Full Text Obama Presidency April 9, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Fort Hood Memorial Service



Remarks by the President at Fort Hood Memorial Service

Source: WH, 4-9-14

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama depart after the President placed a coin on each of the three boxes for those who died, during a memorial service for the victims of the Fort Hood shootings.President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pay their respects during a memorial service for the victims of the Fort Hood shootings, at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, April 9, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Fort Hood Killeen, Texas

2:06 P.M. CDT THE PRESIDENT:  In our lives — in our joys and in our sorrows — we’ve learned that there is “a time for every matter under heaven.”  We laugh and we weep.  We celebrate and we mourn.  We serve in war and we pray for peace.  But Scripture also teaches that, alongside the temporal, one thing is eternal. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.” Deputy Secretary Fox; General Dempsey; Secretary McHugh; Generals Odierno and Milley; and most of all, the families of the soldiers who have been taken from us; the wounded — those who have returned to duty and those still recovering; and the entire community of Fort Hood, this “Great Place”:  It is love, tested by tragedy, that brings us together again. It was love for country that inspired these three Americans to put on the uniform and join the greatest Army that the world has ever known.  Sergeant First Class Daniel Ferguson.  Staff Sergeant Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez.  Sergeant Timothy Owens. And Danny and Carlos joined two decades ago, in a time of peace, and stayed as the nation went to war.  Timothy joined after 9/11, knowing he could be sent into harm’s way.  Between them, they deployed nine times.  Each served in Iraq.  Danny came home from Afghanistan just last year.  They lived those shining values — loyalty, duty, honor — that keep us strong and free. It was love for the Army that made them the soldiers they were.  For Danny, said his fiancée, being in the Army “was his life.”  Carlos, said a friend, was “the epitome of what you would want a leader to be in the Army.”  Timothy helped counsel his fellow soldiers.  Said a friend, “He was always the person you could go talk to.” And it was love for their comrades, for all of you, that defined their last moments.  As we’ve heard, when the gunman tried to push his way into that room, Danny held the door shut, saving the lives of others while sacrificing his own.  And it’s said that Timothy — the counselor, even then — gave his life, walking toward the gunman, trying to calm him down. For you, their families, no words are equal to your loss.  We are here on behalf of the American people to honor your loved ones and to offer whatever comfort we can.  But know this:  We also draw strength from you.  For even in your grief, even as your heart breaks, we see in you that eternal truth: “Love never ends.” To the parents of these men — as a father, I cannot begin to fathom your anguish.  But I know that you poured your love and your hopes into your sons.  I know that the men and soldiers they became — their sense of service and their patriotism — so much of that came from you.  You gave your sons to America, and just as you will honor them always, so, too, will the nation that they served. To the loves of their lives — Timothy’s wife Billy and Danny’s fiancée Kristen — these soldiers cherished the Army, but their hearts belonged to you.  And that’s a bond that no earthly power can ever break.  They have slipped from your embrace, but know that you will never be alone.  Because this Army and this nation stands with you for all the days to come. To their children — we live in a dangerous world, and your fathers served to keep you safe and us safe.  They knew you have so much to give our country; that you’d make them proud.  Timothy’s daughter Lori already has.  Last Wednesday night, she posted this message online: “I just want everyone to think for a moment.”  Love your family, she said, “because you never know when [they’re] gonna be taken from you.  I love you, daddy.” And to the men and women of Fort Hood — as has already been mentioned, part of what makes this so painful is that we have been here before.  This tragedy tears at wounds still raw from five years ago.  Once more, soldiers who survived foreign warzones were struck down here at home, where they’re supposed to be safe.  We still do not yet know exactly why, but we do know this:  We must honor their lives, not “in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.” We must honor these men with a renewed commitment to keep our troops safe, not just in battle but on the home front, as well.  In our open society, and at vast bases like this, we can never eliminate every risk.  But as a nation, we can do more to help counsel those with mental health issues, to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are having such deep difficulties.  As a military, we must continue to do everything in our power to secure our facilities and spare others this pain. We must honor these men by doing more to care for our fellow Americans living with mental illness, civilian and military.  Today, four American soldiers are gone.  Four Army families are devastated.  As Commander-in-Chief, I’m determined that we will continue to step up our efforts — to reach our troops and veterans who are hurting, to deliver to them the care that they need, and to make sure we never stigmatize those who have the courage to seek help. And finally, we must honor these men by recognizing that they were members of a generation that has borne the burden of our security in more than a decade of war.  Now our troops are coming home, and by the end of this year our war in Afghanistan will finally be over. In an era when fewer Americans know someone in uniform, every American must see these men and these women — our 9/11 Generation — as the extraordinary citizens that they are.  They love their families.  They excel at their jobs.  They serve their communities.  They are leaders.  And when we truly welcome our veterans home, when we show them that we need them — not just to fight in other countries, but to build up our own — then our schools and our businesses, our communities and our nation will be more successful, and America will be stronger and more united for decades to come. Sergeant First Class Daniel Ferguson.  Staff Sergeant Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez.  Sergeant Timothy Owens.  Like the 576 Fort Hood soldiers who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were taken from us much too soon.  Like the 13 Americans we lost five years ago, their passing shakes our soul.  And in moments such as this, we summon once more what we’ve learned in these hard years of war.  We reach within our wounded hearts.  We lean on each other.  We hold each other up.  We carry on.  And with God’s amazing grace, we somehow bear what seems unbearable. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”  May God watch over these American soldiers, may He keep strong their families whose love endures, and may God continue to bless the United States of America with patriots such as these. END 2:18 P.M. CDT

Political Musings April 8, 2014: Obama announces economic opportunity agenda Youth CareerConnect Education grants





Obama announces economic opportunity agenda Youth CareerConnect Education grants

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Starting off the week on Monday morning, April 7, 2014 President Barack Obama announced at Bladensburg High School in Bladensburg, Maryland that he is giving out gifts in the form Youth CareerConnect grants for high school education. The grants with…READ MORE

Political Musings March 10, 2014: Obamas promote education, college opportunity and financial aid initiatives





The first couple President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama collaborated together on Friday, March 7, 2014 to promote a higher education and financial aid initiatives both have working on; the Free Application for Student Aid or FAFSA, appearing…Continue

Full Text Obama Presidency March 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education, College Opportunity and Federal Student Aid



A World-Class Education for Every Student in America

Source: WH, 3-7-14
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students in a classroom at Coral Reef Senior High School, Florida, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students in a classroom at Coral Reef Senior High School, Fla., March 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, President Obama and the First Lady visited Coral Reef High School in Miami to discuss the President’s plan to equip all Americans with the education they need to compete in the 21st century economy….READ MORE

Remarks by the President on Preparing for College

Source: WH, 3-7-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on College Opportunity
March 07, 2014 5:36 PM

President Obama Speaks on College Opportunity

Coral Reef Senior High School
Miami, Florida

3:05 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Miami!  (Applause.)  Hello, Cuda Nation!  (Applause.)  Hello!  It is good to be here at Coral Reef Senior High.  (Applause.)  You guys are just happy because it’s warm down here all the time.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the rest of the country is cold.  (Laughter.)  Listen, Michelle and I are so grateful for the warm welcome.  It is great to be here.  I want to thank some people who are doing outstanding work.

