REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON THE SITUATION IN EGYPT
State Dining Room
6:33 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, everybody. My administration has been closely monitoring the situation in Egypt, and I know that we will be learning more tomorrow when day breaks. As the situation continues to unfold, our first concern is preventing injury or loss of life. So I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors.
The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.
I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they’ve taken to interfere with access to the Internet, to cell phone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.
At the same time, those protesting in the streets have a responsibility to express themselves peacefully. Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms that they seek.
Now, going forward, this moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise. The United States has a close partnership with Egypt and we’ve cooperated on many issues, including working together to advance a more peaceful region. But we’ve also been clear that there must be reform — political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
In the absence of these reforms, grievances have built up over time. When President Mubarak addressed the Egyptian people tonight, he pledged a better democracy and greater economic opportunity. I just spoke to him after his speech and I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.
Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people. And suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. What’s needed right now are concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people: a meaningful dialogue between the government and its citizens, and a path of political change that leads to a future of greater freedom and greater opportunity and justice for the Egyptian people.
Now, ultimately the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people. And I believe that the Egyptian people want the same things that we all want — a better life for ourselves and our children, and a government that is fair and just and responsive. Put simply, the Egyptian people want a future that befits the heirs to a great and ancient civilization.
The United States always will be a partner in pursuit of that future. And we are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people — all quarters — to achieve it.
Around the world governments have an obligation to respond to their citizens. That’s true here in the United States; that’s true in Asia; it is true in Europe; it is true in Africa; and it’s certainly true in the Arab world, where a new generation of citizens has the right to be heard.
When I was in Cairo, shortly after I was elected President, I said that all governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion. That is the single standard by which the people of Egypt will achieve the future they deserve.
Surely there will be difficult days to come. But the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free, and more hopeful.
Thank you very much.
Statement by the Press Secretary on the Unrest in Kyrgyzstan
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC—Below is a statement from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs regarding the unrest in Kyrgyzstan.
“The President has been closely following the events in Kyrgyzstan, and continues to monitor the situation with his National Security Team. We urge that calm be restored to Bishkek and other affected areas in a manner consistent with democratic principles and with respect for human rights. We deplore the use of deadly force by some of the security services against the demonstrators and by some demonstrators and continue to be concerned by ongoing looting and disorder. The United States looks forward to continuing our productive relationship with the people of Kyrgyzstan and the renewal of Kyrgyzstan’s democratic path.”
Statement by President Barack Obama on the Release of Nuclear Posture Review
One year ago yesterday in Prague, I outlined a comprehensive agenda to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to pursue the peace and security of a world without them. I look forward to advancing this agenda in Prague this week when I sign the new START Treaty with President Medvedev, committing the United States and Russia to substantial reductions in our nuclear arsenals.
Today, my Administration is taking a significant step forward by fulfilling another pledge that I made in Prague—to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and focus on reducing the nuclear dangers of the 21st century, while sustaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent for the United States and our allies and partners as long as nuclear weapons exist.
The Nuclear Posture Review, led by the Department of Defense, recognizes that the greatest threat to U.S. and global security is no longer a nuclear exchange between nations, but nuclear terrorism by violent extremists and nuclear proliferation to an increasing number of states. Moreover, it recognizes that our national security and that of our allies and partners can be increasingly defended by America’s unsurpassed conventional military capabilities and strong missile defenses.
As a result, we are taking specific and concrete steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons while preserving our military superiority, deterring aggression and safeguarding the security of the American people.
First, and for the first time, preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism is now at the top of America’s nuclear agenda, which affirms the central importance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We have aligned our policies and proposed major funding increases for programs to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons around the world. Our nuclear security summit next week will be an opportunity for 47 nations to commit to specific steps to pursue the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world within four years. And next month in New York, we will work with the wider world to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime to ensure that all nations uphold their responsibilities.
Second, we are further emphasizing the importance of nations meeting their NPT and nuclear non-proliferation obligations through our declaratory policy. The United States is declaring that we will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations. This enables us to sustain our nuclear deterrent for the narrower range of contingencies in which these weapons may still play a role, while providing an additional incentive for nations to meet their NPT obligations. Those nations that fail to meet their obligations will therefore find themselves more isolated, and will recognize that the pursuit of nuclear weapons will not make them more secure.
Finally, we are fulfilling our responsibilities as a nuclear power committed to the NPT. The United States will not conduct nuclear testing and will seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The United States will not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons.
As I stated last year in Prague, so long as nuclear weapons exist, we will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal that guarantees the defense of the United States, reassures allies and partners, and deters potential adversaries. To that end, we are seeking substantial investments to improve infrastructure, strengthen science and technology, and retain the human capital we need to sustain our stockpile, while also strengthening the conventional capabilities that are an important part of our deterrent. The nuclear strategy we’re announcing today therefore reaffirms America’s unwavering commitment to the security of our allies and partners, and advances American national security.
To stop the spread of nuclear weapons, prevent nuclear terrorism, and pursue the day when these weapons do not exist, we will work aggressively to advance every element of our comprehensive agenda—to reduce arsenals, to secure vulnerable nuclear materials, and to strengthen the NPT. These are the steps toward the more secure future that America seeks, and this is the work that we are advancing today.
NATIONAL FINANCIAL LITERACY MONTH, 2010
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
In recent years, our Nation’s financial system has grown increasingly complex. This has left too many Americans behind, unable to build a secure financial future for themselves and their families. For many, financial literacy can mean economic prosperity and protection against fraud and predatory banking practices. During National Financial Literacy Month, we recommit to teaching ourselves and our children about the basics of financial education.
Our recent economic crisis was the result of both irresponsible actions on Wall Street, and everyday choices on Main Street. Large banks speculated recklessly without regard for the consequences, and other firms invented and sold complex financial products to conceal risks and escape scrutiny. At the same time, many Americans took out loans they could not afford or signed contracts without fully understanding the terms. Ensuring this crisis never happens again will require new rules to protect consumers and better information to empower them.
The new Consumer Financial Protection Agency I have proposed will ensure ordinary Americans get clear and concise financial information. We must put an end to confusing loan contracts, hidden fees attached to mortgages, and unfair penalties that appear without warning on bank statements. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 began reining in some of these deceptive tactics when it recently took effect. The President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability is also looking for new ways to help
individuals make informed decisions and to educate our children on core financial competencies.
While our Government has a critical role to play in protecting consumers and promoting financial literacy, we are each responsible for understanding basic concepts: how to balance a checkbook, save for a child’s education, steer clear of deceptive financial products and practices, plan for retirement, and avoid accumulating excessive debts. To learn more, visit: MyMoney.gov or call toll-free 1-888-MyMoney for helpful guidance and resources.
Our Nation’s future prosperity depends on the financial security of all Americans. This month, let us each take time to improve our own financial knowledge and share that knowledge with our children. Together, we can prevent another crisis and rebuild our economy on a stronger, more balanced foundation.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2010 as National Financial Literacy Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month with programs and activities to improve their understanding of financial principles and practices.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
second day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.
NATIONAL CANCER CONTROL MONTH, 2010
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Cancer is among the leading causes of death in our country,
taking over half a million American lives in the past year
alone. This illness has stricken countless individuals and
families in communities across our Nation, but the future holds
untold promise. We continue to make monumental strides in
managing and understanding cancer, and rates of new cases and
deaths have declined for men and women overall in recent years.
During National Cancer Control Month, let us renew our
commitment to combat this disease by raising awareness and
supporting the development of life-saving treatments.
With simple, everyday activities, we all can take steps
to protect ourselves and our loved ones from cancer. Americans
should discuss preventive care with a health professional.
Getting regular check-ups and screenings can help reduce the
risk of developing certain cancers and help detect cancer early,
when it is most treatable. Changing unhealthy habits can often
help prevent cancer before it forms. By limiting sun exposure
and alcohol consumption, avoiding tobacco, exercising regularly,
and maintaining a nutritious diet, we can each reduce our risk
of developing cancer. I encourage all who are struggling
to quit smoking to visit SmokeFree.gov for resources and
My Administration is committed to supporting every American
who is fighting cancer, and we have invested in innovative
research through the National Institutes of Health to develop
more effective treatments. While cancer affects people of every
background and economic status, disparities exist between races,
ethnicities, and incomes regarding the likelihood of survival.
Community cancer centers will play an important role in closing
these gaps and bringing hope to underserved citizens.
Like too many Americans, I know the pain of losing a loved
one to cancer, and I carry the memory of my mother’s courage
with me each day. Inspired by the stories and tenacity of
patients and survivors, and guided by our love for those we have
lost, we will one day triumph over this devastating illness.
The Congress of the United States, by joint resolution
approved March 28, 1938 (52 Stat. 148; 36 U.S.C. 103), as
amended, has requested the President to issue an annual
proclamation declaring April as “Cancer Control Month.”
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the
United States of America, do hereby proclaim April 2010 as
National Cancer Control Month. I call upon citizens, government
agencies, organizations, health care providers, and research
institutions to raise cancer awareness and continue helping
Americans live longer, healthier lives.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
first day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten,
and of the Independence of the United States of America the
two hundred and thirty-fourth.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS
Capitol Visitor Center Auditorium
3:53 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Everybody, please have a set.
To Leader Reid, to Steny Hoyer, John Larson, Xavier Becerra, Jim Clyburn, Chris Van Hollen, to an extraordinary leader and extraordinary Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and to all the members here today, thank you very much for having me. (Applause.) Thanks for having me and thanks for your tireless efforts waged on behalf of health insurance reform in this country.
I have the great pleasure of having a really nice library at the White House. And I was tooling through some of the writings of some previous Presidents and I came upon this quote by Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.”
This debate has been a difficult debate. This process has been a difficult process. And this year has been a difficult year for the American people. When I was sworn in, we were in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Eight hundred thousand people per month were losing their jobs. Millions of people were losing their health insurance. And the financial system was on the verge of collapse.
And this body has taken on some of the toughest votes and some of the toughest decisions in the history of Congress. Not because you were bound to win, but because you were bound to be true. Because each and every one of you made a decision that at a moment of such urgency, it was less important to measure what the polls said than to measure what was right.
A year later, we’re in different circumstances. Because of the actions that you’ve taken, the financial system has stabilized. The stock market has stabilized. Businesses are starting to invest again. The economy, instead of contracting, is now growing again. There are signs that people are going to start hiring again. There’s still tremendous hardship all across the country, but there is a sense that we are making progress — because of you.
But even before this crisis, each and every one of us knew that there were millions of people across America who were living their own quiet crises. Maybe because they had a child who had a preexisting condition and no matter how desperate they were, no matter what insurance company they called, they couldn’t get coverage for that child. Maybe it was somebody who had been forced into early retirement, in their 50s not yet eligible for Medicare, and they couldn’t find a job and they couldn’t find health insurance, despite the fact that they had some sort of chronic condition that had to be tended to.
Every single one of you at some point before you arrived in Congress and after you arrived in Congress have met constituents with heart-breaking stories. And you’ve looked them in the eye and you’ve said, we’re going to do something about it — that’s why I want to go to Congress.
And now, we’re on the threshold of doing something about it. We’re a day away. After a year of debate, after every argument has been made, by just about everybody, we’re 24 hours away.
As some of you know, I’m not somebody who spends a lot of time surfing the cable channels, but I’m not completely in the bubble. I have a sense of what the coverage has been, and mostly it’s an obsession with “What will this mean for the Democratic Party? What will this mean for the President’s polls? How will this play out in November? Is this good or is this bad for the Democratic majority? What does it mean for those swing districts?”
And I noticed that there’s been a lot of friendly advice offered all across town. (Laughter.) Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Karl Rove — they’re all warning you of the horrendous impact if you support this legislation. Now, it could be that they are suddenly having a change of heart and they are deeply concerned about their Democratic friends. (Laughter.) They are giving you the best possible advice in order to assure that Nancy Pelosi remains Speaker and Harry Reid remains Leader and that all of you keep your seats. That’s a possibility. (Laughter.)
But it may also be possible that they realize after health reform passes and I sign that legislation into law, that it’s going to be a little harder to mischaracterize what this effort has been all about.
Because this year, small businesses will start getting tax credits so that they can offer health insurance to employees who currently don’t have it. (Applause.) Because this year, those same parents who are worried about getting coverage for their children with preexisting conditions now are assured that insurance companies have to give them coverage — this year. (Applause.)
Because this year, insurance companies won’t suddenly be able to drop your coverage when you get sick — (applause) — or impose lifetime limits or restrictive limits on the coverage that you have. Maybe they know that this year, for the first time, young people will be able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26 years old and they’re thinking that just might be popular all across the country. (Applause.)
And what they also know is what won’t happen. They know that after this legislation passes and after I sign this bill, lo and behold nobody is pulling the plug on Granny. (Laughter.) It turns out that in fact people who like their health insurance are going to be able to keep their health insurance; that there’s no government takeover. People will discover that if they like their doctor, they’ll be keeping their doctor. In fact, they’re more likely to keep their doctor because of a stronger system.
It’ll turn out that this piece of historic legislation is built on the private insurance system that we have now and runs straight down the center of American political thought. It turns out this is a bill that tracks the recommendations not just of Democrat Tom Daschle, but also Republicans Bob Dole and Howard Baker; that this is a middle-of-the-road bill that is designed to help the American people in an area of their lives where they urgently need help.
Now, there are some who wanted a single-payer government-run system. That’s not this bill. The Republicans wanted what I called the “foxes guard the henhouse approach” in which we further deregulate the insurance companies and let them run wild, the notion being somehow that that was going to lower costs for the American people. I don’t know a serious health care economist who buys that idea, but that was their concept. And we rejected that, because what we said was we want to create a system in which health care is working not for insurance companies but it’s working for the American people, it’s working for middle class families.
So what did we do? What is the essence of this legislation? Number one, this is the toughest insurance reforms in history. (Applause.) We are making sure that the system of private insurance works for ordinary families. A prescription — this is a patient’s bill of rights on steroids. So many of you individually have worked on these insurance reforms — they are in this package — to make sure that families are getting a fair deal; that if they’re paying a premium, that they’re getting a good service in return; making sure that employers, if they are paying premiums for their employees, that their employees are getting the coverage that they expect; that insurance companies are not going to game the system with fine print and rescissions and dropping people when they need it most, but instead are going to have to abide by some basic rules of the road that exemplify a sense of fairness and good value. That’s number one.
The second thing this does is it creates a pool, a marketplace, where individuals and small businesses, who right now are having a terrible time out there getting health insurance, are going to be able to purchase health insurance as part of a big group — just like federal employees, just like members of Congress. They are now going to be part of a pool that can negotiate for better rates, better quality, more competition.
And that’s why the Congressional Budget Office says this will lower people’s rates for comparable plans by 14 to 20 percent. That’s not my numbers — that’s the Congressional Budget Office’s numbers. So that people will have choice and competition just like members of Congress have choice and competition.
Number three, if people still can’t afford it we’re going to provide them some tax credits — the biggest tax cut for small businesses and working families when it comes to health care in history. (Applause.)
And number four, this is the biggest reduction in our deficit since the Budget Balance Act — one of the biggest deficit reduction measures in history — over $1.3 trillion that will help put us on the path of fiscal responsibility. (Applause.)
And that’s before we count all the game-changing measures that are going to assure, for example, that instead of having five tests when you go to the doctor you just get one; that the delivery system is working for patients, not just working for billings. And everybody who’s looked at it says that every single good idea to bend the cost curve and start actually reducing health care costs are in this bill.
So that’s what this effort is all about. Toughest insurance reforms in history. A marketplace so people have choice and competition who right now don’t have it and are seeing their premiums go up 20, 30, 40, 50 percent. Reductions in the cost of health care for millions of American families, including those who have health insurance. The Business Roundtable did their own study and said that this would potentially save employers $3,000 per employee on their health care because of the measures in this legislation.
And by the way, not only does it reduce the deficit — we pay for it responsibly in ways that the other side of the aisle that talks a lot about fiscal responsibility but doesn’t seem to be able to walk the walk can’t claim when it comes to their prescription drug bill. We are actually doing it. (Applause.) This is paid for and will not add a dime to the deficit — it will reduce the deficit. (Applause.)
Now, is this bill perfect? Of course not. Will this solve every single problem in our health care system right away? No. There are all kinds of ideas that many of you have that aren’t included in this legislation. I know that there has been discussion, for example, of how we’re going to deal with regional disparities and I know that there was a meeting with Secretary Sebelius to assure that we can continue to try to make sure that we’ve got a system that gives people the best bang for their buck. (Applause.)
So this is not — there are all kinds of things that many of you would like to see that isn’t in this legislation. There are some things I’d like to see that’s not in this legislation. But is this the single most important step that we have taken on health care since Medicare? Absolutely. Is this the most important piece of domestic legislation in terms of giving a break to hardworking middle class families out there since Medicare? Absolutely. Is this a vast improvement over the status quo? Absolutely.
Now, I still know this is a tough vote, though. I know this is a tough vote. I’ve talked to many of you individually. And I have to say that if you honestly believe in your heart of hearts, in your conscience, that this is not an improvement over the status quo; if despite all the information that’s out there that says that without serious reform efforts like this one people’s premiums are going to double over the next five or 10 years, that folks are going to keep on getting letters from their insurance companies saying that their premium just went up 40 or 50 percent; if you think that somehow it’s okay that we have millions of hardworking Americans who can’t get health care and that it’s all right, it’s acceptable, in the wealthiest nation on Earth that there are children with chronic illnesses that can’t get the care that they need — if you think that the system is working for ordinary Americans rather than the insurance companies, then you should vote no on this bill. If you can honestly say that, then you shouldn’t support it. You’re here to represent your constituencies and if you think your constituencies honestly wouldn’t be helped, you shouldn’t vote for this.
But if you agree that the system is not working for ordinary families, if you’ve heard the same stories that I’ve heard everywhere, all across the country, then help us fix this system. Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. Do it for all those people out there who are struggling.
Some of you know I get 10 letters a day that I read out of the 40,000 that we receive. Started reading some of the ones that I got this morning. “Dear President Obama, my daughter, a wonderful person, lost her job. She has no health insurance. She had a blood clot in her brain. She’s now disabled, can’t get care.” “Dear President Obama, I don’t yet qualify for Medicare. COBRA is about to run out. I am desperate, don’t know what to do.”
Do it for them. Do it for people who are really scared right now through no fault of their own, who’ve played by the rules, who’ve done all the right things, and have suddenly found out that because of an accident, because of an ailment, they’re about to lose their house; or they can’t provide the help to their kids that they need; or they’re a small business who up until now has always taken pride in providing care for their workers and it turns out that they just can’t afford to do it anymore and they’ve having to make a decision about do I keep providing health insurance for my workers or do I just drop their coverage or do I not hire some people because I simply can’t afford it — it’s all being gobbled up by the insurance companies.
Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for the Democratic Party. Do it for the American people. They’re the ones who are looking for action right now. (Applause.)
I know this is a tough vote. And I am actually confident — I’ve talked to some of you individually — that it will end up being the smart thing to do politically because I believe that good policy is good politics. (Applause.) I am convinced that when you go out there and you are standing tall and you are saying I believe that this is the right thing to do for my constituents and the right thing to do for America, that ultimately the truth will out.
I had a wonderful conversation with Betsy Markey. I don’t know if Betsy is around here. There she is right there. (Applause.) Betsy is in a tough district. The biggest newspaper is somewhat conservative, as Betsy described. They weren’t real happy with health care reform. They were opposed to it. Betsy, despite the pressure, announced that she was in favor of this bill. And lo and behold, the next day that same newspaper runs an editorial saying, you know what, we’ve considered this, we’ve looked at the legislation, and we actually are pleased that Congresswoman Markey is supporting the legislation. (Applause.)
When I see John Boccieri stand up proud with a whole bunch of his constituencies — (applause) — in as tough a district as there is and stand up with a bunch of folks from his district with preexisting conditions and saying, you know, I don’t know what is going on Washington but I know what’s going on with these families — I look at him with pride.
Now, I can’t guarantee that this is good politics. Every one of you know your districts better than I do. You talk to folks. You’re under enormous pressure. You’re getting robocalls. You’re getting e-mails that are tying up the communications system. I know the pressure you’re under. I get a few comments made about me. I don’t know if you’ve noticed. (Laughter.) I’ve been in your shoes. I know what it’s like to take a tough vote.
But what did Lincoln say? “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.” Two generations ago, folks who were sitting in your position, they made a decision — we are going to make sure that seniors and the poor have health care coverage that they can count on. And they did the right thing.
And I’m sure at the time they were making that vote, they weren’t sure how the politics were either, any more than the people who made the decision to make sure that Social Security was in place knew how the politics would play out, or folks who passed the civil rights acts knew how the politics were going to play out. They were not bound to win, but they were bound to be true.
And now we’ve got middle class Americans, don’t have Medicare, don’t have Medicaid, watching the employer-based system fray along the edges or being caught in terrible situations. And the question is, are we going to be true to them?
Sometimes I think about how I got involved in politics. I didn’t think of myself as a potential politician when I get out of college. I went to work in neighborhoods, working with Catholic churches in poor neighborhoods in Chicago, trying to figure out how people could get a little bit of help. And I was skeptical about politics and politicians, just like a lot of Americans are skeptical about politics and politicians are right now. Because my working assumption was when push comes to shove, all too often folks in elected office, they’re looking for themselves and not looking out for the folks who put them there; that there are too many compromises; that the special interests have too much power; they just got too much clout; there’s too much big money washing around.
And I decided finally to get involved because I realized if I wasn’t willing to step up and be true to the things I believe in, then the system wouldn’t change. Every single one of you had that same kind of moment at the beginning of your careers. Maybe it was just listening to stories in your neighborhood about what was happening to people who’d been laid off of work. Maybe it was your own family experience, somebody got sick and didn’t have health care and you said something should change.
Something inspired you to get involved, and something inspired you to be a Democrat instead of running as a Republican. Because somewhere deep in your heart you said to yourself, I believe in an America in which we don’t just look out for ourselves, that we don’t just tell people you’re on your own, that we are proud of our individualism, we are proud of our liberty, but we also have a sense of neighborliness and a sense of community — (applause) — and we are willing to look out for one another and help people who are vulnerable and help people who are down on their luck and give them a pathway to success and give them a ladder into the middle class. That’s why you decided to run. (Applause.)
And now a lot of us have been here a while and everybody here has taken their lumps and their bruises. And it turns out people have had to make compromises, and you’ve been away from families for a long time and you’ve missed special events for your kids sometimes. And maybe there have been times where you asked yourself, why did I ever get involved in politics in the first place? And maybe things can’t change after all. And when you do something courageous, it turns out sometimes you may be attacked. And sometimes the very people you thought you were trying to help may be angry at you and shout at you. And you say to yourself, maybe that thing that I started with has been lost.
But you know what? Every once in a while, every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made in all those town meetings and all those constituency breakfasts and all that traveling through the district, all those people who you looked in the eye and you said, you know what, you’re right, the system is not working for you and I’m going to make it a little bit better.
And this is one of those moments. This is one of those times where you can honestly say to yourself, doggone it, this is exactly why I came here. This is why I got into politics. This is why I got into public service. This is why I’ve made those sacrifices. Because I believe so deeply in this country and I believe so deeply in this democracy and I’m willing to stand up even when it’s hard, even when it’s tough.
Every single one of you have made that promise not just to your constituents but to yourself. And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine. We have been debating health care for decades. It has now been debated for a year. It is in your hands. It is time to pass health care reform for America, and I am confident that you are going to do it tomorrow.
Thank you very much, House of Representatives. Let’s get this done. (Applause.)
WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama to Send Updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act Blueprint To Congress on Monday
WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama to Send Updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act Blueprint To Congress on Monday
WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Barack Obama announced that on Monday, his administration will send to Congress the blueprint for an updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act that will overhaul No Child Left Behind. The plan will set the ambitious goal of ensuring that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and a career, and it will provide states, districts and schools with the flexibility and resources to reach that goal.
The audio and video will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 am ET, Saturday, March 13, 2010.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
March 13, 2010
Lost in the news of the week was a headline that ought to be a source of concern for every American. It said, “Many Nations Passing U.S. in Education.” Now, debates in Washington tend to be consumed with the politics of the moment: who’s up in the daily polls; whose party stands to gain in November. But what matters to you – what matters to our country – is not what happens in the next election, but what we do to lift up the next generation. And the fact is, there are few issues that speak more directly to our long term success as a nation than issues concerning the education we provide to our children.
Our prosperity in the 20th century was fueled by an education system that helped grow the middle class and unleash the talents of our people more fully and widely than at any time in our history. We built schools and focused on the teaching of math and science. We helped a generation of veterans go to college through the GI Bill. We led the globe in producing college graduates, and in turn we led in producing ground-breaking technologies and scientific discoveries that lifted living standards and set us apart as the world’s engine of innovation.
Of course, other nations recognize this, and are looking to gain an edge in the global marketplace by investing in better schools, supporting teachers, and committing to clear standards that will produce graduates with more skills. Our competitors understand that the nation that out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow. Yet, too often we have failed to make inroads in reforming and strengthening our public education system – the debate mired in worn arguments hurled across entrenched divides.
As a result, over the last few decades, we’ve lost ground. One assessment shows American fifteen year olds no longer even near the top in math and science when compared to their peers around the world. As referenced in the news report I mentioned, we’ve now fallen behind most wealthy countries in our high school graduation rates. And while we once led the world in the proportion of college graduates we produced, today we no longer do.
Not only does that risk our leadership as a nation, it consigns millions of Americans to a lesser future. For we know that the level of education a person attains is increasingly a prerequisite for success and a predictor of the income that person will earn throughout his or her life. Beyond the economic statistics is a less tangible but no less painful reality: unless we take action – unless we step up – there are countless children who will never realize their full talent and potential.
I don’t accept that future for them. And I don’t accept that future for the United States of America. That’s why we’re engaged in a historic effort to redeem and improve our public schools: to raise the expectations for our students and for ourselves, to recognize and reward excellence, to improve performance in troubled schools, and to give our kids and our country the best chance to succeed in a changing world.
Under the leadership of an outstanding Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, we launched a Race to the Top, through which states compete for funding by committing to reform and raising standards, by rewarding good teaching, by supporting the development of better assessments to measure results, and by emphasizing math and science to help prepare children for college and careers.
And on Monday, my administration will send to Congress our blueprint for an updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act to overhaul No Child Left Behind. What this plan recognizes is that while the federal government can play a leading role in encouraging the reforms and high standards we need, the impetus for that change will come from states, and from local schools and school districts. So, yes, we set a high bar – but we also provide educators the flexibility to reach it.
Under these guidelines, schools that achieve excellence or show real progress will be rewarded, and local districts will be encouraged to commit to change in schools that are clearly letting their students down. For the majority of schools that fall in between – schools that do well but could do better – we will encourage continuous improvement to help keep our young people on track for a bright future: prepared for the jobs of the 21st century. And because the most important factor in a child’s success is the person standing at the front of the classroom, we will better prepare teachers, support teachers, and encourage teachers to stay in the field. In short, we’ll treat the people who educate our sons and daughters like the professionals they are.
Through this plan we are setting an ambitious goal: all students should graduate from high school prepared for college and a career – no matter who you are or where you come from. Achieving this goal will be difficult. It will take time. And it will require the skills, talents, and dedication of many: principals, teachers, parents, students. But this effort is essential for our children and for our country. And while there will always be those cynics who claim it can’t be done, at our best, we know that America has always risen to the challenges that we’ve faced. This challenge is no different.
As a nation, we are engaged in many important endeavors: improving the economy, reforming the health care system, encouraging innovation in energy and other growth industries of the 21st century. But our success in these efforts – and our success in the future as a people – will ultimately depend on what happens long before an entrepreneur opens his doors, or a nurse walks the rounds, or a scientist steps into her laboratory. Our future is determined each and every day, when our children enter the classroom, ready to learn and brimming with promise.
It’s that promise we must help them fulfill. Thank you.
The President Donates Nobel Prize Money to Charity
WASHINGTON – President Obama today announced the charities that will receive a portion of the $1.4 million award that comes with the Nobel peace prize.
“These organizations do extraordinary work in the United States and abroad helping students, veterans and countless others in need,” said President Obama. “I’m proud to support their work.”
List of Charities
$250,000 to Fisher House
Fisher House is a national non-profit organization that provides housing for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers.
$200,000 to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund
In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, President Obama asked former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to create the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund to raise funds for long-term relief efforts in Haiti.
$125,000 to College Summit
College Summit is a national non-profit organization that partners with elementary and middle schools and school districts to strengthen college-going culture and increase college enrollment rates, so that all students graduate from high school career and college-ready.
$125,000 to the Posse Foundation
The Posse Foundation is a national non-profit organization that identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes. Posse’s college and university partners award Posse Scholars four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships. The scholars graduate at a rate of 90 percent.
$125,000 to the United Negro College Fund
The United Negro College Fund plays a critical role in enabling more than 60,000 students each year to attend college through scholarship and internship programs.
$125,000 to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund
The Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) is the nation’s leading Hispanic scholarship organization, providing the Hispanic community more college scholarships and educational outreach support than any other organization in the country. In its 34 year history, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund has awarded close to $280M in scholarships to more than 90,000 students in need.
$125,000 to the Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation
A non-profit organization funded by foundations and companies, ALEF supports and enables young men and women from Appalachia to pursue higher education though scholarship and leadership curriculum.
$125,000 to the American Indian College Fund
The American Indian College Fund transforms Indian higher education by funding and creating awareness of the unique, community-based accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities, offering students access to knowledge, skills, and cultural values which enhance their communities and the country as a whole. The Fund disburses approximately 6,000 scholarships annually for American Indian students seeking to better their lives through higher education. The Fund also provides support for tribal college needs, ranging from capital support to cultural preservation curricula.
$100,000 to AfriCare
AfriCare was founded in 1970 and has more projects in Africa than any other U.S. based charity, reaching communities in 25 countries, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its programs address needs in three principal areas: health and HIV/AIDS; food security and agriculture; and water resource development.
$100,000 to the Central Asia Institute
The Central Asia Institute promotes and supports community-based education and literacy, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Institute’s co-founder, Greg Mortenson, was also a Nobel Peace Prize nominee this year, whose book, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace, One School at a Time, recounts his attempt to successfully establish dozens of schools and promote girls’ education in rural Afghanistan and Pakistan.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM
St. Charles High School
St. Charles, Missouri
3:58 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Missouri! (Applause.) It is good to see you. I know you guys have been a little bit here; it’s a little bit warm in here — you’re all fanning yourself off, whoo! It is good to see everybody here today. How’s everybody doing? (Applause.)
I’ve got a couple of acknowledgments I want to make. First of all, Mayor of St. Charles, Patti York — where’s Patti? (Applause.) Thank you, Madam Mayor. Thanks for the great weather.
We also have the St. Charles School District Superintendent, Randy Charles, is here. Where’s Randy? I just saw him — there he is back there. (Applause.)
It is great to be here, great to be back in the Show Me State, great to be back in St. Charles. Some of you may remember that it was from this town that Lewis and Clark began their journey into a harsh and unforgiving landscape. I can relate — (laughter) — because the first time I came here, I was trying to get to Washington, D.C., a harsh and unforgiving landscape. (Laughter.)
A big part of our campaign was about changing the way Washington works. It was about transforming a politics that’s driven by cynicism and a 24-hour news cycle, and the cable chatter, and always focused on the next election instead of the next generation. Our campaign was about meeting the looming challenges — in education and in energy, in our health care system, in our financial system — that helped bring about the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And it still threatens our prosperity. It was about making our government actually work for you, the people: a government that lives up to its responsibilities, including the responsibility to live within its means.
Now, there’s been a lot of discussion about government over the last several months — and let’s face it, people have lost faith in government. They had lost faith in government before I ran and it’s been getting worse. You know, President Lincoln said that “the legitimate object of government is to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they can not … do at all, or do so well, by themselves.” That pretty much sums up my attitude. You let people do for themselves what they can do for themselves; and then if there are some things that we do better together, we should do them together. And I believe that in everything government does, we’ve got a special responsibility to be wise stewards about how Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars are spent. And I know you agree with that, too. Doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you don’t like seeing your money wasted — or an independent, don’t like seeing your money wasted.
That’s a responsibility my administration is seeking to fulfill every single day. Over the last year, we’ve gone through the budget line by line looking for places to trim the fat out of government. And we’ve found a lot of fat to trim. I got to admit. Last year, we pushed Congress to cut nearly $20 billion by streamlining or eliminating more than 120 government programs. This year, we put another $20 billion in cuts on the table, targeting dozens of additional programs that were wasteful or duplicative or in some cases just plain ridiculous.
For example, we decided not to fund an office maintained by the Department of Education — in Paris, France. (Laughter.) Now, I’m sure that was nice work if you could get it. (Laughter.) But I didn’t think that was a real good use of our money. We eliminated a decades-old radio navigation system which cost $35 million a year. And some people might say, well, why did you do that? We need that navigation system. Well, the thing is, we got this thing call GPS now, and satellites. (Laughter.) So the whole radio navigation thing wasn’t working so well.
So we’ve been pushing for cuts on things that we don’t need, that government doesn’t do so well. And we’re also reforming the way government contracts are awarded. Think about this, between 2002 and 2008, the amount spent annually on government contracts more than doubled to half a trillion dollars. Those are contracts with private contractors. And the amount spent on no-bid contracts jumped by 129 percent — no-bid contracts. That’s an inexcusable waste of your money. So last March, I ordered federal departments to come up with plans to save as much as $40 billion a year in contracting.
Now, this brings me to the person standing right over here, the lady in pink. (Applause.) You know before Claire was your senator, she was your state auditor. She just pinches pennies. I mean, she’s just — (laughter) — you think I’m — I don’t like waste, but Claire, she just — every dime, she’s — (laughter.)
So thanks to Claire, we’re going to have a new tool to help us meet this goal of eliminating some of these wasteful contracts and no-bid contracts. In the coming weeks we’re going to be rolling out a new online database, which Claire McCaskill proposed and helped pass into law. (Applause.) And we’ll be able to see, before any new contract is awarded, whether a company plays by the rules, how well they’ve performed in the past: Did they finish the job on time? Did the company provide good value? Did the company blow their budget? It’s your money, so you deserve to know how it’s spent and who these contracts are going to.
And that’s an example of the kind of service that Claire McCaskill is providing, not just to the people of Missouri, but people all across the country. And in every way but one, Claire McCaskill is the new Harry Truman — (laughter) — in the United States Senate. (Applause.) The one difference is she’s a she. (Laughter.)
But just as the Truman Commission prevented billions of dollars of wasteful spending during the war and saved lives in the process, through tough and fair-minded oversight of contracting during World War II, Claire has been a relentless force for rooting out scams and making government more efficient. Harry Truman also said in the commission’s final report that in completing the mission, “[w]here necessary, heads must be knocked together.” And let me tell you, Claire loves knocking some heads together. (Laughter.) She’s never been afraid to do that. (Applause.)
As we were driving in, I was saying, boy, it’s just good to be back in the Midwest, this is about as close as I’ve been to home in a while. And part of the reason it’s just good to be back is because Washington is a place where tax dollars are often treated like Monopoly money — they’re bartered and traded, and they’re divvied up among lobbyists and special interests, and where waste — even billions of dollars of waste — is accepted as the price of doing business. When we proposed, by the way, those $20 billion in cuts last year, we were ridiculed by the press, said, “Ah, that’s just a spit in the bucket.” Now, I don’t know about here in St. Charles, $20 billion, that’s real money, isn’t it?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s real money. But Claire doesn’t accept business as usual. I don’t accept business as usual. You don’t accept business as usual. The American people don’t accept business as usual, especially when we’re facing these enormous long-term deficits that threaten to leave our children a mountain of debt.
Now, this brings me to the primary topic I want to talk about today. Nowhere is reform more needed than when it comes to our health care system — nowhere. (Applause.) Nowhere. (Applause.) The health care system has billions of dollars that should go to patient care and they’re lost each and every year to fraud, to abuse, to massive subsidies that line the pockets of the insurance industry.
Let me just give you one example — this is a long recognized but long tolerated problem called “improper payments.” That’s what they call them. Washington always has a name for these things. “Improper payments.” And as is often the case in Washington, the more innocuous the name, the more worried you should be. So these are payments mostly made through Medicare and Medicaid that are sent to the wrong person, sent for the wrong reason, sent in the wrong amount. Sometimes they’re innocent errors. Sometimes they’re because nobody is bothering to check to see where the money is going and they’re abused by scam artists and fly-by-night operations.
(The President coughs.) Look, health care. (Laughter.) This health care debate has been hard on my health, I got to tell you. (Laughter.)
It’s estimated that improper payments cost taxpayers almost $100 billion last year alone. Think about that. That, by the way, just that abuse in improper payments is more than we spend on the Department of Education and the Small Business Administration combined. If we created a “Department of Improper Payments” it would be one of the largest agencies in our government.
Now, for the past few years, there has actually been a pilot program that uses a system of tough audits to recover some of this lost money. And even though these audits, they were just operating mainly in three states, they already found a billion dollars in improper payments. So these results were both disturbing and encouraging. They’re disturbing because it shows you how much waste there is out there in the health care system. But it’s encouraging because we can do something about it.
So earlier today, with Claire looking over my shoulder — one of our auditors-in-chief — I signed an order calling on all federal agencies to launch these kinds of audits all across the country. All across the country. (Applause.) So agencies would hire auditors to scour the books, go through things line by line. Auditors are paid based on how many abuses or errors they uncover. So it’s a win-win. The auditor, if they do a good job they get a small percentage as a reward. And the taxpayer wins by getting huge sums of money that would otherwise be lost that we can then spend to provide care to people who really need it, or we can use to reduce the deficit.
Now, through this effort, we expect to more than double the amounts we would’ve otherwise recovered — a couple of billion dollars over the next few years. And I’m announcing my support for the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act — that’s a mouthful — but this is a bipartisan bill — (applause) — is a bipartisan bill to expand our ability to do these audits, so we can prevent even more fraud and abuse and waste.
Now, the reason I’m bringing all this stuff up is because there’s been a lot of talk about health care lately. And look, I’ll be honest, a lot of people, they’re confused, they’re saying, well, how can you help people get insurance who don’t have it without it adding to our deficit? It’s a legitimate question.
Well, the reason is, is because so much of the money currently in our health care system is being misspent. (Applause.) Look, if you’ve got — if you’ve got a house and the roof is leaking and the windows are all letting through a bunch of draft and you get that cold winter and all the heat seeping out, and if you decide to spend on some new windows and fix your roof, that’s going to spend a little money, but you’d save money in the long run because you don’t have heating expenses, and those leaks aren’t ruining your furniture.
The same thing is true with our health care system. We’ve got leaks everywhere — that you pay for, directly or indirectly. And if we can have a smarter health care system, then yes, we can provide help to middle-class folks who need it, and at the same time actually reduce the burden on taxpayers.
Now, I know that during the health care debate opponents have tried to scare people, especially our seniors, into thinking that we are going after seniors’ Medicare benefits; that’s how Obama is going to pay for his plan.
When you look at the facts, that’s just plain wrong. In fact, by saving billions of dollars of the sort we just talked about — waste and abuse — in Medicare, reining in waste and inefficiencies, we’re going to be able to help ensure Medicare’s solvency for an additional decade. (Applause.) This is just one example that speaks to how we’re going to stop wasting money through the health care system on things that don’t make people healthy — in fact, often take away from the care we receive, and take that money and make it work for the American people. So Medicare will work better, provide better care because of these reforms. Senior citizens who are dealing with the doughnut hole in the prescription drug plan — that plan will be filled in part because we’re not wasting money on stuff that doesn’t work. (Applause.) That’s common sense.
You know, I get a lot of letters from constituents. I get about 40,000 every day, and I don’t read all 40,000 — somebody does — but what I’ve done is I’ve asked my staff to collect a sampling of 10 letters that I read every night. And I will tell you that my staff is very evenhanded, because about half of these letters call me an idiot. (Laughter.)
And at least half of them talk about health care. And when the health care reform debate was really heating up, one of the things that I heard from a lot of seniors was, “Keep your government hands out of my Medicare.” (Laughter.) I heard this from a bunch of seniors. They say, “I don’t want your government-run health care plan, and don’t touch my Medicare.”
And so I’d have to write back and I’d say, “Ma’am,” or “Sir, Medicare is a government program.” (Laughter.) “But we’re not going go weaken it. We’re going to make it stronger.”
But I think those letters tell you something about what sometimes happened in this health care debate, because people have been hit with a lot of bad information. And health care is really important. And so people get worried and they get nervous. But when you get past the divisive and the deceptive rhetoric, it turns out that most Americans are happy that two generations ago we made the decision that seniors and the poor should not be saddled with unaffordable health care costs or forced to go without needed care. That was a decision that we made decades ago. And it was the right decision to make. (Applause.)
And by the way, when we made those decisions, folks were saying the exact same thing about Medicare: “That’s socialized medicine, this is government-run care,” and blah, blah, blah.
Now, today we face a different choice, but it’s a similar choice to the one that previous generations faced, and that is whether we should help middle-class families and business owners that are being pummeled by the rising costs of health care. See, back when the Medicare debate was taking place, seniors were having problems because they were no longer working, and people were getting their health care through their jobs. And so it made sense to help them. It made sense to help the poor who might not be employed. But back then, middle-class folks, they were pretty secure. If you were working, you had health care that was affordable.
But you know what’s happened over the last several decades. What’s happened is, is that more and more businesses are saying, we can’t afford to provide health care to our workers because the costs are skyrocketing. So they just drop health care altogether. A lot of small businesses, they don’t provide health care to their employees anymore. And large businesses, what are they doing? They’re saying to you, we’re going to jack up your premiums, we got to increase your deductibles. If you’re self-employed, you are completely out of luck. If you’ve got a preexisting condition, you are completely out of luck. And by the way, those of us who are lucky enough to have health care today, we don’t know if we’re the ones who are going to lose our job tomorrow, or suddenly it turns out that our child has a preexisting condition. And we’ll be stuck in the exact same situation, even if we’ve got good health insurance. (Applause.)
Now, everything I just said, if you talk to my opponents, they’ll agree. They’ll say, you’re right, the health care system is broken. For too many people it’s getting worse. They will acknowledge that the status quo is unsustainable. But you know what they tell me? We had that big health care summit. I know you guys watched all seven hours of it. (Laughter.) Yes, absolutely. It was scintillating. (Laughter.) But you heard what they said. They said, well, we agree with you that the current system is unsustainable, but this is just not the right time to do it. They said, let’s start over, that’s what they said. We just got to start from scratch.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me tell you something. The insurance industry is not starting over. They just announced a 39 percent rate increase in California and a rate increase of up to 60 percent right across the border in my home state of Illinois — 60 percent in one year. That’s the future. That’s the future if we fail to act.
And by the way, I don’t recall any of these Republicans trying to do anything about insurance companies’ abuses during all the years they were in charge. (Applause.) Do you, Claire? I don’t remember. I don’t remember them doing anything about folks who needed some help when the government was running surpluses.
So I get a sense with some of these folks, it’s just never going to be the right time. But the truth is, we have debated health care in Washington not just this past year, we’ve been debating it for 70 years. You know who was pushing health care reform? Harry Truman. (Applause.) Harry Truman was pushing health care reform. And by the way, you know what they said? They said, he’s pushing socialized medicine. Harry Truman.
And over this past year we’ve been talking about it, every proposal has been put on the table. Every argument has been made and everybody has made it. And I know that people view this as a partisan issue, but the truth is, is that if you set aside the politics of it, and what was good for Election Day, it turns out that parties have plenty of areas where they agree. And the plan that I’ve put forward is a proposal that’s basically somewhere in the middle — one that incorporates the best ideas of Democrats and Republicans, even though the Republicans have a hard time acknowledging it.
Now, there are some folks who wanted to scrap the system of private insurance and replace it with a government-run health care program, like they have in some other countries. (Applause.) We’ve got a couple — some applause here. And look, it works well for those countries. But I’ll just be honest with you: It was not practical or realistic to do here, to completely uproot and change a system where the vast majority of people still get their health care from employer-based plans.
And on the other side of the spectrum there are those who believe that the answer is to simply unleash the insurance industry, and provide less oversight and fewer rules.
THE PRESIDENT: And that somehow that’s going to drive down prices for everybody. This is called the “putting the foxes in charge of the hen house” approach to health care reform. (Applause.) So whatever state regulations were in place, we’d get rid of those and so insurance companies could basically find a state that had the worst regulations and then from there sell insurance everywhere. And that somehow that was going to be helpful to you. All this would do would give insurance companies more leeway to raise premiums and deny care.
So I don’t believe we should give either the government or the insurance companies more control over health care in America. I want to give you more control over health care in America. (Applause.)
So my proposal builds on the current system where most Americans get their health care from their employers. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. But my proposal would change three important things about the current health care system. Now I want everybody to pay attention — I know it’s a little warm in here, but I want you to pay attention, so that when you are talking to your friends and your neighbors and folks at work and they’re wondering what’s going on, I want you to be able to just say, here are the three things Obama is trying to do.
First, it would end the worst practices of insurance companies — and it would begin to do so this year. This year. (Applause.) Thousands of uninsured Americans with preexisting conditions will be able to purchase health insurance for the very first time in their lives or since they got sick. (Applause.) This year. Insurance companies would be banned from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions this year. (Applause.) Insurance companies would be banned from dropping your coverage when you get sick. (Applause.) Insurance companies would no longer be able to arbitrarily and massively raise premiums. They would be subject to review.
Those practices will end as a consequence of health care reform. (Applause.)
All new insurance plans would be required to offer free preventive care to their customers. And if you buy a new plan, there will be no more lifetime limits on the amount of care you receive from your insurance company — (applause) — all that fine print that ends up getting folks into trouble. If you’re a uninsured young adult, you’ll be able to stay on your parents’ insurance policy until you’re 26 years old. (Applause.) So a lot of folks, as they’re transitioning into the workplace, will have insurance. (Applause.) All right, so that’s part one of the plan: insurance reform.
Part two. For the first time, uninsured individuals and small businesses will have the same kind of choice of private health insurance that members of Congress get. (Applause.) If it’s good enough for members of Congress, it’s good enough for the people who pay their salaries. (Applause.)
This should not be a controversial idea. The reason that federal employees usually have pretty good insurance is because they’re part of a pool of millions of people. So what happens is they can negotiate for really good rates because the insurance companies really want those millions of customers. So what we’re talking about is setting up a pool for people who don’t work for the federal government — you, individuals, small businesses; they can be part of this pool. And this is an idea that a lot of Republicans embraced in the past until I said it was a good idea. (Laughter.)
So all this would drive down rates for those individuals and small businesses who aren’t part of a big company that get good rates. And my proposal says if you still can’t afford it, even though now the premiums are lower than you can buy on your own, then we’ll offer you some tax credits to make it affordable. And those tax credits would add up to the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history. (Applause.)
So it’s estimated that this would drive down the costs for folks who don’t work for big companies — so they don’t get as good of a deal — by 14, 20 percent. This is before the subsidies, before the tax credits.
Now, it’s true that this will cost some money. It’s going to cost about a hundred billion dollars per year. That’s real money, that’s a lot of money. But most of that money comes from the nearly $2.5 trillion a year that America already spends on health care that we’re not spending well; that we’re spending badly right now.
So we pay for this proposal by getting at the abuse that we just talked about. We eliminate wasteful taxpayer subsidies that go to the insurance companies. Do you know that through the Medicare program, we are giving insurance companies close to $20 billion a year, about $18 billion every year of taxpayer money through the Medicare system. And we’re saying, well, why do we do that? They’re making a profit on their own. And while some of what we save goes to helping the uninsured, most of it goes back to small businesses and the middle class who right now just aren’t getting a good deal. It doesn’t make sense to me that people who are really poor are able to get Medicaid, but people who are working really hard and just not quite as poor, they don’t get a decent deal. That doesn’t make sense to me. (Applause.)
All right. That’s the second part. First part: insurance reform. Second part: creating this marketplace where small businesses and individuals can get a good deal.
Third part: bringing down the cost of health care for families and businesses and for the federal government. Cost control. Now, when you listen to the other side, they’ll tell you, we want to do more about cost, we want to do more about cost. Well, let me tell you, we’ve incorporated almost every serious idea from across the political spectrum about how to contain rising health care costs. There’s not an idea out there that we have not worked on, that we have not included in this proposal.
And according to the Congressional Budget Office — this is the office that is supposed to be the independent referee for how things cost, it’s not supposed to be Democrat or Republican — according to the Congressional Budget Office, people buying health plans in the individual market right now, they’d see their premiums go down 14 to 20 percent. (Applause.) I already mentioned that.
Now, here’s another thing. A recent study by the Business Roundtable — that’s made up of all these big companies out there, they don’t — they’re nonpartisan, but it’s not like they’re just dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrats, let’s put it that way; these are company CEOs — they commissioned a study and said the reforms could reduce premiums by as much as $3,000 per employee. That’s their study, not mine.
Then the Congressional Budget Office said that the government would save a trillion dollars, reduce the deficit by a trillion dollars. So think about it: You’re saving money, employers are saving money, the federal government is saving money — not according to me, but according to these studies that were done by independent analysts.
So here’s the bottom line, St. Charles. There’s no government takeover, unless you consider reining in insurance companies a government takeover — and I think that’s the right thing to do. (Applause.) There’s no cutting of Medicare benefits. There’s just cutting out fraud and waste in Medicare to make it stronger. (Applause.)
What we’re proposing is a common-sense approach to protecting you from insurance company abuses and saving you money. That’s the proposal, and it is paid for. And I believe that Congress owes the American people a final up or down vote on health care reform. (Applause.) The time for talk is over; it’s time to vote. (Applause.) It’s time to vote. Tired of talking about it. (Applause.)
Now, of course, folks in Washington, they like to talk. And so Washington is doing right now what Washington does. They’re speculating breathlessly, day or night, every columnist, every pundit, every talking head: “Is this proposal going to help the Republicans or is this proposal going to help the Democrats?” “What’s going to happen to the President’s poll numbers if the vote doesn’t go forward?” “If it does go forward?” “What will it mean for November?” “What will it mean for 2012?” “How’s the politics going to play?”
I heard the Republican Leader of the Senate the other day — he’s warning Democrats, you better be careful about voting for this; it could hurt you. I don’t know how sincere the Republican Leader is about the best interests of Democrats. (Laughter.) He’s been very generous with advice. (Laughter.)
You know what, here’s the bottom line, St. Charles. I don’t know how the politics play. I don’t know. This is a hard issue. It’s a complicated issue. There is a lot of information floating around out there. A lot of it is inaccurate. The opponents have spent millions of dollars fighting it. And people during recessionary times, they’re anxious and sort of thinking, gosh, can we really afford to change things right now? Maybe we should just kind of stick with the status quo, even though we know it’s not working for us.
So I don’t know how the politics plays. But here’s what I do know: The American people will be more secure with this reform. Our country will be stronger because of this reform. (Applause.) I don’t know about the politics. But I know it is the right thing to do, and that’s why I’m fighting so hard to get it done. (Applause.)
We’ve seen years — decades — where Washington just puts off dealing with our toughest challenges because it’s too hard, because we don’t know how the politics works. And the will and the capacity to act, to do serious things in this country, starts just getting sucked away. Just gets sacked by partisanship and political gamesmanship and debates about who’s up and who’s down, and how does this play politically — instead of asking what’s right and what’s wrong. And we’ve seen terrible consequences — not just these last two years of turmoil, but a decade of struggle for middle class families. (Applause.)
We can’t accept the status quo. We can’t accept the same old/same old. I won’t accept it. Claire McCaskill won’t accept it. Not when it comes to how we manage taxpayer dollars. Not when it comes to how our health care system works. Not when it comes to meeting the difficult challenges that we face. And that’s why Claire and I are fighting to stop waste and abuse in our government. That’s why Claire and I are fighting to pass these health insurance reforms. (Applause.) Now is the time. Now is the moment. Now is the time for us to leave for the next generation and generations to come a stronger and more prosperous country. We are not backing down. We are not quitting, St. Charles. And we are going to get this done. (Applause.)
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT THE NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST
9:08 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Please be seated.
Thank you so much. Heads of state, Cabinet members, my outstanding Vice President, members of Congress, religious leaders, distinguished guests, Admiral Mullen — it’s good to see all of you. Let me begin by acknowledging the co-chairs of this breakfast, Senators Isakson and Klobuchar, who embody the sense of fellowship at the heart of this gathering. They’re two of my favorite senators. Let me also acknowledge the director of my faith-based office, Joshua DuBois, who is here. Where’s Joshua? He’s out there somewhere. He’s doing great work. (Applause.)
I want to commend Secretary Hillary Clinton on her outstanding remarks, and her outstanding leadership at the State Department. She’s doing good every day. (Applause.) I’m especially pleased to see my dear friend, Prime Minister Zapatero, and I want him to relay America’s greetings to the people of Spain. And Johnny, you are right, I’m deeply blessed, and I thank God every day for being married to Michelle Obama. (Applause.)
I’m privileged to join you once again, as my predecessors have for over half a century. Like them, I come here to speak about the ways my faith informs who I am — as a President, and as a person. But I’m also here for the same reason that all of you are, for we all share a recognition — one as old as time — that a willingness to believe, an openness to grace, a commitment to prayer can bring sustenance to our lives.
There is, of course, a need for prayer even in times of joy and peace and prosperity. Perhaps especially in such times prayer is needed — to guard against pride and to guard against complacency. But rightly or wrongly, most of us are inclined to seek out the divine not in the moment when the Lord makes His face shine upon us, but in moments when God’s grace can seem farthest away.
Last month, God’s grace, God’s mercy, seemed far away from our neighbors in Haiti. And yet I believe that grace was not absent in the midst of tragedy. It was heard in prayers and hymns that broke the silence of an earthquake’s wake. It was witnessed among parishioners of churches that stood no more, a roadside congregation, holding bibles in their laps. It was felt in the presence of relief workers and medics; translators; servicemen and women, bringing water and food and aid to the injured.
One such translator was an American of Haitian descent, representative of the extraordinary work that our men and women in uniform do all around the world — Navy Corpsman Christian [sic] Brossard. And lying on a gurney aboard the USNS Comfort, a woman asked Christopher: “Where do you come from? What country? After my operation,” she said, “I will pray for that country.” And in Creole, Corpsman Brossard responded, “Etazini.” The United States of America.
God’s grace, and the compassion and decency of the American people is expressed through the men and women like Corpsman Brossard. It’s expressed through the efforts of our Armed Forces, through the efforts of our entire government, through similar efforts from Spain and other countries around the world. It’s also, as Secretary Clinton said, expressed through multiple faith-based efforts. By evangelicals at World Relief. By the American Jewish World Service. By Hindu temples, and mainline Protestants, Catholic Relief Services, African American churches, the United Sikhs. By Americans of every faith, and no faith, uniting around a common purpose, a higher purpose.
It’s inspiring. This is what we do, as Americans, in times of trouble. We unite, recognizing that such crises call on all of us to act, recognizing that there but for the grace of God go I, recognizing that life’s most sacred responsibility — one affirmed, as Hillary said, by all of the world’s great religions — is to sacrifice something of ourselves for a person in need.
Sadly, though, that spirit is too often absent when tackling the long-term, but no less profound issues facing our country and the world. Too often, that spirit is missing without the spectacular tragedy, the 9/11 or the Katrina, the earthquake or the tsunami, that can shake us out of complacency. We become numb to the day-to-day crises, the slow-moving tragedies of children without food and men without shelter and families without health care. We become absorbed with our abstract arguments, our ideological disputes, our contests for power. And in this Tower of Babel, we lose the sound of God’s voice.
Now, for those of us here in Washington, let’s acknowledge that democracy has always been messy. Let’s not be overly nostalgic. (Laughter.) Divisions are hardly new in this country. Arguments about the proper role of government, the relationship between liberty and equality, our obligations to our fellow citizens — these things have been with us since our founding. And I’m profoundly mindful that a loyal opposition, a vigorous back and forth, a skepticism of power, all of that is what makes our democracy work.
And we’ve seen actually some improvement in some circumstances. We haven’t seen any canings on the floor of the Senate any time recently. (Laughter.) So we shouldn’t over-romanticize the past. But there is a sense that something is different now; that something is broken; that those of us in Washington are not serving the people as well as we should. At times, it seems like we’re unable to listen to one another; to have at once a serious and civil debate. And this erosion of civility in the public square sows division and distrust among our citizens. It poisons the well of public opinion. It leaves each side little room to negotiate with the other. It makes politics an all-or-nothing sport, where one side is either always right or always wrong when, in reality, neither side has a monopoly on truth. And then we lose sight of the children without food and the men without shelter and the families without health care.
Empowered by faith, consistently, prayerfully, we need to find our way back to civility. That begins with stepping out of our comfort zones in an effort to bridge divisions. We see that in many conservative pastors who are helping lead the way to fix our broken immigration system. It’s not what would be expected from them, and yet they recognize, in those immigrant families, the face of God. We see that in the evangelical leaders who are rallying their congregations to protect our planet. We see it in the increasing recognition among progressives that government can’t solve all of our problems, and that talking about values like responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage are integral to any anti-poverty agenda. Stretching out of our dogmas, our prescribed roles along the political spectrum, that can help us regain a sense of civility.
Civility also requires relearning how to disagree without being disagreeable; understanding, as President [Kennedy] said, that “civility is not a sign of weakness.” Now, I am the first to confess I am not always right. Michelle will testify to that. (Laughter.) But surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith, or, for that matter, my citizenship. (Laughter and applause.)
Challenging each other’s ideas can renew our democracy. But when we challenge each other’s motives, it becomes harder to see what we hold in common. We forget that we share at some deep level the same dreams — even when we don’t share the same plans on how to fulfill them.
We may disagree about the best way to reform our health care system, but surely we can agree that no one ought to go broke when they get sick in the richest nation on Earth. We can take different approaches to ending inequality, but surely we can agree on the need to lift our children out of ignorance; to lift our neighbors from poverty. We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are — whether it’s here in the United States or, as Hillary mentioned, more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.
Surely we can agree to find common ground when possible, parting ways when necessary. But in doing so, let us be guided by our faith, and by prayer. For while prayer can buck us up when we are down, keep us calm in a storm; while prayer can stiffen our spines to surmount an obstacle — and I assure you I’m praying a lot these days — (laughter) — prayer can also do something else. It can touch our hearts with humility. It can fill us with a spirit of brotherhood. It can remind us that each of us are children of a awesome and loving God.
Through faith, but not through faith alone, we can unite people to serve the common good. And that’s why my Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships has been working so hard since I announced it here last year. We’ve slashed red tape and built effective partnerships on a range of uses, from promoting fatherhood here at home to spearheading interfaith cooperation abroad. And through that office we’ve turned the faith-based initiative around to find common ground among people of all beliefs, allowing them to make an impact in a way that’s civil and respectful of difference and focused on what matters most.
It is this spirit of civility that we are called to take up when we leave here today. That’s what I’m praying for. I know in difficult times like these — when people are frustrated, when pundits start shouting and politicians start calling each other names — it can seem like a return to civility is not possible, like the very idea is a relic of some bygone era. The word itself seems quaint — civility.
But let us remember those who came before; those who believed in the brotherhood of man even when such a faith was tested. Remember Dr. Martin Luther King. Not long after an explosion ripped through his front porch, his wife and infant daughter inside, he rose to that pulpit in Montgomery and said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
In the eyes of those who denied his humanity, he saw the face of God.
Remember Abraham Lincoln. On the eve of the Civil War, with states seceding and forces gathering, with a nation divided half slave and half free, he rose to deliver his first Inaugural and said, “We are not enemies, but friends… Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”
Even in the eyes of confederate soldiers, he saw the face of God.
Remember William Wilberforce, whose Christian faith led him to seek slavery’s abolition in Britain; he was vilified, derided, attacked; but he called for “lessening prejudices [and] conciliating good-will, and thereby making way for the less obstructed progress of truth.”
In the eyes of those who sought to silence a nation’s conscience, he saw the face of God.
Yes, there are crimes of conscience that call us to action. Yes, there are causes that move our hearts and offenses that stir our souls. But progress doesn’t come when we demonize opponents. It’s not born in righteous spite. Progress comes when we open our hearts, when we extend our hands, when we recognize our common humanity. Progress comes when we look into the eyes of another and see the face of God. That we might do so — that we will do so all the time, not just some of the time — is my fervent prayer for our nation and the world.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
President Obama Sets Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Target for Federal Operations
Target to Drive Energy Cost Reductions in Federal Operations, Creating Clean Energy Jobs
WASHINGTON, DC – President Barack Obama today announced that the Federal Government will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by 28 percent by 2020. Reducing and reporting GHG pollution, as called for in Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability, will ensure that the Federal Government leads by example in building the clean energy economy. Actions taken under this Executive Order will spur clean energy investments that create new private-sector jobs, drive long-term savings, build local market capacity, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship in clean energy industries.
As the single largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy, the Federal Government spent more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone. Achieving the Federal GHG pollution reduction target will reduce Federal energy use by the equivalent of 646 trillion BTUs, equal to 205 million barrels of oil, and taking 17 million cars off the road for one year. This is also equivalent to a cumulative total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020.
“As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient,” said President Obama. “Our goal is to lower costs, reduce pollution, and shift Federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy.”
Federal Departments and Agencies will achieve greenhouse gas pollution reductions by measuring their current energy and fuel use, becoming more energy efficient and shifting to clean energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal. Examples of agency actions that are underway are available on the White House Council on Environmental Quality website and can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/ceq.
On October 5, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability, setting measureable environmental performance goals for Federal Agencies. Each Federal Agency was required to submit a 2020 GHG pollution reduction target from its estimated 2008 baseline to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget by January 4, 2010. The Federal target announced today is the aggregate of 35 Federal Agency self-reported targets.
Greenhouse gas emissions serve as a useful metric to measure the effectiveness of agency energy and fuel efficiency efforts as well as renewable energy investments. Agencies are already taking actions that will contribute towards achieving their targets, such as installing solar arrays at military installations, tapping landfills for renewable energy, putting energy management systems in Federal buildings, and replacing older vehicles with more fuel efficient hybrid models.
As a next step, the Office of Management and Budget will validate and score each agency’s sustainability plan, assuring a long-term return on investment to the American taxpayer. To ensure accountability, annual progress will be measured and reported online to the public.
President Obama Directs Administration to Crack Down on Tax Cheats Seeking Government Contracts
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama will direct the Office of Management and Budget, together with the Treasury Department and other federal agencies, to take steps to block contractors who are delinquent on their taxes from receiving new government contracts. He will also direct the IRS to conduct a review of the overall accuracy of companies’ claims about tax delinquency to be sure that when a company says it’s paying taxes, it is telling the truth. The President will be joined today by Vice President Biden, Senator Claire McCaskill, Congressman Ed Towns, Congressman Brad Ellsworth, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, and Chief Performance Officer of the United States Jeffrey Zients.
In addition, the President is calling on Congress to give the government the tools necessary to ensure that the public’s tax dollars are not used to boost the profits of companies who refuse to pay their taxes.
“By issuing this directive, all of us in Washington will be required to be more responsible stewards of your tax dollars. All across this country, there are people who meet their obligations each and every day. You do your jobs. You support your families. You pay the taxes you owe – because it’s a fundamental responsibility of citizenship,” said President Barack Obama. “The steps I’m directing today and the steps I’m calling on Congress to take are just basic common-sense. They’re not going to eliminate all of the waste or abuse in government contracting in one fell swoop. Going forward, we’ll also have to do more to hold contractors more accountable not just for paying taxes, but for following other laws as well.”
When President Obama was in the Senate he sponsored legislation to give federal contracting officials the tools that they need to recoup these funds or stop tax scofflaws from getting federal contracts. The Administration urges Congress to approve legislation to allow the IRS to crack down on corporate tax cheats. Congress also is urged to allow data sharing between the IRS and contracting officials at agencies to ensure that scofflaws do not exploit some loophole to continue to win federal contracts.
Today’s directive builds on steps the President has taken to crack down on government waste – strengthening what works and eliminating what doesn’t:
· In December, the Administration released an update on the President’s efforts to cut high-risk, no-bid contracts, showing federal agencies on track to save $19 billion in contracting reforms this year and $40 billion by the end of 2011.
· In November, the President outlined steps to crack down on wasteful, improper payments which, in 2009, were expected to reach about $100 billion.
· In May, the Administration released the results of the line-by-line review of the Budget and identified more than 120 programs that were wasteful, duplicative, or outdated. Congress approved more than 60 percent of the President’s proposed cuts – significantly higher than recent administrations’ results.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON RECOVERY EFFORTS IN HAITI
Diplomatic Reception Room
10:10 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I’ve directed my administration to launch a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives and support the recovery in Haiti.
The losses that have been suffered in Haiti are nothing less than devastating, and responding to a disaster of this magnitude will require every element of our national capacity — our diplomacy and development assistance; the power of our military; and, most importantly, the compassion of our country. And this morning, I’m joined by several members of my national security team who are leading this coordinated response.
I’ve made it clear to each of these leaders that Haiti must be a top priority for their departments and agencies right now. This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership. For the sake of our citizens who are in Haiti, for the sake of the Haitian people who have suffered so much, and for the sake of our common humanity, we stand in solidarity with our neighbors to the south, knowing that but for the grace of God, there we go.
This morning, I can report that the first waves of our rescue and relief workers are on the ground and at work. A survey team worked overnight to identify priority areas for assistance, and shared the results of that review throughout the United States government, and with international partners who are also sending support. Search and rescue teams are actively working to save lives. Our military has secured the airport and prepared it to receive the heavy equipment and resources that are on the way, and to receive them around the clock, 24 hours a day. An airlift has been set up to deliver high-priority items like water and medicine. And we’re coordinating closely with the Haitian government, the United Nations, and other countries who are also on the ground.
We have no higher priority than the safety of American citizens, and we’ve airlifted injured Americans out of Haiti. We’re running additional evacuations, and will continue to do so in the days ahead. I know that many Americans, especially Haitian Americans, are desperate for information about their family and friends. And the State Department has set up a phone number and e-mail address that you can find at www.state.gov — www.state.gov — to inquire about your loved ones. And you should know that we will not rest until we account for our fellow Americans in harm’s way.
Even as we move as quickly as possible, it will take hours — and in many cases days — to get all of our people and resources on the ground. Right now in Haiti roads are impassable, the main port is badly damaged, communications are just beginning to come online, and aftershocks continue.
None of this will seem quick enough if you have a loved one who’s trapped, if you’re sleeping on the streets, if you can’t feed your children. But it’s important that everybody in Haiti understand, at this very moment one of the largest relief efforts in our recent history is moving towards Haiti. More American search and rescue teams are coming. More food. More water. Doctors, nurses, paramedics. More of the people, equipment and capabilities that can make the difference between life and death.
The United States armed forces are also on their way to support this effort. Several Coast Guard cutters are already there providing everything from basic services like water, to vital technical support for this massive logistical operation. Elements of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division will arrive today. We’re also deploying a Marine Expeditionary Unit, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, and the Navy’s hospital ship, the Comfort.
And today, I’m also announcing an immediate investment of $100 million to support our relief efforts. This will mean more of the life-saving equipment, food, water and medicine that will be needed. This investment will grow over the coming year as we embark on the long-term recovery from this unimaginable tragedy.
The United States of America will also forge the partnerships that this undertaking demands. We will partner with the Haitian people. And that includes the government of Haiti, which needs our support as they recover from the devastation of this earthquake. It also includes the many Haitian Americans who are determined to help their friends and family. And I’ve asked Vice President Biden to meet in South Florida this weekend with members of the Haitian American community, and with responders who are mobilizing to help the Haitian people.
We will partner with the United Nations and its dedicated personnel and peacekeepers, especially those from Brazil, who are already on the ground due to their outstanding peacekeeping efforts there. And I want to say that our hearts go out to the United Nations, which has experienced one of the greatest losses in its history. We have no doubt that we can carry on the work that was done by so many of the U.N. effort that have been lost, and we see that their legacy is Haiti’s hope for the future.
We will partner with other nations and organizations. And that’s why I’ve been reaching out to leaders from across the Americas and beyond who are sending resources to support this effort. And we will join with the strong network of non-governmental organizations across the country who understand the daily struggles of the Haitian people.
Yet even as we bring our resources to bear on this emergency, we need to summon the tremendous generosity and compassion of the American people. I want to thank the many Americans who have already contributed to this effort. I want to encourage all Americans who want to help to go to whitehouse.gov to learn more. And in the days ahead, we will continue to work with those individuals and organizations who want to assist this effort so that you can do so.
Finally, I want to speak directly to the people of Haiti. Few in the world have endured the hardships that you have known. Long before this tragedy, daily life itself was often a bitter struggle. And after suffering so much for so long, to face this new horror must cause some to look up and ask, have we somehow been forsaken?
To the people of Haiti, we say clearly, and with conviction, you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you. The world stands with you. We know that you are a strong and resilient people. You have endured a history of slavery and struggle, of natural disaster and recovery. And through it all, your spirit has been unbroken and your faith has been unwavering. So today, you must know that help is arriving — much, much more help is on the way.
Thank you very much, everybody.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
January 9, 2010
A year ago, when I took office in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, I promised you two things. The first was that there would be better days ahead. And the second was that the road to recovery would be long, and sometimes bumpy.
That was brought home again yesterday. We learned that in November, our economy saw its first month of job gains in nearly two years – but last month, we lost more than we gained. Now, we know that no single month makes a trend, and job losses for the final quarter of 2009 were one-tenth what they were in the first quarter. But until we see a trend of good, sustainable job creation, we will be relentless in our efforts to put America back to work.
That task goes even deeper than replacing the seven million jobs that have been lost over the past two years. We need to rebuild our economy in such a way that our families can feel a measure of security again. Too many of the folks I’ve talked with this year, and whose stories I read in letters at night, tell me that they’ve known their own private recessions since long before economists declared one – and they’ll still feel the recession long after economists have declared it over.
That’s because, for decades, Washington avoided doing what was right in favor of doing what was easy. And the result was an economy where some made out well, but the middle class too often took a beating.
Over the past decade, the income of the average household actually declined, and we lost as many jobs as we created. Hardworking folks who did everything right suddenly found themselves forced to downscale their dreams because of economic factors beyond their control. We’re talking about simple dreams. American dreams. A good job with a good wage. A secure and dignified retirement. Stable health care so you don’t go broke just because you get sick. The chance to give our kids a better shot than we got.
That’s why, as we begin to emerge from this crisis, we will not return to the complacency that helped cause it. Even as we focus on putting America back to work today, we’re building a new foundation for our economy to create the good, lasting jobs and shared prosperity of tomorrow.
We’re making historic investments in science and in a clean energy economy that will generate and keep the jobs and industries of the future right here in America.
We’re reforming our education system, so that our kids are fully prepared to compete with workers anywhere in the world and win the race for the 21st century.
We’re fixing our broken health insurance system that’s crushing families, eating away at workers’ take-home pay, and nailing small businesses with double-digit premium increases.
And that’s what I’d like to focus on for a minute. After a long and thorough debate, we are on the verge of passing health insurance reform that will finally offer Americans the security of knowing they’ll have quality, affordable health care whether they lose their job, change jobs, move, or get sick. The worst practices of the insurance industry will be banned forever. And costs will finally come down for families, businesses, and our government.
Now, it’ll take a few years to fully implement these reforms in a responsible way. But what every American should know is that once I sign health insurance reform into law, there are dozens of protections and benefits that will take effect this year.
Uninsured Americans with a pre-existing illness or condition will finally be able to purchase coverage they can afford.
Children with pre-existing conditions will no longer be refused coverage, and young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ policy until they’re 26 or 27 years old.
Small business owners who can’t afford to cover their employees will be immediately offered tax credits to purchase coverage.
Early retirees who receive coverage from their employers will see their coverage protected and their premiums go down.
Seniors who fall into the coverage gap known as the donut hole will receive discounts of up to 50 percent on their prescriptions as we begin to close that gap altogether.
And every patient’s choice of doctor will be protected, along with access to emergency care.
Here’s what else will happen within the first year. Insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care to their customers – so that we can start catching preventable illnesses and diseases on the front end. They’ll no longer be allowed to impose restrictive annual limits on the amount of coverage you receive or lifetime limits on the amount of benefits you receive. They’ll be prohibited from dropping your coverage when you get sick and need it most. And there will be a new, independent appeals process for anyone who feels they were unfairly denied a claim by their insurance company.
In short, once I sign health insurance reform into law, doctors and patients will have more control over their health care decisions, and insurance company bureaucrats will have less. All told, these changes represent the most sweeping reforms and toughest restrictions on insurance companies that this country has ever known. That’s how we’ll make 2010 a healthier and more secure year for every American – for those who have health insurance, and those who don’t.
We enter a new decade, now, with new perils – but we’re going to meet them. It’s also a time of tremendous promise – and we’re going to seize it. We will rebuild the American Dream for our middle class and put the American economy on a stronger footing for the future. And this year, I am as hopeful and as confident as ever that we’re going to rise to this moment the same way that generations of Americans always have: as one nation, and one people. Thanks for listening.
Statement By President Obama On Preliminary Information From His Ongoing Consultations About The Would Be Terrorist Attack At Metro Airport In Detroit
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
ON PRELIMINAY INFORMATION FROM HIS
ONGOING CONSULTATIONS ABOUT THE DETROIT INCIDENT
Kaneohe Bay Marine Base
11:26 A.M. HAST
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Yesterday I updated the American people on the immediate steps we took — the increased screening and security of air travel — to keep our country safe in the wake of the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day. And I announced two reviews — a review of our terrorist watch list system and a review of our air travel screening, so we can find out what went wrong, fix it and prevent future attacks.
Those reviews began on Sunday and are now underway. Earlier today I issued the former [sic] guidelines for those reviews and directed that preliminary findings be provided to the White House by this Thursday. It’s essential that we diagnose the problems quickly and deal with them immediately.
Now, the more comprehensive, formal reviews and recommendations for improvement will be completed in the coming weeks, and I’m committed to working with Congress and our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities to take all necessary steps to protect the country.
I wanted to speak to the American people again today because some of this preliminary information that has surfaced in the last 24 hours raises some serious concerns. It’s been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned U.S. officials in Africa about his son’s extremist views. It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect’s name on a no-fly list.
There appears to be other deficiencies as well. Even without this one report there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together. We’ve achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information that relates to terrorists and potential terrorist attacks. But it’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.
Had this critical information been shared it could have been compiled with other intelligence and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged. The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America.
The professionalism of the men and women in our intelligence, counterterrorism and law enforcement and homeland security communities is extraordinary. They are some of the most hardworking, most dedicated Americans that I’ve ever met. In pursuit of our security here at home they risk their lives, day in and day out, in this country and around the world.
Few Americans see their work, but all Americans are safer because of their successes. They have targeted and taken out violent extremists, they have disrupted plots and saved countless American lives; they are making real and daily progress in our mission to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and other extremist networks around the world. And for this every American owes them a profound and lasting debt of gratitude.
Moreover, as Secretary Napolitano has said, once the suspect attempted to take down Flight 253 — after his attempt it’s clear that passengers and crew, our homeland security systems and our aviation security took all appropriate actions. But what’s also clear is this: When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been, so that this extremist boards a plane with dangerous explosives that could cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred. And I consider that totally unacceptable.
The reviews I’ve ordered will surely tell us more. But what already is apparent is that there was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security. We need to learn from this episode and act quickly to fix the flaws in our system, because our security is at stake and lives are at stake.
I fully understand that even when every person charged with ensuring our security does what they are trained to do, even when every system works exactly as intended there is still no one hundred percent guarantee of success. Yet, this should only compel us to work even harder, to be even more innovative and relentless in our efforts.
As President I will do everything in my power to support the men and women in intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security to make sure they’ve got the tools and resources they need to keep America safe. But it’s also my job to ensure that our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security systems and the people in them are working effectively and held accountable. I intend to fulfill that responsibility and insist on accountability at every level.
That’s the spirit guiding our reviews into the attempted attack on Christmas Day. That’s the spirit that will guide all our efforts in the days and years ahead.
Thank you very much.
Note to readers of The Washington Review:
Every year we post information regarding the history and origins of Christmas and other holidays that pertain to Christ Jesus and Christianity. It is our feverent hopes that our readers will intelligently process this information and use accordingly for their own personal benefit. The following research taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia can be readily found in any library, encyclopedia, and seminary. ~ Publisher
ORIGIN OF THE DATE OF CHRISTMAS:
Concerning the date of Christ’s birth the Gospels give no help; upon their data contradictory arguments are based. The census would have been impossible in winter: a whole population could not then be put in motion. Again, in winter it must have been; then only field labour was suspended. But Rome was not thus considerate. Authorities moreover differ as to whether shepherds could or would keep flocks exposed during the nights of the rainy season.
Zachary’s temple service
Arguments based on Zachary’s temple ministry are unreliable, though the calculations of antiquity (see above) have been revived in yet more complicated form, e.g. by Friedlieb (Leben J. Christi des Erlösers, Münster, 1887, p. 312). The twenty-four classes of Jewish priests, it is urged, served each a week in the Temple; Zachary was in the eighth class, Abia. The Temple was destroyed 9 Ab, A.D. 70; late rabbinical tradition says that class 1, Jojarib, was then serving. From these untrustworthy data, assuming that Christ was born A.U.C. 749, and that never in seventy turbulent years the weekly succession failed, it is calculated that the eighth class was serving 2-9 October, A.U.C. 748, whence Christ’s conception falls in March, and birth presumably in December. Kellner (op. cit., pp. 106, 107) shows how hopeless is the calculation of Zachary’s week from any point before or after it.
Analogy to Old Testament festivals
It seems impossible, on analogy of the relation of Passover and Pentecost to Easter and Whitsuntide, to connect the Nativity with the feast of Tabernacles, as did, e.g., Lightfoot (Horæ Hebr, et Talm., II, 32), arguing from Old Testament prophecy, e.g. Zacharias 14:16 sqq.; combining, too, the fact of Christ’s death in Nisan with Daniel’s prophecy of a three and one-half years’ ministry (9:27), he puts the birth in Tisri, i.e. September. As undesirable is it to connect 25 December with the Eastern (December) feast of Dedication (Jos. Ant. Jud., XII, vii, 6).
The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date. For the history of the solar cult, its position in the Roman Empire, and syncretism with Mithraism, see Cumont’s epoch-making “Textes et Monuments” etc., I, ii, 4, 6, p. 355. Mommsen (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, 12, p. 338) has collected the evidence for the feast, which reached its climax of popularity under Aurelian in 274. Filippo del Torre in 1700 first saw its importance; it is marked, as has been said, without addition in Philocalus’ Calendar. It would be impossible here even to outline the history of solar symbolism and language as applied to God, the Messiah, and Christ in Jewish or Christian canonical, patristic, or devotional works. Hymns and Christmas offices abound in instances; the texts are well arranged by Cumont (op. cit., addit. Note C, p. 355).
The earliest rapprochement of the births of Christ and the sun is in Cyprian, “De pasch. Comp.”, xix, “O quam præclare providentia ut illo die quo natus est Sol . . . nasceretur Christus.” — “O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born . . . Christ should be born.”
In the fourth century, Chrysostom, “del Solst. Et Æquin.” (II, p. 118, ed. 1588), says: “Sed et dominus noster nascitur mense decembris . . . VIII Kal. Ian. . . . Sed et Invicti Natalem appelant. Quis utique tam invictus nisi dominus noster? . . . Vel quod dicant Solis esse natalem, ipse est Sol iustitiæ.” — “But Our Lord, too, is born in the month of December . . . the eight before the calends of January [25 December] . . ., But they call it the ‘Birthday of the Unconquered’. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord . . .? Or, if they say that it is the birthday of the Sun, He is the Sun of Justice.”
Already Tertullian (Apol., 16; cf. Ad. Nat., I, 13; Orig. c. Cels., VIII, 67, etc) had to assert that Sol was not the Christians’ God; Augustine (Tract xxxiv, in Joan. In P.L., XXXV, 1652) denounces the heretical identification of Christ with Sol.
Pope Leo I (Serm. xxxvii in nat. dom., VII, 4; xxii, II, 6 in P.L., LIV, 218 and 198) bitterly reproves solar survivals — Christians, on the very doorstep of the Apostles’ basilica, turn to adore the rising sun. Sun-worship has bequeathed features to modern popular worship in Armenia, where Christians had once temporarily and externally conformed to the cult of the material sun (Cumont, op. cit., p. 356).
Note to readers of The Washington Review:
Every year we post information regarding the history and origins of Christmas and other holidays that pertain to Christ Jesus and Christianity. It is our feverent hopes that our readers will intelligently process this information and use accordingly for their own personal benefit. The following research taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia can be readily found in any library, encyclopedia, and seminary. ~ Publisher
Origin of the word
The word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131. In Dutch it is Kerstmis, in Latin Dies Natalis, whence comes the French Noël, and Italian Il natale; in German Weihnachtsfest, from the preceeding sacred vigil. The term Yule is of disputed origin. It is unconnected with any word meaning “wheel”. The name in Anglo-Saxon was geol, feast: geola, the name of a month (cf. Icelandic iol a feast in December).
Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the “birthdays” of the gods.
The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Stromata I.21) says that certain Egyptian theologians “over curiously” assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ’s birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. [Ideler (Chron., II, 397, n.) thought they did this believing that the ninth month, in which Christ was born, was the ninth of their own calendar.] Others reached the date of 24 or 25 Pharmuthi (19 or 20 April). With Clement’s evidence may be mentioned the “De paschæ computus”, written in 243 and falsely ascribed to Cyprian (P.L., IV, 963 sqq.), which places Christ’s birth on 28 March, because on that day the material sun was created. But Lupi has shown (Zaccaria, Dissertazioni ecc. del p. A.M. Lupi, Faenza, 1785, p. 219) that there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ’s birth. Clement, however, also tells us that the Basilidians celebrated the Epiphany, and with it, probably, the Nativity, on 15 or 11 Tybi (10 or 6 January). At any rate this double commemoration became popular, partly because the apparition to the shepherds was considered as one manifestation of Christ’s glory, and was added to the greater manifestations celebrated on 6 January; partly because at the baptism-manifestation many codices (e.g. Codex Bezæ) wrongly give the Divine words as sou ei ho houios mou ho agapetos, ego semeron gegenneka se (Thou art my beloved Son, this day have I begotten thee) in lieu of en soi eudokesa (in thee I am well pleased), read in Luke 3:22. Abraham Ecchelensis (Labbe, II, 402) quotes the Constitutions of the Alexandrian Church for a dies Nativitatis et Epiphaniæ in Nicæan times; Epiphanius (Hær., li, ed. Dindorf, 1860, II, 483) quotes an extraordinary semi-Gnostic ceremony at Alexandria in which, on the night of 5-6 January, a cross-stamped Korê was carried in procession round a crypt, to the chant, “Today at this hour Korê gave birth to the Eternal“; John Cassian records in his “Collations” (X, 2 in P.L., XLIX, 820), written 418-427, that the Egyptian monasteries still observe the “ancient custom“; but on 29 Choiak (25 December) and 1 January, 433, Paul of Emesa preached before Cyril of Alexandria, and his sermons (see Mansi, IV, 293; appendix to Act. Conc. Eph.) show that the December celebration was then firmly established there, and calendars prove its permanence. The December feast therefore reached Egypt between 427 and 433.
Cyprus, Mesopotamia, Armenia, Asia Minor
In Cyprus, at the end of the fourth century, Epiphanius asserts against the Alogi (Hær., li, 16, 24 in P.G., XLI, 919, 931) that Christ was born on 6 January and baptized on 8 November. Ephraem Syrus (whose hymns belong to Epiphany, not to Christmas) proves that Mesopotamia still put the birth feast thirteen days after the winter solstice; i.e. 6 January; Armenia likewise ignored, and still ignores, the December festival. (Cf. Euthymius, “Pan. Dogm.”, 23 in P.G., CXXX, 1175; Niceph., “Hist. Eccl,”, XVIII, 53 in P.G., CXLVII, 440; Isaac, Catholicos of Armenia in eleventh or twelfth century, “Adv. Armenos”, I, xii, 5 in P.G., CXXII, 1193; Neale, “Holy Eastern Church“, Introd., p. 796). In Cappadocia, Gregory of Nyssa’s sermons on St. Basil (who died before 1 January, 379) and the two following, preached on St. Stephen’s feast (P.G., XLVI, 788; cf, 701, 721), prove that in 380 the 25th December was already celebrated there, unless, following Usener’s too ingenious arguments (Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen, Bonn, 1889, 247-250), one were to place those sermons in 383. Also, Asterius of Amaseia (fifth century) and Amphilochius of Iconium (contemporary of Basil and Gregory) show that in their dioceses both the feasts of Epiphany and Nativity were separate (P.G., XL, 337 XXXIX, 36). <!–
In 385, Silvia of Bordeaux (or Etheria, as it seems clear she should be called) was profoundly impressed by the splendid Childhood feasts at Jerusalem. They had a definitely “Nativity” colouring; the bishop proceeded nightly to Bethlehem, returning to Jerusalem for the day celebrations. The Presentation was celebrated forty days after. But this calculation starts from 6 January, and the feast lasted during the octave of that date. (Peregr. Sylv., ed. Geyer, pp. 75 sq.) Again (p. 101) she mentions as high festivals Easter and Epiphany alone. In 385, therefore, 25 December was not observed at Jerusalem. This checks the so-called correspondence between Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386) and Pope Julius I (337-352), quoted by John of Nikiû (c. 900) to convert Armenia to 25 December (see P.L., VIII, 964 sqq.). Cyril declares that his clergy cannot, on the single feast of Birth and Baptism, make a double procession to Bethlehem and Jordan. (This later practice is here an anachronism.) He asks Julius to assign the true date of the nativity “from census documents brought by Titus to Rome“; Julius assigns 25 December. Another document (Cotelier, Patr. Apost., I, 316, ed. 1724) makes Julius write thus to Juvenal of Jerusalem (c. 425-458), adding that Gregory Nazianzen at Constantinople was being criticized for “halving” the festival. But Julius died in 352, and by 385 Cyril had made no change; indeed, Jerome, writing about 411 (in Ezech., P.L., XXV, 18), reproves Palestine for keeping Christ’s birthday (when He hid Himself) on the Manifestation feast. Cosmas Indicopleustes suggests (P.G., LXXXVIII, 197) that even in the middle of the sixth century Jerusalem was peculiar in combining the two commemorations, arguing from Luke 3:23 that Christ’s baptism day was the anniversary of His birthday. The commemoration, however, of David and James the Apostle on 25 December at Jerusalem accounts for the deferred feast. Usener, arguing from the “Laudatio S. Stephani” of Basil of Seleucia (c. 430. — P.G., LXXXV, 469), thinks that Juvenal tried at least to introduce this feast, but that Cyril’s greater name attracted that event to his own period.
In Antioch, on the feast of St. Philogonius, Chrysostom preached an important sermon. The year was almost certainly 386, though Clinton gives 387, and Usener, by a long rearrangement of the saint’s sermons, 388 (Religionsgeschichtl. Untersuch., pp. 227-240). But between February, 386, when Flavian ordained Chrysostom priest, and December is ample time for the preaching of all the sermons under discussion. (See Kellner, Heortologie, Freiburg, 1906, p. 97, n. 3). In view of a reaction to certain Jewish rites and feasts, Chrysostom tries to unite Antioch in celebrating Christ’s birth on 25 December, part of the community having already kept it on that day for at least ten years. In the West, he says, the feast was thus kept, anothen; its introduction into Antioch he had always sought, conservatives always resisted. This time he was successful; in a crowded church he defended the new custom. It was no novelty; from Thrace to Cadiz this feast was observed — rightly, since its miraculously rapid diffusion proved its genuineness. Besides, Zachary, who, as high-priest, entered the Temple on the Day of Atonement, received therefore announcement of John’s conception in September; six months later Christ was conceived, i.e. in March, and born accordingly in December.
Finally, though never at Rome, on authority he knows that the census papers of the Holy Family are still there. [This appeal to Roman archives is as old as Justin Martyr (First Apology 34-35) and Tertullian (Adv. Marc., IV, 7, 19). Julius, in the Cyriline forgeries, is said to have calculated the date from Josephus, on the same unwarranted assumptions about Zachary as did Chrysostom.] Rome, therefore, has observed 25 December long enough to allow of Chrysostom speaking at least in 388 as above (P.G., XLVIII, 752, XLIX, 351).
In 379 or 380 Gregory Nazianzen made himself exarchos of the new feast, i.e. its initiator, in Constantinople, where, since the death of Valens, orthodoxy was reviving. His three Homilies (see Hom. xxxviii in P.G., XXXVI) were preached on successive days (Usener, op. cit., p. 253) in the private chapel called Anastasia. On his exile in 381, the feast disappeared.
According, however, to John of Nikiû, Honorius, when he was present on a visit, arranged with Arcadius for the observation of the feast on the Roman date. Kellner puts this visit in 395; Baumstark (Oriens Chr., 1902, 441-446), between 398 and 402. The latter relies on a letter of Jacob of Edessa quoted by George of Beeltân, asserting that Christmas was brought to Constantinople by Arcadius and Chrysostom from Italy, where, “according to the histories“, it had been kept from Apostolic times. Chrysostom’s episcopate lasted from 398 to 402; the feast would therefore have been introduced between these dates by Chrysostom bishop, as at Antioch by Chrysostom priest. But Lübeck (Hist. Jahrbuch., XXVIII, I, 1907, pp. 109-118) proves Baumstark’s evidence invalid. More important, but scarcely better accredited, is Erbes’ contention (Zeitschrift f. Kirchengesch., XXVI, 1905, 20-31) that the feast was brought in by Constantine as early as 330-35.
At Rome the earliest evidence is in the Philocalian Calendar (P.L., XIII, 675; it can be seen as a whole in J. Strzygowski, Kalenderbilder des Chron. von Jahre 354, Berlin, 1888), compiled in 354, which contains three important entries. In the civil calendar 25 December is marked “Natalis Invicti”. In the “Depositio Martyrum” a list of Roman or early and universally venerated martyrs, under 25 December is found “VIII kal. ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudeæ”. On “VIII kal. mart.” (22 February) is also mentioned St. Peter’s Chair. In the list of consuls are four anomalous ecclesiastical entries: the birth and death days of Christ, the entry into Rome, and martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul. The significant entry is “Chr. Cæsare et Paulo sat. XIII. hoc. cons. Dns. ihs. XPC natus est VIII Kal. ian. d. ven. luna XV,” i.e. during the consulship of (Augustus) Cæsar and Paulus Our Lord Jesus Christ was born on the eighth before the calends of January (25 December), a Friday, the fourteenth day of the moon. The details clash with tradition and possibility. The epact, here XIII, is normally XI; the year is A.U.C. 754, a date first suggested two centuries later; in no year between 751 and 754 could 25 December fall on a Friday; tradition is constant in placing Christ’s birth on Wednesday. Moreover the date given for Christ’s death (duobus Geminis coss., i.e. A.D. 29) leaves Him only twenty eight, and one-quarter years of life. Apart from this, these entries in a consul list are manifest interpolations. But are not the two entries in the “Depositio Martyrum” also such? Were the day of Christ’s birth in the flesh alone there found, it might stand as heading the year of martyrs’ spiritual natales; but 22 February is there wholly out of place. Here, as in the consular fasti, popular feasts were later inserted for convenience’ sake. The civil calendar alone was not added to, as it was useless after the abandonment of pagan festivals. So, even if the “Depositio Martyrum” dates, as is probable, from 336, it is not clear that the calendar contains evidence earlier than Philocalus himself, i.e. 354, unless indeed pre-existing popular celebration must be assumed to render possible this official recognition. Were the Chalki manuscript of Hippolytus genuine, evidence for the December feast would exist as early as c. 205. The relevant passage [which exists in the Chigi manuscript Without the bracketed words and is always so quoted before George Syncellus (c. 1000)] runs:
He gar prote parousia tou kyriou hemon he ensarkos [en he gegennetai] en Bethleem, egeneto [pro okto kalandon ianouarion hemera tetradi] Basileuontos Augoustou [tessarakoston kai deuteron etos, apo de Adam] pentakischiliosto kai pentakosiosto etei epathen de triakosto trito [pro okto kalandon aprilion, hemera paraskeun, oktokaidekato etei Tiberiou Kaisaros, hypateuontos Hrouphou kai Hroubellionos. — (Comm. In Dan., iv, 23; Brotke; 19)
"For the first coming of Our Lord in the flesh [in which He has been begotten], in Bethlehem, took place [25 December, the fourth day] in the reign of Augustus [the forty-second year, and] in the year 5500 [from Adam]. And He suffered in His thirty-third year [25 March, the parasceve, in the eighteenth year of Tiberius Cæsar, during the consulate of Rufus and Rubellio].”
Interpolation is certain, and admitted by Funk, Bonwetsch, etc. The names of the consuls [which should be Fufius and Rubellius] are wrong; Christ lives thirty-three years; in the genuine Hippolytus, thirty-one; minute data are irrelevant in this discussion with Severian millenniarists; it is incredible that Hippolytus should have known these details when his contemporaries (Clement, Tertullian, etc.) are, when dealing with the matter, ignorant or silent; or should, having published them, have remained unquoted (Kellner, op. cit., p. 104, has an excursus on this passage.)
St. Ambrose (de virg., iii, 1 in P.L., XVI, 219) preserves the sermon preached by Pope Liberius I at St. Peter’s, when, on Natalis Christi, Ambrose’ sister, Marcellina, took the veil. This pope reigned from May, 352 until 366, except during his years of exile, 355-357. If Marcellina became a nun only after the canonical age of twenty-five, and if Ambrose was born only in 340, it is perhaps likelier that the event occurred after 357. Though the sermon abounds in references appropriate to the Epiphany (the marriage at Cana, the multiplication of loaves, etc.), these seem due (Kellner, op. cit., p. 109) to sequence of thought, and do not fix the sermon to 6 January, a feast unknown in Rome till much later. Usener, indeed, argues (p. 272) that Liberius preached it on that day in 353, instituting the Nativity feast in the December of the same year; but Philocalus warrants our supposing that if preceded his pontificate by some time, though Duchesne’s relegation of it to 243 (Bull. crit., 1890, 3, pp. 41 sqq.) may not commend itself to many. In the West the Council of Saragossa (380) still ignores 25 December (see can. xxi, 2). Pope Siricius, writing in 385 (P.L., XII, 1134) to Himerius in Spain, distinguishes the feasts of the Nativity and Apparition; but whether he refers to Roman or to Spanish use is not clear. Ammianus Marcellinus (XXI, ii) and Zonaras (Ann., XIII, 11) date a visit of Julian the Apostate to a church at Vienne in Gaul on Epiphany and Nativity respectively. Unless there were two visits, Vienne in A.D. 361 combined the feasts, though on what day is still doubtful. By the time of Jerome and Augustine, the December feast is established, though the latter (Epp., II, liv, 12, in P.L., XXXIII, 200) omits it from a list of first-class festivals. From the fourth century every Western calendar assigns it to 25 December. At Rome, then, the Nativity was celebrated on 25 December before 354; in the East, at Constantinople, not before 379, unless with Erbes, and against Gregory, we recognize it there in 330. Hence, almost universally has it been concluded that the new date reached the East from Rome by way of the Bosphorus during the great anti-Arian revival, and by means of the orthodox champions. De Santi (L’Orig. delle Fest. Nat., in Civiltæ Cattolica, 1907), following Erbes, argues that Rome took over the Eastern Epiphany, now with a definite Nativity colouring, and, with as increasing number of Eastern Churches, placed it on 25 December; later, both East and West divided their feast, leaving Ephiphany on 6 January, and Nativity on 25 December, respectively, and placing Christmas on 25 December and Epiphany on 6 January. The earlier hypothesis still seems preferable.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON SENATE PASSAGE OF HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM
State Dining Room
8:47 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. In a historic vote that took place this morning members of the Senate joined their colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass a landmark health insurance reform package — legislation that brings us toward the end of a nearly century-long struggle to reform America’s health care system.
Ever since Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform in 1912, seven Presidents — Democrats and Republicans alike — have taken up the cause of reform. Time and time again, such efforts have been blocked by special interest lobbyists who’ve perpetuated a status quo that works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people. But with passage of reform bills in both the House and the Senate, we are now finally poised to deliver on the promise of real, meaningful health insurance reform that will bring additional security and stability to the American people.
The reform bill that passed the Senate this morning, like the House bill, includes the toughest measures ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny you coverage on the basis of a preexisting condition. They will no longer be able to drop your coverage when you get sick. No longer will you have to pay unlimited amounts out of your own pocket for the treatments you need. And you’ll be able to appeal unfair decisions by insurance companies to an independent party.
If this legislation becomes law, workers won’t have to worry about losing coverage if they lose or change jobs. Families will save on their premiums. Businesses that would see their costs rise if we do not act will save money now, and they will save money in the future. This bill will strengthen Medicare, and extend the life of the program. It will make coverage affordable for over 30 million Americans who do not have it — 30 million Americans. And because it is paid for and curbs the waste and inefficiency in our health care system, this bill will help reduce our deficit by as much as $1.3 trillion in the coming decades, making it the largest deficit reduction plan in over a decade.
As I’ve said before, these are not small reforms; these are big reforms. If passed, this will be the most important piece of social policy since the Social Security Act in the 1930s, and the most important reform of our health care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s. And what makes it so important is not just its cost savings or its deficit reductions. It’s the impact reform will have on Americans who no longer have to go without a checkup or prescriptions that they need because they can’t afford them; on families who no longer have to worry that a single illness will send them into financial ruin; and on businesses that will no longer face exorbitant insurance rates that hamper their competitiveness. It’s the difference reform will make in the lives of the American people.
I want to commend Senator Harry Reid, extraordinary work that he did; Speaker Pelosi for her extraordinary leadership and dedication. Having passed reform bills in both the House and the Senate, we now have to take up the last and most important step and reach an agreement on a final reform bill that I can sign into law. And I look forward to working with members of Congress in both chambers over the coming weeks to do exactly that.
With today’s vote, we are now incredibly close to making health insurance reform a reality in this country. Our challenge, then, is to finish the job. We can’t doom another generation of Americans to soaring costs and eroding coverage and exploding deficits. Instead we need to do what we were sent here to do and improve the lives of the people we serve. For the sake of our citizens, our economy, and our future, let’s make 2010 the year we finally reform health care in the United States of America.
Everybody, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.
Q Do you have a holiday wish for the troops?
THE PRESIDENT: I do, and I will be actually — I’m on my way right now to call a few of them and wish them Merry Christmas and to thank them for their extraordinary service as they’re posted in Iraq and Afghanistan.