigation stage at this point. But I just want to reiterate we will find out who did this and we will hold them accountable.
Thank you very much.
“Shortly after being notified of the incident around 3pm EDT, the President received a briefing from Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco and other members of his senior White House staff in the Oval Office. The President called Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to express his concern for those who were injured and to make clear that his administration is ready to provide needed support as they respond to the incident.”
Statement by the President on John Berry’s Departure
John Berry has served the American people well as Director of the Office of Personnel Management. He’s streamlined the way federal employees are hired, modernized the workplace, made the federal workforce more diverse, and increased the number of returning servicemembers hired by the government. John has been a champion for federal workers – men and women who devote their lives to vital tasks like securing our borders, curing disease, and keeping the American people safe. This country is better off because of John’s talent and dedication, and I’m grateful to him for his service.
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AND UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
3:47 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is wonderful to have the opportunity to welcome my good friend, Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, to the Oval Office. He and I consult quite frequently and in various multilateral settings, but this has been a useful opportunity for us to talk more specifically about how the United States and the United Nations can work together.
Let me first of all say that I think I speak for world leaders in a wide variety of countries when I say that the Secretary General has shown outstanding leadership during what has been one of the most challenging and turbulent times in international affairs. I think he’s fair-minded. I think he has shown a willingness to tackle tough issues and to speak hard truths, and I very much appreciate personally the work that he’s done.
Sometimes people ask why the United States is so devoted to the United Nations, and, obviously, beyond the fact that we helped set up the United Nations, what was true 60, 70 years ago is still true today. And that is that without a forum for discussion, negotiation, and diplomacy, the world is a worse place, and it is very much in the United States’ interests to ensure that international norms, rules of the road, and humanitarian norms are observed. And the United Nations gives us a critical opportunity to try to prevent conflict, create peace, maintain stability — all of which ultimately is good for America’s security and America’s prosperity.
We discussed a wide range of issues during this meeting. We started with Syria, where obviously the humanitarian crisis has gotten worse. And Secretary General Ban and I shared the view that we are at a critical juncture; that it is important for us to bring about an effective political transition that would respect the rights of all Syrians; and that, in the interim, it’s important for us to try to eliminate some of the carnage that’s been taking place directed at civilians and non-combatants.
And so we’ll be strategizing about how the United Nations — or the United States — which is the largest donor to the humanitarian assistance in Syria, and is also a strong supporter of the more moderate elements of the Syrian Opposition — can work together with the United Nations to bring about if not a full resolution to the crisis, at least an improvement for the people of Syria and lay the foundation for a kind of political transition that is necessary.
We had an opportunity to discuss North Korea, where the Secretary General obviously has an important political interest but also a personal interest as a native of the Republic of Korea. And we both agree that now is the time for North Korea to end the kind of belligerent approach that they’ve been taking, and to try to lower temperatures — nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean Peninsula. But it’s important for North Korea, like every other country in the world, to observe the basic rules and norms that are set forth, including a wide variety of U.N. resolutions that have passed. And we will continue to try to work to resolve some of those issues diplomatically, even as I indicated to the Secretary General that the United States will take all necessary steps to protect its people and to meet our obligations under our alliances in the region.
We talked about Middle East peace, where there is at least a window of opportunity for both Israelis and Palestinians to get back to the peace table. And we explored how the United States, as a strong friend of Israel and a supporter of a Palestinian state, can work with the United Nations and other multilateral bodies to try to move that process forward.
And we also had an opportunity to talk more broadly about an issue that affects every country, and that is climate change. And I appreciate very much the Secretary General’s leadership on that front.
The last point I’d make is that the Secretary General has actually shown significant progress in U.N. reform — making the institution more efficient, more effective. I think the Secretary General would be the first to acknowledge that there is more work to do on that front, but he is making an earnest effort in making progress. And we very much appreciate that and encourage that to continue, because we think we need a strong, healthy United Nations, but at a time when all the member countries are under severe fiscal constraints, we want to make sure, obviously, that the United Nations is operating as efficiently as possible.
So, overall, I found it to be a very useful conversation, and I want to thank, once again, the Secretary General for his leadership. The Secretary General has been quoted as saying that there is no opt-out clause to the great challenges that we face around the world, and I assured him that the United States of America, as the largest economy and the most powerful military in the world, has no intention of opting out any time soon.
We have a deep interest in making sure that the United Nations and the various international institutions that we have are functioning effectively, because when they do, the United States does well and all its partner countries do well. And so I’m looking forward to continuing to support his efforts in any way that I can.
Thank you very much.
