Full Text Obama Presidency April 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at White House Easter Prayer Breakfast

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Easter Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 4-14-14 

East Room

9:27 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.  Please, please have a seat.  Thank you so much.  Well, good morning, everybody.

Welcome to the White House and welcome to our annual Easter prayer breakfast.  As always, we are blessed to be joined by so many good friends from around the country.  We’ve got distinguished guests.  We’ve got faith leaders, members of my administration who are here.  And I will once again resist the temptation to preach to preachers.  (Laughter.)  It never works out well.  I am reminded of the admonition from the Book of Romans — “Do not claim to be wiser than you are.”  (Laughter.)  So this morning, I want to offer some very brief reflections as we start this Easter season.

But as I was preparing my remarks, something intervened yesterday.  And so I want to just devote a few words about yesterday’s tragedy in Kansas.  This morning our prayers are with the people of Overland Park.  And we’re still learning the details, but this much we know.  A gunman opened fire at two Jewish facilities — a community center and a retirement home.  Innocent people were killed.  Their families were devastated.  And this violence has struck the heart of the Jewish community in Kansas City.

Two of the victims — a grandfather and his teenage [grand] son — attended the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, which is led by our friend Reverend Adam Hamilton.  Some of you may know that during my inauguration, Reverend Hamilton delivered the sermon at the prayer service at the National Cathedral.  And I was grateful for his presence and his words.  He joined us at our breakfast last year.  And at the Easter service for Palm Sunday last night, he had to break this terrible news to his congregation.

That this occurred now — as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday –makes this tragedy all the more painful.  And today, as Passover begins, we’re seeing a number of synagogues and Jewish community centers take added security precautions.  Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers.  No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray.

And as a government, we’re going to provide whatever assistance is needed to support the investigation.  As Americans, we not only need to open our hearts to the families of the victims, we’ve got to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society.  And we have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism that can lead to hatred and to violence, because we’re all children of God.  We’re all made in His image, all worthy of his love and dignity.  And we see what happens around the world when this kind of religious-based or tinged violence can rear its ugly head.  It’s got no place in our society.

So this Easter Week, of course we recognize that there’s a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world, but we’re also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God.  We’re reminded how He loves us, so deeply, that He gave his only begotten Son so that we might live through Him.  And in these Holy Days, we recall all that Jesus endured for us — the scorn of the crowds and the pain of the crucifixion, in our Christian religious tradition we celebrate the glory of the Resurrection — all so that we might be forgiven of our sins and granted everlasting life.

And more than 2,000 years later, it inspires us still.  We are drawn to His timeless teachings, challenged to be worthy of His sacrifice, to emulate as best we can His eternal example to love one another just as He loves us.  And of course, we’re always reminded each and every day that we fall short of that example.  And none of us are free from sin, but we look to His life and strive, knowing that “if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us.”

I’ll tell you, I felt this spirit when I had the great honor of meeting His Holiness, Pope Francis, recently.  I think it’s fair to say that those of us of the Christian faith, regardless of our denomination, have been touched and moved by Pope Francis.  Now, some of it is his words — his message of justice and inclusion, especially for the poor and the outcast.  He implores us to see the inherent dignity in each human being.  But it’s also his deeds, simple yet profound — hugging the homeless man, and washing the feet of somebody who normally ordinary folks would just pass by on the street.  He reminds us that all of us, no matter what our station, have an obligation to live righteously, and that we all have an obligation to live humbly.  Because that’s, in fact, the example that we profess to follow.

So I had a wonderful conversation with Pope Francis, mostly about the imperatives of addressing poverty and inequality.  And I invited him to come to the United States, and I sincerely hope he will.  When we exchanged gifts he gave me a copy of his inspiring writings, “The Joy of the Gospel.”  And there is a passage that speaks to us today:  “Christ’s resurrection,” he writes, “is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world.”  And he adds, “Jesus did not rise in vain.  May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!”

So this morning, my main message is just to say thank you to all of you, because you don’t remain on the sidelines.  I want to thank you for your ministries, for your good works, for the marching you do for justice and dignity and inclusion, for the ministries that all of you attend to and have helped organize throughout your communities each and every day to feed the hungry and house the homeless and educate children who so desperately need an education.  You have made a difference in so many different ways, not only here in the United States but overseas as well.  And that includes a cause close to my heart, My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative that we recently launched to make sure that more boys and young men of color can overcome the odds and achieve their dreams.

And we’re joined by several faith leaders who are doing outstanding work in this area mentoring and helping young men in tough neighborhoods.  We’re also joined by some of these young men who are working hard and trying to be good students and good sons and good citizens.  And I want to say to each of those young men here, we’re proud of you, and we expect a lot of you.  And we’re going to make sure that we’re there for you so that you then in turn will be there for the next generation of young men.

And I mention all this because of all of our many partners for My Brother’s Keeper, it’s clergy like you and your congregations that can play a special role to be that spiritual and ethical foundation, that rock that so many young men need in their lives.

So I want to thank all of you who are already involved.  I invite those who are not to get more information, see if you can join in this effort as brothers and sisters in Christ who “never tire of doing good.”

In closing, I’ll just recall that old prayer that I think more than one preacher has invoked at the pulpit:  “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said enough.”  (Laughter.)  The Almighty is nudging me.  I thank you for joining us this morning of prayer.  I wish you all a blessed Holy Week and Easter, and I’d like to invite my friend Joel Hunter to deliver the opening prayer.  Come on up, Joel.  (Applause.)

END
9:39 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Passover

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement from the President on Passover

Source: WH, 4-14-14 

Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Passover in the United States, in Israel, and around the world.

On Tuesday, just as we have every year of my presidency, my family will join the millions taking part in the ancient tradition of the Seder.  We will enjoy the company of friends and loved ones, retell a timeless story, and give thanks for the freedom we are so blessed to enjoy.

Yet even as we celebrate, our prayers will be with the people of Overland Park, Kansas and the family and friends of the three innocent people who were killed when a gunman, just one day before Passover, opened fire at a Jewish community center and retirement home on Sunday.  As Americans, we will continue to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society.  We will continue to come together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism, that can lead to hatred and violence.  And we will never lose faith that compassion and justice will ultimately triumph over hate and fear.

For that is one of the great lessons of the Exodus.  The tale of the Hebrew slaves and their flight from Egypt carries the hope and promise that the Jewish people have held in their hearts for thousands of years, and it is has inspired countless generations in their own struggles for freedom around the globe.

In America, the Passover story has always had special meaning.  We come from different places and diverse backgrounds, but we are bound together by a journey from bondage to liberty enshrined in our founding documents and continued in each generation.  As we were so painfully reminded on Sunday, our world is still in need of repair, but the story of the Exodus teaches us that with patience, determination, and abundant faith, a brighter future is possible.

Chag Sameach.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 13, 2014: President Obama’s Statement on the Shooting the Overland Jewish Community Center in Kansas

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by President Obama on Today’s Shooting in Kansas

Source:  WH, 4-13-14

This afternoon we heard reports of a horrific shooting in Overland Park, Kansas.  Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends who lost a loved one and everyone affected by this tragedy.  I have asked my team to stay in close touch with our federal, state and local partners and provide the necessary resources to support the ongoing investigation. While we do not know all of the details surrounding today’s shooting, the initial reports are heartbreaking. I want to offer my condolences to all the families trying to make sense of this difficult situation and pledge the full support from the federal government as we heal and cope during this trying time.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 11, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Voting Rights Being Threatened at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention

Source: WH, 4-11-14

Sheraton New York Hotel
New York, New York

4:02 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENTHello, New York!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  It is good to be at the National Action Network!  (Applause.)  It is good to be here with some good friends.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

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

It is wonderful to be with all of you.  I want to say, first of all, thank you to your leader, Reverend Al Sharpton.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  And I appreciate the idea of being an “action” President, although I do also have style — (laughter) — I just want to point that out.  I know it’s not about it, but I just — but I do have it.  (Laughter.)  Al is not the only guy with style.

We’ve got Barbara Arnwine here today, and we want to thank her.  Clayola Brown, thank you.  Melanie Campbell, thank you.  Marc Morial, thank you.  We’ve got members of Congress, state and local officials from New York.  And of course, we’ve got all of you.  So thanks to all of you for such a wonderful welcome.  (Applause.)

Everybody, sit down.  Sit down.  Al doesn’t know how to get back to his seat.  (Laughter.)  Somebody help out the leader here.  But don’t make him jump over it.  Okay, they’re going to explain it.  There we go.  All right.  You’re going to be all right.

Now, the last time I was here was three years ago, and a few things have changed since then.  I am here as a second term President.  (Applause.)  I have more gray hair.  (Laughter.)  It’s all right.  Let’s see, what else — I’ve got twice as many dogs.  I’m glad I won’t have to serve a third term — because three dogs is too many.  I can’t keep on promising Malia and Sasha another dog.

Of course one thing that has not changed is your commitment to the cause of civil rights for everybody and opportunity for all people.  And that’s been something that’s been on my mind this week.  Some of you may know that yesterday I was down in Austin, Texas at the LBJ Library to speak on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the man who signed it into law.  (Applause.)  And standing there, I thought of all the Americans, known and unknown, who made it possible for me to stand in that spot — who marched and organized, and sat in, and stood up for jobs and for justice.  I thought of all who achieved that great victory and others — not just with respect to the Civil Rights Act, but the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, and immigration reform, and Medicare and Medicaid, and the first battles of a long War on Poverty.

And over the past five years, in the wake of the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, we’ve won some victories, too.  Nearly 9 million new jobs at America’s businesses over the past four years.  (Applause.)  Seven and a half million Americans signing up to buy health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)  And millions more who have gained coverage through Medicaid and CHIP, and young people being able to stay on their parents’ plans.  The rate of uninsured Americans is down.  High school dropout rates are down.  Our high school graduation rate is the highest on record.  More young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  (Applause.)  We’ve made progress and we’ve taken action.

But we also know our work is unfinished.  Too many Americans working harder than ever just to get by.  Too many Americans who aren’t working at all.  We know we have to do more to restore America’s promise of opportunity for all people, particularly for communities hardest hit by the recession; particularly for those who struggled since long before the recession — not only African Americans and Latinos, but Americans trapped across the country in pockets of poverty — inner city, suburban, rural.

And we know what opportunity means.  Opportunity means more good jobs that pay good wages.  Opportunity means training folks for those jobs.

Opportunity means changing the odds for all of our children through Pre-K, something Mayor de Blasio is fighting for here in New York City.  (Applause.)  And opportunity means affordable higher education for all who are willing to work for it.

Opportunity means answering the call to be My Brother’s Keeper and helping more boys and young men of color stay on track and reach their full potential.  (Applause.)

Before I came out, I was in a photo line, saw my good friend, Freddie Haynes, a great pastor from the great state of Texas.  And he told me this summer they’re going to hire 100 young men, pay them $10.10 an hour — maybe $10.50 — (applause) — as a consequence of this call.  And the point is, is that My Brother’s Keeper, that’s not just something I do, that’s not just something the government does.  That’s something everybody can participate in, because we know these young men need support.

Opportunity means making the minimum wage a wage you can live on.  It means equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  It means overtime pay for workers who have earned it.  It means continuing to extend the right of quality, affordable health care for every American in every state, because we’ve got some states that aren’t doing the right thing.  We have states who just out of political spite are leaving millions of people uninsured that could be getting health insurance right now.  No good reason for it.  If you ask them what’s the explanation they can’t really tell you.

And, by the way, making sure our citizens have the opportunity to lead healthy lives also means dealing with things like the dangerous carbon pollution that’s disproportionately affecting low-income communities.  It means making sure that our young people are eating right, so listen to Michelle.  (Laughter.)  I’m just saying.

So we know we’ve got more work to do to bridge the gap between our founding ideals and the realities of our time.  And the question then becomes, well, how do we actually make these changes?  How does it happen?  How do we get a minimum wage bill passed?  How do we make sure that those states that aren’t yet implementing the Affordable Care Act actually are doing right by their citizens?  It means being vigilant.  We’ve got to be vigilant to secure the gains we’ve made, but also to make more gains in the future.

And that’s the meaning of these last 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was passed.  Because across the country right now there are well-organized and well-funded efforts to undo these gains.  And one of those gains is under particular assault right now, and that’s what I want to spend the rest of my time here talking about.

Just as inequality feeds on injustice, opportunity requires justice.  And justice requires the right to vote.  (Applause.)  President Johnson, right after he signed the Civil Rights Act into law, told his advisors — some of whom were telling him, well, all right, just wait.  You’ve done a big thing now; let’s let the dust settle, don’t stir folks up.  He said, no, no, I can’t wait.  We’ve got to press forward and pass the Voting Rights Act.  Johnson said, “About this there can and should be no argument.  Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote.”  (Applause.)

Voting is a time when we all have an equal say -— black or white, rich or poor, man or woman.  It doesn’t matter.  In the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our democracy, we’re all supposed to have that equal right to cast our ballot to help determine the direction of our society.

The principle of one person, one vote is the single greatest tool we have to redress an unjust status quo.  You would think there would not be an argument about this anymore.  But the stark, simple truth is this:  The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago.

Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote.  In some places, women could be turned away from the polls just because they’re registered under their maiden name but their driver’s license has their married name.  Senior citizens who have been voting for decades may suddenly be told they can no longer vote until they can come up with the right ID.

In other places, folks may learn that without a document like a passport or a birth certificate, they can’t register.  About 60 percent of Americans don’t have a passport.  Just because you don’t have the money to travel abroad doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to vote here at home.  (Applause.)  And just to be clear, I know where my birth certificate is, but a lot of people don’t.  (Laughter.)  A lot of people don’t.  (Applause.)  I think it’s still up on a website somewhere.  (Laughter.)  You remember that?  That was crazy.  That was some crazy stuff.  (Laughter and applause.)  I hadn’t thought about that in a while.  (Laughter.)

Now, I want to be clear — I am not against reasonable attempts to secure the ballot.  We understand that there has to be rules in place.  But I am against requiring an ID that millions of Americans don’t have.  That shouldn’t suddenly prevent you from exercising your right to vote.  (Applause.)

The first words put to paper in our American story tell us that all of us are created equal.  And we understand that it took a long time to make sure that those words meant something.  But 50 years ago, we put laws in place, because of enormous struggles, to vindicate that idea; to make our democracy truly mean something.  And that makes it wrong to pass laws that make it harder for any eligible citizen to vote, especially because every citizen doesn’t just have the right to vote, they have a responsibility to vote.  (Applause.)

So, yes, we’re right to be on guard against voter fraud.  Voter fraud would impinge on our democracy, as well.  We don’t want folks voting that shouldn’t be voting.  We all agree on that.  Let’s stipulate to that, as the lawyers say.

But there’s a reason why those who argue that harsh restrictions on voting are somehow necessary to fight voter fraud are having such a hard time proving any real, widespread fraud.  So I just want to give you some statistics.  One recent study found only 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation in 12 years — 10 cases.  Another analysis found that out of 197 million votes cast for federal elections between 2002 and 2005, only 40 voters — out of 197 million — were indicted for fraud.  Now, for those of you who are math majors, as a percentage, that is 0.00002 percent.  (Laughter.)  That’s not a lot.  So let’s be clear — the real voter fraud is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud.  (Applause.)

And I have to say, there have been — some of these officials who have been passing these laws have been more blunt.  They said, this is going to be good for the Republican Party.  Some of them have not been shy about saying that they’re doing this for partisan reasons.

“It is wrong,” President Johnson said, “deadly wrong, to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.”  It is wrong to change our election rules just because of politics.  It is wrong to make citizens wait for five, six, seven hours just to vote.  It is wrong to make a senior citizen who no longer has a driver’s license jump through hoops and have to pay money just to exercise the rights she has cherished for a lifetime.  America did not stand up and did not march and did not sacrifice to gain the right to vote for themselves and for others only to see it denied to their kids and their grandchildren.  We’ve got to pay attention to this.  (Applause.)

Some of the folks from Chicago know — Crider (ph) knows — one of the first jobs I had out of law school was to lead a voter registration drive in my home state of Illinois.  We registered more than 150,000 new voters.  And as an organizer, I got to help other citizens exercise their most cherished and fundamental rights.  That mattered to me.

And as President, I’m not going to let attacks on these rights go unchallenged.  We’re not going to let voter suppression go unchallenged.  (Applause.)  So earlier this week, you heard from the Attorney General — and there’s a reason the agency he runs is called the Department of Justice.  (Applause.)  They’ve taken on more than 100 voting rights cases since 2009, and they’ve defended the rights of everybody from African Americans to Spanish speakers to soldiers serving overseas.  (Applause.)

Earlier this year, a bipartisan commission I appointed chaired by my election lawyer and Mitt Romney’s election lawyer came up with a series of modern — or common-sense reforms to modernize voter registration, and to curb the potential for fraud in smart way, and ensure that no one has to wait for more than half an hour to cast a ballot.  States and local election boards should take up those recommendations.  And with the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer almost upon us, I urge members of Congress to honor those who gave their lives so that others could exercise their rights, and update the Voting Rights Act.  Go ahead and get that done.  (Applause.)

Do it because the right to vote is something cherished by every American.  We should not be having an argument about this.  There are a lot of things we can argue about, but the right to vote?  I mean, what kind of political platform is that?  (Laughter.)  Why would you make that a part of your agenda, preventing people from voting?  How can you defend that?  There are a whole bunch of folks out there who don’t vote for me; didn’t vote for me, don’t like what I do.  The idea that I would prevent them from voting and exercising their franchise makes no sense.

Black or white, man or woman, urban, rural, rich, poor, Native American, disabled, gay, straight, Republican or Democrat — voters who want to vote should be able to vote.  Period.  Full stop.  (Applause.)  Voting is not a Democratic issue, it’s not a Republican issue.  It’s an issue of citizenship.  (Applause.)  It’s what makes our democracy strong.

