REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT TOWN HALL WITH YOUNG AFRICAN LEADERS
2:07 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody, please have a seat. Have a seat.
Well, good afternoon, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House, and welcome to the United States of America. And that includes even our friends from Ghana, who beat us in the World Cup. (Laughter.) Where are you? Over there? That’s all right. It was close. We’ll see you in 2014. (Laughter.)
It’s my great privilege to welcome all of you to this Young African Leaders Forum. You’ve joined us from nearly 50 countries. You reflect the extraordinary history and diversity of the continent. You’ve already distinguished yourselves as leaders —- in civil society and development and business and faith communities —- and you’ve got an extraordinary future before you.
In fact, you represent the Africa that so often is overlooked — the great progress that many Africans have achieved and the unlimited potential that you’ve got going forward into the 21st century.
Now, I called this forum for a simple reason. As I said when I was in Accra last year, I don’t see Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world. Whether it’s creating jobs in a global economy, or delivering education and health care, combating climate change, standing up to violent extremists who offer nothing but destruction, or promoting successful models of democracy and development —- for all this we have to have a strong, self-reliant and prosperous Africa. So the world needs your talents and your creativity. We need young Africans who are standing up and making things happen not only in their own countries but around the world.
And the United States wants to be your partner. So I’m pleased that you’ve already heard from Secretary of State Clinton, and that we’re joined today by leaders from across my administration who are working to deepen that partnership every day.
I can’t imagine a more fitting time for this gathering. This year, people in 17 nations across Sub-Saharan Africa are proudly celebrating 50 years of independence. And by any measure, 1960 was an extraordinary year. From Senegal to Gabon, from Madagascar to Nigeria, Africans rejoiced in the streets —- as foreign flags were lowered and their own were hoisted up. So in 12 remarkable months, nearly one-third of the continent achieved independence —- a burst of self-determination that came to be celebrated as “The Year of Africa” — at long last, these Africans were free to chart their own course and to shape their own destiny.
Now, 1960, of course, was significant for another reason. Here in the United States of America it was the year that a candidate for president first proposed an idea for young people in our own country to devote a year or two abroad in service to the world. And that candidate was John F. Kennedy, and that idea would become the Peace Corps — one of our great partnerships with the world, including with Africa.
Now, the great task of building a nation is never done. Here in America, more than two centuries since our independence, we’re still working to perfect our union. Across Africa today, there’s no denying the daily hardships that are faced by so many — the struggle to feed their children, to find work, to survive another day. And too often, that’s the Africa that the world sees.
But today, you represent a different vision, a vision of Africa on the move — an Africa that’s ending old conflicts, as in Liberia, where President Sirleaf told me, today’s children have “not known a gun and not had to run”; an Africa that’s modernizing and creating opportunities — agribusiness in Tanzania, prosperity in Botswana, political progress in Ghana and Guinea; an Africa that’s pursuing a broadband revolution that could transform the daily lives of future generations.
So it’s an Africa that can do great things, such as hosting the world’s largest sporting event. So we congratulate our South African friends. And while it may have been two European teams in the final match, it’s been pointed out that it was really Africa that won the World Cup.
So once again, Africa finds itself at a moment of extraordinary promise. And as I said last year, while today’s challenges may lack some of the drama of 20th century liberation struggles, they ultimately may be even more meaningful, for it will be up to you, young people full of talent and imagination, to build the Africa for the next 50 years.
Africa’s future belongs to entrepreneurs like the small business owner from Djibouti who began selling ice cream and now runs his own accounting practice and advises other entrepreneurs — that’s Miguil Hasan-Farah. Is Miguil here? There he is right there. Don’t be shy. There you go. (Applause.)
As you work to create jobs and opportunity, America will work with you, promoting the trade and investment on which growth depends. That’s why we’re proud to be hosting the AGOA Forum this week to expand trade between our countries. And today I’ll also be meeting with trade, commerce, and agriculture ministers from across Sub-Saharan Africa. It’s also why our historic Food Security Initiative isn’t simply about delivering food; it’s about sharing new technologies to increase African productivity and self-sufficiency.
Now, no one should have to pay a bribe to get a job or to get government to provide basic services. So as part of our development strategy, we’re emphasizing transparency, accountability, and a strong civil society — the kind of reform that can help unleash transformational change. So Africa’s future also belongs to those who take charge of that kind of transparency and are serious about anti-corruption measures.
Africa’s future belongs to those who take charge of their health, like the HIV/AIDS counselor from Malawi who helps others by bravely sharing her own experience of being HIV-positive — that’s Tamara Banda. Where is Tamara? There she is right there. Thank you, Tamara. (Applause.) So our Global Health Initiative is not merely treating diseases; it’s strengthening prevention and Africa’s public health systems. And I want to be very clear. We’ve continued to increase funds to fight HIV/AIDS to record levels, and we’ll continue to do what it takes to save lives and invest in healthier futures.
Africa’s future also belongs to societies that protects the rights of all its people, especially its women, like the journalist in Ivory Coast who has championed the rights of Muslim women and girls —- Aminata Kane-Kone. Where is Aminata? There she is right there. (Applause.) To you and to people across Africa, know that the United States of America will stand with you as you seek justice and progress and human rights and dignity of all people.
So the bottom line is this: Africa’s future belongs to its young people, including a woman who inspires young people across Botswana with her popular radio show, called, “The Real Enchilada” —- and that’s Tumie Ramsden. Where’s Tumie? Right here — “The Real Enchilada.” (Applause.)
As all of you go to — as all of you pursue your dreams —- as you go to school, you find a job, you make your voices heard, you mobilize people —- America wants to support your aspirations. So we’re going to keep helping empower African youth —- supporting education, increasing educational exchanges like the one that brought my father from Kenya in the days when Kenyans were throwing off colonial rule and reaching for a new future. And we’re helping to strengthen grassroots networks of young people who believe — as they’re saying in Kenya today -— “Yes, Youth Can!” “Yes, Youth Can!” (Laughter and applause.)
Now, this is a forum, so we’ve devoted some time where I can answer some questions. I don’t want to do all the talking. I want to hear from you about your goals and how we can partner more effectively to help you reach them. And we want this to be the beginning of a new partnership and create networks that will promote opportunities for years to come.
But I do want to leave you with this. You are the heirs of the independence generation that we celebrate this year. Because of their sacrifice, you were born in independent African states. And just as the achievements of the last 50 years inspire you, the work you do today will inspire future generations.
So — I understand, Tumie, you like to Tweet. (Laughter.) And she shared words that have motivated so many — this is what Tumie said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, to learn more, to do more and become more, then you are a leader.”
So each of you are here today because you are a leader. You’ve inspired other young people in your home countries; you’ve inspired us here in the United States. The future is what you make it. And so if you keep dreaming and keep working and keep learning and don’t give up, then I’m confident that your countries and the entire continent and the entire world will be better for it.
So thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)
All right, with that, I’m going to take questions. Now, here are the rules — (laughter.) People, everybody who has a question, they can raise their hand. In order to be fair, I’m going to call girl, boy, girl, boy. We’re going to alternate. And try to keep your question relatively short; I’ll try to keep my answer relatively short, so I can answer as many questions as possible, because we have a limited amount of time. Okay?
I’m going to start with this young lady, right here. And please introduce yourself and tell me where you’re from also
Q Okay. Thank you very much. I will express myself in French, if that is –
THE PRESIDENT: That’s fine. Somebody will translate for me? Yes? Go ahead. Just make sure that you stop after each sentence, because otherwise she will forget what you had to say.
Q Thank you very much. (Speaks in French and is translated.) Mr. President, hello. And hello, everybody. I’m Fatima Sungo (phonetic) of Mali. I do have a question for you and I look forward to getting your answer. But before I do so, I’d like to begin by telling you, Mr. President, how truly honored and privileged we feel to be with you today, and how privileged we are to express the voices of African youth, of African young leaders, and of course fully appreciate your recognizing us and giving us the opportunity to be here, and also recognizing our own responsibility to take your voice back home.
I’d like to say that I’m convinced this is an important watershed moment, this is the beginning of important change, the wonderful initiative you had to call us all here. I wonder when did you see that particular light? When did you imagine that bringing us here would be such a good idea? I’m wondering what your thought process was, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, one of the things that happens when you’re President is that other people have good ideas and then you take credit for them. (Laughter.) So I want to make sure that I don’t take credit for my ideas — for these ideas — because the truth is my staff works so hard in trying to find new ways that we can communicate not just to the heads of state, but also at the grassroots.
And the reason, I think, is because when you think about Africa, Africa is the youngest continent. Many of the countries that you represent, half of the people are under 30. And oftentimes if all you’re doing is talking to old people like me, then you’re not reaching the people who are going to be providing the energy, the new initiatives, the new ideas. And so we thought that it would be very important for us to have an opportunity to bring the next generation of leaders together.
That’s point number one. Point number two — and I’m going to be blunt occasionally during this forum, so I hope you don’t mind — sometimes the older leaders get into old habits, and those old habits are hard to break. And so part of what we wanted to do was to communicate directly to people who may not assume that the old ways of doing business are the ways that Africa has to do business.