First of all, your superintendent, Superintendent Carvalho, is doing great work.  We’re really proud of him.  (Applause.)  Your principal, Principal Leal, is doing great work.  (Applause.)  All the Coral Reef teachers and staff, you guys are all doing a great job.  (Applause.)  And you’re doing what is necessary to help young people get ready for college and careers.  So that’s why we’re here.  We are proud of what’s being done at this school.

I want to mention a few other folks who are here who are fighting on behalf of the people of South Florida every day.  We’ve got Congressman Joe Garcia is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Congresswoman Frederica Wilson here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.  Your former Governor Charlie Crist is here.  (Applause.)

And most of all, I want to thank the people that Michelle and I came all the down here to see, and that is the students of Coral Reef.  (Applause.)  We had heard great things about your school.  We had heard great things about the students.  We wanted to come down here and just see what was going on.  (Applause.)  And Michelle and I just had a chance to visit with some of your classmates who are going through some of the scholarship applications, and we had a chance to talk to them and hear what their plans were.  And first of all, Michelle and I looked and we said, these must be actors playing students, because they were all smart and good-looking and organized.  (Laughter.)  And I asked them, what are you going to do?  And they’re — well, I’m going to be applying to business school, and then I’m going to start a company, and then I — when I was your age, I didn’t know what I was doing.  I was lucky if I had gotten out of bed on time.  (Laughter.)  So you guys are ahead of the game.

And we’re here to tell you that you’ve got to keep up the good work, because by working hard every single day, every single night, you are making the best investment there is in your future.  And we want to make sure you’ve got everything, all the tools you need to succeed.  We want every young person to have the kinds of teachers and the kind of classes and the kind of learning experiences that are available to you here at Coral Reef.  (Applause.)  Because that’s the best investment we can make in America’s future.  (Applause.)

Now, keep in mind, Michelle and I, we’re only here today because of the kind of education that we got.  That was our ticket to success.  We grew up a lot like many of you.  I was raised by a single mom; she was a teenager when I was born.  We moved around a lot, we did not have a lot of money, but the one thing she was determined to see was that my sister and I would get the best education possible.

And she would press me.  Sometimes she’d make me wake up, do my lessons before I even went to school.  She was not going to let me off the hook.  And at the time, I wasn’t happy about it, but now I’m glad she pressed me like that.  Because, thanks to my mother and my grandparents, and then great teachers and great counselors who encouraged me, and a country that made it possible for me to afford a higher education, I was able to go to college and law school.

And then when I met Michelle, I saw that — (applause) –there were a couple of things I noticed.  I noticed she was smart.  (Applause.)  I noticed she was funny — she’s funny, she’s funnier than I am.  (Laughter.)  Obviously, I noticed she was cute, yes.  (Applause.)  But one of the things I also realized was, even though we had grown up in very different places, her story was a lot like mine.  Her dad worked at a city water plant.  He didn’t go to college.  He was a blue-collar worker.  Michelle’s mom — my mother-in-law, who I love to death — she was a secretary.  No one in her family had gone to college.  But because she had worked hard and her parents understood the value of education, and she had great teachers and great opportunities, and because the country was willing to invest to make sure that she was able to pay for college, she ended up going to some of the best universities in the country.  (Applause.)

So the point is she and I have been able to achieve things that our parents, our grandparents would have never dreamed of.  And that’s the chance this country should give every young person.  That’s the idea at the heart of America.  (Applause.)

What makes this country great, what makes it special when you look around, and Miami is a great example of it, you’ve got people coming from everywhere, every background, every race, every faith.  But what binds us together is this idea that if you work hard, you can make it — that there’s opportunity for all.  The belief that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what your last name is, if you are responsible and put in the effort, you can succeed.  There’s no limit to what you can do.  That’s what America is all about.  (Applause.)

Opportunity is what drew many of your parents and grandparents to America.  And we’ve got to restore that idea for your generation, so that everybody has the same chance Michelle and I did.  That’s why we’re working on what we call an opportunity agenda to create more jobs and train more workers with new skills; to make sure hard work is rewarded with a paycheck that supports a family; to make sure that everybody can get health care when they need it, so that nobody has to get into financial trouble because somebody in the family gets sick.  (Applause.)

And for the students here, a lot of you, you may not think about these issues all the time.  You’re spending a lot of time on homework and sports, and this and that.  But you also oftentimes see your own family struggling and you worry about it.  And one of the single-most important parts of our opportunity agenda is making sure that every young person in America has access to a world-class education — a world-class education.  (Applause.)  So that’s why we are here.

I believe we should start teaching our kids at the earliest ages.  So we’re trying to help more states make high-quality preschool and other early learning programs available to the youngest kids.  (Applause.)  I believe that our K-12 system should be the best in the world.  So we started a competition called Race to the Top, to encourage more states like Florida to raise expectations for students like you, because when we set high expectations, every single one of you can meet them.  (Applause.)  You’re recruiting and preparing the best teachers.  You are turning around low-performing schools.  You’re expanding high-performing ones.  You’re making sure every student is prepared for college or a career.

I believe that every student should have the best technology.  So we launched something we called ConnectED to connect our schools to high-speed Internet.  And I want to congratulate Miami-Dade and your superintendent, because you have achieved your goal of installing wi-fi in every single one of your schools.  (Applause.)

So the good news is, in part because of some of these reforms we’ve initiated, when you add it all up our nation’s high school graduation rate is the highest on record.  The drop-out rate has been dropping, and among Latino students has been cut in half since 2000.  (Applause.)  Miami-Dade’s graduation rate is higher than it’s ever been.  That’s all because of the efforts of so many people, including the parents and students who have been putting in the effort.  It’s because of the teachers and administrators and staff who are doing such a great job.  You should be proud.  We’re making progress — we’re making progress.  (Applause.)

Yes, you guys — by the way, you can all sit down.  I didn’t realize everybody was still standing up.  Sit down.  Take a load off.  You guys can’t sit down though, because you don’t have chairs, although bend your knees so you don’t faint.  (Laughter.)

But here’s the key thing, Coral Reef:  We still have more work to do, all of us — elected officials, principals, teachers, parents, students.  Because, as Michelle says, education is a two-way street.  Folks like us have to work hard to give you the best schools and support that you need.  But then, you’ve got to hold up your end of the bargain by committing to your education.  That means you’ve got to stretch your minds.  You’ve got to push through subjects that aren’t always easy.  And it means continuing your education past high school, whether that’s a two-year or a four-year college degree or getting some professional training.

So I want to talk about an easy step that high school students like you can take to make college a reality.  And it’s something you already know here at Coral Reef, but I’m speaking to all the young people out there who may be watching.  It’s called FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

It is a simple form.  It used to be complicated; we made it simple.  It doesn’t cost anything — that’s why the word “free” is right there in the name.  (Laughter.)  It does not take a long time to fill out.  Once you do, you’re putting yourself in the running for all kinds of financial support for college — scholarships, grants, loans, work-study jobs.

