Full Text Political Headlines January 31, 2013: Chuck Hagel’s Opening Remarks at Senate Confirmation Hearing — Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Text of Chuck Hagel’s Opening Remarks

Source: NYT, 1-31-13

The following is Chuck Hagel’s opening remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee, as prepared for delivery.

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Thank you Chairman Levin, Ranking Member Inhofe, and Distinguished Members of the Committee. I am honored to come before you today as the President’s nominee to be Secretary of Defense.

I want to thank my friends Sam Nunn and John Warner for their support, encouragement, and friendship over many years. These two distinguished Americans represent what’s best about American public service and responsible bipartisanship. They have embodied both in their careers and are models for each of us.

To my family, friends, and fellow veterans who are here this morning – and those who are not – thank you. A life is only as good as the family and friends you have and the people you surround yourself with.

I also want to thank my friend Leon Panetta for his tremendous service to our country over so many years. If I’m given the privilege of succeeding him, it will be a high honor.

Finally, I want to thank President Obama for his confidence and trust in me. I am humbled by the opportunity and possibility he has given me to serve our country once again.

I fully recognize the immense responsibilities of the Secretary of Defense. I assured the President that if I am confirmed by the United States Senate, I will always do my best for our nation and for the men and women – and their families –

who are called on to make the enormous sacrifices of military service. Their safety, success, and welfare will always be at the forefront of the decisions I make.

I also assured the President that I would always provide him with my most honest and informed advice. I make that same commitment to this Committee and to the Congress. If confirmed, I will reach out to the members of this Committee for advice and collaboration. It will be a partnership, because the national security challenges America faces require it.

Our nation’s security is the highest priority of our leaders and our government. We cannot allow the work of confronting the great threats we face today to be held hostage to partisanship on either side of the aisle, or by differences between the bodies represented in Articles I and II of our Constitution. The stakes are too high. Men and women of all political philosophies and parties fight and die for our country. As this Committee knows so well, protecting our national security or committing a nation to war can never become political litmus tests. I know Secretary Panetta has put a strong emphasis on reaching out to the Congress. I, like Leon, come from the Congress, and respect and understand this institution’s indispensable role in setting policy and helping govern our country.

We are all products of the forces that shape us. For me, there has been nothing more important in my life – or a more defining influence on my life – than my family. Whether it was helping my mother raise four boys after my father – a World War II veteran – died suddenly at age 39 on Christmas Day, or serving side by side my brother Tom in Vietnam, or the wonderful miracle of my wife Lilibet and me being blessed with two beautiful children. That is who I am. We each bring to our responsibilities “frames of reference” formed by our life’s

experiences. They help instruct our judgments. We build out from those personal foundations by continually informing ourselves, listening, and learning.

Like each of you, I have a record. A record I am proud of, not because of any accomplishments I may have achieved, or an absence of mistakes, but rather because I’ve tried to build that record by living my life and fulfilling my responsibilities as honestly as I knew how and with hard work. Under-pinning everything I’ve done in my life was the belief that we must always be striving to make our nation a better and more secure place for all of our people.

During the twelve years I had the privilege of serving the people of Nebraska in the United States Senate, I cast over 3,000 votes and hundreds of Committee votes. I’ve also given hundreds of interviews and speeches, and written a book. So, as you all know, I am on the record on many issues.

But no one individual vote, quote, or statement defines me, my beliefs, or my record. My overall worldview has never changed: that America has and must maintain the strongest military in the world; that we must lead the international community to confront threats and challenges together; and that we must use all tools of American power to protect our citizens and our interests. I believe, and always have, that America must engage – not retreat – in the world. My record is consistent on these points.

It’s clear that we are living at a defining time. Our nation is emerging from over a decade of war. We have brought our men and women in uniform home from Iraq, and have started to bring them home from Afghanistan.

That does not mean the threats we face and will continue to face are any less dangerous or complicated. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Recent events in Mali and Algeria remind us of this reality. Twenty first century complexities,

technologies, economies, and threats are bringing the seven billion global citizens closer together. And as our planet adds another two billion people over the next 25 years, the dangers, complications, and human demands will not be lessened, but rather heightened.

Despite these challenges, I believe we also have historic opportunities to help build a safer, more prosperous, more secure, more hopeful and just world than at maybe any time in history. Yes, the curse of intolerance, hatred, and danger exists around the world, and we must continue to be clear-eyed about this danger – and we will be. We will not hesitate to use the full force of the United States military in defense of our security. But we must also be smart, and more importantly wise, in how we employ all of our nation’s great power.

America’s continued leadership and strength at home and abroad will be critically important for our country and the world. While we will not hesitate to act unilaterally when necessary, it is essential that we work closely with our allies and partners to enhance America’s influence and security – as well as global security. If confirmed, I will continue to build on the efforts of this administration and of former Secretary Gates, Secretary Panetta, and Secretary Clinton to strengthen our alliances and partnerships around the world. I will also look forward to working with my former Senate colleague and friend, John Kerry, in this effort.

As I told the President, I am committed to his positions on all issues of national security, specifically decisions that the Department of Defense is in the process of implementing. This includes the Defense Strategic Guidance the President outlined in January 2012. Allow me to briefly address a few of those specific issues now.

First, we have a plan in place to transition out of Afghanistan, continue bringing our troops home, and end the war there – which has been the longest war in America’s history. As you know, discussions are ongoing about what the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will look like after 2014. The President has made clear – and I agree – that there should be only two functions for U.S. troops that remain in Afghanistan after 2014: counterterrorism – particularly to target al Qaeda and its affiliates, and training and advising Afghan forces. It’s time we forge a new partnership with Afghanistan, with its government and, importantly, with its people.

Second, as Secretary of Defense I will ensure we stay vigilant and keep up the pressure on terrorist organizations as they try to expand their affiliates around the world, in places like Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa. At the Pentagon, that means continuing to invest in and build the tools to assist in that fight, such as special operations forces and new intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technologies. And it will mean working hand-in-hand with our partners across the national security and intelligence communities, to confront these and other threats, especially the emerging threat of cyber warfare.

Third, as I have made clear, I am fully committed to the President’s goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and – as I’ve said in the past – all options must be on the table to achieve that goal. My policy is one of prevention, and not one of containment – and the President has made clear that is the policy of our government. As Secretary of Defense, I will make sure the Department is prepared for any contingency. I will ensure our friend and ally Israel maintains its Qualitative Military Edge in the region and will continue to support systems like Iron Dome, which is today saving Israeli lives from terrorist rocket attacks.

Fourth, while we pursue the reductions in our deployed stockpiles and launchers consistent with the New START Treaty, I am committed to maintaining a modern, strong, safe, ready, and effective nuclear arsenal. America’s nuclear deterrent over the last 65 years has played a central role in ensuring global security and the avoidance of a World War III. I am committed to modernizing our nuclear arsenal.

As we emerge from this decade of war, we also must broaden our nation’s focus overseas as we look at future threats and challenges. As this Committee knows, that’s why DoD is rebalancing its resources towards the Asia-Pacific region. We are in the process of modernizing our defense posture across the entire region to defend and deepen our partnerships with traditional allies, especially Japan, South Korea, and Australia; to continue to deter and defend against provocations from states like North Korea, as well as non-state actors; and to expand our networks of security cooperation throughout the region to combat terrorism, counter proliferation, provide disaster relief, fight piracy, and ensure maritime security.

I will continue this rebalancing, even as we continue to work closely with our longtime NATO allies and friends, and with allies and partners in other regions. At the same time, we will continue to focus on challenges in the Middle East and North Africa, where we have clear national interests. Rather, it is a recognition that the United States has been and always will be a Pacific power, and the Asia- Pacific is an increasingly vital part of the globe for America’s security and economy. That’s why we must become even more engaged in the region over the coming years.

Doing all of this and much more will require smart and strategic budget decisions. I have made it clear I share Leon Panetta’s and our service chiefs’ serious concerns about the impact sequestration would have on our armed forces. And as someone

who has run businesses, I know the uncertainty and turbulence of the current budget climate makes it much more difficult to manage the Pentagon’s resources. If confirmed, I am committed to effectively and efficiently using every single taxpayer dollar; to maintaining the strongest military in the world; and to working with Congress to ensure the Department has the resources it needs – and that the disposition of those resources is accountable.

Even as we deal with difficult budget decisions, I will never break America’s commitment to our troops, our veterans, and our military families. We will continue to invest in the well-being of our all-volunteer force. And, working with the VA and other institutions, we will make sure our troops and their families get the health care, job opportunities, and education they have earned and deserve – just as I did when I co-authored the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill with Senators Jim Webb, John Warner, and Frank Lautenberg. This includes focusing on the mental health of our fighting force, because no one who volunteers to fight and die for our country should feel like they have nowhere to turn.

In my twelve years in the Senate, my one guiding principle on every national security decision I made and every vote I cast was always this: Is our policy worthy of our troops and their families and the sacrifices we ask them to make? That same question will guide me if I am confirmed as Secretary of Defense. Our men and women in uniform and their families must never doubt that their leaders’ first priority is them. I believe my record of leadership on veterans issues over the years – going back to my service in the Veterans Administration under President Reagan – demonstrates my rock-solid commitment to our veterans and their families.

We must always take care of our people. That’s why I will work to ensure that everyone who volunteers to fight for this country has the same rights and opportunities. As I’ve discussed with many of you in our meetings, I am fully committed to implementing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and doing everything possible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members. I will work with the service chiefs as we officially open combat positions to women, a decision that I strongly support. And I will continue the important work that Leon Panetta has done to combat sexual assault in the military. Maintaining the health and well-being of those who serve is critical to maintaining a strong and capable military, because an institution’s people must always come first.

As we look ahead to the coming years, we have an extraordinary opportunity now to define what’s next for America’s military and our country. It is incumbent upon all of us to make decisions that will ensure our nation is prepared to confront any threat we may face, protect our citizens, and remain the greatest force for good in the world.

If confirmed as Secretary of Defense, it will be my great honor – working with the President, this Committee, the Congress, and our military – to ensure our policies are worthy of the service and sacrifice of America’s finest men and women. Thank you. I look forward to your questions.

Political Headlines January 30, 2013: John Kerry defends Senate, bidding farewell to a ‘great’ institution

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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John Kerry defends Senate, bidding farewell to a ‘great’ institution

Source: WaPo, 1-30-13

Video: Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) gave a more than hour-long farewell speech to the Senate Wednesday, the day after he was confirmed as secretary of state. He hailed the Senate’s history and said the legislative body would always be in his soul.

n an unusually emotional speech, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) bid farewell to his colleagues Wednesday by rejecting criticisms of a “broken Senate,” forcefully defending the chamber and all its unique rules as an institution that is meant to forge great compromise among competing personalities.

The next secretary of state — once considered aloof and always searching for a promotion out of the Senate — tearfully sketched out a 50-minute rebuttal to the growing cacophony that deems the Senate’s customs and procedures outdated in today’s political environment. He declared the current version of the chamber “a lasting memorial to the miracle of the American experiment.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines January 30, 2013: Senators Again Call for Bipartisan “Date Night” Seating at State of the Union Address

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Senators Again Call for Bipartisan “Date Night” Seating at State of the Union Address

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-30-13

For the third straight year, Senators Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called for bipartisan seating during the president’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12, a so-called “date night” as it has been informally dubbed in the past.

Rather than Republicans and Democrats sitting en masse together on their respective sides of the aisle during the president’s address to a joint session of Congress, the senators call for members of Congress to team up with a member of the opposite party sitting as “dates” together.

This is a tradition the senators started in 2011, in the wake of the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. The simple idea, aimed at projecting a greater sense of unity and civility in politics, was continued on in 2012, yet without the matching depth of participation as the first time around….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines January 30, 2013: John Kerry’s Senate Farewell Speech

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Text of John Kerry’s farewell speech

Source: Boston.com, 1-30-13

Below is the full text of John Kerry’s farewell address to the Senate, as delivered.

I want to begin by thanking my colleagues, all of them for their unbelievably generous comments to me personally, in the committee, and on the floor, in the halls, meetings over the course of the last weeks. I will always be grateful for our friendships, and I thank my wife Teresa who is here sitting in the family gallery, and my entire family for their unbelievable support through this journey.

Five times Massachusetts has voted to send me to the United States Senate. Yesterday, nearly three decades after the people of Massachusetts first voted me into this office, the people I worked with in the Senate voted me out of it.

As always, I accept the Senate’s sound judgment!

Eight years ago, I admit that I had a very different plan, slightly different anyway, to leave the Senate, but 61 million Americans voted that they wanted me to stay here with you.

And so staying here – I learned about humility, and I learned that sometimes the greatest lesson comes not from victory, but from just dusting off a defeat and starting over when you get knocked down.

I was reminded throughout this journey of something that’s often said but not always fully appreciated. All of us Senators are only as good as our staff. Staff that gives up their late nights and weekends; postpones vacations; doesn’t get home in time to tuck children in to bed—and all of these lost moments because they’re here helping us serve. They’re not elected, they didn’t get into public service to get rich, that’s for sure, and their names are rarely in the newspapers, but from the staff in the mailrooms to the people who answer the front phones to the policy experts and the managers — the legislative correspondents who write the letters, the caseworkers who make government accountable, and the people everywhere in between — they make the Senate work for people. I’ve been blessed to have a spectacular staff and while I know every one of my colleagues would say the same about their staffs – its true about mine.