But it’s a fact this recent effort to restrict the vote has not been led by both parties — it’s been led by the Republican Party.  And in fairness, it’s not just Democrats who are concerned.  You had one Republican state legislator point out — and I’m quoting here — “Making it more difficult for people to vote is not a good sign for a party that wants to attract more people.”  (Laughter.)  That was a pretty — that’s a good insight.  (Laughter.)  Right?  I want a competitive Republican Party, just like a competitive Democratic Party.  That’s how our democracy is supposed to work — the competition of ideas.  But I don’t want folks changing the rules to try to restrict people’s access to the ballot.

And I think responsible people, regardless of your party affiliation, should agree with that.  If your strategy depends on having fewer people show up to vote, that’s not a sign of strength, that’s a sign of weakness.  (Applause.)

And not only is it ultimately bad politics.  I believe ultimately it harms the entire country.  If voting is denied to the many, we risk ending up stuck year after year with special interest policies that benefit a fortunate few.  And injustice perpetuates inequality.

But remember, just as injustice perpetuates inequality, justice opens up opportunity.  And as infuriating as efforts to roll back hard-earned rights can be, the trajectory of our history has to give us hope.  The story of America is a story of progress.  No matter how often or how intensely that progress has been challenged, ultimately this nation has moved forward.  As Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, [but] it bends towards justice.”  We move forward on civil rights and we move forward on workers’ rights, and we move forward on women’s rights and disability rights and gay rights.  We show that when ordinary citizens come together to participate in this democracy we love, justice will not be denied.  (Applause.)  So the single most important thing we can do to protect our right to vote is to vote.  (Applause.)

So I’m going to make one last point here.  We’re going to have an attorney general that looks at all the laws that are being passed.  We’re going to have civic organizations that are making sure that state laws and local laws are doing what they’re supposed to do.  We will fight back whenever we see unfairly the franchise being challenged.  But the truth is that for all these laws that are being put in place, the biggest problem we have is people giving up their own power — voluntarily not participating.

The number of people who voluntarily don’t vote, who are eligible to vote, dwarfs whatever these laws are put in place might do in terms of diminishing the voting roles.

So we can’t treat these new barriers as an excuse not to participate.  We can’t use cynicism as an excuse not to participate.  Sometimes I hear people saying, well, we haven’t gotten everything we need — we still have poverty, we still have problems.  Of course.  These things didn’t happen overnight.

When I was down in Texas, everybody was celebrating the day that the Civil Rights Law was finally passed.  Remember there were decades in which people sacrificed and worked hard.  (Applause.)  Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens as long as we don’t purposely give our power away.  Every obstacle put in our path should remind us of the power we hold in our hands each time we pull that lever or fill in that oval or touch that screen.  We just have to harness that power.  We’ve got to create a national network committed to taking action.  We can call it the National Action Network.  (Applause.)

So I want you to go out there and redouble your efforts.  Register more voters.  Help more folks to get their rights.  Get those souls to the polls.  If they won’t let you do it on Sunday, then do it on a Tuesday instead.  (Applause.)  I know it’s better going to the polls on Sunday because you go to church, you get a little meal.  (Laughter.)  You got the bus waiting for you.  I understand.  But you can do it without that if we have to.

We’re at a time when we’re marking many anniversaries.  And it’s interesting for me — I’ve been on this Earth 52 years, and so to see the progress we’ve made is to see my own life and the progression that’s happened.  You think about Brown v. Board of Education, and the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act, and Freedom Summer.  And with those anniversaries, we have new reason to remember those who made it possible for us to be here.  Like the three civil rights workers in Mississippi — two white, one black — who were murdered 50 years ago as they tried to help their fellow citizens register to vote.  James Chaney and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner believed so strongly that change was possible they were willing to lay down their lives for it.  The least you can do is take them up on the gift that they have given you.  (Applause.)  Go out there and vote.  You can make a change.  You do have the power.

I’ve run my last election, but I need you to make sure that the changes that we started continue for decades to come.

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

END
4:26 P.M. EDT

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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 6, 2014: Campaigner Obama duels with GOP over Paul Ryan’s 2015 budget in weekly address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Campaigner Obama duels with GOP over Paul Ryan’s 2015 budget in weekly address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In full midterm election campaign mode President Barack Obama decided to fight Congressional Republicans over the fiscal year 2015 budget that Budget Committee Chairman and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI unveiled on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 in his weekly address…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency April 3, 2014: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at Team USA’s Visit – 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Athletes

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and the First Lady at Visit of the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Athletes

Source: WH, 4-3-14 

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during an event to welcome United States teams and delegations from the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi to the East Room of the White House, April 3, 2014.President Barack Obama delivers remarks during an event to welcome United States teams and delegations from the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi to the East Room of the White House, April 3, 2014. First Lady Michelle Obama, Jon Lujan, Paralympic Alpine skier and Marine veteran, and Julie Chu, Olympic ice hockey player, share the stage with the President. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Watch the Video

East Room

2:55 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Hey, everybody.  (Laughter.)  Welcome to the White House!  (Applause.)  I know you guys have been standing for a while, but you’re athletes, you can handle it.  (Laughter.)

We are so excited to have Team USA here with us today.  But before we begin, I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the Fort Hood community that, as many of you know, has experienced yet another devastating tragedy.  And we just want to make sure that folks there know that our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who lost loved ones and friends, as well as those that were injured.

Because I know that many of the athletes here today are veterans themselves, and when something like this happens, it touches all of us.  I know that the President and I are just torn apart when things like this happen.  So today, as we celebrate the Olympic spirit, we remember that the same spirit — the spirit of hard work and team work — is shared by our military men and women, and we stand with them today and every day.

So, now, let’s get into the you-guys thing.  (Laughter.)  After watching you guys all over TV all these couple of months, I have to say that I am truly amazed.  I shared some of this with you guys in the receiving line.  You all are so talented.  You’re dedicated, and honestly, sometimes I don’t know how you do it.  I really don’t.

I’ve watched you guys do some of the craziest stuff.  That’s the thing with the Winter Olympics.  You guys do crazy things — careening down the face of mountains — craziness.  (Laughter.)  Throwing each other up in the air, it’s like — the mixed-pair skaters, the women, they’re teeny.  The big guys take them and throw them, just throw them across the ice.  I’m like, are you kidding me?  (Laughter.)  You threw her so hard and she lands on one foot on a blade.  And those of you jumping on those cookie sheet things and just sliding down a mountain — (laughter) — 80 miles an hour — I mean, who thinks of that?  (Laughter.)

So I am really in awe of everything you do, as so many people here in America and across the globe are.  Again and again, you all showed us that being an Olympian is about heart; it’s about guts; and it’s about giving it your all no matter what stands in your way.  And that’s a message that I try to convey to young people all the time — the idea that if you work hard and commit yourselves to a goal, and then pick yourself up when you fall, that there is nothing that you can’t achieve.

And as Olympic and Paralympic athletes, you also know that a big part of reaching your full potential is making sure that you’re putting the right fuel in your body.  You all know that better than anyone in this country, that what you eat absolutely makes a difference in how you perform.

And that’s another message that I try to spread to our young people, the importance of healthy eating and staying active.  So I want to thank all of you who taped a video for our Let’s Move campaign earlier today.  Thank you so much for making that happen.  And I want to give a special thank you to the USOC for their work to give over 2 million young people opportunities to get active in their communities.  We are so grateful for that, work, and we’re grateful for the example you all set for our young people.

In so many different ways, you all are inspiring folks across the country not just every four years but every single day.  And nowhere have I seen that more clearly than in the story of someone that I met here at the White House four years ago under far different circumstances.

Lt. Commander Dan Cnossen was seated next to me at a dinner with leaders of our military.  And I just got to see Dan, and we were remarking — because we were in the Dip Room, the same room we had dinner in together, but just a few months earlier, Dan had been in Afghanistan.  He was leading a platoon of Navy SEALs when he stepped on an IED.  Dan lost both of his legs in the explosion, but he never lost that fighting spirit.

I will always remember Dan, because just four months after that explosion, he finished a half marathon in a wheelchair — four months after the explosion.  On the one-year anniversary of his injury, he ran a mile on his prosthetics.  Over the next few years, Dan stayed on active duty while in the Navy, earning medals in swimming and running events at the Warrior Games, and completing the New York City Marathon.

And today, four and a half years after his injury, Dan is proud to wear another one of our nation’s uniforms, and that is of Team USA.  (Applause.)  There’s Dan.

THE PRESIDENT:  Dan is in the back there.

MRS. OBAMA:  Dan is in the back.

THE PRESIDENT:  Wave again, Dan.  There’s Dan.  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  And I also got to meet Dan’s sister, who stayed by his side every single minute of his recovery and she was an important part of that recovery.  And she’s a terrific woman, a nurse herself.  And I’m glad to hear she’s doing well.

In Sochi, Dan inspired us all again by competing in the 15K biathlon and the 1 kilometer sitting cross-country spring.  So Dan has come a long way in the four years that we met, and I know that his story and the stories of all our Olympians and Paralympians are nowhere near finished.

So keep it up.  This is only the beginning.  Many of you were here four years ago, and you told us you’d be back — and you’re back.  So I know you’re already getting ready for that next four years.  But in the meantime, we look forward to all that you’re going to do in this country and around the world to keep inspiring particularly young people to just live a little more like you all live and to show them that spirit of persistence.

So thank you all, again, for everything that you do.  And I can’t wait to hear about everything that you will do in the years to come.

And with that, I’m going to turn it over to this guy next to me — (laughter) — who happens to be my husband, but, more importantly, is the President of the United States, Barack Obama. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Let’s, first of all, be clear:  It is more important that I’m Michelle’s husband than that I’m President of the United States.  (Laughter and applause.)  I just want you to — I don’t want anybody to be confused.  Many of you young people out there aren’t married yet, so I just want you to know — giving you some tips in terms of how to prioritize.  (Laughter.)

Obviously, as Michelle mentioned, our thoughts right now in many ways are with the families at Fort Hood.  These are folks who make such extraordinary sacrifices for us each and every day for our freedom.  During the course of a decade of war, many of them have been on multiple tours of duty.  To see unspeakable, senseless violence happen in a place where they’re supposed to feel safe, home base, is tragic.  And obviously this is the second time that the Fort Hood community has been affected this way.

So we join that entire community in honoring those who lost their lives.  Every single one of them was an American patriot.  We stand with their families and their loved ones as they grieve. We are thinking about those who are wounded.  We’re there to support them.

And as we learn more about what happened and why, we’re going to make sure that we’re doing everything in our power to keep our troops safe and to keep our troops strong, not just on the battlefield but also when they come home.  They’ve done their duty, and they’re an inspiration.  They’ve made us proud.  They put on the uniform and then they take care of us, and we’ve got to make sure that when they come home we take care of them.

And that spirit of unity is what brings us here today — because we could not be prouder of Team USA.  (Applause.)  Team USA.  I hope all of you made yourself at home.  We double-checked to make sure that all the bathroom locks were working in case Johnny Quinn — (laughter) — tried to bust down one of these antique doors.  We didn’t want that to happen.  (Laughter.)

I want to recognize the members of Congress we have here with us, as well as Scott Blackmun and Larry Probst from the USOC, our fantastic delegations that represent the diversity and the values of our country so well.  But most of all, we’re here just to celebrate all of you — our Olympians and Paralympians who brought home a total of 46 medals for the Red, White and Blue.  (Applause.)

I understand that freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy also brought home a few stray dogs that he adopted.  (Laughter.)  That doesn’t count in the medal standings, but it tells you something about the freestyle skiers.  (Applause.)

Over the past couple of months, we saw some dominating performances by Team USA.  American women won more medals in the Olympics than women of any other nation.  (Applause.)  Way to go, women!  (Applause.)  Good job.  The men swept the podium in slopestyle skiing and Paralympic snowboarding.  (Applause.)  There you go.  Our women’s hockey team brought home the silver.  (Applause.)  Our men’s hockey team played a game for the ages with an epic shootout victory over the Russians.  (Applause.)

I would personally like to thank all of our snowboarders and freestyle skiers for making newscasters across America say things like “air to fakie,” and the “back-to-back double cork 1260.”  (Laughter.)  I don’t know what that means, really, but I just wanted to say it.  (Laughter.)  I’m pretty sure I’m the first President to ever say that.  (Applause.)  I’m pretty sure that’s true.  The back-to-back double cork 1260.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  It feels good.

THE PRESIDENT:  Does it feel good?  (Laughter.)

In Sochi, these athletes made plenty of history.  You had 16-year-old Declan Farmer scoring three goals to help our sled hockey team become the first nation ever to win back-to-back gold medals.  (Applause.)  Hey!  There he is.  There he is.  Hey!  (Applause.)

Our men’s bobsled team became the first Americans in 62 years to medal in both the two-man and the four-man competition. (Applause.)  Bobsledders — those are some tough guys, those bobsledders.  Don’t mess with them.  (Laughter.)

And then, Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest Olympian ever to win gold in the slalom, at just 18 years old.  (Applause.)  Where’s Mikaela?  She’s back here somewhere.  Wave a little bit. (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  She’s a little — she’s down low.

THE PRESIDENT:  She’s down low.  There she is.  I knew she was here.  I saw her.  (Laughter.)  Afterwards, she said she wants to win five gold in 2018.  I do have to say, though, Mikaela, as somebody who was once told “you’re young but you should set your sights high,” I just got three words of advice:  Go for it.  (Applause.)  We are confident you are going to be bringing back some more gold.

Thanks to years of lobbying from Team USA, women’s ski jumping was added as an Olympic sport, and they did outstanding. (Applause.)  So women can fly just like men.  Jessica Jerome said, “We have arrived.  We are good at what we do.  And we are a lot prettier than the boy jumpers.”  (Laughter.)  Which I can attest to — I’ve seen them.  (Laughter.)  She wasn’t lying.

So from our ski jumpers who fought for equality to the athletes and coaches who have served our country in uniform, like Dan, who we’re so proud of, these athletes all send a message that resonates far beyond the Olympic Village.  And that’s always been the power of the Olympics — in going for the gold and pushing yourselves to be the best, you inspire the rest of us to try to, if not be the best, at least be a little better.

MRS. OBAMA:  Get off the couch.

THE PRESIDENT:  Just get off the couch.  (Laughter.)  That’s what Michelle said.

All of you remind us, just like the Olympic creed states, the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight.  And I want to take the example of somebody who couldn’t be here today, but her story I think is typical of so many of yours.  And this is Noelle Pikus-Pace.  Noelle was hoping to be here, but she’s been on the road a lot, wanted to get back to her husband and her kids — and they may be watching us now.

But almost a decade ago, Noelle was on top of the world after winning the women’s skeleton World Cup.  She was injured in a freak accident that cost her chances in 2006.  In 2010, she missed the podium by one-tenth of a second.  And after all of those Olympics, she retired to spend more time with her family.  But then two years, ago her husband convinced her to go back on that sled, because raising a family and racing down the track don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

So since then, Noelle, her husband, her two young children traveled from competition to competition, living out of suitcases, seeing the world together.  And in Sochi, it all paid off, and she took home the silver in the skeleton — jumping over the wall to celebrate with her family on the final run.  And here’s what Noelle said afterwards:  “Life is never going to go as planned.  You have to decide, when you’re bumped off course, if it’s going to hold you back or move you forward.”

That’s the spirit we celebrate today.  That’s something Dan understands.  That’s something that all of you at some stages in your life have understood or will understand.  Things aren’t always going to go perfect — and Michelle and I always remark, watching our Olympians, that you work hard for four years and then just a little something can happen.  And you’re just that close, and the courage and the stick-to-itness, and the confidence, and the joy in competition that keeps you moving — that’s going to help you throughout life.  It helps our country. It’s what America is all about.  It’s why we are so proud to have you all here today.

And four years from now, I won’t be here to greet you but some President is going to.  And I suspect that a lot of you may come back even four years after that.  You guys have done a great job, and what an extraordinary achievement it is for all of you to have represented the United States of America at our Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Congratulations.  Good job.  (Applause.)

END
3:15 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts March 8, 2014: Sarah Palin’s Speech at CPAC 2014 Dr. Seus & Criticizes Obama’s Ukraine Policy — Excerpts

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Sarah Palin’s CPAC 2014 Speech

Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

“How do you convey to Putin the threat that sounds like ‘Vladimir don’t mess around or you’re going to feel my flexibility because I’ve got a phone and I’ve got a pen and I can dial really fast and poke you with my pen — pinkie promise.’”

“I’m probably being too hard on the president. After all, who could’ve seen this coming?”

“Mr. President, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”

“Hey Democrats! It’s your leaders who are demeaning women. Liberals seem to think the women of America are cheap dates.”

“I do believe that the eyes of America are open. Unfortunately though, some would want you to hit the snooze button and roll back over. Like ‘Hush America, go back to sleep little lambs,’ Some of these folks are in the GOP establishment.”

“Thank you, Texas because liberty needs a Congress on Cruz control. The awakening began, and Sen. Ted Cruz helped keep them awake. His filibuster, it worked in waking people up to the folly of a government takeover.”

“He told his colleagues it was time, time to stand up, time to use the tools of the Constitution, the power of the purse and to fulfill their campaign promises and to stop Obamacare. But our army balked. We hoped that they were just reloading, but instead they retreated, and worse, worse, they joined the lapdogs in the lamestream to trash the foot soldiers who had fought for America.”

“I do not like this Uncle Sam. I do not like his healthcare scam. I do not like these dirty crooks or how they lie and cook the books. I do not like when Congress stills. I do not like their crony deals. I do not like the spying man. I do not like ‘Oh yes we can.’ I do not like this spending spree. We’re smart we know there’s nothing free. I do not like reporters’ smug replies when I complain about their lies. I do not like this kind of hope. And we won’t take it, nope, nope, nope. Hat tip the Internet.”

“Run, Sarah, Run!”

“I should, I didn’t get to run this morning. I was so busy. Did some hot yoga and didn’t get to run.”

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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.

AUDIENCE:  Booo –

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 –

AUDIENCE:  Wooo –

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.)

END
3:25 P.M EST

Full Text Obama Presidency March 6, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Performance at the White House: Women of Soul

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Performance at the White House: Women of Soul

Source: WH, 3-6-14

7:34 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Welcome to the White House for the latest in our series celebrating the music that has shaped our American story.  And as someone who always shares this house with brilliant, creative, talented, somewhat stubborn women –(laughter) — I think Women’s History Month is the perfect time to honor a few more:  the Women of Soul.  (Applause.)

This is a really good lineup.  And I want to thank our performers for this evening.  They are fantastic.  We’ve got Tessanne Chin here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Melissa Etheridge.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Aretha Franklin.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Ariana Grande.  (Applause.)  Ms. Patti LaBelle.  (Applause.) Janelle Monae.  (Applause.)  And Ms. Jill Scott.  (Applause.)  That is a lineup.  I can’t wait.  (Laughter.)

Finally, I want to make a quick public service announcement.  When Aretha Franklin first walked into Fame Studio in 1967, most of the other musicians had never heard her sing live before.  When they did, one of them said, “The floors rumbled and the walls shook.  My brain shook.  It was magic.”  So my advice to everyone tonight is simple:  Hang on.  (Laughter.)  The Queen of Soul is in the building.  If she blows your mind, it will be okay.  (Laughter.)

But that’s what soul music does.  It makes us move and it makes us feel.  To quote Jill Scott, “Soul music is about reaching and touching people on a human level.”

For many of the performers here tonight, it all began on Sunday morning.  Growing up in Detroit, Aretha sang at her father’s church, and recorded her first album at that church when she was just 14 years old.  Patti LaBelle was painfully shy — I cannot believe that, but this is what I’ve been told –(laughter) — until she sang a solo in front of the congregation, and got a standing ovation.  That’s when she realized she could do something special.

Eventually, artists like Aretha and Patti began mixing gospel with R&B, and rock and pop.  Instead of singing about love and pain, forgiveness and acceptance to a church audience, they sang about them to the world.  And the world had never heard anything like it.

When Aretha first told us what “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” meant to her, she had no idea it would become a rallying cry for African Americans, and women, and then everyone who felt marginalized because of what they looked like or who they loved.  They wanted some respect.  Later, when somebody asked her why it had such an impact, she said, “I guess everybody just wants a little respect.”  (Laughter.)

Today, they still do.  Aretha had already won 11 Grammys by the time Janelle Monae was born.  But as a teenager struggling to make it in New York, Janelle worked as a maid, singing for the other women as they cleaned houses together.  And she says the experience inspired her to write music for people like them — “because they need it the most.”

And when Melissa Etheridge was growing up, she fell in love with artists who had something to say.  She remembers thinking, “I can’t wait until I get up there and sing the truth.”

And ultimately, that’s what soul is all about — telling some truth.  And tonight, we’re in for a healthy dose of truth — (laughter) — from some of the finest voices there are.

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce a true American treasure, the one and only Miss Patti LaBelle.  (Applause.)

END

7:39 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency March 6, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement Discusses Efforts to Address the Ongoing Crisis in Ukraine, Russia Sanctions

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Discusses Efforts to Address the Ongoing Crisis in Ukraine

Source: WH, 3-6-14
President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Ukraine in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White HousePresident Barack Obama delivers a statement on Ukraine in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, March 6, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama delivered a statement on efforts to address the ongoing crisis in Ukraine from the Brady Press Briefing Room….READ MORE

Statement by the President on Ukraine

Source: WH, 3-6-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:05 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Before Jay takes some of your questions, I wanted to provide a brief update on our efforts to address the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Since the Russian intervention, we’ve been mobilizing the international community to condemn this violation of international law and to support the people and government of Ukraine.

This morning I signed an executive order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, or for stealing the assets of the Ukrainian people.

According to my guidance, the State Department has also put in place restrictions on the travel of certain individuals and officials.  These decisions continue our efforts to impose a cost on Russia and those responsible for the situation in Crimea.  And they also give us the flexibility to adjust our response going forward based on Russia’s actions.

We took these steps in close coordination with our European allies.  I’ve spoken to several of our closest friends around the world, and I’m pleased that our international unity is on display at this important moment.  Already, we’ve moved together to announced substantial assistance for the government in Kyiv, and today in Brussels, our allies took similar steps to impose costs on Russia.  I am confident that we are moving forward together, united in our determination to oppose actions that violate international law and to support the government and people of Ukraine.

And that includes standing up for the principle of state sovereignty.  The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law.  Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine.  In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.

While we take these steps, I want to be clear that there is also a way to resolve this crisis that respects the interests of the Russian Federation, as well as the Ukrainian people.  Let international monitors into all of Ukraine, including Crimea, to ensure the rights of all Ukrainians are being respected, including ethnic Russians.  Begin consultations between the government of Russia and Ukraine, with the participation of the international community.  Russia would maintain its basing rights in Crimea, provided that it abides by its agreements and respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  And the world should support the people of Ukraine as they move to elections in May.

That’s the path of de-escalation, and Secretary Kerry is engaged in discussions with all of the relevant parties, including Russia and Ukraine to pursue that path.  But if this violation of international law continues, the resolve of the United States, and our allies and the international community will remain firm.  Meanwhile, we’ve taken steps to reaffirm our commitment to the security and democracy of our allies in Eastern Europe and to support the people of Ukraine.

One last point — there’s been a lot of talk in Congress about these issues.  Today, once again, I’m calling on Congress to follow up on these words with action, specifically to support the IMF’s capacity to lend resources to Ukraine and to provide American assistance for the Ukrainian government so that they can weather this storm and stabilize their economy, make needed reforms, deliver for their people, all of which will provide a smoother pathway for the elections that have already been scheduled in May.

Today the world can see that the United States is united with our allies and partners in upholding international law and pursuing a just outcome that advances global security and the future that the Ukrainian people deserve.  That’s what we’re going to continue to do in the days to come until we have seen a resolution to this crisis.

Thanks very much.  And Jay and Ben and others will be happy to take your questions.

END
1:10 P.M. EST

Statement by the Press Secretary on Ukraine

Source: WH, 3-6-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on Ukraine
March 06, 2014 7:06 PM

President Obama Speaks on Ukraine

As President Obama has made clear, the United States is pursuing and reviewing a wide range of options in response to Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – actions that constitute a threat to peace and security and a breach of international law, including Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and that are inconsistent with the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the Helsinki Final Act.

Pursuant to the President’s guidance, today the State Department is putting in place visa restrictions on a number of officials and individuals, reflecting a policy decision to deny visas to those responsible for or complicit in threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  This new step stands in addition to the policy already implemented to deny visas to those involved in human rights abuses related to political oppression in Ukraine.

In addition, the President has signed an Executive Order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine; threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; contributing to the misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine; or purporting to assert governmental authority over any part of Ukraine without authorization from the Ukrainian government in Kyiv.  This E.O. is a flexible tool that will allow us to sanction those who are most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine, including the military intervention in Crimea, and does not preclude further steps should the situation deteriorate.

These actions build upon the previous actions the United States has taken, including suspending bilateral discussions with Russia on trade and investment; suspending other bilateral meetings on a case-by-case basis; putting on hold U.S.-Russia military-to-military engagement, including exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits, and planning conferences; and our agreement with G-7 nations to suspend for the time being our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June.  Depending on how the situation develops, the United States is prepared to consider additional steps and sanctions as necessary.

At the same time, as the President has said, we seek to work with all parties to achieve a diplomatic solution that de-escalates the situation and restores Ukraine’s sovereignty.  We call on Russia to take the opportunity before it to resolve this crisis through direct and immediate dialogue with the Government of Ukraine, the immediate pull-back of Russia’s military forces to their bases, the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and support for the urgent deployment of international observers and human rights monitors who can assure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, including ethnic Russians, and who can support the Ukrainian government’s efforts to hold a free and fair election on May 25.

As we follow developments in Ukraine closely, the United States reaffirms its unwavering commitment to our collective defense commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty.  We will continue to pursue measures that reinforce those commitments, to include the provision of additional support to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission and our aviation detachment in Poland.

###

Full Text Obama Presidency March 5, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Urging Congress to Raise the Minimum Wage with New England Governors in Connecticut

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama: It’s Time to Give America a Raise

Source: WH, 3-5-14
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the minimum wage, at Central Connecticut State UniversityPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on the minimum wage, at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut, March 5, 2014. The President is joined by Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut; Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont, Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, President Obama travelled to Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut to speak about the importance of raising the minimum wage….READ MORE

Remarks by the President on Opportunity For All: Making Work Pay and the Minimum Wage

Source: WH, 3-5-14

Central Connecticut State University
New Britain, Connecticut

2:20 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Connecticut!  (Applause.)  Go Blue Devils!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in Connecticut.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your wonderful Governor, Dan Malloy, for that introduction.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your President, Jack Miller, for inviting me here today.  (Applause.)

We’ve got members of your student government behind me.  (Applause.)  I couldn’t help but notice your Student Government Association logo, which has a gavel –- and a pitchfork, which is pretty intense.  (Laughter.)  And I wish some folks in Congress used the gavel more.  (Laughter.)  Less pitchfork.  (Laughter.)

We also have some members of your non-student government.  One of our finest members of our Cabinet, who just cares so much about working families and is working tirelessly every single day, Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got all five of Connecticut’s representatives in Congress — including CCSU alum John Larson, in the house.  (Applause.)  Another proud CCSU alum, Erin Stewart, your mayor, is here.  (Applause.)  Along with Mayor Segarra and the other mayors and legislators from all across Connecticut.

And today, we’re doing something a little different than usual.  Usually, when I hit the road and talk with folks like all of you, I’ve got a governor with me.  But you are special.  (Applause.)  So we decided one governor wasn’t enough.  (Laughter.)  So in addition to Governor Malloy, we’ve got Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Peter Shumlin of Vermont.  (Applause.)  This is like a governor supergroup.  (Laughter.)  It’s like the Justice League of governors.  (Laughter.)  I’d call them the New England Patriots, but that name is already taken.  (Laughter.)

STUDENT:  We love you, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back!  I love you.  (Applause.)  But we can’t just spend the whole day talking about how we love each other.  (Laughter.)  That’s not why I came.  We are here today — we’re here today because each of us cares deeply about creating new jobs and new opportunities for all Americans.  And we’re at this interesting moment in our economy — our economy has been growing, our businesses have created about eight and a half million new jobs over the past four years.  The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in over five years.  (Applause.)  Those are all things that we should be proud of.

But there are some trends out there that have been battering the middle class for a long, long time — well before this Great Recession hit.  And in some ways, some of those trends have gotten worse, not better.  The nature of today’s economy with technology and globalization means that there are folks at the top who are doing better than ever, but average wages have barely budged.  Average incomes have not gone up.  Too many Americans are working harder than ever just to keep up.

So as I said at my State of the Union address, we’ve got to reverse those trends.  It is a central task for all of us to build an economy that works for everybody, not just for some.  (Applause.)  That’s what every one of these governors and Tom Perez believes in — that’s what we got into public service for.  I hope Dan and Peter don’t mind me sharing this — while we were driving over here, they were talking about the fact that when they were growing up, both of them had dyslexia.  And because of the incredible fierce love of their parents but also because there were some folks there to help them, they achieved — made these extraordinary achievements.  Now, I wasn’t in the car with Deval, but Deval is a close friend of mine.  He’s got a similar story — grew up on the South Side of Chicago.  (Audience member cheers.) South Side! (Laughter and applause.)  And came from a very modest background.  But somebody gave him a chance.  (Applause.)  Me, Tom Perez — so many of us understand that at the heart of America, the central premise of this country is the chance to achieve your dreams if you work hard, if you take responsibility; that it doesn’t matter where you start — it’s where you finish.  (Applause.)

And in America, we believe in opportunity for all.  We believe that our success shouldn’t be determined by the circumstances of our birth.  It’s determined by each of us.  But also by a society that’s committed to everybody succeeding.  So that it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love — what matters is the strength of your work ethic; and the power of your dreams; and your willingness to take responsibility for yourself but also for the larger society.  That’s what makes America the place that it is, why it continues to be a beacon, attracting people from all around the world, the idea that you can make it here if you try.

Now, there’s been a lot of news about foreign affairs around the world over the last several days, but also for the last couple years.  And one of the things that you see, a trend you see — it doesn’t matter whether it’s in Central Europe or in the Middle East or Africa — individuals want a chance to make it if they try.  And what makes us special is we already do that when we’re at our best.  But we’ve got some work to do to match up our ideals with the reality that’s happening on the ground right now.

And the opportunity agenda that I’ve laid out is designed to help us restore that idea of opportunity for everybody for this generation, the generation of young people who are studying here and are about to enter the workforce.  And it’s got four parts.  Part one is something that I know the seniors here are very interested in, which is more good jobs that pay good wages.  (Applause.)

We can’t be satisfied with just recovering the jobs that were lost during the recession.  We’ve got to rebuild our economy so it’s creating a steady supply of good jobs today and well into the future -– jobs in high-tech manufacturing, and in energy, and in exports, and in American innovation.  So that’s job number one.

Job number two is training more Americans with the skills they need to fill those good jobs, so that our workforce is prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

Part three:  guaranteeing every young person in this country access to a world-class education -– from pre-K all the way to a college education like the one you’re getting here.  (Applause.)

And that’s why over the past five years, working with the outstanding congressional delegation from Connecticut, we’ve been able to make sure that grant dollars are going farther than before.  We took on a student loan system that gave billions of taxpayer dollars to the big banks, and we said let’s use those to give more students directly the help they need to afford to go to college.  (Applause.)

That’s why — that’s why we’re offering millions of young people the chance to cap their monthly student loan payments at 10 percent of their income.  So you need to check that out.  (Laughter.)  Go to the website of the Department of Education and find out how you may be eligible for that.

And today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  (Applause.)  Of course — and I know your president won’t disagree with this — we’ve also got to do more to rein in the soaring cost of college and help more Americans who are trapped by student loan debt.  (Applause.)

The bottom line though is whether it’s technical training, community college, or four-year university, no young person should be priced out of a higher education.  Shouldn’t happen. (Applause.)

Now, there is a fourth part of this agenda.  By the way, I just noticed, if you’ve got chairs, feel free to sit down.  (Laughter.)  I know the folks here don’t have chairs, but I don’t want you — and if you’re standing up, make sure to bend your knees so you don’t faint.  (Laughter.)  All right, I just wanted to check on you.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, point number four, the fourth component of this opportunity agenda is making sure that if you are working hard — if you’re working hard, then you get ahead.  And that means making sure women receive equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  When women succeed, America succeeds.  (Applause.)  I believe that.  You happy with that, Rosa?  Rosa agrees with that.  (Laughter.)

It means making sure that you can save and retire with dignity.  It means health insurance that’s there when you’re sick and you need it most.  (Applause.)  And you guys are doing a great job implementing the Affordable Care Act here in Connecticut.  If any of you know a young person who is uninsured, help them get covered at healthcare.gov.  The website works just fine now.  (Laughter.)  They’ve got until March 31st to sign up, and in some cases it’s going to cost less than your cellphone bill.  So check it out, healthcare.gov.

And making work pay means wages and paychecks that let you support a family.  (Applause.)  A wage, a paycheck that lets you support a family.  (Applause.)

Now, I want to be clear about this because sometimes in our debates with our friends on the other side of the political spectrum, this may not be clear, so let me just repeat it once again, as Americans, we understand that some folks are going to earn more than others.  We don’t resent success; we are thrilled with the opportunities that America affords.  Somebody goes out there, starts a business, invents a new product, provides a new service, that’s what drives our economy.  That’s why this free-market economy is the most dynamic on Earth.  We’re thrilled with that.  Everybody agrees on that.  But what we also believe is that nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.  (Applause.)  That violates a basic sense of who we are.  And that’s why it’s time to give America a raise.   (Applause.)  It is time to give America a raise.  Now is the time.  Now is the time.  (Applause.)

A year ago I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, the federal minimum wage.  Since that time six states have passed laws to raise theirs, including right here in Connecticut.  (Applause.)

On January 1st, tens of thousands of folks across this state got a raise –- and Governor Malloy is working to lift their wages even higher.  (Applause.)  Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington State, other states, counties, cities across the country are working to raise their minimum wage as we speak.

The governors here today –- Governor Chafee of Rhode Island;, Governor Malloy; Governor Patrick of Massachusetts; Governor Shumlin of Vermont; and a Governor who couldn’t be here today, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire –- all are fighting to give hardworking folks in these great New England states a raise of their own.  And they’ve formed a regional coalition to raise the minimum wage.  If they succeed in their efforts, New England will have some of the highest minimum wages in the country.  (Applause.)

And they’re not stopping there -– these four governors are here in support of raising America’s minimum wage, the federal minimum wage, to $10.10 an hour — $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)

Now, raising wages is not just a job for elected officials.  In my State of the Union address, I asked more business leaders to do what they can to raise their workers’ wages -– because profitable companies like Costco have long seen higher wages as good business.  It’s a smart way to boost productivity, to reduce turnover, to instill loyalty in your employees.  And, by the way, they do great.  Their stocks do great.  They are highly profitable.  It’s not bad business to do right by your workers, it’s good business.  (Applause.)  It’s good business.  (Applause.)

Two weeks ago, the Gap decided to raise its base wages, and that’s going to boost wages for 65,000 workers in the United States.  (Applause.)  Last week, I read about Jaxson’s, it’s an ice cream parlor in Florida that’s been in business since 1956.  They just announced they would lift workers’ wages to at least $10.10 an hour, without cutting back on hiring.  (Applause.)  Two weeks ago, an Atlanta small business owner named Darien Southerland wrote me to share a lesson his Granny taught him:  If you treat your employees right, they’ll treat you right.  (Applause.)  Vice President Biden paid Darien’s business a visit just yesterday.  You got to listen to your grandmother.  (Laughter.)  That is some wise advice.

