US President Barack Obama (L) and First Lady Michelle Obama look out from the Door of No Return while touring the House of Slaves, or Maison des Esclaves, at Goree Island off the coast of Dakar on June 27, 2013. Obama and his family toured the museum at the site where African slaves were held before going through the door and being shipped off the continent as slaves.
U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama receive a bouquet as they arrive on Goree Island near Dakar, Senegal, June 27, 2013. Obama visited the island on Thursday where African slaves in past centuries were shipped west.
The First Family’s seven-day Africa tour has taken them to Senegal, South Africa and now Tanzania. Take a look at the President and First Family’s adventures in Africa … President Obama gets his groove on alongside Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete as he arrives to crowds and a trumpet player in Tanzania on July 1, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and first lady Michelle Obama (C) are greeted by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Mkoana-Mashabne after arriving at Waterkloof Air Force Base June 28, 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa. This is Obama’s first official visit to South Africa, where is schedule to hold bilaterial meetings with President Jacob Zuma, host a town hall meeting with students in Soweto Township and visit Robben Island, where former President Nelson Mandela spent some of his 27 years in prison for fighting against apartheid.
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AND THE PRESIDENT
AT KIDS’ STATE LUNCH
12:22 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, guys. (Applause.) Thank you so much. You all, rest yourselves. I know you’ve been waiting patiently. Coming to the White House, it’s a big hassle, isn’t it? (Laughter.)
You guys should really know that this is what it’s like to be a part of an official state dinner. We set this event up and we mirrored it exactly to what people experience when we host world leaders. We were in this very room — that receiving line you had to sit through — stand through, we do that. So it takes a little patience being at the White House. But you guys are phenomenal. We are so proud of you all.
I want to start by thanking Haile. Gosh, girl, I mean, you’re — I have had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with this young lady, and every time I am with her, she is that poised, that gracious, that bright, that inspiring. And you did it again. (Laughter.) You did it — I am so proud of you for setting an example.
And I know you couldn’t do it without — I know you want — go ahead and cry — (laughter) — because I would be crying right now. We’re very proud of you. And Haile is an example for all of you, what your little, powerful voices can do to change the world. So we are very proud of you, babe. Thanks for being here.
I also want to thank Tanya, as well, and everyone from Epicurious for supporting this event and inspiring thousands of children to get creative and get cooking with their parents. We couldn’t have done this event without you all. You all have been amazing partners. To me, this is an annual event so I hope you get your work shoes on and we’re going to get started for next year.
I also have to thank one of my dear friends and essential partners in this effort to get our kids healthy and active — Secretary Tom Vilsack, from the Department of Agriculture. (Applause.) Thank you. You’ve been an awesome partner. None of the changes that have been made could have been done without your leadership. And it is something that I know you’ve been focused on your entire life and I’m just grateful for the support and leadership that you’ve shown.
I also want to thank all of the staff members from both the Departments of Agriculture and Education for all the work that you all do. And we’ve got many representatives here. Can you guys stand so that the kids at your tables know who you are? These men and women in suits and ties and jackets and stuff — they do the hard work every day. (Applause.)
And a little later on, we’re going to have a special guest — a wonderful young woman by the name of Rachel Crow, who’s going to be performing here today. She’s got an awesome voice. She was involved in the X-Factor. She’s very cool. She’s going to be here to entertain.
But I also want to join in thanking all the parents who are here with us today — the parents, the grandparents. And I know out there somewhere are teachers and educators who are also inspiring these young people. Thank you for bringing your kids here today. Thank you for loving them, for supporting them, for encouraging them. I know we’ve got one grandma in the room — yay to the grandmas in the room. We love the grandmas. You guys are amazing. Kids, let’s give your family members a round of applause. (Applause.)
And most of all, I want to thank and recognize the stars of today’s show — the 54 winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge! Our stars. (Applause.) Yes! Just take a look around — especially over in that corner over there. (Laughter.) That is what we call the press. (Laughter.) They’re here for you, and there are a lot of you all here today. They don’t show up like this for just anybody. I mean, I tell you, sometimes there are just a few of them over in a little corner — (laughter) — but today, they’re all out in full force because of you.