SECRETARY GENERAL BAN: Thank you, thank you very much, Mr. President. I really appreciate President Obama for inviting me to the Oval Office, and I really appreciate your global leadership to make this world more peaceful, more prosperous, and where all human rights are protected and respected.
The United Nations and the United States share common goals in peace and security, human rights and development. In that regard, I really appreciate such a strong leadership and cooperation and support of the U.S. government and President Obama. You and the American people care about the world of justice, freedom, and opportunity for all. I am very confident that the partnership between the United Nations and the United States is now making very solid foundation and strong and stronger, and I count on your continuing support on that.
As President Obama has just explained in detailed manner, I do not have much to add to all the subjects, but if I may just say a few words from my own perspective as the Secretary General. On Syria, this is the most troubling situation, where all the leaders of the world should really take much more strengthened leadership on. I have asked President Obama to demonstrate and exercise his stronger leadership in working together with the key partners of the Security Council.
As the Secretary General, I have been working very closely with Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, and I will continue to do that. Unfortunately, this crisis, having entered a third year, in the absence of a political solution, we have seen well over 70,000 people be killed, and more than 50 percent of schools, hospitals, and all infrastructures have been destroyed. More than 6 million people have been internally displaced, and we have 1.3 million refugees around the neighboring countries of Syria. This continuing military struggle as well as intensifying this sectarian war — make us really worried that unless we stop this violence, this whole Syrian society may be destroyed. We have been mobilizing all possible humanitarian assistance, and I really appreciate President Obama and his government’s very generous support on this humanitarian assistance.
On chemical weapons investigation, it’s regrettable that the Syrian government has rejected my offer to engage in an investigation. This is my authority in accordance with the General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. I sincerely hope that the Syrian government will allow so that this investigation team will be able to conduct investigation, as requested by them. And I have received requests from other member states. That’s why I have already assembled very experienced experts as a team. They are now ready. They can be deployed any time soon. So this is my original plan.
On the situation in and around the Korean Peninsula, I am deeply concerned, and we share such a grave concern together on these continuing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. I urge the DPRK authorities to refrain from making any further provocative (inaudible) and rhetoric. This is not helpful. And I really highly commended President Obama’s firm, principled, but measured response in close consultation with the Republic of Korea government and with strong engagement with neighboring countries like China.
We hope that more of the countries, including China, who may have influence over North Korea, can exercise their leadership and influence so that this situation will be resolved peacefully. First and foremost, tension levels must come down. North Korea should not confront the international community as they are now doing. I hope that concerned parties, including the United States, China, the Republic of Korea, and Russia, and Japan will continue to work together on this matter.
On Middle East, I really appreciate President Obama’s initiative to visit the region. We need to do more of our efforts to fully utilize the generated momentum by President Obama’s visit so that a two-state solution can be successfully implemented as soon as possible.
On climate change, I intend to work very closely with the member states so that the legally binding global treaty can be achieved by the end of 2015. And for that possible — to facilitate this process, I intend to convene a leaders meeting sometime next year. I have invited President Obama. I invited him to play a very important leadership role for humanity.
As far as the United Nations reform is concerned, we will continue to make this organization more effective, efficient, accountable, and more trustworthy. I thank you for your leadership.
END 4:01 P.M. EDT
NOMINATIONS SENT TO THE SENATE:
Matthew C. Armstrong, of Illinois, to be a Member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors for a term expiring August 13, 2015, vice Dana M. Perino, resigned.
Rick Lowe, of Texas, to be a Member of the National Council on the Arts for a term expiring September 3, 2018, vice JoAnn Faletta, term expired.
Tulinabo Salama Mushingi, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Burkina Faso.
Harry R. Hoglander, of Massachusetts, to be a Member of the National Mediation Board for a term expiring July 1, 2014. (Reappointment)
Dorothy Kosinski, of the District of Columbia, to be a Member of the National Council on the Humanities for a term expiring January 26, 2016, vice Ricardo Quinones, term expired.
Linda A. Puchala, of Maryland, to be a Member of the National Mediation Board for a term expiring July 1, 2015. (Reappointment)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT PRESENTATION OF THE MEDAL OF HONOR
TO CHAPLAIN EMIL J. KAPAUN, U.S. ARMY
2:22 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Please have a seat. On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House. Thank you, Chaplain.
This year, we mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War — a time when thousands of our prisoners of war finally came home after years of starvation and hardship and, in some cases, torture. And among the homecomings, one stood out.