So in some of your countries, freedom of the press is still restricted. There’s no reason why that has to be the case. There’s nothing inevitable about that. And young people are more prone to ask questions, why shouldn’t we have a free press? In some of your countries, the problem of corruption is chronic. And so people who have been doing business in your country for 20, 30 years, they’ll just throw up their hands and they’ll say, ah, that’s the way it is.
But Robert Kennedy had a wonderful saying, where he said, some people see things and ask why, and others see things that need changing and ask, why not. And so I think that your generation is poised to ask those questions, “Why not?” Why shouldn’t Africa be self-sustaining agriculturally? There’s enough arable land that if we restructure how agriculture and markets work in Africa, not only could most countries in Africa feed themselves, but they could export those crops to help feed the world. Why not?
New infrastructure — it used to be that you had to have telephone lines and very capital intensive in order to communicate. Now we have the Internet and broadband and cell phones, so you — the entire continent may be able to leapfrog some other places that were more highly developed and actually reach into the future of communications in ways that we can’t even imagine yet. Why not?
So that’s the purpose of this. I also want to make sure that all of you are having an opportunity to meet each other, because you can reinforce each other as you are struggling and fighting in your own countries for a better future. You will now have a network of people that help to reinforce what it is that you’re trying to do. And you know that sometimes change makes you feel lonely. Now you’ve got a group of people who can help reinforce what you’re doing.
Okay. It’s a gentleman’s turn. This is why there are leaders, everybody has something to say. But you don’t have to snap. No, no, no. It’s a guy’s turn — this gentleman right here.
Q Mr. President, my name is Bai Best (phonetic) from Liberia. The late Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller was the first black — the first black psychiatrist in America and probably in the world. In my country in Liberia, where there are a lot of great people who make landmark accomplishments both in their nation and in the world, many of them are not recognized for their accomplishments. Today, Dr. Fuller’s name is etched where there is a medical — there is a psychiatric center named in his honor at a place in Boston. There are many other young African and young Liberian talented people who have great ideas and who want to come back home and contribute to their countries, to the development of their peoples. But many times, their efforts — their patriotic efforts — are stifled by corrupt or sometimes jealous officials in government and in other sectors. It’s an age-old problem. Many times, they want to seek — that basically leads them to seek greener pastures and better appreciation abroad instead of coming back home. What are your thoughts on this?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, this is a problem that’s not unique to Africa. Given different stages of development around the world, one of the problems that poorer countries often have is that the best educated and the most talented have opportunities elsewhere. And so there’s what’s called the “brain drain” — people saying, I can make 10 times as much money if I’m a doctor in London as I can if I’m a doctor back home.
And so this is a historic problem. Here is the interesting moment that we’re in, though — if you look at where the greatest opportunities are, they’re actually now in emerging markets. There are countries in Africa that are growing 7, 8, 9 percent a year. So if you’re an entrepreneur now with an idea, you may be able to grow faster and achieve more back home that you could here.
Now, it entails greater risk, so it may be safer to emigrate. But it may be that you can actually achieve more, more quickly back home. And so the question is for young leaders like yourselves, where do you want to have the most impact? And you’re probably going to have more impact at home whether you’re a businessman or woman, or you are a doctor or you are an attorney, or you are an organizer. That’s probably going to be the place where you can make the biggest change.
Now, you’re absolutely right, though, that the conditions back home have to be right where you can achieve these things. So if you want to go back home and start a business, and it turns out that you have to pay too many bribes to just get the business started, at some point you may just give up.
And that’s why one of the things that we’re trying to do — working with my team — when we emphasize development, good governance is at the center of development. It’s not separate. Sometimes people think, well, that’s a political issue and then there’s an economic issue. No. If you have a situation where you can’t start a business or people don’t want to invest because there’s not a clear sense of rule of law, that is going to stifle development.
If farmers have so many middlemen to get their crops to market that they’re making pennies when ultimately their crops are being sold for $10, over time that stifles agricultural development in a country. So what we want to do is make sure that in our interactions with your governments, we are constantly emphasizing this issue of good governance because I have confidence that you’ll be able to figure out what changes need to be made in your country.
I’ve always said the destiny of Africa is going to be determined by Africans. It’s not going to be determined by me. It’s not going to be determined by people outside of the continent. It’s going to be determined by you. All we can do is make sure that your voices are heard and you’re able to rise up and take hold of these opportunities. If you do that, I think that there are going to be a lot of people who — even if they’re educated abroad — want to come home to make their mark.
All right. Let’s see, I’m going to call on this young lady right here.
Q (Speaks in Portuguese and is translated.) Good afternoon, everyone. And thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity.
THE PRESIDENT: That sounds like Portuguese. (Laughter.)
Q It is, indeed, from Mozambique, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Great.
Q Knowing, Mr. President, that, of course, America is a reference point for democracy in the world, and that you, sir, are, indeed a protagonist in that context today, I would love to hear from you, sir, what you would recommend to the young people in Africa and to civil society, in particular, in terms of following principles of nonviolence and good governance and democratic principles in our country. Because, of course, our reality is very often quite starkly different. There are 80 percent abstentionism often in elections, and elections that, indeed, lack transparency. And all too often lead, alas, to social conflict. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say, first of all, that if you are — just as I said that you can’t separate politics from economics, you can’t separate conflict from development. So the constant conflict, often ethnically-based conflict, that has taken place in Africa is a profound detriment to development and it’s self-reinforcing.
If you have conflict and violence, that scares off investors. That makes it more difficult for business people to create opportunities, which means that young people then don’t have work, which means that they are more prone to be recruited in violent conflicts. And you can get a vicious cycle.
So I am a profound believer in not looking at violence as a solution to problems. And I think the moral and ethical power that comes with nonviolence when properly mobilized is profound.
Number two, I think the most important thing that maybe young people here can do is to promote the values of openness, transparency, honest debate, civil disagreements within your own groups and your own organizations, because that forms good habits. If you are part of an organization — and I’m going to speak to the men here, in particular — if you are part of an organization where you profess democracy but women don’t have an equal voice in your organization, then you’re a hypocrite, right? And that is something that — (applause.) And that is something that we have to be honest about. Oftentimes, women are not getting the same voice in African countries, despite the fact that they are carrying more than their fair share of burdens.
So within your own organizations, within your own networks, modeling good democratic practices, listening to people who you disagree with respectfully, making sure that everybody gets a seat at the table — all those things I think are very important.
Because part of what I’m going to — what I’m hoping for is that some of you will end up being leaders of your country some day. And if you think about it, back in the 1960s, when all these — your grandparents, great-grandparents were obtaining independence, fighting for independence, the first leaders, they all said they were for democracy. And then what ends up happening is you’ve been in power for a while and you say, well, I must be such a good ruler that it is for the benefit of the people that I need to stay here. And so then you start changing the laws, or you start intimidating and jailing opponents. And pretty soon, young people just like yourself — full of hope and promise — end up becoming exactly what they fought against.
So one of the things that I think everybody here has to really internalize is the notion that — I think it was Gandhi who once said you have to be the change that you seek. You have to be the change that you seek. And one of the wonderful things about the United States is that in my position as President there oftentimes where I get frustrated, I think I know more than some of my critics. And yet, we have institutionalized the notion that those critics have every right to criticize me, no matter how unreasonable I think they may be. And I have to stand before the people for an election, and I’m limited to two terms — it doesn’t matter how good a job I do. And that’s good, because what that means is that we’ve got to — we’ve instituted a culture where the institutions of democracy are more important than any one individual.
And, now, it’s not as if we’re perfect. Obviously, we’ve got all kinds of problems as well. But what it does mean is that the peaceful transfer of power and the notion that people always have a voice — our trust in that democratic process is one that has to be embraced in all your countries as well.
Okay? All right, it’s a gentleman’s turn. Let me try to get this side of the table here. This gentleman right here. I’m not going to get everybody, so I apologize in advance.
Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I’m from Malawi. Mr. President, HIV/AIDS is greatly affecting development in Africa. And if this continues, I’m afraid I think Africa has no future. And I think the young people like us must bring change. And we really need a strong HIV prevention program. But, again, access to treatment must be there.
I attended the recent World AIDS Conference in Vienna, and the critics were saying that the worst — the U.S. government is not supporting enough HIV/AIDS work in Africa through the PEPFAR and the Global Fund. But, again, on the other side, other HIV/AIDS activists are saying that Africa on its own has not mobilized enough resources to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic and they are largely depending on the West.
I think the challenge for us as African young leaders is to make sure that this comes to an end and we really need to reduce the transmission. I don’t know — from your perspective, what can we do to make sure that this comes to a stop? Otherwise, it’s greatly affecting development in Africa.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Well, let me start by just talking about the United States and what we’re doing. I had some disagreements with my predecessor, but one of the outstanding things that President Bush did was to initiate the PEPFAR program. It’s a huge investment in battling HIV/AIDS both with respect to prevention and also with respect to treatment. Billions of dollars were committed. We have built off of that.
So when you hear critics — what the critics are saying is that although I’ve increased the funding of the PEPFAR program, they would like to see it increased even more, which I’m sympathetic to, given the fact that the need is so great. But understand I’ve increased it; I haven’t decreased it — at a time when the United States is suffering from the worst economic — just coming out of the worst economic recession that we’ve seen since the 1930s. Nevertheless, because of our commitment to this issue, we’ve actually increased funding.
Now, we have couched it in a broader initiative we call the Global Health Initiative. Because even as we’re battling HIV/AIDS, we want to make sure that we are thinking not only in terms of treatment, but also in terms of prevention and preventing transmission.
We’re never going to have enough money to simply treat people who are constantly getting infected. We’ve got to have a mechanism to stop the transmission rate. And so one of the things we’re trying to do is to build greater public health infrastructure, find what prevention programs are working, how can we institutionalize them, make them culturally specific — because not every program is going to be appropriate for every country.
I will say that in Africa, in particular, one thing we do know is that empowering women is going to be critical to reducing the transmission rate. We do know that. Because so often women, not having any control over sexual practices and their own body, end up having extremely high transmission rates.
So the bottom line is we’re going to focus on prevention, building a public health infrastructure. We’re still going to be funding, at very high levels, antiviral drugs. But keep in mind, we will never have enough money — it will be endless, an endless effort if the transmission rates stay high and we’re just trying to treat people after their sick.
It’s the classic story of a group of people come upon all these bodies in a stream. And everybody jumps in and starts pulling bodies out, but one wise person goes downstream to see what’s exactly happening that’s causing all these people to drown or fall in the water. And that’s I think what we have to do, is go downstream to see how can we reduce these transmission rates overall.
And obviously — when I visited Kenya, for example — just in terms of education — Michelle and I, we both got tested near the village where my father was born. We got publicly tested so that we would know what our status was. That was just one example of the kinds of educational mechanisms that we can use that hopefully can make some difference.
All right? Okay, it’s a woman’s turn. Okay, this one right here.
Q Thank you, very much, Mr. President. And greetings from Ghana. We are looking forward fervently to 2014 – (laughter) — for a repeat. And I recollect that I was hosting a radio program the day of the match. And we have a football pundit in Ghana — he doesn’t speak English quite well, but very passionate. And so I was interviewing him about what the psyche of our boys should be ahead of the match. And he said to me, “This is not war, it is football. If it were to be war, then maybe we should be afraid because the might of America is more than us.” (Laughter.) This is football. They should go out there and be the best that they could be. And they did.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they did an excellent job. They were a great team.
Q Mr. President, my question now is that I hear a lot of young African leaders wonder how committed America would be to a partnership. I hear those who are cynical about the notion of partnership. They ask — and always they ask, partnership? What kind of fair partnership can exist between a strong and a weak nation?
And so as we prepare ourselves for the future, we ask the same question of America: How committed is your country to ensuring that the difficult decisions that young people have to make about trade, about agriculture, about support, are made — to the extent that they may not be in the interest of America? Because they tell me also that America will protect its interest over and above all else. Is America committed to ensuring a partnership that might not necessarily be beneficial to America, but truly beneficial to the sovereign interest of the countries that we represent?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say this. All countries look out for their interests. So — and I’m the President of the United States, so my job is to look out for the people of the United States. That’s my job, right? (Applause.)
Now, I actually think, though, that the interests of the United States and the interests of the continent of Africa greatly overlap. We have a huge interest in seeing development throughout Africa — because we are a more mature economy, Africa is a young and growing economy, and if you can buy more iPods and buy more products and buy more services and buy more tractors from us, that we can sell to a fast-growing continent, that creates jobs here in the United States of America.
We have a huge interest in your public health systems because if we’re reducing greatly HIV/AIDS transmissions in Africa, then that will have a positive effect on HIV rates internationally, because of the transmigration of diseases back and forth in an international world. And not to mention, if I’m not spending all this money on PEPFAR, that’s money I can spend somewhere else. So I’m going to be incentivized to see Africa do well. That’s in our interest.
And the truth of the matter is, is that whereas with some regions of the world, we do have some genuine conflicts of interest — let’s say on trade, for example — the truth is that the United States, we don’t have huge conflicts when it comes to trade because, frankly, the trade between the United States and Africa is so small, so modest, that very few U.S. companies, U.S. commercial interests are impacted.
That’s why AGOA, our trade arrangement with Africa — we can eliminate tariffs and subsidies and allow all sorts of goods to come in partly because you are not our primary competition.
Now, I don’t want to pretend that there aren’t ever going to be conflicts. There will be. There’s going to be difference in world views. There are going to be some agricultural products where there are certain interests in the United States or there are certain interests in Europe that want to prevent those from coming in, even though, in the aggregate, it would not have a huge impact on the U.S. economy. And so there are going to be occasional areas of tension. But overall, the reason you should have confidence that we want a partnership is because your success will enhance our position rather than reduce it.
Also Africa has some of our most loyal friends. Every survey that’s taken, when you ask what continent generally has the most positive views about America, it turns out Africa generally has a positive view of America and positive experiences. So I think that you should feel confident even if I’m not President that the American people genuinely want to see Africa succeed.
What the American people don’t want is to feel like their efforts at helping are wasted. So if at a time of great constraint, we are coming up with aid, those aid dollars need to go to countries that are actually using them effectively. And if they’re not using them effectively, then they should go to countries that are.
And one of the things that I’ve said to my development team is I want us to have high standards in terms of performance and evaluation when we have these partnerships — because a partnership is a two-way street. It means that, on the one hand, we’re accountable to you and that we have to listen to you and make sure that any plans that we have, have developed indigenously. On the other hand, it also means you’re accountable. So you can’t just say, give me this, give me that, and then if it turns out that it’s not working well, that’s not your problem. Right? It has to be a two-way street.
Okay, looks like this side has not gotten a question here. So how about this gentleman right here.
Q Thank you, Mr. President — I’m from Zimbabwe. Currently our government is in a transition between the former ruling party Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change. And within this same context, Zimbabwe is currently under restrictive measures, especially for those who are party in line with Robert Mugabe under the ZIDERA Act. How has been the success of ZIDERA — the formation of the inclusive government? Because in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe is still using the rhetoric of sanctions, racist, property rights abuse, human rights abuse, in violation to the rule of law. How has been the success of that towards the implementation — the success or the growth of young people?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you probably have a better answer than me. So you should be sharing with our team what you think would make the most sense. I’ll be honest with you — I’m heartbroken when I see what’s happened in Zimbabwe. I think Mugabe is an example of a leader who came in as a liberation fighter and — I’m just going to be very blunt — I do not see him serving his people well. And the abuses, the human rights abuses, the violence that’s been perpetrated against opposition leaders I think is terrible.
Now, Changerai has tried to work — despite the fact that he himself has been beaten and imprisoned, he has now tried to work to see if there is a gradual transition that might take place. But so far, the results have not been what we had hoped.
And this always poses a difficult question for U.S. foreign policy because, on the one hand, we don’t want to punish the people for the abuses of a leader; on the other hand, we have very little leverage other than saying, if there are just systematic abuses by a government, we are not going to deal with them commercially, we’re not going to deal with them politically, in ways that we would with countries that are observing basic human rights principles.
And so there have been discussions when I’ve traveled with leaders in the Southern African region about whether or not sanctions against Zimbabwe are or are not counterproductive. I will tell you I would love nothing more than to be able to open up greater diplomatic relationships and economic and commercial relationships with Zimbabwe. But in order to do so, we’ve got to see some signal that it will not simply entrench the same past abuses but rather will move us in a new direction that actually helps the people.
And Zimbabwe is a classic example of a country that should be the breadbasket for an entire region. It’s a spectacular country. Now, it had to undergo a transition from white minority rule that was very painful and very difficult. But they have chosen a path that’s different than the path that South Africa chose.
South Africa has its problems, but from what everybody could see during the World Cup, the potential for moving that country forward as a multiracial, African democracy that can succeed on the world stage, that’s a model that so far at least Zimbabwe has not followed. And that’s where I’d like to see it go. All right?
How much more time do I have, guys? Last question? I’m sorry — last question. Last question. No, it’s a young lady’s turn. This one right here.
Q Good afternoon, Mr. President, your excellencies. I am from Somalia. I came all the way here with one question, and that is, living in conflict in a country that has confused the whole world, and being part of the diaspora that went back to risk our lives in order to make Somalia a better place, especially with what we’re going through right now — how much support do we expect from the U.S.? And not support just in terms of financially or aid, but support as an ear, as a friend, as somebody who hears and listens to those of us who are putting our lives and our families at risk to defend humanity.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think you will have enormous support from the people of the United States when it comes to trying to create a structure and framework in Somalia that works for the Somali people.
Now, the history of Somalia over the last 20 years has been equally heartbreaking, if not more so. You have not had a effective, functioning government that can provide basic services. It’s been rife with conflict. And now the entire region is threatened because of radical extremists who have taken root in Somalia, taking advantage of what they perceive to be a failing state, to use that as a base to launch attacks, most recently in Uganda.
And obviously the United States expresses its deepest condolences to the lives that were lost in Kampala — at the very moment of the World Cup. And it offered two contrasting visions. You have this wonderful, joyous celebration in South Africa at the same time as you have a terrorist explosion in Kampala.
So we desperately want Somalia to succeed. And this is another example of where our interests intersect. If you have extremist organizations taking root in Somalia, ultimately that can threaten the United States as well as Uganda, as well as Kenya, as well as the entire region.
So right now you’ve got a transitional government that is making some efforts. I don’t think anybody expects Somalia anytime in the next few years to suddenly be transformed into a model democracy. Whatever governance structures take place in Somalia have to be aware of the tribal and traditional structures and clan structures that exist within Somalia. But certainly what we can do is create a situation where people — young people are not carrying around rifles, shooting each other on the streets. And we want to be a partner with Somalia in that effort, and we will continue to do so.
And some of it is financial, some of it is developmental, some of it is being able to help basic infrastructure. In some cases, we may try to find a portion of the country that is relatively stable and start work there to create a model that the rest of the country can then look at and say, this is a different path than the one that we’re taking right now.
But in the end, I think that this metaphor of the success of the World Cup and the bombing shows that each of you are going to be confronted with two paths. There’s going to be a path that takes us into a direction of more conflict, more bloodshed, less economic development, continued poverty even as the rest of the world races ahead — or there’s a vision in which people come together for the betterment and development of their own country.
And for all the great promise that’s been fulfilled over the last 50 years, I want you to understand — because I think it’s important for us to be honest with ourselves — Africa has also missed huge opportunities for too long. And I’ll just give you one example.
When my father traveled to the United States and got his degree in the early ’60s, the GDP of Kenya was actually on partner, maybe actually higher than the GDP of South Korea. Think about that. All right? So when I was born, Kenya per capita might have been wealthier than South Korea. Now it’s not even close. Well, that’s 50 years that was lost in terms of opportunities. When it comes to natural resources, when it comes to the talent and potential of the people, there’s no reason why Kenya shouldn’t have been on that same trajectory.
And so 50 years from now, when you look back you want to make sure that the continent hasn’t missed those opportunities as well. We want to make sure of that as well. And the United States wants to listen to you and work with you. And so when you go back and you talk to your friends and you say, what was the main message the President had — we are rooting for your success, and we want to work with you to achieve that success, but ultimately success is going to be in your hands. And being a partner means that we can be there by your side, but we can’t do it for you.
Okay, thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.)
Fact Sheet: The President’s Engagement in Africa
“I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world, as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect.”
President Obama, Accra, Ghana, July 2009
In 2010, seventeen countries across sub-Saharan Africa celebrate fifty years of independence. In honor of this important historic moment, in acknowledgement of the extraordinarily young demographic profile of the region, and as part of an effort to forge strong, forward-looking partnerships in the years ahead, President Obama is hosting a forum for young African leaders in Washington, D.C., from August 3 – 5. These 115 young leaders come from civil society and the private sector and represent more than forty countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
In Accra, the President highlighted a “simple truth” about our country’s connections with Africa: Africa’s prosperity can expand America’s prosperity. Africa’s health and security can contribute to the world’s health and security. And the strength of Africa’s democracy can help advance human rights for people everywhere.
He emphasized that “this mutual responsibility must be the foundation of our partnership.” And over the past year and a half, we have been focused on four areas that are critical to the future of Africa: strong and sustainable democratic governments, opportunity and development, strengthening public health, and the peaceful resolution of conflict. Here are some examples of actions the Administration has taken:
Addressing Global Issues
The Administration’s approach to development addresses issues at the core of Africa’s agenda.
· Feed the Future: In 2009, President Obama announced a $3 billion global food security initiative that has the support of the world’s major and emerging donor nations. To date, the United States has led international efforts to review nine comprehensive country strategies, commit new resources in support of those strategies, collaborate in the establishment and initial capitalization of the World Bank-led Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, and launch a new research and development program.
· Global Health Initiative: In May 2009, President Obama announced the Global Health Initiative (GHI), a six-year, $63 billion initiative which builds on the progress and success of PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Program on AIDS Relief) and also expands our global health effort and impact by including investments to strengthen health systems, improve maternal child health, address neglected tropical diseases, and foster increased research and development.
· Climate Change: The United States and nations across Africa are addressing the challenge of global climate change through the Copenhagen Accord and a range of international partnerships promoting clean energy technologies and climate-resilient development for Africans. The United States has more than tripled climate assistance this year. Support for international climate adaptation has increased tenfold, with a focus on helping the most vulnerable nations in Africa and around the world. U.S. climate-related appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 total $1.3 billion, and the Administration has requested $1.9 billion in appropriations for FY 2011.
Strengthening our Partnerships
The United States has elevated engagement with emerging and existing African powers, and has recently launched three new Strategic Dialogues to that effect:
· The United States and Angola have signed a new Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and have launched a new Strategic Partnership Dialogue, setting the stage for improved cooperation on energy, trade, security, and agriculture.
· Over the past year and a half, the U.S. relationship with South Africa has gone from strained to sound. We have institutionalized the new era of cooperation in a formal, ongoing U.S.-South Africa Strategic Dialogue and are working together on a range of issues from nonproliferation to agricultural development.
· April 2010 saw the formal establishment of the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission, a high-level mechanisms to address issues surrounding governance and transparency (including preparing for upcoming elections), energy and power, food security, and regional security.
Throughout the region, through diplomatic engagement and support to key institutions and civil society organizations, the United States has promoted good governance as a critical priority for the region.
· In Kenya, the United States has led international efforts to support Kenyan civil society and the reform agenda developed in the wake of early 2008 post-election violence.
· The administration launched the first ever high-level bilateral discussions with the African Union. In April of this year, Secretary of State Clinton and National Security Advisor General Jones, Ret., welcomed African Union leaders to Washington to hold the first annual high-level consultation with the AU. Attorney General Eric Holder followed up on this initiative by addressing the AU Summit in Kampala in July. At the ninth U.S.-sub Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, also known as the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), being held in Washington this week, USAID will sign a new partnership agreement with the African Union to advance prosperity, peace and stability.
Crisis Prevention and Response
· The Obama administration conducted a comprehensive review of our policies in Sudan and developed a strategy focused on addressing our multiple policy objectives in Sudan and the region, including resolution to the crisis in Darfur and implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. We have named a full-time Special Envoy who has re-energized and broadened the multilateral coalition addressing Sudan’s challenges.
· Following a comprehensive review of our policies on Somalia earlier this year, the President issued Executive Order 13536, the first E.O. focused on addressing the underlying factors contributing to instability in Somalia. The Administration’s policy on Somalia is the first comprehensive approach to addressing the counterterrorism, counterpiracy, humanitarian, and security and political concerns facing the beleaguered state.
· In central Africa, Secretary Clinton has elevated the issue of sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to a top priority, personally visiting eastern Congo in August, 2009, and directing that additional resources and innovative approaches be employed to combat this violence, end impunity and assist those affected.
· In Guinea, the United States was an international leader in condemning the September 28 massacre, supporting a return to constitutional order, and assisting in the electoral process that gave Guineans their first opportunity to vote in credible elections since their country became independent in 1958.
Encouraging Private Sector Growth
The United States is currently hosting the ninth United States – Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (AGOA Forum) in Washington, D.C., from August 2 – 3. Unlike previous Forums, this will be held not only in Washington but also in Kansas City, Missouri, from August 5 – 6, to allow for a deeper focus on agri-business. We are also emphasizing the role of women through a two-week AGOA Women’s Entrepreneurship Program to provide tools to better integrate African women into the global economy. In addition, as a follow up to President Obama’s Entrepreneurship Summit this past April, the Board of Directors of the United States Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) approved on June 24 up to $150 million in financing to support the establishment of a private equity investment fund designed to invest in companies in West Africa.
The most senior representatives of the Obama Administration have actively engaged on African issues.
President Obama directly laid out a comprehensive vision for U.S.-African engagement in Accra, Ghana, in 2009 during the earliest visit to sub-Saharan Africa by any President in his first year in office. In addition to holding a meeting with 25 African heads of state and African Commission Chairperson Jean Ping at the United Nations General Assembly last year, President Obama has also held bilateral meetings with President Zuma of South Africa, President Kikwete of Tanzania, President Mills of Ghana, President Jonathan of Nigeria, Prime Minister Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe, President Khama of Botswana, and President Sirleaf of Liberia.
Last summer, Secretary Clinton traveled to seven African countries (Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde). She continues to host and reach out to African leaders on a regular basis.
In June 2010, Vice President Biden traveled to Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa to address important bilateral issues in addition to holding numerous in-depth discussions on looming challenges in Sudan and Somalia.
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Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
A Just and Lasting Peace
Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize
Thursday, December 10th, 2009
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Distinguished Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, citizens of America, and citizens of the world:
I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations – that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.
And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help – to be far more deserving of this honor than I.
But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by forty three other countries – including Norway – in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.
Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.
These questions are not new. War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease – the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.
Over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers, clerics, and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a “just war” emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the forced used is proportional, and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.
For most of history, this concept of just war was rarely observed. The capacity of human beings to think up new ways to kill one another proved inexhaustible, as did our capacity to exempt from mercy those who look different or pray to a different God. Wars between armies gave way to wars between nations – total wars in which the distinction between combatant and civilian became blurred. In the span of thirty years, such carnage would twice engulf this continent. And while it is hard to conceive of a cause more just than the defeat of the Third Reich and the Axis powers, World War II was a conflict in which the total number of civilians who died exceeded the number of soldiers who perished.
In the wake of such destruction, and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another World War. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations – an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this Prize – America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, and restrict the most dangerous weapons.
In many ways, these efforts succeeded. Yes, terrible wars have been fought, and atrocities committed. But there has been no Third World War. The Cold War ended with jubilant crowds dismantling a wall. Commerce has stitched much of the world together. Billions have been lifted from poverty. The ideals of liberty, self-determination, equality and the rule of law have haltingly advanced. We are the heirs of the fortitude and foresight of generations past, and it is a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud.
A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.
Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts; the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies, and failed states; have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today’s wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sewn, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed, and children scarred.
I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.
We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.
I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.
I raise this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter the cause. At times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.
Yet the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions – not just treaties and declarations – that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest – because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.
So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another – that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldier’s courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause and to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.
So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly irreconcilable truths – that war is sometimes necessary, and war is at some level an expression of human feelings. Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. “Let us focus,” he said, “on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.”
What might this evolution look like? What might these practical steps be?
To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards strengthens those who do, and isolates – and weakens – those who don’t.
The world rallied around America after the 9/11 attacks, and continues to support our efforts in Afghanistan, because of the horror of those senseless attacks and the recognized principle of self-defense. Likewise, the world recognized the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait – a consensus that sent a clear message to all about the cost of aggression.
Furthermore, America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don’t, our action can appear arbitrary, and undercut the legitimacy of future intervention – no matter how justified.
This becomes particularly important when the purpose of military action extends beyond self defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor. More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.
I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That is why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.
America’s commitment to global security will never waiver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come.
The leaders and soldiers of NATO countries – and other friends and allies – demonstrate this truth through the capacity and courage they have shown in Afghanistan. But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular. But I also know this: the belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That is why NATO continues to be indispensable. That is why we must strengthen UN and regional peacekeeping, and not leave the task to a few countries. That is why we honor those who return home from peacekeeping and training abroad to Oslo and Rome; to Ottawa and Sydney; to Dhaka and Kigali – we honor them not as makers of war, but as wagers of peace.
Let me make one final point about the use of force. Even as we make difficult decisions about going to war, we must also think clearly about how we fight it. The Nobel Committee recognized this truth in awarding its first prize for peace to Henry Dunant – the founder of the Red Cross, and a driving force behind the Geneva Conventions.
Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.
I have spoken to the questions that must weigh on our minds and our hearts as we choose to wage war. But let me turn now to our effort to avoid such tragic choices, and speak of three ways that we can build a just and lasting peace.
First, in dealing with those nations that break rules and laws, I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behavior – for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure – and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.
One urgent example is the effort to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and to seek a world without them. In the middle of the last century, nations agreed to be bound by a treaty whose bargain is clear: all will have access to peaceful nuclear power; those without nuclear weapons will forsake them; and those with nuclear weapons will work toward disarmament. I am committed to upholding this treaty. It is a centerpiece of my foreign policy. And I am working with President Medvedev to reduce America and Russia’s nuclear stockpiles.
But it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.
The same principle applies to those who violate international law by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur; systematic rape in Congo; or repression in Burma – there must be consequences. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.
This brings me to a second point – the nature of the peace that we seek. For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.
It was this insight that drove drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. In the wake of devastation, they recognized that if human rights are not protected, peace is a hollow promise.
And yet all too often, these words are ignored. In some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation’s development. And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists – a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values.
I reject this choice. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America’s interests – nor the world’s –are served by the denial of human aspirations.
So even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear to these movements that hope and history are on their side
Let me also say this: the promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach – and condemnation without discussion – can carry forward a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.
In light of the Cultural Revolution’s horrors, Nixon’s meeting with Mao appeared inexcusable – and yet it surely helped set China on a path where millions of its citizens have been lifted from poverty, and connected to open societies. Pope John Paul’s engagement with Poland created space not just for the Catholic Church, but for labor leaders like Lech Walesa. Ronald Reagan’s efforts on arms control and embrace of perestroika not only improved relations with the Soviet Union, but empowered dissidents throughout Eastern Europe. There is no simple formula here. But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement; pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.
Third, a just peace includes not only civil and political rights – it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.
It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive. It does not exist where children cannot aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.
And that is why helping farmers feed their own people – or nations educate their children and care for the sick – is not mere charity. It is also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and activists who call for swift and forceful action – it is military leaders in my country and others who understand that our common security hangs in the balance.
Agreements among nations. Strong institutions. Support for human rights. Investments in development. All of these are vital ingredients in bringing about the evolution that President Kennedy spoke about. And yet, I do not believe that we will have the will, or the staying power, to complete this work without something more – and that is the continued expansion of our moral imagination; an insistence that there is something irreducible that we all share.
As the world grows smaller, you might think it would be easier for human beings to recognize how similar we are; to understand that we all basically want the same things; that we all hope for the chance to live out our lives with some measure of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves and our families.
And yet, given the dizzying pace of globalization, and the cultural leveling of modernity, it should come as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish about their particular identities – their race, their tribe, and perhaps most powerfully their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. At times, it even feels like we are moving backwards. We see it in Middle East, as the conflict between Arabs and Jews seems to harden. We see it in nations that are torn asunder by tribal lines.
Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature. We are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us.
But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached – their faith in human progress – must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.
For if we lose that faith – if we dismiss it as silly or naïve; if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace – then we lose what is best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass.
Like generations have before us, we must reject that future. As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago, “I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him.”
So let us reach for the world that ought to be – that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he’s outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.
Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that – for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.
The much anticipated Detroit mayoral special election is upon Detroiters. Tuesday, Detroiters will turn out in low record numbers to cast a vote for the candidate that will fill the remainder of ousted former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s time in office. The special election, which hardly makes sense to the intelligent by-stander, is tauted as a prelude to the “real” mayoral election to be held in November. It is supposed that the winner of this event will be a shoe-in for the permanent office of mayor.
Former Detroit City Council President Ken Cockrel, Jr. currently is Detroit’s “temporary” mayor, with hopes of making the seat even more “temporary” as the winner of this contest. I know, none of this makes any sense, does it?
Businessman and NBA great Dave Bing is the second candidate that is on the Detroit ballot for mayor. Hometown hero and Detroit Piston legend, Dave Bing reinvented himself into an entrepreneur and businessman by founding the Bing Group, a steel manufacturing operation and auto supplier. The Bing Group is widely seen as a success story and Bing has employed hundreds of Detroiters and contributed to numerous community organizations. Bing is very active in the city and much beloved.
A native Detroiter like fellow candidate Ken Cockrel, Jr., Dave Bing has a rich history rooted in Detroit. However, critics including Cockrel point to the fact that Bing has little if any political experience.
However, if one ws to take a close look at the city of Detroit, the disaster is not only in political arena but in the finances. The city of Detroit is $300 million in debt. The Detroit Public School system is in the crapper, too. DPS is $300 million in the red, too! It is rumored that a full blown criminal investigation is currently underway.
Unemployment in Detroit is 22.2%, the highest rate in America. Even though crime stats show that violent deaths have dropped, more than 300 Detroiters die a year due to violence. So, which of the two mayoral candidates is more qualified to fill the role of mayor? Detroit is bleeding money. Lots of it. In order to fix the majority of what is wrong in the city, a financial strategy needs to be considered. A financial plan that will generate much need funds to expand the policing services of the Detroit Police Department, get the city out of debt and save Detroit Public Schools.
In the business world, a sinking company looks for leadership that will propel a business out of certain financial ruin and turn it into a viable, sustainable business. This is what the city of Detroit needs. Instead of amateur and career politicians who are really bottom feeders on the hunt for a paycheck and expensive travel agendas to so-called “conferences,” perhaps the city of Detroit need a leader with a portfolio that show and prove.
Detroit has had a hard rode to travel for years now. Kwame Kilpatrick promised “change” and brought political unrest and embarrassment to the city. Maybe its time for something drastically different. When Dennis Archer became mayor, he brought a sense of balance and financial feasibility to Detroit. Dave Bing brings that same approach.
Unfortunately, apathy runs deep in Detroit. City Clerk Janice Winfrey said that out of the 621,000 registered voters in Detroit, come Tuesday, only 15% – 20% will come to the polls. With this type of turnout, Detroiters can be rest assured that the city of Detroit will continue to be ran into the ground by career politicians with agendas that do not include helping the disenfranchised, the elderly or the children of Detroit.
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice might soon discover the steep price she’ll have to pay for playing with the wrong politcal team. If certain politcal forces have their way, Rice and other members of the Bush administartion who signed off on questionable interrogation techniques more than likely will face prosecution.
With the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee documents on the Bush administrations supposedly legally sanctioned interrogation procedures, questions have surfaced as to how “legal” these interogation techniques really were. President Obama put an end to the U.S. policy last week. Some of the prescribed tools of the U.S. torture machine were water boarding, which simulated drowning, sleep deprivation and enclosure in a container with insects.
The Bush administration, or more accurately, former vice president Dick Cheney, has vehemently defended the interrogation techiniques as a means of keeping America safe. However, the U.S. has always held a zero tolerance position on the use of torture since WWII. Yet, as with many things during the Bush administration, the law was circumvented to accomplish a misrepresented goal.
That is where Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney come into the picture. When the Bush administration’s interpretation of interrogation techniques were legally questioned by the Justice department during a meeting with the Director of Central Intelligence, in the spring of 2003, Cheney and then National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice signed off on the controversial methods.
As usual, then Secretary of State General Colin Powell was left out of the loop.
The Obama administration, while being open about its’ views on the newly reinstated U.S. policy against torture, officials remain noncommittal as to if and when charges will be brought against key members in the Bush camp. That would also include Rice. Attorney General Eric Holder says that he will “follow the evidence wherever it takes us.”
In the wake of a major shake-up at Johnson Publ!ishing Company, home of Ebony and Jet Magazine, the privately held corporation has announced that for the first time in its’ history, Ebony and Jet will be overseen by an editor-in-chief. Both magazines will create the position of editor-in-chief and maintain separate entities.
Tuesday Johnson Publishing Co. revealed that Mira Lowe has been named as editor-in-chief of Jet Magazine. The former Newsday associate editor was hired nearly two years ago by Johnson Publishing Co. editorial director Bryan Monroe. Monroe has since left the company with a hefty buyout option.
With the restructuring that has taken place at Johnson Publishing, of which insiders say will be on going until vast improvements begin to net profits, perhaps readers will see a more up-to-date Jet with a personality all its’ own and not a carbon copy of Ebony in miniature form. Keeping Jet magazine in step with the times will not be an easy task. But revamping Black America’s only newsweekly can, with the right person at the helm, solidify Jet’s relevance in a world that has rapidly changed since the magazine’s debut in the 1940′s.
And Ms. Lowe? Lose the “Beauty of The Week.”
CONGRATULATIONS JILL SCOTT!! Jill gave birth to a 7lb. 8oz. baby boy named Jett Hamilton Roberts!
FACT SHEET: President Obama Highlights Vision For Clean Energy Economy
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Obama traveled to Newton, Iowa today to visit Trinity Structural Towers, the former Maytag appliance factory that now houses a green manufacturing facility, which produces towers for wind energy production and employs dozens of former Maytag employees. Marking Earth Day, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to a comprehensive energy plan that lessens our dependence on foreign oil, creates jobs and helps win the race toward clean energy technology. With the depletion of the world’s oil reserves and the growing disruption of our climate, the development of clean, renewable sources of energy is the growth industry of the 21st century.
“The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy – it’s a choice between prosperity and decline,” President Obama said. “The nation that leads the world in creating new sources of clean energy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.”
The President’s energy policy will jump-start the creation of an American Clean Energy sector that will create millions of clean energy jobs. The President underscored how jobs at Trinity are examples of the opportunities this sector will create for workers not just in the factories that manufacture wind turbines, but also across the economy, for workers who weatherize our homes and research new technologies.
Today, President Obama unveiled a program to develop the renewable energy projects on the waters of our Outer Continental Shelf that produce electricity from wind, wave, and ocean currents. These regulations will enable, for the first time ever, the nation to tap into our ocean’s vast sustainable resources to generate clean energy in an environmentally sound and safe manner.
President Obama will pursue comprehensive legislation to move toward energy independence and prevent the worst consequences of climate change – while creating the incentives to make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.
To take this country in the right direction, Congress must pass comprehensive legislation to protect our nation from the serious economic and strategic risks associated with our reliance on foreign oil and the destabilizing effects of a changing climate. Policies to advance energy and climate security should promote economic recovery efforts, accelerate job creation, and drive clean energy manufacturing by:
- Creating new Jobs in the Clean Energy Economy. Drive the development of new, green manufacturing opportunities in the rebuilding, retrofitting and modernizing of our nation’s factories.
- Promoting U.S. Competitiveness. Ensure a level playing field for domestic manufacturing and secure significant actions to combat climate change by our trading partners.
- Investing in the Next Generation of Energy Technologies. Invest $150 billion over ten years in energy research and development to transition to a clean energy economy.
- Breaking Dependence on Oil. Promote the development of the next generation of cars and trucks and the fuels they run on.
- Producing More Energy at Home. Enhance U.S. energy supplies through responsible development of domestic renewable energy, fossil fuels, advanced biofuels and nuclear energy.
- Promoting Energy Efficiency. Promote investments that secure the biggest bang for the buck in reducing energy bills in the transportation, electricity, industrial, building and agricultural sectors.
- Closing the Carbon Pollution Loophole. Develop an economy-wide emissions reduction program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and secure the greatest benefits at the lowest cost for families and businesses.
- Protecting American Consumers. Revenues generated by closing the carbon loophole will be returned to the people, especially vulnerable families, communities, and businesses.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
12:02 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I decided not to bring Bo today — because he stepped on my economic speech yesterday. (Laughter.)
Good morning. I know that April 15th isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite date on the calendar. But it is an important opportunity for those of us in Washington to consider our responsibilities to the people who sent us here and who pay the bills. And I’ve brought some friends of mine who sent me here and pay the bills.
Across America, families like the people who join me have had tough choices forced upon them because of this economic downturn. Many have lost a job; many are fighting to keep their business open. Many more are struggling to make payments, to stay in their home, or to pursue a college education. And these Americans are the backbone of our economy, the backbone of our middle class. They’re the workers, the innovators, the students who are going to be powering our recovery. So their dreams have to be our own. They need a government that is working to create jobs and opportunity for them, rather than simply giving more and more to those at the very top in the false hope that wealth automatically trickles down.
And that’s why my administration has taken far-reaching action to give tax cuts to the Americans who need them, while jump-starting growth and job creation in the process. We start from the simple premise that we should reduce the tax burden on working people, while helping Americans go to college, own a home, raise a family, start a business and save for retirement.
Those goals are the foundation of the American Dream, and they are the focus of my tax policy.
First, we’ve passed a broad and sweeping tax cut for 95 percent of American workers. This tax cut was a core focus of my campaign, it was a core component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and it is the most progressive tax cut in American history. And starting April 1st, Americans saw this tax cut in the extra money that they took home with each paycheck.
Make no mistake: This tax cut will reach 120 million families and put $120 billion directly into their pockets, and it includes the most American workers ever to get a tax cut. This is going to boost demand, and it will save or create over half a million jobs. And the Congressional Budget Office has found that tax cuts like these for American workers are more than three times more effective in stimulating recovery than tax breaks for the very wealthiest Americans.
This tax cut also keeps a fundamental promise: that Americans who work hard should be able to make a decent living. It lifts more than 2 million Americans out of poverty. And together with the child tax credit, it ensures that a working parent will be able to support their family.
Second, we are helping small businesses keep their doors open so they can weather this economic storm and create good jobs. Instead of the normal two years, small businesses are now allowed to offset their losses during this downturn against the income they’ve earned over the last five years. And this could provide a record number of refunds for small businesses, which will provide them with the lifeline they need to maintain inventory and pay their workers.
Third, we are helping Americans get the education they need to succeed in a global economy. For years we’ve seen the price of tuition skyrocket at the same time that it became more and more important to earn a college degree. And that’s why we are making college more affordable for every American that needs a hand. That is why we are committed to simplifying the student loan process so more families can get the help they need. And that’s also why our $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college will help us reach a goal that will help our country lead in the 21st century: By 2020, Americans once again will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
Fourth, we are helping more Americans purchase homes that they can afford. Just as we must put an end to the irresponsible lending and borrowing that created the housing bubble, we must restore the home as a source of stability and an anchor of the American Dream. That’s why we’re providing a tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time home buyers, which will put a home within reach for hardworking Americans who are playing by the rules and making responsible choices. And by the way, there are at least a couple of folks here who have already used that $8,000 credit, and I think it’s wonderful to see that this is already prompting some willingness for people to go ahead and make that first-time purchase where they thought maybe it was out of reach before.
Fifth, we know that tax relief must be joined with fiscal discipline. Americans are making hard choices in their budgets, and we’ve got to tighten our belts in Washington, as well. And that’s why we’ve already identified $2 trillion in deficit reductions over the next decade. And that’s why we’re cutting programs that don’t work, contracts that aren’t fair, and spending that we don’t need.
We’re also doing away with the unnecessary giveaways that have thrown our tax code out of balance. I said this during the campaign, I’m now saying it as President: We need to stop giving tax breaks to companies that stash profits or ship jobs overseas so we can invest in job creation here at home. And we need to end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, so that people like me, who are extraordinarily lucky, are paying the same rates that the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans paid when Bill Clinton was President.
Finally, we need to simplify a monstrous tax code that is far too complicated for most Americans to understand, but just complicated enough for the insiders who know how to game the system. So I’ve already started by asking Paul Volcker and my Economic Recovery Board to do a thorough review of how to simplify our tax code, and to report back to me by the end of this year. It’s going to take time to undo the damage of years of carve-outs and loopholes. But I want every American to know that we will rewrite the tax code so that it puts your interests over any special interests. And we’ll make it easier, quicker and less expensive for you to file a return, so that April 15th is not a date that is approached with dread every year.
Now, I just had a conversation with these wonderful Americans, and like people I talked to all across the country, they’re not looking for a free ride. Every single person here is working hard and deserves a chance to get ahead. And they’re a family like — families like the Kirkwoods, who just want to own their own business and put away some money away for their kids’ college tuition. And they’re workers like Clark Harrison, behind me, who has worked hard and wants to be able to purchase that first home. They’re business owners like Alan Givens, who wants his company to sustain itself through bad times as well as the good. And I was encouraged to hear that Alan’s business is going strong on a whole bunch of clean energy measures that he’s helping to promote in his area.
For too long, we’ve seen taxes used as a wedge to scare people into supporting policies that actually increased the burden on working people instead of helping them live their dreams. That has to change, and that’s the work that we’ve begun. We’ve passed tax cuts that will help our economy grow. We’ve made a clear promise that families that earn less than $250,000 a year will not see their taxes increase by a single dime. And we have kept to those promises that were made during the campaign. We’ve given tax relief to the Americans who need it and the workers who have earned it. And we’re helping more Americans move towards their American Dream by going to school, owning a home, keeping their business and raising their family.
So on this April 15th, we’re reminded of the enormous responsibility that comes with handling peoples’ tax dollars. And we’re renewing our commitment to a simpler tax code that rewards work and the pursuit of the American Dream. And I just again want to personally thank all of the families, folks who join me here today, because they inspire me to do what I do every single day.
All right, thank you, everybody.
We at The Kaleidoscope Factor balk at gossip and celebrity news unless there is some type of hypocrisy that we can pounce on. But recently, we have come across information that may not be news to those close to the story, but sort of relevant to others.
80′s heart-throb and music sensation Al B. Sure! has been accused by his son, Quincy Brown, of being a dead-beat father. It is remarkable how African American male celebrities can basically get away with murder and not be held accountable to their fan base for their actions. Al B. Sure! was every sistas dream man and potential father of their fantasy children.
Apparently, those unfortunate ladies who did end up with Al B. Sure and had subsequent children with him, got the short end of the stick.
But the one thing that I have to admire about this whole situation is the galant effort that Sean Puffy Combs has displayed in stepping into the role of Dad to Quincy Brown. I am not a Puffy fan, but I do admire him for steppingup to the plate that Al B. Sure! deserted. Check out the well-crafted letter of Quincy Brown to his father, Al B. Sure!:
A Letter To My Father
I’ve been inspired throughout my life by special circumstances and unique experiences. Foremost, I grew up with a family that injected me with unconditional love and enduring confidence. This is my foundation … the family holidays and celebrations with my maternal lineage … supportive smiles in audiences at school programs … guiding hands to complete homework and special projects in the wee hours of the morning.
However, I grew up without my father, an irreplaceable force and influence that was absent in my life. I watched other kids enjoy the embrace of theirs, and I searched for a way to reconcile the meaning of my circumstance.
Despite my pain, I’ve imagined a life as a good son with my father. Baseball … Playing in School Band … Church … All of the things that he would expect his son to do, I’ve done. I’ve stood in front of audiences to receive awards. I heard their applause and praise. But, the accolades have been absent the sound of his clapping hands and encouraging words … his voice that I could distinguish in my sleep. Where has he been?
Now, I reflect on the journey, the pain, the challenges, and the triumphs through this song. I’m reconciled as a man, no longer a boy, in verse. Now, I know that I’m not alone.
Albert Brown, also known as “Al B Sure!” is my biological father, but Sean Combs, also known as “Diddy” has been a father figure in my life for as long as I can remember. Sean Combs is the person whom I look up to and appreciate as a father. He is the one who help mold me into the person I am today and will always try to live up to his expectations. He has always been supportive of me and I will forever love and respect him. As far as my biological father goes, the “spitting image” is all I have taken from him. Throughout my life, I’ve always wondered about him; Where he was? What was he doing? and most importantly, Was he even thinking about me? The absence of my father has given me a better understanding of what type of man I am going to be. I am grateful for my mom’s love, support, guidance, and for her strength.
To those who share my plight, know that you have a great future … a DESTINY. Take the lemons that you are handed and make lemonade. Your journey is in “A Letter To My Father.”
- Quincy “iQ” Brown
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, April 11, 2009
I speak to you today during a time that is holy and filled with meaning for believers around the world. Earlier this week, Jewish people gathered with family and friends to recite the stories of their ancestors’ struggle and ultimate liberation. Tomorrow, Christians of all denominations will come together to rejoice and remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
These are two very different holidays with their own very different traditions. But it seems fitting that we mark them both during the same week. For in a larger sense, they are both moments of reflection and renewal. They are both occasions to think more deeply about the obligations we have to ourselves and the obligations we have to one another, no matter who we are, where we come from, or what faith we practice.
This idea – that we are all bound up, as Martin Luther King once said, in “a single garment of destiny”– is a lesson of all the world’s great religions. And never has it been more important for us to reaffirm that lesson than it is today – at a time when we face tests and trials unlike any we have seen in our time. An economic crisis that recognizes no borders. Violent extremism that’s claimed the lives of innocent men, women, and children from Manhattan to Mumbai. An unsustainable dependence on foreign oil and other sources of energy that pollute our air and water and threaten our planet. The proliferation of the world’s most dangerous weapons, the persistence of deadly disease, and the recurrence of age-old conflicts.
These are challenges that no single nation, no matter how powerful, can confront alone. The United States must lead the way. But our best chance to solve these unprecedented problems comes from acting in concert with other nations. That is why I met with leaders of the G-20 nations to ensure that the world’s largest economies take strong and unified action in the face of the global economic crisis. Together, we’ve taken steps to stimulate growth, restore the flow of credit, open markets, and dramatically reform our financial regulatory system to prevent such crises from occurring again – steps that will lead to job creation at home.
It is only by working together that we will finally defeat 21st century security threats like al Qaeda. So it was heartening that our NATO allies united in Strasbourg behind our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and contributed important resources to support our effort there.
It is only by coordinating with countries around the world that we will stop the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. That is why I laid out a strategy in Prague for us to work with Russia and other nations to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons; to secure nuclear materials from terrorists; and, ultimately, to free the world from the menace of a nuclear nightmare.
And it is only by building a new foundation of mutual trust that we will tackle some of our most entrenched problems. That is why, in Turkey, I spoke to members of Parliament and university students about rising above the barriers of race, region, and religion that too often divide us.
With all that is at stake today, we cannot afford to talk past one another. We can’t afford to allow old differences to prevent us from making progress in areas of common concern. We can’t afford to let walls of mistrust stand. Instead, we have to find – and build on – our mutual interests. For it is only when people come together, and seek common ground, that some of that mistrust can begin to fade. And that is where progress begins.
Make no mistake: we live in a dangerous world, and we must be strong and vigilant in the face of these threats. But let us not allow whatever differences we have with other nations to stop us from coming together around those solutions that are essential to our survival and success.
As we celebrate Passover, Easter, and this time of renewal, let’s find strength in our shared resolve and purpose in our common aspirations. And if we can do that, then not only will we fulfill the sacred meaning of these holy days, but we will fulfill the promise of our country as a leader around the world.
Gotta love her! First Lady Michelle Obama actually started her White House garden last week along with 25 school children to help. Before leaving on her European trip, the First Lady broke ground on what would become the White Houses’ first garden since the mid 1900′s. But really, who thought that Michelle Obama was really gonna get down in the dirt and start planting seedlings?
Kudos to the First Lady!
The White House garden will include annual and perennial herbs such as mint, garlic, chives, thyme, oregano, anise, basil, cilantro, dill and fennel.
Assorted vegetable also will grace the White House table. Different varieties of lettuce, spinach, onions, black kale, shard, snap peas, shell peas, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, tomatillos and cucumbers were planted. The White House garden functions as a duel purpose. To feed and inform. The White House garden will feed, not only the First Family, but neighboring soup kitchens. Most importantly, the White House garden will promote national awareness of eating good, natural healthy foods that families can grow for pennies. It is economical and heart-smart.
But where are the collard and mustard greens? Where’s the cabbage and corn? Something tells me that there is another more secret garden close by!
Somali pirates have restarted negotiations for the release of U.S. ship captain Richard Phillips Saturday. A Somali pirate has said that the captain will be released in exchange for an undisclosed amount of ransom money and safe passage.
Two U.S. warships are currently monitoring the Somali pirate situation off the coast of East Africa. Somali pirates say that one of their sources has revealed a plot by the U.S. to stage a raid. If this happens, Somali pirates claim that they will execute Phillips. Previously, Somali pirates stated that they would not harm the U.S. captain.
Somali pirate Da’ud said that “negotiations failed yesterday, but still there is another hope to begin again.”
Doctor That Treated Widow Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Arrested For Practicing Medicine Without A License!
The doctor who treated the late Coretta Scott King for ovarian cancer was arrested in California this week in the middle of his radio broadcast.
Kurt Donsbach, 73, was formally charged on 11 felony counts that included practicing medicine with out a state license. Bail was set at $1.5 million dollars. Donsbach is known for his naturopathic approach for treating various diseases with unorthodox or holistic approaches.
Donsbach’s website, Letstalkhealth.com, disseminates naturopathic information and dispenses natural supplements that carry the claims that theses can cure arthritis and cancer.
The late widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, was treated by Kurt Donsbach in 2006 at his clinic, Santa Monica Health Institute, located in Rosarito, Mexico. In 1997, Donsbach was sentenced to one year in prison for smuggling $250,000 in unapproved drugs into the U.S from Mexico.
California District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis stated the following after an extensive FBI investigation:
“The defendant preyed on vulnerable patients who were looking for medical help. Under the guise of providing natural and safe supplements, he sold victims potentially dangerous drugs.”
DETROIT – Detroit Public Schools would close 23 schools and lay off 600 teachers in a proposal released Thursday that would consolidate facilities in a shrinking district facing a projected $303 million deficit.
The proposal was made by the state’s financial overseer, Robert Bobb, who also has asked the state for $200 million in federal stimulus funds to improve the remaining schools and strengthen safety and security.
A financial emergency has been declared for the district, which has been struggling for years with declining enrollment as the city’s population shrinks and charter schools draw students. The superintendent was fired in December and Gov. Jennifer Granholm named Bobb the district’s emergency financial manager the following month.
The 192-school system has about 5,700 teachers and an enrollment of more than 95,000; it had nearly twice as many students in the late 1990s. About 7,500 students would have to change schools under the new proposal.
Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson said Bobb’s plan appears to be a move in the right direction for the district’s long-term health.
“He’s going to make sure teachers are equipped with the materials that they need,” Johnson said.
Michigan Department of Education spokesman Martin Ackley said the state was reviewing Bobb’s request for $200 million to see what might be available. He said there was no timeline for a decision.
Without the federal stimulus funds, Bobb said he would use $26 million from a previous bond issue to get some of the needed work done.
The first of a series of town hall meetings for the public on the restructuring plan is scheduled for April 28, and the district is expected to make a final decision May 8. Bobb said some of the laid-off teachers could return, but another round of potential school closings will be announced this summer.
***Thank You Associated Press!***
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) – David “Pop” Winans, patriarch of The Winans family gospel group that earned six Grammy awards, has died, a spokesman for a Nashville hospice said on Thursday.
Winans, 74, died of a heart attack on Wednesday with his wife, Delores, at his side, a spokesman said. He had suffered a heart attack and stroke last year.
Under Winans’ guiding hand as manager of the children, The Winans became the biggest male gospel quartet of the 1980s with such songs as “It’s Time” and “Ain’t No Need to Worry.”
The Winans, nicknamed “Mom” and “Pop,” had 10 children in all.
The four performing as The Winans were Michael, Marvin, Carvin and Ronald, though other family members occasionally joined the group. Two children, BeBe and CeCe Winans, formed a duo and turned out R&B/gospel hits such as “Addictive Love” and “I’ll Take You There.”
The parents recorded a Grammy-nominated debut, “Mom & Pop Winans,” in 1989 followed by “The Rest of My Life,” which featured a rocking rendition of “Go Tell It On The Mountain.”
Another solo album, “Uncensored,” was nominated for a Grammy and was described by Billboard magazine as “some of the most compelling music this century has spawned.”
A statement from the Winans family said that memorial services are planned for next week at Perfection Church in Detroit where Marvin Winans is senior pastor.
***Thank You Reuters!***
Houses Passes Mandatory National Service Bill! Selective Service Becomes Compulsory If Bill Is Passed By Senate!
Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the H.R. 1388 bill. H.R. 1388 is also known as “The Generation Invigorating Volunteerism And Education Act” or GIVE. The GIVE Act is supposedly formulatted to stimulate a spirit of “volunteerism and charity” in the American public. However upon a second, more intense glance, the GIVE Act gives off the impression that volunteering for one’s country is an honorable act.
But under the cloak of ‘goodwill’, ‘charity,’ and ‘patriotism,’ the GIVE Act is nothing more than a fancy twenty-first century bill, that if passed by the Senate into a law, will ‘force’ Americans to perform some sort of compulsory act of ‘charity.’ Is that the meaning of volunteering? No. Yet, if the Senate passes H.R. 1388, Americans will find themselves in a predicament.
The GIVE Act is crafted in a way that every age group is affected. The most vulnerable group that will be targeted is the 18-24 year olds. In order to receive federal loans, work study programs and grants, students will have to sign up for this “voluntary” program. Mandatory personal ID will be enforced and it will become a crime not to ‘register’ your information into the proposed national data base. In other words, “Selective Service” will become mandatory service.
Non profits and other organizations seeking federal assistance will have to ‘recruit’ volunteers to perform charitable deeds of ‘good will’ for their communities. Universities and colleges in need of funding will also have to ‘recruit’ volunteers in order to receive financial aid. These volunteers, in turn, will have to perform an alloted amount of hours in order for the organization or institution gets federal dollars. Some of these volunteers will be slated for military training.
Co-creator of the GIVE Act, Rep. George Miller, Chairman of the Education Commitee, said that “national and community service can help make Americans a part of the solution to get our country through this economic crisis.”
Rachel Racusen, George Miller’s spokeswoman commented to a major news outlet that “it’s ridiculous to suggest that our bill includes any effort to make service a mandatory requirement. All of the opportunities our bill provides to Americans are voluntary.”
Oh really? Here is a portion of the GIVE Act where “voluntary” service becomes “mandatory,”:
(c) Call to Service Campaign and September 11th Day of Service- Section 198 (as amended by subsection (b) (42 U.S.C. 12653) is further amended by adding at the end the following:
‘(j) Call to Service Campaign- Not less than 180 days after enactment of this Act, the Corporation shall conduct a nationwide ‘Call To Service’ campaign, to encourage all people of the United States, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, or economic status, to engage in full- or part-time national service, long- or short-term public service in the nonprofit sector or government, or volunteering. In conducting the campaign, the Corporation may collaborate with other Federal agencies and entities, State Commissions, Governors, nonprofit and faith-based organizations, businesses, institutions of higher education, elementary schools, and secondary schools.
‘(k) September 11th Day of Service-
‘(1) FEDERAL ACTIVITIES- The Corporation may organize and carry out appropriate ceremonies and activities, which may include activities that are part of the broader Call to Service Campaign, in order to observe September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance at the Federal level.
‘(2) ACTIVITIES- The Corporation may make grants and provide other support to community-based organizations to assist in planning and carrying out appropriate service, charity, and remembrance opportunities in conjunction with the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance.
‘(3) CONSULTATION- The Corporation may consult with and make grants or provide other forms of support to nonprofit organizations with expertise in representing September 11th families and other impacted constituencies, in promoting the establishment of September 11th as an annually recognized National Day of Service and Remembrance.’
Breaking News: Donte’ Stallworth Legally Drunk When He Killed A Pedestrian Last Weekend, According To Reports!
Warning: This is another news bite about an African American athlete or celebrity in trouble with the law.
According to reports circulating around Miami Beach, courtesy of the Miami Herald, Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth might be chucking his football uniform for prison ready wear shortly.
The Miami Herald is reporting that Donte’ Stallworth was in fact legally drunk when he struck and killed a pedestrian in Miami Beach last weekend. Miami’s WSVN – FOX 7 reported during its’ evening broadcast that Stallworth’s blood alcohol level was .12. The legal blood alcohol limit is .08.
Stallworth’s civil attorney, Robert Switkes, says that he not “seen the toxicology reports” and “has no comment” at this time.
Let’s hope that this is a bogus story and that Donte’ Stallworth didn’t hack his career and his life to shreds by irresponsibly getting behind the wheel of his Bentley, while intoxicated, and ending another human beings life.
Christine Beatty Takes The Deal! Pleads Guilty In Detroit Sex Text Message Scandal! Begs Detroiters For “Forgiveness”
SOUTHFIELD — She famously rolled her eyes and struck a defiant pose throughout the whistle-blower lawsuit against her and her former boss. But Christine Beatty broke into tears and spoke of contrition today during a press conference at her attorney’s office.
“I am extremely sorry for all the people who were harmed in this ordeal,” said Beatty, former chief of staff for ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, as she read a prepared statement. Beatty spoke at attorney Mayer Morganroth’s Southfield office.
Beatty pleaded guilty earlier today to two counts of obstructing justice for lying on the witness stand during a police whistle-blower lawsuit in the text message scandal. As part of the plea deal with Wayne County Prosecutors, Beatty will serve a 120-day jail sentence; remain on probation for five years; and pay $100,000 restitution to the city.
She explained why she took the deal, saying, “After many long months, I decided to end this ordeal. I decided not to go through that, and not take a chance … of being there for my daughters.”
Beatty said she wanted to “especially apologize to the people of the great city of Detroit. I am truly sorry. Detroit is my home, and I hope one day the work that was accomplished will eventually show through.”
To her supporters, Beatty said, “Please continue to pray for me and my family,” and she gave a special thanks “to my mother, my family, my church family and my friends. You have stuck by me at every turn and I could not have made it through a single day without you. I thank God you were with me during that time.
“This has been a very trying time but also a very spiritual one.”
Article Written by George Hunter for The Detroit News