You all, you come from every corner of our country. Every state is represented here today — go, every state! You all have created nutritious, delicious dishes inspired by the MyPlate nutritional guidelines for healthy meals. And you all stood out among a pool of more than 1,300 submissions for this contest.
So this was no easy task. If you deal in statistics and odds, the odds were pretty tough getting one of these seats at this table. So you should be very proud of yourselves.
And that’s why this is truly one of my favorite events that we have here in the White House. I mean, we do a lot of cool stuff here. We’ve got singers and stars and world leaders, but this, probably throughout the entire White House, is one of our favorite events because we get to see how talented and creative and brilliant all of you young people can be. And then we get to show the world.
And we don’t just get to see it, we get to taste it. (Laughter.) Just listen to some of the delicious, nutritious dishes that these kids dreamed up: “Banana’s Black Bean Burritos” — (applause.) Yes, let’s hear it. (Laughter.) Okay, moms, you guys are going to have to cheer it up for your kids because they’re so nervous. I know you’re thinking to yourselves, my kids talk so much, but then they came here to the First Lady and they didn’t say a word. (Laughter.)
“Confetti Peanut Ginger Party Pasta.” (Applause.) “Pan Seared Mississippi Catfish on a Bed of River Rice.” (Applause.) That’s my guy — catfish loving. “Bring It On Brussels Sprout Wrap.” (Applause.) Bring it on! “Slam-Dunk Veggie Burger.” (Applause.)
And then there are the “Fun Mini-Pizzas with Veggies and Cauliflower Crust.” (Applause.) Listen to this, all of you — we’re going to be eating that here because all the dishes here are among those that were submitted. But this recipe was submitted by Olivia Neely from Kansas. And let me just tell you something, Olivia’s crust is gluten-free and it is made of cauliflower, egg, low-fat cheese and spices.
And when Sam Kass — who is the Let’s Move Executive Director and Assistant White House Chef — tasted it — is Sam here? There’s Sam Kass. Sam didn’t — he didn’t believe that there wasn’t any wheat in it. He was skeptical. (Laughter.) The health guy was skeptical. (Laughter.) So skeptical that he walked down to the kitchen and asked the chef whether they’d slipped in some wheat to make sure that the crust tasted right. But they told him, nope, no wheat; just the ingredients Olivia put in the recipe.
So we have seen that when kids like all of you get involved in creating your own healthy meals, the results can really be amazing and delicious and fun. You’ll come up with ideas that none of us grownups ever thought of. You’ll find new ways to get your families and friends to eat healthy and try new foods.
I know that all of you have been motivated by different events in your life, different people in your life, even, to cook healthy and to make changes. And some of you might even start your own online cooking show maybe. Maybe you’ll start making appearances on local TV newscasts. I know some of you have already started doing that — like Amber Kelley, our winner from Washington State. Amber, where are you? (Laughter.) You slipped right under my nose. You’ve been making the TV rounds? Pretty spectacular.
But that’s really what drives Let’s Move — the energy and imagination that’s inside each and every one of you in this room. We know that if you’re able to eat healthy foods, if you have more opportunities to get up and active — because that’s all part of it, we all know that, got to get up and move — and if you’re surrounded by parents and teachers and community leaders who encourage you to live healthier lives, then there’s no telling what you’ll achieve. There’s no telling.
That’s why we’re working with businesses across the country, like Epicurious, to find new ways to promote healthy eating. It’s why we’re working with schools and health professionals to teach you about making good choices not just at home, but in school as well. Because we know sometimes you get to school, you lose your mind, right? (Laughter.) We’re working on that. It’s why we’re working with restaurants and food companies and grocery stores, so that you have healthy options that give you the energy that you need to succeed in school and in life.
Because in the end, Let’s Move isn’t just about what happens in the kitchen or at the dinner table. It’s also about what happens after you fuel up with those right foods. It’s about making sure that your body can be strong and healthy, and your mind can be ready to learn and explore and dream, today and for years to come. That’s really what this is all about. This is about giving you the foundation to fly high and dream big.
Right here in this room, we’re already seeing what can happen if you’re making healthy choices, because as Tanya mentioned, this group is full of student leaders, not just student chefs. You guys are members of your student council. We have some Odyssey of the Mind finalists in this room. We’ve got Spelling Bee champions in this room. We have volunteers who serve throughout their communities.
Lydia Finkbeiner from Indiana donated half the proceeds from her lemonade stand to a children’s hospital. And Liam from Wisconsin — where’s my guy, Liam? Where are you? There’s Liam with his bowtie — started an organization called Harvest Ninjas to raise awareness about childhood hunger. And I know that there are so many more examples like this — I heard a few of them during the receiving line — of all the wonderful things that you guys are doing in your lives.
So the point is that none of us knows what’s next for all of you; none of us knows how far you can go. All of that is really up to you. And it’s about eating healthy, but it’s also working hard in school. Because my second question is, how are your grades? Are you working hard?
But we do know that if you keep dreaming up new ideas, if you keep eating healthy and getting active, then you’re going to make your communities and your country stronger than ever before. You really are. You all are the future. Each of you has so much promise and so much potential. As 8-year-old Nicholas Hornbostel from Colorado said, “I really want to be a cook and an engineer and be president, too.” (Laughter.) That’s an outstanding list. (Laughter.) That’s what this state dinner is really about. We really want you guys to realize your dreams.
And as I always say when I have kids here, I want you to think, if you can walk in this room and sit at these chairs, and be in front of these cameras, and meet the First Lady of the United States, then you can do anything in the world. You really can. You can do anything you want in the world.
So your next task is to pass it on. You’ve got to keep passing it on. There are a lot of other little kids who would love to be in this room and they can’t, but you can bring them here. You can share your thoughts and ideas. You can do as Haile has done — become a leader. You guys are more than equipped to do it. You guys are already doing it.
So keep working hard, all right? You guys promise me that? Do I hear some promises going on here? You guys are hungry, aren’t you? (Laughter.) All right, I know when we have hungry children in the room. Well, you guys have a great time. Eat well. And I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do with your lives in the years to come.
I love you all. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)
* * * *
MRS. OBAMA: It’s okay to eat with your fingers. (Laughter.) The First Lady has said that it is okay. Parents, okay? (Laughter.) Don’t make them eat with a fork and knife. Just pick it up. (Laughter.)
Now, the second surprise is that there is someone else here who wanted to say hello — a dear, dear man in my life, someone who I love deeply, who is the wind beneath my wings — (laughter) — who is just a very awesome world leader — the President of the United States, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, hello, everybody! (Applause.) Everybody, have a seat, have a seat.
Now, first of all, usually at a state dinner, I get invited. (Laughter.) So I don’t know what happened on this one — somehow the invitation slipped through somewhere. But it looks like you guys are having fun.
I wanted to come by, first of all, because everybody looks very nice — you guys all got dressed up. Second of all, I hear the food is pretty good. (Laughter.) And I want to say I could not be prouder of the work that Michelle has done, her team — Sam Kass and all of you have, I really think, lifted up the whole fact that food can be fun, it can be healthy, and that when you combine it with the work that Michelle has been doing and I know all of you are involved with, with Let’s Move, eating healthy, living healthy — you are setting up habits that are going to be great for your entire life.
And you’re setting a great example for your classmates, and I suspect you’re setting a good example for your parents, who sometimes may not always be eating as healthy as they’re supposed to. So you’re really making a difference in all the communities and all the states all across the country. We could not be prouder of you.
And we’re really proud of you winning this challenge — because, frankly, I’m not a great cook and — I’m not bad, but I don’t do it that much. It’s hard to find the time. But when I do cook, I’m following a recipe. And to think that all of you have invented all this fabulous food just shows how creative you are and it shows that food that tastes good can be healthy, too. Because I think sometimes we get thinking that if it’s good for you then it must be nasty. (Laughter.) Now, I’ll admit that there’s some things that are good for you that don’t taste very good. (Laughter.) But it’s usually because — no, it’s usually because they’re not prepared right.
So I will just tell you a story. When I was a kid — I’m now older than most of your parents, which is kind of depressing — but my family, when they cooked vegetables they would just boil them. Remember that? And they’d get all soft and mushy, and nobody wanted to eat a pea or a Brussels sprout because they tasted horrible because they were all mush. And broccoli, it would be all mushy. And now I actually like vegetables because they’re prepared right. And so you guys are getting a jump on things because you’re figuring that out earlier.
So I just want to say to all of the young people here, keep it up. You guys are going to set a good example for everybody all across the country. Because you’re eating healthy, and you’re out there active and you’re playing sports, and you’re out on the playground and doing all those things, not only are you going to have a better life, but you’re also helping to create a stronger, healthier America. And that saves us money. It means people are not sick as much. It means that our health care costs go down. So everything that you’re doing really is having an impact beyond just fixing a good meal.
And for parents, I want you guys to learn from the example of your children and keep working on these good recipes.
So I hope everybody has fun. Again, I couldn’t be prouder of my wife for this whole initiative, but I’m also thankful to all of you. And I will come around to the tables just to say hi to everybody. But I don’t want to be too disruptive, so everybody kind of stay in their seats. I will come to you. (Laughter.) And I won’t be able to take individual pictures with everybody because I’ve got a few other things going on right now — (laughter) — but my White House photographer is going to be following us around, so he’ll be taking pictures while I’m shaking hands with everybody, and everybody will be able to get copies. All right?
Now, one last thing I’ll say — Michelle never said to me I can just pick up something with my fingers at a state dinner. (Laughter.) So –
MRS. OBAMA: And you can’t. That’s not — we’re not doing that.
THE PRESIDENT: So that’s not fair. (Laughter.)
All right, thanks, guys. (Applause.)
Statement by the President on the Occasion of Ramadan
With the start of the sacred month of Ramadan, Michelle and I extend our best wishes to Muslim communities here in the United States and around the world.
For the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, Ramadan is a time for thoughtful reflection, fasting and devotion. It is also an opportunity for family and friends to come together and celebrate the principles that bind people of different faiths – a commitment to peace, justice, equality and compassion towards our fellow human beings. These bonds are far stronger than the differences that too often drive us apart.
This month also reminds us that freedom, dignity and opportunity are the undeniable rights of all mankind. We reflect on these universal values at a time when many citizens across the Middle East and North Africa continue to strive for these basic rights and as millions of refugees mark Ramadan far from their homes. The United States stands with those who are working to build a world where all people can write their own future and practice their faith freely, without fear of violence.
In the United States, Ramadan is a reminder that millions of Muslim Americans enrich our nation each day—serving in our government, leading scientific breakthroughs, generating jobs and caring for our neighbors in need. I have been honored to host an iftar dinner at the White House each of the past four years, and this year I look forward to welcoming Muslim Americans who are contributing to our country as entrepreneurs, activists and artists.
I wish Muslims across America and around the world a month blessed with the joys of family, peace and understanding. Ramadan Kareem.
White House Announces Nancy Hogan to Step Down; Jonathan McBride to Serve as Assistant to the President & Director of Presidential Personnel
White House Announces Nancy Hogan to Step Down; Jonathan McBride to Serve as Assistant to the President & Director of Presidential Personnel
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the White House announced that Nancy Hogan will be stepping down from her position as Assistant to the President & Director of Presidential Personnel later this month. Jonathan McBride will take on the position upon her departure.
“As Director of Presidential Personnel for the last four years, Nancy Hogan has helped make sure this Administration attracts, grows and retains the most talented public servants. More importantly, she’s made sure the American people are well-served by a group of dedicated men and women who work hard every day to uphold the public trust,” President Obama said. “I’m grateful to Nancy for her service, and to Jonathan McBride for agreeing to take her place. Jonathan has the judgment and the experience to help us continue to move this country forward, and I look forward to working with him in his new role.”
Nancy Hogan was appointed Director of the Presidential Personnel office in August, 2009. Prior to accepting this position, she served as Chief of Staff for Presidential Personnel. Ms. Hogan previously worked for Obama for America, first as Northeast Political Director, then as Deputy Director for the Democratic National Convention in Denver. She concluded her service to Obama for America as Deputy Director of Battleground States. Ms. Hogan earlier served as an Advisor to Senator Tom Daschle at Alston & Bird LLP and on his Senate Leadership staff. She has also worked on several Senate campaigns and for the New York City Olympic Bid for the 2012 Games. Ms. Hogan grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and received a B.A. in Political Science from Emory University.
Jonathan McBride joined the administration as a Special Assistant to the President and the Deputy Director of the Presidential Personnel Office in August, 2009. In February, 2012 he was promoted to be a Deputy Assistant to the President. Prior to serving in the White House, Mr. McBride was the Chief Strategy Officer with Universum, a global Employer Branding company, and served as the company’s most senior consultant to companies and agencies looking to attract and recruit top talent. In 2000, Mr. McBride co-founded Jungle Media Group, an award-winning media company. Jungle’s magazines, websites, and live events served a variety of audiences including MBAs, JDs, college students, African American young professionals, and Hispanic young professionals. The content focused on the ‘career lifestyle’ and informed its readers about how to best navigate current and future career moves. Mr. McBride also worked for Goldman Sachs from 1997 to 2000 and U.S. Senator Herb Kohl from 1992 to 1995. He received his B.A. in Economics and U.S. History from Connecticut College and MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a former Trustee of Connecticut College and the National Urban League
Ahead of Tropical Storm Chantal FEMA Urges Residents to Take Steps to Prepare, Listen to Local Officials
Ahead of Tropical Storm Chantal FEMA Urges Residents to Take Steps to Prepare, Listen to Local Officials
WASHINGTON – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), through its Caribbean Area office in Puerto Rico and in coordination with the National Weather Service, is monitoring the conditions of Tropical Storm Chantal.
According to the National Weather Service, a tropical storm watch is in effect for the coastal waters of the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 48 hours somewhere within the specified areas. Tropical storms often bring storm surge and significant rainfall and flooding.
FEMA urges residents in potentially affected areas to closely monitor the storm and take steps now to be prepared in advance of severe weather and most importantly, follow the direction of commonwealth and territory officials. At this time, it is still too early to know whether the storm could pose an immediate threat to the eastern coast of the United States, but for individuals in areas that could be affected now is the time to refresh your emergency kit and review your family plan. If you do not have an emergency kit or family plan, or to learn about steps you can take now to prepare your family for severe weather, visit www.Ready.gov.
Residents or visitors in Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands:
Listen to the instructions of local officials. Local officials make decisions on sheltering in place or going to your pre-designated safe meeting location.
Have important supplies ready to sustain you and your family, if needed. This includes water, a battery-powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries, cell phone charger, medicines, non-perishable food, and first aid supplies.
Stay up-to-date with the latest forecast – Follow local radio and TV reports, as well as forecasts from the National Hurricane Center.
FEMA encourages the public to remain vigilant, to continue monitoring Tropical Storm Chantal and to use this opportunity to reassess their readiness for the 2013 hurricane season. For more information on preparing for hurricanes and other natural disasters, and what you can do to protect yourself and your family, visit www.Ready.gov or www.listo.gov. Information regarding emergency preparedness and what to do before and after a disaster can also be found at m.fema.gov or by downloading the FEMA app from your smartphone’s app store.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
President Obama Announces Presidential Delegation to the Inauguration Ceremony of the President of Mongolia
President Obama Announces Presidential Delegation to the Inauguration Ceremony of the President of Mongolia
President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to attend the inauguration ceremony of His Excellency Ts. Elbegdorj, to his second term as President of Mongolia on July 10, 2013.
The Honorable Piper Anne Wind Campbell, U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia, will lead the delegation.
Members of the Presidential Delegation:
Dr. Tomicah Tillemann, Special Advisor for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies, Department of State
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.”