A group of our POWs emerged carrying a large wooden crucifix, nearly four feet tall. They had spent months on it, secretly collecting firewood, carving it — the cross and the body — using radio wire for a crown of thorns. It was a tribute to their friend, their chaplain, their fellow prisoner who had touched their souls and saved their lives — Father Emil Kapaun.
This is an amazing story. Father Kapaun has been called a shepherd in combat boots. His fellow soldiers who felt his grace and his mercy called him a saint, a blessing from God. Today, we bestow another title on him — recipient of our nation’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. After more than six decades of working to make this Medal a reality, I know one of Father Kapaun’s comrades spoke for a lot of folks here when he said, “it’s about time.”
Father, as they called him, was just 35 years old when he died in that hellish prison camp. His parents and his only sibling, his brother, are no longer with us. But we are extremely proud to welcome members of the Kapaun family — his nephews, his niece, their children — two of whom currently serve in this country’s National Guard. And we are very proud of them.
We’re also joined by members of the Kansas congressional delegation, leaders from across our armed forces, and representatives from the Catholic Church, which recognizes Father Kapaun as a “Servant of God.” And we are truly humbled to be joined by men who served alongside him — veterans and former POWs from the Korean War. (Applause.)
Now, I obviously never met Father Kapaun. But I have a sense of the man he was, because in his story I see reflections of my own grandparents and their values, the people who helped to raise me. Emil and my grandfather were both born in Kansas about the same time, both were raised in small towns outside of Wichita. They were part of that Greatest Generation — surviving the Depression, joining the Army, serving in World War II. And they embodied those heartland values of honesty and hard work, decency and humility — quiet heroes determined to do their part.
For Father Kapaun, this meant becoming an Army chaplain — serving God and country. After the Communist invasion of South Korea, he was among the first American troops that hit the beaches and pushed their way north through hard mountains and bitter cold. In his understated Midwestern way, he wrote home, saying, “this outdoor life is quite the thing” — (laughter) — and “I prefer to live in a house once in a while.” But he had hope, saying, “It looks like the war will end soon.”
That’s when Chinese forces entered the war with a massive surprise attack — perhaps 20,000 soldiers pouring down on a few thousand Americans. In the chaos, dodging bullets and explosions, Father Kapaun raced between foxholes, out past the front lines and into no-man’s land — dragging the wounded to safety.
When his commanders ordered an evacuation, he chose to stay — gathering the injured, tending to their wounds. When the enemy broke through and the combat was hand-to-hand, he carried on — comforting the injured and the dying, offering some measure of peace as they left this Earth.
When enemy forces bore down, it seemed like the end — that these wounded Americans, more than a dozen of them, would be gunned down. But Father Kapaun spotted a wounded Chinese officer. He pleaded with this Chinese officer and convinced him to call out to his fellow Chinese. The shooting stopped and they negotiated a safe surrender, saving those American lives.
Then, as Father Kapaun was being led away, he saw another American — wounded, unable to walk, laying in a ditch, defenseless. An enemy soldier was standing over him, rifle aimed at his head, ready to shoot. And Father Kapaun marched over and pushed the enemy soldier aside. And then as the soldier watched, stunned, Father Kapaun carried that wounded American away.
This is the valor we honor today — an American soldier who didn’t fire a gun, but who wielded the mightiest weapon of all, a love for his brothers so pure that he was willing to die so that they might live. And yet, the incredible story of Father Kapaun does not end there.
He carried that injured American, for miles, as their captors forced them on a death march. When Father Kapaun grew tired, he’d help the wounded soldier hop on one leg. When other prisoners stumbled, he picked them up. When they wanted to quit — knowing that stragglers would be shot — he begged them to keep walking.
In the camps that winter, deep in a valley, men could freeze to death in their sleep. Father Kapaun offered them his own clothes. They starved on tiny rations of millet and corn and birdseed. He somehow snuck past the guards, foraged in nearby fields, and returned with rice and potatoes. In desperation, some men hoarded food. He convinced them to share. Their bodies were ravaged by dysentery. He grabbed some rocks, pounded metal into pots and boiled clean water. They lived in filth. He washed their clothes and he cleansed their wounds.
The guards ridiculed his devotion to his Savior and the Almighty. They took his clothes and made him stand in the freezing cold for hours. Yet, he never lost his faith. If anything, it only grew stronger. At night, he slipped into huts to lead prisoners in prayer, saying the Rosary, administering the sacraments, offering three simple words: “God bless you.” One of them later said that with his very presence he could just for a moment turn a mud hut into a cathedral.
That spring, he went further — he held an Easter service. I just met with the Kapaun family. They showed me something extraordinary — the actual stole, the purple vestment that Father Kapaun wore when he celebrated Mass inside that prison camp.
As the sun rose that Easter Sunday, he put on that purple stole and led dozens of prisoners to the ruins of an old church in the camp. And he read from a prayer missal that they had kept hidden. He held up a small crucifix that he had made from sticks. And as the guards watched, Father Kapaun and all those prisoners — men of different faith, perhaps some men of no faith — sang the Lord’s Prayer and “America the Beautiful.” They sang so loud that other prisoners across the camp not only heard them, they joined in, too — filling that valley with song and with prayer.
That faith — that they might be delivered from evil, that they could make it home — was perhaps the greatest gift to those men; that even amidst such hardship and despair, there could be hope; amid their misery in the temporal they could see those truths that are eternal; that even in such hell, there could be a touch of the divine. Looking back, one of them said that that is what “kept a lot of us alive.”
Yet, for Father Kapaun, the horrific conditions took their toll. Thin, frail, he began to limp, with a blood clot in his leg. And then came dysentery, then pneumonia. That’s when the guards saw their chance to finally rid themselves of this priest and the hope he inspired. They came for him. And over the protests and tears of the men who loved him, the guards sent him to a death house — a hellhole with no food or water — to be left to die.
And yet, even then, his faith held firm. “I’m going to where I’ve always wanted to go,” he told his brothers. “And when I get up there, I’ll say a prayer for all of you.” And then, as was taken away, he did something remarkable — he blessed the guards. “Forgive them,” he said, “for they know not what they do.” Two days later, in that house of death, Father Kapaun breathed his last breath. His body was taken away, his grave unmarked, his remains unrecovered to this day.
The war and the awful captivity would drag on for another two years, but these men held on — steeled by the memory and moral example of the man they called Father. And on their first day of freedom, in his honor, they carried that beautiful wooden crucifix with them.
Some of these men are here today — including Herb Miller, the soldier that Father Kapaun saved in that ditch and then carried all those miles. Many are now in their 80s, but make no mistake, they are among the strongest men that America has ever produced. And I would ask all of our courageous POWs from the Korean War to stand if they’re able and accept the gratitude of a grateful nation. (Applause.)
I’m told that in their darkest hours in the camp in that valley, these men turned to a Psalm. As we prepare for the presentation of the Medal of Honor to Father Kapaun’s nephew, Ray, I want to leave you with the words of that Psalm, which sustained these men all those years ago.
Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely, your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Ray, would you please join me on stage for the reading of the citation?
MILITARY AIDE: The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the all of duty.
Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Calvary Division during combat operations against an armed enemy at Unsan, Korea, from November 1st to 2nd, 1950.
On November 1st, as Chinese Communist Forces viciously attacked friendly elements, Chaplain Kapaun calmly walked through withering enemy fire in order to provide comfort and medical aid to his comrades and rescue friendly wounded from no-man’s land.
Though the Americans successfully repelled the assault, they found themselves surrounded by the enemy. Facing annihilation, the able-bodied men were ordered to evacuate. However, Chaplain Kapaun, fully aware of his certain capture, elected to stay behind with the wounded.
After the enemy succeeded in breaking through the defense in the early morning hours of November 2nd, Chaplain Kapaun continually made rounds as hand-to-hand combat ensued. As Chinese Communist Forces approached the American position, Chaplain Kapaun noticed an injured Chinese officer amongst the wounded and convinced him to negotiate the safe surrender of the American forces.
Shortly after his capture, Chaplain Kapaun, with complete disregard for his personal safety and unwavering resolve, bravely pushed aside an enemy soldier preparing to execute Sergeant First Class Herbert A. Miller. Not only did Chaplain Kapaun’s gallantry save the life of Sergeant Miller, but also his unparalleled courage and leadership inspired all those present, including those who might have otherwise fled in panic to remain and fight the enemy until captured.
Chaplain Kapaun’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, the 1st Calvary Division and the United States Army.
(The Medal of Honor is presented.) (Applause.)
CHAPLAIN RUTHERFORD: And let us pray together:
Lord, God, let us go forth into the world in peace and dedication to your service. Let us follow Chaplain Kapaun’s example and hold fast to that which is good; render to no person evil for evil; strengthen the faint-hearted. May we support the weary, encourage the tired, and honor all peoples. Let us love and serve, and may God’s blessing be upon us, pray with us today and always, as we ask and pray in your Holy Name. Amen.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I can’t imagine a better example for all of us — whether in uniform or not in uniform, a better example to follow. Father Kapaun’s life I think is a testimony to the human spirit, the power of faith, and reminds us of the good that we can do each and every day regardless of the most difficult of circumstances. We can always be an instrument of his will.