If I start naming names I’m sure to miss someone –so I’m not going to – but I think everyone on my staff will understand why I want to acknowledge five who are not with us any longer. They’re up in heaven looking down on all of us and Ted Kennedy’s probably drafted them all: Jayona Beal, Jeanette Boone, Bill Bradley, Louise Etheridge and Gene Heller, the latter two of whom were senior citizen volunteers in my Boston office who opened our mail for over a decade, not paid, they just did this out of their love for country. What a special twosome they were. We miss them all, and we thank them for their selflessness and their contribution, as I do the entire staff of 561 incredible men and women in Massachusetts and Washington that I’ve been privileged to work with through these 28 plus years.

I also think about the interns – 1,393– who have come in and out of our offices from Washington to Worcester. And I’m especially proud of those who started as interns and ended as my Chief of Staff, Legislative Director, senior policy staffers, or the Kerry interns who went on to work not just for me, but who have for the last four years been top speechwriters, trip directors, and senior communications staff at the White House for the President of the United States. I’m proud of our internship program, and grateful to the people who built it and who sustain it.

I also want to thank the incredible group of unsung heroes who literally make the Senate work – people who work not for individual Senators but for all of us, in every room and nook and cranny of this great series of buildings, the men and women who operate the Senate subways, Darrell, many others and the trains and elevators. They take us to and from votes and meetings. They are really the glue and we couldn’t function without them. The Capitol Police who protect us, police who many started to notice a little bit more after that awful day in 1998 when two were shot and killed on a busy Wednesday afternoon.

The parliamentarians and the clerks and staff here on the floor — including Gary, Tim, Tricia, Meredith, and all the folks on the cloakroom and Dave on the other side and all the folks in the Republican cloakroom, all of whom help keep us going and are unfailingly patient when we call for the umpteenth time to find out whether the vote schedule is going to let us make it home to a child’s dance recital or birthday party. I want to thank the many Bertie Bowmans who came here more than forty years ago, dug in, and made the Senate their cause and their concern. People like Meg Murphy of the Foreign Relations Committee who makes everybody’s life easier.

And, I thank the reporters who catch us in the hallways, trap us, ambush us in the hallways —- , despite all the changes and challenges in their own business, still dutifully document the first drafts of American history. I thank all the incredible people who travel through these halls working incredibly hard to get it right, people of character who cover this place as a public service not a sport – and I thank them. I thank David Rogers for all he’s stood for so long in this institution. It is hard to imagine my job without seeing him in that long green coat waiting by the elevators after a late night vote.

Sometimes in politics, it’s now almost a sport in America to dismiss the contributions of the people who work in government, people who make the Senate work, but people that the public never see. I admired the way our former colleague Ted Kaufman used to come down here once a week and tell the story of one individual federal worker. The stories are legion. Instead of tearing these people down, we should be lifting them up, and I thank them all for the part they play in our democracy.

I will share with you that now that I’ve come to this moment in the journey, I can say without reservation that nothing prepares you for it.

Many times now in 29 years, I’ve been at my desk here on the floor, starting way over there, number 99, listening as colleagues bid the Senate farewell. Sometimes a farewell speech signals a complete departure from public life, sometimes a new journey altogether. Sometimes a forced departure. Sometimes a leap for freedom. I’m grateful that at this moment, thanks to my colleagues, serendipity and the trust of our President, while I’m closing a chapter, it’s not the final one. But I assure you, amid the excitement and the possibility, I do feel a wistfulness about leaving the United States Senate. And that’s because, despite the obvious frustrations of recent days and years, a frustration we all share — this place remains one of the most extraordinary institutions of any kind on the face of the earth.

On occasion we’ve all heard a Senator take their leave condemning the Senate for being broken, or for having become an impossible setting in which to do the peoples’ business.

Of course, many have later confessed just how much they missed and appreciated the Senate’s unique character after they’d bid it farewell.

I want to be very clear about my feelings: I do not believe the Senate is broken — certainly not as an institution. There is nothing wrong with the Senate that can’t be fixed by what’s right about the Senate – the predominant and weighty notion that 100 American citizens, chosen by their neighbors to serve from states as different as Massachusetts and Montana, can always choose to put parochial or personal interests aside and find the national interest.

I believe it is the honor of a lifetime, an extraordinary privilege to have represented the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States Senate for more than 28 years, just like each of you feel about your state. What a remarkable gift it has been to carry the banner of Senator from Massachusetts, a banner passed from the sons of the American Revolution like Daniel Webster to the sons of immigrants like Paul Tsongas, and to know that a state where the abolitionists crusaded at Faneuil Hall and the suffragettes marched in Quincy Market could send to Washington sons like Ted Kennedy and Ed Brooke who fought to expand civil rights – and now a woman, Elizabeth Warren, who proved that in Massachusetts the glass ceiling has finally been forever shattered.

And what a remarkable gift Massachusetts has given me to come here and learn so much about the rest of our country. I’ve had the privilege of learning what really makes our nation tick. What a gift to have been the nominee of my party, to have come within a whisper of winning the Presidency against a wartime incumbent, but more importantly, to have experienced the magic of our nation in such personal ways.

To experience the gift of traveling along the banks of the mighty Mississippi, through Iowa and South Dakota and along the rivers where Lewis and Clark marked and measured the dream of our first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who foresaw an America that would advance into the West. To experience a journey that took me to Alabama where I stood silently in the very pulpit from which Dr. King preached his dream of an America united and dipped my fingers into the fountain in Birmingham, where water flows over the names of those murdered trying to vote, or just registering to vote; to see the water trickle over the words of Dr. King’s prayer that justice might “roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” I drove across the Hoover Dam and wondered as I did at what America can accomplish when we want to; driving across the Golden Gate Bridge at dawn and reminded that it was built at the height of the Great Depression when so many feared our best days were behind us. What I’ve seen and heard and learned in traveling across our country as a Senator from Massachusetts has prepared me more for my travels to other countries as a Secretary of State than any travel to any foreign capital.

I already know I will miss the best reward of carrying the title Senator, and that’s when you open a letter from someone who has traveled every route and exhausted every option, and who ultimately turned to you as the last resort and they finally got the help they needed. There is nothing that beats a letter that says, “I tried everything and no one would listen but you got it done!” Or, sometimes when you’re walking a street in a community at home and someone thanks you for a personal response they never expected to receive. That’s when public service has more meaning than the war of words our constituents dodge on the cable news.

Standing here at this desk that once belonged to President Kennedy and to Ted Kennedy, I can’t help but be reminded that even the nation’s greatest leaders — and all the rest of us — are merely temporary workers. I am reminded that this chamber is a living museum, a lasting memorial to the miracle of the American experiment.

No one has captured this phenomenon more eloquently or comprehensively as Robert Caro did in his masterpiece about the Senate, called Master of the Senate. I’m sure many in this room have read it. In that book, before we learn of the levers that Lyndon Johnson pulled to push our nation toward civil rights, Caro described the special powers that the Founders gave the Senate — and only the Senate. “Powers,” Caro writes, “designed to make the Congress independent of the President and to restrain and act as a check on his authority: power to approve his appointments, even the appointments he made within his own Administration, even appointments to his own Cabinet.” This body has now exercised that power on my behalf, and I will always be grateful.

Another master of the Senate, Massachusetts’ Daniel Webster, delivered 183 years ago this week what has often been praised as the greatest speech in Senate history. He stood at the desk that now belongs to the senior Senator from New Hampshire and argued forcefully in favor of the very idea that makes us the United States: that we’re all in this together, that we each have a stake in the successes and failures of our countrymen, that what happens in Ohio matters to those in South Carolina, or in Massachusetts or to Montanans. “Union and Liberty,” Webster shouted. “Now and forever, one and inseparable!”

As Caro retells it, “those words, spoken among the desks, in the Senate” left those in the gallery in tears and cast a model for how those of us in this chamber must consider the constituents of our colleagues, as well as our own.

But the truth is that none of us ran for office because of a great debate held centuries ago. None of us moved here because of the moving words of a Senator long since departed. We honor this history, but we’re here because of the legacy that we can and want to leave. It is up to us–to my colleagues here today and those to come after us, it is up to us to keep the Senate great. I fully believe we will meet that obligation— if, as the President told the nation and the world last week, we seize this moment together.

Yes–Congress and public life face their difficulties these days, but not because the structure that our Founding Fathers gave us is inherently flawed. For sure, there are moments of great frustration — for the American people and for everybody in this place. But I don’t believe they are the fault of the institution itself. It’s not the rules that confound us per se. It’s the choices people make about those rules. The rules we work by now are essentially the same ones that were here when I joined the Senate and found things to move much more easily than they do today.

They are essentially the same rules under which Daniel Webster and Lyndon Johnson operated, and they did great things. They are almost the same rules Mike Mansfield, Everett Dirksen, Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch used to pass great pieces of legislation. They are the same rules under which the Senate Democrats and President George H.W. Bush passed an agreement including tax increases to at last begin to tackle the deficit. I would remind everyone here, as I take my leave from the Senate, when President George H.W. Bush returned from agreeing to a deficit reduction deal at Andrews Air Force Base, he wrote in his diary that he might well have sealed his fate as a one term President. He did what he thought was right for the country and laid the groundwork for our ability to three times balance the budget at the end of the 1990s. That’s courage and the Senate and the Congress and the country need more of it.

Frankly, the problems we live through today come from individual choices made by Senators themselves—not the rules. When an individual Senator – or a colluding caucus — determine that the comity essential to an institution like the Senate is a barrier to individual ambition or party ambition, the country loses. Those are the moments in which the Senate fulfills, not its responsibility to the people, but its reputation as a sanctuary of gridlock.

I ask colleagues to remember the words of Ben Franklin as that long Philadelphia summer yielded our remarkable Constitution. Late at night, after their work was complete, Dr. Franklin was walking down the steps of Constitution Hall, of Independence Hall, and a woman called out to him and she said: “Well, Doctor, what have we got– a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin answered: “A republic — if you can keep it.” Sustaining a functioning republic is work and it’s more than ever, I believe, our challenge today.

I’m hardly the first and will not be the last to call on Congress to remember why we’re here, to prioritize our shared interests above the short-term, to bridge the breadth of the partisan divide and reach across the aisle and take the long view.

Many have stood here, delivering farewell speeches and lamented what became of the Washington where President Reagan and Speaker O’Neill could cultivate an affiliation stronger than party, or a Congress that saw true friendships between Senators like Kennedy and Hatch, Inouye and Stevens, Obama and Coburn—the odd couples as they have been dubbed.

I can’t tell you why, but I think it’s possible this moment may see a turn in the spirit of the Senate. There are new whispers of desire for progress, rumors of new coalitions, and sense of possibility whether it is on energy or immigration. I am deeply impressed by a new generation of Senators who seem to have come here determined not to give in to the cynicism but to get the people’s business done. I am confident that when today’s freshmen take their turns in leaving the Senate, they will be able to tell of new Senators added to that inestimable list of odd couples. And with any luck, by then it will not be odd.

So I leave here convinced that we can keep our republic strong. When President Kennedy observed that “Our problems are manmade; therefore they can be solved by man,” he was talking about a much more literal kind of nuclear option than the euphemism we use today to discuss Senate rules. But his vision is just as important for us to recognize in our time, whether we are talking about the ability of Senators to debate and vote, or about any of the issues on which they do so. It is still true today, as he said 50 years ago, that “reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe he said they can do it again.” I believe that too.

So what effort do we need to put our reason and spirit into? I believe there are three challenges that have conspired to bring about a dangerous but reversible erosion in the quality of our democracy: the decline of comity, the deluge of money and the disregard for facts.

First, I have witnessed what we all have: a loss of simple comity, the respect that we owe one another and the sense of common cause that brings all of us here. The Senate as a body can change its rules to make it more efficient, sure. But only Senators, one by one, in their own hearts, can change their approach to legislating, which Henry Clay correctly defined as the art of consensus.

I came to the Senate in 1985 as a member of a hopeful and hard-charging class of freshmen. Paul Simon, Tom Harkin, Al Gore, Phil Gramm, Jay Rockefeller and I all have at least three things in common: we were all sworn in as Senators on the same day, we each explored running or ran for the White House, and none of us made it there. The last remaining member of that class, Senator Mitch McConnell, has now again been elevated by his peers as the Republican Leader.

I see a lot of a very similar aspiration to what we felt when I came here in 1985, and today’s freshmen and sophomores. Many came to the Senate running on the premise that it’s broken beyond repair. I encourage each and every one of them to reject this premise in order to restore the promise of the Senate. The Senate cannot break unless we let it. After all, the value of this institution, like any instrument of power, is in how we use it.

But we cannot ignore the fact that today, treaties that would have years ago passed 100-0 don’t pass at all. People who want to vote for something that they believe in actually don’t do so, for fear of retribution. That is a reflection on all of us. As I prepare to represent our nation in capitals around the world, I’m conscious that my credibility as a diplomat – and ours as a country – is determined to a great degree by what happens in our own capital city. The antidote to that, and it is pushed by rival countries is to demonstrate that we can get our economic house in order. We can be no stronger abroad than we are at home.

The unwillingness of some to yield to national interest is damaging to America’s prospects in the world. We are quick to talk about the global economy and about global competition, but it’s our own procrastination and outright avoidance of obvious choices that threatens our own future. Other nations are both quick and glad to fill the vacuum that’s brought about by our inaction.

If the Senate favors inaction over courage and gimmicks over common ground, the risk is not that we will fail to move forward. It is that we will fall behind, we will stay behind and we will surrender our promise to those who are more than willing to turn our squandered opportunity into their advantage. The world keeps turning; the Senate cannot afford to forever stand still.

Just as failing to deal with our deficit and our debt puts our long-term interests at risk, so does taking America to the brink of default. Our self-inflicted wounds reduce our leverage and influence in the world. And by failing to act, Congress is making it harder to actually advance America’s interests, and making it harder for American business to compete and for American workers to succeed. If America is to continue to lead the free world, this must end.

Now we’ve all bemoaned the lack of comity in the Senate, but you who remain here will have the power to restore it. The choice to work respectfully with one another is about as simple as it gets.

One suggestion perhaps while I’m honored by the presence of so many colleagues here now, Republicans, Democrats, I have to say we would all look forward to more days when United States Senate desks are full with Senators debating and deliberating, learning, listening, and leading. We would all be stronger if this Chamber is once again crowded because it is the world’s greatest deliberative body, the home of debate and deliberation, and not only when it becomes a departure lounge.

There is another challenge we must address – and it is the corrupting force of the vast sums of money necessary to run for office. The unending chase for money, I believe, threatens to steal our democracy itself. I’ve used the word corrupting – and I mean by it not the corruption of individuals, but a corruption of a system itself that all of us are forced to participate in against our will. The alliance of money and the interests it represents, the access it affords those who have it at the expense of those who don’t, the agenda it changes or sets by virtue of its power, is steadily silencing the voice of the vast majority of Americans who have a much harder time competing, or who can’t compete at all.

The insidious intention of that money is to set the agenda, change the agenda, block the agenda, define the agenda of Washington. How else could we possibly have a US tax code of some 76,000 pages? Ask yourself, how many Americans have their own page, their own tax break, their own special deal?

We should not resign ourselves Mr. President to a distorted system that corrodes our democracy. This is what contributes to the justified anger of the American people. They know it. They know we know it. And yet nothing happens. The truth requires that we call the corrosion of money in politics what it is: it is a form of corruption and it muzzles more Americans than it empowers, and it is an imbalance that the world has taught us can only sow the seeds of unrest.

Like the question of comity in the Senate, the influence of money in our politics also influences our credibility around the world. And so too does the difficulty, the unacceptable and extraordinary difficulty, we have in 2013 in operating the machinery of our own democracy here at home. How extraordinary and how diminishing that more than 40 years after the Voting Rights Act, so many of our fellow citizens still have great difficulty when they show up on election day to cast their vote and have their voice heard. That too is an issue that matters to all of us – because for a country that can and should extol the virtues of democracy around the world, our job is made more difficult when through long lines and overt voter suppression, and efforts to suppress people’s ability to exercise the right that we extol, so many struggle still to exercise that right here at home.

The last of these three obstacles that we have the ability, if not yet the will, to overcome is the unbelievable disregard for facts and science in the conduct of our affairs. It, like the first two, degrades our credibility abroad as well as at home.

My friends, the persistent shouting match of the perpetual campaign, one that takes place in parallel universes thanks to our polarized, self-selecting media, makes it harder and harder to build consensus among people. The people don’t know what to believe. So in many ways it encourages an oversimplification of problems that too often retreat to slogans, not ideas for real solutions.

America, I regret to say, is increasingly defaulting rather than choosing — and so we fail to keep pace with other nations in the renewal of our infrastructure, in the improvement of our schools, in the choice of our energy sources, in the care and nurturing of our children, in the fulfillment of our God-given responsibility to protect life here on earth. That too must change or our experiment is at risk.

To remain a great nation, we must do the business of our country. That begins by putting our economic house in order. And it begins by working from the same set of facts.

Though I believe we can’t solve any of these problems unless you really solve all of them, I note these three challenges because I believe the Senate is going to be locked into stalemate or our politics are going to be irreversibly poisoned unless we break out. I do so hopefully, as someone who respects and loves this institution and loves this country and wants to see us move forward.

Some things we know are moving forward. In the same time that comity has decreased and the influence has money has increased, I have seen the Senate change for the better. These halls used to be filled with the voices of men and men only. Decisions affecting more than half the population were made by people representing the other half. When I walked into the Old Senate Chamber to take my first ceremonial oath 28 years ago, I was joined by my two teenage daughters. It struck me that I had twice as many daughters as there were women in the Senate. Today, with the service of 20 women, including Massachusetts’ new junior Senator, this is a stronger, smarter place; more representative of our belief that out of many, we are one; more capable of fulfilling the vision carried from Washington to Webster to our current President that we are a stronger nation when our leadership reflects our population.

We have made huge strides in turning the page on gay rights. In 1993, I testified before Strom Thurman’s Armed Services Committee pushing to lift the ban on gays serving in the military and I ran into a world of misperceptions. I thought I was on a Saturday Night Live skit. Today at last, that policy is gone forever and we are a country that honors the commitment of all willing to fight and die for our country. We’ve gone from the Senate that passed DOMA over my objections to one that just welcomed its first openly gay Senator. There are good changes that have taken place for our Senate and our country. But we have more work to do. This place needs more women, more people of color, more diversity of background and experience.

But it is still a remarkable place. I’m reminded of the letters Harry Truman used to write home to his wife, Bess, as he sat in the back row of the chamber. Late one night, after one of the great debates of the New Deal era, he wrote, “I hear my colleagues, and I pinch myself and ask, ‘How did I get here?’” Several months later, he wrote Bess once more: “Again it is late at night and I am sitting here listening to the debate, I look across the aisle at my colleagues and I listen and listen, and I hear my colleagues and I ask myself, How did they get here?”

Well, I have no doubt that colleagues have asked that question about me or any one of us. Its been back and forth. But, 29 years after I came here, I have learnt something about how you solve that.

I learned that the Senate runs on relationships. I know that some of my more recent colleagues, sent here in tumultuous election cycles, hear that and think it’s code for checking their beliefs at the door, and “going Washington.” It’s not — and I’d add, don’t kid yourself: no one got here on a platform of pledging to join an exclusive club and forget where they came from.

When I say that relationships matter, I don’t mean back-slapping, glad-handing, hail-fellow well-met, go-along-to-get-along relationships. I mean real relationships.

And today’s hard charging colleagues who came to Washington to shake things up, I’d remind them: so did I, so did Tom Harkin, and the others I mentioned. If I told you that a 40-year-old newly minted Senator John Kerry was going to tell you that relationships matter most, I would have looked at you like you had three heads. I cut my teeth in grassroots activism. I didn’t come up through the political ranks. I burst onto the scene as an activist and when you’re an activist, all that singularly matters to the exclusion of almost all else are the issues. Where are you on an issue. Right or wrong and that’s the ballgame. Wrong, that’s not the ballgame.

That’s not what makes a good Senator. That’s not what makes the Senate work.

My late colleague of 25 years, Ted Kennedy, taught me that. I saw him late nights on the Senate floor sitting with his colleagues. Talking. Listening. He wanted to know about your state. He wanted to know about your family. He wanted to know why you came here. He had a unique ability to know not just what he needed from you, on a vote or a piece of legislation, but to know what you needed on a personal level, as a friend, as a colleague, as a partner. My old friend now Vice President, Joe Biden, had a saying in his family: “if you have to ask, it’s too late.” With Teddy, you never had to ask, he already knew – and he was there. He was there on a foggy morning on Nantucket when my father passed away, when Teddy just materialized almost out of nowhere, and there he was there at my front door. He didn’t call ahead. He didn’t ask. He just came to mark the passage. He came to listen. He was there. It was an instinct for people and an impulse to help. He taught that to so many of during that period time somewhere along the line, he passed it on not just to me, but to others in my class of Senators who came here in 1984. I will never forget in 2007, on the day when I announced I wouldn’t be running again for President, a tough day, another passage, when I got a call that Tom Harkin wanted to come see me. My staff surmised that he was probably coming to ask for money for the Iowa Democratic Party. They were wrong. It was a visit where Tom came just to share a few words that were very simple but which meant the world to me. A colleague visiting just to say he was proud that I was our party’s nominee in 2004 and that he looked forward to working with me more in this institution. Let me tell you, those are the conversations that make the difference, that you never forget, and that is the Senate at its best, the place where relationships matter most.

And it matters. Because Teddy and Tom Harkin and so many others here understood instinctively that if 100 Senators really knew each other, and our leader has worked very hard to try to find a way to make this happen, then you can find ways to work together.

And, to my surprise, I learned it and lived it in my time here in ways I never could’ve predicted, alongside people I never thought I’d count among my proudest friends.

John McCain last week introduced me at my confirmation hearing. John and I met here in the Senate coming from very different positions and perspectives. We both loved the Navy. I still do to this day, but I had different feelings from John about a war. For both of us, Vietnam was a demarcation point in our lives the way it was for so many of our generation.

But here in the Senate, late one night on a CODEL – for people listening who don’t know, it’s a trip of Senators, Congressmen going somewhere in the world – we were going to Kuwait after the first Gulf War, John and I found ourselves on a C-130 sitting opposite each other. Neither one of us could sleep, so we talked. We talked late into the night about our lives and our war.

Shortly thereafter, George Mitchell and Bob Dole threw us together on a select committee to investigate the fate of Americans still missing from the war in which we’d fought. It was a tough time and an emotional issue in an era where Rambo was a box office smash and Newsweek magazine cover printed provocative photos which asked whether Americans were still alive over there.

Into that cacophonous cauldron, John McCain and I were thrown together. Some were suspicious of both of us. But together we found common ground. I will never forget standing with John in the very cell in the Hanoi Hilton in which he spent a number of years of his life, just the two of us, alone in the cell listening to him talk about that experience. I will always be grateful for his partnership in helping to make real peace with Vietnam by establishing the most significant process in the history of our country, or of any country, for the accounting for missing and dead in any war, and afterwards then working to lift the embargo and ultimately normalizing relations with an old enemy. John had every reason to hate but he didn’t. Instead, we were able to heal deep wounds and end a war that divided an awful lot of people for much too long. And that is a common experience and only the relationships forged in the Senate could have made that happen.

John has this great expression, “a fight not joined is a fight not enjoyed.” He loves to debate, he loves to battle. And so do I. But I’ll tell you having fought besides him and fought against him, I can tell you it’s a heck of a lot better and more fun to have John fighting alongside you.

And we still have differences. There’s been a lot of newsprint has been used up covering some of them. But we both care about the Senate as an institution, and we both care about our country’s leadership in the world, even when we see it differently. And we both know that at some point, America’s got to come together.

We’ve shared this common experience and we’ve seen a lot together. We both were able to travel the country as the presidential nominee for our party and both returned to the Senate to carry on in a different way. Few people know what all that feels like. But just being by his side in Hanoi made it impossible not to be overwhelmed by his sense of patriotism, and his devotion to country. But it meant something else: if you can stand on the kind of common ground we found at the Hanoi Hilton, finding common ground on issues isn’t hard at all. I will always thank John McCain for that lesson. One of the magical things about the Senate is this amazing mix of people and how they can come together to make something happen.

I have learned and been impressed by the experiences of every single one of my colleagues and I honestly marvel at each state’s special character in the people they send here. I have learned from all: from the fiery, street-smart social worker from Maryland; from a down-to-earth, no-nonsense farmer from Montana; from a principled, conservative doctor from Oklahoma; from an amazingly tenacious advocate for women and the environment who blazed a trail from Brooklyn to Rancho Mirage and the United States Senate, who teams with a former Mayor of San Francisco who took office after the assassination of Harvey Milk and is committed to stand against violence and for equality; from a cantankerous, maverick patriot and former prisoner of war from Arizona; from a songwriting, original compassionate conservative from Utah; from a fervent, gravel-voiced people’s champion from Ohio; from a soft-spoken, loyal Medal of Honor winner from Hawaii who used to sit right here, from a college professor turned proud prairie populist and Senate Pied Piper taken from all us far too soon and far too quickly. From every member of the Senate, there are characteristics, passions, quirks and beliefs that bring this place alive and unite to make it the most extraordinary legislative body on earth.

That’s what I love about the Senate.

I love that instead of fighting against each other, Bill Frist, the former Republican Leader, and I were able to join forces to fight HIV and AIDS around the globe, and to convince an unlikely conservative named Jesse Helms to support and pass a bill unanimously that has saved millions of lives on our planet. That’s what makes this place so special.

Instead of ignoring a freshman Senator, Chairman Claiborne Pell allowed me to pass my very first amendment to change our policy on the Philippines, and so I found myself with Dick Lugar paired as Senate election observers who helped expose the voter fraud of the Marcos regime, ending a dictatorship and giving a nation of more than 90 million people the opportunity to know democracy again. That’s what the Senate can do, and that’s what I love about it.

Instead of focusing on our different accents and opposite ideologies, Jesse Helms and I found that our concern for illegal drugs was greater than any political differences between us, and so Jesse made it possible for an investigation to proceed and for the Senate to expose the linkages between the Contras in Nicaragua and the flow of drugs to American cities. That’s what the Senate can do.

Mr. President, the Senate can still work if we learn from and listen to each other — two responsibilities that are, like Webster said about liberty and union, “one and inseparable.”

And so as I offer my final words on the Senate floor, I remember that I came of age in a Senate where freshman Senators didn’t speak all that often.

Senators no longer hold their tongues through whole sessions of Congress, and they shouldn’t. Their voices are just as valuable, and their votes count just as much as the most tenured member of this body. But being heard by others does not exempt them from listening to others.

I came to the National Mall in 1971 with fellow veterans who wanted only to talk to our leaders about the war. President Nixon tried to kick us off the Mall. We knocked on door after door on Capitol Hill, but too often couldn’t get an audience with our representatives. A precious few, including Ted Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, came to where we were camped out and heard what we had to say. And I saw first-hand that our political process works only when leaders are willing to listen — to each other, but also to everyone else.

That is how I first came to the Senate — not with my vote, but with my voice — and that is why the end of my tenure here is in many ways a bookend.

Forty-two years ago, I testified before Senator Fulbright’s Foreign Relations Committee about the realities of war in Vietnam.

It wasn’t until last week that I would sit before that Committee again, this time testifying in my own confirmation hearing. It completed a circle, which I could never have imagined drawing, but one our Founders surely did: That a citizen voicing his opinion about a matter of personal and national consequence could one day use that voice as a Senator, as the Chairman of that same Committee before which he had once testified a private citizen, and then as the President’s nominee for Secretary of State — that is a fitting representation of what we mean when we talk about a government “of the people, for the people and by the people.”

In the decades between then and now, this is what I’ve learned above all else: The privilege of being here is in being able to listen to your constituents. It is the people and their voices – much more than the marble buildings and the inimitable institutions they house – that determine whether or not our democracy works.

In my first appearance before the United States Senate, at the Fulbright Hearings, I began by saying, “I am not here as John Kerry. I am here as one member of the group of one thousand, which is a small representation of a much larger group.”

I feel much the same way today, as I leave. We are still symbols, representatives of the people who have given us the honor to speak and advocate and vote in their name. And that, as the Bible says, is a “charge to keep.”

One day the 99 other Senators who continue on for now and soon to be a 100 again in a few days, will also leave in their own turn — some by their own choosing and some of the people’s. Our time here is not meant to last forever.

If we use the time posture politically in Washington, we weaken our position across the world. If democracy deadlocks here, we raise doubts about democracy everywhere. If we do not in our deeds prove our own ideals, we undermine our security and the sacred mission as the best hope of earth.

But, if we do our jobs right, if we treat our colleagues with respect and build the relationships required to form consensus – and find the courage to follow through on our promises of compromise – the work we do here will long endure.

So let us in the Senate and the House be bigger than our own districts, our own states. Let us in spirit and purpose be as big as the United States of America. Let us stand for our beliefs, but above all let us believe in our common history, our common destiny, and our common obligation to love and lead this exceptional nation.

They say politics stops at the water’s edge. That is obviously not always true, but if we care for our country, politics has its limits at home and abroad. As I leave here, I do so knowing that forever the Senate will be in my soul – and that our country is my cause – and yours.

I thank you all for your friendship and the privilege of serving with you.

Political Headlines January 30, 2013: Gabrielle Giffords visits Barack Obama at White House

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Giffords visits Obama at White House

Source: USA Today, 1-30-13

President Obama welcomed a special guest to the White House on Wednesday, shooting survivor and former U.S. Rep.Gabrielle Giffords.

Giffords and husband Mark Kelly visited just a few hours after testifying in a Senate hearing on legislation to address gun violence.

“Everyone here was heartened to see Gabrielle Giffords testify today,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, confirming the meeting with Obama….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines January 30, 2013: Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence & control — Transcript & Video

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Gabby Giffords’s opening statement (transcript, video)

Source: WaPo, 1-30-13

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ full opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence:

Okay. Thank you for inviting me. This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold, be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Thank you.

Political Headlines January 30, 2013: Gabrielle Giffords Urges Senate: ‘Be Courageous’ on Gun Control

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Gabrielle Giffords Urges Senate: ‘Be Courageous’ on Gun Control

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-30-13

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Image

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, whose congressional career was ended by a bullet wound to her head, opened a Senate hearing on gun violence Wednesday by telling the panel, “Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important.”

She told the Senate to be “courageous” because “Americans are counting on you.”

Giffords sat alongside her astronaut husband Mark Kelly as she delivered her emotional statement just over a minute long imploring Congress to act on gun policy….READ MORE

Political Headlines January 29, 2013: John Kerry confirmed as secretary of state

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John Kerry confirmed as secretary of state

Source: WaPo, 1-29-13

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Senate voted 94 to 3 Tuesday to approve Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) as the next secretary of state, with bipartisan tributes and a few words of caution.

Kerry is set to formally take over from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday, becoming the 68th top U.S. diplomat and the first white male to hold the post since Warren Christopher in 1997….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines January 29, 2013: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Holds a Farewell Global Townterview — Townhall Interview Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Secretary Clinton Holds a Global Townterview

Townhall

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Newseum
Washington, DC
January 29, 2013

MS. SALES: Hello. I’m Leigh Sales from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Welcome to this town hall-style event with the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has her last day at the State Department this Friday. This is a town hall with a difference though because we have people all around the world ready to ask to questions from Britain to Beirut to Colombia.

Here’s how the event will run in front of our live audience here in the Newseum’s Knight Studio in Washington, D.C. I’ll start the ball rolling with five minutes of discussion with the Secretary, and then we’ll cross to locations around the globe to hear other questions, and we’ll also be taking submissions from social media. Now, of course, live TV is fraught with peril to begin with, but when you throw in six lives satellites around the world, it’s a bit of a high-wire act, so please bear with us if the technology doesn’t quite cooperate as we’d like.

So to start, and for her final town hall, please welcome the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Hello, Leigh.

MS. SALES: Hi Secretary Clinton. Have a seat.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Hello, everyone. Hello.

MS. SALES: Super warm welcome there. This is your 59th event like this, so there’s nothing new I can ask you, is there?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I’m sure there is. (Laughter.)

MS. SALES: I’ve had a look at some of the transcripts of previous events like this and you’ve been asked some very funny things, from what was Chelsea’s first word, which was Mommy, for the record, to what you favorite film was. I bet they’re all quite memorable in their own way.

SECRETARY CLINTON: They really are because part of what I’ve tried to do in the last four years is to reach out to people across the world, particularly young people, and I’m so happy to see so many of them here in the Newseum. And for me it’s been a learning experience as well, because as I’ve traveled around doing these – this is the 59th, as you said – of these kinds of events, all over the globe I’ve heard what’s on people’s minds and what their questions were, and so it’s been a great two-way communication.

MS. SALES: I have seen some interesting statistics: You’ve had 1,700 meetings with world leaders, 755 meetings at the White House, 570 airplane meals – (laughter) – and three times caught dancing on camera.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, dear. Yes. (Laughter.) That’s supposed to be erased from the record, you know. (Laughter.)

MS. SALES: Now, in a moment I’m going to throw to questions around the world, as I just explained. But first of all, I just want to us to set the scene a little bit by talking about some of the big foreign policy issues that are around in the news. So let’s start with North Africa, which has been very prominent lately. We’ve seen the Islamist extremists in Algeria, of course the ongoing problems in Libya, the crisis in Mali, in recent days violent protests in Egypt. How much of a global security threat is this region?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Leigh, it is becoming a threat, first and foremost, to the people of the region. This is not what the Arab revolution was about, and there’s a great deal of concern across the region about people who choose to use violence to try to impose their extremist views rather than participate in politics. It does have the potential, however, of expanding beyond the region, which is why I think you’re seeing an international concern and coalition coming together to support the people of Mali, to stand by the Government of Algeria, to work with the Government of Libya, so that they themselves are given the tools they need to combat this extremist threat.

MS. SALES: Has there been an insufficient global focus on that part of the world to now?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think historically there has been exactly that, that much of Africa – you can separate North Africa from Sub-Saharan Africa – have not had the kind of attention on a range of issues, whether it’s security or development. But that is changing, and it’s very exciting to me that I think seven of the fastest performing economies in the world now are in Sub-Saharan Africa. It’s also exciting to see people in North Africa, after so many decades of oppression, looking to find their own way forward democratically.

But transformations are never easy and they are never preordained. If North Africa and the fruits of the Arab revolution are to be democracy, prosperity, better opportunities particularly for the young people of the region, the people themselves will have to ensure that. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, helping to improve governance and create more opportunity has been one of my primary goals.

MS. SALES: The world saw your passionate response to a Senate committee last week about what happened in Benghazi. You said that you want the focus to be on making sure that something like that can’t happen again. But is it really possible to prevent things like that from happening?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we live in a dangerous world and it’s unpredictable and complex. I think we in government have to do everything we can to provide as secure conditions as possible for our diplomats, our development experts, in order that we don’t end up in bunkers, abdicating from regions that are important to us. But it’s also now an increasing threat, as we saw with the Algerian hostage taking, to businesses, to cultural institutions. We’ve seen the extremists destroying shrines and libraries that were holding priceless remnants and artifacts that were of great meaning to people. So yes, it’s something we have to deal with, but we have to also be realistic that we live in this dangerous world and we can’t retreat from it.

MS. SALES: When we were watching that hearing, we saw the Republican committee members go on the attack. Is Washington today more bitterly partisan than it was when you were first lady, or has it always been like this and we just have a recency bias?

SECRETARY CLINTON: It has been increasingly partisan. It was 20 years ago, 30 years ago, you can go back in history and see certain constituencies represented in our Congress and our politics certainly squaring off against each other. But it’s become more so, and it’s also resulted in less productivity. You can be partisan, you can have a strong sense of the rightness of your position, but democracy and certainly legislative bodies require compromise. And you can’t let compromise become a dirty word because then you veer toward fanaticism.

I mean, we were just talking about extremists who think it’s only their way, they are the ones who have the truth, none of the rest of us have any kind of claim on what is real in their views. And so it’s important in our democracies – like Australia, like the United States – that yes, be passionate, be intense about your feelings, but at the end of the day you’ve got to serve the people who sent you there, and that requires compromise.

MS. SALES: I think at these events you are always asked a question that involves the year 2016, and so I’m not going to ask it because I think somebody else around the world will. So let’s start our criss-cross discussions around the world with the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation, which is based in Dubai. Presenter Muna AbuSulayman is standing by in Beirut.

Muna.

MS. ABUSULAYMAN: Hello, hi. I just wanted to tell you thank you for inviting us to this global town hall. We are very happy to be a part of this. We have a lot of Arab students in the studio in Beirut to ask Madam Secretary a few questions. But I want to actually start the ball rolling and ask the first question myself: Madame Secretary, what is your biggest unfulfilled mission in leaving the Department of State?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Muna, it’s wonderful to see you in Beirut and to have the students there with you. Obviously, I want to see peace in the Middle East and I want to see prosperity that includes all people, and I want to see women and girls given their rights and opportunities. So those are three of the pieces of unfinished business.

Now, as a Secretary of State, a diplomat, I know that a lot of the work that I have done is, by its very nature, complicated and difficult. So it’s not a surprise that some of these big issues would be unfinished. But what’s important is that we continue the work and that we build bridges across our world, across cultures and societies, so that we engage in moving toward a better world that will certainly give more opportunity, peace, and prosperity to the young people in your studio.

MS. ABUSULAYMAN: Well, thank you. We all know how much you’ve worked on linking women rights with human rights, so it is quite appreciated in our parts of the world, but I also have a few questions from the students. And the first question is from Haled.

QUESTION: Yes. Good afternoon, Madam Secretary. Haled Kaber from the Lebanese American University.

My question to you, Madam Secretary is: What is your opinion? The main obstacle these opposition-led demonstrations that are being held in the Arab world are facing, is it the lack of clear organization between its members and not having a unified, clear vision for the future of the country? Is it the involvement of international or regional actors, or maybe the actions that are practiced by the ruling regimes? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it probably is all three. I think you did an excellent summary of three factors that are involved, and let me quickly respond.

The Arab revolutions which have swept the region hold such great promise. But I don’t think that you go from a top-down society that often imposed oppressive regulations and punishments on people for expressing themselves to a democracy overnight. And so when you look at the trajectory, this will take some time, and there has to be a combination of persistence and patience, and I would hope that the opposition demonstrators are demonstrating because they want to participate in the political process, not to derail it. Part of our problem is that there are elements within the countries, certainly in North Africa, who don’t believe in democracy, who don’t believe in equal rights for women and men, who don’t believe that there can be cooperation among people who have different points of view. That has to be overcome.

Now, Lebanon, which has suffered for so many years, as you all know better than I, has this uneasy balance in your democracy, but so far it has sustained the stability of your country. So different countries will reach different conclusions about how to fashion and manage their democracy, but everyone should stand against those who wish to hijack it, whether they are internal or external, who believe that their extremist point of view should cancel out everyone else’s point of view, and really stand up and speak out and work toward what were the aspirations of the people, particularly the young people who stood up and said, “We want a better, different life.”

MS. ABUSULAYMAN: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Of course, extremism is something that we actually have to deal with a lot in the Middle East, and is something that needs to be negotiated quite delicately. And I think the second question from one of our students will lead to that.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. Ahmadin Mohaissen, American University of Beirut. I would like to ask you: With the recent reelection of Benjamin Netanyahu, the chances of peace are almost negligible. Out of your experience, what’s needed to achieve to the most comprehensive and long-lasting peace in the Middle East? What about the role of the USA? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I actually think that this election opens doors, not nails them shut. I think the outcome of the election in which a significant percentage of the Israeli electorate chose to express themselves by saying, “We need a different path than the one we have been pursuing internally and with respect to the Middle East peace process.” So I know that President Obama, my successor, soon-to-be Secretary of State John Kerry, will pursue this, will look for every possible opening.

I have been involved in, one way or another, working toward peace for more than 20 years, first with my husband, then as a senator, now as Secretary of State. And what rests at the core of the problem is great mistrust, great concern on both sides, because I also speak frequently with our Palestinian counterparts. And somehow, we have to look for ways to give the Palestinian people the pathway to peace, prosperity, and statehood that they deserve and give the Israeli people the security and stability that they seek. I think that still is possible, and I can assure you the United States under President Obama will continue to do everything we can to move the parties toward some resolution.

MS. SALES: We’re going to leave Beirut there for now, Muna and the people there. Thank you so much. I mentioned before that maybe we would have some technical issues, and as you could see with the audio there, we did indeed. And also, please just bear with the delay that you have when you’re traveling enormous distances like this.

Let’s go across the other side of the world now to NHK in Tokyo, Japan’s national public broadcaster, where the director of the international news division, Kenji Kohno, is ready with a question.

MR. KOHNO: Good evening from Tokyo. Madam Secretary, thank you very much for this opportunity to talk to you again. We have here a group of 10 Japanese college students, very good students, and let me turn this microphone to them. They have some questions. So who wants to ask the first question? Okay. Here you go.

QUESTION: Hello, Madam Secretary. I’m Yuki Kao coming from the University of Tokyo, so I would like to ask about the future of U.S.-Japan economic relationship. It is widely said that the U.S.-Japan relationship, especially in the field of economy, are becoming weaker and weaker. In my opinion, it is because a lot of Japanese companies are switching their focus onto the emerging markets in Asia.

So how can we reinforce or maintain the U.S.-Japan relationship? Could the Trans-Pacific Partnership be one of the solutions?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m glad you mentioned that at the end of your question, because I certainly believe the Trans-Pacific Partnership holds great benefits for Japan’s economy. And it is true that the United States and Japan have both expanded economically on a broader scale, which of course is necessary because consumers in the middle class in many emerging democracies or emerging economies are now demanding more goods and services.

But I think the Japanese-U.S. relationship is a very secure one, and what we want is to look for new ways that we can work together on behalf of our common values and our hopes for the future. I highly appreciate the excellent working relationship that I’ve had over the last four years with my Japanese counterparts. But I think you’re right to point out that in today’s world, we have to be more creative, innovative, open and transparent about our economies, because Japan and the United States have comparative advantage. We’re high tech, we have highly educated workforces. In order to keep producing jobs and rising incomes, we have to be smart about how we use our economies. So I think the Trans-Pacific Partnership is one way that could really enhance our relationship.

MR. KOHNO: Madam Secretary, let me add my questions, which is on the possibly imminent nuclear test by North Korea. North Korea has still threatened to do this, but your spokesperson said that if they do, the U.S. would take very significant action. I wonder what this significant action means, and I wonder this – more – simply more sanctions would be enough to stop their provocations?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for that, because we, of course, share Japan’s concerns and the concerns of the entire region about what the new regime in North Korea is doing and threatening. And let me express my regret, because I think with a new young leader we all expected something different. We expected him to focus on improving the lives of the North Korean people, not just the elite, but everyone to have more education, more openness, more opportunity. And instead, he has engaged in very provocative rhetoric and behavior.

So we did go to the United Nations after the missile launch, and with very good work on behalf of our teams, we came up with additional and much tougher sanctions. But we’re going to have to work closely together to try to change the behavior of the North Korean regime. I’ve had long conversations with my Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Chinese counterparts, because this is a threat to all of us. And it is something that is so regrettable when young people the world over, including in North Korea, are getting better connected with the rest of the world, to remain as closed off and denied the opportunities they should have.

So it’s going to be a lengthy consultation. I don’t want to preview what the outcome might be in terms of actions that would have to be taken, because we still hope that there is a way to convince the North Korean regime not to pursue this path.

MR. KOHNO: Now, let me have a student to have the second question. Who wants to have the second question? Okay, you.

QUESTION: Good evening, Madam Secretary. I’m Yosuke Kawanebe from Tokyo University of Science. As mentioned, I think Japan and U.S. will need to have stronger relationships in the future. And I’m an entrepreneur, and I feel our generation is now taking over important positions in politics and businesses. So I want to ask your advice for younger people who want to become leaders, tomorrow’s leaders in the future.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m so happy you asked that question because I think that is something every young person should be considering, particularly in a democracy like Japan. There are many roads to leadership. You mentioned being interested in entrepreneurship. Those kinds of business investment opportunities are leadership ones – starting businesses, building businesses, creating employment. That has to go hand in hand with whatever the political leadership is able to do.

And I believe strongly that we need to open up all of our economies, knock down barriers to the participation of young people, of women. I think you can take any economy in the world, including mine and including yours, and see that there are still barriers to the dreams of young business leaders. And I hope that in the next few years, we will do more to open up our markets, open up credit, clear away the barriers so that a young man like yourself will have a chance to make a real contribution to your country’s economy.

MS. SALES: That’s where we’re going to leave Tokyo; wonderful to see that enthusiasm there with the hands. We might take a Facebook question that we received, Secretary Clinton. It was received in Farsi from Rasoul Ali Asgari.

It said: I’m glad she – meaning you – has regained her health. My only question is if you have issues with the Government of Iran, why destroy the people with the current sanctions in place? It’s very difficult to find medicine in Iran. Where is your sense of humanity?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say on the medicine and on food and other necessities, there are no sanctions. And what we have tried to do, and in fact, I have approved the sending of medicines to Iran for exactly the purpose that is pointed out. We do not want the people of Iran to suffer and certainly to be deprived of necessary medicines. But this is a dilemma for us, and for the entire world, because when I say “us,” I’m not talking only about the United States. But if you look at the United Nations sanctions, the European Union sanctions, across the globe, people are very worried about what the Iranian Government’s actions and intentions are.

We know that there is a lot of support for terrorism by the Iranian Government. We know they send out agents and proxies across the world to do bombings and assassinations. That’s deeply troubling. And we also know that their pursuit of a nuclear weapon would be incredibly dangerous to Iran, to the region and the world.

So we have tried diplomatic outreach. President Obama came into office saying that he wanted to engage in diplomacy with Iran to see if there were a way to end their nuclear weapons program. And we hope that that will still be possible. And we think the people of Iran, in their upcoming election, have the opportunity to send a very clear message. Iranian people are educated, intelligent, historically significant; they deserve to have a government that integrates them into the world, not isolates from the world. So we hope that the Iranian people will speak out and make known their views to their own government.

MS. SALES: Secretary Clinton, let’s see if we can go now to Bogota, in Colombia, to journalist Andrea Bernal. She interviewed you in 2010 in Ecuador, and she’s at NTN24, which is a 24-hour news channel based in South America.

Andrea.

We’ll just wait for the audio to come up on that. Hopefully we can get it. No, we might just see if we can go somewhere else while we wait for that to come up. Let’s go for a Twitter question, Secretary Clinton. We have one here from @ManxNige, Nigel Walker to the State Department: “Can you tell me why the USA didn’t engage with the democratically elected Hamas government in Gaza?”

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, because we believe, and there’s unfortunately a lot of evidence to support this, that Hamas is not interested in democracy, not interested in political participation and pursuits, but instead is largely still a military resistance group. And we’ve made it very clear that if Hamas renounces violence, if they morph themselves into a political entity the way that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have, from the origins in the PLO. If they accept the previous commitments by the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, there’s a place for them at the table. And it would be my great hope that they would do that.

MS. SALES: We’ve had an email question that’s come in from the Antarctic.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, the Antarctic. (Laughter.)

MS. SALES: We’re going everywhere in this discussion –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, my goodness.

MS. SALES: – all around the world. From Marcelo Leppe, a Chilean scientist, he wants to ask if your government has defined any position about the future of the mineral resources in Antarctica.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Excellent question, and hello to everybody in Antarctica. It’s the one continent I haven’t been to so I’m very jealous that you’re down there. (Laughter.) We are working on that. We want the same kind of international agreements and enforcement that has preserved the Antarctic as an international treasure and resource for research and scientific experimentation. I think it’s an important question to raise. I thank you for doing so. I hope that we’ll make progress in order to protect the treasure of the Antarctic that belongs to all of us.

MS. SALES: Let’s have one more Twitter question. It’s from @OliverSB022: “Which former Secretary of State does Hillary Clinton most admire and why?”

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, well, if I say any of my recent successors, I will lose friends, which I don’t want to do. (Laughter.) But I will say that one of the people who I especially admire and am identifying with is Secretary Seward, who was President Lincoln’s Secretary of State. And he was from New York. He was a very successful politician from New York when he became Secretary of State. He had run against President Lincoln – (laughter) – so there’s a little bit of parallel here in the whole team-of-rivals concept. And if anyone has seen the Steven Spielberg movie, “Lincoln,” you see Secretary Seward by Lincoln’s side the whole time, advising and supporting him. And in fact, the night that President Lincoln was assassinated, the conspirators broke into his house and tried to kill him. So I don’t want that to happen to anybody – (laughter ) – but I like his willingness to work with President Lincoln, he made a real difference during our civil war, and I admire him greatly.

MS. SALES: We will try to go to Colombia again shortly, we’re just having some technical issues getting that up. So instead let’s swing over to London, to the BBC, where Ros Atkins is waiting. He’s the presenter of the BBC World Service program “World Have Your Say.” Ros, tells us who’s with you there.

MR. ATKINS: Leigh, hi. And, Secretary Clinton, you’re very welcome to the BBC’s new home here in London. I’ve got five guests; they come from Britain, Greece, Germany and Italy. And our first question is from Carolina.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, my name is Carolina. I come from Turin, in Italy. And I wanted to ask you, what do you think is the most powerful diplomatic tool? Do you think that it’s more economic preponderance or legitimacy in international status, or perhaps just access to the media? And would you have given me the same answer four years ago?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a great question. I think all three are different and they are used differently at different times. Certainly one of my responsibilities, when I became Secretary of State, was to restore American leadership in the world. It had been somewhat damaged and we needed to get out there and reach out to people, demonstrate our willingness to be everywhere in the world, working with people who shared our values and our aspirations, solving crises, doing what we could to deal with many of the underlying problems.

It’s also very important, however, to focus on technology and communication because four years ago, that was not part of diplomacy. We have brought a lot of the tools of modern technology – social media – into the State Department. In fact, we’re using them now with Twitter and Facebook. Because there needs to be a two-way conversation. It’s no longer governments just talking at people, whether it’s talking at other leaders or talking at populations. There has to be a dialogue and people are hungry for that, young people in particular. They deserve to have their views heard and acted on as we shape the world for the future. So these are the kinds of considerations that we are constantly balancing, and we need to do a better job, frankly, at those tools you mentioned and others that have to be deployed.

MR. ATKINS: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for answering Carolina’s question. We certainly appreciate the chance to connect BBC viewers and listeners with you today. Our next question comes from Octavia, who’s from Germany.

QUESTION: Good morning, Madam Secretary. My name is Octavia. I’m from Frankfurt, in Germany.

My question is the following: The Obama Administration has stressed its intentions to reset and improve its relationship with Russia. So far, however, it seems like this project has failed, if we think, for example, of recent disputes over Russia’s stance towards the Assad regime in Syria, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the Magnitsky bill. In your opinion, do the United States need Europe as an intermediary in order to achieve a relationship of mutual trust and cooperation with Russia one day?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, another excellent question. I think it’s not either/or. The United States has a very important bilateral relationship with Russia. During the last four years, we got a new nuclear weapons agreement to decrease our stockpiles, we worked together to enhance our efforts in Afghanistan, we had a bilateral commission that didn’t draw headlines but produced results in many areas of mutual interest and concern.

But it’s also important that we work with Europe and that Europe also work to make sure that we try to shape and create a positive relationship with Russia. And I will admit it is challenging right now. Russia ended all of our aid programs where we were working on ending tuberculosis, helping abused children, and so much else.

So it’s going to have to be a mutual effort, Europe and the United States both bilaterally and together, working to try to persuade Russia and particularly Russian leadership that they should become more integrated into and connected with Europe and the West. That’s where the future lies, and we hope that the next few years will be more successful doing that.

MR. ATKINS: (Inaudible) Octavia’s question, and I should mention that before this program began, we all sat around discussing the kind of questions everyone here would like to ask you, and one came up a number of times. Sahara is a British Pakistanian; you were suggesting this one.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, my name is Sahara Sawar. I’m from Dubai, but a British Pakistani. My biggest question to you was: Firstly, are you planning on writing your memoirs already? And if you are following in the footsteps of Madeleine Albright in hers, where she said that her lasting regret was what happened in Rwanda, what would you say was your lasting regret?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, certainly, the loss of American lives in Benghazi was something that I deeply regret and am working hard to make sure we do everything we can to prevent.

When you do these jobs, you have to understand at the very beginning that you can’t control everything. There are terrible situations right now being played out in the Congo, Syria, where we all wish that there were clear paths that we could follow together in the international community to try to resolve. So every day is a mixture of trying to end crises, help people be smart about using the tools of American diplomacy and development to join in with others who are facing similar crises as we are.

But I take away far more positive memories. And yes, I will write a memoir. I don’t know what I’ll say in it yet, but – (laughter) – I’ll have a chance to go into greater detail on this and other matters.

MS. SALES: That’s where we’ll leave London, and we will pick up instead in New Delhi, to NDTV, which is one of India’s top broadcasters, and presenter Barkha Dutt, India’s top female journalist and news anchor, who did one of these events with you, Secretary Clinton, last year.

Barkha, are you there with us?

MS. DUTT: I absolutely am. And Secretary Clinton, good evening from India. It’s an absolute pleasure to be talking with you again. We all remember that wonderful town hall with you in Kolkata on your last trip here to India. I have here with me a bunch of very bright young students all itching to ask you a question.

But before I take my microphone to the students, just by way of comment, Secretary Clinton, I know despite all your denials, all of us are waiting to see you back in political action in 2016 as possibly – (laughter) – the United States’ first woman president. So I’m not saying that as a question. I’m just observing that we think – (laughter) – that might happen. Great to have you on the show, Secretary.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good to see you again. Thank you so much.

MS. DUTT: I notice that you didn’t answer that. I’ll try get a little more out of you as this program goes along.

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) That’s why you’re such a good journalist, Barkha.

MS. DUTT: We have a lot of people here – (laughter) – thank you. And I will probe that a little further, but I’m going to hand over the mike to a young boy on my right who has a question for you, Secretary Clinton.

QUESTION: Thank you. Good evening, ma’am. My question concerns the recent Richard Headley case and the sentence that was handed out.

MS. DUTT: David Headley.

QUESTION: Sorry, David Headley case and the sentence that was handed out to him. Given that he’s pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the 26/11 attacks, why is America so hesitant to extradite him to India?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that is not directly under my jurisdiction, but I will say this: There was intensive amount of investigation and interrogation of him by Indian authorities as well as American authorities. A lot of useful information was obtained, and I think that this sentence represents both the punishment that he richly deserves for his participation, but also a recognition of the role that he has played and is expected to continue to play in supporting Indian and American efforts to prevent the kind of horrific attack that occurred in Mumbai.

MS. DUTT: Secretary Clinton, if I can just pick up on that question by this young boy here, I know that when we were doing the town hall in Kolkata, you assured Indians that it was you who had cleared the $10 million bounty on Hafiz Saeed’s head, who, as you know, is a key architect of the Lashkar-e Tayyiba, the terrorist group. You also spoke about al-Zawahiri being in Pakistan according to your information.

I know a lot of people in India want to hear from you tonight. When you look back at your term, are you satisfied with the success that you were able to achieve in bringing the perpetrators of 26/11 to justice? Or are you left with a sense of regret? Are you left with a sense that more could have been done, and somehow you didn’t have enough time or weren’t able to put enough pressure on Pakistan to get it done?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Barkha, I think it is unfinished business that we are not in any way walking away from. I’m leaving office, but I can assure you and the Indian people this remains one of our very highest priorities.

We were successful in capturing and eliminating a number of the most dangerous terrorists who have safe haven inside Pakistan. We have continued to press the Pakistani Government, because of course the terrorists inside Pakistan are first and foremost an ongoing threat to the stability of Pakistan, and they need to deal with it because of that, as well as the implications for India, Afghanistan, the United States, and elsewhere.

I also think that the efforts that both Prime Minister Singh and President Zardari in Pakistan have made to improve communication, business, trade, commerce between India and Pakistan helps to create a more receptive environment for dealing with these serious threats. So of course, I’m not satisfied. As I told you in Kolkata, I believe going after terrorism is an obligation of every country, everywhere, every sensible person. We can have disagreements, but they cannot be in any way using violence or condoning the use of violence.

So we’re not giving up. We are on this job literally every single day. And we’ve improved our information sharing, our law enforcement cooperation with India, and I think that will pay dividends in years to come.

MS. DUTT: We’re testing (inaudible).

MS. SALES: Just lost audio to Barkha there. Let’s see if we can get that back up because it would be great to hear one more question from India if we can.

MS. DUTT: As you must know, we’ve been seeing street protests by young students here related to the horrific gang rape that took place in Delhi recently, and gender rights are really on the top of public consciousness here in India. So, a question from this young boy here.

QUESTION: So my question to you is this: Why is it that women in politics, even in supposedly progressive societies like the United States, have to conform to masculinist and privileged constructions of a statesman in the public sphere? And I must ask you, how difficult is it for a woman politician to access political space that is heavily gendered and that dictates how a woman leader has to behave and conduct herself?

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) That could be a topic for a whole show because it’s a profound question, but let me make two brief points. First, although it is better than it was, having been in and around politics for many years now, there is still a double standard. And it is a double standard that exists from the trivial, like what you wear, to the incredibly serious, like women can’t vote, women can’t run for office, women are not supposed to be in the public sphere. But there is a spectrum of the double standard, and of the both legal and cultural barriers to respect for women, for the full participation of women.

So we do have a ways to go, and even in democracies. And a democracy like yours, unlike mine, that’s had a woman leader and has a woman at the head of the current governing party where women have achieved a lot of political success, there is still a tremendous amount of discrimination and just outright abuse of women, particularly uneducated women, women who can’t stand up for themselves, but clearly, even as we saw in the terrible gang rape, a woman trying to better herself, go to school.

Secondly, this has been the cause of my life and will continue to be as I leave the Secretary of State’s office, because we are hurting ourselves. The young woman who essentially was raped and then died of her terrible injuries, who knows what she could have contributed to India’s future? When you put barriers in the way of half the population, you, in effect, are putting brakes on your own development as a nation.

And there is more than adequate research to prove this, but just in a personal, everyday life example, I’m looking at one of the leading journalists in the world, certainly one of the leading journalists in India, Barkha. She brings to her job her experiences that are then infusing the coverage that she provides. And if you lose that kind of perspective, you are really doing a disservice to your society. So I personally was very encouraged and even proud to see young men and young women out in the streets protesting the way that young women are treated by men who do not understand or have never been taught to accept that it’s not just their sisters and their mothers that they should respect, but all girls and women. So I’m looking for big changes in India in the years to come.

MS. SALES: Thank you, Secretary Clinton, and thank you Barkha and our friends in India. Now, I can already tell you, we’re probably going to have some technical issues with this but we would really like to try to go to Lagos in Nigeria. So let’s give it a go. We have some people there at Channels Television, and news presenter Maupe Ogun is waiting with some young people.

Maupe, can you hear us?

MS. OGUN: Yes, I can, loudly, too. Well, it’s a pleasure to be here, and I’m joined by a group of people who have warned me not to call them young boys or girls. (Laughter.) They’re all young professionals and we’re absolutely delighted to be a part of this conversation. Well, Madam Secretary, I’m going to take my first question, and it’s from in-house. We’re asking that, in 2009, when President Obama did visit Ghana, he said that what Africa needed was strong institutions, not strongmen, something that you’ve also echoed as well. Can you uphold any models in Africa where you can say that they’re making progress in building strong institutions?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, and in fact, both politically and economically, I see progress happening in Africa. I don’t want to overstate it because some places are more stable, but let me give you just an example or two. When the President of Malawi recently died, the Vice President – now President Banda – was in line to become President. But there was an immediate reaction by some in the government and some in society who said, we can’t have a woman president, or we don’t agree with her politics. But thankfully, the people of Malawi said, no, we have a constitution, we want the rule of law, we want Joyce Banda to be the President since she is in line to be President. That was a big move, and it was very important, and we obviously supported it.

When you look at the reelection of President Sirleaf in Liberia – tough job, post-conflict society, but peaceful transition despite a hard-fought election. The recent election in Ghana, another example where President Atta had passed away, his Vice President came into office, but he still had to go through an election. So when you look through the countries in Africa, you can see democratic institutions getting stronger and you can see economies getting stronger. Now, you are sitting in one of the most important countries in Africa – I would say in the world. It really matters how well the next election in Nigeria goes, whether it’s free and fair and transparent. It really matters whether the endemic corruption is finally pursued so that everybody in Nigeria feels that they’re not going to be left out.

So I think there is work being done and challenges ahead, but I see positive steps that I want to recognize.

MS. OGUN: Well, we’ll take the next question now. Chude would like to ask the next question.

QUESTION: Right. Hello, Madam Secretary. Congratulations on the spectacular run and we’re looking forward to the next one in 2016. But moving on quickly, when you look at the things that have happened in – I mean, some the crises in Mali or South Sudan or Benghazi, Libya, some people have said that the U.S. has led from behind mostly, and perhaps that’s a mistake in some of these cases. What would you say is the biggest mistake? I (inaudible) even though you’ve had the June 2012 review. What would you say is the biggest mistake that you – that has happened over the past few years, and how will the incoming Secretary of State be able to work on those issues moving forward after you’re gone?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me clarify that I think what President Obama and I have tried to do is to build international coalitions to address serious crises. We believe that, of course, the United States remains the paramount military and economic power in the world, but the future we want to see are more nations taking responsibility and playing a role. And I think that is visionary leadership. I think it is looking over the horizon and recognizing that in Africa, for example, what we hope to see are key countries, anchor countries like Nigeria, dealing with your own internal challenges, but also playing a role externally in order to help keep and create peace.

We just had a quite successful outcome in Somalia. Still a long way to go for Somalia, but thanks to African troops – from Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya – trained and funded by the United States along with others, they were able to push al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida affiliate, out of key cities and territory in Somalia, and then we were able to have an election. So we now have an elected government for the first time in many decades, and we want to support that. Because one thing that President Obama and I believe is that ultimately what happens inside a country is up to the people of that country; they are the ones who have to stand up against oppression, corruption, the kind of poor governance that holds countries back. The United States wants to be your partner. We want to help you economically and in other ways. But we want to create the conditions where more countries can achieve the kind of outcomes that will benefit them.

So it’s a different model than what we had in the prior Administration to the Obama Administration. But we believe strongly in supporting reform in Burma, for example, where I was privileged to go to make a statement and then accompany President Obama back there, to helping Mali fend off these extremists who are trying to disrupt and destabilize the country. But we want other people to step up and learn more about what they are capable of doing themselves.

MS. SALES: Okay, we’re going to leave Nigeria there and we will take another Twitter question, Secretary Clinton. This one was received via Sina Weibo, which is the Chinese sort of micro-blogging network, like Twitter. It’s from somebody named “Terracotta Warriors on Horseback.” (Laughter.) The question is: “Do you not think that competition between the United States and China in Asia will not lead to both sides losing?”

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I don’t. I think healthy competition is part of development, human nature. I don’t see any problem with healthy competition as long as it is rules-based. Healthy competition requires that everybody know what the rules are, and then you go out and compete, whether it’s on the sporting field or in the economic or political arena.

My hope – and I have written about this, I’ve spoken about it – is that the United States and China will together defy history. Historically, a rising power and a predominant power have had clashes, whether they were economic or military. Neither of us want to see that happen. We want to see a rising power like China join the international community as a responsible stakeholder, continue its extraordinary efforts to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, create a strong, vital middle class, have respectful relations with its neighbors in all of the ways on land and sea that that is required.

And the United States wants to deepen and broaden our engagement with China. I helped to put together the strategic and economic dialogues, which we then used to discuss everything, from border security to food safety to cyber matters. And we want to continue that, because we believe strongly that the world is big enough for a lot of nations to be important players, and that is certainly true of China, and we want to see the kind of cooperative, comprehensive, positive relationship that I worked for.

MS. SALES: We’re still desperately hoping we can get up the Bogota satellite, but in the meantime we’ll take one quick question again from London once more. So Ros, are you standing by there?

MR. ATKINS: I am. Hello, Leigh. Secretary Clinton, our next question comes from Elisa, who’s German. It’s as much a plea as a question, I think.

QUESTION: Yes, very much. Dear Madam Secretary, I’m Elisa from Germany, and just before the show, we’ve been talking about how we would really like you to run for president. And we were wondering when you’re going to make a decision on this really important question, and we believe that would be a really important symbol for women essentially all over the world. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am not thinking about anything like that right now. I am looking forward to finishing up my tenure as Secretary of State and then catching up on about 20 years of sleep deprivation. (Laughter.)

In fact, you say you’re from Germany. I spoke this morning to your chancellor, Chancellor Merkel, and someone I have admired and watched over a number of years. I do want to see more women compete for the highest positions in their countries, and I will do what I can, whether or not it is up to me to make a decision on my own future. I right now am not inclined to do that, but I will do everything I can to make sure that women compete at the highest levels not only in the United States, but around the world, because I take seriously your question, and I think it’s not only for young women; it’s for young men, it’s for our future.

We have to break down these attitudes that kind of pigeonhole and stereotype people. Like what does a leader look like; well, a leader looks like somebody who’s a man. And in so many ways around the world today, sitting here with a journalist from Australia, which has a woman prime minister, women are subjecting themselves to the political process, which is never easy anywhere, and I want to see more of that. You have to have a thick skin. I will tell you that. But it’s really important that women are out there competing at the highest levels of government and business not only to demonstrate the capacity and quality of women’s leadership, but also to take advantage of the talents of every person we have.

MS. SALES: All right. Let’s see if we can get lucky now with Bogota, and journalist Andrea Bernal hopefully is able to speak to us this time. Andrea, are you there?

MS. BERNAL: Leigh, how are you? I’m here. Thanks again for giving us the entrance. Good morning, Mrs. Secretary Hillary Clinton.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning.

MS. BERNAL: Thanks for being here with us at NTN24, the international news network for the Hispanic audience. We had the chance to have a conversation back three years ago in Quito, Ecuador. Thanks for being again with us here.

I would want to start with a question. Barack Obama’s government and you as a Secretary of head – State have led an international policy acknowledging the fact that the United States is not the only powerful nation in the world, recognizing the relevant roles of other countries in the world’s order, and considering dialogue as the right path. However, Latin America does not seem still to be a high priority for the United States. If it were in your decision, in your hands, how could the United States build a closer, more productive relationship with Latin America?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I want to say very clearly that Latin America has been a very high priority. I have spent a lot of time, as you know when I saw you in Ecuador, traveling throughout Latin America. We want to build on a couple of very important initiatives that the United States is partnering on.

One is energy. We are working hard to help bring greater access to affordable energy to all of Latin America. In fact, we’re working very closely with Colombia to do that, to come down from Mexico all the way down through Chile as well as in the Caribbean. We are working on climate change together, because a lot of the Latin American countries are quite advanced in using alternative forms of energy. We’re working on security now, particularly in Central America. The United States, Mexico, and Colombia are working to help our neighbors in Central America. We’re working on expanding education. I want to see many more students from Latin America coming to the United States and more students from the United States coming to Latin America. We’re working on technology transfers. So there’s a long list of what we’re working on.

But I must say, in part because Latin America is doing so well, your countries are resolving old problems and making progress democratically and economically. A lot of the conflict that was present decades ago has been resolved, and so it’s not a relationship that’s in the headlines all the time, because it’s so positive. We spend time working together. We don’t have to worry about threats to democracy, to security that have unfortunately found their way around the world. So I think we have a very close working relationship. I want it to be even closer. I’m working with President Obama for some second term initiatives that I think will be more headline comprehensive initiatives so that everybody knows how much we value our relationships with our closest neighbors.

MS. SALES: We’ve unfortunately lost –

MS. BERNAL: (Inaudible) a business management student at the University of Tolima in Colombia.

MS. SALES: Andrea, can you repeat that, please? Here we go.

QUESTION: Hi, Ms. Clinton. Well, it’s a pleasure to have you here. And since we have you here, I would like to ask you about democracy. Okay. Latin America, it’s currently experiencing an economic breakthrough that has helped most country in the region reduce poverty. However, it is not clear if this economic progress has actually strengthened our democracies.

So now with that in mind, the question would be: How do you evaluate the diverse democracies in our region, and how do you see our future?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think I see a lot of progress, but still work that needs to be done. If you look at Colombia, you are not the country you were 15 years ago. You have consolidated democracy. You – I know President Santos is attempting to try to negotiate a peace agreement so that people will turn away from violence and participate politically. In Mexico, we see great economic growth but also a very vibrant political system in the last election. In Brazil, similarly, we see the same kind of trends. There are others that you can point to.

But there are some outliers. Unfortunately, we still have a dictatorship in Cuba, which we hope will change soon. We have democratic challenges in other countries in Latin America. But overall, I think that progress has been made and you have to stay the course. It doesn’t happen quickly, but there is great reason to be quite optimistic about the institutionalization of democracy throughout Latin America.

MS. BERNAL: And we have a last question, Mrs. Secretary, thanks for your time, from Ana Maria Rodriguez. She’s a journalist and a student here in our studio. Ana Maria.

QUESTION: Ms. Clinton, good morning. I am Ana Maria Rodriguez. I’m a journalism student. I want to know, today, President Barack Obama will talk about immigration in Vegas. This is a very important (inaudible). And I want to know exactly, all of those immigrants at U.S., what can they expect from this speech from President Barack Obama?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they can expect that the President will put specifics behind his commitment to provide a path to citizenship for the immigrants who are here undocumented in the United States. And I was very pleased that even before the President’s speech, we had a bipartisan group of senators come out with a plan that would accomplish the same goal. So the President is very committed. We have leaders in our Congress who are very committed. And we’re going to do everything we can finally to achieve immigration reform.

MS. SALES: And that is where we’re going to leave Colombia. We have one final request today, Secretary, and we’re going to go to Australia via Skype to hear from two very serious, experienced foreign policy experts – people I know you rely on – your old mates, Hamish and Andy. (Laughter.) For those of you in the audience who don’t know, they’re Australian comedians. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, hello. Welcome.

SECRETARY CLINTON: These guys are hilarious.

QUESTION: Hamish and Andy here. It was an honor to interview you a couple of years ago. Here we are at Government House.

QUESTION: Yeah, this is it.

QUESTION: The Royal Palace here in Australia. It’s wonderful. We’re out in the back, so it’s not as fancy as it is from out in the front. But we just wanted to say, first of all, congratulations on a wonderful term as Secretary of State, and it was amazing having you out here. Certainly a career highlight for us to get to meet you. So many Australians took a lot away from your trip, Madam Secretary. We were just wondering, what was the best thing you took away from Australia?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, clearly my interview with you two.

MS. SALES: Oh, excuse me. (Laughter.) Excuse me. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) a lot of people will accuse us of having scripted this. (Laughter.) But thank you. Obviously, someone is saying that to you in your ear.

QUESTION: We were hoping it might have been the gravy chips that we gave you, but that was part of the interview, so that’s fine. We must stress, do not eat them under any circumstances. They’re well past their use-by date.

QUESTION: They’re still poisonous.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, obviously a lot of the good questions that we had were taken earlier tonight by some of the wonderful participants around the world, but luckily we still have a few. I have a friend, and I know obviously as you’re stepping back from the Secretary of State position, I have a friend who is about 31. He’s a cute-looking brunette.

QUESTION: Just a friend.

QUESTION: He’s very good, he’s been to university. He did two degrees; he graduated from one, so that’s quite good. (Laughter.) What qualifications – let’s just say John Kerry, something comes up, he can’t do the job, he can’t be the next Secretary of State. What qualifications could I tell my friend he should put on his CV if he wants to become the Secretary of State of the United States?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think his educational background is important – the fact that he finished one degree out of two, that gives him a 50 percent record. (Laughter.) Better than most baseball players or other professional athletes. I think his good looks, that’s important. Yeah, because you’re going to be given a lot of TV time. I know you guys are radio guys, but it’s good that he doesn’t have just a face for radio. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Nothing (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: I guess, thirdly, broad travel, willingness to meet other people, listen to them, as you –

QUESTION: He loves petting zoos.

SECRETARY CLINTON: – have a lot of experience from interviewing. I would drop the gravy chips. I think the gravy chips would be misunderstood in diplomatic settings, especially since I sent them to a lab to be analyzed and you don’t want to know what’s in them. (Laughter.) So – but I think he’s got a good start here.

QUESTION: Unfortunately, gravy chips are the center of our policy, so I guess we’re (inaudible). (Laughter.) But you did say politics is about compromise, so I’m sure we could find a way there. Probably the big question on everyone’s lips is when you step back from being Secretary of State –

QUESTION: Well, she won’t be having to be called Madam Secretary.

QUESTION: You’re no longer Madam Secretary.

QUESTION: No.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.

QUESTION: I think on behalf of all the global citizens joining in the town hall meeting tonight, which of these three names would you like to adopt? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We spent three or four months on this.

QUESTION: The Incredible Hillary, the Artist Formerly Known as the Secretary – (laughter), or just Hill Clinton – but it does sound a bit like your husband.

QUESTION: Like Bill, yeah.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, I think we’re going to have to work on that list. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: None. Okay.

QUESTION: None. (Laughter.) We will need another four or five months then to come back with another three at least. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We’re going to sack it. We’re here at Government House so we can sack some of our advisors right now. (Laughter.) Junk.

QUESTION: We understand that you’ve been trying to cross to every single continent today at the town hall meeting. You haven’t got down to Antarctica. There’s one email – we’ve got a recent telegram that’s just come in here.

QUESTION: Yes, because we’re closest to Antarctica, our signals are a little bit better from them. Just a little telegram from Antarctica. I think it’s very important, obviously, that we recognize the frozen continent.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: It says, “Dear Madam Secretary – stop. Alien spaceship reactivated – stop. Help – stop. Send” – and then that’s it.

QUESTION: That’s it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So what should we write back to our stricken comrades in Antarctica? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s quite distressing. I think, as your first diplomatic mission, you may have to go to Antarctica and find evidence about what happened. The person sending that to you clearly is counting on you. (Laughter.) We will be happy to provide satellite support. I don’t know how fast you can get there, and you’re going to need different clothes than the ones you have on. But I think you need to follow through on this. You guys need to go to Antarctica and broadcast from Antarctica what you find.

QUESTION: That’s nice. Can we have a –

QUESTION: That’s so late here, it’s 2:30, and these are such cheap suits. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We’ll have a swell, and then we’ll get right on. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We’re going to have the first (inaudible) for having that comment. (Laughter.) Thank you. Amazing advice. This is why – we always say this. This is why you’re the Secretary of State, and we are not. (Laughter.)

MS. SALES: That’s exactly why.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Bye. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thanks. Congratulations.

MS. SALES: I hope everyone around the world gets them.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Leigh, I meant radio interview. Yes, great.

MS. SALES: Well, thank you. Thank you very much, Secretary Clinton. (Laughter.) I think Andy is unfortunately out of luck because while we have been talking, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has confirmed John Kerry as Secretary of State.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good. Excellent. Well, that’s good news. (Applause.)

MS. SALES: Have they hit you up for John Kerry’s number yet?

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) No, but they will.

MS. SALES: They will.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Don’t you think?

MS. SALES: They will. They absolutely will. To wrap it up, let me just ask you one question. As you prepare to hand over to John Kerry, what would you like to see American diplomacy focused on?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think we have a choice. We have to deal with the immediate crises that come across our desk every day. We have to work on the longer-term challenges like security in North Africa. And we have to deal with what I call the trend lines, not the headlines. So continuing to use technology, women and girls, climate change, alternative energy – the kind of big projects that will have a tremendous impact on what kind of world we have. And there will be two alternative visions. If we don’t deal with climate change, food security, energy access that is sustainable, we could have increasing conflict over resources, for example. That’s not in the headlines today, but in ten years, it could be.

So when I think about the sort of buckets of responsibilities I have, very often what first comes across my desk is an attack here, a terrorist threat there, the immediate crises. And then I also am constantly asking for what are we – what do we do to get ahead of the crises, and then thirdly, what do we do that is not in those two buckets, but instead helps us shape the kind of world that these young people deserve to have.

MS. SALES: Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for making time in your schedule all throughout your term as Secretary of State to speak directly to people all around the world. And all the very best for the next leg of your journey. Thank you so much. Please thank Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Leigh, thank you so much. You were masterful.

MS. SALES: Oh, thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Just masterful. Have you ever done anything like that, with satellites?

MS. SALES: I have done a few things.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That was really good. Thank you all.

MS. SALES: Thank you. And wherever you are in the world, thank you for your company. Goodbye.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all. (Applause.)

Full Text Obama Presidency January 29, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Immigration Reform — Transcript

POLITICAL BUZZ


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama’s Four Part Plan for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Source: WH, 1-29-13

President Obama delivers remarks on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Jan. 29, 2013

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nev., Jan. 29, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Watch this video on YouTube

For more information:

Full Transcript of President Obama’s Remarks on Immigration Reform

Source: NYT, 1-29-13

The following is the complete transcript of President Obama’s remarks on immigration on Tuesday in Las Vegas. (Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service.)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you.

Well, it is good to be back in Las Vegas. (Cheers, applause.) And it is good to be among so many good friends. Let — let me start off by thanking everybody at Del Sol High School for hosting us. (Cheers, applause.) Go, Dragons! Let me especially thank your outstanding principal, Lisa Primas. (Cheers, applause.)

There are all kinds of notable guests here, but I just want to mention a few. First of all, our outstanding secretary of Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano is here. (Cheers, applause.) Our wonderful secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar. (Cheers, applause.) Former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. (Cheers, applause.) Two of the outstanding members of the congressional delegation from Nevada, Steve Horsford and Dina Titus. (Cheers, applause.) Your own mayor, Carolyn Goodman. (Cheers, applause.)

But we also have some mayors that flew in because they know how important the issue we’re going to talk about today is, Marie Lopez Rogers from Avondale, Arizona — (cheers, applause) — Kasim Reed from Atlanta, Georgia — (cheers, applause) — Greg Stanton from Phoenix, Arizona (cheers, applause) — and Ashley Swearengin from Fresno, California.

(Cheers, applause.)

And all of you are here — (cheers) — as well as some of the top labor leaders in the country, and we are just so grateful. Some outstanding business leaders are here as well. And of course we got wonderful students here. (Sustained cheers, applause.) So I could not be prouder of our students.

Now, those of you who have a seat, feel free to take a seat. I don’t mind. (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, (Obama ?)!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I love you back! (Cheers.)

Now, last week — last week I had the honor of being sworn in for a second term as president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.) And during my inaugural address, I talked about how making progress on the defining challenges of our time doesn’t require us to settle every debate or ignore every difference that we may have. But it does require us to find common ground and move forward in common purpose. It requires us to act.

And I know that some issues will be harder to lift than others. Some debates will be more contentious. That’s to be expected.

But the reason I came here today is because of a challenge where the differences are dwindling, where a broad consensus is emerging and where a call for action can now be heard coming from all across America.

I’m here today because the time has come for common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform — (cheers, applause) — (inaudible). Now’s the time. Now’s the time. (Cheers, applause.) Now’s the time. (Chanting.) Now’s the time.

I’m here because — I’m here because most Americans agree that it’s time to fix a system that’s been broken for way too long.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Right!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m here because business leaders, faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement and leaders from both parties are coming together to say now is the time to find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as the land of opportunity. Now’s the time to do this so we can strengthen our economy and strengthen our country’s future.

Think about it. We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants. That’s who we are, in our bones. The promise we see in those who come here from every corner of the globe, that’s always been one of our greatest strengths. It keeps our workforce young, it keeps our country on the cutting edge, and it’s helped build the greatest economic engine the world has ever known.

After all, immigrants helped start businesses like Google and Yahoo. They created entire new industries that in turn created new jobs and new prosperity for our citizens.

In recent years 1 in 4 high-tech startups in America were founded by immigrants. One in 4 new small-business owners were immigrants, including right here in Nevada, folks who came here seeking opportunity and now want to share that opportunity with other Americans.

But we all know that today we have an immigration system that’s out of date and badly broken; a system that’s holding us back instead of helping us grow our economy and strengthen our middle class.

Right now we have 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, 11 million men and women from all over the world who live their lives in the shadows. Yes, they broke the rules. They crossed the border illegally. Maybe they overstayed their visas. Those are the facts. Nobody disputes them.

But these 11 million men and women are now here. Many of them have been here for years. And the overwhelming majority of these individuals aren’t looking for any trouble. They’re contributing members of the community. They’re looking out for their families. They’re looking out for their neighbors. They’re woven into the fabric of our lives.

Every day, like the rest of us, they go out and try to earn a living. Often they do that in the shadow economy, a place where employers may offer them less than the minimum wage or make them work overtime without extra pay. And when that happens, it’s not just bad for them, it’s bad for the entire economy, because all the businesses that are trying to do the right thing, that are hiring people legally, paying a decent wage, following the rules — they’re the ones who suffer.

They’ve got to compete against companies that are breaking the rules. And the wages and working conditions of American workers are threatened too.

So if we’re truly committed to strengthening our middle class and providing more ladders of opportunity to those who are willing to work hard to make it in the middle class, we’ve got to fix the system. We have to make sure that every business and every worker in America is playing by the same set of rules. We have to bring this shadow economy into the light so that everybody is held accountable, businesses for who they hire and immigrants for getting on the right side of the law. That’s common sense, and that’s why we need comprehensive immigration reform.

And — (cheers, applause) — now, there’s another economic reason why we need reform. It’s not just about the folks who come here illegally and have the effect they have on our economy; it’s also about the folks who try to come here legally but have a hard time doing so and the effect that has on our economy. Right now there are brilliant students from all over the world sitting in classrooms at our top universities. They’re earning degrees in the fields of the future, like engineering and computer science. But once they finish school, once they earn that diploma, there’s a good chance they’ll have to leave our country.

Now, think about that. Intel was started with the help of an immigrant who studied here and then stayed here. Instagram was started with the help of an immigrant who studied here and then stayed here. Right now in one of those classrooms, there’s a student wrestling with how to turn their big idea, their Intel or Instagram, into a big business.

We’re giving them all the skills they need to figure that out, but then we’re going to turn around and tell them to start that business and create those jobs in China or India or Mexico or someplace else. That’s not how you grow new industries in America. That’s how you give new industries to our competitors. That’s why we need comprehensive immigration reform.

Now — (cheers, applause) — now, during my first term, we took steps to try and patch up some of the worst cracks in the system. First, we strengthened security at the borders so that we could finally stem the tide of illegal immigrants. We put more boots on the ground on the southern border than at any time in our history. And today, illegal crossings are down nearly 80 percent from their peak in 2000. (Applause.)

Second, we focused our enforcement efforts on criminals who are here illegally and who endanger our communities. And today, deportations of criminals — (applause) — is at its highest level ever.

And third, we took up the cause of the dreamers, the young people who were brought to this country as children — (cheers, applause) — young people who have grown up here, built their lives here, have futures here. We said that if you’re able to meet some basic criteria, like pursuing an education, then we’ll consider offering you the chance to come out of the shadows so that you can live here and work here legally, so that you can finally have the dignity of knowing you belong.

But because this change isn’t permanent, we need Congress to act, and not just on the DREAM Act.

We need Congress to act on a comprehensive approach that finally deals with the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in the country right now. That’s what we need. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, the good news is that for the first time in many years Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together. (Cheers, applause.) Members of both parties in both chambers are actively working on a solution. Yesterday a bipartisan group of senators announced their principles for comprehensive immigration reform, which are very much in line with the principles I’ve proposed and campaigned on for the last few years. So at this moment it looks like there’s a genuine desire to get this done soon. And that’s very encouraging.

But this time action must follow. We can’t allow — (applause) — immigration reform to get bogged down in an endless debate. We’ve been debating this a very long time. So it’s not as if we don’t know technically what needs to get done.

As a consequence, to help move this process along, today I’m laying out my ideas for immigration reform. And my hope is that this provides some key markers to members of Congress as they craft a bill, because the ideas that I’m proposing have traditionally been supported by both Democrats like Ted Kennedy and Republicans like President George W. Bush. You don’t get that matchup very often. (Laughter.) So — so we know where the consensus should be.

Now of course, there will be rigorous debate about many of the details. And every stakeholder should engage in real give and take in the process. But it’s important for us to recognize that the foundation for bipartisan action is already in place. And if Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Yes! (Cheers, applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: So — so the principles are pretty straightforward. There are a lot of details behind it. We’re going to hand out a bunch of paper so everybody will know exactly what we’re talking about. But the principles are pretty straightforward.

First, I believe we need to stay focused on enforcement. That means continuing to strengthen security at our borders.

It means cracking down more forcefully on businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers. To be fair, most businesses want to do the right thing, but a lot of them have a hard time figuring out who’s here legally, who’s not. So we need to implement a national system that allows businesses to quickly and accurately verify someone’s employment status. And if they still knowingly hire undocumented workers, then we need to ramp up the penalties.

Second, we have to deal with the 11 million individuals who are here illegally. Now, we all agree that these men and women should have to earn their way to citizenship. But for comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship. (Cheers, applause.)

We’ve got to — we’ve got to lay out a path, a process that includes passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and then going to the back of the line behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally, that’s only fair. (Cheers, applause.) All right? So that means it won’t be a quick process, but it will be a fair process and it will lift these individuals out of the shadows and give them a chance to earn their way to green card and, eventually, to citizenship. (Cheers, applause.)

And the third principle is we’ve got to bring our legal immigration system into the 21st century because it no longer reflects the realities of our time. (Cheers, applause.) For example, if you are a citizen, you shouldn’t have to wait years before your family is able to join you in America. (Cheers, applause.) You shouldn’t have to wait years.

If you’re a foreign student who wants to pursue a career in science or technology or a foreign entrepreneur who wants to start a business with the backing of American investors, we should help you do that here because if you succeed you’ll create American businesses and American jobs, You’ll help us grow our economy, you’ll help us strengthen our middle class.

So that’s what comprehensive immigration reform looks like — smarter enforcement, a pathway to earn citizenship, improvements in the legal immigration system so that we continue to be a magnet for the best and the brightest all around the world.

It’s pretty straightforward.

The question now is simple. Do we have the resolve as a people, as a country, as a government to finally put this issue behind us? I believe that we do. (Applause.) I believe that we do. I believe we are finally at a moment where comprehensive immigration reform is within our grasp. But I promise you this. The closer we get, the more emotional this debate is going to become.

Immigration’s always been an issue that inflames passions. That’s not surprising. You know, there are few things that are more important to us as a society than who gets to come here and call our country home, who gets the privilege of becoming a citizen of the Untied States of America. That’s a big deal. When we talk about that in the abstract, it’s easy sometimes for the discussion to take on a feeling of us versus them. And when that happens, a lot of folks forget that most of us used to be them. (Cheers, applause.) We forget that.

And it’s really important for us to remember our history. You know, unless you’re one of the first Americans, a Native American, you came from someplace else. (Cheers, applause.) Somebody brought you.

You know, Ken Salazar — he’s of, you know, Mexican-American descent, but he — he points out that his family’s been living where — where he lives for 400 years.

(Cheers.) So he didn’t — he didn’t immigrate anywhere. (Laughter.)

The Irish, who left behind a land of famine; the Germans, who fled persecution; the Scandinavians, who arrived eager to pioneer out west; the Polish; the Russians; the Italians; the Chinese; the Japanese; the West Indians; the huddled masses who came through Ellis Island on one coast and Angel Island on the other — (cheers, applause) — you know, all those folks, before they were us, they were them. (Laughter.)

And when each new wave of immigrants arrived, they faced resistance from those who were already here. They faced hardship. They faced racism. They faced ridicule. But over time, as they went about their daily lives, as they earned a living, as they raised a family, as they built a community, as their kids went to school here, they did their part to build the nation. They were the Einsteins and the Carnegies, but they were also the millions of women and men whose names history may not remember but whose actions helped make us who we are, who built this country hand by hand, brick by brick. (Cheers, applause.)

They all came here knowing that what makes somebody an American is not just blood or birth but allegiance to our founding principles and the faith in the idea that anyone from anywhere can write the next great chapter of our story.

And that’s still true today. Just ask Alan Aleman. Alan’s here this afternoon. Where’s Alan? He — he — he’s around here. There he is right here. (Cheers, applause.) Now, Alan was born in Mexico. (Cheers, applause.) He was brought to this country by his parents when he was a child. Growing up, Alan went to an American school, pledged allegiance to the American flag, felt American in every way. And he was, except for one — on paper. In high school, Alan watched his friends come of age, driving around town with their new licenses, earning some extra cash from their summer jobs at the mall. He knew he couldn’t do those things. But it didn’t matter that much; what mattered to Alan was earning an education so that he could live up to his God-given potential.

Last year, when Alan heard the news that we were going to offer a chance for folks like him to emerge from the shadows, even if it’s just for two years at a time, he was one of the first to sign up. And a few months ago he was one — one of the first people in Nevada to get approved. (Cheers, applause.) In that moment Alan said, I felt the fear vanish. I felt accepted.

So today Alan’s in his second year at the College of Southern Nevada. (Cheers, applause.) Alan’s studying to become a doctor. (Cheers, applause.) He hopes to join the Air Force. (Cheers, applause.) He’s working hard every single day to build a better life for himself and his family. And all he wants is the opportunity to do his part to build a better America. (Applause.)

So — so in the coming weeks, as the idea of reform becomes more real and the debate becomes more heated and there are folks who are trying to pull this thing apart, remember Alan and all those who share the same hopes and the same dreams. Remember that this is not just a debate about policy. It’s about people. It’s about men and women and young people who want nothing more than the chance to earn their way into the American story.

And throughout our history, that’s only made our nation stronger. And it’s how we will make sure that this century is the same as the last, an American century, welcoming of everybody who aspires to do something more, who’s willing to work hard to do it, and is willing to pledge that allegiance to our flag.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

Political Headlines January 29, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Issues Call for Immigration Overhaul

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Issues Call for Immigration Overhaul

Source: NYT, 1-29-13

President Obama delivered remarks on immigration reform on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Obama delivered remarks on immigration reform on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

President Obama also welcomed bipartisan movement in Congress on the politically charged issue, which has defied solution in recent years….READ MORE

Political Headlines January 29, 2013: Sen. John Kerry Closer to Being Confirmed as Secretary of State

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Sen. John Kerry Closer to Being Confirmed as Secretary of State

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-29-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry could be cleared to be Secretary of State by the end of Tuesday.

By a unanimous voice vote Tuesday morning, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Kerry used to head, approved his nomination to take over Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s post.

The nomination will now move to the full Senate — likely as early as Tuesday afternoon — for final confirmation….READ MORE

Political Headlines January 29, 2013: Ray LaHood Stepping Down as Transportation Secretary

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Ray LaHood Stepping Down as Transportation Secretary

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Tuesday that he will not be sticking around for President Obama’s second term.

In a letter to Department of Transportation employees, LaHood said he has informed the president of his decision and that he will stay at his post until a successor is confirmed.

Obama later issued a statement thanking LaHood “for his dedication, his hard work, and his years of service to the American people — including the outstanding work he’s done over the last four years as Secretary of Transportation.”…READ MORE

Here is LaHood’s full letter to DOT employees:

“I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity. I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do.

As I look back on the past four years, I am proud of what we have accomplished together in so many important areas. But what I am most proud of is the DOT team. You exemplify the best of public service, and I truly appreciate all that you have done to make America better, to make your communities better, and to make DOT better.

Our achievements are significant. We have put safety front and center with the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue that was decades in the making. We have made great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows. We have strengthened consumer protections with new regulations on buses, trucks, and airlines.

We helped jumpstart the economy and put our fellow Americans back to work with $48 billion in transportation funding from the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, and awarded over $2.7 billion in TIGER grants to 130 transportation projects across the Nation. We have made unprecedented investments in our nation’s ports. And we have put aviation on a sounder footing with the FAA reauthorization, and secured funding in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act to help States build and repair their roads, bridges and transit systems.

And to further secure our future, we have taken transportation into the 21st century with CAFE Standards, NextGen, and our investments in passenger and High-Speed Rail. What’s more, we have provided the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with the funding and leadership it needs to prepare a new generation of midshipmen to meet our country’s rapidly-evolving defense and maritime transportation needs.

Closer to home, we also have made great strides. In December, the DOT was recognized as the most improved agency in the entire Federal government in the 2012 “Best Places to Work” rankings published by the Partnership of Public Service. Even more impressive, DOT was ranked 9th out of the 19 largest agencies in the government.

Each of these remarkable accomplishments is a tribute your hard work, creativity, commitment to excellence, and most of all, your dedication to our country. DOT is fortunate to have such an extraordinary group of public servants. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you as the selection and confirmation process of the next transportation secretary moves forward. Now is not the time to let up – we still have a number of critical safety goals to accomplish and still more work to do on the implementation of MAP-21. 

I’ve told President Obama, and I’ve told many of you, that this is the best job I’ve ever had. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work with all of you and I’m confident that DOT will continue to achieve great things in the future.

Thank you, and God bless you.”

Political Headlines January 29, 2013: Election to Replace Sen. John Kerry’s Massachusetts Senate Seat Likely June 25

Election to Replace Sen. John Kerry Likely June 25

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-29-13

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

With Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s confirmation for Secretary of State proceeding at a smooth and quick pace, the question now becomes who will replace him and when?

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin gave an answer to that second question this week, saying that the special election would likely be set for June 25….READ MORE

Political Headlines January 28, 2013: Gang of Eight Senators Unveil Immigration Reform Proposals

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Gang of Eight Senators Unveil Immigration Reform Proposals

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-28-13

Declaring this is the year that Congress will finally get immigration reform passed, the so-called Gang of Eight bipartisan Senators released their principles for the path forward Monday on Capitol Hill.

“I’m optimistic. I’m truly optimistic,” Sen. Schumer, D-N.Y., said at a press conference on Capitol Hill Monday.  “We’re asking our colleagues in the Senate and the House to join us in this difficult work. It’s time to work together to pass legislation that improves our security, grows our economy and ensures that we will continue to be a nation that lives up to the values of our founders.”…READ MORE

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