And I agree with these business leaders as well.  So what I did as President, I issued an executive order requiring federal contractors — if you’re doing business with the federal government — pay your employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour, which will be good for America’s bottom line.  (Applause.)

And let me tell you who was affected.  When I was signing the bill, or the executive order, we had some of the workers who were going to be affected.  You’ve got folks who are cooking the meals of our troops, or washing their dishes, or cleaning their clothes.  This country should pay those folks a wage you can live on.  (Applause.)

So this is good for business, it is good for America.  Because even though we’re bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States, creating more good jobs in education and health care and business services, there will always be airport workers, there are always going to be fast-food workers, there are always going to be hospital workers, there are going to be retail salespeople, hospitality workers — people who work their tails off every day.  (Applause.)  People working in nursing homes, looking after your grandparents or your parents.  (Applause.)  Folks who are doing all the hard jobs that make our society work every single day.  They don’t have anything flashy out there.  And you know what, they’re not expecting to get rich, but they do feel like if they’re putting in back-breaking work every day, then at least at the end of the month they can pay their bills.  (Applause.)  They deserve an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.

Working Americans have struggled through stagnant wages for too long, so my goal is — and the goal of everybody on this stage — is to help lift wages, help lift take-home pay in any way I can.  And that’s why I’ve done everything I can to lift wages for hardworking federal contractors, it’s why I’ve asked business owners to raise their wages, it’s why I’m supporting elected officials at the local level, governors.  What every American wants is a paycheck that lets them support their families, know a little economic security, pass down some hope and optimism to their kids.  And that’s worth fighting for.  (Applause.)

But I want to make one last point.  If we’re going to finish the job, Congress has to get on board.  (Applause.)  Congress has to get on board.  And this is interesting — this should not be that hard, you’d think.  (Laughter.)  Because nearly three in four Americans, about half of all Republicans, support raising the minimum wage.  The problem is, Republicans in Congress oppose raising the minimum wage — now I don’t know if that’s just because I proposed it.  (Laughter.)  Maybe I should say I oppose raising the minimum wage and they’d be for it, that’s possible.  (Laughter.)

But right now, there’s a bill in front of both the House and the Senate that would boost America’s minimum wage to $10.10.  It’s easy to remember — $10.10 — ten dollars, ten cents an hour.  Just passing this bill would help not only minimum wage workers; it would lift wages for about 200,000 people just right here in Connecticut.  (Applause.)  It would lift wages for about one million New Englanders.  (Applause.)  It would lift wages for nearly 28 million Americans across this country.  (Applause.)  It would immediately raise millions of people out of poverty.  It would help millions more work their way out of poverty, and it doesn’t require new taxes, doesn’t require new spending, doesn’t require some new bureaucracy.  And here’s one last point.  It turns out — what happens if workers got a little more money in their pockets?

AUDIENCE:  They spend it!

THE PRESIDENT:  They spend a little more money, which means that suddenly businesses have more customers, which means they make more profits, which means they can hire more workers, which means you get a virtuous cycle –

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  It’s common sense!

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s common sense — that’s what I’m trying to say.  (Laughter and applause.)  Common sense, exactly.  It’s just common sense — that’s all it is.  It’s common sense.  (Applause.)  Common sense.  It’s just common sense.  (Applause.)  That’s all I’m saying.  (Laughter.)

Now, right now, Republicans in Congress don’t want to vote on raising the minimum wage.  Some have actually said they just want to scrap the minimum wage.  One of them said, “I think it’s outlived its usefulness…I’d vote to repeal the minimum wage.”  One of them said it’s never worked.  Some even said it only helps young people, as if that’s a bad thing.  I think we should want to help young people.  (Laughter and applause.)  I’d like to see them try putting themselves through college on a low wage work-study job.  (Applause.)  But actually — or I’d like to see them supporting a family, making less than $15,000 a year.

But here’s the truth about who it would help.  Most people who would get a raise if we raise the minimum wage are not teenagers on their first job — their average age is 35.  A majority of lower-wage jobs are held by women.  These Americans are workiong full-time, often supporting families, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with our economy’s productivity, they’d already be earning well over $10 an hour today.  Instead, it’s stuck at $7.25.  Every time Congress refuses to raise it, it loses value because the cost of living goes higher, minimum wage stays the same.  Right now, it’s worth 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan took office.  And over the last year, since I asked Congress to do something and they didn’t do it, that was an equivalent of a $200 pay cut for the average minimum wage worker, because it didn’t keep pace with inflation.  That’s a month of groceries for the average minimum wage worker.  That’s two months’ worth of electricity.  This is not a small thing, this is a big deal.  It makes a big difference in the lives of a lot of families.  (Applause.)

So members of Congress have a choice to make, it is a clear choice:  Raise workers’ wages, grow our economy — or let wages stagnate further, give workers what amounts to another pay cut.

Fortunately, folks in Connecticut have really good delegations, so your senators and representatives are already on board.  (Applause.)  They’re all on board.  They’re fighting the good fight.  (Applause.)  But anybody who is watching at home, you deserve to know where your elected official stands.  So just ask them, “Do you support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour?”  If they say yes, say, “thanks.”  (Laughter.)  “Great job.”  We need encouragement too, elected officials.  (Laughter.)  If they say no, you should be polite — (laughter) — but you should say, “why not?”  Ask them to reconsider.  Ask them to side with the majority of Americans.  Instead of saying no, for once, say yes.  It’s time for $10.10.  It’s time to give America a raise.  (Applause.)

I want to close by sharing a story of a guy named Doug Wade, who is here today.  Where’s Doug?  I’m going to embarrass Doug.  Stand up.  This is Doug, right here.  (Applause.)

Doug had a chance to meet Secretary Perez in Hartford last week.  Doug is the president of Wade’s Dairy down in Bridgeport.  (Applause.)  His great-grandfather, Frank — is that right?  Frank? — started the family business in 1893 — 1893.  One of the secrets to their success is that they treat their employees like part of the family.  So Doug pays his own workers fairly.

But he goes a step further than that — he writes editorials, he talks to fellow business leaders, he meets with elected officials to make the case for a higher minimum wage for everybody.  And keep in mind, Doug spent most of his life as a registered Republican.  This is not about politics.  This is about common sense.  (Applause.)  It’s about business sense.  (Applause.)  And Doug, we were talking backstage, Doug showed me a paystub because it describes his own story.  When he was flipping burgers back in 1970, his employer paid him the minimum wage — but it went 25 percent farther than it does today.   So Doug speaks from experience when he says that, “Things like the minimum wage raise the bar for everybody.”  And he’s still got that paycheck.  And it looks like the paycheck I got when I was working at Baskin-Robbins.  (Laughter and applause.)

The point that Doug and his family, and his business represents is we believe in hard work, we believe in responsibility, we believe in individual initiative, but we also come together to raise the bar for everybody; to make sure our fellow citizens can pursue their own dreams as well; that they can look after their kids and lift them up.  We look out for each other.  That’s who we are.  That is our story.  (Applause.)

There are millions of Americans like Doug, and like all of you, who are tired of old political arguments, ready to raise the bar a little higher.  Let’s move this country forward.  Let’s move it up.  Let’s go further.  That’s what I’m going to do as President as long as I have the honor of serving in this office, and I need your help.  Let’s go out there and give America a raise.

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

END
2:50 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency March 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Russia President Vladimir Putin’s Military Action in the Ukraine

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Russia President Vladimir Putin’s Military Action in the Ukraine

Source: WH, 3-4-14

Q    Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, Mike.

Q    Do you have response to President Putin’s press conference this morning?  Is Chancellor Merkel right that he’s lost touch with reality?  And have you spoken with him again personally?

THE PRESIDENT:  I haven’t spoken to him since I spoke to him this past weekend.  But obviously, me and my national security team have been watching events unfolding in Ukraine very closely.  I met with them again today.  As many of you know, John Kerry is in Kyiv as we speak, at my direction.  He’s expressing our full support for the Ukrainian people.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been working with our partners and with the IMF to build international support for a package that helps to stabilize Ukraine’s economy.  And today we announced a significant package of our own to support Ukraine’s economy, and also to provide them with the technical assistance that they need.  So it includes a planned loan guarantee package of $1 billion.  It provides immediate technical expertise to Ukraine to repair its economy.  And, importantly, it provides for assistance to help Ukraine plan for elections that are going to be coming up very soon.

As I said yesterday, it is important that Congress stand with us.  I don’t doubt the bipartisan concern that’s been expressed by the situation in Ukraine.  There is something immediately Congress can do to help us, and that is to help finance the economic package that can stabilize the economy in Ukraine, help to make sure that fair and free elections take place very soon, and as a consequence, helps to deescalate the crisis.

In the meantime, we’re consulting with our international allies across the board.  Together, the international community has condemned Russia’s violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.  We’ve condemned their intervention in Crimea.  And we are calling for a de-escalation of the situation, and international monitors that can go into the country right away.

And, above all, we believe that the Ukrainian people should be able to decide their own future, which is why the world should be focused on helping them stabilize the situation economically and move towards the fair and free elections that are currently scheduled to take place in May.

There have been some reports that President Putin is pausing for a moment and reflecting on what’s happened.  I think that we’ve all seen that — from the perspective of the European Union, the United States, allies like Canada and Japan, and allies and friends and partners around the world — there is a strong belief that Russia’s action is violating international law.  I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations, but I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.

I think everybody recognizes that although Russia has legitimate interests in what happens in a neighboring state, that does not give it the right to use force as a means of exerting influence inside of that state.  We have said that if, in fact, there is any evidence out there that Russian speakers or Russian natives or Russian nationals are in any way being threatened, there are ways of dealing with that through international mechanisms.  And we’re prepared to make sure that the rights of all Ukrainians are upheld.  And, in fact, in conversations that we’ve had with the government in Kyiv, they have been more than willing to work with the international community and with Russia to provide such assurances.

So the fact that we are still seeing soldiers out of their barracks in Crimea is an indication to which what’s happening there is not based on actual concern for Russian nationals or Russian speakers inside of Ukraine, but is based on Russia seeking, through force, to exert influence on a neighboring country.  That is not how international law is supposed to operate.

I would also note just the way that some of this has been reported, that there’s a suggestion somehow that the Russian actions have been clever strategically.  I actually think that this has not been a sign of strength but rather is a reflection that countries near Russia have deep concerns and suspicions about this kind of meddling, and if anything, it will push many countries further away from Russia.

There is the ability for Ukraine to be a friend of the West’s and a friend of Russia’s as long as none of us are inside of Ukraine trying to meddle and intervene, certainly not militarily, with decisions that properly belong to the Ukrainian people.  And that’s the principle that John Kerry is going to be speaking to during his visit.  I’ll be making additional calls today to some of our key foreign partners, and I suspect I’ll be doing that all week and in through the weekend.

But as I indicated yesterday, the course of history is for people to want to be free to make their own decisions about their own futures.  And the international community I think is unified in believing that it is not the role of an outside force — where there’s been no evidence of serious violence, where there’s been no rationale under international law — to intervene in people trying to determine their own destiny.

So we stand on the side of history that I think more and more people around the world deeply believe in — the principle that a sovereign people, an independent people are able to make their own decisions about their own lives.  And Mr. Putin can throw a lot of words out there, but the facts on the ground indicate that right now he’s not abiding by that principle.  There is still the opportunity for Russia to do so, working with the international community to help stabilize the situation.

And we’ve sent a clear message that we are prepared to work with anybody if their genuine interest is making sure that Ukraine is able to govern itself.  And as I indicated before, and something that I think has not been emphasized enough, they are currently scheduled to have elections in May.  And everybody in the international community should be invested in making sure that the economic deterioration that’s happened in Ukraine stops, but also that these elections proceed in a fair and free way in which all Ukrainians, including Russian speakers inside of Ukraine, are able to express their choice of who should lead them.

And if we have a strong, robust, legitimate election, then there shouldn’t be any question as to whether the Ukrainian people govern themselves without the kinds of outside interference that we see Russia exerting.

All right, thank you very much, everybody.

Full Text Obama Presidency March 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Announcing his Fiscal Year 2015 Budget

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Announces His 2015 Budget

Source: WH, 3-4-14
President Barack Obama signs copies of the FY 2015 Budget as Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director, Office of Management and Budget, and OMB staff look on in the Oval OfficPresident Barack Obama signs copies of the FY 2015 Budget as Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director, Office of Management and Budget, and OMB staff look on in the Oval Office, March 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, after sending his 2015 budget to Congress, President Obama visited a local elementary school to discuss what he called a “roadmap” for the agenda he laid out in his State of the Union address to restore opportunity for all Americans….READ MORE

President Barack Obama talks with students during a classroom visit at Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.CPresident Barack Obama talks with students during a classroom visit at Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.C. March 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarks by the President Announcing the FY2015 Budget

Source: WH, 3-4-14

Powell Elementary School
Washington, D.C.

11:38 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  I’m here at Powell Elementary School, and just had a chance to see some of the outstanding students here.  And I thought it was appropriate for me to say a few words about the budget that I sent to Congress this morning — because obviously the budget is not just about numbers, it’s about our values and it’s about our future, and how well we are laying the groundwork for those young children that I was with just a few moments ago to be able to succeed here in America.  These kids may not be the most excited people in town on budget day, but my budget is designed with their generation and future generations in mind.

In my State of the Union address, I laid out an agenda to restore opportunity for all people — to uphold the principle that no matter who you are, no matter where you started, you can make it if you try here in America.

This opportunity agenda is built on four parts — more good jobs and good wages; making sure that we’re training workers with the skills they need to get those good jobs; guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education; and making sure that our economy is one in which hard work is rewarded.

The budget I sent Congress this morning lays out how we’ll implement this agenda in a balanced and responsible way.  It’s a roadmap for creating jobs with good wages and expanding opportunity for all Americans.  And at a time when our deficits have been cut in half, it allows us to meet our obligations to future generations without leaving them a mountain of debt.  This budget adheres to the spending levels that both parties in both houses of Congress already agreed to.  But it also builds on that progress with what we’re calling an Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative that invests in our economic priorities in a smart way that is fully paid for by making smart spending cuts and closing tax loopholes that right now only benefit the well-off and the well-connected.

I’ll give you an example.  Right now, our tax system provides benefits to wealthy individuals who save, even after they’ve amassed multimillion dollar retirement accounts.  By closing that loophole, we can help create jobs and grow our economy, and expand opportunity without adding a dime to the deficit.

We know that the country that wins the race for new technologies will win the race for new jobs, so this budget creates 45 high-tech manufacturing hubs where businesses and universities will partner to turn groundbreaking research into new industries and new jobs made in America.

We know — and this is part of the reason why we’re here today — that education has to start at the earliest possible ages.  So this budget expands access to the kind of high-quality preschool and other early learning programs to give all of our children the same kinds of opportunities that those wonderful children that we just saw are getting right here at Powell.

We know that while not all of today’s good jobs are going to require a four-year college degree, more and more of them are going to require some form of higher education or specialized training.  So this budget expands apprenticeships to connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.  And we know that future generations will continue to deal with the effects of a warming planet, so this budget proposes a smarter way to address the costs of wildfires.  And it includes over $1 billion in new funding for new technologies to help communities prepare for a changing climate today, and set up incentives to build smarter and more resilient infrastructure.

We also know that the most effective and historically bipartisan ways to reduce poverty and help hardworking families pull themselves up is the earned income tax credit.  Right now, it helps about half of all parents in America at some point in their lives.  This budget gives millions more workers the opportunity to take advantage of the tax credit.  And it pays for it by closing loopholes like the ones that let wealthy individuals classify themselves as a small business to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

This budget will also continue to put our fiscal house in order over the long-term — not by putting the burden on folks who can least afford it, but by reforming our tax code and our immigration system and building on the progress that we’ve made to reduce health care costs under the Affordable Care Act.  And it puts our debt on a downward path as a share of our total economy, which independent experts have set as a critical target for fiscal responsibility.

As I said at the outset, our budget is about choices.  It’s about our values.  As a country, we’ve got to make a decision if we’re going to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, or if we’re going to make smart investments necessary to create jobs and grow our economy, and expand opportunity for every American.  At a time when our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years, we’ve got to decide if we’re going to keep squeezing the middle class, or if we’re going to continue to reduce the deficits responsibly, while taking steps to grow and strengthen the middle class.

The American people have made clear time and again which approach they prefer.  That’s the approach that my budget offers.  That’s why I’m going to fight for it this year and in the years to come as President.  Thank you very much, everybody.

END
11:52 A.M. EST

 

RELATED LINKS

Full Text Obama Presidency February 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement Warning Russia Against Military Intervention in the Ukraine

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Ukraine

Source:  WH, 2-28-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

5:05 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody.

Over the last several days, the United States has been responding to events as they unfold in Ukraine.  Throughout this crisis, we have been very clear about one fundamental principle: The Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future.  Together with our European allies, we have urged an end to the violence and encouraged Ukrainians to pursue a course in which they stabilize their country, forge a broad-based government and move to elections this spring.

I also spoke several days ago with President Putin, and my administration has been in daily communication with Russian officials, and we’ve made clear that they can be part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of a united Ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of The people of Ukraine and the international community, but also in Russia’s interest.

However, we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine.  Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties, and a military facility in Crimea, but any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe.

It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people.  It would be a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, and of international laws.  And just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world.  And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.

The events of the past several months remind us of how difficult democracy can be in a country with deep divisions.  But the Ukrainian people have also reminded us that human beings have a universal right to determine their own future.

Right now, the situation remains very fluid.  Vice President Biden just spoke with Prime Minister — the Prime Minister of Ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment the United States supports his government’s efforts and stands for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future of Ukraine.  I also commend the Ukrainian government’s restraint and its commitment to uphold its international obligations.

We will continue to coordinate closely with our European allies.  We will continue to communicate directly with the Russian government.  And we will continue to keep all of you in the press corps and the American people informed as events develop.

Thanks very much.

END
5:09 P.M. EST

%d bloggers like this: