We Can’t Wait: The White House Announces Federal and Private Sector Commitments to Provide Employment Opportunities for Nearly 180,000 Youth
We Can’t Wait: The White House Announces Federal and Private Sector Commitments to Provide Employment Opportunities for Nearly 180,000 Youth
Today, the White House announced Summer Jobs+, a new call to action for businesses, non-profits, and government to work together to provide pathways to employment for low-income and disconnected youth in the summer of 2012. The President proposed $1.5 billion for high-impact summer jobs and year-round employment for low-income youth ages 16-24 in the American Jobs Act as part of the Pathways Back to Work fund. When Congress failed to act, the Federal government and private sector came together to commit to creating nearly 180,000 employment opportunities for low-income youth in the summer of 2012, with a goal of reaching 250,000 employment opportunities by the start of summer, at least 100,000 of which will be placements in paid jobs and internships. Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of executive actions the Obama Administration is taking to strengthen the economy and move the country forward because we can’t wait for Congress to act.
“America’s young people face record unemployment, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they’ve got the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job. It’s important for their future, and for America’s. That’s why I proposed a summer jobs program for youth in the American Jobs Act – a plan that Congress failed to pass. America’s youth can’t wait for Congress to act. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment. That’s why today, we’re launching Summer Jobs+, a joint initiative that challenges business leaders and communities to join my Administration in providing hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for America’s youth,” said President Obama.
“While young people who are currently disconnected from school or work are not contributing to our economy, we see these young people as ‘Opportunity Youth’ – because of the untapped potential they bring to the Nation. Today, the White House challenged all sectors to go all-in and work together in creating pathways to youth employment. Summer jobs are an important step – and to stay on the path to success, Opportunity Youth need social supports and access to relevant education, mentoring and training. This spring, the White House Council for Community Solutions will participate in community discussions nationwide to learn from best efforts by youth, families, government, business, educators, and nonprofits to connect young people to meaningful career opportunities,” said Patty Stonesifer, Chair of the White House Council for Community Solutions (WHCCS).
The Administration also announced its intention to launch, within 60 days, the Summer Jobs+ Bank, a one-stop search tool for youth to access postings for any participating employers seeking to reach them where they are online. The search tool builds upon an open standard, theJobPosting schema endorsed by schema.org in November, 2011 in support of the Veterans Jobs Bank, and will include technical and promotional support by Google, Internships.com, AfterCollege, LinkedIn and Facebook. Today the Corporation for National and Community Service released a new toolkit created in collaboration with the WHCCS and employers to support businesses and communities in their efforts to help young people become productive citizens and connect to greater opportunities, both of which are critical for the long-term strength and competiveness of the Nation.
Today’s announcements build on previous commitments from the Obama Administration to support summer youth employment. In 2009 and 2010, communities across the country used Recovery Act funds to directly support summer work opportunities for over 367,000 young people. In the summer of 2011, the Department of Labor brought together private sector commitments to employ over 80,000 youth.
A new analysis released today by the WHCCS showed that in 2011 alone, taxpayers shouldered more than $93 billion in direct costs and lost tax revenue to support young adults disconnected from school and work. Over the lifetime of these young people, taxpayers will assume a $1.6 trillion burden to meet the increased needs and lost revenue from this group. Read the full analysis here.
Businesses, non-profits and government can accept the President’s call-to-action by directly hiring youth as well as providing corporate mentorship experiences, internship, and other opportunities that connect young people to jobs. The three key ways organizations can engage are:
- · Learn and Earn: Provide youth jobs for the summer of 2012 in the form of paid internships and/or permanent positions that provide on-the-job training. Of the roughly 180,000 job commitments announced today more than 70,000 are Learn and Earn commitments.
- · Life Skills: Provide youth work-related soft skills, such as communication, time management and teamwork, through coursework and/or experience. This includes resume writing or interview workshops and mentorship programs.
- · Work Skills: Provide youth insight into the world of work to prepare for employment. This includes job shadow days and internships. More information about this initiative can be found at dol.gov/summerjobs
As the nation continues to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression, American youth are struggling to get the work experience they need for jobs of the future. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (Current Population Survey):
- · 48.8 percent of youth between the ages of 16-24 were employed in July, the month when youth employment usually peaks. This is significantly lower than the 59.2 percent of youth who were employed five years ago and 63.3 percent of youth who were employed 10 years ago.
- · Minority youth had an especially difficult time finding employment this past summer. Only 34.6 percent of African American youth and 42.9 percent of Hispanic youth had a job this past July.
In addition to the organizations making commitments for the summer of 2012, the Department of Labor will honor UPS, We Are Golf, Wells Fargo, and Jamba Juice for their strong participation in their 2011 summer jobs effort and the Corporation for National and Community Service will honor Bank of America, State Street, Viacom, Deloitte, and JP Morgan for their leadership in corporate mentoring over the past year.
Commitments Announced Include:
The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is committed to improving employment outcomes for the many people with disabilities who are ready, willing, and able to work. The AAPD Summer Internship Program will provide 30 young people with disabilities the opportunity to engage in ten weeks of public service through paid internships on Capitol Hill, in federal agencies, nonprofits, and for-profit businesses.
AT&T is committed to providing nearly 350 summer jobs in 2012 through a variety of summer job initiatives. These opportunities help students, from high school to recent college graduates, develop skills and gain insight while preparing them to more successfully enter the job market. Examples of AT&T summer opportunities for college students include leadership development internships on the fields on finance, retail, IT and engineering, as well as participation in college internship initiatives with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the Dr. Emmett J. Conrad Leadership Program. In addition to these unique opportunities, AT&T will also provide high school students the opportunity to experience the world of work through the Mayor’s Interns Fellows Program in Newark, NJ. Also in 2012, AT&T will reach their initial goal of providing 100,000 high school students the opportunity to learn more about career options and what it takes to be successful in today’s workforce through the AT&T/JA Worldwide Job Shadow Initiative.
Bank of America, as part of its broader three-year $50 million goal to support education and workforce development opportunities for underserved populations, will continue to invest significantly in youth and young adults in 2012, including 1,500 paid internships at the company and local nonprofits as well as job placement programs, in conjunction with more than 80,000 hours from employee volunteers. Recognizing the value of mentoring to help make opportunities possible for young people, Bank of America served as the primary sponsor of the National Mentoring Partnership’s 2011 National Mentoring Summit, at which the Corporate Mentoring Challenge was launched. In 2011, Bank of America invested more than $15 million, and its employees volunteered more than 75,000 hours to help youth and young adults attain life and work skills to propel them towards long-term success.
Baxter International Inc. pledges to support Summer Jobs+ by expanding their education initiative, Science@Work. As an extension of Science@Work – a multiyear commitment to support teacher training and student development in healthcare and biotechnology through a partnership with Chicago Public Schools – Baxter will reach 300-500 students. These students will participate in a variety of programs: the Career Training Program, in which Baxter professionals will assist students with career planning, soft skill development and interviewing skills; the 2012 Summer Job Shadowing program, in which students will participate in a unique shadowing experience with young Baxter professionals; and through Science @Work Community of Support, in which students will participate in an on-going relationship management program that provides counsel and professional support during college careers.
Bender Consulting Services, Inc. is committed to investing in youth who are living with disabilities, to support the development of life and work skills required by private and public sector employers. Partnering with local high-schools in Pittsburgh, PA and Newark, DE, Bender Consulting, through the year-long Bender Leadership Academy Program will train 60 high-school students with disabilities, many who are low-income, about how to be successful in the world of work. Four students who complete this program will work on a short-term paid summer internship in Bender Consulting’s offices in Pittsburgh, PA. Bender Consulting will also provide two to four, 12 week summer HR internships to low income youth, including youth with disabilities.
The Camber Corporation provides young people with real-life work experience, opportunities to enhance their professional skillsets, and mentorship from their qualified employees during paid internships. In 2011, 25% of their graduated interns were hired as full-time Camber employees to serve in the areas of accounting, engineering, and human resources. In 2012, Camber plans to offer 8 internship opportunities.
CenturyLink has had summer internship programs for more than 25 years and looks forward to participating in Summer Jobs+ in 2012. CenturyLink believe that one of its strengths is the diversity of its people, and they are committed to fostering diversity among the 50 summer jobs they will hire this year.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has made a commitment to provide approximately 4,000 disadvantaged youth with national service opportunities through AmeriCorps programs operating in the summer of 2012. The AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate Program, funded in part through private sector commitments, will place youth in communities across the country to address poverty and hunger. In addition, AmeriCorps State and National programs will engage youth in education and conservation projects, and the AmeriCorps NCCC Summer of Service program is designed to introduce teenagers, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to national service and to foster in them such values as teamwork, responsibility, and the ethic of serving one’s community. These stipended service opportunities train youth in the life and work skills, such as teamwork, problem solving, and leadership, that are critical for success in the labor market, while engaging in activities that tackle tough societal challenges.
CVS Caremark is committing to hire over 20,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in 2012. Many of the new employees will occupy part-time and full-time positions such as pharmacy service associates, technicians, cashiers and interns in a variety of corporate functions.
Deloitte helps American high school students prepare for college and careers through its Their Future Is Our Future program. As part of this program, 500,000 students have experienced the Life Inc. career exploration curriculum and Deloitte is committed to serve tens of thousands of students in 2012. Through a series of lessons, self-discovery techniques, and virtual role models tailored for youth in middle and high school, Life, Inc. introduces students to various career possibilities and helps them determine what kind of educational experiences they will need in order to pursue them. The program includes a website, career guide, teacher’s guide and student journal, which features seven lessons that are delivered by teachers in schools and after school youth programs. Additionally, through deep relationships with national nonprofits that lead on education including MENTOR, United Way, College Summit and City Year, Deloitte contributes cash, pro bono service and the time of one-on-one mentors to help young people pursue the education and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.
The Department of Agriculture has made a commitment to provide approximately 7,100 youth with the opportunity to gain valuable work experience during the summer of 2012 by working with various USDA Mission Areas and Agencies throughout the country. The USDA provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, and related issues based on sounds public policy, the best available science, and efficient management. USDA is committed to forming a pipeline of talented youth who will be our future leaders by giving them the opportunity for hands-on work experience in a variety of science, technology, engineering, math, administrative, management, agribusiness and industry positions.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will commit to supporting 324 summer jobs for low-income youth in 2012. HHS offices will be supporting paid summer jobs as well as other employment enhancement opportunities. The Office of Human Resources’ Strategic Programs Division (SPD) will host at least two classes in the “Life Skills” pathway to support 120 youth. These classes will have up to 50 participants each and will focus on work-related soft skills, such as communication, time management, and teamwork. Additionally, SPD will allow for 20 students to participate in the “Work Skills” pathway. These 20 students will shadow SPD employees for the day to offer insight into the federal workplace and to prepare them for employment.
The Department of the Interior has committed to providing approximately 12,000 young Americans with work opportunities in the summer of 2012 on public lands, tribal lands, national parks, wildlife refuges, and environmental restoration projects nationwide. Interior has increased the number of summer job opportunities it offers for young people under the Obama administration by 30 percent – helping more people from all walks of life to enjoy the great outdoors, and to pursue work opportunities and careers in the stewardship of America’s natural, cultural, and historic resources as part of the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative.
The DirectEmployers Association is a nonprofit HR consortium of leading global employers formed to improve labor market efficiency through the sharing of best practices, research and the development of technology. They are committed to hiring 5 youths this summer in the Indianapolis area to provide opportunities to learn the skills needed to be successful in the workforce as well as to encourage and motivate them to continue with their education.
Discovery Communications provides multiple avenues for young people to discover a summer job and a lasting career. Through the Discover Your Skills campaign youth can learn about exciting career opportunities in skilled trades and critical growth areas like manufacturing, health care, energy, technology, construction and other industries. A partnership with Montgomery College provides community college students with the skills they need to take advantage of available job opportunities. In addition, Discovery’s robust internship program will provide nearly 300 college students career opportunities in a variety of fields in 2012.
Easter Seals will be working to create summer opportunities for three young people with disabilities and will be disseminating information about the Summer Jobs+ initiative throughout their nationwide network of affiliates. These positions will be in the “learn and earn” category of the initiative. While working for Easter Seals, young people will have the opportunity to learn various aspects of nonprofit management including marketing and corporate relations, public policy, program management, development and more.
Expeditors, through its Opportunity Knocks program, recruits and supports disconnected youth so they can get training in a professional environment that can be leveraged for future success. Since starting the program in 2008, Expeditors has helped 25 disconnected youth in six offices throughout the United States and is committed to adding 75 positions in another twenty offices in 2012 to bring the total participation to 100 youth.
Gap Inc. is supporting 80,000 youth in 2012 through a variety of programs, which include connecting youth to employment through the development of relevant life skills and work ready skills, as well as providing on-the-job training through learn and earn experiences.
General Dynamics C4 Systems is committed to hiring 40 young people during the summer of 2012 and is partnering with Sentinels of Freedom, Wounded Warriors, Diversity Careers, SWE, SHPE, NSBE and WOC to support hiring needs nationwide.
Goodwill Industries International is proud to be one of the first organizations to support the Summer Jobs+ program. Through Goodwill’s unique social enterprise business model, it creates employment and job training. This year, the organization will expand services for youth at the beginning their careers. Goodwill is committed to hiring 1,200 youth ages 16 to 24, provide more than 3,200 youth with life skills services and over 2,300 with work skills services. Almost 2,000 youth will be engaged in learn and earn services. Thousands more youth will be provided virtual career mentoring and exploration services.
H-E-B has committed to expand their summer jobs program by 19 percent. In the summer of 2012, 5,171 16-24 year olds will be hired to work at H-E-B.
J.B. Hunt Transport is focused on providing opportunities for young people to experience a professional working environment, particularly those in the Hispanic community in Arkansas. Through a partnership with ALPFA, the company reaches out to local high school students and helps raise awareness of opportunities in business, and provides mentors for college students. For 2012, J.B. Hunt is increasing the number of summer positions at headquarters to 20, and expanding college internships at our field locations throughout the United States.
Jamba Juice has made a significant commitment to training and hiring young people and will pledge to hire at least 2,500 youth in the summer of 2012. Jamba Juice has a successful summer in 2011 when the company hired nearly 2,700 youth for summer work — 200 more than their pledge made as part of the “Summer Jobs USA: Make a Commitment” initiative. Additionally, Jamba Juice also recently launched a new internship program for Job Corps students.
JPMorgan Chase has been a leader in supporting “Learn and Earn” and “career and skill development” programs in cities all across the country for decades. During the 2011 Corporate Mentoring Challenge, JPMorgan Chase was inspired to step up in a leadership role – by funding and launching the Illinois Mentoring Partnership, introducing other potential funders and connecting non-profit organizations, who deliver the programs. In Chicago, JPMorgan Chase also has supported, since its creation 20 years ago, After School Matters, a program that helps teens discover and nurture their talents and aspirations for future successes. The bank’s support in 2012 will provide 1,300 teens with hands-on, project-based programs to learn about rewarding careers and to help develop marketable job skills.
LinkedIn has committed to offer 200 internships in the summer of 2012. Additionally, LinkedIn is committed to adopting the JobPosting schema and letting any company post their summer internship jobs (or entry level jobs) on the LinkedIn website at no cost.
ManpowerGroup is proud to support summer jobs through a direct commitment of 20 jobs at our global headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and at Manpower branch offices across the nation. Through its work with local Workforce Investment Boards and One-Stop Career Centers, Manpower supports employment opportunities for thousands of people touched by the public workforce system.
Operation HOPE, as part of the Gallup-HOPE Index Cities Initiative, commits to secure 20 businesses and place 500 youth through youth business internships, mentorships, shadow days or actual small business or entrepreneurship start-ups. Through the Gallup-HOPE Index Cities initiative, Operation HOPE, in partnership with Gallup intend to create a new youth entrepreneurial and business class in America, along with a new culture of progressive business mentoring by Corporate America.
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) maintains a strong focus on providing learning and work opportunities for youth in the United States. Through its host of early-identification programs and a robust internship program designed for undergraduate students, PwC seeks to provide students the learning, coaching, and training opportunities and professional relationships they need to develop professionally and personally, while also learning about unique opportunities in a career in professional services. For the summer of 2012, PwC is committed to hiring 1,500 youth across the country.
The SI Organization will hire more than 100 young people in 2012 for full-time entry-level and internship/co-op positions focused on engineering and integration services in the U.S. Intelligence Community, Department of Defense and other agencies.
Starbucks Coffee Company is supporting more than 25,000 youth this summer through a variety of programs. The company will work with local nonprofits and others to engage 20,000 young people in life skills and job readiness development. This commitment is in alignment with our Youth Action Grants programs, supporting young people to address critical issues in their communities. Starbucks supports nonprofit organizations to give young people the skills and resources to be catalysts for change through community service. One example of an organization Starbucks supports is Generation On in multiple cities across the US; this is a program of Hands On Network. Starbucks plans to work closely with its grant recipients to maximize the life skills training and service opportunities and to increase their outreach to underserved youth. The company will also provide hands-on and learn and earn experiences for 5,000 young people working at Starbucks.
State Street Corporation is committed to providing workforce development and education opportunities to approximately 1,000 youth each summer in cities including Boston, New York, Kansas City, and Sacramento among others. The company supports a continuum of meaningful job opportunities starting with funding subsidized wage placements in community-based organizations for first-time job experiences, as well as placements in professional positions at State Street for those who have developed basic employability skills and are ready for more responsibility.
Syracuse University will provide 200 jobs to college-aged students working in the Say Yes to Education Syracuse’s Summer Camp for academic enrichment and youth leadership. Syracuse University will also provide 50 positions to 16-21 year olds in a SU partnership with CNY Works on a Summer Youth Initiative.
The McGraw-Hill Companies is committed to growing its 12-week paid summer internship program which employs youth across all of their businesses to 260 summer internships for 2012. In 2011, McGraw-Hill employed over 250 Summer Interns and roughly 10% of last year’s interns were offered full-time positions after graduation.
UPS, the global leader in logistics, is continuing its commitment to summer jobs and will offer 1,500 employment opportunities to youth across the country in 2012. Most opportunities qualify for employment benefits and UPS’ educational assistance program which can pay up to $3,000 a year for educational benefits.
Viacom has committed to provide internship and mentorship programs to connect youth to employment opportunities. Through their Summer Associates Program, VIACOM will provide 10 recent college graduates young people a 10 week paid training program in the summer 2012 fostering professional and personal development and unlocking the doors to valuable real-world experience. Through their partnership with POSSE’s Career Program, Viacom will provide 30 college students high school students with a paid internship. In addition, mentoring initiatives such as Viacom’s national mentoring program Get Connected, created with the Get Schooled Foundation, will assist students through meaningful connections with adults with the ultimate goal of helping to keep them in school and realize their true potential.
WE ARE GOLF is a national not-for-profit organization formed to tell the story of the nearly 2 million hardworking men and women who make golf a great sport and whose livelihoods depend on it. Golf courses across the country are building on their 2011 commitment of 2,700 summer jobs and WE ARE GOLF is bringing far more golf courses to this initiative in 2012 to offer tens of thousands more jobs to young people.
Wells Fargo has made an ongoing and significant commitment to its communities, including opportunities for summertime work, networking and training for young people. In the summer of 2012, Wells Fargo will support 1,000 employment opportunities for youth.
Along with significant commitments from across the business sector, national organizations are answering the President’s challenge. United Way Worldwide will work with local chapters in approximately 30 cities and regions to host a series of Community Conversations, where local leaders will join with ordinary citizens to map out what they can do to pull together the support needed to create opportunity and pathways for young adults.
BREAKING NEWS: ALAN KRUEGAR, CHAIRMAN OF THE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS, ISSUES STATEMENT ON THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION IN OCTOBER
Statement on the Employment Situation in October
WASHINGTON, DC – Alan Krueger, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, issued the following statement today on the employment situation in October. You can view the statement HERE.
The Employment Situation in October
Posted by Alan Krueger on November 04, 2011 at 11:46 AM EDT
Today’s employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, but the pace of improvement is not fast enough. Private sector payrolls increased by 104,000 and overall payroll employment rose by 80,000 in October. The unemployment rate edged down 0.1 percentage point to 9.0 percent, a level that remains unacceptably high. Despite adverse shocks that have created headwinds for economic growth, the economy has added private sector jobs for 20 straight months, for a total of 2.8 million jobs over that period.
We need faster economic growth to put more Americans back to work. Today’s report provides further evidence for why it is so important that Congress pass the President’s American Jobs Act to put more money in the paychecks of working and middle class families; to make it easier for small businesses to hire workers; to keep teachers in the classroom; to put construction crews to work rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure; and other measures that will help the economy grow while not adding to the deficit over ten years. The report underscores that one area that remains notably weak is the construction sector. That’s why it is disappointing that the Senate was not able to proceed to the infrastructure part of the American Jobs Act.
Sectors with employment increases included professional and business services (+32,000), leisure and hospitality (+22,000), retail trade (+17,800), health care and social assistance (+16,300), and manufacturing (+5,000). Sectors with employment declines included government (-24,000) and construction (-20,000). State and local governments lost 22,000 jobs and have shed more than 430,000 jobs since February 2010.
The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates are subject to substantial revision. There is no better example than August’s jobs figure, which was initially reported at zero and in the latest revision increased to 104,000. This illustrates why the Administration always stresses it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.
Alan Krueger is Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT THE MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. MEMORIAL DEDICATION
The National Mall
11:51 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) Please be seated.
An earthquake and a hurricane may have delayed this day, but this is a day that would not be denied.
For this day, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s return to the National Mall. In this place, he will stand for all time, among monuments to those who fathered this nation and those who defended it; a black preacher with no official rank or title who somehow gave voice to our deepest dreams and our most lasting ideals, a man who stirred our conscience and thereby helped make our union more perfect.
And Dr. King would be the first to remind us that this memorial is not for him alone. The movement of which he was a part depended on an entire generation of leaders. Many are here today, and for their service and their sacrifice, we owe them our everlasting gratitude. This is a monument to your collective achievement. (Applause.)
Some giants of the civil rights movement –- like Rosa Parks and Dorothy Height, Benjamin Hooks, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth –- they’ve been taken from us these past few years. This monument attests to their strength and their courage, and while we miss them dearly, we know they rest in a better place.
And finally, there are the multitudes of men and women whose names never appear in the history books –- those who marched and those who sang, those who sat in and those who stood firm, those who organized and those who mobilized –- all those men and women who through countless acts of quiet heroism helped bring about changes few thought were even possible. “By the thousands,” said Dr. King, “faceless, anonymous, relentless young people, black and white…have taken our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” To those men and women, to those foot soldiers for justice, know that this monument is yours, as well.
Nearly half a century has passed since that historic March on Washington, a day when thousands upon thousands gathered for jobs and for freedom. That is what our schoolchildren remember best when they think of Dr. King -– his booming voice across this Mall, calling on America to make freedom a reality for all of God’s children, prophesizing of a day when the jangling discord of our nation would be transformed into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
It is right that we honor that march, that we lift up Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech –- for without that shining moment, without Dr. King’s glorious words, we might not have had the courage to come as far as we have. Because of that hopeful vision, because of Dr. King’s moral imagination, barricades began to fall and bigotry began to fade. New doors of opportunity swung open for an entire generation. Yes, laws changed, but hearts and minds changed, as well.
Look at the faces here around you, and you see an America that is more fair and more free and more just than the one Dr. King addressed that day. We are right to savor that slow but certain progress -– progress that’s expressed itself in a million ways, large and small, across this nation every single day, as people of all colors and creeds live together, and work together, and fight alongside one another, and learn together, and build together, and love one another.
So it is right for us to celebrate today Dr. King’s dream and his vision of unity. And yet it is also important on this day to remind ourselves that such progress did not come easily; that Dr. King’s faith was hard-won; that it sprung out of a harsh reality and some bitter disappointments.
It is right for us to celebrate Dr. King’s marvelous oratory, but it is worth remembering that progress did not come from words alone. Progress was hard. Progress was purchased through enduring the smack of billy clubs and the blast of fire hoses. It was bought with days in jail cells and nights of bomb threats. For every victory during the height of the civil rights movement, there were setbacks and there were defeats.
We forget now, but during his life, Dr. King wasn’t always considered a unifying figure. Even after rising to prominence, even after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King was vilified by many, denounced as a rabble rouser and an agitator, a communist and a radical. He was even attacked by his own people, by those who felt he was going too fast or those who felt he was going too slow; by those who felt he shouldn’t meddle in issues like the Vietnam War or the rights of union workers. We know from his own testimony the doubts and the pain this caused him, and that the controversy that would swirl around his actions would last until the fateful day he died.
I raise all this because nearly 50 years after the March on Washington, our work, Dr. King’s work, is not yet complete. We gather here at a moment of great challenge and great change. In the first decade of this new century, we have been tested by war and by tragedy; by an economic crisis and its aftermath that has left millions out of work, and poverty on the rise, and millions more just struggling to get by. Indeed, even before this crisis struck, we had endured a decade of rising inequality and stagnant wages. In too many troubled neighborhoods across the country, the conditions of our poorest citizens appear little changed from what existed 50 years ago -– neighborhoods with underfunded schools and broken-down slums, inadequate health care, constant violence, neighborhoods in which too many young people grow up with little hope and few prospects for the future.
Our work is not done. And so on this day, in which we celebrate a man and a movement that did so much for this country, let us draw strength from those earlier struggles. First and foremost, let us remember that change has never been quick. Change has never been simple, or without controversy. Change depends on persistence. Change requires determination. It took a full decade before the moral guidance of Brown v. Board of Education was translated into the enforcement measures of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, but those 10 long years did not lead Dr. King to give up. He kept on pushing, he kept on speaking, he kept on marching until change finally came. (Applause.)
And then when, even after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed, African Americans still found themselves trapped in pockets of poverty across the country, Dr. King didn’t say those laws were a failure; he didn’t say this is too hard; he didn’t say, let’s settle for what we got and go home. Instead he said, let’s take those victories and broaden our mission to achieve not just civil and political equality but also economic justice; let’s fight for a living wage and better schools and jobs for all who are willing to work. In other words, when met with hardship, when confronting disappointment, Dr. King refused to accept what he called the “isness” of today. He kept pushing towards the “oughtness” of tomorrow.
And so, as we think about all the work that we must do –- rebuilding an economy that can compete on a global stage, and fixing our schools so that every child — not just some, but every child — gets a world-class education, and making sure that our health care system is affordable and accessible to all, and that our economic system is one in which everybody gets a fair shake and everybody does their fair share, let us not be trapped by what is. (Applause.) We can’t be discouraged by what is. We’ve got to keep pushing for what ought to be, the America we ought to leave to our children, mindful that the hardships we face are nothing compared to those Dr. King and his fellow marchers faced 50 years ago, and that if we maintain our faith, in ourselves and in the possibilities of this nation, there is no challenge we cannot surmount.
And just as we draw strength from Dr. King’s struggles, so must we draw inspiration from his constant insistence on the oneness of man; the belief in his words that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” It was that insistence, rooted in his Christian faith, that led him to tell a group of angry young protesters, “I love you as I love my own children,” even as one threw a rock that glanced off his neck.
It was that insistence, that belief that God resides in each of us, from the high to the low, in the oppressor and the oppressed, that convinced him that people and systems could change. It fortified his belief in non-violence. It permitted him to place his faith in a government that had fallen short of its ideals. It led him to see his charge not only as freeing black America from the shackles of discrimination, but also freeing many Americans from their own prejudices, and freeing Americans of every color from the depredations of poverty.
And so at this moment, when our politics appear so sharply polarized, and faith in our institutions so greatly diminished, we need more than ever to take heed of Dr. King’s teachings. He calls on us to stand in the other person’s shoes; to see through their eyes; to understand their pain. He tells us that we have a duty to fight against poverty, even if we are well off; to care about the child in the decrepit school even if our own children are doing fine; to show compassion toward the immigrant family, with the knowledge that most of us are only a few generations removed from similar hardships. (Applause.)
To say that we are bound together as one people, and must constantly strive to see ourselves in one another, is not to argue for a false unity that papers over our differences and ratifies an unjust status quo. As was true 50 years ago, as has been true throughout human history, those with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as “divisive.” They’ll say any challenge to the existing arrangements are unwise and destabilizing. Dr. King understood that peace without justice was no peace at all; that aligning our reality with our ideals often requires the speaking of uncomfortable truths and the creative tension of non-violent protest.
But he also understood that to bring about true and lasting change, there must be the possibility of reconciliation; that any social movement has to channel this tension through the spirit of love and mutuality.
If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain. He would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country — (applause) — with the knowledge that in this democracy, government is no distant object but is rather an expression of our common commitments to one another. He would call on us to assume the best in each other rather than the worst, and challenge one another in ways that ultimately heal rather than wound.
In the end, that’s what I hope my daughters take away from this monument. I want them to come away from here with a faith in what they can accomplish when they are determined and working for a righteous cause. I want them to come away from here with a faith in other people and a faith in a benevolent God. This sculpture, massive and iconic as it is, will remind them of Dr. King’s strength, but to see him only as larger than life would do a disservice to what he taught us about ourselves. He would want them to know that he had setbacks, because they will have setbacks. He would want them to know that he had doubts, because they will have doubts. He would want them to know that he was flawed, because all of us have flaws.
It is precisely because Dr. King was a man of flesh and blood and not a figure of stone that he inspires us so. His life, his story, tells us that change can come if you don’t give up. He would not give up, no matter how long it took, because in the smallest hamlets and the darkest slums, he had witnessed the highest reaches of the human spirit; because in those moments when the struggle seemed most hopeless, he had seen men and women and children conquer their fear; because he had seen hills and mountains made low and rough places made plain, and the crooked places made straight and God make a way out of no way.
And that is why we honor this man –- because he had faith in us. And that is why he belongs on this Mall -– because he saw what we might become. That is why Dr. King was so quintessentially American — because for all the hardships we’ve endured, for all our sometimes tragic history, ours is a story of optimism and achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth. And that is why the rest of the world still looks to us to lead. This is a country where ordinary people find in their hearts the courage to do extraordinary things; the courage to stand up in the face of the fiercest resistance and despair and say this is wrong, and this is right; we will not settle for what the cynics tell us we have to accept and we will reach again and again, no matter the odds, for what we know is possible.
That is the conviction we must carry now in our hearts. (Applause.) As tough as times may be, I know we will overcome. I know there are better days ahead. I know this because of the man towering over us. I know this because all he and his generation endured — we are here today in a country that dedicated a monument to that legacy.
And so with our eyes on the horizon and our faith squarely placed in one another, let us keep striving; let us keep struggling; let us keep climbing toward that promised land of a nation and a world that is more fair, and more just, and more equal for every single child of God.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
BREAKING NEWS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama to GOP: “Congress Should Refrain From Playing Reckless Political Games With Our Economy!”
Statement from the Press Secretary
The President and Vice President met with Speaker Boehner, Leader Pelosi, Leader Reid and Leader McConnell in the Cabinet Room to discuss options for ensuring that the debt ceiling is raised and the United States does not default on its obligations for the first time in its history.
The President restated his opposition to a short-term extension of the debt ceiling, explaining that a short-term extension could cause our country’s credit rating to be downgraded, causing harm to our economy and causing every American to pay higher credit cards rates and more for home and car loans.
As the current situation makes clear, it would be irresponsible to put our country and economy at risk again in just a few short months with another battle over raising the debt ceiling.
Congress should refrain from playing reckless political games with our economy. Instead, it should be responsible and do its job, avoiding default and cutting the deficit.
The meeting lasted approximately one hour. The leaders agreed to return to Capitol Hill to talk to their members and discuss a way forward, and conversations will continue throughout the day.
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFERS ADDITIONAL MORTGAGE RELIEF TO UNEMPLOYED HOMEOWNERS
Adjustments to FHA and MHA requirements to allow 12-month Forbearances
(Washington, DC)- Today, the Obama Administration announced adjustments to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) requirements that will require servicers to extend the forbearance period for unemployed homeowners to 12 months. The Administration also intends to require servicers participating in the Making Home Affordable Program (MHA) to extend the minimum forbearance period to 12 months wherever possible under regulator and investor guidelines. These adjustments will provide much needed assistance for unemployed homeowners trying to stay in their homes while seeking re-employment. These changes are intended to set a standard for the mortgage industry to provide more robust assistance to unemployed homeowners in the economic downturn.
The changes to FHA’s Special Forbearance Program announced today will require servicers to extend the forbearance period for FHA borrowers who qualify for the program from four months to 12 months and remove upfront hurdles to make it easier for unemployed borrowers to qualify.
“The current unemployment forbearance programs have mandatory periods that are inadequate for the majority of unemployed borrowers,” U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said. “Today, 60 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than three months and 45 percent have been out of work for more than six. Providing the option for a year of forbearance will give struggling homeowners a substantially greater chance of finding employment before they lose their home.”
Changes to MHA’s Home Affordable Unemployment Program (UP) will require participating servicers to extend the minimum forbearance period from 3 months to 12 months for eligible unemployed homeowners, whenever possible subject to investor and regulator guidance for each mortgage loan. Additionally, forbearance under UP will become available to borrowers who are seriously delinquent.
All FHA-approved servicers must participate in FHA’s Loss Mitigation Program, which includes the Special Forbearance program. In addition to extending the forbearance period and removing the up-front hurdles for borrowers, the FHA also reemphasized its requirement that servicers conduct a review at the end of the forbearance period to evaluate the borrower for all additional, applicable foreclosure assistance programs and notify the borrower in writing whether or not he/she qualifies for any other available option. If the borrower does not qualify for any foreclosure assistance option, the servicer must provide the borrower with the reason for denial and allow the borrower at least seven calendar days to submit additional information that may impact the servicer’s evaluation.
These reforms build on successful Administration initiatives to support unemployed borrowers through the $7.6 billion Hardest Hit Fund and the $1 billion Emergency Homeowner Loan Program (EHLP). The Hardest Hit Fund, first announced in February 2010, provides support to 18 states and the District of Columbia, which represent the areas hardest hit by steep home price declines and unemployment, to design and implement programs to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. Participating states have dedicated approximately seventy percent of program funds toward programs to help homeowners struggling with unemployment or underemployment. As of this month, each participating state is accepting applications from borrowers and providing direct mortgage assistance to those that qualify.
The EHLP program complements the Hardest Hit Fund, by serving the remaining 32 states and Puerto Rico. Congress provided $1 billion dollars to HUD, as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, to implement the recently launched program. EHLP assists homeowners who have experienced a reduction in income and are at risk of foreclosure due to involuntary unemployment, underemployment due to economic conditions or a medical condition. EHLP is expected to aid up to 30,000 distressed borrowers, with an average loan of approximately $35,000.
BREAKING NEWS: PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ON WITHDRAWING TROOPS FROM AFGHANISTAN: “TIME TO FOCUS ON NATION BUILDING AT HOME”
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
On the Way Forward in Afghanistan
June 22, 2011
As Prepared for Delivery—
Good evening. Nearly ten years ago, America suffered the worst attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor. This mass murder was planned by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, and signaled a new threat to our security – one in which the targets were no longer soldiers on a battlefield, but innocent men, women and children going about their daily lives.
In the days that followed, our nation was united as we struck at al Qaeda and routed the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then, our focus shifted. A second war was launched in Iraq, and we spent enormous blood and treasure to support a new government there. By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year. But al Qaeda’s leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive. Without a new strategy and decisive action, our military commanders warned that we could face a resurgent al Qaeda, and a Taliban taking over large parts of Afghanistan.
For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al Qaeda; reverse the Taliban’s momentum; and train Afghan Security Forces to defend their own country. I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to drawdown our forces this July.
Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan Security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.
We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength. Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11. One soldier summed it up well. “The message,” he said, “is we don’t forget. You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.”
The information that we recovered from bin Laden’s compound shows al Qaeda under enormous strain. Bin Laden expressed concern that al Qaeda has been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that have been killed, and that al Qaeda has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam – thereby draining more widespread support. Al Qaeda remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks. But we have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.
In Afghanistan, we’ve inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds. Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize more of the country. Afghan Security Forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we have already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people. In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war.
Of course, huge challenges remain. This is the beginning – but not the end – of our effort to wind down this war. We will have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we have made, while we drawdown our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government. And next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.
We do know that peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement. So as we strengthen the Afghan government and Security Forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban. Our position on these talks is clear: they must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from al Qaeda, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan Constitution. But, in part because of our military effort, we have reason to believe that progress can be made.
The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply: no safe-haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland, or our allies. We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people; and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace. What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures – one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government.
Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe-havens in Pakistan. No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region. We will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keep its commitments. For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe-haven for those who aim to kill us: they cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.
My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country. We have learned anew the profound cost of war — a cost that has been paid by the nearly 4500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1500 who have done so in Afghanistan – men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended. Thousands more have been wounded. Some have lost limbs on the field of battle, and others still battle the demons that have followed them home.
Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way. We have ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end.
As they do, we must learn their lessons. Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America’s engagement around the world. Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face. Others would have America over-extend ourselves, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.
We must chart a more centered course. Like generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events. But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute. When threatened, we must respond with force – but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas. When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own. Instead, we must rally international action, which we are doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their destiny.
In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power – it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab World. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.
Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens at home. Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource – our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industry, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep and no horizon is beyond our reach.
America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.
In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf. To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care, and benefits, and opportunity that you deserve.
I met some of those patriotic Americans at Fort Campbell. A while back, I spoke to the 101st Airborne that has fought to turn the tide in Afghanistan, and to the team that took out Osama bin Laden. Standing in front of a model of bin Laden’s compound, the Navy SEAL who led that effort paid tribute to those who had been lost – brothers and sisters in arms whose names are now written on bases where our troops stand guard overseas, and on headstones in quiet corners of our country where their memory will never be forgotten. This officer – like so many others I have met with on bases, in Baghdad and Bagram, at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital – spoke with humility about how his unit worked together as one – depending on each other, and trusting one another, as a family might do in a time of peril.
That’s a lesson worth remembering – that we are all a part of one American family. Though we have known disagreement and division, we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish. Now, let us finish the work at hand. Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story. With confidence in our cause; with faith in our fellow citizens; and with hope in our hearts, let us go about the work of extending the promise of America – for this generation, and the next. May God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America.
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
“A Moment of Opportunity”
U.S. Department of State
May 19, 2011
As Prepared for Delivery –
I want to thank Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark – one million frequent flyer miles. I count on Hillary every day, and I believe that she will go down as of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.
The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square; town by town; country by country; the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security; history and faith.
Today, I would like to talk about this change – the forces that are driving it, and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security. Already, we have done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we have removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we have broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader – Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate – an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy – not what he could build.
Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands.
That story of self-determination began six months ago in Tunisia. On December 17, a young vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi was devastated when a police officer confiscated his cart. This was not unique. It is the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world – the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity. Only this time, something different happened. After local officials refused to hear his complaint, this young man who had never been particularly active in politics went to the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and lit himself on fire.
Sometimes, in the course of history, the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has built up for years. In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a King, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat. So it was in Tunisia, as that vendor’s act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the country. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, then thousands. And in the face of batons and sometimes bullets, they refused to go home – day after day, week after week, until a dictator of more than two decades finally left power.
The story of this Revolution, and the ones that followed, should not have come as a surprise. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa won their independence long ago, but in too many places their people did not. In too many countries, power has been concentrated in the hands of the few. In too many countries, a citizen like that young vendor had nowhere to turn – no honest judiciary to hear his case; no independent media to give him voice; no credible political party to represent his views; no free and fair election where he could choose his leader.
This lack of self determination – the chance to make of your life what you will – has applied to the region’s economy as well. Yes, some nations are blessed with wealth in oil and gas, and that has led to pockets of prosperity. But in a global economy based on knowledge and innovation, no development strategy can be based solely upon what comes out of the ground. Nor can people reach their potential when you cannot start a business without paying a bribe.
In the face of these challenges, too many leaders in the region tried to direct their people’s grievances elsewhere. The West was blamed as the source of all ills, a half century after the end of colonialism. Antagonism toward Israel became the only acceptable outlet for political expression. Divisions of tribe, ethnicity and religious sect were manipulated as a means of holding on to power, or taking it away from somebody else.
But the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and diversion won’t work anymore. Satellite television and the Internet provide a window into the wider world – a world of astonishing progress in places like India, Indonesia and Brazil. Cell phones and social networks allow young people to connect and organize like never before. A new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.
In Cairo, we heard the voice of the young mother who said, “It’s like I can finally breathe fresh air for the first time.”
In Sanaa, we heard the students who chanted, “The night must come to an end.”
In Benghazi, we heard the engineer who said, “Our words are free now. It’s a feeling you can’t explain.”
In Damascus, we heard the young man who said, “After the first yelling, the first shout, you feel dignity.”
Those shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region. And through the moral force of non-violence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.
Of course, change of this magnitude does not come easily. In our day and age – a time of 24 hour news cycles, and constant communication – people expect the transformation of the region to be resolved in a matter of weeks. But it will be years before this story reaches its end. Along the way, there will be good days, and bad days. In some places, change will be swift; in others, gradual. And as we have seen, calls for change may give way to fierce contests for power.
The question before us is what role America will play as this story unfolds. For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region: countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce, and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.
We will continue to do these things, with the firm belief that America’s interests are not hostile to peoples’ hopes; they are essential to them. We believe that no one benefits from a nuclear arms race in the region, or al Qaeda’s brutal attacks. People everywhere would see their economies crippled by a cut off in energy supplies. As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.
Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind. Moreover, failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our own interests at their expense. Given that this mistrust runs both ways – as Americans have been seared by hostage taking, violent rhetoric, and terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of our citizens – a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and Muslim communities.
That’s why, two years ago in Cairo, I began to broaden our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. I believed then – and I believe now – that we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self determination of individuals. The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.
So we face an historic opportunity. We have embraced the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator. There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.
As we do, we must proceed with a sense of humility. It is not America that put people into the streets of Tunis and Cairo – it was the people themselves who launched these movements, and must determine their outcome. Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short term interests do not align perfectly with our long term vision of the region. But we can – and will – speak out for a set of core principles – principles that have guided our response to the events over the past six months:
The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region.
We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion; equality for men and women under the rule of law; and the right to choose your own leaders – whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa or Tehran.
And finally, we support political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region.
Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest– today I am making it clear that it is a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions, and supported by all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.
Let me be specific. First, it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy.
That effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia, where the stakes are high –as Tunisia was at the vanguard of this democratic wave, and Egypt is both a longstanding partner and the Arab World’s largest nation. Both nations can set a strong example through free and fair elections; a vibrant civil society; accountable and effective democratic institutions; and responsible regional leadership. But our support must also extend to nations where transitions have yet to take place.
Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have been answered by violence. The most extreme example is Libya, where Moammar Gaddafi launched a war against his people, promising to hunt them down like rats. As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force – no matter how well-intended it may be.
But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed. The message would have been clear: keep power by killing as many people as it takes. Now, time is working against Gaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council. And when Gaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.
While Libya has faced violence on the greatest scale, it is not the only place where leaders have turned to repression to remain in power. Most recently, the Syrian regime has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens. The United States has condemned these actions, and working with the international community we have stepped up our sanctions on the Syrian regime – including sanctions announced yesterday on President Assad and those around him.
The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: he can lead that transition, or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests; release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests; allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Dara’a; and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition. Otherwise, President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and isolated abroad
Thus far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. This speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet suppresses its people at home. Let us remember that the first peaceful protests were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants echo from the rooftops of Tehran. The image of a young woman dying in the streets is still seared in our memory. And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.
Our opposition to Iran’s intolerance – as well as its illicit nuclear program, and its sponsorship of terror – is well known. But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for change consistent with the principles that I have outlined today. That is true in Yemen, where President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. And that is true, today, in Bahrain.
Bahrain is a long-standing partner, and we are committed to its security. We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law. Nevertheless, we have insisted publically and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.
Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian democracy. There, the Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence for a democratic process, even as they have taken full responsibility for their own security. Like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. As they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.
So in the months ahead, America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region. Even as we acknowledge that each country is different, we will need to speak honestly about the principles that we believe in, with friend and foe alike. Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States. We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future – particularly young people.
We will continue to make good on the commitments that I made in Cairo – to build networks of entrepreneurs, and expand exchanges in education; to foster cooperation in science and technology, and combat disease. Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths. And we will use the technology to connect with – and listen to – the voices of the people.
In fact, real reform will not come at the ballot box alone. Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard – whether it’s a big news organization or a blogger. In the 21st century, information is power; the truth cannot be hidden; and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.
Such open discourse is important even if what is said does not square with our worldview. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard, even if we disagree with them. We look forward to working with all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy. What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion – not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and respect for the rights of minorities.
Such tolerance is particularly important when it comes to religion. In Tahrir Square, we heard Egyptians from all walks of life chant, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” America will work to see that this spirit prevails – that all faiths are respected, and that bridges are built among them. In a region that was the birthplace of three world religions, intolerance can lead only to suffering and stagnation. And for this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo, just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain.
What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women. History shows that countries are more prosperous and peaceful when women are empowered. That is why we will continue to insist that universal rights apply to women as well as men – by focusing assistance on child and maternal health; by helping women to teach, or start a business; by standing up for the right of women to have their voices heard, and to run for office. For the region will never reach its potential when more than half its population is prevented from achieving their potential.
Even as we promote political reform and human rights in the region, our efforts cannot stop there. So the second way that we must support positive change in the region is through our efforts to advance economic development for nations that transition to democracy.
After all, politics alone has not put protesters into the streets. The tipping point for so many people is the more constant concern of putting food on the table and providing for a family. Too many in the region wake up with few expectations other than making it through the day, and perhaps the hope that their luck will change. Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job. Entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas, but corruption leaves them unable to profit from them.
The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people. In the recent protests, we see that talent on display, as people harness technology to move the world. It’s no coincidence that one of the leaders of Tahrir Square was an executive for Google. That energy now needs to be channeled, in country after country, so that economic growth can solidify the accomplishments of the street. Just as democratic revolutions can be triggered by a lack of individual opportunity, successful democratic transitions depend upon an expansion of growth and broad-based prosperity.
Drawing from what we’ve learned around the world, we think it’s important to focus on trade, not just aid; and investment, not just assistance. The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness; the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young. America’s support for democracy will therefore be based on ensuring financial stability; promoting reform; and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy – starting with Tunisia and Egypt.
First, we have asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week’s G-8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt. Together, we must help them recover from the disruption of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year. And we are urging other countries to help Egypt and Tunisia meet its near-term financial needs.
Second, we do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past. So we will relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt, and work with our Egyptian partners to invest these resources to foster growth and entrepreneurship. We will help Egypt regain access to markets by guaranteeing $1 billion in borrowing that is needed to finance infrastructure and job creation. And we will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen.
Third, we are working with Congress to create Enterprise Funds to invest in Tunisia and Egypt. These will be modeled on funds that supported the transitions in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. OPIC will soon launch a $2 billion facility to support private investment across the region. And we will work with allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernization in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe.
Fourth, the United States will launch a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa. If you take out oil exports, this region of over 400 million people exports roughly the same amount as Switzerland. So we will work with the EU to facilitate more trade within the region, build on existing agreements to promote integration with U.S. and European markets, and open the door for those countries who adopt high standards of reform and trade liberalization to construct a regional trade arrangement. Just as EU membership served as an incentive for reform in Europe, so should the vision of a modern and prosperous economy create a powerful force for reform in the Middle East and North Africa.
Prosperity also requires tearing down walls that stand in the way of progress – the corruption of elites who steal from their people; the red tape that stops an idea from becoming a business; the patronage that distributes wealth based on tribe or sect. We will help governments meet international obligations, and invest efforts anti-corruption; by working with parliamentarians who are developing reforms, and activists who use technology to hold government accountable.
Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.
For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could get blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own. Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security, prosperity, and empowerment to ordinary people.
My Administration has worked with the parties and the international community for over two years to end this conflict, yet expectations have gone unmet. Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks. The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on for decades, and sees a stalemate. Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward.
I disagree. At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever.
For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.
The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people – not just a few leaders – must believe peace is possible. The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.
Ultimately, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them, nor can endless delay make the problem go away. But what America and the international community can do is state frankly what everyone knows: a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.
So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.
These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I know that these steps alone will not resolve this conflict. Two wrenching and emotional issues remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians.
Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.
I recognize how hard this will be. Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones. He said, “I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict.” And we see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. “I have the right to feel angry,” he said. “So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate…Let us hope,” he said, “for tomorrow”
That is the choice that must be made – not simply in this conflict, but across the entire region – a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past, and the promise of the future. It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by people, and it’s a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife.
For all the challenges that lie ahead, we see many reasons to be hopeful. In Egypt, we see it in the efforts of young people who led protests. In Syria, we see it in the courage of those who brave bullets while chanting, ‘peaceful,’ ‘peaceful.’ In Benghazi, a city threatened with destruction, we see it in the courthouse square where people gather to celebrate the freedoms that they had never known. Across the region, those rights that we take for granted are being claimed with joy by those who are prying lose the grip of an iron fist.
For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar. Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire. Our people fought a painful civil war that extended freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved. And I would not be standing here today unless past generations turned to the moral force of non-violence as a way to perfect our union – organizing, marching, and protesting peacefully together to make real those words that declared our nation: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”
Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa – words which tell us that repression will fail, that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights. It will not be easy. There is no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope. But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves. Now, we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.
When President Barack Obama announced to the world late Sunday that Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed in a raid of his compound in Abbottadad, Pakistan, an air of suspicion was born. The doubters and conspiracy theorists have concocted full narratives as to the ‘true’ story of the demise of Bin Laden. Some say Osama Bin Laden died in 2007 from complications of kidney failure. Others say he was killed around 2006. Still, several days after DNA confirmation, a small but growing segment of Americans and world watchers alike are doubtful of the U.S. government’s proclamation that Bin Laden is dead and was buried at sea. They want evidence. Photographic proof.
It appears that the Obama White House is caving in to the pressure to release death photos of Osama Bin Laden. CIA Director Leon Panetta said that the administration knows that it has to “reveal to the rest of the world” photographic documentation of Osama Bin Laden in death. However, sources note that Osama Bin Laden was shot in the head, near the left eye with a powerful, technologically advanced firearm. What does that mean? That perhaps the whole side of Bin Laden’s head was obliterated?
Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that the administration is “taking into consideration” the release of the Bin Laden death photos even though these could be “inflammatory.” Carney also admitted that the photos are “gruesome” and that “there are sensitivities here in the terms of the appropriateness of releasing photos of Osama Bin Laden after the fire fight and the sensitivities involved.”
However, the press is hot on the trail of those death pictures. If these are as “gruesome” as the White House would have the public believe, why is there an outcry to see them? Maybe it is the craving for senastionalism that the media has nurtured in the minds of the public. The desire to feed off of violence is thoroughly ingrained in the psyche of Americans due to insidious, horrifically violent movies thick with grotesque killings and murders. Prime time tv is filled to the brim with CSI dramas and programming about rogue medical examiners. And this is not the “Quincy” or “Kojak” type of fare either. Crime on television shows have gone high tech and very graphic. There are scenes of dead bodies, decomposing in the alley or the park. Television crime is more visual than ever before. Local news stations are notorious for the adoption of the mantra “if it bleeds, it leads” five and six o’clock daily news broadcasts. YouTube, cable news websites, and blogs all feature uncanny fascination stories about the dead. Such as the story about a Puerto Rican man standing at his own funeral. Or video surveillance of a man being shot to death outside a neighborhood store while talking on his cell phone. Crime sites awash with fresh spilled blood on the sidewalk or floor of a home, splattered blood on a terrorist bombed bus, the video cam operator can not resist. Or is it really the appetite of the public?
With this in mind, is it really a stretch of the imagination that the world and the press want to see a dead Osama Bin Laden in all his blown out head glory? If the White House concedes that the death photos are “gruesome,” will the pictures be subjected to photo-shopping? If the decision of photo-shopping or cropping is done, won’t that affect the authenticity of the death shot that the public and Al Qaeda want to view? Will those who scream ‘conspiracy!’ or ‘Osama is alive!’ be satisfied with the release of the death photo of Bin Laden? Will Al Qaeda throw its’ hands up and scatter like rats into a hole, giving up on their murderous philosophy because their leader was killed? Probably not. So why should the White House even consider releasing these pictures? Why did the White House consider and release President Obama’s long form birth certificate only to have the President admit that the whole matter was “silly” to begin with?
The Washington Review and Commentary will not be among those blogs and news outlets who will run the death pictures of Osama Bin Laden. That is, if the Obama administration decides to release these photos. There is too much hatred, anger, and all around hostility in the world today against America for the justification of publishing such “gruesome” pictures. Also, what earthly good will publishing pictures of a dead Osama Bin Laden with a huge, gapping hole in his head, possibly no face or eyes, do for the media and the public? For the press and the media in general, high ratings and millions of hits for blogs and websites. For the public? A freak show, free for all frenzy to gaze upon death without emotion or understanding causing an even more intense case of desensitizing. No matter how it is viewed through the prism of ethics, politics, religion, and morality, the decision to release the death pictures of Osama Bin Laden, or not, should be a no brainer.
If the Obama administration concedes to this demand, like it conceded to Donald Trump with the release of President Obama’s long form birth certificate, what does that really say? That the Obama White House can be bullied into more “silliness” and has become a part of the “side show” that it claims to detest.
Late Sunday evening, President Barack Obama announced to the nation and the world that U.S. forces discovered the hiding place of known world terrorist Osama Bin Laden and that he had been killed. The President remarked in his dramatic statement that at his direction “the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”
President Obama was notified in September of last year by the CIA of the possible location of Osama Bin Laden. By mid-February, special operation forces had solid intelligence that confirmed Bin Laden was residing at a unique mansion compound thirty-five miles north of Islamabad. President Obama authorized the compound raid on Friday. The compound where Bin Laden was hiding was built in 2005 on a secluded plot of land. The mansion was eight times larger than any of the homes in the neighborhood and featured 12 – 18 foot walls with barbed wire. To provide extra privacy and security, the main structure of the compound mansion had internal walls that seperated different parts of the homes, two security gates, very few windows and a seven foot wall located outside of the terrace on the third floor. The compound, is said to be worth a million dollars, however there were no signs of a telephone, Internet service, or wealth. The compound was obviously “custom built to hide someone of significance,” White House officials acknowledge.
Living at the compound were various members of the Bin Laden family, including two of Osama Bin Laden’s brothers, and his youngest wife. Sunday afternoon, Navy Seals conducted a helicopter raid on the Bin Laden compound. The raid on the compound lasted for forty minutes and three men were killed in addition to Bin Laden, who was shot in the head. Two are believed to be couriers and the third was Bin Laden’s son. Two women were injured and one was killed when she was used as a human shield. Children were also found living at the compound.
Senior administration officials noted early Monday morning that the U.S. did not share the intelligence on Osama Bin Laden with any other country because “we believed it was essential to the security of the operation and our personnel. In fact, only a very small group of people inside our own government knew of this operation in advance.”
Osama Bin Laden was the leader of Al Qaeda, a militant extremist Islamic organization responsible for murderous terrorist activities throughout the world. Al Qaeda unleashed a horrific attack upon the United States on September 11, 2001 when 19 Al Qaeda members hijacked several airplanes, crashing two into the World Trade Center and a third into the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed into a rural field near Pennsylvania. There were a total of 2,996 deaths as a result. 246 victims from the plane crashes, 2,606 in the Twin Towers and emergency rescue workers, and 125 deaths at the Pentagon. To date, the identity of 1,629 victims of the attack have been identified.
Osama Bin Laden’s body was buried at sea. U.S. officials remarked solemnly that “we are ensuring that it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition. This is something that we take very seriously. And so therefore this is being handled in an appropriate manner.”
Senior administration officials told reporters that the raid was a “kill mission” not a capture mission. “There’s also no doubt that the death of Osama bin Laden marks the single greatest victory in the U.S.-led campaign to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda. It is a major and essential step in bringing about al Qaeda’s eventual destruction,” the White House stated Monday via teleconference.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON OSAMA BIN LADEN
11:35 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory — hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.
And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.
On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.
We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda — an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.
Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.
Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.
And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.
Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.
Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.
As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.
Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.
Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.
The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.
So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.
Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.
We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.
Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.
And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.
The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.
Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.
WEEKLY ADDRESS: “Reducing Spending While Still Investing in the Future is Just Common Sense”
WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Obama praised the agreement reached to avert a government shutdown, which will invest in the country’s future while making the largest annual spending cut in history. Just as both parties were able to find common ground on the tax cuts the President signed into law a few months ago, they worked through their differences on this budget. Politicians in Washington have the responsibility to continue to come together as they face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead – from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our long-term deficits.
The audio of the address is and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, Saturday, April 9, 2011.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Last night, after weeks of long and difficult negotiations over our national budget, leaders of both parties came together to avert a government shutdown, cut spending, and invest in our future.
This is good news for the American people. It means that small businesses can get the loans they need, our families can get the mortgages they applied for, folks can visit our national parks and museums, and hundreds of thousands of Americans will get their paychecks on time – including our brave men and women in uniform.
This is an agreement to invest in our country’s future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history. Like any compromise, this required everyone to give ground on issues that were important to them. I certainly did. Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful – programs people rely on will be cut back; needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances. But we also prevented this important debate from being overtaken by politics and unrelated disagreements on social issues. And beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect the investments that will help America compete for new jobs – investments in our kids’ education and student loans; in clean energy and life-saving medical research.
Reducing spending while still investing in the future is just common sense. That’s what families do in tough times. They sacrifice where they can, even if it’s hard, to afford what’s really important.
A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground. Now, the same cooperation has made it possible for us to move forward with the biggest annual spending cut in history. And it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead – from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our long-term deficits.
That’s our responsibility. That’s what the American people expect us to do. And it’s what the American people deserve.
Statement by the President on the 17th Anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda
Seventeen years ago today, the world watched as an unimaginable slaughter began to unfold in Rwanda. One hundred horrific days later, more than 800,000 innocent people—men, women, and children—lay dead in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. Today, we join the Rwandan people in honoring the memory of the loved ones they lost so senselessly, and we reaffirm the lessons of that tragic chapter in history. For just as the Rwandan genocide exposed man’s capacity for evil, it also revealed man’s capacity for good—courageous Rwandans who risked their lives to save friends and neighbors from the massacre. As an international community, we must summon the same courage to ensure that such mass atrocities and genocides never happen again.
Today we also reflect on Rwanda’s progress. Out of the ruins of genocide, Rwandans have welcomed home refugees and former combatants and worked to build a more peaceful, prosperous and democratic society for all it citizens. And as a leading contributor to peacekeeping missions around the world, Rwanda reminds us of our obligations to each other as fellow human beings, and our shared responsibility to prevent attacks on innocent civilians, as the international community is doing today in Libya. As they reflect on this painful day, Rwandans must know that the United States will be their partner in pursuit of the secure and peaceful future that they and their children deserve.
Today, we are filing papers to launch our 2012 campaign.
We’re doing this now because the politics we believe in does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you—with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And that kind of campaign takes time to build.
So even though I’m focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today.
We’ve always known that lasting change wouldn’t come quickly or easily. It never does. But as my administration and folks across the country fight to protect the progress we’ve made—and make more—we also need to begin mobilizing for 2012, long before the time comes for me to begin campaigning in earnest.
As we take this step, I’d like to share a video that features some folks like you who are helping to lead the way on this journey. Please take a moment to watch the video.
In the coming days, supporters like you will begin forging a new organization that we’ll build together in cities and towns across the country. And I’ll need you to help shape our plan as we create a campaign that’s farther reaching, more focused, and more innovative than anything we’ve built before.
We’ll start by doing something unprecedented: coordinating millions of one-on-one conversations between supporters across every single state, reconnecting old friends, inspiring new ones to join the cause, and readying ourselves for next year’s fight.
This will be my final campaign, at least as a candidate. But the cause of making a lasting difference for our families, our communities, and our country has never been about one person. And it will succeed only if we work together.
There will be much more to come as the race unfolds. Today, simply let us know you’re in to help us begin, and then spread the word.
Statement by the President on the Violence in Afghanistan
Today, the American people honor those who were lost in the attack on the United Nations in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. Once again, we extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who were killed, and to the people of the nations that they came from. The desecration of any holy text, including the Koran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry. However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity. No religion tolerates the slaughter and beheading of innocent people, and there is no justification for such a dishonorable and deplorable act. Now is a time to draw upon the common humanity that we share, and that was so exemplified by the UN workers who lost their lives trying to help the people of Afghanistan.
Statement by the Press Secretary on Violence in Syria
We condemn and deplore the use of violence against citizens demonstrating in Syria, and applaud the courage and dignity of the Syrian people. We urge all parties to maintain calm and avoid violence, and call on the Syrian government to respect human rights and to allow for peaceful demonstrations. The Syrian government has an important opportunity to be responsive to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. President Bashar al-Assad has a responsibility to promptly take concrete steps and actions that deliver on his promises and advance a meaningful reform agenda. Violence is not the answer to the grievances of the Syrian people. What is needed now is a credible path to a future of greater freedom, democracy, opportunity, and justice.
Statement by CEA Chairman Austan Goolsbee on the Employment Situation in March
WASHINGTON – Today, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee posted the following statement to the White House blog on the employment situation in March. You can view the statementHERE.
The Employment Situation in March
Posted by Austan Goolsbee on April 01, 2011
Today’s employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 230,000 in March, marking 13 consecutive months of private employment growth. Private sector employers added 1.8 million jobs over that period, including more than half a million jobs in the last three months. The unemployment rate fell for the fourth straight month to 8.8 percent. The full percentage point drop in the unemployment rate over the past four months is the largest such decline since 1984, and, importantly, it has been driven primarily by increased employment, rather than people leaving the labor force.
As long as millions of people are looking for jobs, there is still considerable work to do to replace the jobs lost in the downturn. Nonetheless, the steep decline in the jobless rate and the solid employment growth in recent months are encouraging. The last two months of private job gains have been the strongest in five years. We are seeing signs that the initiatives put in place by this Administration – such as the payroll tax cut and business incentives for investment – are creating the conditions for sustained growth and job creation. We will continue to work with Congress to find ways to reduce spending, so that we can live within our means and focus on the investments that are most likely to help grow our economy and create jobs – investments in education, infrastructure, and clean energy.
In addition to the increases last month, the estimates of private sector job growth for January (now +94,000) and February (now +240,000) were revised up significantly. Overall payroll employment rose by 216,000 in March. Payroll employment grew in almost every sector. Solid employment increases occurred in professional and business services (+78,000), education and health services (+45,000), leisure and hospitality (+37,000), wholesale and retail trade (+31,800), and manufacturing (+17,000). Local government experienced a decline of 15,000, and has shed jobs in 16 of the past 17 months.
The overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically over the past two years, but there will surely be bumps in the road ahead. The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates are subject to substantial revision. Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.
White House to Celebrate Black History Month with Tribute to Motown’s Legacy Evening: Performances and Daytime Student Workshop to Highlight Motown Legends
Upcoming Guidance on “In Performance at the White House”
White House to Celebrate Black History Month with Tribute to Motown’s Legacy
Evening Performances and Daytime Student Workshop to Highlight Motown Legends
The President and First Lady will invite music legends and contemporary major artists to the White House on Thursday, February 24, 2011, for “The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House,” a concert celebrating Black History Month and the legacy of Motown Records.
The program will include tributes to Motown’s distinctive soul-infused pop music sound that solidified its popularity in American culture, and showcase Motown’s impact on all music. The event will include legends from Motown’s golden age and performances by artists from today, all in tribute to Motown’s 50-year legacy. Performers include Smokey Robinson, Natasha Bedingfield, Sheryl Crow, Jamie Foxx, Gloriana, Nick Jonas, Ledisi, John Legend, Amber Riley, Mark Salling, Seal and Jordin Sparks with Greg Phillinganes as the night’s music director. This concert will be held in the East Room at 6:30 p.m. and is a POOLED press event.
“The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House,” which is produced by public broadcaster WETA Washington, D.C., in association with Bounce, a division of AEG, and the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), will be broadcast on PBS stations nationwide on Tuesday, March 1 at 8 p.m. (ET). The program will also be broadcast via the American Forces Network on March 11 to American service men and women and civilians at U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world.
As she has done with previous White House music events, the First Lady will host a special daytime event for students. The First Lady will welcome more than 100 students from California, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington, D.C. to take part in an interactive student workshop event: “The Sound of Young America: The History of Motown.” Beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the State Dining Room, The GRAMMY Museum’s Executive Director Bob Santelli will lead the students in a discussion about the history of Motown’s long-lasting legacy, ranging from its beginnings in the city of Detroit to its effect on the music industry. Featured performers from the evening event will share their experiences as well as answer student questions about the music and entertainment world. “The Sound of Young America” will stream live on www.whitehouse.gov, www.pbs.org/whitehouse, www.grammymuseum.org andwww.blackpublicmedia.org.
Readout of the President’s Cabinet Meeting
The President’s meeting with his Cabinet this morning began with an update on several national security issues including the ongoing events in Egypt as well as Afghanistan and Iraq. With regard to Egypt, Secretary Clinton discussed our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, association, and speech; and supporting an orderly transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people. With regard to homeland security, Secretary Napolitano provided an update on the federal government’s efforts to prepare for serious winter storms affecting a large portion of the country.
The President discussed his plan for tapping into the creativity and imagination of the American people to win the future by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building the rest of the world. In stressing the need for greater investments in initiatives that foster innovation and competitiveness, the President also discussed the tough choices that will be reflected in 2012 Budget, which will provide a responsible 10-year path for reining in the deficit. Beyond simply reducing government spending, the President emphasized the need to reform and reorganize the government so it operates smarter and more efficiently.
Readout of the President’s Meeting on Egypt
At 1:00 pm today, the President convened a meeting of his national security team at the White House. Participants included Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, National Security Advisor to the Vice President Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, Senior Director for the Central Region Dennis Ross, Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa Dan Shapiro, Chief of Staff Bill Daley, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and Senior Advisor David Plouffe. The meeting lasted just over an hour. The President was updated on the situation in Egypt. He reiterated our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights; and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt.