BREAKING NEWS: Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery At a Memorial Service for the Victims of the Shooting in Tucson, Arizona University of Arizona, McKale Memorial Center Tucson, Arizona
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
At a Memorial Service for the Victims of the Shooting in Tucson, Arizona
University of Arizona, McKale Memorial Center
January 12, 2011
As Prepared for Delivery—
To the families of those we’ve lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants gathered tonight, and the people of Tucson and Arizona: I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow.
There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: the hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through.
As Scripture tells us:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
On Saturday morning, Gabby, her staff, and many of her constituents gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech. They were fulfilling a central tenet of the democracy envisioned by our founders – representatives of the people answering to their constituents, so as to carry their concerns to our nation’s capital. Gabby called it “Congress on Your Corner” – just an updated version of government of and by and for the people.
That is the quintessentially American scene that was shattered by a gunman’s bullets. And the six people who lost their lives on Saturday – they too represented what is best in America.
Judge John Roll served our legal system for nearly 40 years. A graduate of this university and its law school, Judge Roll was recommended for the federal bench by John McCain twenty years ago, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, and rose to become Arizona’s chief federal judge. His colleagues described him as the hardest-working judge within the Ninth Circuit. He was on his way back from attending Mass, as he did every day, when he decided to stop by and say hi to his Representative. John is survived by his loving wife, Maureen, his three sons, and his five grandchildren.
George and Dorothy Morris – “Dot” to her friends – were high school sweethearts who got married and had two daughters. They did everything together, traveling the open road in their RV, enjoying what their friends called a 50-year honeymoon. Saturday morning, they went by the Safeway to hear what their Congresswoman had to say. When gunfire rang out, George, a former Marine, instinctively tried to shield his wife. Both were shot. Dot passed away.
A New Jersey native, Phyllis Schneck retired to Tucson to beat the snow. But in the summer, she would return East, where her world revolved around her 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 2 year-old great-granddaughter. A gifted quilter, she’d often work under her favorite tree, or sometimes sew aprons with the logos of the Jets and the Giants to give out at the church where she volunteered. A Republican, she took a liking to Gabby, and wanted to get to know her better.
Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard grew up in Tucson together – about seventy years ago. They moved apart and started their own respective families, but after both were widowed they found their way back here, to, as one of Mavy’s daughters put it, “be boyfriend and girlfriend again.” When they weren’t out on the road in their motor home, you could find them just up the road, helping folks in need at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ. A retired construction worker, Dorwan spent his spare time fixing up the church along with their dog, Tux. His final act of selflessness was to dive on top of his wife, sacrificing his life for hers.
Everything Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion – but his true passion was people. As Gabby’s outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits they had earned, that veterans got the medals and care they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks. He died doing what he loved – talking with people and seeing how he could help. Gabe is survived by his parents, Ross and Emily, his brother, Ben, and his fiancée, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year.
And then there is nine year-old Christina Taylor Green. Christina was an A student, a dancer, a gymnast, and a swimmer. She often proclaimed that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the major leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her. She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age, and would remind her mother, “We are so blessed. We have the best life.” And she’d pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.
Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing. Our hearts are broken – and yet, our hearts also have reason for fullness.
Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many of them went to see on Saturday. I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak. And I can tell you this – she knows we’re here and she knows we love her and she knows that we will be rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey.
And our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others. We are grateful for Daniel Hernandez, a volunteer in Gabby’s office who ran through the chaos to minister to his boss, tending to her wounds to keep her alive. We are grateful for the men who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload. We are grateful for a petite 61 year-old, Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer’s ammunition, undoubtedly saving some lives. And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and emergency medics who worked wonders to heal those who’d been hurt.
These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned – as it was on Saturday morning.
Their actions, their selflessness, also pose a challenge to each of us. It raises the question of what, beyond the prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward. How can we honor the fallen? How can we be true to their memory?
You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.
Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.
For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.
So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.
But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.
After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected. We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward. We reflect on the past. Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?
So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.
That process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions – that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires. For those who were harmed, those who were killed – they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong. We may not have known them personally, but we surely see ourselves in them. In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners. Phyllis – she’s our mom or grandma; Gabe our brother or son. In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America’s fidelity to the law. In Gabby, we see a reflection of our public spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union.
And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic.
So deserving of our love.
And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.
The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.
I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.
That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.
I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.
Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called “Faces of Hope.” On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child’s life. “I hope you help those in need,” read one. “I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles.”
If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.
May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America.
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT SPRING GARDEN PLANTING EVENT
White House Garden
4:05 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Hey, guys. What’s going on? Are you awake?
MRS. OBAMA: Yes! What have you been doing? Just sitting here?
MRS. OBAMA: Did they let you have an apple?
MRS. OBAMA: Sam, what are you doing? (Laughter.) You can have an apple. How about that? Way to start.
Hi, everybody. Welcome to the White House! How many of you have been here before? Yes, I see my familiar faces. What’s going on? How was summer? How was the start of — how was winter break? How was Christmas? I haven’t seen you in a while. Was it good?
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready to work?
MRS. OBAMA: How are my new faces? Let me see the new people. See some hands. Good to have you. Welcome.
Well, thank you. Thanks for coming here.
I wanted to start by thanking a couple of people besides you all, right.
Okay, the first — I want to thank the President’s Cabinet members who are here today with me: Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary Vilsack, this gentleman to my right. (Applause.) And the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary Sebelius. (Applause.) They have done so much to help us get the “Let’s Move” campaign going, and I am so grateful for their support. Some of you have seen these guys around. You’ve seen Secretary Vilsack. He’s been at stuff with us. So they’ve been really helpful.
And I also have to thank Melody Barnes. Is Melody here? Melody is coming, but Melody has also been a big help. She’s the President’s Domestic Policy Advisor, and she’s chair of the Childhood Obesity Task Force, so she’s been a big help.
And I also want to thank somebody special who’s with us today, and that’s Christy Vilsack who is Secretary Vilsack’s wife. Raise your hand, Christy, so the kids can see you. (Applause.) I know that Christy is a really good cook, so she’s going to really be excited about what we’re going to plant, because she’ll really know what to do with all the stuff that we plant.
And finally I want to thank all of you — you guys. We’ve got our old familiar faces from Bancroft School who are here. Yay, Elementary School Bancroft. (Applause.) And we also have students from Hollin Meadows Elementary School. Hey, guys. (Applause.)
Some of your classmates and some of you guys were part of helping us get the first garden ready, right? You guys did all the hard work. And this year we’re ready to do it again. Can you believe it’s been a whole year? Can you believe it? (Laughter.) A whole year! You guys have grown so much! But I’m excited you guys are here.
Just last year we began by getting — what did we do first? The first thing you did when you came here, what did we have to do? We had to get the soil ready, because if you remember, this was all grass. And you remember we had to create those mounds because the soil wasn’t really ready to plant; we didn’t even know if it was going to grow anything? So you guys helped us get the soil ready.
And then we came and we did what after the soil was ready? What did we do? What did we put in the ground? We put some seeds in and we put some buds in. Last year we did broccoli. What else did we plant?
CHILD: Sweet potatoes.
MRS. OBAMA: We did some sweet potatoes in the fall. What did we do in the spring? What were the vines that came up? Peas! We did some peas. Sam knows. Very good, Sam. (Laughter.) And we did some onions. And we did a bunch of herbs. Don’t you remember we did chives and garlic and rosemary and all that good stuff? And for dessert, remember over there we planted all the berries? We have blueberries and raspberries and blackberries.
And you guys remember the beehive that’s right over there that’s still there? We got good honey, and we used it to make a salad.
So then we did all that and we watched it grow. And wasn’t it amazing how it went from this to — what? Do you remember what the garden looked like when we were tunneling through and planting? Everything was high. Everything gets to be about my height.
So it is pretty exciting. So last October, with all the work that you guys did, you know what we were able to do? We harvested over 55 different kinds of healthy foods — 55 in that little piece of dirt — 55. And you know how many pounds of fruits and vegetables we harvested? Can you guess? Give me a guess. What’s your closest guess? Yes.
CHILD: One hundred and four?
MRS. OBAMA: No, higher. What?
CHILDREN: Eight hundred?
MRS. OBAMA: Eight hundred? Close.
CHILD: Five hundred?
MRS. OBAMA: Higher.
CHILD: One thousand.
MRS. OBAMA: One thousand pounds. One thousand pounds of food. Can you imagine that? That’s pretty amazing.
So we learned a lot about how fun gardening was — at least I did. I wasn’t really a gardener, and I’ve had so much fun. No matter where you live or what age you are, you can grow stuff. And also it’s pretty fun being outside here with all of you guys. I look forward to being outside in the sun. It’s getting a little hot now, but it’s good digging in the dirt, getting a little dirty, getting dirt under your nails. Remember we were pulling up those big leeks? What were those things we were pulling up? Some were potatoes, but you were pulling up something heavy. What were those big root things we — the fennel, that’s right. You remember the fennel that we pulled up?
So there’s nothing like watching tiny seeds grow into something amazing. But the thing is — and I don’t know if you guys have been watching — but the garden was about more than just planning healthy food, right, because we were able to feed not just the staff at the White House, but we provided food to people at homeless shelters. So we used that food to feed a lot of people. But we also began a conversation about getting kids and parents and teachers all across the country thinking about living healthy.
So just think, the work that you did helped start a national and international conversation. You guys did it. Everybody is talking about that garden, not just here in Washington, not just here in the United States, but all over the world. And we’ve been able to start thinking about things like getting kids to try new foods that they’ve never tried, vegetables that they’ve never had. You guys have been helpful in getting your families to think more healthy about what they eat, getting your communities to make different decisions. We’ve also even started talking to schools about how do we make your school lunches even more healthy, right?
So everyone is really focused on this. We’ve even talked to the grocery manufacturers, the people that make the food. And they’re trying to figure out how do they lower sugar and salt and fats in your food so that you get healthy. Everybody is really focused on this.
So this has been great. And it’s because of the work that all of you guys have done. Would you ever imagine that what you did last year would lead to all of this? Would you? Could you? And we’re ready to do it again this year. Are we ready?
MRS. OBAMA: So we’re going to get started this year with our new group of students, because each of you has a garden in your school. Bancroft, you guys have a garden, and you’re doing good work, and I got to go and visit your garden. You guys taught me some new things about planting and we worked together. And I hope to visit your school again sometime this year or in the fall.
And you guys from Hollin Meadows, I got to visit your garden as well. You guys are doing some really cool stuff with education and figuring out how to tie your garden in with science and math and everything. How many of you guys from Hollin Meadows work in your garden? How many people have helped with the garden? And that’s probably why you’re here.
So it’s important for you all to know that with the power of what you’re doing with gardening, you’ve got the whole country talking about gardening and eating healthy.
So I am grateful to you all for the work that you’ve done. You’ve done an excellent job, and we couldn’t do it — I don’t think anybody would have paid much attention to this garden if it weren’t for you.
So I am so proud of you all for what you’ve done, and we’re ready to get started again. And as a result of your efforts, we started this big campaign called “Let’s Move,” where we’re asking parents to get better information and make different decisions. We’re working with athletes who are going to start trying to get you guys moving. We’ve asked you all to do your parts. We’ve asked you to make different choices. We’ve asked you to turn off the TV a little bit and get more exercise and play outside. Everybody is ready to do their part.
So you guys have just been a great support to us here at the White House, and I’m looking so forward to starting this garden for the second year. And hopefully we can make some more changes, we can get more kids focused on eating healthy and we can educate the whole country and maybe even the whole world. What do you think about that?
All right. So now I’m going to turn it over to Secretary Sebelius — you’re next. And then Secretary Vilsack is going to say a few things to welcome you guys, and then we’re going to get going, okay?
All right, so here’s Secretary Sebelius.
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.
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
National Export Initiative
March 11, 2010
Thank you, John, for that generous introduction, and congratulations to you, Fabienne and Luis for the recognition your companies deserve. Thank you to the Chairman of the Export-Import Bank, Fred Hochberg, for having me here; and for all the important work the Ex-Im Bank is doing to help American businesses sell their ideas to the world. I also want to recognize the Secretary General of the OECD, Angel Gurría, for his leadership at that institution.
Let me also acknowledge some members of my economic team who are here today – my Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke, who’s just returned from a trip to Brazil; and our United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk. And I want to thank them for doing a great job in the work of moving this country forward in tough times.
That’s been our most pressing priority over the first year of my administration. Guiding the American economy through its most serious crisis since the Great Depression. To do that required difficult, sometimes unpopular steps to rescue our financial system and jumpstart an economic recovery. But we took those steps. And because we did, we can stand here just over a year later, and say that we prevented another depression, we broke the back of the recession, and the economy that was shrinking a year ago is growing today.
What’s also clear is that we have a long way to go. More than eight million Americans have lost their jobs since the start of the recession. Millions more remain underemployed; including those doing part-time work or odd jobs. And middle-class families across this country have felt their economic security eroding for longer than they care to remember. That’s why we continue to do everything we can to foster private sector job creation and to restore some of that security.
But the fact is, if we want to once again approach full employment; if we want to create broad, shared, and lasting wealth for our workers and our families; if we want an America that is ready to compete on the global playing field of the 21st century – then we cannot slide back into an economy where we borrow too much and put off tough challenges. We cannot return to an economy where too much of our prosperity is based on fleeting bubbles and rampant speculation. We have to rebuild our economy on a new, stronger, more balanced foundation for the future – a foundation that will advance the American people’s prosperity at home, and support American leadership in the world.
That is precisely what we’ve begun to do. We’re catalyzing a new clean energy industry that has the potential to employ millions of workers in good jobs. We’re investing in the skills and education of our workers; and reforming our education system with a goal to once again lead the world in the proportion of college graduates by the end of this decade. We’re building a better health care system that works for our people, our businesses, and our government alike. We’re establishing clear, commonsense rules of the road for Wall Street that encourage innovation and creativity over recklessness or irresponsibility; rules that prevent firms from taking risks that threaten the entire economy.
And we are rebuilding an economy where we generate more American jobs in more American industries by producing and exporting more goods and services to other nations. In my State of the Union Address, I set a goal of doubling America’s exports over the next five years – an increase that will support two million American jobs. And I’ve come to the Export-Import Bank Conference today to discuss the initial steps we’re taking to achieve that goal.
Now, I know the issue of exports and imports; the issue of trade and globalization; have long evoked the passions of a lot of people in this country. I know there are differences of opinion between Democrats and Republicans; business and labor; about the right approach.
But I also know we’re at a moment where necessity has tempered the old debates. Those who would once support every trade agreement now see that other countries have to play fair and agreements have to be enforced. Those who once would once oppose any trade agreement now understand that there are new markets and new sectors out there we need to break into if we want our workers to get ahead.
Meanwhile, if you ask the average American what trade has offered them, they won’t say that their televisions are cheaper, or productivity is higher. They’d say they’ve seen the plant across town shut down, jobs dry up, and communities deteriorate. And you can’t blame them for feeling that way. Other countries haven’t always played by the same set of rules. America hasn’t always enforced our trade rights, or made sure that the benefits of trade are broadly shared. And we haven’t always done enough to help our workers adapt to a changing world.
There’s no question that as we compete in that global marketplace, we’ve got to look out for our workers. But to look out for our workers, we’ve got to compete in the global marketplace. Because it’s never been as important an opportunity for America.
In a time when millions of Americans are out of work, boosting our exports is a short-term imperative. Our exports support millions of American jobs. In 2008, we exported more than one trillion dollars of manufactured goods, supporting more than one in five manufacturing jobs – jobs that pay about 15 percent more than average. We led the world in services exports, which supported 2.8 million jobs. We exported nearly $100 billion in agricultural goods. And every $1 billion increase in exports supports more than 6,000 additional jobs.
It’s also critical for our long-term prosperity. Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers and the world’s fastest-growing markets are outside our borders. We need to compete for those customers. Because other nations are.
They’re investing in the skills and education of their people. They’re investing in the high-demand industries of the future. They’ve benefited from American consumers, made themselves into export-based economies, and positioned themselves for those jobs. They’re pursuing trade agreements with growing markets – agreements that would give their companies access to those markets and put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage.
If we stand on the sidelines while they go after those customers, we’ll lose out on the chance to create the good jobs our workers need right here in America. But standing on the sidelines is not what we do. We still have the most innovative economy in the world. We have the most productive workers in the world. We have the finest universities in the world. We have the most dynamic and competitive markets in the world.
And we remain the number one exporter of goods and services in the world. But we shouldn’t be satisfied with being number one. We shouldn’t assume our leadership is guaranteed. When other markets are growing, and other nations are competing, we need to get even better. We need to secure our companies a level playing field. We need to guarantee American workers a fair shake. We need to up our game.
That’s why, for the first time, the United States of America is launching a single, comprehensive strategy to promote American exports. It’s called the National Export Initiative; and it’s an ambitious effort to marshal the full resources of the United States government behind American businesses that sell their goods and services abroad.
This morning, I signed an Executive Order instructing the federal government to use every available federal resource in support of that mission. That order has created an Export Promotion Cabinet, made up of the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor, along with our U.S. Trade Representative, Small Business Administrator, the Export-Import Bank President, and other senior U.S. officials whose work impacts exports. That cabinet will convene its first meeting next month. I’ve also re-launched the President’s Export Council; the principal national advisory committee on international trade. I’ve named Jim McNerney, the President and CEO of Boeing, as its chair; and Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, as vice chair; and I look forward to their recommendations.
Let me talk a bit about what the National Export Initiative will do. First, we’ll substantially increase access to trade financing for businesses that want to export their goods but just need a boost – especially small businesses and medium-sized businesses.
Some of the biggest factors limiting a firm’s decision to export are the high upfront cost of establishing a foothold in a new market, and the ability of the customers in that market to finance the purchase of their products.
During the financial crisis, as trade finance dried up, the Ex-Im Bank lived up to its mission, stepping in to fill the void. In fiscal year 2009, as part of a broader effort of G20 nations to mobilize trade finance worldwide, this institution authorized $21 billion in loans in support of American exports – an increase of nearly 50 percent over the previous year. I applaud Fred Hochberg’s efforts to increase that pace with the authorization of about $10 billion more in the first quarter of this year alone. And under the National Export Initiative, we’ll continue to increase the amount of trade financing Ex-Im offers, including a new $2 billion per year effort to increase support for our small and medium-sized businesses.
Another obstacle our exporters face is that the federal government just hasn’t done a good enough job advocating for them abroad. That’s why, as the second part of the National Export Initiative, the United States of America will go to bat for our businesses and our workers.
As an example, last week, I signed the Travel Promotion Act; a law that will establish active promotion and marketing efforts to encourage foreign citizens to come visit the most dynamic cities, the most entertaining destinations, and the most beautiful natural resources in the world. Well, the same principle applies for our businesses. We’ve got some of the most innovative companies in the world – and we should be advocating on their behalf to boost local economies and create jobs here.
This is an effort that I will personally lead as President. Next week, I will take my second trip to the Asia Pacific – a region that will be fundamental to America’s ability to create jobs and to thrive in the 21st century. We cannot be on the sidelines – we have to lead, and our engagement must extend to governments, business, and peoples across the Pacific. While I’m there, I plan on visiting Indonesia and Australia, two vibrant economies and democracies that will be critical partners for the United States. In both countries, I will highlight the role that American business plays there, and underscore how strong economic partnerships can create jobs on both sides of the Pacific while advancing regional – and global – prosperity. And going forward, I will be a strong and steady advocate for our workers and companies abroad.
This effort will extend throughout my Administration. Secretary Locke is issuing guidance to all senior government officials who have foreign counterparts on how they can best promote our exporters. Secretary Clinton is mobilizing a commercial diplomacy strategy, directing every one of our embassies to create a Senior Visitor Business Liaison who will manage our export advocacy efforts locally, and when our ambassadors return stateside, we’ll ask them to travel the United States to discuss export opportunities in their countries of assignment. We’re also announcing more than 40 trade and reverse trade missions are scheduled for this year. The Department of Commerce, for example, has sent a trade mission to India this week; and Secretary Vilsack is off to Japan on April 15th.
Third, we’ll unleash a battery of comprehensive and coordinated efforts to promote new markets and new opportunities for American exporters.
Many businesses want to export their products, but just don’t have the resources required to identify new markets or to set up shop overseas. That’s where we can help. We’ll bring together the Ex-Im Bank, the SBA, the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, and the Trade Development Agency to set up one-stop-shops across the country and in our 250 embassies and consulates abroad, to help American businesses gain a foothold in the fastest-growing markets with the most demand. And we’ll provide a comprehensive toolkit of services – from financing to counseling to promotion – to help potential exporters grow and expand.
We’ll create public-private partnerships to help firms break into new markets with the help of those who have been there – shipping and supply-chain companies, for example.
And we’ll increase funding for existing promotion efforts. We’ll increase funding for the International Trade Administration at the Department of Commerce, and strengthen the USDA’s ability to connect farmers with new customers overseas.
So we’re increasing financing, advocacy, and assistance for American businesses to locate, set up shop, and win in new markets. Those are the first three aims of the National Export Initiative.
The fourth focuses on making sure American companies have free and fair access to those markets. And that begins by enforcing trade agreements we already have on the books.
When I ran for President, I promised that when the United States of America puts its name to an agreement, that agreement will be as good for workers as it is for businesses, and include strong labor and environmental protections that we’ll enforce. My administration is living up to that promise. Ambassador Kirk has been doing a fantastic job as our United States Trade Representative, working to knock down barriers that unfairly keep American companies from markets we belong in, hold our trade partners to their labor and environmental obligations, and crack down on practices that blatantly harm our companies.
The United States offers some of the world’s lowest barriers to trade. That’s why we can often get more out of a trade deal – our borders are largely open. And when we give other countries the privilege of that free and fair access, we can expect it in return. That’s the spirit in which we’ll move forward. We’ll continue to work towards an ambitious and balanced Doha agreement – not just for the sake of any agreement, but for one that enhances market access for American agriculture, goods, and services. We’ll strengthen relations with key partners like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia, with the goal of moving forward with existing agreements in a way that upholds our values. And we will pursue negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership we launched last year with some of the most dynamic economies in Asia – negotiations that I believe will result in a new standard for 21st century trade agreements that aren’t just good for workers, businesses, and farmers; but consistent with our most cherished values.
What’s more, we’ll aggressively protect our intellectual property. Our single greatest asset is the innovation, ingenuity, and creativity of the American people. It’s essential to our prosperity. But it’s only a competitive advantage if our companies know that someone else can’t just steal that idea and duplicate it with cheaper inputs and labor. There’s nothing wrong with other people using our technologies – we just want to make sure that it’s licensed, and that American businesses are getting paid appropriately. And that’s why USTR is using the full arsenal of tools available to crack down on practices that blatantly harm our businesses, including negotiating proper protection, enforcing our existing agreements, and moving forward on new agreements, including a proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
We’ll also work within the G20 to continue global recovery and growth. Last year, when the G20 met to coordinate the international response to our global economic crisis, we agreed that in order for that growth to continue, we needed to rebalance our economies. For too long, America served as the consumer engine for the entire world. But we are rebalancing. We’re saving more. We all need to rebalance. Countries with external deficits need to save and export more. Countries with external surpluses need to boost consumption and domestic demand. And as I’ve said before, China moving to a more market-oriented exchange rate would make an essential contribution to that global rebalancing effort. I want to commend Secretary Geithner for his extraordinary work and tremendous leadership throughout his work with the G20, and I know he’ll keep working to encourage a rebalancing of global demand – efforts that will be good for our exports and for our job growth.
Finally, we’re working to reform our Export Control System for our strategic, high-tech industries, which will strengthen our national security. We’ll concentrate our efforts on enforcing controls on the export of our most critical technologies, making America safer while enhancing the competitiveness of key American industries. We’ve conducted a broad review of the Export Control System, and Secretary Gates will outline our reform proposal within the next couple weeks. But today, I’d like to announce two steps that we’re prepared to take.
First, we’ll streamline the process certain companies need to go through to get their products to market – products with encryption capabilities like cell phone and network storage devices. Currently, they endure a technical review that can take between 30 to 60 days – putting that company at a distinct disadvantage to foreign competitors who don’t face those delays. A new one-time online process will shorten that review time from 30 days to 30 minutes, making it quicker and easier for our businesses to compete while meeting our national security requirements.
Second, we will eliminate unnecessary obstacles for exporting products to companies with dual-national and third-country-national employees. Currently, our exporters and foreign consumers of these goods have to comply with two different, conflicting sets of standards. They’re running on two tracks, when they could be running on one. So we’re moving toward harmonizing those standards, making it easier for American and foreign companies to comply with our requirements without diminishing our security. I look forward to consulting with Congress on these reforms, as well as our broader export control reform effort.