For the past five years, we’ve been working to make college more affordable.  We took on a college loan system that gave billions of dollars of taxpayer money to big banks to manage the student loan system.  We said, we don’t need the banks, let’s give the money directly to students, we can help more students.  (Applause.)  We can help more students that way.  So we expanded the grants that help millions of students from low-income backgrounds pay for college.  We’re offering millions of people the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their incomes once they graduate.

Today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  That’s a great thing.  (Applause.)  That is a great thing.  But we still need to do more to help rein in the rising cost of tuition.  We need to do more to help Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt — because no striving, hardworking, ambitious, young American should ever be denied a college education just because they can’t afford it — nobody.  (Applause.)

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of young people all across the country who say the cost of college is holding them back.  Some of you may have sat around the kitchen table with your parents wondering about whether you’ll be able to afford it.  So FAFSA is by far the easiest way to answer that question.  And I know the Barracudas know all about FAFSA.  (Applause.)  Last year, you had the second-highest completion rate of any large high school in the state.  (Applause.)  You should be proud of that.  Your teachers and parents should be proud of that.

But last year, almost half of high school graduates in Florida didn’t fill out the FAFSA form.


THE PRESIDENT:  That ain’t right.  (Laughter.)  Not only is it not right, but it also ain’t right.  (Laughter.)  And as a result, they lost out on over $100 million in Pell grants.  Think about that — $100 million that could have helped Florida students help pay for college was just left on the table.  That’s just in Florida.  Nationwide, over one million high school students did not fill out the FAFSA form.  That happens every year.

So my challenge today to every high school student in America:  Fill out the form.  Even if you think you might not qualify for financial aid, fill out the form.  You might qualify.

And we’re making it easier than ever.  We put the FAFSA form online.  We made it shorter.  It takes about half an hour to fill out.  And it could change the rest of your life.  We’ve updated it to save your parents a lot of hassle as well.  And today, I’m announcing another improvement.

Today, I’m directing the Department of Education to tell every governor that, starting today, they can, if they choose, confidentially let high school administrators know which students have filled out the FAFSA form and which haven’t.  So that way, if Principal Leal wants to check in with the seniors –


THE PRESIDENT:  I know, everybody is like, wow.  (Laughter.)  I know she’s already on top of stuff, but this way, she could check and seniors who had not filled it out, she could then help them answer the questions and figure out what’s holding her back — what’s holding them back.

Anybody will be able to go online and find out the number of students who have filled out the form at each high school, so we can track it.  So if you want to have a friendly competition with Palmetto High or Miami Killian — (applause) — to see who can get a higher completion rate on your FAFSA, you can do that.  (Applause.)  You achieved the second-highest rate in the state, but I mean if you want to settle for number two, that’s okay –  you might be able to get number one.  (Applause.)  Huh?  I’m just saying you could go for number one.  (Applause.)

So these are things I can do on my own, but I’m here to also tell you I need — I could use some help from folks in Washington.  There are some things I don’t need Congress’s permission for, and in this year of action, whenever I see a way to act to help expand opportunity for young people I’m just going to go ahead and take it.  I’m just going to go ahead and do it.  (Applause.)

So earlier this year, Michelle and I hosted a College Opportunity Summit, where over 150 colleges and universities and nonprofits made commitments to help more low-income students get to college and graduate from college.  (Applause.)  But I’m also willing to work with anybody in Congress — Democrat, Republican, don’t matter — to make sure young people like you have a shot to success.

So a few days ago, I sent my budget to Congress.  And budgets are pretty boring — but the stuff inside the budgets are pretty important.  And my budget focuses on things like preschool for all; like redesigning high schools so students like you can learn real-world skills that businesses want — (applause) — like preparing more young people for careers in some of the fields of the future — in science and technology and engineering and math to discover new planets and invent robots and cure diseases — all the cool stuff that we adults haven’t figured out yet.  (Laughter.)

These are not just the right investments for our schools; they’re the right priorities for our country.  You are our priority.  We’ve got to make sure we have budgets that reflect that you are the most important thing to this country’s success. If you don’t succeed, we don’t succeed.  (Applause.)

We’ve got to make sure all of you are prepared for the new century, and we’ve got to keep growing our economy in other ways:  attracting new high-tech jobs, reforming our immigration system — something Congressman Garcia is fighting for.  (Applause.)   And the rest of Congress needs to stop doing nothing, do right by America’s students, America’s teachers, America’s workers.  Let’s get to work.  Let’s get busy.  (Applause.)  We’ve got work to do. All of us have work to do — teachers, school counselors, principals, superintendents, parents, grandparents.

We all have work to do, because we want to see you succeed, because we’re counting on you, Barracudas.  (Applause.)  And if you keep reaching for success — and I know you will, just based on the small sampling we saw of students here — if you keep working as hard as you can and learning as much as you can, and if you’ve got big ambitions and big dreams, if you don’t let anybody tell you something is out of your reach, if you are convinced that you can do something and apply effort and energy and determination and persistence to that vision, then not only will you be great but this country will be great.  (Applause.)  Our schools will be great.  (Applause.)

I want us to have the best-educated workforce in America.  And I want it to be the most diverse workforce in the world.  That’s what I’m fighting for.  That’s what your superintendent and your principal are fighting for, and I hope that’s what you fight for yourselves.  (Applause.)  Because when I meet the students here at Coral Reef, I am optimistic about the future.  Michelle and I walked out of that classroom, and we said, you know what, we’re going to be in good hands, we’re going to do okay.  (Applause.)  Because these young people are coming, and nobody is going to stop them.

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

3:25 P.M EST

Political Musings February 19, 2014: Obama rehabs art history loving image, sends apology letter, hosts Monuments Men





Obama rehabs art history loving image, sends apology letter, hosts Monuments Men

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Since causing an uproar when he mocked the importance and relevance of graduating university with an art history degree, President Barack Obama has been publicly trying to make up for the “glib” remark, showing he truly “loves…


President Barack Obama looks at the Edward Hopper paintings now displayed in the Oval Office, Feb. 7, 2014.

