Full Text Obama Presidency July 21, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Situation in Ukraine, Malaysian Airline Flight MH17 and Israel’s Military Operation in Gaza

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

Statement by the President on the Situation in Ukraine and Gaza

Source: WH, 7-21-14 

South Lawn

11:16 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  I want to make a brief statement about the tragedy in Ukraine.  Before I do, though, I want to note that Secretary Kerry has departed for the Middle East.  As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas.  And as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.  I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives.  And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.

So Secretary Kerry will meet with allies and partners.  I’ve instructed him to push for an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.  The work will not be easy.  Obviously, there are enormous passions involved in this and some very difficult strategic issues involved.  Nevertheless, I’ve asked John to do everything he can to help facilitate a cessation to hostilities.  We don’t want to see any more civilians getting killed.

With respect to Ukraine, it’s now been four days since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.  Over the last several days, our hearts have been absolutely broken as we’ve learned more about the extraordinary and beautiful lives that were lost — men, women and children and infants who were killed so suddenly and so senselessly.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with their families around the world who are going through just unimaginable grief.  I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a number of leaders around the world whose citizens were lost on this flight, and all of them remain in a state of shock but, frankly, also in a state of outrage.

Our immediate focus is on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened, and putting forward the facts.  We have to make sure that the truth is out and that accountability exists.

Now, international investigators are on the ground.  They have been organized.  I’ve sent teams; other countries have sent teams.  They are prepared, they are organized to conduct what should be the kinds of protocols and scouring and collecting of evidence that should follow any international incident like this.  And what they need right now is immediate and full access to the crash site.  They need to be able to conduct a prompt and full and unimpeded as well as transparent investigation.  And recovery personnel have to do the solemn and sacred work on recovering the remains of those who were lost.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko has declared a demilitarized zone around the crash site.  As I said before, you have international teams already in place prepared to conduct the investigation and recover the remains of those who have been lost.  But, unfortunately, the Russian-backed separatists who control the area continue to block the investigation.  They have repeatedly prevented international investigators from gaining full access to the wreckage.  As investigators approached, they fired their weapons into the air.  These separatists are removing evidence from the crash site, all of which begs the question — what exactly are they trying to hide?

Moreover, these Russian-backed separatists are removing bodies from the crash site, oftentimes without the care that we would normally expect from a tragedy like this.  And this is an insult to those who have lost loved ones.  This is the kind of behavior that has no place in the community of nations.

Now, Russia has extraordinary influence over these separatists.  No one denies that.  Russia has urged them on.  Russia has trained them.  We know that Russia has armed them with military equipment and weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons.  Key separatist leaders are Russian citizens.  So given its direct influence over the separatists, Russia and President Putin, in particular, has direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation.  That is the least that they can do.

President Putin says that he supports a full and fair investigation.  And I appreciate those words, but they have to be supported by actions.  The burden now is on Russia to insist that the separatists stop tampering with the evidence, grant investigators who are already on the ground immediate, full and unimpeded access to the crash site.  The separatists and the Russian sponsors are responsible for the safety of the investigators doing their work.  And along with our allies and partners, we will be working this issue at the United Nations today.

More broadly, as I’ve said throughout this crisis and the crisis in Ukraine generally, and I’ve said this directly to President Putin, as well as publicly, my preference continues to be finding a diplomatic resolution within Ukraine.  I believe that can still happen.  That is my preference today, and it will continue to be my preference.

But if Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and to back these separatists, and these separatists become more and more dangerous and now are risks not simply to the people inside of Ukraine but the broader international community, then Russia will only further isolate itself from the international community, and the costs for Russia’s behavior will only continue to increase.

Now is the time for President Putin and Russia to pivot away from the strategy that they’ve been taking and get serious about trying to resolve hostilities within Ukraine in a way that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and respects the right of the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions about their own lives.

And time is of the essence.  Our friends and allies need to be able to recover those who were lost.  That’s the least we can do.  That’s the least that decency demands.  Families deserve to be able to lay their loved ones to rest with dignity.  The world deserves to know exactly what happened.  And the people of Ukraine deserve to determine their own future.

Thanks.

END
11:25 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 21, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Signing of Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Signing of Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination

Source: WH, 7-21-14 

East Room

10:39 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House, everybody.  I know I’m a little late.  But that’s okay because we’ve got some big business to do here.

Many of you have worked for a long time to see this day coming.  You organized, you spoke up, you signed petitions, you sent letters — I know because I got a lot of them.  (Laughter.) And now, thanks to your passionate advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of your cause, our government — government of the people, by the people, and for the people — will become just a little bit fairer.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It doesn’t make much sense, but today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are —  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender.  And that’s wrong.  We’re here to do what we can to make it right — to bend that arc of justice just a little bit in a better direction.

In a few moments, I will sign an executive order that does two things.  First, the federal government already prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Once I sign this order, the same will be explicitly true for gender identity.  (Applause.)

And second, we’re going to prohibit all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against their LGBT employees.  (Applause.)    America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people.

Now, this executive order is part of a long bipartisan tradition.  President Roosevelt signed an order prohibiting racial discrimination in the national defense industry.  President Eisenhower strengthened it.  President Johnson expanded it.  Today, I’m going to expand it again.

Currently, 18 states have already banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  And over 200 cities and localities have done the same.  Governor Terry McAuliffe is here; his first act as governor was to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  (Applause.)  Where did Terry go?  Right back here.

I’ve appointed a record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender public servants to positions across my administration.  They are ambassadors and federal judges, special assistants, senior advisors from the Pentagon to the Labor Department.  Every day, their talent is put to work on behalf of the American people.

Equality in the workplace is not only the right thing to do, it turns out to be good business.  That’s why a majority of Fortune 500 companies already have nondiscrimination policies in place.  It is not just about doing the right thing — it’s also about attracting and retaining the best talent.  And there are several business leaders who are here today who will attest to that.

And yet, despite all that, in too many states and in too many workplaces, simply being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can still be a fireable offense.  There are people here today who’ve lost their jobs for that reason.  This is not speculative, this is not a matter of political correctness — people lose their jobs as a consequence of this.  Their livelihoods are threatened, their families are threatened.  In fact, more states now allow same-sex marriage than prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers.  So I firmly believe that it’s time to address this injustice for every American.

Now, Congress has spent 40 years — four decades — considering legislation that would help solve the problem.  That’s a long time.  And yet they still haven’t gotten it done.  Senators Terry [Tammy] Baldwin and Jeff Merkley are here.  They have been champions of this issue for a long, long time.  We are very proud of them.  I know they will not stop fighting until fair treatment for all workers is the federal law of the land.  Everyone thanks them for that.  (Applause.)

But I’m going to do what I can, with the authority I have, to act.  The rest of you, of course, need to keep putting pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation that resolves this problem once and for all.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen!

THE PRESIDENT:  Amen.  Amen.  (Applause.)  Got the “amen” corner here.  (Laughter.)  Well — (sings) — (laughter.)  You don’t want to get me preaching, now.  (Laughter.)

For more than two centuries, we have strived, often at great cost, to form “a more perfect union” — to make sure that “we, the people” applies to all the people.  Many of us are only here because others fought to secure rights and opportunities for us. And we’ve got a responsibility to do the same for future generations.  We’ve got an obligation to make sure that the country we love remains a place where no matter who you are, or what you look like, or where you come from, or how you started out, or what your last name is, or who you love — no matter what, you can make it in this country.

That’s the story of America.  That’s the story of this movement.  I want to thank all of you for doing your part.  We’ve got a long way to go, but I hope as everybody looks around this room, you are reminded of the extraordinary progress that we have made not just in our lifetimes, but in the last five years.  In the last two years.  (Applause.)  In the last one year.  (Applause.)  We’re on the right side of history.

I’m going to sign this executive order.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

(The executive order is signed.)

END
10:47 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 18, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Ukraine and Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Ukraine

Source: WH, 7-18-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

11:52 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.

Yesterday, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 took off from Amsterdam and was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border.  Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken — men, women, children, infants — who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine.  Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions.

We know at least one American citizen, Quinn Lucas Schansman, was killed.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family for this terrible loss.

Yesterday, I spoke with the leaders of Ukraine, Malaysia, and the Netherlands.  I told them that our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and that the American people stand with them during this difficult time.  Later today, I’ll be speaking to Prime Minister Abbott of Australia, which also suffered a terrible loss.

By far, the country that lost the most people on board the plane was the Netherlands.  From the days of our founding, the Dutch have been close friends and stalwart allies of the United States of America.  And today, I want the Dutch people to know that we stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, in our grief and in our absolute determination to get to the bottom of what happened.

Here’s what we know so far.  Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine.  We also know that this is not the first time a plane has been shot down in eastern Ukraine.  Over the last several weeks, Russian-backed separatists have shot down a Ukrainian transport plane and a Ukrainian helicopter, and they claimed responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet. Moreover, we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia.  This includes arms and training.  It includes heavy weapons, and it includes anti-aircraft weapons.

Here’s what must happen now.  This was a global tragedy.  An Asian airliner was destroyed in European skies, filled with citizens from many countries.  So there has to be a credible international investigation into what happened.  The U.N. Security Council has endorsed this investigation, and we will hold all its members — including Russia — to their word.  In order to facilitate that investigation, Russia, pro-Russian separatists, and Ukraine must adhere to an immediate cease-fire.  Evidence must not be tampered with.  Investigators need to access the crash site.  And the solemn task of returning those who were lost on board the plane to their loved ones needs to go forward immediately.

The United States stands ready to provide any assistance that is necessary.  We’ve already offered the support of the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board, which has experience in working with international partners on these types of investigations.  They are on their way, personnel from the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board.

In the coming hours and days, I’ll continue to be in close contact with leaders from around the world as we respond to this catastrophe.  Our immediate focus will be on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened, and putting forward the facts.

I want to point out there will likely be misinformation as well.  I think it’s very important for folks to sift through what is factually based and what is simply speculation.  No one can deny the truth that is revealed in the awful images that we all have seen.  And the eyes of the world are on eastern Ukraine, and we are going to make sure that the truth is out.

More broadly, I think it’s important for us to recognize that this outrageous event underscores that it is time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine.  For months, we’ve supported a pathway to peace, and the Ukrainian government has reached out to all Ukrainians, put forward a peace plan, and lived up to a cease-fire, despite repeated violations by the separatists — violations that took the lives of Ukrainian soldiers and personnel.

Moreover, time and again, Russia has refused to take the concrete steps necessary to deescalate the situation.  I spoke to President Putin yesterday in the wake of additional sanctions that we had imposed.  He said he wasn’t happy with them, and I told him that we have been very clear from the outset that we want Russia to take the path that would result in peace in Ukraine, but so far at least, Russia has failed to take that path.  Instead, it has continued to violate Ukrainian sovereignty and to support violent separatists.  It has also failed to use its influence to press the separatists to abide by a cease-fire.  That’s why, together with our allies, we’ve imposed growing costs on Russia.

So now is, I think, a somber and appropriate time for all of us to step back and take a hard look at what has happened.  Violence and conflict inevitably lead to unforeseen consequences.  Russia, these separatists, and Ukraine all have the capacity to put an end to the fighting.  Meanwhile, the United States is going to continue to lead efforts within the world community to de-escalate the situation; to stand up for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine; and to support the people of Ukraine as they courageously work to strengthen their democracy and make their own decisions about how they should move forward.

Before I take just a couple of questions let me remark on one other issue.  This morning, I spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel about the situation in Gaza.  We discussed Israel’s military operation in Gaza, including its efforts to stop the threat of terrorist infiltration through tunnels into Israel.  I reaffirmed my strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself.  No nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders, or terrorists tunneling into its territory.  In fact, while I was having the conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, sirens went off in Tel Aviv.

I also made clear that the United States, and our friends and allies, are deeply concerned about the risks of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life.  And that’s why we’ve indicated, although we support military efforts by the Israelis to make sure that rockets are not being fired into their territory, we also have said that our understanding is the current military ground operations are designed to deal with the tunnels, and we are hopeful that Israel will continue to approach this process in a way that minimizes civilian casualties and that all of us are working hard to return to the cease-fire that was reached in November of 2012.

Secretary Kerry is working to support Egypt’s initiative to pursue that outcome.  I told Prime Minister Netanyahu that John is prepared to travel to the region following additional consultations.

Let me close by making one additional comment.  On board Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, there were apparently nearly 100 researchers and advocates traveling to an international conference in Australia dedicated to combating AIDS/HIV.  These were men and women who had dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others and they were taken from us in a senseless act of violence.

In this world today, we shouldn’t forget that in the midst of conflict and killing, there are people like these — people who are focused on what can be built rather than what can be destroyed; people who are focused on how they can help people that they’ve never met; people who define themselves not by what makes them different from other people but by the humanity that we hold in common.  It’s important for us to lift them up and to affirm their lives.  And it’s time for us to heed their example.

The United States of America is going to continue to stand for the basic principle that people have the right to live as they choose; that nations have the right to determine their own destiny; and that when terrible events like this occur, the international community stands on the side of justice and on the side of truth.

So with that, let me take just a couple questions.  I’ll start with you, Julie.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Just on a technical matter, does the U.S. believe that this passenger jet was targeted, or that those people who shot it down may have been going after a military — thought they were going after a military aircraft?  And more broadly, this incident does seem to escalate the crisis in Ukraine to a level we haven’t seen before.  Does that change your calculus in terms of what the U.S. and perhaps Europe should be doing in terms of a response?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think it’s too early for us to be able to guess what the intentions of those who might have launched this surface-to-air missile might have had.  The investigation is going to be ongoing, and I think what we’ll see is additional information surfacing over the next 24 hours, 72 hours, the next week, the next month.

What we know right now, what we have confidence in saying right now is that a surface-to-air missile was fired and that’s what brought the jet down.  We know — or we have confidence in saying that that shot was taken within a territory that is controlled by the Russian separatists.

But I think it’s very important for us to make sure that we don’t get out ahead of the facts.  And at this point, in terms of identifying specifically what individual or group of individuals or personnel ordered the strike, how it came about, those are things that I think are still going to be subject to additional information that we’re going to be gathering.  And we’re working with the entire international community to make sure that the focus is on getting to the bottom of this thing and being truthful.

And my concern is obviously that there’s been a lot of misinformation generated in eastern Ukraine generally.  This should snap everybody’s heads to attention and make sure that we don’t have time for propaganda, we don’t have time for games.  We need to know exactly what happened.  And everybody needs to make sure that we’re holding accountable those who committed this outrage.

With respect to the second question, as you’re aware, before this terrible incident happened we had already ratcheted up sanctions against Russia.  And I think the concern not just of Russian officials but of the markets about the impact that this could have on the Russian economy is there for all to see.

I made clear to President Putin that our preferred path is to resolve this diplomatically.  But that means that he and the Russian government have to make a strategic decision:  Are they going to continue to support violent separatists whose intent is to undermine the government of Ukraine?  Or are they prepared to work with the government of Ukraine to arrive at a cease-fire and a peace that takes into account the interests of all Ukrainians?

There has been some improved language at times over the last month coming from the Kremlin and coming from President Putin, but what we have not seen is an actual transition and different actions that would give us confidence that that’s the direction that they want to take.

And we will continue to make clear that as Russia engages in efforts that are supporting the separatists, that we have the capacity to increase the costs that we impose on them.  And we will do so.  Not because we’re interested in hurting Russia for the sake of hurting Russia, but because we believe in standing up for the basic principle that a country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity has to be respected, and it is not the United States or Russia or Germany or any other country that should be deciding what happens in that country.

Q    At this point do you see any U.S. military role that could be effective?

THE PRESIDENT:  We don’t see a U.S. military role beyond what we’ve already been doing in working with our NATO partners and some of the Baltic States, giving them reassurances that we are prepared to do whatever is required to meet our alliance obligations.

Steve Holland.

Q    Sir, thank you.  How much blame for this do you put on President Putin?  And will you use this incident now to push the Europeans for stronger action?

THE PRESIDENT:  We don’t exactly know what happened yet, and I don’t want to, as I said before, get out ahead of the facts.  But what I do know is, is that we have seen a ticking up of violence in eastern Ukraine that, despite the efforts of the Ukrainian government to abide by a cease-fire and to reach out and agree to negotiations, including with the separatists, that has been rebuffed by these separatists.  We know that they are heavily armed and that they are trained.  And we know that that’s not an accident.  That is happening because of Russian support.

So it is not possible for these separatists to function the way they’re functioning, to have the equipment that they have — set aside what’s happened with respect to the Malaysian Airlines — a group of separatists can’t shoot down military transport planes or, they claim, shoot down fighter jets without sophisticated equipment and sophisticated training.  And that is coming from Russia.

So we don’t yet know exactly what happened with respect to the Malaysian Airlines, although obviously we’re beginning to draw some conclusions given the nature of the shot that was fired.  There are only certain types of anti-aircraft missiles that can reach up 30,000 feet and shoot down a passenger jet.  We have increasing confidence that it came from areas controlled by the separatists.  But without having a definitive judgment on those issues yet, what we do know is, is that the violence that’s taking place there is facilitated in part — in large part — because of Russian support.  And they have the ability to move those separatists in a different direction.

If Mr. Putin makes a decision that we are not going to allow heavy armaments and the flow of fighters into Ukraine across the Ukrainian-Russian border, then it will stop.  And if it stops, then the separatists will still have the capacity to enter into negotiations and try to arrive at the sort of political accommodations that Mr. Putin himself says he wants to see.  He has the most control over that situation, and so far, at least, he has not exercised it.

Q    Tougher sanctions in Europe — will you push for them?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that this certainly will be a wake-up call for Europe and the world that there are consequences to an escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine; that it is not going to be localized, it is not going to be contained.  What we’ve seen here is — just in one country alone, our great allies, the Dutch, 150 or more of their citizens being killed.  And that, I think, sadly brings home the degree to which the stakes are high for Europe, not simply for the Ukrainian people, and that we have to be firm in our resolve in making sure that we are supporting Ukraine in its efforts to bring about a just cease-fire and that we can move towards a political solution to this.

I’m going to make this the last question.  Lisa Lerer, Bloomberg.

Q    Do we know yet if there were other Americans on board beyond the person you mentioned?  And how do you prevent stricter restrictions, economic sanctions from shocking the global economy and –

THE PRESIDENT:  We have been pretty methodical over the last 24 hours in working through the flight manifest and identifying which passengers might have had a U.S. passport.  At this point, the individual that I mentioned is the sole person that we can definitively say was a U.S. or dual citizen.

Because events are moving so quickly, I don’t want to say with absolute certainty that there might not be additional Americans, but at this stage, having worked through the list, been in contact with the Malaysian government, which processed the passports as folks were boarding, this is our best assessment of the number of Americans that were killed.  Obviously that does nothing to lessen our outrage about all those families.  Regardless of nationality, it is a heartbreaking event.

With respect to the effect of sanctions on the economy, we have consistently tried to tailor these sanctions in ways that would have an impact on Russia, on their economy, on their institutions or individuals that are aiding and abetting in the activities that are taking place in eastern Ukraine, while minimizing the impacts on not only the U.S. economy but the global economy.

It is a relevant consideration that we have to keep in mind.  The world economy is integrated; Russia is a large economy; there’s a lot of financial flows between Russia and the rest of the world.  But we feel confident that at this point the sanctions that we’ve put in place are imposing a cost on Russia, that their overall impact on the global economy is minimal.  It is something that we have to obviously pay close attention to, but I think Treasury, in consultation with our European partners, have done a good job so far on that issue.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END
12:15 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 16, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Froeign Policy Announcing Imposing More Sanctions on Russia

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Foreign Policy

Source: WH, 7-16-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

5:44 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I want to briefly discuss the important actions we’re taking today in support of Ukraine.  Before I do, I want to take a few minutes to update the American people on some pressing foreign policy challenges that I reviewed with Secretary Kerry this afternoon.

First of all, I thanked Secretary Kerry and our outstanding civilian and military leaders in Afghanistan for their success in helping to break the impasse over the presidential election there.  Thanks to their efforts and, of course, thanks to the Afghans and the courage of the two candidates, both of whom I spoke to last week, the candidates have agreed to abide by the results of a comprehensive and internationally supervised audit that will review all the ballots, and to form a unity government.  If they keep their commitments, Afghanistan will witness the first democratic transfer of power in the history of that nation.

This progress will honor both candidates who have put the interests of a united Afghanistan first, the millions of Afghans who defied threats in order to vote, and the service of our troops and civilians who have sacrificed so much.  This progress reminds us that even as our combat mission in Afghanistan ends this year, America’s commitment to a sovereign, united, and democratic Afghanistan will endure –- along with our determination that Americans are never again threatened by terrorists inside of Afghanistan.

Second, John updated me on the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.  Over the last six months, Iran has met its commitments under the interim deal we reached last year — halting the progress of its nuclear program, allowing more inspections and rolling back its more dangerous stockpile of nuclear material.  Meanwhile, we are working with our P5-plus-1 partners and Iran to reach a comprehensive agreement that assures us that Iran’s program will, in fact, be peaceful and that they won’t obtain a nuclear weapon.

Based on consultations with Secretary Kerry and my national security team, it’s clear to me that we have made real progress in several areas and that we have a credible way forward.  But as we approach a deadline of July 20th under the interim deal, there are still some significant gaps between the international community and Iran, and we have more work to do.  So over the next few days, we’ll continue consulting with Congress — and our team will continue discussions with Iran and our partners –- as we determine whether additional time is necessary to extend our negotiations.

Third, we continue to support diplomatic efforts to end the violence between Israel and Hamas.  As I’ve said repeatedly, Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people.  There is no country on Earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets.  And I’m proud that the Iron Dome system that Americans helped Israel develop and fund has saved many Israeli lives.

But over the past two weeks, we’ve all been heartbroken by the violence, especially the death and injury of so many innocent civilians in Gaza —- men, women and children who were caught in the crossfire.  That’s why we have been working with our partners in the region to pursue a cease-fire — to protect civilians on both sides.  Yesterday, Israel did agree to a cease-fire.  Unfortunately, Hamas continued to fire rockets at civilians, thereby prolonging the conflict.

But the Israeli people and the Palestinian people don’t want to live like this.  They deserve to live in peace and security, free from fear.  And that’s why we are going to continue to encourage diplomatic efforts to restore the cease-fire, and we support Egypt’s continued efforts to bring this about.  Over the next 24 hours we’ll continue to stay in close contact with our friends and parties in the region, and we will use all of our diplomatic resources and relationships to support efforts of closing a deal on a cease-fire.  In the meantime, we’re going to continue to stress the need to protect civilians — in Gaza and in Israel –- and to avoid further escalation.

Finally, given its continued provocations in Ukraine, today I have approved a new set of sanctions on some of Russia’s largest companies and financial institutions. Along with our allies, with whom I’ve been coordinating closely the last several days and weeks, I’ve repeatedly made it clear that Russia must halt the flow of weapons and fighters across the border into Ukraine; that Russia must urge separatists to release their hostages and support a cease-fire; that Russia needs to pursue internationally-mediated talks and agree to meaningful monitors on the border.  I’ve made this clear directly to Mr. Putin.  Many of our European partners have made this clear directly to Mr. Putin.  We have emphasized our preference to resolve this issue diplomatically but that we have to see concrete actions and not just words that Russia, in fact, is committed to trying to end this conflict along the Russia-Ukraine border.  So far, Russia has failed to take any of the steps that I mentioned.  In fact, Russia’s support for the separatists and violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty has continued.

On top of the sanctions we have already imposed, we are therefore designating selected sectors of the Russian economy as eligible for sanctions.  We are freezing the assets of several Russian defense companies.  And we are blocking new financing of some of Russia’s most important banks and energy companies.  These sanctions are significant, but they are also targeted — designed to have the maximum impact on Russia while limiting any spillover effects on American companies or those of our allies.

Now, we are taking these actions in close consultation with our European allies, who are meeting in Brussels to agree on their next steps.  And what we are expecting is that the Russian leadership will see, once again, that its actions in Ukraine have consequences, including a weakening Russian economy and increasing diplomatic isolation.

Meanwhile, we’re going to continue to stand with the Ukrainian people as they seek to determine their own future.  Even in the midst of this crisis, they have made remarkable progress these past few months.  They held democratic elections, they elected a new president, they’re pursuing important reforms, and they signed a new association agreement with the European Union.  And the United States will continue to offer our strong support to Ukraine to help stabilize its economy and defend its territorial integrity because — like any people — Ukrainians deserve the right to forge their own destiny.

So in closing, I’ll point out the obvious.  We live in a complex world and at a challenging time.  And none of these challenges lend themselves to quick or easy solutions, but all of them require American leadership.  And as Commander-in-Chief, I’m confident that if we stay patient and determined, that we will, in fact, meet these challenges.

Thanks very much.

END
5:53 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 12, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Expanding Opportunity – It’s Time for Congressional Republicans to Do Their Part

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Expanding Opportunity – It’s Time for Congressional Republicans to Do Their Part

Source: WH, 7-12-14

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President recapped his visits with folks who have written him letters about their own American stories — their successes and struggles. While Congressional Republicans are blocking meaningful measures that would strengthen the middle class, the President continues looking for ways to grow the economy and expand opportunity for more hardworking Americans. The President again urged Congress to join him, as they were elected to do, in working on behalf of everyday Americans – including those the President spent time with this week – by investing in our infrastructure to support American jobs, and ensuring that the Highway Trust Fund does not expire.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, July 12, 2014.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
July 12, 2014

Hi, everybody.  This week, I spent some time in Colorado and Texas, talking with people about what’s going on in their lives.

One of them was Elizabeth Cooper, who’ll be a college junior this fall.  She wrote to tell me something I hear often: how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college.  And she shared something I know many of you feel when you wonder what’s going on in Washington.  She said she feels “not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry [about], and not rich enough to be cared about.”

I ran for President to fight for Americans just like Elizabeth – people who work hard, do everything right, and just want a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families.

And after the worst economic crisis in generations, our businesses have now created nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since 2008.  By almost every measure, our economy is better off than it was five years ago.

But while we’ve created more jobs at this point of the year than any year since 1999, too many families barely earn what they did in 1999.  It’s harder to pay for college, save, or retire, because people’s wages and incomes have not gone up.  Nearly all the gains of the recovery are going to the very top – and aren’t making a difference in your lives.

And I believe America does better when the middle class does better.  And I’ve laid out an opportunity agenda to create jobs, train workers, educate our kids, and make sure hard work actually pays off.

These are the things we should be doing to grow the middle class and help folks work their way into the middle class.  And it’s pretty uncontroversial stuff. I hope we can work together on it.  And I’m always willing to compromise if folks have other ideas or if it advances generally the interests of working Americans.

But so far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  Lifting the minimum wage, fair pay, student loan reform – they’ve said no to all of it.  And that’s when I’ve acted this year to help working Americans on my own– when Congress won’t act.

I’ve taken actions to attract new jobs, lift workers’ wages, help students pay off their loans, and more.  And the Republican plan right now is not to do some of this work with me – instead, it’s to sue me.  That’s actually what they’re spending their time on.  It’s a political stunt that’s going to waste months of America’s time.  And by the way, they’re going to pay for it using your hard-earned tax dollars.

I have a better idea: do something, Congress.  Do anything to help working Americans.  Join the rest of the country. Join me, I’m looking forward to working with you.

You know, on Tuesday, I met with Carolyn Reed and her husband David, who own six Silver Mine Sub shops in Colorado.  Two days later, they announced they’re giving their hourly employees a raise to ten dollars and ten cents an hour.

They’re not waiting for Congress.  Carolyn said, “We are happy to be a part of what I hope will be a growing voluntary trend in increased wages.”

Carolyn and Americans like her all across the country are happy to do their part.  Congress now needs to step up and do its part.  And next week, I’ll travel to a couple of job sites to talk about how Democrats and Republicans can work together to grow the economy and protect nearly 700,000 jobs by passing a highway bill by the end of the summer.

I’m here because hardworking Americans like Elizabeth and Carolyn.  That’s something I’ll never forget – it’s something I’ll never stop fighting for.  Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Full Text Obama Presidency July 10, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy in Austin, Texas

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Austin, TX

Source: WH, 7-10-14 

Watch the Video

Paramount Theatre
Austin, Texas

12:48 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Austin!  (Applause.)  Hey!  Hello, Austin!  (Applause.)  All right, everybody have a seat, have a seat.

It’s good to be in Austin, Texas.  (Applause.)  Can everybody please give Kinsey a big round of applause for the great introduction?  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s because I love you.  (Applause.)  Everybody knows I love Austin, Texas.  (Applause.)  Every time I come here I tell you how much I love you.  I love Austin.  I love the people.  I love the barbecue — which I will get right after this.  (Laughter.)  I like the music.  (Applause.)  I’ve got good memories here, I’ve got good friends.

I was telling somebody the last time I walked a real walk where I was kind of left alone was in Austin, Texas.  (Applause.) Right before the debate here during the primary in 2007?  2008?  It must have been 2008.  And I was walking along the river and nobody noticed me, and I felt great.  (Laughter.)  And then on the way back somebody did notice me and Secret Service started coming around and — (laughter) — but that first walk was really good.  So let’s face it, I just love Austin.  (Applause.)  Love the people of Austin.

I want to thank a proud Texan, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, for being here today.  We appreciate her.  (Applause.)

It is great to play at the Paramount.  I think I finally made it.  I finally arrived.  (Applause.)  I’ve enjoyed the last couple of days, just getting out of Washington.  And we started in Colorado, in Denver, and then went to Dallas and then came down here.  And at each stop I’ve been able to just meet people and talk about people’s lives — their hopes, their dreams.

I just had some coffee, as Kinsey may have mentioned, at the Magnolia Café, which is very nice.  (Applause.)  It was fun, too, because I had a chance to — there were a bunch of folks there and some EMT folks were there on their break after the shift, and there were a group of high school kids who were getting together — they were about to go on a two-weeklong service trip to Peru  — which, by the way, reminds you, you should be optimistic whenever you meet young people because they’re full of energy and idealism.  And so they were going to do this service trip and they were going to go for two days, then, to Machu Picchu — the old Inca ruins in Peru.  And I said, I always wanted to go there. And they said, well, you can come with us if you want.  (Laughter.)  And I said, I’m really tempted, but I think there are some things I’ve got to do.  (Laughter.)

But I got them — in exchange for a selfie with them, they promised that they would send me a picture of them when they get there.  So I’m going to hold them to it.  We got their email and if I don’t get it I’ll be upset.  (Laughter.)

Anyway, so I was talking to Kinsey because she wrote me a letter and I wanted to reply in person.  Because, as some of you may know, every day, we get tens of thousands of letters or correspondence, emails at the White House.  And ever since the first day I was in office, what I’ve asked our Correspondence Office to do is to select 10 of them for me to read every night. And in these letters, people tell me their stories.  They talk about losing a job, or finding a job.  They talk about trying to finance a college education.  They talk about challenges because maybe they’re the children of immigrants and they’re worried about their status.  They talk about the hardships they’re going through, successes they’ve had, things they hope for, things that they’re afraid of when it comes to the future and their lives.

Sometimes people say thank you for something I’ve done or a position I’ve taken, and some people say, “You’re an idiot.”  (Laughter.)  And that’s how I know that I’m getting a good representative sampling because — (laughter) — half the letters are less than impressed with me.

So Kinsey wrote me to tell me about her family.  Her mom was a preschool teacher, her dad was an engineer.  Together, obviously, they worked really hard, raised a family.  They were responsible, did all the right things, were able to put their kids through college.  Then they lost their jobs.  And because they lost their jobs as mid-career persons, a lot of their resumes didn’t get answered.  And their savings started to dwindle.  And Kinsey works to pay for school, but it’s not enough.

And she told me that she’s always been passionate about politics and the issues of the day, but after last year’s government shutdown, all this stuff that’s happened with her family, it doesn’t seem like anybody in Washington is thinking about them.  She wrote, “I became a disgruntled citizen.  I felt as if my government, my beloved government that’s supposed to look out for the needs of all Americans had failed me.  My parents have always supported my siblings and me,” she wrote, “now it’s my turn to help them.  I want to be involved.  President Obama, what can I do?”

So I wanted to meet with Kinsey to let her know that I had heard her, that I listened to what was happening with her family, and I was thinking about her parents and I was thinking about her and her sisters.  And I’m here today because of Kinsey.  And I’m here today because of every American who is working their tail off and does everything right and who believes in the American Dream and just wants a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families.

And you and folks like Kinsey are the reason I ran for President in the first place — (applause) — because your lives are the lives that I lived.  When I listen to Kinsey I think about me and Michelle trying to finance our college education.  When I think about somebody who didn’t have health care, I think about my mom when she had cancer that would ultimately end her life at about the age I am now.  When I think about equal pay, I think about my grandmother working her way up at a bank with nothing but a high school education and becoming the vice president of the bank, but always being kind of passed over for the next stage by men who were less qualified than she was.

So the stories that I hear in these letters, they’re my story, and they’re Michelle’s story, and they’re the story that we had before I became senator — worrying about child care, trying to figure out how to have a balanced life so that if Malia or Sasha got sick we could take time off, and how do you manage all that.

So that’s why these letters are so important to me.  And that’s why whenever I’m out of Washington, part of what I want to do is just to remember and to connect with your stories so that you know that what I’m trying to do every single day is based on that experience.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  And when you see the trajectory of Kinsey’s family, in some ways, it’s a little bit a story of what’s happened to America.

The crisis in 2008 hurt us all badly — worse financial crisis since the Great Depression.  But you think about the progress we’ve made.  Today, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  (Applause.)  Our housing is rebounding.  Our auto industry is booming.  Manufacturing is adding more jobs than any time since the 1990s. The unemployment rate is the lowest point it’s been since September of 2008.  (Applause.)  Kinsey’s dad found a new job that he loves in the field he was trained for.  (Applause.)  So a lot of this was because of the resilience and hard work of the American people.  That’s what happens — Americans bounce back.

But some of it had to do with decisions we made to build our economy on a new foundation.  And those decisions are paying off. We’re more energy independent.  For the first time in nearly 20 years, we produce more oil here at home than we buy from abroad. (Applause.)  The world’s largest oil and gas producer isn’t Russia; it’s not Saudi Arabia — it’s the United States of America.  (Applause.)

At the same time, we’ve reduced our total carbon pollution over the past eight years more than any country on Earth.  (Applause.)  We’ve tripled the amount of electricity we generate from wind.  We’ve increased the amount of solar energy we have by 10 times.  We’re creating jobs across the country in clean energy.  (Applause.)

In education, our high school graduation rate is at a record high; the Latino dropout rate has been cut in half since 2000.  (Applause.)  More young people are graduating from college than ever before.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Si se puede!

THE PRESIDENT:  Si se peude.  (Laughter.)

The Affordable Care Act has given millions more families peace of mind.  They won’t go broke just because they get sick.  (Applause.)  Our deficits have been cut by more than half.

We have come farther and recovered faster, thanks to you, than just about any other nation on Earth.  (Applause.)  And so we’ve got a lot to be encouraged by, just as the story of Kinsey’s family makes us feel more encouraged.  For the first time in a decade, business leaders around the world have said the number-one place to invest is not China, it’s the United States of America.  So we’re actually seeing companies bring jobs back. (Applause.)  So there’s no doubt that we are making progress.  By almost every measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office.  (Applause.)

But the fact is we’ve still got a long way to go.  We’ve still got a long way to go, because while we’re creating more jobs faster these first six months of this year than any time since 1999, we know there are still a lot of folks out there who are looking for work or looking for more full-time work or looking for a better-paying job.  Corporate profits are higher than ever.  CEOs make more than ever.  But you’re working harder than ever just to get by and pay the bills.

So, as a whole, the country is doing better.  But the problem is, is that so much of the improved productivity and profits have gone to the folks at the very top, and the average person, their wages and incomes haven’t really gone up at all, and in some cases, haven’t kept up with the rising cost of health care or college or all the basic necessities that people need.

And so, Austin, I’m here to say that this country is not going to succeed if just a few are doing well.  This country succeeds when everybody has got a shot.  (Applause.)  The country does better when the middle class does better, and when there are more ladders of opportunity into the middle class.  (Applause.) That’s the kind of economy that works here in America.  And that’s what’s at stake right now.

Now, that’s why we’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that creates more good jobs and creates more good wages — jobs in American manufacturing, jobs in construction.  We should be rebuilding infrastructure all across America, putting people back to work rebuilding roads and bridges and schools, creating a smart grid to transmit clean energy across the country more efficiently.  (Applause.)

We can create good jobs in American energy — (sneezes) — bless me — and innovation.  (Laughter.)  I’m okay, just haven’t had enough sleep.  (Laughter.)

We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that trains more workers with the skills to fill the jobs that are being created. I was talking to some folks from a community college before I came out here.  We’ve learned that if we reach out to businesses and help them design the training programs in the community colleges, then when somebody finishes that training, they know they can get a job right away.  (Applause.)

We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that guarantees every child a world-class education from the time that they are three until the time that they graduate from college.

We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that makes sure your hard work pays off with higher wages and equal pay for equal work, and workplace flexibility, and the overtime pay you’ve earned.  (Applause.)

We’re fighting for opportunity for all and the idea that no matter who you are and what you look like and where you come from and who you love, if you work hard in America, if you work hard in Austin, if you work hard in Texas, you can make it here.  (Applause.)  You can make it.  (Applause.)

So that’s what we’re working for.  And the good news is, is that the things that we need to do are well within our capabilities, our grasp.  We know we can — we know how to build roads.  We know how to put people back to work on infrastructure. We know that if we invest in early childhood education, every dollar we put in, we get seven dollars back, and fewer dropouts and fewer teen pregnancies, and fewer folks going into the criminal justice system.  (Applause.)

We know that if we do some basic things, if we make some basic changes, we’ll see more jobs, faster economic growth, lift more incomes, strengthen the middle class.  They are common-sense things.  They’re not that radical.  We know it’s what we should be doing.  And what drives me nuts — and I know drives you nuts — is Washington isn’t doing it.  (Applause.)

And let me be clear about why Washington is broken, because sometimes everybody says, well, you know what, all politicians are the same, he parties — the Democrats, Republicans, it doesn’t matter.  Look, Democrats are not perfect, I promise you. I know a lot of them.  (Laughter.)  And, yes, every member of Congress, they’re thinking about, I’d like to be reelected and I’d like to keep my job.  That’s human nature.  We all understand that.  But let me be clear.  On the common-sense agenda that would help middle-class families, the overwhelming number of Democrats are in favor of these things.

They’re in favor of minimum wage.  They’re in favor of equal pay.  (Applause.)  They’re in favor of extending unemployment benefits.  They’re in favor of infrastructure.  They’re in favor of investing in research and development.  They’re in favor of making college more affordable.  They’ve got specific proposals. They’re willing to compromise.  They’re prepared to go forward.

So when folks say they’re frustrated with Congress, let’s be clear about what the problem is.  (Applause.)  I’m just telling the truth now.  I don’t have to run for office again, so I can just let her rip.  (Applause.)  And I want to assure you, I’m really not that partisan of a guy.  My favorite President is the first Republican President, a guy named Abraham Lincoln.  You look at our history, and we had great Republican Presidents who  — like Teddy Roosevelt started the National Park System, and Dwight Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System, and Richard Nixon started the EPA.

The statement I’m making is not a partisan statement, it is a statement of fact.  (Applause.)  So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  They have said no –

AUDIENCE:  Booo!

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t boo now, because what I want you to do is vote.  (Applause.)

They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage.  They’ve said no to fair pay.  They said no to unemployment insurance for hardworking folks like Kinsey’s parents who have paid taxes all their lives and never depended on anything and just needed a little help to get over a hump.  They said no to fixing our broken immigration system that we know would strengthen our borders and our businesses and help families.  (Applause.)

Instead of investing in education that helps working families, they voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.  Instead of creating jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our ports that help every business, they’ve decided to protect tax loopholes for companies that are shifting jobs overseas and profits overseas.

The best thing you can say about this Congress — the Republicans in Congress, and particularly the House of Representatives — the best you can say for them this year is that so far they have not shut down the government — (laughter) — or threatened to have America welch on our obligations and ruin our credit rating.  That’s the best you can say.  But of course, it’s only July — (laughter) — so who knows what they may cook up in the next few months.

So even as they’re blocking policies that would help middle-class families, they keep on offering these theories of the economy that have failed over and over again.  They say, well, if we give more tax breaks to folks at the top that’s going to be good.  If we make fewer investments in things like education, everything will work out.  If we loosen the rules for big banks and credit card companies and polluters and insurers, somehow that’s going to make the economy better.  If we shrink the safety net and cut Medicaid and cut food stamps, and make sure that folks who are vulnerable and trying to get back on their suffer more hardship, somehow that’s going to improve the economy.

Now, they believe these things — sincerely, I assume — that if they — if we do these things, if we just take care of folks at the top, or at least if we don’t empower our government to be able to help anybody, that somehow jobs and prosperity will trickle down and we’ll all be better off.

And that may work just fine for folks at the top.  It worked fine for me.  I don’t need government.  (Laughter.)  Michelle and I now are in a position where we can pretty much finance Malia and Sasha’s college education.  But I remember when Michelle’s parents couldn’t, they needed help.  And I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in pulling up the ladder once I’m up.  I believe in extending it down and making sure that everybody has a chance to climb up.  (Applause.)

The status quo certainly works for the special interests in Washington who like things just as they are.  They’ll be fine whether Congress ever passes a bill again or not.  But it doesn’t help you.  It doesn’t help your neighbors.  It doesn’t help your friends.  It doesn’t help your communities.

And what it does, is it just feeds people’s cynicism about Washington.  It just makes people think, well, nothing can happen, and people start feeling hopeless.  And we have to understand, in the face of all evidence to the contrary in Washington, we can do better than we’re doing right now.  (Applause.)  We can do better than what we’re doing right now.

We know from our history, our economy does not grow from the top down, it grows from the middle up.  It grows from a rising, thriving middle class.  It grows when we got ladders of opportunity for everybody, and every young person in America is feeling hopeful and has a chance to do what they can with the God-given talents that they have.  That’s what we’re fighting for.  That is what you should be fighting for.  (Applause.)

And I will always look — I’ll always look for ways to get Republicans and Democrats together in this effort.  But I’m not  — I can’t stand by with partisan gridlock that’s the result of cynical political games that threaten the hard work of millions of Americans.  I’m not just going to stand by and say, okay, that’s — I guess that’s the way it is.  Whenever and wherever I have the power, the legal authority to help families like yours, even if Congress is not doing anything, I will take that opportunity.  I will try to make something happen.  (Applause.)
And that’s the reason — that’s the reason why my administration has taken more than 40 different actions just this year to help working Americans — because Congress won’t.

Congress won’t act to make sure a woman gets equal pay for equal work.  So I made sure more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace — because I think when women succeed America succeeds.   So we went ahead and did that.  (Applause.)

Congress won’t act to create jobs in manufacturing or construction.  Well, I went ahead and speeded up permits for big projects.  We launched a new hub to attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs to America.  I want to make sure the next revolution in manufacturing is right here in America; it’s an American revolution, not a German or a Chinese revolution.  I want it happening right here in Austin, Texas.  (Applause.)

Congress so far hasn’t acted to help more young people manage their student loan debt.  So I acted with my lawful authority to give nearly 5 million Americans the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income so they can manage it better, so that if they go into teaching, or they go into social work, or they’re doing something at a non-for-profit, that they’re not encumbered by mountains of debt.  I don’t want our future leaders saddled with debt before they start out in life.  (Applause.)

And Republicans in Congress so far have refused to raise workers’ wages with a higher minimum wage.  So I acted to require that federal contractors pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour — (applause) — which would give hundreds of thousands of workers a raise.  I asked business owners and governors and mayors and state legislators — anybody I could work with — do what you can on your own, I told them.

Since the first time I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, Congress hasn’t done anything, but 13 states have gone ahead and raised theirs.  (Applause.)  And, by the way — this is important to remember just because folks are always trying to run the okey doke on you — (laughter) — the states that have increased their minimum wages this year have seen higher job growth than the states that have not increased their minimum wage.  (Applause.)  And more and more business owners are choosing to lift the wages for their workers because they understand that it’s going to be good to have productive workers, loyal workers, invested workers.

Just yesterday, before I came down to Texas, when I was in Denver, I met with Carolyn Reed.  She owns six Silver Mine sub shops.  She started her own business.  She was working at UPS and decided she wanted to be a business owner, got her first franchise.  Her and her husband mortgaged their house.  Eventually, they got an SBA loan.  Now, she’s got six stores.  A wonderful woman.  And today, she decided to raise her hourly employees’ wages to a minimum of $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)  She just went ahead and did it on her own, because she realized that she’ll have less turnover and she’s going to have more productive workers.

As long as Congress will not increase wages for workers, I will go and talk to every business in America if I have to.  (Applause.)  There’s no denying a simple truth:  America deserves a raise, and if you work full-time in this country, you shouldn’t live in poverty.  That’s something that we all believe. (Applause.)

Now, here’s where it gets interesting.  There are a number of Republicans, including a number in the Texas delegation, who are mad at me for taking these actions.  They actually plan to sue me.  (Laughter.)  Now, I don’t know which things they find most offensive — me helping to create jobs, or me raising wages, or me easing the student loan burdens, or me making sure women can find out whether they’re getting paid the same as men for doing the same job.  I don’t know which of these actions really bug them.  (Laughter.)

The truth is, even with all the actions I’ve taken this year, I’m issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years.  So it’s not clear how it is that Republicans didn’t seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did.  (Applause.)  Maybe it’s just me they don’t like.  I don’t know.  Maybe there’s some principle out there that I haven’t discerned, that I haven’t figure out.  (Laughter.)  You hear some of them — “sue him,” “impeach him.”  Really?  (Laughter.)  Really?  For what?  (Applause.)  You’re going to sue me for doing my job?  Okay.  (Applause.)

I mean, think about that.  You’re going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job — (laughter) — while you don’t do your job.  (Applause.)

There’s a great movie called “The Departed” — a little violent for kids.  But there’s a scene in the movie where Mark Wahlberg — they’re on a stakeout and somehow the guy loses the guy that they’re tracking.   And Wahlberg is all upset and yelling at the guy.  And the guy looks up and he says, “Well, who are you?”  And Wahlberg says, “I’m the guy doing my job.  You must be the other guy.”  (Laughter and applause.)  Sometimes, I feel like saying to these guys, I’m the guy doing my job, you must be the other guy.  (Applause.)

So rather than wage another political stunt that wastes time, wastes taxpayers’ money, I’ve got a better idea:  Do something.  (Applause.)  If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, let’s team up.  Let’s pass some bills.  Let’s help America together.  (Applause.)

It is lonely, me just doing stuff.  I’d love if the Republicans did stuff, too.  (Laughter.)  On immigration issues, we’ve got — and to their credit, there are some Republicans in the Senate who actually worked with Democrats, passed a bill, would strengthen the borders, would help make the system more fair and more just.  But the House Republicans, they haven’t even called the bill.  They won’t even take a vote on the bill.  They don’t have enough energy or organization or I don’t know what to just even vote no on the bill.  (Laughter.)  And then they’re made at me for trying to do some things to make the immigration system work better.  So it doesn’t make sense.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, what are you yelling about now?  Sit down, guys.  I’m almost done.  Come on, sit down.  I’ll talk to you afterwards, I promise.  I’ll bring you back.  I’m wrapping things up here.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I understand.  See, everybody is going to start — I’m on your side, man.  Sit down, guys, we’ll talk about it later, I promise.

So, look, here’s what we could do.  We could do so much more — you don’t have to escort them out.  They’ll sit down.  I promise, I’ll talk to you afterwards.

We could do so much more if Republicans in Congress would focus less on stacking the deck for those on the top and focus more on creating opportunity for everybody.  And I want to work with them.  I don’t expect them to agree with me on everything, but at least agree with me on the things that you used to say you were for before I was for them.  (Applause.)

You used to be for building roads and infrastructure.  Nothing has changed.  Let’s go ahead and do it.  (Applause.)  Ronald Reagan passed immigration reform, and you love Ronald Reagan.  Let’s go ahead and do it.  (Applause.)

I mean, what changed?  I’m just saying.  (Laughter.)  That’s what made our country great, a sense of common purpose, a sense we’re all in it together as one nation, as one people.  We can debate the issues, we can have our differences, but let’s do something.  (Applause.)  Let’s rally around an economic patriotism that says, instead of giving more tax breaks to millionaires, let’s give tax breaks to working families to help pay for child care or college.

Instead of protecting tax loopholes that let corporations keep their profits overseas,  let’s put some of that money to work right here in the United States rebuilding America.  (Applause.)  We can rebuild our airports, create the next generation of good manufacturing jobs, make sure those are made in America.

Let’s rally around a patriotism that says we’re stronger as a nation when we cultivate the ingenuity and talent of every American, and give every 4-year-old in America access to high-quality education — good-quality preschool.  (Applause.)  Let’s redesign our high schools to make them more relevant to the 21st century economy.  Let’s make college more affordable.  Let’s  make sure every worker, if you lose your job, you can get a good job training that gives you an even better job.  (Applause.)

Let’s embrace the patriotism that says it’s a good thing when our fellow citizens have health care.  It’s not a bad thing. (Applause.)  That’s not a bad thing.  It’s a good thing when women earn what men do for the same work.  That’s an all-American principle.  (Applause.)  Everybody has got a mom out there or a wife out there or a daughter out there.  They don’t want them to not get treated fairly.  Why would you be against that?

It’s a good thing when parents can take a day off to care for a sick child without losing their job or losing pay and they can’t pay their bills at the end of the month.  It’s a good thing when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty.  That is not radical.  It’s not un-American.  It’s not socialist.  That’s how we built this country.  It’s what America is all about, us working together.  (Applause.)

So let me just wrap up by saying this:  The hardest thing to change in politics is a stubborn status quo.  Our democracy is designed where folks who have power, who have clout — they can block stuff, they can keep things as they are.  It’s hard.  It’s even harder when Washington seems focused on everything but your concerns, Kinsey’s concerns.

There are plenty of people who count on you getting cynical and count on you not getting involved so that you don’t vote, so you give up.  And you can’t give into that.  America is making progress, despite what the cynics say.  (Applause.)  Despite unyielding opposition and a Congress that can’t seem to do anything, there are workers with jobs who didn’t have them before; there are families with health insurance who didn’t have them before; there are students in college who couldn’t afford it before; there are troops who served tour after tour who are home with their families today.  (Applause.)

Cynicism is popular.  Cynicism is popular these days.  It’s what passes off as wisdom.  But cynics didn’t put a man on the moon.  Cynics never won a war.  Cynics didn’t cure a disease, or start a business, or feed a young mind.  Cynicism didn’t bring about the right for women to vote, or the right for African Americans to be full citizens.  Cynicism is a choice.

Hope is a better choice.  Hope is what gave young soldiers the courage to storm a beach.  Hope is what gave young people the strength to march for women’s rights and civil rights and voting rights and gay rights and immigrant rights.  (Applause.)

Hope is what compelled Kinsey to sit down and pick up a pen, and ask “what can I do,” and actually think maybe the President might read that story and it might make a difference.  (Applause.)  And her voice rang out here in the Paramount Theatre.  And it’s her voice and your voice that’s going to change this country.  That’s how we’re going to make sure that we remain the greatest nation on Earth — not by asking what we can do for ourselves, but what we can do for each other and what we can do for our country.

And so, as President, I’m going to keep a promise that I made when I first ran:  Every day, I will keep asking the same question, and that is, how can I help you?  And I’ll keep treating your cares and your concerns as my own.  And I will keep fighting to restore the American Dream for everybody who’s willing to work for it.

And I am going to need you to be right there with me.  (Applause.)  Do not get cynical.  Hope is the better choice.

Thank you, Texas.  Thank you, Austin.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

END
1:28 P.M. CDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 9, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy in Denver, Colorado

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy, Denver, CO

Source: WH, 7-9-14

Cheesman Park
Denver, Colorado

10:27 A.M. MDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello, Denver!

AUDIENCE:  Hello!

THE PRESIDENT:  Everybody have a seat.  So I think we should just stay here all afternoon and have a picnic.  (Applause.)  This is really nice around here.  Wow!  What a gorgeous day.

Can everybody please give Alex a big round of applause for that great introduction?  (Applause.)  It is so good to be back in Denver.  It is great to be back in Colorado.  As all of you know, I spent a lot of time here in my last campaign.  I have been itching to get back.

I got to have dinner last night with Alex and four other Coloradans — Elizabeth Cooper, Leslie Gresham, Carolyn Reed and her husband David — at the Wazee Supper Club.  (Applause.)  It was tasty.  That was some good pizza.  (Laughter.)  And then I walked down the block to shoot some pool with Governor Hickenlooper at his old bar, the Wynkoop Brewing Company.  You should not ask him who won.  (Laughter.)  No, no, really, don’t ask Governor Hickenlooper who won at pool.  (Laughter.)  And it’s a great time to be in this beautiful park with my friend, Ken Salazar — (applause) — who I love and I haven’t seen in a while.  There he is right there.  (Applause.)  As well as your Congressman, Ed Perlmutter.  Yay, Ed.  (Applause.)

So let me tell you why I’m here.  Every day, we get thousands of letters and emails at the White House.  I think it’s something like 40,000 a day of some sort of correspondence.  And every night, our Correspondence Office selects 10 letters for me to read.  And I’ve been doing that since I first came into office.  And it’s one of the most important things I do — it’s right there next to my national security briefing and whatever policy issues that we’re supposed to be working on — because it reminds me of why I ran for office.

And so I have a chance just to hear from people as they tell their stories.  They talk about the hardships that they’re going through; sometimes they talk about a success that they’ve had.  Kids write to me, asking questions about what I’m doing about climate change, or how old is Bo.  (Laughter.)  So people describe to me their fears and their hopes not just for themselves, but also for their children and their grandchildren and for the country.  And sometimes they thank me for taking a position on an issue.  And sometimes they say, how dare you take that position on an issue.  And sometimes people say they’re proud of the work that I’ve done, and sometimes people call me an idiot — or worse than an idiot — which is how I know that I’m getting a good sample.  (Laughter.)

So Alex wrote to tell me that the day after my State of the Union address, her boss gave her a raise to $10.10 an hour.   Alex actually, last night, confessed she actually didn’t watch my State of the Union address.  (Laughter.)  Which, hey, I understand.  (Laughter.)  When I was her age, I’m sure I missed a whole bunch of State of the Union addresses.  But her boss caught it, and he decided, let me make sure I’m paying my employees a fair wage.

Carolyn, from up in Wellington, wrote to say she and David used an SBA loan from the Recovery Act to open the third of their six Silver Mine Subs shops.  (Applause.)  Oh, you know Silver Mine?  All right.  Everybody is happy about that.  It was a wonderful story because both her and her husband were Teamsters.  See, she worked at UPS, and he worked for Bud.  And they just knew that they wanted to start something of their own.  And she described to us last night what it was like to take the risk to mortgage the house and make a business for herself, and then now to have a hundred employees and to be giving those folks an opportunity.  They’re hiring, by the way — (laughter) — in case people are interested.

Leslie, from Parker, wrote to say she’d been teaching preschool for 26 years and was an Early Childhood education — Educator of the Year, just a wonderful teacher.  But she described the difference she could see in children who had that early exposure to the kind of classroom education that she’s providing.

And Elizabeth, who’s going to be a junior this fall at the University of Northern Colorado, wrote to tell me how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college.  And she shared something I know many of you feel when you wonder what the heck is going on in Washington.  She wrote she feels “not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry about, and not rich enough to be cared about.”  That’s what she wrote.

So part of the reason I wanted to have dinner with these folks is because they reminded me of why I ran for office and what I’m supposed to be doing every single day.  And the reason I’m here today is very simple:  I’m here because of Elizabeth, and Alex, and Carolyn, and Leslie.  And I’m here for every American who works their tail off and does everything right and who believes in the American Dream — (applause) — and asks for nothing but a chance at a decent life for themselves and their families.  That’s why I’m here.  (Applause.)  And to tell all of you that I hear you.

I mean, sometimes it’s as simple as that — that I am listening and paying attention, partly because when I listen to Alex or I listen to Carolyn or I listen to any of the folks that I met with, I see myself in them.  Because I remember my first minimum wage job — at Baskin Robbins, by the way — (laughter) — I had to wear a cap and an apron — and how like a little raise would have really helped.  I think about what it was like for me to finance college.  I think about childcare costs when Michelle and I were first starting out with Malia and Sasha.  Your stories are ours.  You’re why I ran.

And so what I want to make sure of is, is that as screwed up sometimes as Washington gets, that everybody here understands that there’s progress to be made, and that there’s somebody out there who’s fighting for them, even if it sometimes feels like the system is rigged against them.

The other thing I want to make sure people understand is, is that we are making progress, as bad as the news looks, if all you were doing was watching cable TV all day long.  Yes, the crisis that hit towards the end of my first campaign hit us all really badly; 2007, 2008, that was rough.  But today, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  (Applause.)  Construction and housing are rebounding.  Our auto industry is booming.  Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the ‘90s.  The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since September of 2008 — the fastest one-year drop in nearly 30 years.  (Applause.)

And, look, most of this is attributable to you, the American people — starting businesses, and paying down debt, and tightening belts, and doing all kinds of stuff just to make sure that you kept on and were able to look after your families.  But the decisions we made early on not only stopped the slide, but also built a new foundation for our economy, and they’re paying off now.

We’re more energy independent.  We’ve tripled the electricity we generate from the wind, ten times from the sun, creating jobs across the country — (applause) — while producing more oil at home than we buy abroad for the first time in nearly 20 years.  Our energy sector is booming.  (Applause.)  And, by the way, we’re doing that while reducing our carbon emissions more than any other country over the last five years.  So we’re making progress on climate change as well.  (Applause.)

In education — our high school graduation rate is at a record high.  (Applause.)  The Latino dropout rate has dropped in half.  More young people are graduating from college than ever before.  (Applause.)  We’ve made our tax code fairer.  We cut our deficits by more than half.  We’ve given millions more Americans the security of health care that means you won’t go broke just because you get sick.  (Applause.)

So thanks to the hard work of you — and some actually pretty smart policies by us — (laughter) — we have come farther and recovered faster than almost any other advanced nation on Earth.  More companies are choosing to bring back jobs from overseas.  Thanks to our leadership in technology and innovation, for the first time in more than a decade, business leaders around the world have declared China is not number one when it comes to the place to invest, the United States is.  And our lead is growing.  (Applause.)

So despite what you may hear, there is no doubt we are making progress.  By almost every measure, we are better off than when I took office — by almost every measure.  (Applause.)  But here’s the thing — and this is why I’ve got to get out more and have lunch with — and pizza with my friends — because the fact is, we know we’ve still got a long way to go.

Here’s the challenge:  We’ve created more jobs at this point of the year than any year since 1999.  More jobs have been created in the first half of this year than we have since the ‘90s.  But many families barely earn what they did in the ‘90s.  Corporate profits are higher than ever.  CEOs make more than ever.  But most people are working harder than ever just to get by.  Wages, incomes have flat-lined.  They have not gone up.

So as a whole, the country is doing better, but too much improvement goes to the folks at the top and not enough of it is making a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans.  (Applause.)  And that’s what we should be spending all our time talking about, how do we reverse some of those trends.  That’s what I came to Denver to talk about, that issue — how do we make sure if you work hard, do the right thing you can get ahead.  Washington may chase whatever political story they think will get attention, but to me the only story that matters is your story.  And I am here to say that this country does not succeed when just a few at the top do well and everybody else is treading water.  America does better when the middle class does better, when folks who work hard can afford to buy what they make and provide for our families and leave something better for our kids.  (Applause.)

So this is what I’m spending time on.  This is what I’m fighting for.  This is my opportunity agenda.  I’m focused on how do we create good jobs that pay good wages — jobs in American manufacturing and construction, in American energy and innovation.

I’m fighting for an opportunity agenda that trains more workers with the skills to fill those jobs at community colleges and in apprenticeships and internships that give young people a solid start.

We’re fighting for an opportunity agenda that guarantees every child a world-class education, from high-quality pre-K, to a redesigned high school, to colleges and a rewarding career that’s affordable and you’re not loaded up with debt.  (Applause.)

We’re fighting to make sure your hard work pays off with higher wages that you can live on and savings you can retire on — workplace flexibility, so if your kids get sick or you’ve got an ailing parent you’re not looking at losing your job; overtime pay that you’ve earned; affordable health care that’s there when you get sick and you need it most.

We’re fighting for the idea that everybody gets opportunity — no matter what you look like, or where you come from, or who you love, or how you grew up, or what your last name is.  America is a place where you should be able to make it if you try.  (Applause.)

And the good news is we actually know how to do some of these things.  If we make just some modest changes — we don’t need revolutionary changes.  If we made some modest changes, made some sensible decisions we’d create more jobs, we’d lift more income, we’d strengthen the middle class.  We wouldn’t solve every problem overnight, but we’d be making more progress even than we’re already making.  That’s what we should be doing.  And of course, that’s what drives you nuts about Washington, because that’s not what it’s doing.  (Laughter.)

After everything we’ve been through together, you’d think that these challenges would absorb the attention of folks in Washington.  But these days, basic common-sense ideas cannot get through Congress.  Basic stuff — stuff that used to be uncontroversial.  It used to be that Republicans, Democrats, everybody said, you know what, America, it’s a good thing when we build roads and bridges and a smart grid to transmit energy — all those things are good for business, they’re good for workers, it helps — now they can’t seem to pass a bill, just to fund basic projects that we know are good for our economy.

We have evidence that early childhood education, every dollar we spend there, you get seven bucks back — (applause) — because kids to better in school, they don’t drop out, they’re less likely to get in trouble.  They’re less likely to go to jail.  They’re more likely to be taxpayers later on.  But you look at Congress — they can’t do it.

Think about it.  So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage.  They said no to fair pay legislation so that women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work.  They said no to unemployment insurance for Americans who are out there looking for a new job.  I know, because I get letters from them every day — folks who have worked all their lives, paid taxes all their lives.  And now, right when they’re having a tough time because of an unprecedented recession that we just went through, and they need a little help so they don’t lose their house or they don’t lose their car, suddenly Congress can’t do it.

Congress just said no to fixing our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders and our businesses — despite the fact that everybody from law enforcement to corporations to evangelicals — there’s a coalition around immigration reform that’s unprecedented.  These guys still can’t get their act together.

Rather than invest in education that lets working families get ahead, they voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.  Rather than invest in roads and bridges to create construction jobs and help our businesses succeed, they’ve chosen to preserve and protect tax loopholes for companies that shift their profits overseas that don’t do anybody any good.

Republicans in Congress right now have shown over and over they’ll do anything to rig the system for those at the top or to try to score political points on me, even if the obstruction keeps the system rigged against the middle class.  The best thing you can say for them this year is they haven’t yet shut down the government or threatened to go deadbeat on America’s obligations.  But it is still early, so — (applause.)

Now, I always have to say this:  I don’t think that they’re all terrible people.  I think they love their families.  They love the country.  They’ve got a different economic theory.  Maybe they don’t know what ordinary folks are going through.  But maybe it’s not that they don’t get it.  Maybe it’s just because the theory they have is, is that if the economy is doing good for folks at the very top, then it’s going to help everybody else — despite the fact that we have evidence over and over again that those theories have failed the middle class.

More tax breaks to those at the top.  Fewer investments in things like education.  Looser rules for big banks, or credit card companies, or polluters, or insurers — they believe all that stuff really makes the economy hum and prosperity trickles down.

Just because they believe it doesn’t mean the rest of us believe it — because we know from our history it doesn’t work.  Our economy grows best from the middle out, when everybody has a shot, everybody is doing well.   (Applause.)  And with a slight change of priorities, we could do it.  We could help a lot more Americans get ahead.  And folks at the top will do well too.  (Applause.)  Everybody will do better.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, Republicans used to understand this.  This is not like a crazy Democratic, socialist idea.  (Laughter.)  My favorite President is a Republican:  Abraham Lincoln, who helped build a Transcontinental Railroad and invested in the Homestead Act that helped people get land; and invested in our first major federal scientific research; understood that you make these common investments — land-lease colleges — or land-grant colleges, that all these things would end up giving people tools to improve themselves and thereby improve the country.  And we couldn’t all do it alone.  We had to do it with each other.

This wasn’t just a Democratic idea.  Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System.  Teddy Roosevelt started our national parks.  These are basic ideas that made America work.  They’re not partisan.  So I’m going to keep on working with Republicans and Democrats to try to get things moving over there.

In the meantime, I’m not going to stand by while partisan gridlock or political games threaten the hard work of millions of Americans.  (Applause.)  So wherever and whenever I can go ahead and help families like yours, I’ve got the legal authority to do it, I’m going to do it.  (Applause.)  I’m not going to wait.  Not going to wait.  (Applause.)

That’s why I’ve taken a bunch of actions this year just to help working Americans while still reaching out to Congress.  What I’ve said to them is, if you’re not acting, I’m going to go ahead and do what I can.

So if Congress won’t act to make sure women have the ability to get equal pay for equal work, I made sure that women had the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace.  (Applause.)  I think when women succeed, America succeeds.  We’re going to keep on investing in that.  (Applause.)
If Congress won’t act to create jobs in construction or manufacturing, we’re going to go ahead and speed up permits for big projects that are already funded, and launch new hubs to attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs — because I want to make sure the next revolution in manufacturing and technology is an American revolution, right here in the United States.  I don’t want it going to France or Germany or China.  I want it to happen here.  (Applause.)

If Congress won’t act to help more young people manage their student loan debt — and Republicans voted against a bill that would have allowed young people to refinance at lower rates — I went ahead and gave nearly 5 million Americans the opportunity to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income.  (Applause.)  I don’t want them saddled with debt before they start out in life.  I want to make sure that they’re able to pursue a career in teaching or social work, or work in a non-for- profit, and they can still afford it.  (Applause.)

Republicans so far refuse to raise workers’ wages.  I did what I could — it turns out I’m a pretty big employer.  (Laughter.)  So I said any federal worker — anybody who works for federal contractors, they’re going to have to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)   And I asked business owners and governors and mayors and state legislators to do what they could on their own.  (Applause.)

And, by at way, since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states have gone ahead and raised theirs — and those states have seen higher job growth than the states that haven’t raised their minimum wage.  (Applause.)  And more and more business owners are choosing to lift wages for workers like Alex.  America needs a raise.  And, by the way, when America needs a raise — I was telling Carolyn, our sub owner, last night, and she made the simple point, look, I want tax cuts and raises for my workers and for others who don’t have a lot because that means they’re going to buy more sandwiches.  I can already afford a sub sandwich.  If you give me a tax cut I’m not going to spend — I’m not going to buy more sub sandwiches; I can only eat so many.  (Laughter.)  But that’s true about the economy generally.  When you give tax breaks and you give raises, you raise the minimum wage, you give a bigger chance to folks who are climbing the ladder, working hard, don’t have a lot at the end of the month, that money gets churned back into the economy.  And the whole economy does better, including the businesses.

Now, I gather that some of the Republicans in Congress are mad at me for going ahead and doing things.  (Laughter.)  And I don’t know which things they find most offensive, whether it’s creating jobs, or easing student loan burdens, or raising wages, but it’s really bothering them.  They have a plan to sue me.  They have plans to sue me for taking executive actions that are within my authority — while they do nothing.

I have a better idea.  They should do something.  (Applause.)  I will work with them.  Rather than engage in political stunts that waste time and taxpayer money, join me.  Let’s do some things together.  Let’s build some roads.  Let’s give America a raise.  Let’s help families with childcare costs. There are all kinds of things we can do.  Don’t be mad at me for doing something.  How about teaming up with me.  Let’s all do something.  (Applause.)  Let’s all get America working.

We are better than this.  Gosh, doesn’t it get you just frustrated?  (Laughter.)  We could do so much more if Republicans in Congress focused less on protecting the folks who’ve got the lobbyists and all that soft money out there.  Stop worrying about the folks who already got — are doing just fine.  Focus more on stoking opportunity for all people.  Work with me.  That’s the American way.  That’s what makes this country great — a sense of common purpose and patriotism, an economic patriotism that says we fall and we rise as one nation, as one people.

So we can rally America around an economic patriotism that says, don’t give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, let’s give more tax breaks to help working families pay for childcare or college.  (Applause.)

Let’s rally around a patriotism that says, don’t give tax loopholes to corporations shifting jobs overseas, let’s put people back to work here rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our airports, making sure the next generation of manufacturing is made in America.  That’s patriotism.  (Applause.)  That’s patriotism.

Don’t stack the deck in favor of those who’ve already succeeded.  We’re stronger when we’re helping everybody succeed, cultivating every talent of every child — every 4-year-old in America, give them high-quality preschool so they’re safe and taught well while we go to work and redesign our high schools to better prepare our kids for the 21st century.  And tell every American, you know, if your job was stamped “obsolete,” if it was shipped overseas, we’re going to train you for an even better one.

We need an economic patriotism that says it’s a good thing that everybody gets health insurance.  That’s not a bad thing.  (Applause.)  That’s a good thing.  It’s a good thing when women are paid the same as men for doing the same work.  (Applause.)  That’s not un-American.  It’s a good thing when parents have some flexibility when their kids are sick.  It will make the employees more loyal; they’re more productive.  It’s a good thing when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty.  That’s not un-American.  (Applause.)  That’s not radical.  It’s right.  It’s what built this country.

I know that sometimes it must be frustrating watching what’s going on.  I guarantee I get frustrated.  There are some things that I have to mutter under my breath sometimes.  (Laughter.)  And the hardest thing to change in politics is a stubborn status quo.  And it’s harder when Washington seems distracted by everything except the things you care about.  And there’s a cottage industry in Washington that counts on you just being cynical about stuff, so that you don’t vote, you don’t get involved, you get discouraged, you say a plague on both your houses.  But you can’t give into that cynicism.  Do not let them win by you being cynical, because despite everything that’s happened, despite all the obstruction, America is making progress.  (Applause.)

We’re better off now than we were five years ago.  We’re going to be better off five years from now than we are right now.  Despite the unyielding opposition of a few, there are workers who have jobs who didn’t have them before.  There are families who have health insurance who didn’t have it before.  There are students who can afford to go to college who couldn’t afford to go before.  There are troops who are home with their families after serving tour after tour of war.  (Applause.)  Don’t get cynical.  (Applause.)  Don’t do it.

Cynicism is a popular choice these days.  It’s what passes off for wisdom.  (Laughter.)  But cynicism isn’t wise.  And remember that it is a choice.  Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice.  And it’s a choice that I make every time I sit down with these incredible people that I had dinner with last night.  They make me hopeful.

It’s the hope that Alex has when she sits down and she picks up a pen and she writes to the President hoping that the system still works; hoping maybe the letter gets there; hoping that I’ll listen; hoping that even when Washington seems tone deaf, your voice might reach a President, your voice might reach a crowd in a park, your voice might move fellow citizens to change what needs changing.

Every day I receive these thousands of acts of hope from you.  I’m listening.  It’s why I ran for office.  It’s why I’m fighting for you.  I will keep treating your cares and concerns as my own.  I will keep trying to restore the American Dream for everybody who is willing to work for it.

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

END
10:57 A.M. MDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks before Lunch with Teachers Introduces “Excellent Educators for All” for Better Teachers in Poor Schools

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President before Lunch with Teachers

Source: WH, 7-7-14

Blue Room

12:10 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  I am here with some outstanding teachers as well as Secretary Arne Duncan.  And the reason we’re here is with the school year now over, it is a great time for us to focus on what we need to do to make sure that next year and the year after that and the year after continues to improve for students all across this country.

The one ingredient that we know makes an enormous difference is a great teacher, and we have four of the best teachers in the country here.  But what we also know is that there are outstanding teachers all across the country, and Arne, myself, I suspect many of you had wonderful teachers that made all the difference in your lives and allowed you to be excited about learning and set you on a path for an extraordinary career.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of kids around the country who are not getting the kind of teaching that they need — not because there aren’t a whole lot of great potential teachers out there, but because we’re not doing enough to put a lot of our teachers in a position to succeed.  They may not be getting the training they need, they may not be getting the professional development and support that they need in the classroom.  And part of our goal since we came into office, since Arne became Secretary of Education is how do we continue to improve how teachers can get better each and every year.

Of particular concern is the fact that typically the least experienced teachers, the ones with the least support, often end up in the poorest schools.  So we have a problem in which the kids who need the most skilled teachers are the least likely to get them.  And the most talented and skilled teachers oftentimes are teaching the kids who are already the best prepared and have the most resources outside of the school in order to succeed.

So what we’re trying to do today — and Arne is going to have more to say about this this afternoon because we’re hosting a bunch of other teachers who are here in town — is to highlight what we’re calling “Excellent Educators for All.”  It’s going to be a program in which we ask states to take a look at where they’re distributing great teachers, what are they doing in order to train and promote and place teachers in some of the toughest environments for children.  And what we’re also going to be doing is providing technical assistance, highlighting best practices, all with the intention of making sure that wherever a child is, anywhere in the country, they’ve got that opportunity to have somebody in front of the classroom or beside them guiding them, mentoring them, helping them learn.

And when I think about my own experience, the only reason I’m here in the White House is because I had some extraordinary teachers as well as a pretty extraordinary mom and grandparents.  I think everybody sitting around this table probably feels the same way — I suspect that’s part of what inspired some of these people to become teachers.  We want to make sure every child has that access to excellent teachers and we’re very confident that if we can lift up what works, that there are going to be a lot of states that want to adapt to it.

So, unfortunately right now, they don’t necessarily have the information and, as I said, if we do nothing, if we don’t highlight the problem, then inevitably the kids who probably need less help get the most, and the kids who need the most help are getting the least.  That’s something that we’re going to need to reverse not just because it’s good for these kids — we know that if they’ve got a great teacher, they’re more likely to graduate, they’re more likely to go to college, they’re more likely to succeed in their career — it’s also necessary for our economy, because we’ve got too many kids who are trapped in situations in which they’re not able to realize their full potential.

So I want to thank all these folks for being here, and I’m really looking forward to listening to them to find out what they think can be most helpful in promoting excellence in teaching.

Thank you, everybody.

END
12:16 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at White House Fourth of July Celebration

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Fourth of July Celebration

Source: WH, 7-4-14

South Lawn

5:56 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Happy Fourth of July!  Welcome to the White House!

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!

MRS. OBAMA:  You’re welcome!

THE PRESIDENT:  No, thank you.  (Laughter.)

Now, this little party is something we’ve been doing every year, because there’s no group that we’d rather spend time with on this most American of holidays than with you — the extraordinary men and women of America’s military.  And because of you, we’re safe, we’re free.  We depend on you for our way of life, and the sacrifices you make are extraordinary.

Now, in the house we’ve got Army.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Navy.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Air Force.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Marines.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Coast Guard.  (Applause.)  And, most important, we’ve got the incredible spouses and children —  give it up for our outstanding military families.  (Applause.)

To help us celebrate, we’ve got our outstanding Marine Band.  (Applause.)  Later on, we’re going to bring out Pitbull and his band.  (Applause.)  So we want to see if you like to party.  (Laughter.)  And, of course, this is always a special day for us because this is Malia’s birthday.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  She can get her license!

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, she’s going to get her license.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  She is.  She’s getting her license, but she has to practice a little bit before that happens.  (Laughter.)

Now, this is a gorgeous day.  We want you to enjoy yourselves, so I’m going to keep my remarks brief.  But it is important to remember why we’re here.

Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago, our founders came together and declared a new nation and a revolutionary idea –the belief that we are all created equal; that we’re free to govern ourselves; that each of us is entitled to life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And in the generations that have followed — through war and peace, through depression and prosperity — these truths have guided us as we have built the greatest democratic, economic, and military force the world has ever known.

So today, immigrants from around the world dream of coming to our shores.  Young people aspire to study at our universities.  Other nations look to us for support and leadership in times of disaster, and conflict, and uncertainty.  And when the world looks to America, so often they look to all of you –- the men and women of our Armed Forces.  Every day, at home and abroad, you’re working to uphold those ideals first declared in that Philadelphia hall more than two centuries ago.  Every day, you give meaning to that basic notion that as Americans we take care of each other.  And so today, we honor all of you.

And we salute some of the folks who are here with us on this balcony.  We salute our soldiers — like Chief Warrant Officer Tom Oroho, who has served this nation in uniform for 27 years, including deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Two summers ago, Tom was at the beach, saw a young girl and her father who had been swept out to sea, and jumped into dangerous riptide and pulled them back to safety.  That’s the kind of service we expect from our outstanding soldiers.  Please give it up for Tom.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

We salute our sailors — like Seaman Reverlie Thomas, who came to America 21 years ago from Trinidad.  She served a tour in the Persian Gulf for the Navy.  Just a few hours ago here at the White House, I was proud to welcome Seaman Thomas and 24 other servicemembers and military spouses as our newest American citizens.  Thank you Reverlie, and congratulations.  (Applause.)

We salute our airmen — like Technical Sergeant Cheryl Uylaki, who manages the Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base, ensuring the families of our fallen are always provided comfort and care worthy of their profound sacrifice.  We’re so grateful to you, Cheryl, for your great work.  (Applause.)

We salute our Marines — like Sergeant Isaac Gallegos, who was severely wounded after an IED explosion in Iraq eight years ago.  He suffered burns on almost every inch of his face.  He was pronounced dead three separate times.  Undergone 161 surgeries.  But he is here standing with us today, pursuing a Master’s degree, working full-time for the Navy.  That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about Marines.  Give it up for Isaac.  (Applause.)

We salute our Coasties — like Lieutenant Commander Sean Plankey, who helped lead a cyber team in Afghanistan that supported our troops during firefights and helped prevent the detonation of remote-controlled IEDs, saving countless lives.  So thank you, Sean.  (Applause.)

And we salute our military families — the spouses who put their careers on hold for their loved ones; the children who pick up extra chores while Mom or Dad is deployed; the siblings and parents and extended family members who serve the country every single day.  You’re the reason Michelle and Jill Biden started the Joining Forces initiative — to make sure America is supporting you, too.  And today we honor your service here today.  (Applause.)

So as we pause on this Fourth of July to celebrate what makes us American, we salute all of you whose service and sacrifice renews that promise of America every single day.  On behalf of the entire country, Michelle and I simply want to say thank you to all of you for your courage and your strength, and your unending service to this nation.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody.  Have a great party.  Have a hotdog.  Have a hamburger.  We want to see you dancing.  God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
6:05 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Celebrating Independence Day

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Celebrating Independence Day

Source: WH, 7-4-14 

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, President Obama commemorated Independence Day by noticing the contributions and sacrifices from individuals throughout the history of this country – from our Founding Fathers, to the men and women in our military serving at home and abroad.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
July 4, 2014

Hi, everybody. I hope you’re all having a great Fourth of July weekend.

I want to begin today by saying a special word to the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team, who represented America so well the past few weeks. We are so proud of you. You’ve got a lot of new believers. And I know there’s actually a petition on the White House website to make Tim Howard the next Secretary of Defense. Chuck Hagel’s got that spot right now, but if there is a vacancy, I’ll think about it.

It was 238 years ago that our founders came together in Philadelphia to launch our American experiment. There were farmers and businessmen, doctors and lawyers, ministers and a kite-flying scientist.

Those early patriots may have come from different backgrounds and different walks of life. But they were united by a belief in a simple truth — that we are all created equal; that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Over the years, that belief has sustained us through war and depression; peace and prosperity. It’s helped us build the strongest democracy, the greatest middle class, and the most powerful military the world has ever known. And today, there isn’t a nation on Earth that wouldn’t gladly trade places with the United States of America.

But our success is only possible because we have never treated those self-evident truths as self-executing. Generations of Americans have marched, organized, petitioned, fought and even died to extend those rights to others; to widen the circle of opportunity for others; and to perfect this union we love so much.

That’s why I want to say a special thanks to the men and women of our armed forces and the families who serve with them — especially those service members who spent this most American of holidays serving your country far from home.

You keep us safe, and you keep the United States of America a shining beacon of hope for the world. And for that, you and your families deserve not only the appreciation of a grateful nation, but our enduring commitment to serve you as well as you’ve served us.

God bless you all. And have a great weekend.

Full Text Obama Presidency July 1, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy at the Georgetown Waterfront

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy

Source: WH, 7-1-14

Georgetown Waterfront
Washington, D.C.

2:22 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, hello, everybody.  Have a seat, have a seat.  It’s hot.  (Laughter.)  It’s hot out — Anthony, take off your coat, man.  (Laughter.)  It is hot and Team USA takes the pitch in a couple hours, so we’ve got to get down to business.  (Applause.)  We don’t have time for a lot of small talk — am I right, Mr. Mayor?  We’ve got to get going.

Behind me is one of the busiest bridges in Washington.  And, with the 4th of July on Friday — also Malia’s birthday, for those of you who are interested, she will be 16, a little worrisome — I would note that this bridge is named for the man who wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner” –- Francis Scott Key.

Three years ago, I came here to this very spot, to the Key Bridge, to talk about how two of the five major bridges connecting D.C. and Virginia –- including this one -– were rated “structurally deficient.”  And with almost 120,000 vehicles crossing them every day, I said it was important to fix them.

And today, that’s exactly what we’re doing.  So, soon, construction workers will be on the job making the Key Bridge safer for commuters and for families, and even for members of Congress to cross.  (Laughter.)  This is made possible by something called the Highway Trust Fund, which Congress established back in the 1950s, and which helps states repair and rebuild our infrastructure all across the country.  It’s an example of what can happen when Washington just functions the way it was supposed to.

Back then, you had Eisenhower, a Republican President; over time you would have Democratic Presidents, Democratic and Republican members of Congress all recognizing building bridges and roads and levees and ports and airports — that none of that is a partisan issue.  That’s making sure that America continues to progress.
Now, here is the problem.  Here is the reason we’re here in the heat.  If this Congress does not act by the end of the summer, the Highway Trust Fund will run out.  There won’t be any money there.  All told, nearly 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year.  That would be like Congress threatening to lay off the entire population of Denver, or Seattle, or Boston.  That’s a lot of people.  It would be a bad idea.  Right now, there are more than 100,000 active projects across the country where workers are paving roads, and rebuilding bridges, and modernizing our transit systems.  And soon, states may have to choose which projects to continue and which ones to put the brakes on because they’re running out of money.  Some have already done just that, just because they’re worried that Congress will not get its act together in time.

Now, earlier this year, I put forward a plan not just to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, I put forward a plan to rebuild our transportation infrastructure across the country in a responsible way.  And I want to thank Secretary Anthony Foxx, who is here today, for his hard work in putting this plan together.  (Applause.)  Because we are not spending enough on the things that help our economy grow, the things that help businesses move products, the thing that help workers get to the job, the things that help families get home to see their loved ones at night.  We spend significantly less as a portion of our economy than China does, than Germany does, than just about every other advanced country.  They know something that I guess we don’t, which is that’s the path to growth, that’s the path to competitiveness.

So the plan we put together would support millions of jobs.  It would give cities, and states, and private investors the certainty they need to plan ahead.  It would help small businesses ship their goods faster, help parents get home to their kids faster.  And it wouldn’t add to the deficits –- because we’d pay for it in part by closing tax loopholes for companies that are shipping their profits overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  Seems like a sensible thing to do.  (Applause.)

It’s not crazy, it’s not socialism.  (Laughter.)  It’s not the imperial presidency — no laws are broken.  We’re just building roads and bridges like we’ve been doing for the last, I don’t know, 50, 100 years.  But so far, House Republicans have refused to act on this idea.  I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted — it’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff.  (Laughter.)  No, seriously.  (Laughter.)  I mean, they’re not doing anything.  Why don’t they do this?

Now, Republican obstruction is not just some abstract political stunt; it has real and direct consequences for middle-class families all across the country.

We went through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we’ve climbed back.  Since then, we’ve created 9.4 million new jobs over the past 51 months.  Corporate profits are up, stock market is up, housing is improving.  (Applause.)  Unemployment is down.  The deficits have been cut in half.  We’re making progress, but we still have a situation where those at the top are doing as well as ever but middle-class families all across the country are still struggling to get by.  There are people who are working hard, they believe in the American Dream — it feels sometimes like the system is rigged against them.

And they have good reason to think that way.  So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  Not ideas that are unique to me, they’re not — this isn’t Obama bridge.  (Laughter.)  It’s Key Bridge.  But the Republicans have said no to raising the minimum wage, they’ve said no to fair pay, they’ve said no to extending unemployment insurance for over 3 million Americans looking for a new job.

And this obstruction keeps the system rigged for those who are doing fine at the top.  It prevents us from helping more middle-class families.  And as long as they insist on taking no action whatsoever that will help anybody, I’m going to keep on taking actions on my own that can help the middle class — like the actions I’ve already taken to speed up construction projects, and attract new manufacturing jobs, and lift workers’ wages, and help students pay off their loans.  (Applause.)

And they criticize me for this.  Boehner sued me for this.  And I told him, I’d rather do things with you, pass some laws, make sure the Highway Trust Fund is funded so we don’t lay off hundreds of thousands of workers.  It’s not that hard.  Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff.  So sue me.  (Laughter.)  As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.  (Applause.)

And look, I just want to be clear — Republicans in Congress, they’re patriots, they love their country, they love their families.  They just have a flawed theory of the economy that they can’t seem to get past.  They believe that all we should be doing is giving more tax breaks to those at the top, eliminating regulations that stop big banks or polluters from doing what they want, cut the safety net for people trying to work their way into the middle class, and then somehow the economy is going to get stronger and jobs and prosperity trickle down to everybody.  That’s their worldview.  I’m sure they sincerely believe it.  It’s just not accurate.  It does not work.
We know from our history our economy doesn’t grow from the top down; it grows from the middle out.  We do better when you’ve got some construction workers on the job.  They then go to a restaurant and they buy a new car.  That means the workers there start doing better.  Everybody does better.  And we could be doing so much more if Republicans in Congress were less interested in stacking the deck in favor of those at the top or trying to score political points, or purposely trying to gridlock Washington, and just tried to get some things done to grow the economy for everybody.  We could do so much more if we just rallied around an economic patriotism, a sense that our job is to get things done as one nation and as one people.

Economic patriotism would say that instead of protecting corporations that are shipping jobs overseas, let’s make sure they’re paying their fair share of taxes, let’s reward American workers and businesses that hire them.  Let’s put people to work rebuilding America.  Let’s invest in manufacturing, so the next generation of good manufacturing jobs are right here, made in the USA.  (Applause.)  That would be something to celebrate on the 4th of July.  (Applause.)

Economic patriotism says that instead of stacking the deck in the favor of folks just at the top, let’s harness the talents and ingenuity of every American and give every child access to quality education, and make sure that if your job was stamped obsolete or shipped overseas, you’re going to get retrained for an even better job.  (Applause.)

Economic patriotism says that instead of making it tougher for middle-class families to get ahead, let’s reward hard work for every American.  Let’s make sure women earn pay that’s equal to their efforts.  (Applause.)  Let’s make sure families can make ends meet if their child gets sick and they need to take a day off.  Let’s make sure no American who works full-time ever has to live in poverty.  (Applause.)

Let’s tell everybody they’re worth something.  No matter who you are, no matter what you look like, where you come from, who you love, if you work hard, if you’re responsible, you can make it here in America.  That’s what this country was founded on, that idea.  That’s why I ran for this office.  I think sometimes about what we could be accomplishing, what we could have accomplished this past year, what we could have accomplished the year before that.  And typically what gets reported on is just the politics — well, you know, they’re not doing this because they don’t want to give Obama a victory or oh, well, we don’t want to do this right now because maybe the midterm election is coming up and, oh, well, what’s happening with the polls.  People don’t care about that.  People just want to see some results.  And objectively, if you look at the agenda I’m putting forward, the things that we’re trying to get done like just fixing bridges and roads, it really shouldn’t be controversial.  It hasn’t been controversial in the past.

And so part of the reason that I’m going to be spending a lot of time over the next several weeks and months getting out there with ordinary folks is just to report to you it’s not as if I don’t know that you could use some help.  I know.  It’s not as if we don’t have good plans to put more people back to work and raise their incomes and improve the quality of education.  We know how to do it.  That’s not the reason it’s not happening.  It’s not happening because of politics.

And the only folks that can fix that are going to be you — the American people and voters.  Sometimes in our culture right now we just get cynical about stuff and we just assume things can’t change because nothing seems to change in this town.  But that’s not true.  It can change as long as everybody gets activated, as long as people still feel hopeful and we don’t fall prey to cynicism.

And so I just want everybody here to understand that as frustrating as it may be sometimes, as stuck as Congress may be sometimes, if the American people put pressure on this town to actually get something done and everybody is looking at some commonsense agenda items that we should be able to do because Democrats and Republicans were able to do them in the past, we can grow our economy, we can lift people’s incomes, we can make sure that people who are fighting hard can get into the middle class and stay there.  But it’s going to take you.  It’s going to take you.  This is not going to happen on its own.  And I’m confident if that’s what we do, if all of you are fighting alongside me every single day instead of just giving up on this place, then we’re going to make America better than ever.  That’s a promise.

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  Go Team USA!  Let’s build some bridges!

END
2:37 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 30, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Border Security and Immigration Reform

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Border Security and Immigration Reform

Source: WH, 6-30-14 

Rose Garden

3:04 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  One year ago this month, senators of both parties –- with support from the business, labor, law enforcement, faith communities –- came together to pass a commonsense immigration bill.

Independent experts said that bill would strengthen our borders, grow our economy, shrink our deficits.  As we speak, there are enough Republicans and Democrats in the House to pass an immigration bill today.  I would sign it into law today, and Washington would solve a problem in a bipartisan way.

But for more than a year, Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to allow an up-or-down vote on that Senate bill or any legislation to fix our broken immigration system.  And I held off on pressuring them for a long time to give Speaker Boehner the space he needed to get his fellow Republicans on board.

Meanwhile, here’s what a year of obstruction has meant.  It has meant fewer resources to strengthen our borders.  It’s meant more businesses free to game the system by hiring undocumented workers, which punishes businesses that play by the rules, and drives down wages for hardworking Americans.  It’s meant lost talent when the best and brightest from around the world come to study here but are forced to leave and then compete against our businesses and our workers.  It’s meant no chance for 11 million immigrants to come out of the shadows and earn their citizenship if they pay a penalty and pass a background check, pay their fair share of taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line.  It’s meant the heartbreak of separated families.

That’s what this obstruction has meant over the past year.  That’s what the Senate bill would fix if the House allowed it to go to a vote.

Our country and our economy would be stronger today if House Republicans had allowed a simple yes-or-no vote on this bill or, for that matter, any bill.  They’d be following the will of the majority of the American people who support reform.  Instead, they’ve proven again and again that they’re unwilling to stand up to the tea party in order to do what’s best for the country.  And the worst part about it is a bunch of them know better.

We now have an actual humanitarian crisis on the border that only underscores the need to drop the politics and fix our immigration system once and for all.  In recent weeks, we’ve seen a surge of unaccompanied children arrive at the border, brought here and to other countries by smugglers and traffickers.

The journey is unbelievably dangerous for these kids.  The children who are fortunate enough to survive it will be taken care of while they go through the legal process, but in most cases that process will lead to them being sent back home.  I’ve sent a clear message to parents in these countries not to put their kids through this.  I recently sent Vice President Biden to meet with Central American leaders and find ways to address the root causes of this crisis.  Secretary Kerry will also be meeting with those leaders again tomorrow.  With our international partners, we’re taking new steps to go after the dangerous smugglers who are putting thousands of children’s lives at risk.

Today, I sent a letter to congressional leaders asking that they work with me to address the urgent humanitarian challenge on the border, and support the immigration and Border Patrol agents who already apprehend and deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants every year.  And understand, by the way, for the most part, this is not a situation where these children are slipping through.  They’re being apprehended.  But the problem is, is that our system is so broken, so unclear that folks don’t know what the rules are.

Now, understand –- there are a number of Republicans who have been willing to work with us to pass real, commonsense immigration reform, and I want to thank them for their efforts.  There are a number of Republican leaders in the Senate who did excellent work and deserve our thanks.  And less visibly, there have been folks in the House who have been trying to work to get this done.  And quietly, because it doesn’t always help me to praise them, I’ve expressed to them how much I appreciate the efforts that they’ve made.

I believe Speaker Boehner when he says he wants to pass an immigration bill.  I think he genuinely wants to get something done.  But last week, he informed me that Republicans will continue to block a vote on immigration reform at least for the remainder of this year.  Some in the House Republican Caucus are using the situation with unaccompanied children as their newest excuse to do nothing.  Now, I want everybody to think about that.  Their argument seems to be that because the system is broken, we shouldn’t make an effort to fix it.  It makes no sense.  It’s not on the level.  It’s just politics, plain and simple.

Now, there are others in the Republican Caucus in the House who are arguing that they can’t act because they’re mad at me about using my executive authority too broadly.  This also makes no sense.  I don’t prefer taking administrative action.  I’d rather see permanent fixes to the issue we face.  Certainly that’s true on immigration.  I’ve made that clear multiple times.  I would love nothing more than bipartisan legislation to pass the House, the Senate, land on my desk so I can sign it.  That’s true about immigration, that’s true about the minimum wage, it’s true about equal pay.  There are a whole bunch of things where I would greatly prefer Congress actually do something.  I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing.  And in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy, and it’s bad for our future.

So while I will continue to push House Republicans to drop the excuses and act –- and I hope their constituents will too -– America cannot wait forever for them to act.  And that’s why, today, I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.  As a first step, I’m directing the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to move available and appropriate resources from our interior to the border.  Protecting public safety and deporting dangerous criminals has been and will remain the top priority, but we are going to refocus our efforts where we can to make sure we do what it takes to keep our border secure.

I have also directed Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Holder to identify additional actions my administration can take on our own, within my existing legal authorities, to do what Congress refuses to do and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.  If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours.  I expect their recommendations before the end of summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay.

Of course, even with aggressive steps on my part, administrative action alone will not adequately address the problem.  The reforms that will do the most to strengthen our businesses, our workers, and our entire economy will still require an act of Congress.  And I repeat:  These are reforms that already enjoy the wide support of the American people.  It’s very rare where you get labor, business, evangelicals, law enforcement all agreeing on what needs to be done.  And at some point, that should be enough.  Normally, that is enough.  The point of public service is to solve public problems.  And those of us who have the privilege to serve have a responsibility to do everything in our power to keep Americans safe and to keep the doors of opportunity open.

And if we do, then one year from now, not only would our economy and our security be stronger, but maybe the best and the brightest from around the world who come study here would stay and create jobs here.  Maybe companies that play by the rules will no longer be undercut by companies that don’t.  Maybe more families who’ve been living here for years, whose children are often U.S. citizens, who are our neighbors and our friends, whose children are our kids’ friends and go to school with them, and play on ball teams with them, maybe those families would get to stay together.  But much of this only happens if Americans continue to push Congress to get this done.

So I’ve told Speaker Boehner that even as I take those steps that I can within my existing legal authorities to make the immigration system work better, I’m going to continue to reach out to House Republicans in the hope that they deliver a more permanent solution with a comprehensive bill.  Maybe it will be after the midterms, when they’re less worried about politics.  Maybe it will be next year.  Whenever it is, they will find me a willing partner.  I have been consistent in saying that I am prepared to work with them even on a bill that I don’t consider perfect.  And the Senate bill was a good example of the capacity to compromise and get this done.  The only thing I can’t do is stand by and do nothing while waiting for them to get their act together.

And I want to repeat what I said earlier.  If House Republicans are really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, the best solution to that is passing bills.  Pass a bill; solve a problem.  Don’t just say no on something that everybody agrees needs to be done.  Because if we pass a bill, that will supplant whatever I’ve done administratively.  We’ll have a structure there that works, and it will be permanent.  And people can make plans and businesses can make plans based on the law.  And there will be clarity both here inside this country and outside it.

Let me just close by saying Friday is the Fourth of July.  It’s the day we celebrate our independence and all the things that make this country so great.  And each year, Michelle and I host a few hundred servicemembers and wounded warriors and their families right here on the lawn for a barbecue and fireworks on the Mall.

And some of the servicemembers coming this year are unique because they signed up to serve, to sacrifice, potentially to give their lives for the security of this country even though they weren’t yet Americans.  That’s how much they love this country.  They were prepared to fight and die for an America they did not yet fully belong to.  I think they’ve earned their stripes in more ways than one.  And that’s why on Friday morning we’re going to naturalize them in a ceremony right here at the White House.  This Independence Day will be their first day as American citizens.

One of the things we celebrate on Friday –- one of the things that make this country great –- is that we are a nation of immigrants.  Our people come from every corner of the globe.  That’s what makes us special.  That’s what makes us unique.  And throughout our history, we’ve come here in wave after wave from everywhere understanding that there was something about this place where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts; that all the different cultures and ideas and energy would come together and create something new.

We won this country’s freedom together.  We built this country together.  We defended this country together.  It makes us special.  It makes us strong.  It makes us Americans.  That’s worth celebrating.  And that’s what I want not just House Republicans but all of us as Americans to remember.

Thanks very much.

END
3:21 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Focusing on the Economic Priorities for the Middle Class Nationwide

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Focusing on the Economic Priorities for the Middle Class Nationwide

Source: WH, 6-28-14 

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President discussed his recent trip to Minneapolis where he met a working mother named Rebekah, who wrote the President to share the challenges her family and many middle class Americans are facing where they work hard and sacrifice yet still can’t seem to get ahead. But instead of focusing on growing the middle class and expanding opportunity for all, Republicans in Congress continue to block commonsense economic proposals such as raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance and making college more affordable.  The President will keep fighting his economic priorities in the weeks and months ahead, because he knows the best way to expand opportunity for all hardworking Americans and continue to strengthen the economy is to grow it from the middle-out.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
June 28, 2014

Hi, everybody.  This week, I spent a couple days in Minneapolis, talking with people about their lives – their concerns, their successes, and their hopes for the future.

I went because of a letter I received from a working mother named Rebekah, who shared with me the hardships her young family has faced since the financial crisis.  She and her husband Ben were just newlyweds expecting their first child, Jack, when the housing crash dried up his contracting business.  He took what jobs he could, and Rebekah took out student loans and retrained for a new career.  They sacrificed – for their kids, and for each other.  And five years later, they’ve paid off debt, bought their first home, and had their second son, Henry.

In her letter to me, she wrote, “We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”  And in many ways, that’s America’s story these past five years.  We are a strong, tight-knit family that’s made it through some very tough times.

Today, over the past 51 months, our businesses have created 9.4 million new jobs.  By measure after measure, our economy is doing better than it was five years ago.

But as Rebekah also wrote in her letter, there are still too many middle-class families like hers who do everything right – who work hard and who sacrifice – but can’t seem to get ahead.  It feels like the odds are stacked against them.  And with just a small change in our priorities, we could fix that.

The problem is, Republicans in Congress keep blocking or voting down almost every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  This year alone, they’ve said no to raising the minimum wage, no to fair pay, no to student loan reform, no to extending unemployment insurance.  And rather than invest in education that helps working families get ahead, they actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.

This obstruction keeps the system rigged for those at the top, and rigged against the middle class.  And as long as they insist on doing it, I’ll keep taking actions on my own – like the actions I’ve taken already to attract new jobs, lift workers’ wages, and help students pay off their loans.  I’ll do my job.  And if it makes Republicans in Congress mad that I’m trying to help people out, they can join me, and we’ll do it together.

The point is, we could do so much more as a country – as a strong, tight-knit family – if Republicans in Congress were less interested in stacking the deck for those at the top, and more interested in growing the economy for everybody.

So rather than more tax breaks for millionaires, let’s give more tax breaks to help working families pay for child care or college.  Rather than protect tax loopholes that let big corporations set up tax shelters overseas, let’s put people to work rebuilding roads and bridges right here in America.  Rather than stack the decks in favor of those who’ve already succeeded, let’s realize that we are stronger as a nation when we offer a fair shot to every American.

I’m going to spend some time talking about these very choices in the week ahead.  That’s because we know from our history that our economy doesn’t grow from the top-down, it grows from the middle-out.  We do better when the middle class does better.  That’s the American way.  That’s what I believe in.  And that’s what I’ll keep fighting for.

Have a great Fourth of July, everybody – and good luck to Team USA down in Brazil.

Thanks.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 27, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy in Minneapolis, MN — Attacking GOP for Not Passing Economic Agenda

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Minneapolis, MN

Source: WH, 6-27-14 

Lake Harriet Band Shell
Minneapolis, Minnesota

10:15 A.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Minneapolis!  (Applause.)  How is everybody doing today?  You look good.  (Applause.)  It is good to see all of you.  I miss Minneapolis.  I missed you guys.  Go ahead and have a seat, I’m going to be talking for a while.  (Laughter.)

So we’ve got some wonderful folks here today.  I want to acknowledge a few of them.  First of all, your outstanding Governor, Mark Dayton.  (Applause.)  Your wonderful senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar.  (Applause.)  Congressman Keith Ellison.  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Betsy Hodges.  (Applause.)  And all of you are here, and that’s special.

I want to thank Rebekah for not just the introduction and for sharing her story, but for letting me hang out with her and her family for the last couple of days.  I really like her.  (Laughter.)  And her husband is like the husband of the year.  Generally, you don’t want your wife to meet Rebekah’s husband, because she’ll be like, well, why don’t you do that?  (Laughter.)  Why aren’t you like that?

I’ve been wanting to visit a place where all the women are strong and the men are good-looking, and the children above average.  (Applause.)  And this clearly is an example of what Minnesota produces.  So yesterday, Rebekah and I had lunch at Matt’s Bar, had a “Jucy Lucy” — (applause) — which was quite tasty.  We had a town hall at Minnehaha Park, although I did not take a kayak over the falls, which seemed dangerous.  (Laughter.)  We got ice cream at Grand Ole Creamery — very good, very tasty.

And then this morning, Al Franken and I and Secretary Tom Perez, our Secretary of Labor who’s here — Tom, stand up — (applause) — we stopped by a community organization that helps with a lot of job programs and job placement programs.  And this program in particular was focused on young moms.  It was really interesting talking to them, because there are teenage mothers, 16 to 18, and it was a great pleasure for me to be able to say to all of them that my mom was a teenage mom, and she was 18 when she had me — and to be able to say to all of them that here in this country, it is possible for the child of a teenage mom, a single mom, to end up being President of the United States.  (Applause.)  And I think that it maybe gave them something to think about.

So you guys have been great hosts, Minnesota.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re welcome.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Laughter and applause.)

So I want to give you a sense of how this visit came up.  As some of you know, every day we get tens of thousands of correspondence at the White House.  And we have a big correspondence office, and every night the folks who manage the correspondence office select 10 letters for me to read.

And the job of these letters is not to just puff me up — so it’s not like they only send me letters saying, Mr. President, you’re doing great.  (Laughter.)  Sometimes the letters say thank you for something I may have done.  Sometimes the letters say, you are an idiot and the worst President ever.  (Laughter.)  And most of the stories, though, are stories of hardship, or hard-won success, or hopes that haven’t been met yet.  Some appreciate a position that I may have taken; some disagree with what I’m doing.  Some consider policies like the Affordable Care Act to be socialism; some tell stories about the difference that same policy may have made in folks’ lives.

So I’m getting a good sample of what’s happening around the country.  And last month, three young girls wrote to me that boys aren’t fair because they don’t pass the ball in gym class.  (Laughter.)  So there’s a wide spectrum — and I’m going to prepare an executive order on that.

But the letter that Rebekah sent stood out — first of all, because she’s a good writer, and also because she’s a good person.  And the story that she told me reminded Michelle and I of some of our own experiences when we were Rebekah and her husband’s age.  And in many ways, her story for the past five years is our story, it’s the American story.

In early 2009, Rebekah and Ben, her husband, they were newly married, expecting their first son, Jack.  She was waiting tables, he was in construction.  Like millions of middle-class families who got hammered by the Great Recession — the worst recession since the Great Depression — life was about to get pretty hard.  “If only we had known,” she wrote, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”

Ben’s business dried up.  But as a new husband and dad, he did what he had to, so he took whatever jobs he could, even if it forced him to be away from his family for days at a time.  Rebekah realized she needed to think about how her career would unfold, so she took out student loans and enrolled in St. Paul College, and retrained for a new career as an accountant.

And it’s been a long, hard road for them.  They had to pay off debt.  They had to sacrifice for their kids and for one another.  But then last year, they were able to buy their first home, and they’ve got a second son.  And they love where they work, and Ben’s new job lets him be home for dinner each night.  (Applause.)  And so what Rebekah wrote was, “It’s amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to.  We’re a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

And that describes the American people.  We, too, are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.  And today, over the past 51 months, our businesses have created 9.4 million new jobs.  Our housing market is rebounding.  Our auto industry is booming.  Our manufacturing sector is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s.  We’ve made our tax code fairer.  We’ve cut our deficits by more than half.  More than 8 million Americans have signed up for private insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)  So here in Minnesota, you can now say that the women are strong, the men are good-looking, the children are above average, and 95 percent of you are insured.  (Applause.)

And it’s thanks to the hard work of citizens like Rebekah and Ben and so many of you that we’ve come farther, we’ve recovered faster than just about any other advanced economy on Earth.  More and more companies are deciding that the world’s number-one place to create jobs and invest is once again the United States of America.  (Applause.)  That’s the good news.  And you don’t hear it very often.

By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office.  (Applause.)  You wouldn’t know it, but we are.  We’ve made some enormous strides.  But that’s not the end of the story.  We have more work to do.

It wasn’t the end of Rebekah’s story, because she went on to write in her letter, “We did everything right.  The truth is, in America, where two people have done everything they can to succeed and fight back from the brink of financial ruin -– through job loss and retraining, and kids, and credit card debts that are set up to keep you impoverished forever, and the discipline to stop spending any money on yourselves or take a vacation in five years — it’s virtually impossible to live a simple middle-class life.”  That’s what Rebekah wrote.  Because their income is eaten up by childcare for Jack and Henry that costs more each month than their mortgage.  And as I was telling Rebekah — Michelle and I, when we were their age, we had good jobs and we still had to deal with childcare issues and couldn’t figure out how to some months make ends meet.

They forego vacations so they can afford to pay off student loans and save for retirement.  “Our big splurge,” Rebekah wrote, “is cable TV, so we can follow our beloved Minnesota Wild, and watch Team USA in the Olympics!”  (Applause.)  They go out once a week for pizza or a burger.  But they’re not splurging.  And at the end of the month, things are tight.  And this is like this wonderful young couple, with these wonderful kids, who are really working hard.

And the point is, all across this country, there are people just like that, all in this audience.  You’re working hard, you’re doing everything right.  You believe in the American Dream.  You’re not trying to get fabulously wealthy.  You just want a chance to build a decent life for yourselves and your families, but sometimes it feels like the odds are rigged against you.

And I think sometimes what it takes for somebody like Rebekah to sit down and write one of these letters.  And I believe that even when it’s heartbreaking and it’s hard, every single one of those letters is by definition an act of hope.
Because it’s a hope that the system can listen, that somebody is going to hear you; that even when Washington sometimes seems tone deaf to what’s going on in people’s lives and around kitchen tables, that there’s going to be somebody who’s going to stand up for you and your family.

And that’s why I’m here — because I want to let Rebekah know, and I wanted to let all of you know that — because you don’t see it on TV sometimes.  It’s not what the press and the pundits talk about.  I’m here to tell you I’m listening, because you’re the reason I ran for President.  (Applause.)  Because those stories are stories I’ve lived.  The same way that when I saw those young teenage moms, I thought of my mother.  And when I see Rebekah and Ben, I think of our struggles when Malia and Sasha were young.  And they’re not distant from me and everything we do.

I ran for President because I believe this country is at its best when we’re all in it together and when everybody has a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share.  (Applause.)  And the reason I believe that is because that’s how I came here.  That’s how I got here.  That’s how Michelle and I were able to succeed.  (Applause.)  And I haven’t forgotten.

And so even though you may not read about it or see it on TV all the time, our agenda, what we’re fighting for every day, is designed not to solve every problem, but to help just a little bit.  To create more good jobs that pay good wages — jobs in manufacturing and construction; energy and innovation.  That’s why we’re fighting to train more workers to fill those jobs.  That’s why we’re fighting to guarantee every child a world-class education, including early childhood education and better childcare.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’re fighting to make sure hard work pays off with a wage you can live on and savings you can retire on, and making sure that women get paid the same as men for the same job, and folks have flexibility to look after a sick child or a sick parent.  (Applause.)

That’s what we’re fighting for.  We’re fighting so everybody has a chance.  We’re fighting to vindicate the idea that no matter who you are, or what you look like, or how you grew up, or who you love, or who your parents were, or what your last name is, it doesn’t matter — America is a place where if you’re doing the right thing, like Ben and Rebekah are, and you’re being responsible and you’re taking care of your family, that you can make it.

And the fact is, we can do that.  If we do some basic things, if we make some basic changes, we can create more jobs and lift more incomes and strengthen the middle class.  And that’s what we should be doing.  And I know it drives you nuts that Washington isn’t doing it.  And it drives me nuts.  (Applause.)  And the reason it’s not getting done is, today, even basic commonsense ideas can’t get through this Congress.

And sometimes I’m supposed to be politic about how I say things — (laughter) — but I’m finding lately that I just want to say what’s on my mind.  (Applause.)  So let me just be clear — I want you think about this — so far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every single serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  You may think I’m exaggerating, but let me go through the list.  They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage.  They’ve said no to fair pay.  Some of them have denied that there’s even a problem, despite the fact that women are getting paid 77 cents for every dollar a man is getting paid.

They’ve said no to extending unemployment insurance for more than three million Americans who are out there looking every single day for a new job, despite the fact that we know it would be good not just for those families who are working hard to try to get back on their feet, but for the economy as a whole.  Rather than invest in working families getting ahead, they actually voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.

AUDIENCE:  Booo –

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t boo, by the way.  I want you to vote.  (Laughter and applause.)  I mean, over and over again, they show that they’ll do anything to keep in place systems that really help folks at the top but don’t help you.  And they don’t seem to mind.  And their obstruction is keeping a system that is rigged against families like Ben’s and Rebekah’s.

Now, I’m not saying these are all bad people; they’re not.  When I’m sitting there just talking to them about family, we get along just fine.  Many of them will acknowledge when I talk to them — yes, I know, I wish we could do something more, but I can’t — but they can’t be too friendly towards me because they’d be run out of town by the tea party.  (Laughter.)

But sometimes I get a sense they just don’t know what most folks are going through.  They keep on offering a theory of the economy that time and again failed for the middle class.  They think we should give more tax breaks to those at the top.  They think we should invest less in things like education.  They think we should let big banks, and credit card companies, and polluters, and insurers do only whatever is best for their bottom line without any responsibility to anybody else.  They want to drastically reduce or get rid of the safety net for people trying to work their way into the middle class.
And if we did all these things, they think the economy will thrive and jobs will prosper, and everything will trickle down.

And just because they believe it, it doesn’t mean the rest of us should be believing it — because we’ve tried what they’re peddling, and it doesn’t work.  We know from our history that our economy does not grow from the top down, it grows from the middle out.  We do better when the middle class does better.  We do better when workers are getting a decent salary.  We do better when they’ve got decent benefits.  (Applause.)  We do better when a young family knows that they can get ahead.  And we do better when people who are working hard know that they can count on decent childcare at an affordable cost, and that if they get sick they’re not going to lose their homes.

We do better when if somebody is stuck in a job that is not paying well enough, they know they can go get retrained without taking on huge mountains of debt.  That’s when things hum.  And with just a few changes in priorities, we could get a lot of that done right now if Congress would actually just think about you and not about getting reelected, not about the next election, not about some media sound bite, but just focus on you.  (Applause.)

So that’s why I’ve said, look, I want to work with Democrats and Republicans.  My favorite President, by the way, was the first Republican President — a guy named Abraham Lincoln.  So this is not a statement about partisanship.  This is a statement about America and what we’re fighting for.  And I’m not going to let gridlock and inaction and willful indifference and greed threaten the hard work of families like yours.   And so we can’t afford to wait for Congress right now.  And that’s why I’m going ahead and moving ahead without them wherever I can.  (Applause.)

That’s why I acted to raise more workers’ wages by requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour.  (Applause.)  That’s why I acted to help nearly five million Americans make student loan payments cap those payments at 10 percent of their income.  That’s why I made sure more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace.  (Applause.)  That’s why we went ahead and launched new hubs to attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs to America.

And, now, some of you may have read — so we take these actions and then now Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions.  They’re not doing anything, and then they’re mad that I’m doing something.  I’m not sure which of the things I’ve done they find most offensive, but they’ve decided they’re going to sue me for doing my job.  I mean, I might have said in the heat of the moment during one of these debates, “I want to raise the minimum wage, so sue me when I do.”  (Laughter.)  But I didn’t think they were going to take it literally.

But giving more working Americans a fair shot is not about simply what I can do — it’s about what we can do together.  So when Congress doesn’t act, not only have I acted, I’ve also tried to rally others to help.  I told CEOs, and governors, and mayors, and state legislatures, for example, they don’t have to wait for Congress to raise the minimum wage.  Go ahead and raise your workers’ wages right now.  And since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. have raised theirs, including Minnesota, where more than 450,000 of your neighbors are poised to get a raise.  (Applause.)

When Gap raised wages for its employees, job applications went up through the roof.  It was good for business.  I even got a letter from a proud mom right here in Minneapolis who just wanted me to know that her son starts his employees at $15 an hour, at Aaron’s Green Cleaning here in town.  (Applause.)  There they are!  (Applause.)  So the letter said, “We are very proud of his people-centered business philosophy!  Three cheers for a decent living wage!”

So we don’t have to wait for Congress to do some good stuff.  On Monday, we held the first-ever White House Summit on Working Families, and we heard from a lot of other families like Ben and Rebekah.  They count on policies like paid leave and workplace flexibility to juggle everything.  We had business owners who came and told me they became more profitable when they made family life easier for their employees.

So more companies are deciding that higher wages and workplace flexibility is good for business — it reduces turnover, more productive workers, more loyal workers.  More cities and states are deciding this is good policy for families.  So the only holdout standing in the way of change for tens of millions of Americans are some Republicans in Congress.

Because I just want to be real blunt:  If you watch the news, you just see, okay, Washington is a mess, and the basic attitude is everybody is just crazy up there.  But if you actually read the fine print, it turns out that the things you care about right now Democrats are promoting.  (Applause.)  And we’re just not getting enough help.

And my message to Republicans is:  Join us.  Get on board.  If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, then why don’t you join me and we’ll do it together?  (Applause.)  We’ll do it together.  I’m happy to share the credit.  You’re mad at me for doing some things to raise the minimum wage, let’s pass a law — Republicans and Democrats giving America a raise.

If you’re mad at me for taking executive action to make it easier for women to find out if they’re not getting treated fairly in the workplace, let’s do it together.  You can share the credit.  (Applause.)  You’re worried about me trying to fix a broken immigration system, let’s hold hands and go ahead and make sure that this country continues to be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  I want to work with you, but you’ve got to give me something.  You’ve got to try to deliver something — anything.  (Applause.)

They don’t do anything — (laughter) — except block me.  And call me names.  It can’t be that much fun.  (Laughter.)  It’d be so much more fun if they said, you know what, let’s do something together.  If they were more interested in growing the economy for you, and the issues that you’re talking about, instead of trying to mess with me — (laughter) — then we’d be doing a lot better.  That’s what makes this country great, is when we’re all working together.  That’s the American way.

Now more than ever, with the 4th of July next week, Team USA moving on down in Brazil — (applause) — we should try to rally around some economic patriotism that says we rise or fall as one nation and one people.  Let’s rally around the idea that instead of giving tax breaks for millionaires, let’s give more tax breaks for working families to help pay for childcare or college.  (Applause.)

Instead of protecting companies that are shifting profits overseas to avoid paying their fair share, let’s put people to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our airports.  (Applause.)  Let’s invest in manufacturing startups so that we’re creating good jobs making products here in America, here in Minnesota.  (Applause.)  Rather than stack the deck in favor of those who have already got an awful lot, let’s help folks who have huge talent and potential and ingenuity but just need a little bit of a hand up so that we can tap the potential of every American.

I mean, this isn’t rocket science.  There are some things that are complicated — this isn’t one of them.  Let’s make sure every 4-year-old in America has access to high school — high-quality preschool — (applause) — so that moms like Rebekah and dads like Ben know their kids are getting the best quality care and getting a head start on life.  Let’s redesign our high schools to make sure that our kids are better prepared for the 21st century economy.  Let’s follow the lead of Senator Franken and Secretary Perez and give more apprenticeships that connect young people to rewarding careers.  (Applause.)

Let’s tell every American if they’ve lost their job because it was shipped overseas, we’re going to train you for an even better one.  (Applause.)  Let’s rally around the patriotism that says our country is stronger when every American can count on affordable health insurance and Medicare and Social Security, and women earn pay equal to their efforts, and family can make ends meet if their kid get sick, and when nobody who works full-time is living in poverty.  We can do all these things.

And so let me just — let me wrap up by saying this.  I know sometimes things get kind of discouraging.  And I know that our politics looks profoundly broken, and Washington looks like it’s never going to deliver for you.  It seems like they’re focused on everything but your concerns.  And I know that when I was elected in 2008 and then reelected in 2012, so many of you were hoping that we could get Washington to work differently, and sometimes when I get stymied you’d think, oh, maybe not; maybe it’s just too tough, maybe things won’t change.  And I get that frustration.  And the critics and the cynics in Washington, they’ve written me off more times than I can count.

But I’m here to tell you, don’t get cynical.  Despite all of the frustrations, America is making progress.  Despite the unyielding opposition, there are families who have health insurance now who didn’t have it before.  And there are students in college who couldn’t afford it before.  And there are workers on the job who didn’t have jobs before.  And there are troops home with their families after serving tour after tour.  (Applause.)  Don’t think that we’re not making progress.

So, yes, it’s easy to be cynical; in fact, these days it’s kind of trendy.  Cynicism passes off for wisdom.  But cynicism doesn’t liberate a continent.  Cynicism doesn’t build a transcontinental railroad.  Cynicism doesn’t send a man to the moon.  Cynicism doesn’t invent the Internet.  Cynicism doesn’t give women the right to vote.  Cynicism doesn’t make sure that people are treated equally regardless of race.

Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice.  And every day I’m lucky to receive thousands of acts of hope — every time somebody sits down and picks up a pen, and writes to me and shares their story, just like Rebekah did.  And Rebekah said in her letter — she ended it, she said, “I’m pretty sure this is a silly thing to do to write a letter to the President, but on some level I know that staying silent about what you see and what needs changing, it never makes any difference.  So I’m writing to you to let you know what it’s like for us out here in the middle of the country, and I hope you will listen.”

And I’m here because Rebekah wrote to me and I want her to know I’m listening.  I’m here as President, because I want you all to know that I’m listening.  (Applause.)  I ran for office to make sure that anybody who is working hard to meet their dreams has somebody in Washington that is listening.  And I’m always going to keep listening.  And I’m always going to keep fighting.  (Applause.)

And your cares and your concerns are my own, and your hopes for your kids and your grandkids are my own.  And I’m always going to be working to restore the American Dream for everybody who’s willing to work for it.  (Applause.)  And I am not going to get cynical; I’m staying hopeful, and I hope you do too.

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

END
10:50 A.M. CDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 26, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Town Hall on the Economy Minneapolis, Minnesota

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Town Hall

Source: WH, 6-26-14 

Minnehaha Park
Minneapolis, Minnesota

2:24 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Minneapolis!  (Applause.)  Good to see you.  Good to see you.  Everybody have a seat.  It is good to be back in Minnesota.  (Applause.)  Last time I was here it was colder.  (Laughter.)  Here’s just a tip for folks who are not from Minnesota — if you come here and the Minnesotans are complaining about how cold it is it’s really cold.  (Laughter.) Because these are some pretty tough folks.  They don’t get phased with cold.  But it was cold, so it’s nice to be back when it’s a little warmer.

And I have to begin by congratulating our U.S. soccer team, Team USA — (applause) — for advancing to the next round of the World Cup.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  USA!

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  We were in what’s called the “Group of Death.”  (Laughter.)  And even though we didn’t win today, we were in the toughest grouping and we got through.  And so we’ve still got a chance to win the World Cup.  (Applause.)  And we could not be prouder of them.  They are defying the odds and earned a lot of believers in the process.  And I want everybody on the team to know that all of us back home are really proud of them.

Let me tell you something.  I’ve been really looking forward to getting out of D.C.  (Laughter.)  But I’ve also been looking forward to spending a couple days here in the Twin Cities.  Our agenda is still a little loose.  I might pop in for some ice cream, visit a small business.  I don’t know.  I’m just going to make it up as I go along.  The Secret Service — I always tease them.  I’m like a caged bear, and every once in a while I break loose.  And I’m feeling super loose today.  (Applause.)  So you don’t know what I might do.  You don’t know what I might do.  Who knows?  (Applause.)

But the main reason I wanted to be here is I just wanted to have a chance to talk to folks about their lives and their hopes and their dreams and what they’re going through.  I want to spend some time listening and answering your questions and just having a conversation about what’s going well in your lives and in your neighborhoods and communities right now, but also what kinds of struggles folks are going through, and what things are helping and what things aren’t.

Now, before I do I just want to mention our Governor, Mark Dayton, is here.  (Applause.)  And Mark gave me an update on the flooding that’s been going on all across the state and I know some folks here are probably affected by it as well.  We made sure that FEMA is already on the ground here.  The Army Corps of Engineers is helping to build up a levee up in Warroad.  I told the Governor that we will be there as we get some clarity about the damage and what needs to be done, and you should feel confident that you’re going to have a strong partner in FEMA and the federal government in the process of cleaning up. (Applause.)

And you can also feel confident because if we didn’t help out, then I’d have Mayor Coleman and Mayor Hodges and Congressman Keith Ellison giving me a hard time.  So they’re going to hold me to it.  They do a great job on behalf of their constituents every day.  (Applause.)

I also wanted to mention that up the road there’s a memorial service for a person that many of you knew and loved, and that’s Jim Oberstar, who served so long in Congress.  I had a chance to know Jim; we overlapped before he came back home.  He was a good man.  He was a good public servant.  He was somebody who never forgot the folks in the Iron Range that he was fighting for.  And in a lot of ways, what he represented was a time when folks went to Washington, but they understood that they were working on behalf of hardworking middle-class families and people who were trying to get into the middle class.

And that fight continues.  We’ve made progress.  And the one thing that I always remind people of is by just about every economic measure, we are significantly better off than we were when I came into office.   (Applause.)  Unemployment is down; the deficits have been cut in half; the housing market has improved; 401(k)s have gotten more solid.  The number of people who are uninsured are down.  Our exports are up, our energy production is up.  So, in the aggregate, when you look at the country as a whole, by pretty much every measure, the economy is doing better than it was when I came into office — and in most cases significantly better.

We’ve created now 9.4 million new jobs over the last 51 months.  (Applause.)  The unemployment rate here in Minnesota is the lowest it’s been since 2007.  (Applause.)  But here’s the thing — and I’m not telling you anything that you don’t know.  There are still a lot of folks struggling out there.

We’ve got an economy that, even when it grows and corporate profits are high and the stock market is doing well, we’re still having trouble producing increases in salary and increases in wages for ordinary folks.  So we’ve seen wages and incomes sort of flat-line, even though the costs of food and housing and other things have gone up.  And so there are a lot of people who work really hard, do the right thing, are responsible, but still find at the end of the month that they’re not getting ahead.  And that is the central challenge that drives me every single day when I think about what kinds of policies would help.

So I’ve put forward an opportunity agenda that is a continuation of things I’ve been talking about since I came into the United States Senate and served with Mark and things that I’ve been working on since I became President — making sure that hard work pays off; making sure that if you work hard your kid can go to a good school and end up going to college without a huge amount of debt; that you’re not going to go broke if you get sick; that you’re able to have a home of your own; and that you’re able to retire with some dignity and some respect, maybe a vacation once in a while.  That’s what people are looking for.  And that means that we’ve got to reverse this mindset that somehow if everybody at the top does really well then somehow benefits all automatically trickle down — because that’s not what’s been happening for the last 20, 30 years.

We had — on Monday we had what we called a White House Working Families Summit.  And we just talked about bread-and-butter issues that everybody talks about around the kitchen table but, unfortunately, don’t make it on the nightly news a lot.  So we talked about childcare and the fact that it’s prohibitive for too many young families.  (Applause.)  We talked about paid family leave, so that if a child was sick or a parent was sick, that you could actually go help and take care of them — which is, by the way, what every other developed country does.  We’re the only one that doesn’t have it.

We talked about workplace flexibility, so that if you wanted to go to a parent-teacher conference with your family — or for your kid, or a school play, that you could balance that.  And in fact, those companies we discovered at the summit who provide that kind of flexibility usually have more productive workers, harder-working workers, more loyal workers, lower turnover, and the companies end up being more profitable.

We talked about increasing the minimum wage, which would benefit millions of people all across the country.  (Applause.)  We talked about equal pay for equal work, because I want my daughters getting paid the same as men do.  (Applause.)

All of these things are achievable, but we’ve got to make Washington work for you — not for special interests, not for lobbyists.  We don’t need a politics that’s planned to some — the most fringe elements of politics.  We just need folks who are having a common-sense conversation about what’s happening in your lives and how can we help, and then try to take some concrete actions that makes a difference.

So that’s what I want to talk about.  And I’m hoping that some people in Washington are going to be listening.  Some of them will be and they’ll probably be saying I’m crazy or a socialist or something — (laughter) — but hopefully hearing from you, some of this stuff will sink in.  All right?
So with that, I’m just going to take some questions.  I’ve got my little hot tea here to make sure I don’t lose my voice.  And I think we’ve got microphones in the audience and I’m just going to call on folks.  The only rule I’ve got is when I call on you, you’ve got to wait for the microphone, introduce yourself.  If you keep your question relatively short I’ll try to keep my answers relatively short.  And I’m going to go boy, girl, boy, girl to make sure it’s fair, all right?  (Laughter.)

All right.  Let’s start it off.  All right, who wants to go first?  This young lady right here.  Tell me your name.

Q    Hello, I’m Cheryl Hill.

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey, Cheryl.

Q    And I admire you so much and your office for the support we’ve received.  I’m the founder of ClearCause.  I work to protect our students abroad.  I support hundreds of students who worked their way up through college — our best and our brightest — are not well-protected by any surveillance or laws. They are robbed, raped, starved, abandoned and killed.  I’m here because of my son, Tyler Hill.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, so this is like an exchange programs?

Q    Study abroad.

THE PRESIDENT:  Study abroad program.  Generally, study abroad programs are coordinated by the universities and colleges that sponsor them.  There should be interaction between those educational institutions and the State Department.  There are obviously some countries that are particularly dangerous, and in those cases, I think making sure that everybody has good information going in is important.

Tragedies happen when folks travel overseas.  Unfortunately, tragedies happen here as well.  But what I’d like to do is — let me find out more about the nature of the coordination that happens between the State Department and study abroad programs and see if there are some things that we can do to tighten them up.  And it sounds like you’ve been thinking about it, so you may have some ideas.  Excellent.

Gentleman in the cool sunglasses there.

Q    Good morning, Mr. President — or afternoon, Mr. President.  My name is Dan Morette (ph).  And my question is — you spoke about tragedies at home — how we can reduce gun violence in this nation and what we can do to team up together and really make a difference.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, on my way over here I was talking to a mom that I had lunch with — who’s wonderful, by the way, and she’s here but I’m not going to embarrass her.  And she’s got a couple of young sons.  And we talked about a whole bunch of issues — the cost of childcare, the fact that wages don’t go up to meet the cost of living.  But one thing she talked about was Newtown.  And I described how the day that Sandy Hook happened was probably the worst day of my presidency, and meeting those families just a couple of days after they lost these beautiful six-year-olds — 20 of them — and then some of the parents — or some of the teachers and administrators who had been affected as well.

I was sure after that happened, there’s no way that Congress isn’t going to do some common-sense stuff.  I thought that the issue of gun safety and common-sense legislation has been controversial for some time, but I thought that was going to be a breakthrough moment.  The fact that it wasn’t was probably the most disappointing moment that I’ve had with Congress.

What we’ve done is we’ve developed 24 executive actions, things that were in our power, to really try to tighten tracking where guns go, making sure that we’re sifting through and separating out responsible gun owners from folks who really shouldn’t be having a weapon.

So we’ve probably made some progress.  We’ve probably saved a few lives.  But I will tell you this is the only advanced country that tolerates something like this.  We have what’s basically a mass shooting, it seems like, happening once every couple weeks — kids on college campuses, kids at home.  And we’re not going to eliminate all of that violence, and there’s a strong tradition of gun ownership and there are wonderful folks who are sportsman and hunters, and I respect all of that.  But we should be able to take some basic common-sense steps that are, by the way, supported by most responsible gun owners — like having background checks so you can’t just walk into a store and buy a semiautomatic — (applause.)

Something I’m going to keep on talking about that I was asked about this a few weeks ago, and I said, honestly, this is not going to change unless the people who want to prevent these kinds of mass shootings from taking place feel at least as passionate and are at least as mobilized and well-funded and organized as the NRS and the gun manufacturers are.  Because the politics in Congress are such where even members of Congress who know better are fearful that if they vote their conscience and support common-sense gun legislation like background checks, they’re worried that they’re going to lose their seat.  And frankly, there’s a number who have because the other side is very well organized.

So I will keep on talking about it.  We’re going to continue to work with law enforcement and community groups and others to try to take steps locally and at the state level.  But if we’re going to do something nationally, then we’re going to have to mobilize ordinary folks — moms, dads, families, responsible gun owners, law enforcement — and they’re going to have to get organized and be able to counter the pressure that’s coming from the other side in a sustained way — not in a one-week or two-week or one-month situation right after a tragedy occurs; it’s going to have to just keep on going for several years before we’re able to make progress.  (Applause.)

All right.  Young lady right there.  The one in the orange — got a mic right next to you.

Q    I’m an educator in a public school, and I have a son in college who’s struggling through college with student loans.  I’ve been an educator for 27-plus years.  (Applause.)  And I know you’re into sports and I hear they generate a lot of money.  We generate a lot of minds.  And it really bothers me that I can’t pay for his education.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m just curious what your son’s circumstances are.  Is he going to a state school?  Is he going to a private school?

Q    He’s going to a community college.

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s going to a community college.

Q    And wants to go to college in New York, in fashion design.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  But he’s in community college here in Minnesota right now?

Q    Correct.

THE PRESIDENT:  And is he eligible for the federal student loans programs?  Or is he finding that because of your income or your family’s income that it’s hard to get some of the lower-interest loans?

Q    Both.  He’s kind of both.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Well, look, this is something we’ve been spending a lot of time on.  There are a couple components to the problem.  And, by the way, this is something near and dear to my heart because I was not born into a wealthy family.  I’m only here because of my education, but the reason I was able to get that education was because grants, loans, work during the summer — all of those things allowed me to pay the bills.

But college costs were lower then when I was going to school.  I know you can’t tell from my gray hair, but I’m getting a little older now.  (Laughter.)  And so I started college in 1979, and when I graduated — I was able to get a four-year college education — I had some debt, but I could pay it off after one year.  Now, the average student that does have debt is seeing $30,000 worth of debt.  And even if they’re able to take out loans, that’s a burden that they’re carrying with them in their first job; it may prevent them from buying their first home; if they’ve got a business idea, that’s money that is going to take them a while before they’re able to start a business, and, as a consequence, it effects the whole economy.

Now, it is really important just to remind everybody a college education is still a great investment as long as you graduate.  (Applause.)  As long as you graduate.  So when you go into college, you’ve got to be determined, “I’m going to graduate.”  It’s a great investment, but it’s not a great investment if you take out $20,0000 worth of debt and you don’t graduate, you don’t get the degree, which is why we’re spending a lot of time talking to colleges about what are you doing to retain students.

But the things that we need to do are, number one, try to keep costs of student loans down.  We’ve been working with colleges and universities, telling them if the federal government is going to help subsidize your universities essentially with the student loan program, you need to show us that you’re informing students ahead of time how much they’re going to owe; that you are describing for them what their repayment plans would be; that you are keeping tuition low and that you’re graduating folks at a high rate.

So we’ve got to work with the colleges and universities to lower costs.  We’ve got to keep the interest rates on student loans low.  Right now, there’s legislation that was presented in the Senate — Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren sponsored it — and what it does is it just allows student loans that you already have to be consolidated, and you can refinance them at a lower rate just like you could your mortgage if the rates go down.  Republicans all voted against it — I don’t know why.  You will have to ask them.  But that’s an example of a tool we can use.

We’ve also put in place — this is something that I passed a while back and now I’ve expanded — a program whereby you never have to pay more than 10 percent of your current income to pay back your student loans, so that if you decide you want to go into teaching or you want to go into social work — something that may not be a high-paying profession but a satisfying profession — that the fact that you’ve had some student debt is not going to preclude you from taking that position.

So there are a number of different steps that we’re taking.I will tell you, though, in addition to what we do at the federal level, you’re going to need to talk to your state legislators.  Part of the reason that tuition has gone up is because state legislatures across the country have consistently lowered the support that they provide public universities and community colleges, and then the community colleges and the public universities feel obliged to increase tuition rates.  And that obviously adds the burden to students.

The bottom line is your son is doing the right thing.  The fact that he’s starting at a community college will save him money.  Even if he wants to graduate from a four-year institution eventually, it will still be a good investment.  So he should shop around, get the right information.  We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we keep it as affordable as possible.  And I’m sure he’s going to do wonderfully, and then he’s going to look after his mom.  (Applause.)

Okay, it’s a guy’s turn.  This gentleman right here.

Q    Mr. President, like you, I’m the father of two beautiful, intelligent girls.

THE PRESIDENT:  Can’t beat daughters.  No offense, sons.  (Laughter.)

Q    And they’re both in STEM careers.  I’m wondering what we can do to promote and encourage more girls to go into STEM careers.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, this is a great question.  (Applause.)  First of all, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

America became an economic superpower in large part because we were the most innovative economy.  We are a nation of inventors and tinkerers, and we expand the boundaries of what’s possible through science.  And that continues to be the case.  We still have the most cutting-edge technology, the most patents.  But if we’re not careful, we’ll lose our lead.  And if things aren’t being invented here, then they’re not being produced here. And if they’re not being produced here, that means the jobs aren’t being created here.  And over time, other countries catch up.

So what do we have to do?  Number one, we’ve got to make sure that we’re investing in basic science.  Sometimes people say, I don’t know what the federal government spends the money on; they’re all just wasting it.  You know, one of the things that the federal government does is it invests in basic research that companies won’t invest in.  And if it wasn’t for the investment in basic research, then things like the Internet, things like GPS that everybody uses every day, things that result in cures for diseases that have touched probably every family that’s represented here in some fashion — that stuff never happens.

You do the basic research and then you move on to commercialize it, and that’s oftentimes when the private sector gets involved.  But they’re not willing or able a lot of times to finance basic research.  So that’s number one.

Number two, we’ve got to make sure that we’re investing in working with companies who are doing, let’s say, advanced manufacturing, the next phases of manufacturing, linking them up with universities so that once we have a good idea, a good invention — whether it’s clean energy or a new way to build a car — that the next phase of production and innovation is done here in the United States.  And we’ve opened up four what we call advanced manufacturing hubs around the country — I actually want 15 — where we link private sector and universities so that they become centers of innovation and jobs get created here in the United States.

But the third thing we need is we need more folks in engineering, math, science, technology, computer science.  (Applause.)  And that means we’ve got to have a school system generally that encourages those subjects.  And, by the way, I was a political science and English major, and you need to know how to communicate, and I loved the liberal arts, so this is no offense, but we’ve got enough lawyers like me.  We need more engineers.  (Applause.)  We need more scientists.

Generally speaking, we’re not doing good enough educating kids and encouraging them into these kinds of careers.  We’re particularly bad when it comes to girls.  And my whole thing is
— somebody said I was a sports fan.  I am.  And one rule of sports is you don’t play as well if you’ve only got half the team.  We don’t have everybody on the field right now if our young women are not being encouraged the same way to get into these fields.  So this starts at an early age.

What we’ve done is I’ve used my Office of Science and Technology to partner with elementary schools to, first of all, train teachers better in STEM,’ then to really focus on populations that are under-represented in STEM — not only young women but also African Americans, Latinos, others — getting them interested early.  In some cases, for example, we know that young girls — I know as a father — they oftentimes do better if they’re in a team and social environment, so making sure that the structure of science classes, for example, have collaboration involved and there’s actual experience doing stuff, as opposed to just it being a classroom exercise.  There are certain things that can end up making it a better experience for them, boosting their confidence, and encouraging them to get into the fields.

So we’re going to continue to really spend a lot of time on this.  I’ll just close by saying every year now I have a science fair at the White House, because my attitude is if I’m bringing the top football and basketball teams to the White House, I should also bring the top scientists.  I want them to feel — (applause) — that they get the spotlight just like athletes do. And these kids are amazing — except they make you feel really stupid.  (Laughter.)

The first student who I met — she’s now — she just graduated.  When she was 12, she was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer.  Fortunately, she had health insurance.  They caught it early enough, she responded to treatment.  Lovely young lady — it didn’t come back.  But by the time she got into high school and she was taking biology and chemistry, she became interested in why was it that I got this thing at 12 years old?

So she talks to her teachers, and she designs a study where she goes to the surgeon who took out the cancer from her liver, takes samples, identifies the genetic profile and the chromosomes that might have led to this particular kind of cancer, writes up the research in Science Magazine, and now has a scholarship to Harvard to pursue her interest in bio-medicine.  And as you might imagine, her parents are pretty proud of her.  (Laughter.)  I was really proud of her.

But it gives you a sense of the possibilities for young people and young women if somebody is sparking that interest in them, and telling them this is something that they can do and they should pursue their interests.  (Applause.)

Young lady right here in the yellow.

Q    Hi, my name is Joelle Stangle.  I’m the University of Minnesota student body president.  And so I have a question about higher education.  And I also have a softball question after this hardball question.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, I love the softball questions.

Q    My first question is, the House Republicans recently released their recommendations for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and so I want to know where you think that Republicans and Democrats can work together and what the top priorities should be for reauthorization.  And my softball question is how do you get a President to be your commencement speaker?  Kids want to know.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, you have to invite me.  (Laughter.)  So that’s always a good start.  I just did my last commencement at UC Irvine.  I have to say, they had a campus-wide letter-writing campaign; I think we ended up getting, like, 10,000 letters, was it, from — something like that.  They also have a very cute mascot.  It’s an anteater.  I guess that’s their sign; that’s supposed to be the anteater.

PARTICIPANT:  We’ve got a gopher.

THE PRESIDENT:  Gophers are cool.  (Laughter.)  Gophers are cool.

But the invitation is a good place to start, and then we’ll work from there.

In terms of the higher education reauthorization act, that’s a big bill, there’s a lot of complexities to it.  I will just focus on an area that I think should be the focus — and we’ve already talked about — and that is student loan costs, and how we can hold schools more accountable for informing young people as they’re starting their education what exactly it’s going to mean for them.

Now, we’ve already started this.  I mentioned a few things. One thing I didn’t mention is the Consumer Finance Protection Board that we set up that, in response to what had happened during the Great Recession, when people were taking out mortgages they couldn’t afford and predatory lenders were getting folks in a whole lot of trouble.  And we said, the same way that you should be protected from a faulty appliance or a faulty car, you should be protected from a faulty financial instrument, make sure it doesn’t explode in your face.  (Applause.)

And one of the goals of CFPB, is what it’s called, was to tackle the student loan issue.  And what we’ve done is created what we call a Know What You Owe program, which pushes colleges and universities not to do the financial counseling on the exit interview where suddenly they hand you a packet and says, here, this is what you’re going to owe — hand it to folks at the beginning, break it down for them.  And that will allow young people I think to make better decisions, and their parents to work with them to make better decisions about what college expenses are going to be.

But as I said before — this is true for education generally — the federal government can help, but states and local governments have to do their part as well.  In public education, the federal government accounts for about 7 percent of total costs.  The rest of it comes from state and local taxes.  And what we’ve tried to do is leverage the little bit of money that the federal government gives to this to modify how — to incentivize reform, and to get folks to experiment with new ways of learning.

For example, can we use online classes more effectively to help keep college costs down?  Can we get more high school students to get transferable college credits while they’re in high school so that they can maybe graduate in three years instead of two?  We’re trying to encourage folks to experiment in those ways.

All of that we hope can get embodied in the higher education act.  I will tell you, sometimes if I’m for it, then the other side is against it even if originally it was their idea.  So I can’t guarantee you that we’ll get bipartisan support for these ideas, but there’s nothing that should prevent us from doing it because this is just about making a college education a better value for families.  And that’s something that should transcend party; it shouldn’t be a Democrat or a Republican issue.

All right.  Gentleman right here in the uniform.

Q    All right, my name is — well, good afternoon, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.

Q    My name is John Martinez.  I’m a recent EMT graduate from the Freedom House EMS Academy in St. Paul.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, there you go.

Q    Currently I’m teaching at the Academy, and I just got hired at Allina — I applied for St. Paul Fire.  My question is have you considered starting any other organizations such as the Freedom House for law enforcement or fire or other establishments that could get programs like that going for low-income or minorities?

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, I’ll confess to you I don’t know enough about Freedom House — so I’m considering it right now.  (Laughter.)  But you’ve got to tell me more about it.  Since you’re an instructor there and a graduate from there, why don’t you tell me how it works?

Q    You go through an interviewing process and the leaders — there’s fire chiefs that interview the candidates.  You get paid, but it is an interviewing process.  You wear a unifor;, it’s a strict program.  And it’s a 14-week or a 10-week program, depending on what time of the year.  It’s intensive.  Everything is compacted, all the information that we learn.  And you learn skills — all the skills that you need to be an EMT.  You meet, you network, you meet fire chiefs, police.  I know people that are going into med school.  It started in 1967 in Philadelphia.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it sounds like a great program.

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  And who’s eligible for it?  Is it young people who have already graduated from high school but haven’t yet gone to college?  If I’m 30 years old and I’m thinking let me try a new career — who is it that can participate?

Q    Anyone from the ages of 17 to 30 is eligible.  You have to meet the income requirements.  And it’s open to anyone who wants to get into EMS or fire.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s a great idea.  See, you just gave me a good idea.  (Laughter.)  So now I’m considering expanding it.  (Applause.)

It’s a good example, though, of a broader issues, which is not everybody is going to go to a four-year university, but everybody is going to need some advanced training.  And so the question is how do we set up systems — whether it’s apprenticeships, whether it’s programs like Freedom House that you just described, whether it’s through the community colleges
— where whatever stage in your life, if you feel as if you’re stuck in your existing occupation, you want to do better, or you lose your job and you’ve got to transition to a new industry, that you are able to get training that fits you.  Understanding that for a lot of folks they may be working at the same time as they are looking after their kids, and so there’s got to be some flexibility.  The programs have to be more compact.  Most importantly, they have to be job-training programs or technical programs that actually produce the skills you need to get jobs that are there.

And so what we’ve been trying to do is to — which seems like common sense but, unfortunately, for a long time wasn’t done — going to the businesses first that are hiring and asking them, well, what exactly are you looking for, and why don’t you work with the community college, or why don’t you work with the nonprofit to help design the actual training program so that you’ll have the benefit of knowing if somebody has gone through the program, they’re prepared for the job.  Conversely, the person who’s gone through the training program, they know if they complete it, that there’s a job at the other end.  And that’s how we’re actually trying to redesign a lot of the job training programs that are out there.

But as I said before, you’ve also got to make sure that you structure it so that a working mom who can’t afford to just quit her job and go to school — maybe she’s a waitress right now — she’s interested in being a nurse’s assistant that has slightly better pay and benefits, and then wants to become a nurse, that she has the opportunity to work around her schedule, make sure that we’ve got the ability to take classes at night, or on weekends, or online.

That’s how — in the future, we’re going to have to redesign a lot of this stuff, getting away from thinking that all the training that’s going to take place is just for 18 and 19-year-olds who’ve got all day and are supported by their parents, because that’s not the model that our economy is going to be in for the foreseeable future.

Young lady.  Yes, in the stripes.

Q    Hi, my name is Erin.  I just left a corporation in Minnesota, a Fortune 500 corporation, where I had my four-year degree, my male counterpart did not, and he was making $3 more an hour than I was.  My question for you is what are we going to do about it so as I grow up and other women grow up we are not experiencing the wage gap anymore?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ve got all kinds of opinions on this.  (Laughter.)

First of all — I told this story at the Working Families Summit — my mom was a single mom.  She worked, went to school, raised two kids with the help of my grandparents.  And I remember what it was like for her — coming home, she’s dead tired, she’s trying to fix a healthy meal for me and my sister, which meant there were only really like five things in the rotation because she didn’t have time to be practicing with a whole bunch of stuff.  And sometimes, because you’re a kid, you’re stupid, so you’re all like, I don’t want to eat that again.  (Laughter.)  And she’s like, really?  (Laughter.)  What did you make?  Eat your food.  (Laughter.)

But I remember the struggles that she would go through when she did finally get her advanced degree, got a job, and she’d experience on-the-job discrimination because of her gender.

My grandmother, she was Rosie the Riveter.  When my grandfather went to fight in World War II, part of Patton’s Army, she stayed home because — my mom was born in Kansas, at Fort Leavenworth, and my grandmother worked at a bomber assembly line. And she was whip smart.  I mean, in another era, she would have ended up running a company.  But at the time, she didn’t even get her college degree — worked as a secretary.  She was smart enough that she worked her way up to be a vice president at the local bank where we lived — which is why sometimes when I watch Mad Men, there’s Peggy and Joan, the two women there, I’m always rooting for them because I imagine them — that’s what it was like for my grandmother, kind of working her way up.

But as smart as she was, she got to a certain point and then she stopped advancing.  And then she would train guys how to do the job and they would end up being her boss.  And it happened three or four times.

So this is something that I care a lot about not just because of my past, but also because of my future.  I’ve got two daughters.  The idea that they would not be paid the same or not have the same opportunities as somebody’s sons is infuriating.  And even if you’re not a dad, those of you who have partners, spouses — men — this is not a women’s issue.  Because if they’re not getting paid, that means they’re not bringing home as much money, which means your family budget is tighter.  (Applause.)  So this is a family issue and not a gender issue.

So what can we do?  First bill I signed was called the Lily Ledbetter Act, that allowed folks to sue if they found out that they had been discriminated against, like you found out.  Back then, Lilly Ledbetter, this wonderful woman, she had been paid less than her male counterparts for the same job for over a decade.  When she finally finds out, she sues, and the Supreme Court says, well, the statute of limitations has run out; you can’t sue for all of that back pay.  She says, well, I just found out — well, that doesn’t matter.  So we reversed that law, allowing people to sue based on when you find out.

Most recently what I did was we made it against the law, at least for federal contractors, to retaliate against employees for sharing job — or salary information.  Because part of the problem — part of the reason that it’s hard to enforce equal pay for equal work is most employers don’t let you talk, or discourage talk about what everybody else is getting paid.  And what we’ve said is women have a right to know what the guy sitting next to them who’s doing the exact same job is getting paid.  So that’s something we were able to do.

But ultimately, we’re going to need Congress to act.  There have been repeated efforts by us to get what we call the Paycheck Fairness Act through Congress and Republicans have blocked it.  Some have denied that it’s a problem.  What they’ve said is, you know what, women make different choices.  That explains the wage gap.  That’s the reason that women on average make 77 cents to every dollar that a man earns — is because they’re making different choices.

Well, first of all, that’s not true in your case because you were doing the same job.  You didn’t make a different choice; you just were getting paid less.  But let’s even unpack this whole idea of making different choices.  What they’re really saying is, because women have to bear children, and a company doesn’t give them enough maternity leave or doesn’t give them enough flexibility, that they should be punished.

And our whole point is that this is a family issue and that if we structure the workplace to actually be family-friendly, which everybody always talks about but we don’t always actually practice, then women won’t have to make different choices.  Then if they’re pregnant and have a child, it’s expected that they’re going to have some time off.  By the way, the dads should, too.  They should have some flexibility in the workplace.  (Applause.) They should be able to take care of a sick kid without getting docked for pay.

And there are some wonderful companies who are doing this.  And as I said before, it turns out that when companies adopt family-friendly policies their productivity goes up, they have lower turnover — which makes sense.  Look, if you have a family emergency, and you go to your boss and you say, can I have a week off, I’ve got to take care of a sick child or a dad — or can I leave early this afternoon because my kid is in a school play and I really think this is important, and they say, of course, nothing is more important than family — how hard are you going to work for that person when you get back on the job?  You’re going to feel invested in them.  You’re going to say to yourself, man, these folks care about me, which means I care about you.  And if I have to take some extra time on a weekend, or I’ve got to do some work late at night when I’m not under an emergency situation, I’m going to do that.

So this makes good business sense.  But the problem is, is that we haven’t done enough to encourage these new models.  And this is part of the reason why we did this Family Summit — we wanted to lift this stuff up, show companies that are doing the right thing, encourage others to adopt the same practices, and maybe get some legislation that incentivizes better policies.

In the meantime, though, if you’re doing the same job you should make the same pay — period; full stop.  (Applause.)  That should be a basic rule.  That shouldn’t be subject to confusion. (Applause.)

Let’s see — this young man back here, right there.

Q    Good afternoon, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Quinn Graham.  I’m an intern with Right Track.

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s Right Track?  Tell me about it.

Q    It’s a youth jobs program through the city of St. Paul.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  Now, what grade are you going into next year?

Q    I’m going to be a senior next year.

THE PRESIDENT:  Fantastic.  How did junior year go?

Q    What?

THE PRESIDENT:  How did junior year go?

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  It was okay?  What do you mean, yeah?  No, how did junior year go?

Q    Oh, it went well.

THE PRESIDENT:  It went well?

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  I just wanted — because Malia is going into her junior year and I hear it’s pretty busy your junior year.

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah?  Well, you look like you survived it.

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  You wanted to get to your question.  Please go ahead.  (Laughter.)

Q    I was wondering how you would propose to address the growing issue of climate change.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as it just so happens — now, this young man was not a plant.  (Laughter.)  But as it just so happens, last year yesterday, I announced my Climate Action Plan. And let me just set the stage by saying that the science here is settled — (applause) — carbon dioxide is released by a whole bunch of manmade activities.

When you release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere it traps heat.  We are seeing the highest levels of carbon dioxide, and as a consequence, some of the warmest temperatures that we’ve seen in hundreds of thousands of years.  They’re going up.  And this is not just a problem of polar bears — although I really like polar bears — and the ice caps melting.  What happens is, is that when temperatures on average go up it throws weather patterns into a whole bunch of different directions.

So it may mean that snowcaps on mountains diminish.  And out West, entire states get their water from snowcaps.  If you’re not getting the same amount of water you now have the potential for more severe drought.  Agriculture is impacted, which means your food bills go up.  California is going through the worst drought it’s gone through in a very, very long time.  That raises the price of all the fruits and vegetables that are grown in California, so it hits you in your pocketbook.

Wildfires may increase.  And in fact, we’ve seen record wildfires.  We’re having to spend more money fighting fires now than we ever have.  It makes hurricanes potentially more frequent and potentially more powerful.  So Hurricane Sandy may not be as unusual as it used to be.  You see higher incidents of flooding. Coastal states like Florida, there are neighborhoods where now every time there’s a high tide there’s a flood in these neighborhoods.

And the problem is it’s getting worse.  Because as folks in China and India and other places decide they want to have cars, too, and they want to have electricity and the things that we’ve got, they start building more power plants and they start driving more — all of that adds to more carbon dioxide and it starts compounding.

So this is something we have to deal with.  Now, the good news is there are things we can do.  So we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars.  By the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks are going to go twice as far on a gallon of gas. That’s going to save you money in your pocketbook, but it’s also taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.  (Applause.)

We’ve invested in clean energy.  Since I came into office we’re producing three times as much energy through wind power and we’re producing about 10 times as much energy through solar power, and we’re creating jobs here in the United States — folks installing wind turbines and solar panels.  So it’s good economics and it’s also good for the environment.

Most recently, what I’ve done is I’ve said — about 40 percent of the carbon that we emit comes from power plants.  So what we’ve said is, through the Environmental Protection Agency, we’re going to set standards.  We set standards for the amount of mercury and arsenic and sulfur that’s pumped out by factories and power plants into our air and our water.  Right now we don’t have a cap on the amount of carbon pollution.  So we said we’re going to cap it.

And we’re going to let states work with their private sector and local governments to come up with what’s going to be best for them.  Not every state is going to do the same thing.  Nevada might emphasize solar power.  South Dakota might emphasize wind power.  Whatever it is that you’re going to do you’ve got to start bringing down your carbon pollution.

Now, this has some controversy.  Oil companies, not wild about it; coal companies, not crazy about it.  These traditional sources of fuel — fossil fuels — we’re going to use for a while, but we can’t just keep on using them forever.  We’ve got to develop new ways of producing energy so that your generation isn’t seeing a planet that is starting to break down, with all the costs associated with it.

Last point I’ll make — one of the benefits of asking power plants to produce energy that’s cleaner is that when they control their carbon dioxide they’re also putting less soot in the air.  They’re also putting less particulates in the air.  And what that means is your child is less likely to get asthma and those with respiratory diseases are less likely to be impacted.  So it has a public health effect that is good as well.

We can have an environment that is cleaner, that is healthy for us, and at the same time, develop entire new industries in clean energy.  But we’re going to have to get started now.  And that’s why, despite some of the pushback from some of the special interests out there, we’re going to just keep on going at this, because we don’t have a choice.  This is something that we’re going to have to tackle during this generation to make sure we’re giving a good future for the next generation.  (Applause.)  Great question.

Last question — last question.  This young lady in the pink, go ahead.

Q    Good afternoon, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.

Q    My name is Katie Peterson.  And my coworker here and friend, we’ve been working for the federal government for almost 29 years.  And we feel really privileged that we’ve been able to serve that way.

THE PRESIDENT:  Where do you work?

Q    For Defense Contract Management Agency.

THE PRESIDENT:  Excellent.

Q    But it’s been a great career, we love it, but lately, as you know, there’s been a few rough patches with three years of pay freeze and sequestration and furloughs.  And we’re just kind of wondering what you foresee for the next fiscal year for government workers.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me make a couple of points.  First of all, folks in the federal government, the overwhelming majority, they work really hard doing really important stuff.  And I don’t know why it is that — (applause) — I don’t know when it was that somehow working for government — whether the state or local or federal level — somehow became not a real job. When you listen to some of the Republican rhetoric sometimes you think, well, this is really important work that we depend on.

We’ve got floods right here right now.  The federal government is coming in and it’s going to be working with local communities that are overwhelmed to try to make sure that people get help rebuilding.  Those are federal workers.  If they weren’t around after a tornado or a hurricane, communities would be in a world of hurt.

When you check the weather, even on your smartphone, that information didn’t just come from some Silicon Valley office.  That came from the National Weather Service.  We put out the data developed by the federal government to our satellites that are paid for, and then it’s commercialized.  And people use it to set up things like the Weather Channel and Weather.com and websites.

The folks who help our men and women in uniform make sure that they’ve got proper equipment, those are federal workers.  Fighting fires — a lot of times those are federal workers in the Forest Service.

So it frustrates me when I hear people acting as if somebody who’s working for the federal government somehow is less than somebody working on the private sector — if they’re doing a good job and carrying on an important function, we should praise them. (Applause.)

The same is true, by the way, at the local level.  The same is true at the local level.  I don’t know a job more important than teaching.  Those are all government workers.  In fact, one of the biggest problems we had in coming out of this recession, in addition to it being the worst recession since the Great Depression, was that states and local governments were cutting back on their hiring at an unprecedented rate.  We still haven’t seen state and local government hiring get back to where it was back in 2007-2008.  If we had, if we hadn’t lost so many teachers and teachers’ aides in a lot of communities, the unemployment rate would be much lower and the economy would be much stronger.

So I say all this just to make a general point, which is, historically, it’s been the private sector that drove the economy, but it was also a whole bunch of really great work done by agricultural extension workers and engineers at NASA and researchers at our labs that helped to create the platform and the wealth that we enjoy.  And so this whole idea that somehow government is the enemy or the problem is just not true.

Now, are there programs that the government does that are a waste of money or aren’t working as well as they should be?  Of course.  But I tell you, if you work in any company in America, big company, you’ll find some things that they’re doing that aren’t all that efficient either.  Are there some federal workers who do bone-headed things?  Absolutely.  I remember the first week I was on the job I talked to my Defense Secretary, Bob Gates, who’s older and had been there a long time.  I said, do you have advice for me, Bob?  He says, one thing you should know, Mr. President, is that at any given moment, on any given day, somebody in the federal government is screwing up.  (Laughter.)  Which is true, because there are 2 million employees.  Somebody out there — if 99 percent of the folks are doing the right thing and only 1 percent aren’t, that’s still a lot of people.

So my job as President, working with Congress, is to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently.  We shouldn’t be wasting a dime.  And where we see waste, where we see things not working the way they should — like recently, these long waits for folks trying to get in the VA health care program — we’ve got to crack down and we’ve got to reform it.  But we can’t paint in a broad brush and just say somehow stuff is not working — because even in the VA health care system, once people get in, the quality of care, the satisfaction rates for customers are actually better than in private sector health care. (Applause.)  So we can’t generalize like this.

Now, the last point I’ll make — going to your question — federal workers generally have not gotten raises.  And you remember during the government shutdown, they were getting pressed having to pay bills like everybody else, but not having a paycheck coming in.  It’s very disruptive for them.  And what’s called sequestration and furloughs meant that they might only be able to come to work three days a week instead of the full five. And this all put a strain on their budgets.

We’ve been able to stabilize it, but when we go into the budget talks with Republicans next year, we may go through some of the same problems, in part because the other side has said they want to cut funding for education; they’ve said that they want to cut support for vulnerable families; they want to cut Medicaid, which would have an impact on the elderly and families that have folks with disabilities.  And I’ve said no.

I’ve said why would I — by the way, the deficit has come down by more than half since I came into office.  (Applause.)  It hasn’t gone up.  Federal spending has not gone up.  The deficit has gone down.  And if we want to do more to reduce the deficit further, why am I going to take it out on the most vulnerable in our society and programs we need to grow when we’ve got a tax system where you’ve got corporations taking advantage of loopholes — in some cases, they’re paying no taxes, when a teacher or a secretary are paying taxes themselves?  Why wouldn’t I close those loopholes first to generate additional revenues before I started cutting education spending or spending on basic research?  (Applause.)

It will be a tough negotiation just because everything is a tough negotiation in Washington right now — which I guess brings me just to my last point.  I don’t watch TV news generally, or cable shows, but I suspect if you’re out here and going to work, and picking up your kids and taking them to soccer, or at night sitting there paying the bills, and you just turn on the TV, sometimes it must feel kind of discouraging because it doesn’t feel like what’s being talked about in Washington has anything to do with what’s going on in your lives day to day.  And it must feel as if sometimes you’re just forgotten.

And sometimes the news that’s being reported on is really important.  I mean, what’s happening in Iraq is relevant.  We’ve got to pay attention to the threats that are emanating from the chaos in the Middle East.  Although I want to be very clear we’re not sending combat troops into Iraq, because that’s — (applause) — we’ve done that and we’ve given them an opportunity.  And they’re going to have to contribute to solving their own problems here, although we’ll protect our people and we’ll make sure that we’re going after terrorists who could do us harm.

But sometimes the news that’s coming off is just — these are just Washington fights.  They’re fabricated issues.  They’re phony scandals that are generated.  It’s all geared towards the next election or ginning up a base.  It’s not on the level.  And that must feel frustrating, and it makes people cynical and it makes people turned off from the idea that anything can get done.
And if I’ve got one message today, it’s the same message that I gave to that young mom that I mentioned who I had lunch with before I came here, who wrote me a letter just talking about how she had done everything right, her and her husband, and she’s working hard and raising two beautiful kids and she has a great life, but it’s a struggle and wondering if anybody in Washington knows it.  What I told her is the same thing I want to tell all of you, which is:  I know it.  You’re the reason I ran for office.  You’re — (applause) — no, no, I’m not looking for applause.  I want to make this point.  I grew up not in tough circumstances, but I was you guys.  Somebody out here is going through what my mom went through.  Somebody out here is growing through what my grandma went through.  Somebody out here is going through what Michelle and I went through when we were first married and our kids were first born.  It’s not like I forget.

That was just 20 years ago that we were trying to figure out how to buy our first home.  This is 10 years ago when we finished off paying our student loans.

You guys are the reason I ran.  You’re who I’m thinking about every single day.  And just because it’s not reported in the news, I don’t want you to think that I’m not fighting for you.  And I’m not always going to get it done as fast as I want, because right now we’ve got a Congress that’s dysfunctional.  And I’ll be honest with you — you’ve got a party on the other side whose only rationale — motivation seems to be opposing me.

But despite all that, we’re making progress.  Despite all that, some folks have health care that didn’t have it before.  (Applause.)  Despite all that, some students are able to afford their education better.  Despite all that, some folks have jobs that didn’t have it.  Despite all that, the Green Line got built here in Minnesota.  (Applause.)  Despite all that, we can make life a little better for American families who are doing their best, working hard, meeting their responsibilities.

And I don’t want you to ever forget that.  And I don’t want you to be cynical.  Cynicism is popular these days, but hope is better.

Thanks, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
3:36 P.M. CDT

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