So that’s how we’ll help double our exports, open up new markets, and level the playing field for American workers and businesses. And I have every confidence that we can and will succeed in this endeavor.
This is a difficult time for our country. And in times like these, questions have always arisen about whether or not America’s best days are behind us. There have always been naysayers and skeptics. There have always been those who waxed fatalistic, fearing that we lacked the capacity to succeed – at times even to survive – in a changing world.
But what makes America great – what makes America the envy of our competitors; what makes this a place where people come not just to invest but to start lives and businesses and families – is something that has been inexorable and enduring, especially in times of great challenge and great change. It’s that spirit of adventurousness and entrepreneurship that has for generations turned wild-eyed tinkerers into world-changing entrepreneurs; that led us to look westward and then skyward; that led to roads and railways cutting through wilderness; and ships and planes and fiber optic lines carrying American goods and services around the world. It’s the spirit that has advanced America’s leadership in the world and held aloft the American Dream for generations. And it is, ultimately, this spirit that has given us the tools and the toughness to overcome every obstacle and adapt to every circumstance – especially today.
It hasn’t always been easy. And our success is my by no means guaranteed. But if we summon a sense of national purpose equal to the seriousness of these times; if we combine our creativity, our innovation, and our eternal optimism; if we come together in common cause as we have so many times before – then we will succeed. We will define our destiny once again. And we will make this century another American century. Thank you.
President Obama Calls for New Restrictions on Size and Scope of Financial Institutions to Rein in Excesses and Protect Taxpayers
President Obama Calls for New Restrictions on Size and Scope of Financial Institutions to Rein in Excesses and Protect Taxpayers
WASHINGTON, DC- President Obama joined Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve; Bill Donaldson, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission; Congressman Barney Frank, House Financial Services Chairman; Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman of the Banking Committee and the President’s economic team to call for new restrictions on the size and scope of banks and other financial institutions to rein in excessive risk taking and to protect taxpayers.
The President’s proposal would strengthen the comprehensive financial reform package that is already moving through Congress.
“While the financial system is far stronger today than it was a year one year ago, it is still operating under the exact same rules that led to its near collapse,” said President Barack Obama. “My resolve to reform the system is only strengthened when I see a return to old practices at some of the very firms fighting reform; and when I see record profits at some of the very firms claiming that they cannot lend more to small business, cannot keep credit card rates low, and cannot refund taxpayers for the bailout. It is exactly this kind of irresponsibility that makes clear reform is necessary.”
The proposal would:
1. Limit the Scope-The President and his economic team will work with Congress to ensure that no bank or financial institution that contains a bank will own, invest in or sponsor a hedge fund or a private equity fund, or proprietary trading operations unrelated to serving customers for its own profit. .
2. Limit the Size- The President also announced a new proposal to limit the consolidation of our financial sector. The President’s proposal will place broader limits on the excessive growth of the market share of liabilities at the largest financial firms, to supplement existing caps on the market share of deposits.
In the coming weeks, the President will continue to work closely with Chairman Dodd and others to craft a strong, comprehensive financial reform bill that puts in place common sense rules of the road and robust safeguards for the benefit of consumers, closes loopholes, and ends the mentality of “Too Big to Fail.” Chairman Barney Frank’s financial reform legislation, which passed the House in December, laid the groundwork for this policy by authorizing regulators to restrict or prohibit large firms from engaging in excessively risky activities.
As part of the previously announced reform program, the proposals announced today will help put an end to the risky practices that contributed significantly to the financial crisis.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON STRENGTHENING INTELLIGENCE AND AVIATION SECURITY
State Dining Room
4:34 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. The immediate reviews that I ordered after the failed Christmas terrorist attack are now complete. I was just briefed on the findings and recommendations for reform, and I believe it’s important that the American people understand the new steps that we’re taking to prevent attacks and keep our country safe.
This afternoon, my Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor, John Brennan, will discuss his review into our terrorist watchlist system — how our government failed to connect the dots in a way that would have prevented a known terrorist from boarding a plane for America, and the steps we’re going to take to prevent that from happening again.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will discuss her review of aviation screening, technology and procedures —- how that terrorist boarded a plane with explosives that could have killed nearly 300 innocent people, and how we’ll strengthen aviation security going forward.
So today I want to just briefly summarize their conclusions and the steps that I’ve ordered to address them.
In our ever-changing world, America’s first line of defense is timely, accurate intelligence that is shared, integrated, analyzed, and acted upon quickly and effectively. That’s what the intelligence reforms after the 9/11 attacks largely achieved. That’s what our intelligence community does every day. But, unfortunately, that’s not what happened in the lead-up to Christmas Day. It’s now clear that shortcomings occurred in three broad and compounding ways.
First, although our intelligence community had learned a great deal about the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen — called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — that we knew that they sought to strike the United States and that they were recruiting operatives to do so — the intelligence community did not aggressively follow up on and prioritize particular streams of intelligence related to a possible attack against the homeland.
Second, this contributed to a larger failure of analysis —- a failure to connect the dots of intelligence that existed across our intelligence community and which, together, could have revealed that Abdulmutallab was planning an attack.
Third, this, in turn, fed into shortcomings in the watch-listing system which resulted in this person not being placed on the “no fly” list, thereby allowing him to board that plane in Amsterdam for Detroit.
In sum, the U.S. government had the information — scattered throughout the system — to potentially uncover this plot and disrupt the attack. Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence, this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had.
That’s why we took swift action in the immediate days following Christmas, including reviewing and updating the terrorist watchlist system and adding more individuals to the “no fly” list, and directing our embassies and consulates to include current visa information in their warnings of individuals with terrorist or suspected terrorist ties.
Today, I’m directing a series of additional corrective steps across multiple agencies. Broadly speaking, they fall into four areas.
First, I’m directing that our intelligence community immediately begin assigning specific responsibility for investigating all leads on high-priority threats so that these leads are pursued and acted upon aggressively — not just most of the time, but all of the time. We must follow the leads that we get. And we must pursue them until plots are disrupted. And that mean assigning clear lines of responsibility.
Second, I’m directing that intelligence reports, especially those involving potential threats to the United States, be distributed more rapidly and more widely. We can’t sit on information that could protect the American people.
Third, I’m directing that we strengthen the analytical process, how our analysis — how our analysts process and integrate the intelligence that they receive. My Director of National Intelligence, Denny Blair, will take the lead in improving our day-to-day efforts. My Intelligence Advisory Board will examine the longer-term challenge of sifting through vast universes of intelligence and data in our Information Age.
And finally, I’m ordering an immediate effort to strengthen the criteria used to add individuals to our terrorist watchlists, especially the “no fly” list. We must do better in keeping dangerous people off airplanes, while still facilitating air travel.
So taken together, these reforms will improve the intelligence community’s ability to collect, share, integrate, analyze, and act on intelligence swiftly and effectively. In short, they will help our intelligence community do its job even better and protect American lives.
But even the best intelligence can’t identify in advance every individual who would do us harm. So we need the security — at our airports, ports, and borders, and through our partnerships with other nations — to prevent terrorists from entering America.
At the Amsterdam airport, Abdulmutallab was subjected to the same screening as other passengers. He was required to show his documents — including a valid U.S. visa. His carry-on bag was X-rayed. He passed through a metal detector. But a metal detector can’t detect the kind of explosives that were sewn into his clothes.
As Secretary Napolitano will explain, the screening technologies that might have detected these explosives are in use at the Amsterdam airport, but not at the specific checkpoints that he passed through. Indeed, most airports in the world — and in the United States — do not yet have these technologies. Now, there’s no silver bullet to securing the thousands of flights into America each day, domestic and international. It will require significant investments in many areas. And that’s why, even before the Christmas attack, we increased investments in homeland security and aviation security. This includes an additional $1 billion in new systems and technologies that we need to protect our airports — more baggage screening, more passenger screening and more advanced explosive detection capabilities, including those that can improve our ability to detect the kind of explosive used on Christmas. These are major investments and they’ll make our skies safer and more secure.
As I announced this week, we’ve taken a whole range of steps to improve aviation screening and security since Christmas, including new rules for how we handle visas within the government and enhanced screening for passengers flying from, or through, certain countries.
And today, I’m directing that the Department of Homeland Security take additional steps, including: strengthening our international partnerships to improve aviation screening and security around the world; greater use of the advanced explosive detection technologies that we already have, including imaging technology; and working aggressively, in cooperation with the Department of Energy and our National Labs, to develop and deploy the next generation of screening technologies.
Now, there is, of course, no foolproof solution. As we develop new screening technologies and procedures, our adversaries will seek new ways to evade them, as was shown by the Christmas attack. In the never-ending race to protect our country, we have to stay one step ahead of a nimble adversary. That’s what these steps are designed to do. And we will continue to work with Congress to ensure that our intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement communities have the resources they need to keep the American people safe.
I ordered these two immediate reviews so that we could take immediate action to secure our country. But in the weeks and months ahead, we will continue a sustained and intensive effort of analysis and assessment, so that we leave no stone unturned in seeking better ways to protect the American people.
I have repeatedly made it clear — in public with the American people, and in private with my national security team — that I will hold my staff, our agencies and the people in them accountable when they fail to perform their responsibilities at the highest levels.
Now, at this stage in the review process it appears that this incident was not the fault of a single individual or organization, but rather a systemic failure across organizations and agencies. That’s why, in addition to the corrective efforts that I’ve ordered, I’ve directed agency heads to establish internal accountability reviews, and directed my national security staff to monitor their efforts. We will measure progress. And John Brennan will report back to me within 30 days and on a regular basis after that. All of these agencies — and their leaders — are responsible for implementing these reforms. And all will be held accountable if they don’t.
Moreover, I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer. For ultimately, the buck stops with me. As President, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people. And when the system fails, it is my responsibility.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve been reminded again of the challenge we face in protecting our country against a foe that is bent on our destruction. And while passions and politics can often obscure the hard work before us, let’s be clear about what this moment demands. We are at war. We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again. And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them.
And we’ve made progress. Al Qaeda’s leadership is hunkered down. We have worked closely with partners, including Yemen, to inflict major blows against al Qaeda leaders. And we have disrupted plots at home and abroad, and saved American lives.
And we know that the vast majority of Muslims reject al Qaeda. But it is clear that al Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations not just in the Middle East, but in Africa and other places, to do their bidding. That’s why I’ve directed my national security team to develop a strategy that addresses the unique challenges posed by lone recruits. And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death –- including the murder of fellow Muslims –- while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress.
To advance that progress, we’ve sought new beginnings with Muslim communities around the world, one in which we engage on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect, and work together to fulfill the aspirations that all people share — to get an education, to work with dignity, to live in peace and security. That’s what America believes in. That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.
Here at home, we will strengthen our defenses, but we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans, because great and proud nations don’t hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust. That is exactly what our adversaries want, and so long as I am President, we will never hand them that victory. We will define the character of our country, not some band of small men intent on killing innocent men, women and children.
And in this cause, every one of us — every American, every elected official — can do our part. Instead of giving into cynicism and division, let’s move forward with the confidence and optimism and unity that defines us as a people. For now is not a time for partisanship, it’s a time for citizenship — a time to come together and work together with the seriousness of purpose that our national security demands.
That’s what it means to be strong in the face of violent extremism. That’s how we will prevail in this fight. And that’s how we will protect our country and pass it — safer and stronger — to the next generation.
Thanks very much.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS
South Court Auditorium
12:39 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. I am pleased that you could all join us today as we announce three new initiatives to help our community health centers provide better care to people in need all across America. (Applause.)
I want to thank our Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius; our Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin; our Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, Dr. Mary Wakefield; and our Deputy Secretary of HHS, Bill Corr, for being here today and for their outstanding work to support community health centers. There they are. (Applause.) By the way, Regina, it’s good to see you in your uniform. (Laughter.) We had been waiting for that.
I also want to thank the many members of Congress who are with us today both in the audience and up on the stage, particularly Bernie Sanders and Representative Jim Clyburn. We are grateful for all that you’ve done. (Applause.)
And I especially want to recognize the leaders here today from health centers across the country for what all of you are doing in your communities every day –- working long hours to provide quality care at prices that people can afford, with the dignity and respect they deserve, and in a way that takes into account the challenges that they face in their lives.
For you folks, health care isn’t just about diagnosing patients and treating illness –- it’s about caring for people and promoting wellness. It’s about emphasizing education and prevention, and helping people lead healthier lives so they don’t get sick in the first place.
And it works. Studies show that people living near a health center are less likely to go to the emergency room and less likely to have unmet critical medical needs. CHCs are proven to reduce ethnic and racial disparities in care. And the medical expenses of regular CHC patients are nearly 25 percent lower than those folks who get their care elsewhere — 25 percent lower.
So you can see why, in a speech marking the first anniversary of the first community health centers in America, Senator Ted Kennedy declared, “You have not only assured the best in health care for your families and neighbors, but you’ve also begun a minor revolution in American medicine.”
Now, unfortunately, today, nearly 45 years later, that care has yet to reach many of the folks in this country who need it most. Today, millions of Americans still have difficulty accessing primary health care, and many of them are uninsured. Many have insurance, but live in underserved areas, whether in urban or rural communities. So they don’t get regular checkups, they don’t get routine screenings. When they get sick or hurt, they tough it out and hope for the best, and when things get bad enough they head to the emergency room.
So we end up treating complications, crises and chronic conditions that could have been prevented in the first place. And the cost is measured not just in dollars spent on health care, or in lost workplace absences and lower productivity, but in the kind of raw human suffering that has no place in the United States of America in the year 2009.
No matter what party we belong to, or where on the political spectrum we fall, none of us thinks this is acceptable. None of us would defend this system. And that’s why we’ve taken up the cause of health insurance reform this year. It’s why many of the folks in this room fought so hard to ensure that the Recovery Act included unprecedented investments –- a total of $2 billion –- to upgrade and expand our health centers –- investments that embody the act’s core mission: to help folks hardest hit by this recession, to put people back to work, and to leave a legacy of improvements that will continue to lift up communities for generations to come.
Today, we’re well on our way to meeting these goals. We’ve created or saved up to 1.6 million jobs, according to the CBO — the Congressional Budget Office — through the Recovery Act. Our economy is growing again. We’re doubling our capacity in renewable energy and rebuilding schools and laboratories, railways, and highways. Yesterday, the Kaiser Family Foundation issued a new report showing the Recovery Act has helped many states keep and improve access to health insurance for families in need.
And so far, we’ve allocated nearly $1.4 billion to health centers across America so they can get to work building and renovating and hiring new staff this year. And today, I’m pleased to announce that we’re awarding more than $500 million to 85 centers in more than 30 states and Puerto Rico that are providing critical care for so many folks with nowhere else to turn. (Applause.)
We’re investing in places like Canyonlands Community Health Care in Arizona, that has one facility operating in a building originally constructed as a chicken coop and another in a cramped fire station. We’re investing in places like Avis Goodwin Community Health center in Dover, New Hampshire, that’s become so overcrowded — you must be from there. (Laughter.) It’s become so overcrowded the doctors are using bathrooms and closets as offices. We’re investing in Bucksport Regional Health Center in Maine, where doctors are double-booked and the waiting rooms are often standing room only. We’re giving places like these the funding they need to upgrade and expand their facilities so they can meet the skyrocketing demand for services that’s come with this economic downturn.
But we won’t just want our health centers to provide more care for more patients; we want them to provide better care as well. So starting today, we’re making $88 million in funding available for centers to adopt new health information technology systems to manage their administrative and financial matters and transfer old paper files to electronic medical records. (Applause.) These investments won’t just increase efficiency and lower costs, they’ll improve the quality of care as well –- preventing countless medical errors, and allowing providers to spend less time with paperwork and more time with patients.
That’s the purpose of the final initiative I’m announcing today as well -– a demonstration project to evaluate the benefits of the “medical home” model of care that many of our health centers aspire to. The idea here is very simple: that in order for care to be effective, it needs to be coordinated. It’s a model where the center that serves as your medical home might help you keep track of your prescriptions, or get the referrals you need, or work with you to develop a plan of care that ensures your providers are working together to keep you healthy.
So taken together, these three initiatives –- funding for construction, technology, and a medical home demonstration –- they won’t just save money over the long term and create more jobs, they’re also going to give more people the peace of mind of knowing that health care will be there for them and their families when they need it.
And ultimately, that’s what health insurance reform is really about. That’s what the members of Congress here today will be voting on in the coming weeks. (Applause.)
Now, let me just end by saying a little bit about this broader effort. I know it’s been a long road. (Laughter.) I know it’s been a tough fight. But I also know the reason we’ve taken up this cause is the very same reason why so many members from both parties are here today –- because no matter what our politics are, we know that when it comes to health care, the people we serve deserve better.
The legislation in Congress today contains both Democratic ideas and Republican ideas, and plenty of compromises in between. The Senate made critical progress last night with a creative new framework that I believe will help pave the way for final passage and a historic achievement on behalf of the American people. I support this effort, especially since it’s aimed at increasing choice and competition and lowering cost. So I want to thank all of you for sticking with it, for all those late nights, all the long weekends that you guys have put in. With so much at stake, this is well worth all of our efforts.
It is now my pleasure to sign the memo that will direct Secretary Sebelius to get started on that medical home demonstration. So let’s do that. (Applause.)
Remarks By President Barack Obama At Fort Hood Memorial Service: “We Need Not Look To The Past For Greatness, Because It Is Before Our Very Eyes.”
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Memorial Service at Fort Hood
November 10, 2009
We come together filled with sorrow for the thirteen Americans that we have lost; with gratitude for the lives that they led; and with a determination to honor them through the work we carry on.
This is a time of war. And yet these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle. They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great American community. It is this fact that makes the tragedy even more painful and even more incomprehensible.
For those families who have lost a loved one, no words can fill the void that has been left. We knew these men and women as soldiers and caregivers. You knew them as mothers and fathers; sons and daughters; sisters and brothers.
But here is what you must also know: your loved ones endure through the life of our nation. Their memory will be honored in the places they lived and by the people they touched. Their life’s work is our security, and the freedom that we too often take for granted. Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – that is their legacy.
Neither this country – nor the values that we were founded upon – could exist without men and women like these thirteen Americans. And that is why we must pay tribute to their stories.
Chief Warrant Officer Michael Cahill had served in the National Guard and worked as a physician’s assistant for decades. A husband and father of three, he was so committed to his patients that on the day he died, he was back at work just weeks after having a heart attack.
Major Libardo Eduardo Caraveo spoke little English when he came to America as a teenager. But he put himself through college, earned a PhD, and was helping combat units cope with the stress of deployment. He is survived by his wife, sons and step-daughters.
Staff Sergeant Justin DeCrow joined the Army right after high school, married his high school sweetheart, and had served as a light wheeled mechanic and Satellite Communications Operator. He was known as an optimist, a mentor, and a loving husband and father.
After retiring from the Army as a Major, John Gaffaney cared for society’s most vulnerable during two decades as a psychiatric nurse. He spent three years trying to return to active duty in this time of war, and he was preparing to deploy to Iraq as a Captain. He leaves behind a wife and son.
Specialist Frederick Greene was a Tennessean who wanted to join the Army for a long time, and did so in 2008 with the support of his family. As a combat engineer he was a natural leader, and he is survived by his wife and two daughters.
Specialist Jason Hunt was also recently married, with three children to care for. He joined the Army after high school. He did a tour in Iraq, and it was there that he re-enlisted for six more years on his 21st birthday so that he could continue to serve.
Staff Sergeant Amy Krueger was an athlete in high school, joined the Army shortly after 9/11, and had since returned home to speak to students about her experience. When her mother told her she couldn’t take on Osama bin Laden by herself, Amy replied: “Watch me.”
Private First Class Aaron Nemelka was an Eagle Scout who just recently signed up to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the service – diffuse bombs – so that he could help save lives. He was proudly carrying on a tradition of military service that runs deep within his family.
Private First Class Michael Pearson loved his family and loved his music, and his goal was to be a music teacher. He excelled at playing the guitar, and could create songs on the spot and show others how to play. He joined the military a year ago, and was preparing for his first deployment.
Captain Russell Seager worked as a nurse for the VA, helping veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress. He had great respect for the military, and signed up to serve so that he could help soldiers cope with the stress of combat and return to civilian life. He leaves behind a wife and son.
Private Francheska Velez, the daughter of a father from Colombia and a Puerto Rican mother, had recently served in Korea and in Iraq, and was pursuing a career in the Army. When she was killed, she was pregnant with her first child, and was excited about becoming a mother.
Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Warman was the daughter and granddaughter of Army veterans. She was a single mother who put herself through college and graduate school, and served as a nurse practitioner while raising her two daughters. She also left behind a loving husband.
Private First Class Kham Xiong came to America from Thailand as a small child. He was a husband and father who followed his brother into the military because his family had a strong history of service. He was preparing for his first deployment to Afghanistan.
These men and women came from all parts of the country. Some had long careers in the military. Some had signed up to serve in the shadow of 9/11. Some had known intense combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some cared for those did. Their lives speak to the strength, the dignity and the decency of those who serve, and that is how they will be remembered.
That same spirit is embodied in the community here at Fort Hood, and in the many wounded who are still recovering. In those terrible minutes during the attack, soldiers made makeshift tourniquets out of their clothes. They braved gunfire to reach the wounded, and ferried them to safety in the backs of cars and a pick-up truck.
One young soldier, Amber Bahr, was so intent on helping others that she did not realize for some time that she, herself, had been shot in the back. Two police officers – Mark Todd and Kim Munley – saved countless lives by risking their own. One medic – Francisco de la Serna – treated both Officer Munley and the gunman who shot her.
It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know – no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice – in this world, and the next.
These are trying times for our country. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the same extremists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans continue to endanger America, our allies, and innocent Afghans and Pakistanis. In Iraq, we are working to bring a war to a successful end, as there are still those who would deny the Iraqi people the future that Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed so much for.
As we face these challenges, the stories of those at Fort Hood reaffirm the core values that we are fighting for, and the strength that we must draw upon. Theirs are tales of American men and women answering an extraordinary call – the call to serve their comrades, their communities, and their country. In an age of selfishness, they embody responsibility. In an era of division, they call upon us to come together. In a time of cynicism, they remind us of who we are as Americans.
We are a nation that endures because of the courage of those who defend it. We saw that valor in those who braved bullets here at Fort Hood, just as surely as we see it in those who signed up knowing that they would serve in harm’s way.
We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes.
We are a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses. And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln’s words, and always pray to be on the side of God.
We are a nation that is dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal. We live that truth within our military, and see it in the varied backgrounds of those we lay to rest today. We defend that truth at home and abroad, and we know that Americans will always be found on the side of liberty and equality. That is who we are as a people.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day. It is a chance to pause, and to pay tribute – for students to learn of the struggles that preceded them; for families to honor the service of parents and grandparents; for citizens to reflect upon the sacrifices that have been made in pursuit of a more perfect union.
For history is filled with heroes. You may remember the stories of a grandfather who marched across Europe; an uncle who fought in Vietnam; a sister who served in the Gulf. But as we honor the many generations who have served, I think all of us – every single American – must acknowledge that this generation has more than proved itself the equal of those who have come before.
We need not look to the past for greatness, because it is before our very eyes.
This generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have volunteered in a time of certain danger. They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known. They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different and difficult places. They have stood watch in blinding deserts and on snowy mountains. They have extended the opportunity of self-government to peoples that have suffered tyranny and war. They are man and woman; white, black, and brown; of all faiths and stations – all Americans, serving together to protect our people, while giving others half a world away the chance to lead a better life.
In today’s wars, there is not always a simple ceremony that signals our troops’ success – no surrender papers to be signed, or capital to be claimed. But the measure of their impact is no less great – in a world of threats that no know borders, it will be marked in the safety of our cities and towns, and the security and opportunity that is extended abroad. And it will serve as testimony to the character of those who serve, and the example that you set for America and for the world.
Here, at Fort Hood, we pay tribute to thirteen men and women who were not able to escape the horror of war, even in the comfort of home. Later today, at Fort Lewis, one community will gather to remember so many in one Stryker Brigade who have fallen in Afghanistan.
Long after they are laid to rest – when the fighting has finished, and our nation has endured; when today’s servicemen and women are veterans, and their children have grown – it will be said of this generation that they believed under the most trying of tests; that they persevered not just when it was easy, but when it was hard; and that they paid the price and bore the burden to secure this nation, and stood up for the values that live in the hearts of all free peoples.
So we say goodbye to those who now belong to eternity. We press ahead in pursuit of the peace that guided their service. May God bless the memory of those we lost. And may God bless the United States of America.
PRESS BRIEFING BY
PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:20 P.M. EST
MR. GIBBS: Good afternoon. Before we get going on questions I just want to reiterate again that — I think most of you know that we’ll be doing a briefing call on Asia, on the Asia trip. I think as most of you all know, based on the events of last week and the changes to the President’s schedule this week, our departure to Japan will be delayed by a day. We head to Japan, spend the same amount of time there, one fewer days in Singapore, and then pick up as previously scheduled.
In terms of why, obviously the President had a fairly full schedule tomorrow, which, as you all know, has been changed to go to Fort Hood for the memorial service, where the President will speak and see victims’ families. So as I said, late last week before we tried to do a week ahead that the schedule was in some flux, and that is largely how it has come out now.
Q Can you go through the week ahead now?
Q Yes, what was on the schedule tomorrow that he’s doing Wednesday?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know exactly what got moved around. I know that obviously you’ve seen today, tomorrow almost exclusively is the trip down to Fort Hood. I think the highlight Wednesday — two highlights obviously — participating in Veterans Day activities first at the White House and then at Arlington National Cemetery. And then later in the day, there will be a meeting to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan. And I honestly do not know when we depart on Thursday, but I should figure that out because I’ve got to pack.
Other than that, take us away.
Q Robert, is that the Sit Room meeting on Wednesday?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, sir.
Q And what number is that?
MR. GIBBS: Is it eight? Sounds like eight? I don’t honestly — it seems to have sort of — runs around.
Q What does the White House — well, one thing first, on the meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister tonight. Why is that closed, no press avail, the statements? What is the thinking there?
MR. GIBBS: Well, the President obviously is — will meet later today with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss a full range of issues –
Q — want to meet with him? This meeting was –
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, as you know, our schedule since late last week has been up in the air. The President was supposed to speak on Tuesday to the same group that Prime Minister Netanyahu is speaking to. He obviously looks forward to sitting down with the Prime Minister tonight — and continue to work together to address issues like Middle East peace and the threat that’s posed by Iran.
Q And then separately, what does the White House know about any contacts by the Fort Hood shooter or ties to al Qaeda?
MR. GIBBS: Obviously, Jennifer, this is a continuing investigation that’s being led jointly by DOD and FBI. The President has been very clear with everyone that no stone should be left unturned to figure out how and why this happened, and to ensure that it never happens again. I think the FBI will have updates on their investigation later on this afternoon and I think that’s the best place to go for that information.
Q Has there been a determination about whether it was terrorist — an act of terrorism?
MR. GIBBS: I think the FBI is the best place to address that. I do not know that they have a lot more on motive, but they’ll have updates this afternoon.
Q Iran has charged three U.S. citizens with espionage. Does this expose the limits of the administration’s efforts to reach out to Tehran, and could it undermine efforts to get a nuclear deal?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me start by saying that these three hikers — Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd — are innocent young people who should be released by the Iranian government and their release should be expedited. We have not heard confirmation through our Swiss counterparts about charges.
As it relates to Iran, I guess I would have two different — make two different points. One, this is an important — the events of the next few days and the past few days are important for Iran to contemplate as they make decisions, moving forward. They have to essentially agree to their previous agreement on the research reactor, and I think the world is watching and waiting for their conclusive decisions on that.
With how Iran is dealt with, when that decision is made, I would point you to what President Medvedev said, which was — over the weekend — which was if Iran fails to take steps in its control to demonstrate its responsibility to the world, then sanctions may be necessary.
Q So you definitely link the charging of the three citizens with espionage with why the –
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I was giving a broader answer. I think, again, notwithstanding whether or not they’ve been charged, they should be released as they’re innocent.
Q If President Obama is having the Sit Room meeting tomorrow on Af-Pak, should –
MR. GIBBS: Wednesday –
Q I’m sorry, Wednesday — should we then expect that his announcement will come after the Asia trip?
MR. GIBBS: I’ve not been told when it’s going to be, but I think it is doubtful that it will happen prior to Thursday.
Q And would it — is it conceivable that it would happen during his trip to Asia?
MR. GIBBS: Not likely, I wouldn’t think.
Q The White House reached out specifically to Congressman Cao during the health care negotiations before the vote and right before the vote. What did the White House tell the congressman?
MR. GIBBS: Well, this wasn’t — those conversations didn’t happen just this weekend. Nancy-Ann had met with him many weeks ago. He obviously is somebody who was interested in talking about what was in the President’s health reform proposal and obviously made a decision that it was in the best interest of his constituents.
Q Is there anything that — in terms of stimulus money going to New Orleans, or is there anything beyond the health care reform bill that –
MR. GIBBS: Not that I know of.
Q Not that you know? And in terms of — just one other thing on the meeting. Originally I know you guys have been –
MR. GIBBS: Which meeting?
Q I’m sorry, the announcement about the Afghanistan –
MR. GIBBS: Oh, okay.
Q Originally you guys have been shooting for before the strategy, and certainly that was not an official deadline, but you guys have been shooting for that. What’s the reason for taking a little bit more time?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I mean, I think, Jake, the President wants to make sure that, as I’ve said on numerous occasions, take the time necessary to get the decision right. We’re at a pivotal moment and I think the President wants to ensure that he has all that he needs and has heard from all that have equities in this in order to make a decision of import.
Q But what has — what could he not have gotten already? I mean, what did he not have already –
MR. GIBBS: Well, suffice to say, if he had gotten everything he needed, we probably wouldn’t be meeting on Wednesday.
Q Can you give us just an idea, though, of the kind of thing you’re talking about?
MR. GIBBS: No.
Q Are the Chiefs coming back?
MR. GIBBS: Say again? I don’t think this is specifically with Joint Chiefs. I think this is more what has been done — let me check exactly on the manifest. I think it is more in line with the groups that we had seen in here earlier.
Q But you said — I’m sorry to butt in but –
MR. GIBBS: — the Joint Chiefs later on — I don’t obviously –
Q — another one?
MR. GIBBS: — close the door on the fact that there could be more.
Q On health care, Robert, the President, in his written statement late Saturday, I believe, said again that he wants this done by the end of the year — he wants the Senate to move by the end of the year, but I don’t think I heard that in the Rose Garden yesterday. Was that just a little — like he just didn’t mention the deadline, or how firm is the deadline in terms of by the end of this year?
MR. GIBBS: It didn’t change overnight. I mean, it didn’t change from Saturday night after the vote to Sunday. So, I mean, the President still wants to get this done by the end of the year.
Q And on the meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I just wanted to follow up. I understand the schedule has been in flux, but why no television cameras? Is it because you don’t want to highlight the fact that there’s not a lot of progress in these talks so far?
MR. GIBBS: No, the President wanted to have a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. That’s what we’re doing. I’m sure, Ed, that the contents of the meeting generally seem to be well read out and I trust that this time will be no different.
Q But typically the President will go on camera if he wants to highlight what is a key initiative for him, and if Mideast peace is that important you would think that he would want to do that.
Q Well, like the date didn’t change from Saturday night to Sunday, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the President thinks no less of the importance of the Middle East peace process on simply by subtracting one television camera.
Q And the last thing, on settlements. Last week, Secretary Clinton was in Israel, and suggested — she wanted to praise the Israelis for some progress on settlements. And the Palestinians were upset because the U.S. policy has been a complete freeze on settlements.
MR. GIBBS: Policy dating back several decades, yes.
Q Right, but specifically it was emphasized in the early days of this administration. And the Palestinians felt like maybe there were some back-peddling. Can you just clear up — there was a sense that she seemed to be shifting last week.
MR. GIBBS: No, no, again, I judge from your question — the policy of the United States government for many decades has been no more settlements. That’s not something that is new to this administration. It’s something that I think has gotten disproportionate media coverage, but it’s not a policy difference in this administration and previous administrations.
Q Thank you. On the health care bill, does — the President supports, endorses, whatever you want to call it, the House bill. He’s made that very clear. Does he support the abortion funding restrictions in the House bill?
MR. GIBBS: The President, Chip, as you know, went to Capitol Hill to rally support for the bill. That bill is now through the House, which we’re quite pleased about. The Senate, once we get budget numbers from CBO, will become — that will move to the Senate floor. I don’t doubt that you’ll have a somewhat different bill. That’s the way this process works, and we’ll iron out differences as they come.
Q What’s his position on abortion funding restrictions?
MR. GIBBS: I think you heard the President in front of Congress several months ago, and we’ll continue to make progress.
Q So then he wouldn’t support anything like the provision that’s in the House bill?
MR. GIBBS: I’m not going to become a negotiator from Capitol Hill — on Capitol Hill from the podium.
Q Would he accept something that goes beyond what the Hyde amendment does?
MR. GIBBS: We will wait to see what health care reform brings.
Q So there could be something then in the end that goes beyond current law in restricting abortion funding?
MR. GIBBS: Chip, I wish we were having this conversation as the last part of this process, but as your network and others have pointed out, there are miles to go before we sleep.
Q Can I follow up on the Fort Hood — the President is getting briefed how frequently on that and by whom?
MR. GIBBS: Certainly as developments warrant, and again, the President’s daily briefing this morning in the Oval began with an update on the situation in Fort Hood.
Q Is there any concern with going down there — I know often when Presidents go places, hurricane zones and things like that — was there any concern that by going he could interfere with all of his entourage and security, could interfere in this investigation?
MR. GIBBS: No. And as we talked about late last week, I think Friday, this was — obviously the President wanted to go, but wanted to do it at a time that was most convenient for the families of the victims. As I said, families are coming in from all over the country, and we wanted to make sure that our schedule was worked around their schedule. But I have heard nothing to suggest that there were any concerns with his presence on the way down there tomorrow.
Q Robert, one quick question on Afghanistan. There have been reports that he’s waiting for another set of recommendations, or a set of recommendations, from the Pentagon. Do you know — is that true? And has he received that set of recommendations, an additional –
MR. GIBBS: I think — I don’t know what additional recommendations he’s gotten. I know the Pentagon was working on additional recommendations.
Q You don’t know if he’s received those yet?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know.
Q So it could be a ways off, if he hasn’t even received this next round of recommendations.
MR. GIBBS: Other than to characterize it as in the coming weeks, I don’t have any further guidance.
Q Will he keep working on it while he’s in Asia?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think there’s no doubt that this is a topic that will be addressed in some of the meetings that he has throughout the trip. I think, along with things like Iran and non-proliferation and North Korea, I think in meeting with people throughout the trip, this will certainly be a topic.
I mean, obviously — I mean, for one, the Japanese obviously have been — have given generously in finances for the training of an Afghan national security force. So this will –
Q — you think he’ll actually work on his decision on –
MR. GIBBS: Oh, absolutely. The President spends time on this each and every day, regardless of where he is.
Q On the Fort Hood investigation, does the White House believe that at some point they will have to be the final arbiter on who takes the lead in the investigation or who prosecutes — who takes the lead on the prosecution, Justice or the military?
MR. GIBBS: I have not heard a discussion about that.
Q Right now it’s still a joint investigation. When you say it’s the FBI and the military working together, it’s a joint investigation. This has to do with the death penalty and the various –
MR. GIBBS: Truthfully, Chuck, I don’t — I have not heard a discussion about that part of it. The notion of obviously a joint investigation — during the initial incident, the Department of Defense called the FBI, and the investigation at that juncture was run jointly by the FBI and the DOD. I have not, though, heard discussions of who brings charges and where.
Q So we could be days away from that, weeks away from that? There’s just no –
MR. GIBBS: Weeks away from –
Q From charges being –
MR. GIBBS: I mean, obviously — yes, I would point you to either one of those institutions.
Q Neither one — the Justice Department or the Department of Defense — hasn’t asked the White House to make a jurisdictional decision?
MR. GIBBS: No. Certainly not that I’m aware of, no.
Q On health care, what is the Christmas deadline? Is the Christmas deadline to get a bill on the President’s desk to sign, or is the Christmas deadline to get a bill out of the Senate and out of the House?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I can assure you if we get a bill out of the Senate and the House somewhere around Christmas, the President won’t take a lot of time in trying to sign it.
Q No, I understand that, but the separate bill. I’m talking about the separate Senate — if this deadline –
MR. GIBBS: Well, we want to get health care done by the end of the year.
Q You mean signed?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, if it gets to his desk, I can assure you there’s not a huge amount of gap between when it gets here –
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I understand, I understand. Understand if I say he’s going to sign it, let’s assume conference has happened, right? Let’s assume we’ve got a bill that is ready for the President to –
Q Is that a realistic –
MR. GIBBS: I’m just a bill.
Q Is that a realistic deadline or are you guys ramping up pressure on Senator Reid to make this deadline?
MR. GIBBS: No, no, we’ve been doing this for how many months?
Q And we’ve had different deadlines –
MR. GIBBS: And when we say the end of the year, we’ve got a pretty firm end-of-the-year deadline.
Q And this is to sign a bill end of the year, but to get a bill –
MR. GIBBS: How much clearer could I be? Seriously, how much clearer could I be? Do you think it’s ambiguous?
Q Have the deadlines gotten moved?
MR. GIBBS: I’ve just answered this question three times, right?
Q The deadline is the end of the year to sign?
MR. GIBBS: Please send a transcript to [MR. TODD’S EMAIL REDACTED].
Q All right, all right. So that means — I mean, I just –
MR. GIBBS: I just answered this three times, Chuck. Three times. The President — let me do this just so I’m clear, all right. I don’t know if you want to alert the networks to break in. The President wants to sign health care before the end of the year. Anybody have a follow-up?
Q I do.
Q I just have one question.
Q Jonathan? (Laughter.)
Q On the trip schedule, the President had intended to leave initially on Wednesday. That was always going to be Veterans Day, and I’m confused why he’s not leaving on Wednesday now.
MR. GIBBS: Because all of what he was going to do Tuesday, while he travels to Texas is now going to take place either crammed into later today or crammed into the latter half of Wednesday past what had previously been scheduled as a breakfast here and a trip to Arlington National Cemetery.
Q It’s not because he’s — he wants to stay in — he was going to do those Veterans Day events before he left anyway?
MR. GIBBS: Absolutely. No, the two events that were always on his schedule prior to leaving at that point on Wednesday would have been — I think it’s a closed-press breakfast here before traveling to Arlington late morning.
Q Okay. And back on the abortion question. Candidate Obama campaigned as a pro-choice Democrat. This was a big debate between he and Hillary Clinton, who was more pro-choice.
MR. GIBBS: I don’t completely remember that debate, but go ahead.
Q But anyway, he was a pro-choice Democrat and now he’s — the House has passed some of the strictest legislation restricting abortion that we’ve seen in a very long time. I mean, can Barack Obama, who campaigned as a pro-choice Democrat, sign legislation with this language?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Jonathan, we’ll — ask me that right before Christmas and the end of the New Year.
Q Robert, did the FBI director brief the President today on Fort Hood?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know if the — I don’t know if Director Mueller was here today in the PDB. He was — I want to make sure I got my dates right — he was here –
MR. GIBBS: Thursday night was the first meeting. It was about 6:20 p.m. that evening. Director Mueller was in that meeting with Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen the day of the shooting and was part of the PDB, the extended PDB, on Friday morning. I don’t know if — I don’t believe he was over here this morning, but let me double-check.
Q On health care, does the President believe that a single Republican vote makes the House passed bill bipartisan?
MR. GIBBS: By definition.
Q No, really.
MR. GIBBS: Mark, I don’t doubt that the President hopes, or wished that more Republicans would recognize that there are people in their districts that they represent, as we’ve talked about, that are suffering from the skyrocketing cost of health care; who own small businesses that have to either let workers go or drop the insurance coverage that they want to provide; or that represent many that are discriminated against by the practices of insurance companies. Look, the President would love for this to be — to pass unanimously. He understands that for whatever reason, some in the party have decided to make a political statement about this.
Q I noticed that both John Boehner and Mitch McConnell used the word “monstrosity” to believe the bill passed on Saturday night. How do you bridge a gap like that, when they’re using a word of that –
MR. GIBBS: Who was it?
Q Both McConnell and Boehner.
MR. GIBBS: Well, remember, Boehner announced his opposition to this three months ago. So the notion that he thinks that –
Q Well, you can be against something without regarding it as a “monstrosity.”
MR. GIBBS: Yes, but again, he — when in the process three months you’ve decided you’re against the bill, I’m not sure that there’s anything the President can say or do that’s ever going to convince somebody like that, that — despite the fact that on the House and the Senate side, Republican ideas have become part of the bill; despite the fact that even when Republican members came back from recess in early September after spending most of August at home, you heard statements like the American people understand we have to address the issue of health care reform; or you see poll after poll done by many of you guys that show the American people want to see something done this year. I don’t know how many more different data points of evidence you need to understand that this is a continual problem that the American people have faced, and it has to be addressed.
Q May I ask a follow-up on the bill signing question?
MR. GIBBS: Sure.
Q Thank you. One other option, although nobody wants it, is for Congress to attach a health care bill to an omnibus budget reconciliation bill just like they did with COBRA. If that’s the only way it could get to the President’s desk, would he sign that as well?
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously the President wants the process to move forward, as it’s doing. And as continue to make progress, we don’t see any need to change the process.
Q But what if you don’t make progress?
MR. GIBBS: Then we’ll look at alternatives.
Q Is the President going to have remarks at Arlington on Wednesday after the wreath laying?
MR. GIBBS: That I don’t honestly know, but I will double-check.
Q And will there be a readout after the Netanyahu meeting tonight?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, we can get you a readout.
Q To everybody?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q To revisit Iowa briefly and the pro-choice debate that went on there, there were those in the Hillary Clinton camp who said because then-state senator Obama voted “present” on some votes, he was insuffiently pro-choice, and that was sort of fought out a little bit —
MR. GIBBS: Oh, that’s what you’re talking about. I mean, I think that was –
Q I’m just saying it came up.
MR. GIBBS: I think that was handled by people that the President had worked with, representing those groups, which largely dismissed that argument.
Q Which leads me to the question now — some of those groups — NARAL and Planned Parenthood — have condemned the language in the House bill and want it repealed. Does the White House agree or disagree with NARAL and Planned Parenthood’s interpretation of the bill currently?
MR. GIBBS: I’m not going to get deeply into this, except to say that we will work on this and continue to seek consensus and common ground.
Q In pursuit of what — just passing the bill?
MR. GIBBS: Health care reform.
Q Okay. But not resolving abortion to the satisfaction of NARAL or Planned Parenthood?
MR. GIBBS: I think this obviously is something that will have to be addressed in order to get to that point.
Q Does the President agree with Army Chief of Staff Casey who said yesterday, “As horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse”?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think the President agrees with General Casey that — look, having sat through the meeting with the Joint Chiefs, there is tremendous pride for an all-volunteer armed forces in this country. That’s I think a pride shared by the Joint Chiefs as well as the Commander-in-Chief. And there are people of many different ethnicities and many different religions that serve with great honor and distinction in our military today, and the President certainly hopes that that continues.
Q To the families who might wonder if that diversity is so important that it’s — losing it would be worse than losing their own family member, do you understand how some might think that is elevating diversity over human life or –
MR. GIBBS: I do not believe that in any way, shape, or form that’s what General Casey was saying.
Q And you would not want anyone to jump to that conclusion –
MR. GIBBS: I wouldn’t, no.
Q Okay. On climate change, the heavy negotiations for the United Nations and the EU have now become somewhat more publicly vocal in their criticism of the administration in their interpretation it’s not working hard enough to bring climate change legislation and an agreement to Copenhagen, to have something that’s substantive that can be a part of the overall negotiations. A, how do you react to that? And B, does the President need, does the administration need Senate passage of a climate change bill to seek a deal within the confines of the U.N. climate change talks?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t give those comments a whole lot of credence. We are closer to an energy and climate bill becoming law than has ever — we’ve ever gotten with the passage of it through the House of Representatives. And the notion that one country stands in the way of addressing climate change would be to forget countries like China, India, Brazil, and others that have to also be brought along in this process. So with all due respect, I don’t give those comments a whole lot of credence.
Q The Af-Pak meeting that’s on Wednesday, was that originally scheduled for Tuesday?
MR. GIBBS: I believe it was, but the schedule obviously — we knew fairly — we knew on Thursday the schedule for Friday and the remainder of the days before the trip would change. I don’t know if it originally was today or whether it was going to be on Tuesday.
Q And can you talk a little bit about what he’s going to do down in Fort Hood? Is there time set aside to meet families?
MR. GIBBS: There — and this is preliminary and we’re working on getting more as the schedule itself changes — the President will meet with families of those that lost a loved one last week, as well as speak to the larger memorial that will take place at the base and address a community obviously saddened and stricken by the events of last week.
Q Is the First Lady going to do anything separate from him?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know the answer to that. I know she’s with him. My sense is she will be with him when he sees the families.
Q And in terms of the investigation itself, leaving the details to the FBI and military investigators, does the White House view the suspect as a terrorism suspect at this point? Or is this somebody who is a lone figure?
MR. GIBBS: That should be addressed by the FBI. That’s who has equities in all of that.
Q Robert, may I ask a follow-up on the Fort Hood questions?
MR. GIBBS: Sure.
Q It has been reported today that the suspect in the Fort Hood shooting is now conscious as of this afternoon. Do you know if law enforcement has begun to ask questions of him regarding causes or motives, or any of the circumstances regarding these acts?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know if interviews have begun. Obviously, to say the least, law enforcement are eager to talk. And I think that’s obviously part of the reason why this is a continuing investigation where we still need information to draw firm conclusions.
Q Robert, I know we’ve got a conference call this afternoon, but I just need to ask you very briefly about the trip. In general terms, it’s been asserted that the President is going to a region where countries are increasingly assertive and not so reflexively — I don’t want to say submissive, but they don’t — they don’t reflexively agree to America’s view, especially a place like Japan with a new government; China, which of course, has been increasing economic — does the President subscribe to that view? Does he worry about that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think that is — I guess I’ll leave it at this. I think the President believes obviously that many of the places he’s going to and the leaders that he’ll see — I mean, keep in mind we’ll meet with President Medvedev as part of this. So he’ll meet with leaders in places that we’re not necessarily stopping on — that he believes that the United States and these countries have a series of mutual interests, and that by working together, we can make progress on those mutual interests.
As it relates to what you said a minute ago, I think if you look back at where people predicted different efforts would be, remember, right after the North Koreans test-fired their long-range — test-fired a long-range missile, it was widely presumed that there was nothing that could be done to address those actions, largely because the U.N. Security Council wouldn’t address the geopolitics of certain countries. It took a couple of weeks of tough diplomacy, but Susan Rice and the United Nations worked out a unanimous Security Council resolution to address what happened in North Korea.
I think if you look at where we are with Iran, we’ve never been at a point that we are now, unified with the P5-plus-1. So I think the President understands that each country has interests, and where we have mutual interests we can work together to make progress.
Q Robert, a follow-up. What’s on the agenda for the meeting with Medvedev?
MR. GIBBS: Obviously we’ll continue to talk through issues that they’ve spent time working on, most notably the START Treaty that expires I believe the 5th of December, and continue discussions about North Korea and Iran.
Q Robert, I have a question on Fort Hood and also abortion. I understand you’re leaving the determination of whether this was an act of terrorism up to the FBI. But what is the White House’s definition of an act of terrorism?
MR. GIBBS: I’m not a law enforcement official, Mara. This obviously is a continuing investigation, and if you’ve got questions about where that investigation is, I think the FBI is going to –
Q — I just want to know if there is a definition of an act of terrorism that you –
MR. GIBBS: I’m not going to get into the back-and-forth of this.
Q All right. One other question about the House vote. The President has been pretty clear all along that in terms of abortion he thought the status quo should be left untouched; in other words, the Hyde amendment should stand. Does he believe that the Stupak amendment enshrines Hyde, in terms of the health care exchanges, or goes beyond it?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I’m going to leave the answer –
Q I’m not asking if you’re for or against.
MR. GIBBS: No, I understand –
Q I just want to know what you think it does.
MR. GIBBS: I understand. I’m going to leave it at the earlier answer that we’re going to continue to work through and make progress on these issues.
Q Robert, as far as you know, has the President decided on number of troops, additional troops he’d like to send to Afghanistan?
MR. GIBBS: No, no. Despite the many chances to read otherwise throughout the weekend. Safe to say if he’d made a decision, I think we could free up at least part of his Wednesday.
Q What about a proportional breakdown between trainers, for example, and combat troops, anything like that –
MR. GIBBS: No, no.
Q — or any thought to where they might come from?
MR. GIBBS: Well, thought from where they might come from?
Q Fort Campbell comes to mind.
MR. GIBBS: Oh, I mean, look, I think — I mean, obviously there’s — we know where very specialized troops are, but I don’t think that the President has — I doubt we’ve have gotten to identifying what fort they’re at without getting to a number.
Q Also, just to circle back to something you said earlier, is the President consulting outside groups or particular people outside the Situation Room to talk about the Afghanistan review strategy?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me make sure I understand. Is he having discussions outside of the meetings, or is he talking to participants throughout the process that are different than just those in the meeting itself?
Q Yes. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Wait a minute, that’s my answer. I know that the President has had occasion to talk about the issue of Afghanistan outside of that — outside of those meetings and outside of just those participants, yes.
Q Robert, outside government –
MR. GIBBS: Yes. Outside — yes.
Q — different countries?
MR. GIBBS: At some point obviously there will be very fulsome discussions with our NATO partners. I don’t know if we’re at that point in the process.
Q Is India among them?
MR. GIBBS: I wouldn’t get into listing details.
Q Robert, a question on circulation? On circulation?
MR. GIBBS: That’s a seemingly — hold on, Lester, before I take the premise of your — we could go into health care, we could go into newspapers, we could go into –
Q Yes, yes.
MR. GIBBS: Yes. (Laughter.)
Q What is the President’s — the first — what is the President’s reaction —
MR. GIBBS: I didn’t agree to two, but I’m happy to try with one.
Q Thank you.
MR. GIBBS: We’ll circulate an answer.
Q We had 10 up here. But what is the President’s reaction to the Audit Bureau of Circulation’s report that in the six months ending on September the 30th, American daily newspapers, most of which are liberal and pro-Obama — (laughter) — fell 10 points –
MR. GIBBS: Have you read The Washington Post today? Have you read The Washington Post any day?
Q I do, every day. I always keep an eye on the enemy.
MR. GIBBS: What did you say?
Q I always keep an eye on the enemy.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I’ll give them an equal amount of time and a microphone of sufficient size to respond. (Laughter.)
Look, obviously the President is a voracious consumer of news, likes to read newspapers every day. I would — I think if you pick up many of the newspapers with which you discussed — I notice that there was an article in The New York Times today about the circulation drop in the New York Post, and I’m not sure I would categorize that as a liberal pro-Obama newspaper. And please, would you just — if you can cc your question to Fred Hiatt I’m happy to have a conversation about the liberalism –
Q One follow-up, because they had 10. They had 10.
MR. GIBBS: Was that one? Does that count as one?
Q What was the President’s reaction to the more than 2,000-page health care bill which so few congressmen read being passed by only five votes and costing more than a trillion dollars, on which 39 Democrats voted no?
MR. GIBBS: He could not be more pleased. (Laughter.)
Q What is your circulation?
MR. GIBBS: Spotty at best. (Laughter.)
Q On health care reform –
MR. GIBBS: Yes, ma’am.
Q — does consensus and common ground negate the original mandate to cover all Americans?
MR. GIBBS: I’m sorry, say that one more time.
Q Does consensus and common ground negate the original mandate to cover all Americans?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President believes that and in order to get certainly many of the important insurance reforms that the President has discussed, covering all Americans is a must.
Q Now, also on Fort Hood, the suspect, has he — has this White House gotten information from federal agents or the Army that he was considered a conscientious objector –
MR. GIBBS: Again, I would point you to the FBI with specific questions about the investigation.
Q And then back on the issue of terror — not terrorizing, terrorism, just terror — the definition of terror: “one that instills intense fear; also the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group” – also, one more – “panic, an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety.” These people at Fort Hood went through those feelings. We clearly saw it. Would you classify, from the definitions that I gave —
MR. GIBBS: Again, I’m not a law enforcement official, April. I will say this. I think the entire country from — certainly from the very first reports that we got about this, and my communications about that with the President, we have — I think everybody has been shocked and dismayed at what happened, and pass our thoughts, our prayers, and our condolences on to those who suffered loss for loved ones in this incident.
Q Do you believe there was terror there at least? Could you at least say terror?
MR. GIBBS: I’ve now had three opportunities to be a law enforcement officer.
Q — but I’m serious, from the definitions.
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I’m not — if you have investigation questions, the FBI is the place.
Q Thanks, Robert. First, two questions. One, on health care. Could you say to what degree the White House will get involved in negotiations in the Senate regarding the provisions, whether it’s going to be the abortion provision or the public option?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think the White House obviously has spent a lot of time — staff work every day with Capitol Hill, and I’m sure when Senator Reid and others want our opinion on different ideas, they’ll ask for them.
Q And another question, this is regarding actually — a Tony Blankley column from a week or so back, made a comparison –
MR. GIBBS: Tony –
Q Tony Blankley.
MR. GIBBS: Oh, okay, I thought you said Tony Blinken — I was going to say, I didn’t know the Vice President’s National Security Advisor was writing columns. Go ahead, I’m sorry. I was getting a flashback for a moment — speaking of circulation. (Laughter.) Go ahead.
Q It does pertain to national security, actually. He made a comparison with the long investigation into the CIA leak in the previous administration and that similar legal issues could apply in the CIA leak from “political officials” in a news story about Karzai’s brother working for the CIA. My question is, is the Justice Department going to look into this matter? And would there possibly be a special prosecutor in this case, as well?
MR. GIBBS: I have heard nothing about that, but if you have a question about that I’d ask the Department of Justice.
Q Thank you, Robert.
Q Something on climate change — Reuters just is reporting that the EPA has sent over its final proposal on carbon dioxide, whether it should be regulated as a dangerous — sent it to the White House. A, can you confirm that? And B, how would that fit within the conversation we were having earlier about administration steps on climate change?
MR. GIBBS: Well, certainly we can check. I think there was a — look, there’s a court order, right — there’s a Supreme Court order that this is an issue that has to be dealt with. The President has said throughout this process that the way to deal with this is through legislation. I would point out that many people in the newspaper this morning that work for or CEOs of power companies that said, this also ought to be addressed through legislation. That’s what we’re trying to do and that’s what we hope to do.
Q Thank you, Robert.
”The Real Housewives Of Atlanta” is a ratings bonanza and the best of the “Housevives” franchise to date. Nene Leakes, the break-out star of the Atlanta series, positions herself as a down sista, always ‘keepin’ it real’ in whatever the situation. Season one, that attitude was refreshing.
Season two, not so refreshing. This season of “The Real Housewives Of Atlanta,” Nene Leakes shows her arrogance and immaturity in spades. Showing off for the cameras instead of ‘keepin’ it real,’ has been the mantra for Leakes. From fighting with Kim, starting ignorant crap in upscale restaurants, and general backstabbing antics, Nene Leakes’ behavior has peaked along with her gigantic ego. If ‘keepin’ it real’ means acting petty and ghetto, well Leakes is doing a great job at it.
The episode currently airing features Nene getting loud and obnoxious at Sheree’s independence party. Nene is apparently upset that Kim has decided to record a song with out her as planned. Egomaniac Nene goes on to tell Kim that the record won’t sell without her voice on it because, in her mind, she’s famous enough to carry the both of them. I don’t know if Nene is acting for the cameras or what, but the tirade that follows is unbecoming of the class act that she claims to be.
Calling Kandi Buress a ‘country bumpkin’ is like the kettle calling the pot black, Nene! The last time we checked, you were born and raised in Georgia, and currently reside there. What does that make you, sistafriend? That is straight up insulting to Kandi, her mother, and every other sista born and bred in the South! Not only that, in past episodes, Nene has called Kandi ‘ghetto’ or ‘a little ghetto.’ It is interesting that she would call Kandi out on qualities that she herself exhibits frequently.
In her book, “Never Make The Same Mistake Twice,” Nene Leakes dishes about her acting aspirations and various acting gigs, saying that the ‘Housewives’ show isn’t based in reality tv, but pure fiction. If Leakes is claiming that she is merely ‘acting’ when she shows her behind being ghetto, she should enroll at the Strausberg School of Acting and learn method acting. I am not feeling Nene Leakes right about now. The class act that she insists on being is obviously not the real her.
At this point, Nene Leakes has proven herself to be as fake as the seven figure smile Sheree wears and the shiny blond wigs that Kim is selling.
The very fabulous and definitely real ‘housewife’ Nene Leakes co-hosted the “Wendy Williams Show” Wednesday. As always, Nene dished (or not) about what viewers can expect from the second season of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
“Expect drama and lot’s of it!” Nene gushed as she laughed it up with the “Queen of all Media” Wendy Williams. When asked by Wendy about her friendship staus with Kim, Nene shockingly revealed that she and Kim were never best friends, or friends period. “We were associates,” Nene said. “That is all. Never friends.”
The big question Wendy Williams popped was if Nene was friends with any of the “housewives.” “No!” Nene Leakes answered emphatically. “Associates. This is about business.” Surprised? Hope not. Reality television has bit the dust! Everyone knows that reality tv is staged with wannabe entertainers looking for their big break or celebrities in search of a comeback.
With that info in mind, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” season two premiere kicks off July 30th on Bravo. Will we watch? Of course we will! LOL!
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Jackson, the sensationally gifted “King of Pop” who emerged from childhood superstardom to become the entertainment world’s most influential singer and dancer before his life and career deteriorated in a freakish series of scandals, died Thursday, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. He was 50.
The person said Jackson died in a Los Angeles hospital. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear. Jackson was not breathing when Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded to a call at his Los Angeles home about 12:30 p.m., Capt. Steve Ruda told the Los Angeles Times. The paramedics performed CPR and took him to UCLA Medical Center, Ruda told the newspaper.
Jackson’s death brought a tragic end to a long, bizarre, sometimes farcical decline from his peak in the 1980s, when he was popular music’s premier all-around performer, a uniter of black and white music who shattered the race barrier on MTV, dominated the charts and dazzled even more on stage.
His 1982 album “Thriller” – which included the blockbuster hits “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” – remains the biggest-selling album of all time, with more than 26 million copies.
He was perhaps the most exciting performer of his generation, known for his feverish, crotch-grabbing dance moves, his high-pitched voice punctuated with squeals and titters. His single sequined glove and tight, military-style jacket were trademarks second only to his ever-changing, surgically altered appearance.
As years went by, he became an increasingly freakish figure. His skin became lighter and his nose narrower. He surrounded himself with children at his Neverland ranch, often wore a germ mask while traveling and kept a pet chimpanzee named Bubbles as one of his closest companions.
In 2005, he was cleared of charges he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor at Neverland in 2003. He had been accused of plying the boy with alcohol and groping him. The case took a fearsome toll on his career and image, and he fell into serious financial trouble.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital as word of his death spread. The emergency entrance at the UCLA Medical Center, which is near Jackson’s rented home, was roped off with police tape.
In New York’s Times Square, a low groan went up in the crowd when a screen flashed that Jackson had died, and people began relaying the news to friends by cell phone.
“No joke. King of Pop is no more. Wow,” Michael Harris, 36, of New York City, read from a text message a friend sent to his telephone. “It’s like when Kennedy was assassinated. I will always remember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died.”
As much as the African American community loves playwright, television, film and actor Tyler Perry, it goes without saying that he is widely supported and appreciated. However, the flip side of that adoration is the deafening silence of the African American community regarding Tyler Perry’s television series “House of Payne” and “Meet The Browns.”
With everything that Tyler Perry touches turning into gold, it is no wonder that he would try his hand at a television sitcom. The problem develops soon after in that the shows are not original and the story lines are sub par. “House of Payne” borrows too much from the Archie Bunker meets George Jefferson school of situation comedy. In fact, “House of Payne” is crammed pack every week with tons of buffoon / clown antics and situations that make little sense. It is hard to concieve that Tyler Perry would put something of this magnitude on the small screen that only justifies why television executives aren’t really hard-pressed at creating positive African American television shows. Why should they when number one top box office filmmaker Tyler Perry produces sitcoms that border on unintelligent and unwatchable, which continues to project a negative image of African Americans?
Spike Lee made an interesting quote that should not be shot down just because he said it:
“I am a huge basketball fan, and when I watch the games on TNT, I see these two ads for these two shows (Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne”), and I am scratching my head. We got a black president, and we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep ‘n’ Eat?”
It is fascinating how accurate that statement is! The scary thing about it also is that no one in the African American community with clout is standing up and saying that “House of Payne and “Meet The Browns” are mere modern day charicatures of “Amos and Andy.”
Here’s a suggestion: perhaps instead of the African American community applauding publicly and frowning privately behind closed doors about the negativity of Tyler Perry’s two sitcoms , maybe a healthy dialogue should take place to bring “House of Payne” and “Meet The Browns” up to a standard that will be in line with the historic election of an African American President.
When future generations look back at the year 2009, wouldn’t it be great to show the steady positive progression of African Americans in ALL aspects of achievement? It would be a shame to have President Barack Obama and his family on one wall and the cast of “House of Payne” on the other. What would be the lesson there? Our generation still didn’t get it?
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Good morning. Over the past few months, as we have put in place a plan to speed our economic recovery, I have spoken repeatedly of the need to lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity; a foundation that will support good jobs and rising incomes; a foundation for economic growth where we no longer rely on excessive debt and reckless risk – but instead on skilled workers and sound investments to lead the world in the industries of the 21st century.
Two pillars of this new foundation are clean energy and health care. And while there remains a great deal of difficult work ahead, I am heartened by what we have seen these past few days: a willingness of those with different points of view and disparate interests to come together around common goals – to embrace a shared sense of responsibility and make historic progress.
Chairman Henry Waxman and members of the Energy and Commerce Committee brought together stakeholders from all corners of the country – and every sector of our economy – to reach an historic agreement on comprehensive energy legislation. It’s another promising sign of progress, as longtime opponents are sitting together, at the same table, to help solve one of America’s most serious challenges.
For the first time, utility companies and corporate leaders are joining, not opposing, environmental advocates and labor leaders to create a new system of clean energy initiatives that will help unleash a new era of growth and prosperity.
It’s a plan that will finally reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and cap the carbon pollution that threatens our health and our climate. Most important, it’s a plan that will trigger the creation of millions of new jobs for Americans, who will produce the wind turbines and solar panels and develop the alternative fuels to power the future. Because this we know: the nation that leads in 21st century clean energy is the nation that will lead the 21st century global economy. America can and must be that nation – and this agreement is a major step toward this goal.
But we know that our families, our economy, and our nation itself will not succeed in the 21st century if we continue to be held down by the weight of rapidly rising health care costs and a broken health care system. That’s why I met with representatives of insurance and drug companies, doctors and hospitals, and labor unions who are pledging to do their part to reduce health care costs. These are some of the groups who have been among the fiercest critics of past comprehensive health care reform plans. But today they too are recognizing that we must act. Our businesses will not be able to compete; our families will not be able to save or spend; our budgets will remain unsustainable unless we get health care costs under control.
These groups have pledged to do their part to reduce the annual health care spending growth rate by 1.5 percentage points. Coupled with comprehensive reform, their efforts could help to save our nation more than $2 trillion in the next ten years – and save hardworking families $2,500 each in the coming years.
This week, I also invited Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and other congressional leaders to the White House to discuss comprehensive health reform legislation. The House is working to pass a bill by the end of July – before they head out for their August recess. That’s the kind of urgency and determination we need to achieve comprehensive reform by the end of this year. And the reductions in spending the health care community has pledged will help make this reform possible.
I have always believed that it is better to talk than not to talk; that it is far more productive to reach over a divide than to shake your fist across it. This has been an alien notion in Washington for far too long, but we are seeing that the ways of Washington are beginning to change. For the calling of this moment is too loud and too urgent to ignore. Our success as a nation – the future of our children and grandchildren – depends upon our willingness to cast aside old arguments, overcome stubborn divisions, and march forward as one people and one nation.
This is how progress has always been made. This is how a new foundation will be built. We cannot assume that interests will always align, or that fragile partnerships will not fray. There will be setbacks. There will be difficult days. But we are off to a good start. And I am confident that we will – in the weeks, months, and years ahead – build on what we have already achieved and lay this foundation which will not only bring about prosperity for this generation, but for generations to come.
Thanks so much.
The Tampa Bay area has seen two horrific acts of inhumane violence perpetrated on young children. The following story is one that has been nationally reported.
21 year old Richard Anthony McTear obviously didn’t get the memo. Unfortunately, African American young men on a large scale have in fact ignored the memo. What memo? The one that announced that President Barack Obama is the first African American to hold the highest office in the land and that is something to be proud of. Not only that, it is something to aspire to. If becoming president is not in the cards, how about being a productive citizen?
Richard Anthony McTear is accused of violently beating Jasmine Bedwell, then throwing his ex-girlfriend’s four month old son out of a moving Impala while speeding down I-275. McTear broke into his former girlfriend’s apartment, beat her, took the baby, slammed him into the concrete flooring of the home, and then ran off with the child.
Jasmine Bedwell, 17, started dating McTear ten months ago. Bedwell was at the time pregnant but McTear was not the father. The relationship was a domestic violence nightmare. Neighbors reported that it was not unusual to see see the teen with bruises and black eyes. Bedwell had pressed charges against McTear and in fact was scheduled to appear in court on Monday, but failed to show up. Tuesday Richard Anthony McTear killed her child as he had threatened to do on numerous occasions.
You have to wonder when you hear cases like this why the mother, Miss Bedwell, didn’t appear in court to put her abuser behind bars? Why is it almost impossible for women, young women, to realize that their abuser/attacker will kill them or their loved ones somewhere down the road?
It is maddening to comprehend what that young mother is going through at this time. Yet, the real question lies in the fact that obviously Bedwell and other young women like her, are making tragic decisions in the areas of love and relationships. McTear is a career criminal and started his life of crime at the age of 14. What is appealing about that? McTear was unemployed. Doesn’t take a degree from MIT to guess why that is.
From the looks of it, this was a young man that should have been avoided on all counts. But what the true heart of this tragedy is crying out to all women, especially young women, is that lack of good judgement skills can do more harm than good. Young women need to learn why it is important to love themselves first and foremost. When this love is nurtured, a man like Richard Anthony McTear doesn’t even enter on the radar screen.
It is sad that Jasmine Bedwell had to learn a hard lesson. Be cautious as to whom is allowed around children. Women need to be discriminative and proactive in the people within ones orbit, tragedies such as this one can be avoided.
Showing up to court dates and hearings to cage animals that pose as human beings are more than necessary to protect the world at large from predators and insane criminals like McTear.
And…when asked why he killed his ex’s four month old baby, he said two things: “Its a cruel world” and “It’s a dirty game.”
President Obama to Request $50 Million to Identify and Expand Effective, Innovative Non-Profits
White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation to Coordinate Efforts
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama, in his FY2010 budget, will ask Congress to provide $50 million in seed capital for the Social Innovation Fund to identify the most promising, results-oriented non-profit programs and expand their reach throughout the country.
Many solutions to our nation’s most challenging social problems are being generated outside of Washington; the Social Innovation Fund will identify what is working in communities across the country, provide growth capital for these programs, and improve the use of data and evaluation to raise the bar on what programs the government funds.
“The idea is simple: to find the most effective programs out there and then provide the capital needed to replicate their success in communities around the country that are facing similar challenges,” First Lady Michelle Obama will say Tuesday at the Time 100 Most Influential People Awards in New York City, according to her prepared remarks. “By focusing on high-impact, result-oriented non-profits, we will ensure that government dollars are spent in a way that is effective, accountable and worthy of the public trust.”
Melody Barnes, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, also highlighted the Fund Tuesday in a keynote speech to the Council on Foundations. “The Social Innovation Fund reflects the President’s new governing philosophy: finding and investing in what works; and partnering with and supporting others who are leading change in their communities,” Barnes said. “We are also working with Federal agencies across the government to identify new solutions to problems that have resisted traditional approaches.”
The Social Innovation Fund was authorized in the recent Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. The Fund will focus on priority policy areas, including education, health care, and economic opportunity. It will partner with foundations, philanthropists, and corporations which will commit matching resources, funding, and technical assistance.
The White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation will coordinate efforts to enlist all Americans –individuals, non-profits, social entrepreneurs, corporations and foundations – as partners in solving our great challenges. Located within the Domestic Policy Council, it will:
- Catalyze partnerships between the government and nonprofits, businesses and philanthropists in order to make progress on the President’s policy agenda
- Identify and support the rigorous evaluation and scaling of innovative, promising ideas that are transforming communities like, for example, Harlem Children’s Zone, YouthVillages, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Citizen Schools.
- Support greater civic participation through new media tools
- Promote national service.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON INTERNATIONAL TAX POLICY REFORM
11:39 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: All right. Good morning, everybody. Hope you all had a good weekend.
Let’s begin with a simple premise: Nobody likes paying taxes, particularly in times of economic stress. But most Americans meet their responsibilities because they understand that it’s an obligation of citizenship, necessary to pay the costs of our common defense and our mutual well-being.
And yet, even as most American citizens and businesses meet these responsibilities, there are others who are shirking theirs. And many are aided and abetted by a broken tax system, written by well-connected lobbyists on behalf of well-heeled interests and individuals. It’s a tax code full of corporate loopholes that makes it perfectly legal for companies to avoid paying their fair share. It’s a tax code that makes it all too easy for a number — a small number of individuals and companies to abuse overseas tax havens to avoid paying any taxes at all. And it’s a tax code that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York.
Now, understand, one of the strengths of our economy is the global reach of our businesses. And I want to see our companies remain the most competitive in the world. But the way to make sure that happens is not to reward our companies for moving jobs off our shores or transferring profits to overseas tax havens. This is something that I talked about again and again during the course of the campaign. The way we make our businesses competitive is not to reward American companies operating overseas with a roughly 2 percent tax rate on foreign profits; a rate that costs — that costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars a year. The way to make American businesses competitive is not to let some citizens and businesses dodge their responsibilities while ordinary Americans pick up the slack.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we’re doing. These problems have been highlighted by Chairmen Charlie Rangel and Max Baucus, by leaders like Senator Carl Levin and Congressman Lloyd Doggett. And now is the time to finally do something about them. And that’s why today, I’m announcing a set of proposals to crack down on illegal overseas tax evasion, close loopholes, and make it more profitable for companies to create jobs here in the United States.
For years, we’ve talked about ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and giving tax breaks to companies that create jobs here in America. That’s what our budget will finally do. We will stop letting American companies that create jobs overseas take deductions on their expenses when they do not pay any American taxes on their profits. And we will use the savings to give tax cuts to companies that are investing in research and development here at home so that we can jumpstart job creation, foster innovation, and enhance America’s competitiveness.
For years, we’ve talked about shutting down overseas tax havens that let companies set up operations to avoid paying taxes in America. That’s what our budget will finally do. On the campaign, I used to talk about the outrage of a building in the Cayman Islands that had over 12,000 business — businesses claim this building as their headquarters. And I’ve said before, either this is the largest building in the world or the largest tax scam in the world.
And I think the American people know which it is. It’s the kind of tax scam that we need to end. That’s why we are closing one of our biggest tax loopholes. It’s a loophole that lets subsidiaries of some of our largest companies tell the IRS that they’re paying taxes abroad, tell foreign governments that they’re paying taxes elsewhere — and avoid paying taxes anywhere. And closing this single loophole will save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars — money that can be spent on reinvesting in America — and it will restore fairness to our tax code by helping ensure that all our citizens and all our companies are paying what they should.
Now, for years, we’ve talked about stopping Americans from illegally hiding their money overseas, and getting tough with the financial institutions that let them get away with it. The Treasury Department and the IRS, under Secretary Geithner’s leadership and Commissioner Shulman’s, are already taking far-reaching steps to catch overseas tax cheats — but they need more support.
And that’s why I’m asking Congress to pass some commonsense measures. One of these measures would let the IRS know how much income Americans are generating in overseas accounts by requiring overseas banks to provide 1099s for their American clients, just like Americans have to do for their bank accounts here in this country. If financial institutions won’t cooperate with us, we will assume that they are sheltering money in tax havens, and act accordingly. And to ensure that the IRS has the tools it needs to enforce our laws, we’re seeking to hire nearly 800 more IRS agents to detect and pursue American tax evaders abroad.
So all in all, these and other reforms will save American taxpayers $210 billion over the next 10 years — savings we can use to reduce the deficit, cut taxes for American businesses that are playing by the rules, and provide meaningful relief for hardworking families. That’s what we’re doing. We’re putting a middle class tax cut in the pockets of 95 percent of working families, and we’re providing a $2,500 annual tax credit to put the dream of a college degree or advanced training within the reach for more students. We’re providing a tax credit worth up to $8,000 for first-time home buyers to help more Americans own a piece of the American Dream and to strengthen the housing market.
So the steps I am announcing today will help us deal with some of the most egregious examples of what’s wrong with our tax code and will help us strengthen some of these other efforts. It’s a down payment on the larger tax reform we need to make our tax system simpler and fairer and more efficient for individuals and corporations.
Now, it will take time to undo the damage of distorted provisions that were slipped into our tax code by lobbyists and special interests, but with the steps I’m announcing today we are beginning to crack down on Americans who are bending or breaking the rules, and we’re helping to ensure that all Americans are contributing their fair share.
In other words, we’re beginning to restore fairness and balance to our tax code. That’s what I promised I would do during the campaign, that’s what I’m committed to doing as President, and that is what I will work with members of my administration and members of Congress to accomplish in the months and years to come.
Thanks very much, guys.