Obama appreciates two new Edward Hopper paintings now adorning the Oval Office

President Barack Obama appreciates two new Edward Hopper painting now adorning the Oval Office, Jan. 7, 2014; Obama is trying to rehab his image relating to the arts after joking about art history degrees in a speech about technical job training, Jan. 30, 2014 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

University Musings February 16, 2014: Obama puts the humanities vs professional degrees debate back in the spotlight




Obama puts the humanities vs professional degrees debate back in the spotlight

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Obama needs to look back at President Kennedy’s idealism to recognize the importance of the arts
The debate of the importance of the humanities, liberal arts and social science university degree versus a professional degree, or a degree…READ MORE

University Musings February 6, 2014: Princeton Review releases list of best value public and private colleges




Princeton Review releases list of best value public and private colleges

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Princeton Review has released one of its college rankings listing on Jan. 28, 2014 this time is was their annual best value public and private colleges. The Princeton Review list compromises 150 colleges chosen from over 2000 colleges, that…READ MORE

University Musings December 23, 2013: Grade inflation again a major issue at Harvard University and in the Ivy League




Grade inflation again a major issue at Harvard University and in the Ivy League

By Bonnie K. Goodman

At the end of each semester grades are all that university students are thinking of when they finish their papers and take final exams, but for students at some of the top Ivy League universities have a little less to…READ MORE

University Musings December 5, 2013: McGill University opposes Values Charter, claims affects faculty & recruitment




At its tri-annual debriefing to Quebec’s National Assembly committee on Culture and Education on Tuesday evening, Dec. 3, 2013 in Quebec City, McGill University’s Principal Suzanne Fortier indicated that the upcoming Bill 60, the Charter…READ MORE

Political Headlines July 18, 2012: President Barack Obama Unveils Corps to Recognize Top Math, Science Teachers




Obama Unveils Corps to Recognize Top Math, Science Teachers


President Obama on Wednesday is announcing a plan to create a “Master Teacher Corps” to recognize outstanding math and science teachers and incentivize educators to enter the field.

“If America is going to compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow, we need to make sure our children are getting the best education possible.  Teachers matter, and great teachers deserve our support,” Obama said in a written statement….READ MORE

History Buzz February 28, 2012: David McCullough, Gordon Wood: Students need more uniform teaching of US Constitution, Historians say at panel “The Teaching of Constitutional History in the 21st Century University”


History Buzz


Students need more uniform teaching of Constitution, historians say

Source: The Oklahoma U Daily 2-28-12

Instructors need to teach the U.S. Constitution to all students in a stimulating way to create well-educated citizens who are aware of their responsibilities, according to seven panelists in a discussion Tuesday.


Photo by Astrud Reed

Panelist Akhil Reed Amar, Yale Law and Political Science Professor, responds to a question from Diane Rehm, NPR radio program host and event moderator, at Monday’s “The Teaching of Constitutional History in the 21st Century University.”

Students, faculty and visitors crowded into Catlett Music Center to hear noted historians share perspectives on teaching America’s founding in a panel titled, “The Teaching of Constitutional History in the 21st-century University.”

National Public Radio host Diane Rehm moderated the panel, which was part of OU’s inaugural “Teach-In: A Day with Some of the Greatest Teachers in America.”

The U.S. needs leaders and teachers who can make the Constitution relevant to students of all ages and backgrounds, Pulitzer-prize winning historian David McCullough said.

“There is nothing wrong with the younger generation,” he said. “The younger generation is terrific, and any problems they have, any failings they have, and what they know and don’t know is not their fault — it’s our fault.”

Teachers are the most important people in the society, and they should not be blamed for these failings either, McCullough said.

“I think that history, the love of history and the understanding of history begins truly, literally at home,” McCullough said.

In today’s education system students are not trained enough to ask questions, and this is a serious issue, he said.

Some students get all the way to college and have very little knowledge about the Constitution, said Kyle Harper, director of the OU Institute for American Constitutional Heritage.

“One of the exciting things about teaching in college is that you are teaching adults, and you are teaching kids who are becoming adults,” Harper said.

Harper aims to create situations for debate in classrooms to make college students realize that the facts on a page influence their political lives, he said.

In most graduate schools Constitutional history is always there, but undergraduate schools simply neglect it, Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Gordon Wood said. Even in graduate training, issues of race and women have preoccupied graduate training and the writing of history….READ MORE

History Buzz February 20, 2012: Presidents’ Day: Take the presidential history quiz!


History Buzz


Presidents’ Day: The quiz

It’s Presidents’ Day Monday, but whom the holiday is meant to honor depends on whom you ask. Even the placement of the apostrophe is open to question!…

The most recent results of students’ performance on civics exams on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the nation’s report card, revealed a continuing lack of knowledge about the nation’s past: On the 2010 test, only 2 percent of fourth-graders, 1 percent of eighth-graders and 4 percent of 12th-graders performed at the advanced level, which represents superior performance.

See how well you can do on the Washington Post’s Presidents’ Day quiz. If you don’t do well, it’s time to hit the history books! Here are some Web sites that can help….TAKE THE QUIZ!

History Buzz February 19, 2012: New Museums; the National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Center for Civil and Human Rights & International African American Museum to Shine a Spotlight on Civil Rights Era


History Buzz


New Museums to Shine a Spotlight on Civil Rights Era

Source: NYT, 2-19-12

Andrew Councill for The New York Times

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington plans to display the lunch counter from an important civil rights protest in Greensboro, N.C. More Photos »

Drive through any state in the Deep South and you will find a monument or a museum dedicated to civil rights.

Haraz Ghanbari/Associated Press

Engraved names on a civil rights memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala. Such monuments are common in southern states. More Photos »

Mike Segar/Reuters

The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum. More Photos »

Raymond McCrea Jones for The New York Times

An artist’s initial rendering of the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, scheduled to break ground this summer and open in 2014. More Photos »

A visitor can peer into the motel room in Memphis where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was staying when he was shot or stand near the lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., where four young men began a sit-in that helped end segregation.

Other institutions are less dramatic, like the Tubman African American Museum in Macon, Ga., where Jim Crow-era toilet fixtures are on display alongside folk art.

But now, a second generation of bigger, bolder museums is about to emerge.

Atlanta; Jackson, Miss.; and Charleston, S.C., all have projects in the works. Coupled with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which breaks ground in Washington this week, they represent nearly $750 million worth of plans.

Collectively, they also signal an emerging era of scholarship and interest in the history of both civil rights and African-Americans that is to a younger generation what other major historical events were to their grandparents. “We’re at that stage where the civil rights movement is the new World War II,” said Doug Shipman, the chief executive officer for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, a $100 million project that is to break ground in Atlanta this summer and open in 2014.

“It’s a move to the next phase of telling this story,” he said.

The collection at the museum, which is to be set on two and half acres of prime downtown real estate donated by Coca-Cola, will include 10,000 documents and artifacts from Dr. King and a series of paintings based on the life of Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, by the artist Benny Andrews, who died in 2006….READ MORE

Full Text February 9, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education Reform & No Child Left Behind Flexibility Waivers



Everything You Need to Know: Waivers, Flexibility, and Reforming No Child Left Behind

Source: WH, 2-9-12

President Obama delivers remarks on No Child Left Behind (February 9, 2012)

President Barack Obama, with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, delivers remarks on education reform and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Explaining that our kids can’t wait any long for Congress to act, President Barack Obama announced today that ten states that have agreed to implement bold education reforms will receive waivers from the burdensome mandates of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind.  These waivers will give states the flexibility needed to raise student achievement standards, improve school accountability, and increase teacher effectiveness. The ten states approved for flexibility are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

So what does all this mean for our schools? What’s the problem with No Child Left Behind? What’s a waiver anyway, and why do states need flexibility? To answer these questions, we’ve put together a quick primer to help you understand the details behind today’s announcement.

What’s the deal with No Child Left Behind?

No Child Left Behind, the most current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was signed into law in 2001—and is five years overdue to be re-written by Congress. The law’s objective was admirable. It shined light on achievement gaps and increased accountability at the school level for high-need students. And there’s no question that setting goals and holding schools accountable for meeting them is central to an education system that prepares students to compete in a global, 21st century economy.

As written, however, No Child Left Behind has serious flaws. In fact, some of the law’s requirements are actually stifling the kind of reforms we need to really improve student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and school accountability. For example, it determines whether schools are falling behind based on test scores. It imposes punitive labels and prescribes one-size-fits-all federal mandates for fixing failing schools.  It’s led states to narrow curriculum to focus more on teaching to the test and less on teaching everything else student need to know, and to lower standards to make them easier to meet

The Obama administration has worked extensively with Congress to re-write the law, and even submitted its own blueprint for education reform in March 2010, but legislators have not moved forward.

What are waivers and what do they have to do with No Child Left Behind?

Waivers provide an opportunity to fix what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind without waiting any longer for Congress to Act. States receiving waivers are given flexibility that exempts them from meeting the law’s most troublesome and restrictive requirements in exchange for setting their own higher, more honest standards for student success.

For example, waivers will give states the flexibility to:

  • Set their own ambitious but achievable terms for closing achievement gaps and ensuring students are proficient in reading and math, instead of meeting the NCLB timeline that requires 100 percent proficiency by 2014. Kentucky, for example, has set a goal to cut the number of underperforming students in half over the next five years.
  • Design their own strategies to improve their lowest-performing schools and measure student progress year over year, instead of relying on absolute numbers and a federally prescribed, “one size fits all” approach. Colorado, for example, another state receiving a waiver, is launching a website that will allow teachers and parents can see exactly how much progress students are making, and how different schools measure up.

Why do states need flexibility?

States need the flexibility to move forward with innovative education reforms they design themselves  —rather than a federal mandate—without sacrificing high standards or lowering accountability. After all, what works for Kentucky doesn’t necessarily work for New Jersey, and the parents and educators who live and work in each place are best-positioned to know the needs of their own communities.

There is still no clear bipartisan path in Congress for ESEA reauthorization – and we can’t wait any longer.  Schools and districts continue their daily work of educating students, while also planning for next school year, and states need this flexibility now to implement plans for reform and improvement.  Today’s announcement continues a process the President announced last September.

The fact is, most states are already pursuing reforms that go above and beyond the requirements in No Child Left Behind, and waivers will help them continue that progress. More than 40 states have adopted common standards that define what it means to be college and career ready, just as many have designed assessments to measure student progress toward achieving those standards. States have reformed teacher and principal evaluations to better determine which ones are effective and which ones aren’t, and developed support systems to help the less effective ones improve.

How did these states qualify for waivers?

President Obama offered every state a deal: If you’re willing to set higher, more honest standards based on a clear goal that every student can graduate ready for college or a career, we’ll give you the flexibility to meet those standards.

In addition to setting new performance targets for student achievement, states had to prove that they were serious by developing a plan addressing three critical areas:

  • Preparing students for college and careers: States must have already adopted college- and career-ready standards in reading and math that raise the achievement of all students, including English language Learners and students with disabilities. Additionally, states must create a plan to help schools and districts implement those standards and administer statewide tests to measure progress.
  • Hold schools accountable for making progress: States must establish an accountability system that recognizes and rewards both high-performing schools as well as those that are making significant gains in improving student achievement.And they must develop targeted strategies to turn around the lowest performing schools and help groups of students with the greatest needs.
  •  Improving teacher and principal effectiveness: States must set guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems, developed with input from educators and principals. Evaluation systems should assess performance using factors beyond test scores—such as principal observation, peer review, student work, or parent and student feedback—and provide teachers with both constructive advice for improving and support in doing so.

 What’s next?

Just as the administration worked extensively with Congress to try re-write No Child Left Behind before announcing last September that it would offer states flexibility waivers, President Obama will continue to call on Congress to reform the law while offering states that are willing to set higher standards for their students the chance to do so.

In fact, in addition to the 10 states that requested the flexibility to implement reforms through this initial round of waivers, an 11th application is still being revised and reviewed, and 28 other states along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have also expressed interest in receiving waivers.

As President Obama explained this afternoon, “if we’re serious about helping our children reach their potential, the best ideas aren’t going to come from Washington alone. Our job is to harness those ideas, and to hold states and schools accountable for making them work.”


Remarks by the President on No Child Left Behind Flexibility

President Barack Obama announces that 10 states that have agreed to implement bold education reforms will receive waivers from No Child Left Behind.

President Obama discusses No Child Left Behind
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on education reform, White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 2/9/12
East Room

1:57 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Please have a seat, have a seat.  Thank you so much.  Well, hello, everybody, and welcome to the White House.

I want to start by thanking all the chief state school officers who have made the trip from all over the country.  Why don’t you all stand up just so we can see you all, right here.  (Applause.)  It’s a great group, right here.  Thank you.  And I want to recognize someone who is doing a pretty good job right here in Washington, D.C., and that is my Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  Love Arne.  (Applause.)

We’ve also got some outstanding members of Congress who are here who have always been on the front lines when it comes to education reform.  But above all, I want to thank all the teachers who are here today.  Where are the teachers?  Come on, stand up, teachers.  (Applause.)  There you go.  We got some teachers here.

Earlier this week, we hosted our second White House science fair.  Some of you may have seen this on TV.  I got a chance to shoot a marshmallow out of an air cannon, which I don’t usually get to do.  (Laughter.)  But I met these incredibly talented young people — kids who are working on everything from portable housing for disaster victims to technology that can detect smuggled uranium before it became a threat; this young man had built a prototype.  And I asked him how he came up with this idea, and he said, “I’ve always just been really interested in nuclear materials, and I collect samples.”  (Laughter.)  And I asked him, “How does your mom feel about this?”  (Laughter.)  He said she wasn’t that happy about it.

But just unbelievable young people.  It was extraordinary.  And before they left, I gave them some homework.  I told them go find a teacher who helped them make it here and say thank you, because every single one of us can point to a teacher who in some way changed the course of our lives.  I certainly can; I know Arne can.  And the impact is often much bigger than we realize.

One study found that a single good teacher can increase the lifetime earnings of a classroom by $250,000 — single teacher.  A great teacher can help a young person escape poverty, allow them to dream beyond their circumstances.

So teachers matter.  And in an economy where employers are looking for the most skilled, educated workers, few people are going to have a bigger impact on that than the men and women who are in our classrooms.  And that ultimately is why we’re here today.  It’s about our classrooms, and our children, and what’s happening to them and how they can perform.

In September, after waiting far too long for Congress to act, I announced that my administration would take steps to reform No Child Left Behind on our own.  This was one of the first and the biggest “We Can’t Wait” announcements that we’ve made, because our kids and our schools can’t be held back by inaction.

I want to point out, by the way, the members of Congress who are here, they’re ready to act, but we haven’t been able to get the entire House and Senate to move on this.

I said back then the goals of No Child Left Behind were the right ones.  Standards and accountability — those are the right goals.  Closing the achievement gap, that’s a good goal.  That’s the right goal.  We’ve got to stay focused on those goals.  But we’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t force teachers to teach to the test, or encourage schools to lower their standards to avoid being labeled as failures.  That doesn’t help anybody.  It certainly doesn’t help our children in the classroom.

So we determined we need a different approach.  And I’ve always believed that each of us has a role to play when it comes to our children’s education.  As parents, we’ve got a responsibility to make sure homework gets done, but also to instill a love of learning from the very start.  As a nation, we’ve got a responsibility to give our students the resources they need — from the highest-quality schools to the latest textbooks to science labs that actually work.

In return, we should demand better performance.  We should demand reform.  And that was the idea behind Race to the Top.  For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve gotten almost every state in the nation to raise their standards for teaching and learning.  And that’s the first time that’s happened in a generation.

So when it comes to fixing what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind, we’ve offered every state the same deal.  We’ve said, if you’re willing to set higher, more honest standards than the ones that were set by No Child Left Behind, then we’re going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards.  We want high standards, and we’ll give you flexibility in return.  We combine greater freedom with greater accountability.  Because what might work in Minnesota may not work in Kentucky — but every student should have the same opportunity to reach their potential.

So over the last five months, 39 states have told us that they were interested.  Some have already applied.  And today, I am pleased to announce that we are giving 10 states, the first 10 states the green light to continue making the reforms that are best for them.

Each of these states has set higher benchmarks for student achievement.  They’ve come up with ways to evaluate and support teachers fairly, based on more than just a set of test scores.  And along with promoting best practices for all of our children, they’re also going to be focusing on low-income students, and English language learners, and students with disabilities — not just to make sure that those children don’t fall through the cracks, but to make sure they have every opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them.

So Massachusetts, for example, has set a goal to cut the number of underperforming students in half over the next six years.  I like that goal.

Colorado has launched a website that will allow teachers and parents to see exactly how much progress students are making, and how different schools are measuring up.  So nothing creates more accountability than when parents are out there taking a look and seeing what’s going on.

New Jersey is developing an early warning system to reduce the number of dropouts.  Tennessee is creating a statewide school district to aggressively tackle its lowest-performing schools.  And Florida has set a goal to have their test scores rank among the top five states in the country, and the top 10 countries in the world.  I like that ambition.

This is good news for our kids; it’s good news for our country.  And I’m confident that we’re going to see even more states come forward in the months ahead.  Because if we’re serious about helping our children reach their full potential, the best ideas aren’t going to just come from here in Washington.  They’re going to come from cities and towns from all across America.  They’re going to come from teachers and principals and parents.  They’re going to come from you who have a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

And our job is to harness those ideas, to lift up best practices, to hold states and schools accountable for making them work.  That’s how we’re going to make sure that every child in America has the skills and the education they need to compete for the jobs of the future and to be great citizens.  And that’s how we’re going to build an economy that lasts.

So to all the educators who are in the room, thank you for what you do every day.  We are very proud of your efforts.  We know it’s not easy.  We’re proud of you.  And working together, I am absolutely confident that year after year we’re going to see steady improvement.

I told the superintendents that I met backstage before I came out here, this is not a one-year project.  This isn’t a two-year project.  This is going to take some time.  But we can get it done with the kind of determination and the kind of commitment that so many of you have shown.

So I’m proud of you.  I’m proud of Arne Duncan.  Let’s make this happen.

Thank you very much, everybody.

2:07 P.M. EST

Full Text January 27, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Rising Costs of College / University Tuition — Calls for Overhaul of Higher Education Financial Aid System




Remarks by the President on College Affordability, Ann Arbor, Michigan

University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan

10:00 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Michigan!  (Applause.)  Oh, it is good to be back in Ann Arbor.  (Applause.)

Thank you, Christina, for that introduction.  I also want to thank your president, Mary Sue Coleman.  (Applause.)  The mayor of Ann Arbor, John Hieftje, is here.  (Applause.)  My outstanding Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is in the house.  (Applause.) We have some outstanding members of Congress who are here as well, who are representing you each and every day.  Give them a round of applause — come on.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you, President Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)

So in terms of — boy, we’ve got all kinds of members of Congress here, so — (laughter.)

Where’s Denard?  (Applause.)  Denard Robinson is in the house.  (Applause.)  I hear you’re coming back, man.  (Applause.)  That is a good deal for Michigan.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Denard Robinson in 2012!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, oh, come on.  They’re trying to draft you for President.  (Laughter.)  He’s got to graduate before he runs for President.  (Laughter.)  There’s an age limit.  (Laughter.)

Well, it is wonderful to be here.  I want to thank all of you for coming out this morning.  I know for folks in college, this is still really early.  I remember those days.  It is good home — good to be in the home of the Sugar Bowl champion Wolverines.  (Applause.)  And with Denard Robinson coming back, this will be a team to be reckoned with.  I understand your basketball team is pretty good this year, too.  (Applause.)  All right — go, Blue!  (Applause.)  It’s always good to start with a easy applause line.  (Laughter.)

But the reason I’m here today — in addition to meeting Denard Robinson — (laughter) — is to talk with all of you about what most of you do here every day — and that is to think about how you can gain the skills and the training you need to succeed in this 21st century economy.  And this is going to be one of the most important issues that not just you face, but this entire country faces:  How can we make sure that everybody is getting the kind of education they need to personally succeed but also to build up this nation — because in this economy, there is no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.

Today, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average.  Their incomes are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma.  College is the single most important investment you can make in your future.  And I’m proud that all of you are making that investment.  (Applause.)

And the degree you earn from Michigan will be the best tool you have to achieve that basic American promise — the idea that if you work hard, if you are applying yourself, if you are doing the right thing, you can do well enough to raise a family and own a home and send your own kids to college, put away a little for retirement, create products or services — be part of something that is adding value to this country and maybe changing the world.  That’s what you’re striving for.  That’s what the American Dream is all about.

And how we keep that promise alive is the defining issue of our time.  I don’t want to be in a country where we only are looking at success for a small group of people.  We want a country where everybody has a chance.  (Applause.)  Where everybody has a chance.  We don’t want to become a country where a shrinking number of Americans do really well while a growing number barely get by.  That’s not the future we want.  Not the future I want for you, it’s not the future I want for my daughters.  I want this to be a big, bold, generous country where everybody gets a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  That’s the America I know.  That’s the American I want to keep.  That’s the future within our reach.  (Applause.)

Now, in the State of the Union on Tuesday, I laid out a blueprint that gets us there.  Blueprint — it’s blue.  (Laughter and applause.)  That’s no coincidence.  I planned it that way, Michigan.  (Laughter.)  A blueprint for an economy that’s built to last.

It’s an economy built on new American manufacturing — because Michigan is all about making stuff.  (Applause.)  If there’s anybody in America who can teach us how to bring back manufacturing, it is the great state of Michigan.  (Applause.)

On the day I took office, with the help of folks like Debbie Stabenow, your senator, and Carl Levin and — (applause) — John Conyers — the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse.  And some politicians were willing to let it just die.  We said no.  We believe in the workers of this state.  (Applause.)  I believe in American ingenuity.  We placed our bets on the American auto industry, and today, the American auto industry is back.  Jobs are coming back — (applause) — 160,000 jobs.

And to bring back even more jobs, I want this Congress to stop rewarding companies that are shipping jobs and profits overseas, start rewarding companies who are hiring here and investing here and creating good jobs here in Michigan and here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So our first step is rebuilding American manufacturing.  And by the way, not all the jobs that have gone overseas are going to come back.  We have to be realistic.  And technology means that a larger and larger portion of you will work in the service sector as engineers and computer scientists.  (Applause.)  There you go.  We got the engineering school — there you go.  (Applause.)  And entrepreneurs.  So there’s going to be a lot of activity in the service sector.  But part of my argument, part of the argument of Michigan’s congressional delegation is that when manufacturing does well, then the entire economy does well.

The service sector does well if manufacturing is doing well, so we’ve got to make sure that America isn’t just buying stuff, but we’re also selling stuff — all around the world, products stamped with those three proud words:  Made In America.  (Applause.)

An economy built to last is also one where we control our energy needs.  We don’t let foreign countries control our energy supplies.  Right now, America is producing more of our own oil than we were eight years ago.  That’s good news.  (Applause.)  As a percentage, we’re actually importing less than any time in the last 16 years.

But — I think young people especially understand this — no matter how much oil we produce, we’ve only got 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves.  And that means we’ve got to focus on clean, renewable energy.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to have a strategy that, yes, is producing our own oil and natural gas.  But we’ve also got to develop wind and solar and biofuels.  (Applause.)

And that is good for our economy.  It creates jobs.  But it’s also good for our environment.  (Applause.)  It also makes sure that this planet is sustainable.  That’s part of the future that you deserve.

We’ve subsidized oil companies for a century.  That’s long enough.  Congress needs to stop giving taxpayer dollars to an oil industry that’s never been more profitable, and double down on a clean energy future that’s never been more promising.  (Applause.)

I don’t want to cede the wind or the solar or the battery industry to China or Germany because we were too timid, we didn’t have the imagination to make the same commitment here.  And I want those jobs created here in the United States of America.  And I also want us to think about energy efficiency, making sure — we’ve already doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars.  Part of Detroit coming back is creating more fuel-efficient cars here in Michigan — (applause) — and more fuel-efficient trucks.  And we’ve got to revamp our buildings to make them more fuel-efficient.

And we — if we are focused on this, we can control our energy future.  That’s part of creating an America that’s built to last.

And we’ve got to have an economy in which every American has access to a world-class higher education, the kind you are getting right here at the University of Michigan.  (Applause.)

My grandfather got the chance to go to college because this country decided that every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it.  My mother was able to raise two kids by herself because she was able to get grants and work her way through school.  I am only standing here today because scholarships and student loans gave me a shot at a decent education.  Michelle and I can still remember how long it took us to pay back our student loans.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Tell the First Lady we wish her happy birthday!

THE PRESIDENT:  I will tell Michelle you said happy birthday.  (Applause.)

But I just want all of you to understand, your President and your First Lady were in your shoes not that long ago.  (Laughter.)  We didn’t come from wealthy families.  The only reason that we were able to achieve what we were able to achieve was because we got a great education.  That’s the only reason.  (Applause.)  And we could not have done that unless we lived in a country that made a commitment to opening up opportunity to all people.  (Applause.)

The point is, this country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of all who are willing to work for it, and that’s part of what helped to create this economic miracle and build the largest middle class in history.
And this precedes even college.  I mean, we were — we helped to begin the movement in industrialized countries to create public schools, public high schools, understanding that as people are moving from an agricultural sector to an industrial sector, they were going to need training.

Now we’ve moved to an information age, a digitalized age, a global economy.  We’ve got to make that same commitment today.  (Applause.)

Now, we still have, by far, the best network of colleges and universities in the world.  Nobody else comes close.  Nobody else comes close.  (Applause.)  But the challenge is it’s getting tougher and tougher to afford it.  Since most of you were born, tuition and fees have more than doubled.  That forces students like you to take out more loans and rack up more debt.

In 2010, graduates who took out loans left college owing an average of $24,000.  That’s an average.  Are you waving because you owe $24,000 or — (laughter.)

Student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt for the first time ever.  Think about that.  That’s inexcusable.  In the coming decade, 60 percent of new jobs will require more than a high school diploma.  Higher education is not a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.  And when I say higher education, I don’t just mean four-year colleges and universities; I also mean our community colleges and providing lifelong learning for workers who may need to retrain for jobs when the economy shifts.  All those things cost money, and it’s harder and harder to afford.  (Applause.)

So we’ve got to do something to help families be able to afford — and students to be able to afford — this higher education.  We’ve all got a responsibility here.

Thanks to the hard work of Secretary Duncan, my administration is increasing federal student aid so more students can afford college.  (Applause.)  And one of the things I’m proudest of, with the help of all these members of Congress, we won a tough fight to stop handing out tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to banks that issue student loans and shift that money to where it should go, directly to the students and to the families who need it.  (Applause.)

Tens of billions of dollars that were going to subsidies for banks are now going to students in the form of more grants and lower rates on loans.  We’ve capped student loan payments so that nearly 1.6 million students — including a bunch of you — are only going to have to pay 10 percent of your monthly income towards your loans once you graduate — 10 percent of your monthly income.  (Applause.)

So that’s what we’ve been doing.  Now Congress has to do more.  Congress needs to do more.  They need to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling this July.  That’s what’s scheduled to happen if Congress doesn’t act.  That would not be good for you.  (Laughter.)  So you should let your members of Congress know:  Don’t do that.  Don’t do it.  Don’t do it.

They need to extend the tuition tax credit that we’ve put in place that’s saving some of you and millions of folks all across the country thousands of dollars.  And Congress needs to give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.  (Applause.)

So the administration has a job to do.  Congress has a job to do.  But it’s not just enough to increase student aid, and you can imagine why.  Look, we can’t just keep on subsidizing skyrocketing tuition.  If tuition is going up faster than inflation, faster than even health care is going up, no matter how much we subsidize it, sooner or later, we’re going to run out of money.  And that means that others have to do their part.  Colleges and universities need to do their part to keep costs down as well.  (Applause.)

Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who’ve done just that.  Here at Michigan, you’ve done a lot to find savings in your budget.  We know this is possible.  So from now on, I’m telling Congress we should steer federal campus-based aid to those colleges that keep tuition affordable, provide good value, serve their students well.  (Applause.)  We are putting colleges on notice — you can’t keep — you can’t assume that you’ll just jack up tuition every single year.  If you can’t stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down.  We should push colleges to do better.  We should hold them accountable if they don’t.  (Applause.)

Now, states also have to do their part.  I was talking to your president — and this is true all across the country — states have to do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.  (Applause.)  Last year, over 40 states cut their higher education spending — 40 states cut their higher education budget.  And we know that these state budget cuts have been the largest factor in tuition increases at public colleges over the past decade.

So we’re challenging states:  Take responsibility as well on this issue.  (Applause.)  What we’re doing is, today we’re going to launch a Race to the Top for college affordability.  We’re telling the states, if you can find new ways to bring down the cost of college and make it easier for more students to graduate, we’ll help you do it.  We will give you additional federal support if you are doing a good job of making sure that all of you aren’t loaded up with debt when you graduate from college.  (Applause.)
And, finally, today I’m also calling for a new report card for colleges.  Parents like getting report cards.  I know you guys may not always look forward to it.  (Laughter.)  But we parents, we like to know what you’re doing.  From now on, parents and students deserve to know how a college is doing — how affordable is it, how well are its students doing?  We want you to know how well a car stacks up before you buy it.  You should know how well a college stacks up.

We call this — one of the things that we’re doing at the Consumer Finance Protection Board that I just set up with Richard Cordray — (applause) — is to make sure that young people understand the financing of colleges.  He calls it, “Know Before You Owe.”  (Laughter.)  Know before you owe.  So we want to push more information out so consumers can make good choices, so you as consumers of higher education understand what it is that you’re getting.

The bottom line is that an economy built to last demands we keep doing everything we can to bring down the cost of college.  That goes along with strengthening American manufacturing.  It means we keep on investing in American energy.  It means we double down on the clean energy that’s creating jobs across this state and guaranteeing your generation a better future.  (Applause.)

And you know what else it means?  It means that we renew the American values of fair play and shared responsibility.  (Applause.)  Shared responsibility.

I talked about this at the State of the Union.  We’ve got to make sure that as we’re paying for the investments of the future that everybody is doing their part, that we’re looking out for middle-class families and not just those at the top.  The first thing that means is making sure taxes don’t go up on 160 million working Americans at the end of next month.  (Applause.)  People can’t afford to lose $40 out of every paycheck.  Not right now.  Students who are working certainly can’t afford it.

Your voices encouraged and ultimately convinced Congress to extend the payroll tax cut for two months.  Now we’ve got to extend it for the whole year.  I need your help to get it done again.  Tell them to pass this tax cut, without drama, without delay.  (Applause.)  Get it done.  It’s good for the economy.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, in the longer run, we’re also going to have to reduce our deficit.  We’ve got to invest in our future and we’ve got to reduce our deficit.  And to do both, we’ve got to make some choices.  Let me give you some examples.

Right now, we’re scheduled to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was intended to be a temporary tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  That’s not fair.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s not fair.  A quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households.


THE PRESIDENT:  Not fair.  Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.  I know because she was at the State of the Union.  She told me.  (Laughter.)  Is that fair?


THE PRESIDENT:  Does it make sense to you?


THE PRESIDENT:  Do we want to keep these tax cuts for folks like me who don’t need them?  Or do we want to invest in the things that will help us in the long term — like student loans and grants — (applause) — and a strong military — (applause) — and care for our veterans — (applause) — and basic research?  (Applause.)

Those are the choices we’ve got to make.  We can’t do everything.  We can’t reduce our deficit and make the investments we need at the same time, and keep tax breaks for folks who don’t need them and weren’t even asking for them — well, some of them were asking for them.  I wasn’t asking for them.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got to choose.

When it comes to paying our fair share, I believe we should follow the Buffett Rule:  If you make more than $1 million a year — and I hope a lot of you do after you graduate — (laughter) — then you should pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent.  (Applause.)  On the other hand, if you decide to go into a less lucrative profession, if you decide to become a teacher — and we need teachers — (applause) — if you decide to go into public service, if you decide to go into a helping profession — (applause) — if you make less than $250,000 a year — which 98 percent of Americans do — then your taxes shouldn’t go up.  (Applause.)

This is part of the idea of shared responsibility.  I know a lot of folks have been running around calling this class warfare.  I think asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes is just common sense.  (Applause.)  Yesterday, Bill Gates said he doesn’t think people like him are paying enough in taxes.  I promise you, Warren Buffett is doing fine, Bill Gates is doing fine, I’m doing fine.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Koch Brothers.

THE PRESIDENT:  They’re definitely doing fine.  (Laughter.)

We don’t need more tax breaks.  There are a lot of families out there who are struggling, who’ve seen their wages stall, and the cost of everything from a college education to groceries and food have gone up.  You’re the ones who need that.  You’re the ones who need help.  And we can’t do both.

There have been some who have been saying, well, the only reason you’re saying that is because you’re trying to stir people up, make them envious of the rich.  People don’t envy the rich.  When people talk about me paying my fair share of taxes, or Bill Gates or Warren Buffett paying their fair share, the reason that they’re talking about it is because they understand that when I get a tax break that I don’t need, that the country can’t afford, then one of two things are going to happen:  Either the deficit will go up and ultimately you guys are going to have to pay for it, or alternatively, somebody else is going to foot the bill — some senior who suddenly has to pay more for their Medicare, or some veteran who’s not getting the help that they need readjusting after they have defended this country, or some student who’s suddenly having to pay higher interest rates on their student loans.

We do not begrudge wealth in this country.  I want everybody here to do well.  We aspire to financial success.  But we also understand that we’re not successful just by ourselves.  We’re successful because somebody started the University of Michigan.  (Applause.)  We’re successful because somebody made an investment in all the federal research labs that created the Internet.  We’re successful because we have an outstanding military — that costs money.  We’re successful because somebody built roads and bridges and laid broadband lines.  And these things didn’t just happen on their own.

And if we all understand that we’ve got to pay for this stuff, it makes sense for those of us who’ve done best to do our fair share.  And to try to pass off that bill onto somebody else, that’s not right.  That’s not who we are.  (Applause.)  That’s not what my grandparents’ generation worked hard to pass down.  That’s not what your grandparents and your great-grandparents worked hard to pass down.  We’ve got a different idea of America, a more generous America.  (Applause.)

Everybody here is only here because somebody somewhere down the road decided we’re going to think not just about ourselves, but about the future.  We’ve got responsibilities, yes, to ourselves but also to each other.  And now it’s our turn to be responsible.  Now it’s our turn to leave an America that’s built to last.  And I know we can do it.  We’ve done it before and I know we can do it again because of you.

When I meet young people all across this country, with energy and drive and vision, despite the fact that you’ve come of age during a difficult, tumultuous time in this world, it gives me hope.  You inspire me.  You’re here at Michigan because you believe in your future.  You’re working hard.  You’re putting in long hours — hopefully some at the library.  (Laughter.)  Some of you are balancing a job at the same time.  You know that doing big things isn’t always easy, but you’re not giving up.

You’ve got the whole world before you.  And you embody that sense of possibility that is quintessentially American.  We do not shrink from challenges.  We stand up to them.  And we don’t leave people behind; we make sure everybody comes along with us on this journey that we’re on.  (Applause.)

That’s the spirit right now that we need, Michigan.  (Applause.)  Here in America, we don’t give up.  We look out for each other.  We make sure everybody has a chance to get ahead.  And if we work in common purpose, with common resolve, we can build an economy that gives everybody a fair shot.  And we will remind the world just why it is that the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END           10:33 A.M. EST

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