So I hope all of you have enjoyed this ceremony. I certainly have been extremely touched by it. To the Kapaun family, God bless you. To all our veterans, we’re so proud of you.
And my understanding is that the White House has pretty decent food — (laughter) — so I hope all of you enjoy the reception. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
President Obama Announces Another Key Administration Post: Matthew C. Armstrong – Member, Broadcasting Board of Governors
President Obama Announces Another Key Administration Post
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key Administration post:
- · Matthew C. Armstrong – Member, Broadcasting Board of Governors
President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key Administration post:
Matthew C. Armstrong, Nominee for Member, Broadcasting Board of Governors
Matthew C. Armstrong is an author, speaker, and strategist on issues related to public diplomacy. In 2011, he served as Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. Previously, Mr. Armstrong was an adjunct professor of public diplomacy at the Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Southern California. In 2010, he founded and served as President of the MountainRunner Institute and published a blog on public diplomacy and strategic communication. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Public Diplomacy Council and a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Mr. Armstrong received a B.A. and an M.P.D. from the University of Southern California.
Statement from the President on the Confirmation of Sally Jewell as the Next Secretary of the Interior
Statement from the President on the Confirmation of Sally Jewell as the Next Secretary of the Interior
I am pleased that today the Senate took bipartisan action to confirm Sally Jewell as our next Secretary of the Interior. With her extensive business experience, including her background in the energy sector, along with her lifelong commitment to conservation, Sally is the right person for this important job. She brings an important mix of strong management skills, appreciation for our nation’s tradition of protecting our public lands and heritage, and a keen understanding of what it means to be good stewards of our natural resources.
Sally’s commitment to energy and climate issues, her belief in our strong government-to-government relationship with Indian Country, and her understanding of the inherent link between conservation and good jobs ensure that she will be an exceptional Secretary of the Interior. I am very glad she is joining my team, and I look forward to her counsel on these important issues, as we continue to leverage our natural resources responsibly while protecting our nation’s treasures for generations to come.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ANNOUNCING THE FISCAL YEAR 2014 BUDGET
11:00 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Please, please have a seat. Well, as President, my top priority is to do everything I can to reignite what I consider to be the true engine of the American economy: a rising, thriving middle class. That’s what I think about every day. That’s the driving force behind every decision that I make.
And over the past three years, our businesses have created nearly 6.5 million new jobs. But we know we can help them create more. Corporate profits are at an all-time high. But we have to get wages and incomes rising, as well. Our deficits are falling at the fastest pace in years. But we can do more to bring them down in a balanced and responsible way.
The point is, our economy is poised for progress — as long as Washington doesn’t get in the way. Frankly, the American people deserve better than what we’ve been seeing: a shortsighted, crisis-driven decision-making, like the reckless, across-the-board spending cuts that are already hurting a lot of communities out there — cuts that economists predict will cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs during the course of this year.
If we want to keep rebuilding our economy on a stronger, more stable foundation, then we’ve got to get smarter about our priorities as a nation. And that’s what the budget I’m sending to Congress today represents — a fiscally responsible blueprint for middle-class jobs and growth.
For years, the debate in this town has raged between reducing our deficits at all costs, and making the investments necessary to grow our economy. And this budget answers that argument, because we can do both. We can grow our economy and shrink our deficits. In fact, as we saw in the 1990s, nothing shrinks deficits faster than a growing economy. That’s been my goal since I took office. And that should be our goal going forward.
At a time when too many Americans are still looking for work, my budget begins by making targeted investments in areas that will create jobs right now, and prime our economy to keep generating good jobs down the road. As I said in my State of the Union address, we should ask ourselves three questions every day: How do we make America a magnet for new jobs? How do we give our workers the skills they need to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?
To make America a magnet for good jobs, this budget invests in new manufacturing hubs to help turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. We’ll spark new American innovation and industry with cutting-edge research like the initiative I announced to map the human brain and cure disease. We’ll continue our march towards energy independence and address the threat of climate change. And our Rebuild America Partnership will attract private investment to put construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads, our bridges and our schools, in turn attracting even more new business to communities across the country.
To help workers earn the skills they need to fill those jobs, we’ll work with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. And we’re going to pay for it by raising taxes on tobacco products that harm our young people. It’s the right thing to do. (Applause.)
We’ll reform our high schools and job training programs to equip more Americans with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy. And we’ll help more middle-class families afford the rising cost of college.
To make sure hard work is rewarded, we’ll build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for anybody who is willing to work hard to climb them. So we’ll partner with 20 of our communities hit hardest by the recession to help them improve housing, and education, and business investment. And we should make the minimum wage a wage you can live on — because no one who works full-time should have to raise his or her family in poverty. (Applause.)
My budget also replaces the foolish across-the-board spending cuts that are already hurting our economy. And I have to point out that many of the same members of Congress who supported deep cuts are now the ones complaining about them the loudest as they hit their own communities. Of course, the people I feel for are the people who are directly feeling the pain of these cuts — the people who can least afford it. They’re hurting military communities that have already sacrificed enough. They’re hurting middle-class families. There are children who have had to enter a lottery to determine which of them get to stay in their Head Start program with their friends. There are seniors who depend on programs like Meals on Wheels so they can live independently, but who are seeing their services cut.
That’s what this so-called sequester means. Some people may not have been impacted, but there are a lot of folks who are being increasingly impacted all across this country. And that’s why my budget replaces these cuts with smarter ones, making long-term reforms, eliminating actual waste and programs we don’t need anymore.
So building new roads and bridges, educating our children from the youngest age, helping more families afford college, making sure that hard work pays. These are things that should not be partisan. They should not be controversial. We need to make them happen. My budget makes these investments to grow our economy and create jobs, and it does so without adding a dime to our deficits.
Now, on the topic of deficits, despite all the noise in Washington, here’s a clear and unassailable fact: our deficits are already falling. Over the past two years, I’ve signed legislation that will reduce our deficits by more than $2.5 trillion — more than two-thirds of it through spending cuts and the rest through asking the wealthiest Americans to begin paying their fair share.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have more work to do. But here’s how we finish the job. My budget will reduce our deficits by nearly another $2 trillion, so that all told we will have surpassed the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that independent economists believe we need to stabilize our finances. But it does so in a balanced and responsible way, a way that most Americans prefer.
Both parties, for example, agree that the rising cost of caring for an aging generation is the single biggest driver of our long-term deficits. And the truth is, for those like me who deeply believe in our social insurance programs, think it’s one of the core things that our government needs to do, if we want to keep Medicare working as well as it has, if we want to preserve the ironclad guarantee that Medicare represents, then we’re going to have to make some changes. But they don’t have to be drastic ones. And instead of making drastic ones later, what we should be doing is making some manageable ones now.
The reforms I’m proposing will strengthen Medicare for future generations without undermining that ironclad guarantee that Medicare represents. We’ll reduce our government’s Medicare bills by finding new ways to reduce the cost of health care — not by shifting the costs to seniors or the poor or families with disabilities. They are reforms that keep the promise we’ve made to our seniors: basic security that is rock-solid and dependable, and there for you when you need it. That’s what my budget represents.
My budget does also contain the compromise I offered Speaker Boehner at the end of last year, including reforms championed by Republican leaders in Congress. And I don’t believe that all these ideas are optimal, but I’m willing to accept them as part of a compromise — if, and only if, they contain protections for the most vulnerable Americans.
But if we’re serious about deficit reduction, then these reforms have to go hand-in-hand with reforming our tax code to make it more simple and more fair, so that the wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations cannot keep taking advantage of loopholes and deductions that most Americans don’t get. That’s the bottom line.
If you’re serious about deficit reduction, then there’s no excuse to keep these loopholes open. They don’t serve an economic purpose. They don’t grow our economy. They don’t put people back to work. All they do is to allow folks who are already well-off and well-connected game the system. If anyone thinks I’ll finish the job of deficit reduction on the backs of middle-class families or through spending cuts alone that actually hurt our economy short-term, they should think again.
When it comes to deficit reduction, I’ve already met Republicans more than halfway. So in the coming days and weeks, I hope that Republicans will come forward and demonstrate that they’re really as serious about the deficits and debt as they claim to be.
So growing our economy, creating jobs, shrinking our deficits. Keeping our promise to the generation that made us great, but also investing in the next generation — the next generation that will make us even greater. These are not conflicting goals. We can do them in concert. That’s what my budget does. That’s why I’m so grateful for the great work that Jeff Zients and his team have done in shaping this budget. The numbers work. There’s not a lot of smoke and mirrors in here.
And if we can come together, have a serious, reasoned debate — not driven by politics — and come together around common sense and compromise, then I’m confident we will move this country forward and leave behind something better for our children. That’s our task.
Thank you, God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT “IN PERFORMANCE AT THE WHITE HOUSE: MEMPHIS SOUL”
7:40 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Everybody, please have a seat. And give it up for our musical director, Booker T. — (applause) — and the Memphis Soul All-Stars. (Applause.) I just want everybody to know that it is now my second term, so rather than “Hail to the Chief,” we’re going with that from here on out. (Laughter and applause.) Little change in tradition.
Now, before we get started, I am going to exercise some presidential prerogative to say a few words about two very special people who are here tonight — this will humiliate them, but I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway. Jess Wright and Kenny Thompson both work on my staff — crucial members of my team since way back in Iowa in 2007.
Over the weekend, Kenny popped the question and Jess said yes. (Applause.) So I want to congratulate — publicly — Kenny Thompson and Jess Wright. A beautiful couple. (Applause.) We love them. They are wonderful. They’ve been loyal, shown such great friendship to me, and I’m so glad that they have gone ahead and taken the plunge.
By the way, guys, Justin Timberlake just got married to this lovely young lady right here, Jessica Biel. (Applause.) So Justin can probably offer you a few pointers. And, Justin, they are looking for a wedding singer. (Laughter.) I’m just saying.
Tonight, I am speaking not just as a President, but as one of America’s best-known Al Green impersonators. (Laughter.) So I have a new appreciation for what Al once said about the Memphis Soul sound that he helped create — “We don’t even know ourselves how that music has endured for so long and how that came out of us.”
All I know is I’ve been looking forward to tonight because, let’s face it, who does not love this music? (Applause.) These songs get us on the dance floor. Even the governor of Tennessee said he’s going to dance tonight. (Laughter.) They get stuck in our heads. We go back over them again and again. And they’ve played an important part in our history.
In the sixties and seventies, Memphis knew its share of division and discord and injustice. But in that turbulent time, the sound of Hi, and Duke, and Sun, and Stax Records tried to bridge those divides — to create a little harmony with harmony. The great Memphis musician Don Nix went to an all-white school, and he described what it was like. He said, “If you could imagine, nobody’s ever heard R&B music before. White kids had never heard it. And you can imagine what that did to us.”
So he and others kept playing music that everybody could get into. They created a whole new sound, and as they did, they broke down barriers. On McLemore Avenue, in the heart of a segregated city, Stax Records was integrated from the studio musicians all the way to upper management. Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper, who are both here tonight, helped form one of the city’s first integrated bands. They weren’t allowed to go to school together. They weren’t always allowed to travel or eat together. But no one could stop them from playing music together.
And that was the spirit of their music — the sound of Soulsville, U.S.A., a music that, at its core, is about the pain of being alone, the power of human connection, and the importance of treating each other right. After all, this is the music that asked us to try a little tenderness. It’s the music that put Mr. Big Stuff in his place. (Laughter.) And it’s the music that challenged us to accept new ways of thinking with four timeless words: “Can you dig it?” (Laughter.)
So it’s really no surprise that Memphis Soul swept the nation, and it has stood the test of time. And tonight, we bring it to the White House.
We’ve got folks here who were there at the beginning, legends like Mavis Staples, Charlie Musselwhite, William Bell, and Eddie Floyd. We’ve got artists like Cyndi Lauper, and Ben Harper, and Queen Latifah, who still turn to Memphis for inspiration. We’ve got Justin Timberlake, a proud son of Memphis who’s never forgotten his roots, and the Alabama Shakes, who are bringing the Muscle Shoals sound to a new generation.
So to all of you, even more than for the music you’ve created, I want to say a special thank you for the difference that you’ve made in our lives. More than half a century after Soulsville, U.S.A. first opened its doors, you still bring us together. You still remind us how much we have in common. You still help us imagine a better place. And you promise, through your beautiful music, that you can take us there.
So tonight, we’re going to start things off with two extraordinary artists who span the generations — one is a Memphis legend who’s been around just about forever, the other an American Idol who’s turning 21 today. In the heyday of soul music, no band had more hits than the group known simply as “Sam and Dave.” Here to perform his classic “Soul Man” along with Joshua Ledet, please welcome the great Sam Moore. (Applause.)
NOMINATIONS SENT TO THE SENATE:
Harry I. Johnson, III, of Virginia, to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board for the term of five years expiring August 27, 2015, vice Terence Francis Flynn, resigned.
Philip Andrew Miscimarra, of Illinois, to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board for the term of five years expiring December 16, 2017, vice Brian Hayes, term expired.
Mark Gaston Pearce, of New York, to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board for the term of five years expiring August 27, 2018. (Reappointment)
The Obama Administration’s Record on Human Trafficking Issues
Today, the White House will hold a Forum to Combat Human Trafficking to highlight the significant progress this Administration has made to combat human trafficking, including developments since President Obama delivered his seminal speech on the fight to end trafficking in persons at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in September 2012. During that speech, President Obama announced a number of new Administration commitments to combat trafficking at home and abroad. The four elements of this strategy include:
1) Preventing trafficking by raising awareness among vulnerable populations, leading by example, and educating the public and first responders;
2) Prosecuting traffickers through strengthened investigations and enforcement tools;
3) Protecting survivors through comprehensive social services, family reintegration, and immigration services; and
4) Partnering with civil society, state and local government, the private sector, and faith-based organizations to maximize resources and outcomes.
This White House Forum to Combat Human Trafficking brings together advocates, service providers, researchers and academics, business leaders, faith leaders, leaders in the technology community, law enforcement, and local, state and federal government leaders to discuss strategies for countering trafficking in persons.
This Forum will highlight key efforts since the President’s September speech.
- · Using Technology to Fight Trafficking. Today, the Administration will present new public-private partnerships that will provide cutting edge technology tools to aid law enforcement’s efforts to bring traffickers to justice, as well as new online applications to help link victims with much needed services. Stemming from a convening held by the White House Office of Science and Technology and the Council on Women and Girls, leading technology companies have partnered with advocates and survivors to develop new online applications to reach trafficking victims online and on their phones and link them with services in their community. The Administration will also present new private sector partnerships in support of law enforcement efforts to combat child sex trafficking in three major jurisdictions, as well research and tools to help law enforcement better identify children sold online.
- · Strategic Action Plan for Victims Services. Today, the Administration will release for public comment the first-ever federal strategic action plan to coordinate and strengthen services for trafficking victims in the United States. This comprehensive, 5-year plan is action-oriented and time-specific and embraces a collaborative approach that promises to improve services for victims of trafficking throughout the federal government.
- · Presidential Award. Today, the Department of State will award the inaugural “Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons.”
- · Partnering with Faith-based and Neighborhood Organizations. The President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships is working on recommendations in which the federal government can best partner with faith-based and secular organizations to combat human trafficking.
- · Pro Bono Legal Services Network for Trafficking Victims. Today, the Department of State will announce a public-private partnership with New Perimeter, LLC, a non-profit organization established by the law firm DLA Piper designed to increase the availability of pro bono legal services to combat human trafficking. The partnership will use the “3P” framework of prosecuting traffickers, protecting survivors, and preventing victimization, which is reflected in the UN’s Palermo Protocol and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
- · Strengthening Protections Against Trafficking Activities in the Federal Supply Chain. In September 2012, President Obama signed Executive Order (EO) 13627, which strengthens protections against federal contractors and subcontractors engaging in human trafficking-related activities. The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (FAR Council), which is developing implementing regulations, held a public meeting on March 5, 2012. The FAR Council also has received written comments from the public on the implementation of EO 13627, as well as on the End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act, which was passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.
- · Better Data and Better Allocation of Resources with Domestic Human Trafficking Assessment. The Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center, an interagency clearinghouse for information related to human smuggling and trafficking, continues to collect data from more than a dozen federal agencies to develop a domestic human trafficking assessment. This first-ever, interagency human trafficking assessment will help the Federal Government allocate law enforcement and other resources by identifying existing and emerging hotspots for trafficking activity across the United States and revealing trends and patterns in victim recruitment and exploitation.
- · Reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. In February, the President signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013 (TVPRA), which was passed by Congress as part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Thanks to the leadership of key Members of Congress, the TVPRA will offer increased support to the State Department’s diplomatic engagement, bolster protections for vulnerable children and domestic workers, and enable effective partnerships to bring services to survivors and prosecute traffickers.
- · “T” Visa Regulations. The Department of Homeland Security announced that it will publish an interim final rule to amend the “T” nonimmigrant visa regulations, which allow victims to remain in the United States and aid the prosecution of their traffickers. The amendments will streamline the application process and reflect statutory amendments made by the reauthorizations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
- · Counter-Trafficking in Persons Field Guide for Strengthened Programming. USAID released a Counter-Trafficking in Persons Field Guide to provide practical guidance to develop, administer and evaluate investments that implement the Agency’s 2012 C-TIP Policy. The Guide will also help educate USAID Mission personnel and partners about trafficking more broadly and includes recommendations for integrating counter-trafficking activities into larger development programs, tools for designing stand-alone counter-trafficking activities, and evaluation techniques. It also provides USAID personnel with instruction on how to report suspected trafficking violations committed by employees, contractors, and grant recipients to the Agency’s Office of the Inspector General for investigation and action.