Full Text Obama Presidency September 24, 2014: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speech at the United Nations Global Education First Initiative — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the First Lady at United Nations Global Education First Initiative

Source: WH, 9-24-14 

United Nations
New York, New York

3:37 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Good afternoon.  It is truly a pleasure and an honor to join you today for the third annual Global Education First Initiative event.

Let me start by thanking Chernor for that just touching, very powerful, beautiful introduction.  Let’s give him a round of applause.  That was amazing.  (Applause.)  I do not feel worthy.  But I’m very proud of you and all of the other youth advocates for the tremendous work that you all are doing.  You make me proud.

I also want to recognize Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson; UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova; U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown; and, of course, the GEFI Champion Countries and Partners.

But most of all, I want to thank all of you for your visionary work on global education, particularly on the issue I want to discuss today –- an issue which is the focus of my international work as First Lady of the United States -– and that is providing quality education for girls around the world.

Now, we have made tremendous progress on this issue, particularly on primary education.  Thanks to leaders like all of you, as of 2012, every developing region in the world had achieved, or was close to achieving, gender parity in primary education.  And this is a stunning accomplishment, and we should all be proud of how far we’ve come.

But we shouldn’t be satisfied.  Because while the benefits of primary education are real and meaningful, we know that if we truly want to transform girls’ lives, if we truly want to give them the tools to shape their own destinies, then primary education often just isn’t enough.

We know that if we want girls to marry later, raise healthier children, earn good wages, then we need to send them to school through adolescence.  But we also know that adolescence marks the critical moment when a girl starts to develop from a child into a woman; when she is first subjected to the norms and prejudices that her society holds around gender.  And that is precisely when the issue of quality education truly starts to get hard.

At that point in a girl’s life, it is no longer enough to simply talk about building schools and buying supplies, because when it comes to educating adolescent girls the real challenge isn’t just about resources, it’s about attitudes and beliefs.  It’s about whether fathers and mothers think their daughters are as worthy of an education as their sons.  It’s about whether communities value young women for their minds, or only for the reproductive and labor capacities of their bodies.  It’s also about whether all of us are willing to confront the complex, sensitive issues that keep so many adolescent girls out of school –- issues like early and forced marriage, and genital cutting; issues like domestic violence and human trafficking.

In other words, we cannot talk about quality education for adolescent girls or hope to make meaningful and lasting progress on this issue unless we’re willing to have a much bigger and bolder conversation about how women are viewed and treated in the world today.

Now, as Chernor said, this conversation is deeply personal for me as a woman.  I know that I stand before you today because of the people in my life, particularly the men -– men like my father, grandfathers, uncles who valued me, who invested in me from the day I was born; men who pushed me to succeed in school, insisted that I have the same opportunities as my brother, urging me to find a husband who would treat me as an equal.

The issue of secondary education for girls is also personal to me as a mother.  And I know that’s true for many of you here today as well.  So many of us are parents and grandparents, and who among us would accept our daughters and granddaughters getting only a primary education?  Who among us would accept our precious girls being married off to grown men at the age of 12, becoming pregnant at 13, being unable to support themselves financially, confined to a life of dependence, fear and abuse?

None of us in this room would ever dream of accepting that kind of life for our daughters or granddaughters.  So why would we accept this for any girl in our country, or any girl on this planet?

To answer this question, all of us -– men and women here in this room and around the world –- we must do some serious self-reflection.  We must look inside ourselves and ask, do we truly value women as equals, or do we see them as merely second-class citizens?  We must look around at our societies and ask, are we clinging to laws and traditions that serve only to oppress and exclude, or are we working to become more equal, more free?

These are the very questions we are asking ourselves every day here in the United States.  Because while we’ve made tremendous progress in areas like college graduation rates and workforce participation, women here are still woefully underrepresented in our government and in the senior ranks of our corporations.

We still struggle with violence against women and harmful cultural norms that tell women how they are expected to look and act.  And we still have plenty of work to do here in America to provide a quality education and opportunity for girls and boys, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.  But as we consider all the challenges we face in our countries and in countries across the globe, we must also reflect on the tremendous progress we’ve made.

Just think about where we were just 15 years ago on this issue.  Back then, if I had told you that in a little over a decade, we would see nearly 56 million more girls going to school, you would have told me I was dreaming.  But that is precisely what has happened because of people like all of you.  It’s happened because of your fierce devotion to those girls’ promise and your relentless efforts to transform their lives.

And if we truly believe that every girl in every corner of the globe is worthy of an education as our own daughters and granddaughters are, then we need to deepen our commitment to these efforts.  We need to make even more commitments and investments like the ones we’re announcing this week –- programs to provide scholarships and hygiene facilities in schools; public awareness campaigns to change attitudes about our girls; efforts to collect data on how girls learn, and so much more.

We also need to fight even harder to ensure that quality education for every child and the empowerment of women and girls are dedicated goals on our Post-2015 Development Agenda — yes, absolutely.  (Applause.)  Keeping our girls safe on their way to school, teaching them relevant skills once they’re there, and ensuring they graduate from secondary school — all of these things must be a part of our agenda.  Addressing gender-based violence in all of its forms –- from domestic violence, to genital cutting, to early and forced marriages –- all of that needs to be on the agenda too.

Because girls around the world deserve so much better.  They do.  They are so eager to learn.  And so many of them are sacrificing so much just for the chance to get an education.  I’m thinking about girls like Malala.  I’m thinking about those brave girls in Nigeria.  I’m thinking about all the girls who will never make the headlines who walk hours to school each day, who study late into the night because they are so hungry to fill every last bit of their God-given potential.

If we can show just a tiny fraction of their courage and their commitment, then I know we can give all of our girls an education worthy of their promise.  And let me just say this — in the years and decades ahead, I am so very eager to engage even more deeply with leaders in this room, across the United States and around the world on this issue until every young woman on our planet has the opportunity to learn and grow and thrive.

Thank you very much.  God bless.  (Applause.)

END
3:48 P.M. EDT

Political Musings September 22, 2014: Obama continues promise to help Americas youth realize their dreams

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama continues promise to help Americas youth realize their dreams

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama continued a presidential tradition on Monday afternoon, September 22, 2014 by signing America’s Promise Summit Declaration at the Oval Office in the White House. The signing was a bipartisan affair with Former Secretary….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 19, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at “It’s On Us” Campaign Roll Out to Combat College Sexual Assaults — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at “It’s On Us” Campaign Rollout

Source: WH, 9-19-14

East Room

12:14 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House, everybody.  And thank you to Joe Biden not just for the introduction, not just for being a great Vice President — but for decades, since long before he was in his current office, Joe has brought unmatched passion to this cause.  He has.  (Applause.)

And at a time when domestic violence was all too often seen as a private matter, Joe was out there saying that this was unacceptable.  Thanks to him and so many others, last week we were able to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the law Joe wrote, a law that transformed the way we handle domestic abuse in this country — the Violence Against Women Act.

And we’re here to talk today about an issue that is a priority for me, and that’s ending campus sexual assault.  I want to thank all of you who are participating.  I particularly want to thank Lilly for her wonderful presentation and grace.  I want to thank her parents for being here.  As a father of two daughters, I on the one hand am enraged about what has happened; on the other hand, am empowered to see such an incredible young woman be so strong and do so well.  And we’re going to be thrilled watching all of the great things she is going to be doing in her life.  So we’re really proud of her.

I want to thank the White House Council on Women and Girls.  Good Job.  Valerie, thank you.  (Applause.)  I want to thank our White House Advisor on Violence Against Women — the work that you do every day partnering with others to prevent the outrage, the crime of sexual violence.

We’ve got some outstanding lawmakers with us.  Senator Claire McCaskill is right here from the great state of Missouri, who I love.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got Dick Blumenthal from the great state of Connecticut, as well as Congresswoman Susan Davis.  So thank you so much, I’m thrilled to have you guys here.  (Applause.)

I also want to thank other members of Congress who are here and have worked on this issue so hard for so long.  A lot of the people in this room have been on the front lines in fighting sexual assault for a long time.  And along with Lilly, I want to thank all the survivors who are here today, and so many others around the country.  (Applause.)  Lilly I’m sure took strength from a community of people — some who came before, some who were peers — who were able to summon the courage to speak out about the darkest moment of their lives.  They endure pain and the fear that too often isolates victims of sexual assault.  So when they give voice to their own experiences, they’re giving voice to countless others — women and men, girls and boys –- who still suffer in silence.

So to the survivors who are leading the fight against sexual assault on campuses, your efforts have helped to start a movement.  I know that, as Lilly described, there are times where the fight feels lonely, and it feels as if you’re dredging up stuff that you’d rather put behind you.  But we’re here to say, today, it’s not on you.  This is not your fight alone.  This is on all of us, every one of us, to fight campus sexual assault.  You are not alone, and we have your back, and we are going to organize campus by campus, city by city, state by state.  This entire country is going to make sure that we understand what this is about, and that we’re going to put a stop to it.

And this is a new school year.  We’ve been working on campus sexual assault for several years, but the issue of violence against women is now in the news every day.  We started to I think get a better picture about what domestic violence is all about.  People are talking about it.  Victims are realizing they’re not alone.  Brave people have come forward, they’re opening up about their own experiences.

And so we think today’s event is all that more relevant, all that more important for us to say that campus sexual assault is no longer something we as a nation can turn away from and say that’s not our problem.  This is a problem that matters to all of us.

An estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years — one in five.  Of those assaults, only 12 percent are reported, and of those reported assaults, only a fraction of the offenders are punished.  And while these assaults overwhelmingly happen to women, we know that men are assaulted, too.  Men get raped.  They’re even less likely to talk about it.  We know that sexual assault can happen to anyone, no matter their race, their economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity -– and LGBT victims can feel even more isolated, feel even more alone.

For anybody whose once-normal, everyday life was suddenly shattered by an act of sexual violence, the trauma, the terror can shadow you long after one horrible attack.  It lingers when you don’t know where to go or who to turn to.  It’s there when you’re forced to sit in the same class or stay in the same dorm with the person who raped you; when people are more suspicious of what you were wearing or what you were drinking, as if it’s your fault, not the fault of the person who assaulted you.  It’s a haunting presence when the very people entrusted with your welfare fail to protect you.

Students work hard to get into college.  I know — I’m watching Malia right now, she’s a junior.  She’s got a lot of homework.  And parents can do everything they can to support their kids’ dreams of getting a good education.  When they finally make it onto campus, only to be assaulted, that’s not just a nightmare for them and their families; it’s not just an affront to everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve — it is an affront to our basic humanity.  It insults our most basic values as individuals and families, and as a nation.  We are a nation that values liberty and equality and justice.  And we’re a people who believe every child deserves an education that allows them to fulfill their God-given potential, free from fear of intimidation or violence.  And we owe it to our children to live up to those values.  So my administration is trying to do our part.

First of all, three years ago, we sent guidance to every school district, every college, every university that receives federal funding, and we clarified their legal obligations to prevent and respond to sexual assault.  And we reminded them that sexual violence isn’t just a crime, it is a civil rights violation.  And I want to acknowledge Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for his department’s work in holding schools accountable and making sure that they stand up for students.

Number two, in January, I created a White House task force to prevent — a Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.  Their job is to work with colleges and universities on better ways to prevent and respond to assaults, to lift up best practices.  And we held conversations with thousands of people –- survivors, parents, student groups, faculty, law enforcement, advocates, academics.  In April, the task force released the first report, recommending a number of best practices for colleges and universities to keep our kids safe.  And these are tested, and they are common-sense measures like campus surveys to figure out the scope of the problem, giving survivors a safe place to go and a trusted person to talk to, training school officials in how to handle trauma.  Because when you read some of the accounts, you think, what were they thinking?  You just get a sense of too many people in charge dropping the ball, fumbling something that should be taken with the most — the utmost seriousness and the utmost care.

Number three, we’re stepping up enforcement efforts and increasing the transparency of our efforts.  So we’re reviewing existing laws to make sure they’re adequate.  And we’re going to keep on working with educational institutions across the country to help them appropriately respond to these crimes.

So that’s what we have been doing, but there’s always more that we can do.  And today, we’re taking a step and joining with people across the country to change our culture and help prevent sexual assault from happening.  Because that’s where prevention — that’s what prevention is going to require — we’ve got to have a fundamental shift in our culture.

As far as we’ve come, the fact is that from sports leagues to pop culture to politics, our society still does not sufficiently value women.  We still don’t condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should.  We make excuses.  We look the other way.  The message that sends can have a chilling effect on our young women.

And I’ve said before, when women succeed, America succeeds — let me be clear, that’s not just true in America.  If you look internationally, countries that oppress their women are countries that do badly.  Countries that empower their women are countries that thrive.

And so this is something that requires us to shift how we think about these issues.  One letter from a young woman really brought this point home.  Katherine Morrison, a young student from Youngstown, Ohio, she wrote, “How are we supposed to succeed when so many of our voices are being stifled?  How can we succeed when our society says that as a woman, it’s your fault if you are at a party or walked home alone.  How can we succeed when people look at women and say ‘you should have known better,’ or ‘boys will be boys?’?”

And Katherine is absolutely right.  Women make up half this country; half its workforce; more than half of our college students.  They are not going to succeed the way they should unless they are treated as true equals, and are supported and respected.  And unless women are allowed to fulfill their full potential, America will not reach its full potential.  So we’ve got to change.

This is not just the work of survivors, it’s not just the work of activists.  It’s not just the work of college administrators.  It’s the responsibility of the soccer coach, and the captain of the basketball team, and the football players.  And it’s on fraternities and sororities, and it’s on the editor of the school paper, and the drum major in the band.  And it’s on the English department and the engineering department, and it’s on the high schools and the elementary schools, and it’s on teachers, and it’s on counselors, and it’s on mentors, and it’s on ministers.

It’s on celebrities, and sports leagues, and the media, to set a better example.  It’s on parents and grandparents and older brothers and sisters to sit down young people and talk about this issue.  (Applause.)

And it’s not just on the parents of young women to caution them.  It is on the parents of young men to teach them respect for women.  (Applause.)  And it’s on grown men to set an example and be clear about what it means to be a man.

It is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable.  And we especially need our young men to show women the respect they deserve, and to recognize sexual assault, and to do their part to stop it.  Because most young men on college campuses are not perpetrators.  But the rest — we can’t generalize across the board.  But the rest of us can help stop those who think in these terms and shut stuff down.  And that’s not always easy to do with all the social pressures to stay quiet or go along; you don’t want to be the guy who’s stopping another friend from taking a woman home even if it looks like she doesn’t or can’t consent.  Maybe you hear something in the locker room that makes you feel uncomfortable, or see something at a party that you know isn’t right, but you’re not sure whether you should stand up, not sure it’s okay to intervene.

And I think Joe said it well — the truth is, it’s not just okay to intervene, it is your responsibility.  It is your responsibility to speak your mind.  It is your responsibility to tell your buddy when he’s messing up.  It is your responsibility to set the right tone when you’re talking about women, even when women aren’t around — maybe especially when they’re not around.
And it’s not just men who should intervene.  Women should also speak up when something doesn’t look right, even if the men don’t like it.  It’s all of us taking responsibility.  Everybody has a role to play.

And in fact, we’re here with Generation Progress to launch, appropriately enough, a campaign called “It’s On Us.”  The idea is to fundamentally shift the way we think about sexual assault. So we’re inviting colleges and universities to join us in saying, we are not tolerating this anymore –- not on our campuses, not in our community, not in this country.  And the campaign is building on the momentum that’s already being generated by college campuses by the incredible young people around the country who have stepped up and are leading the way.  I couldn’t be prouder of them.

And we’re also joined by some great partners in this effort –- including the Office of Women’s Health, the college sports community, media platforms.  We’ve got universities who have signed up, including, by the way, our military academies, who are represented here today.  So the goal is to hold ourselves and each other accountable, and to look out for those who don’t consent and can’t consent.  And anybody can be a part of this campaign.

So the first step on this is to go to ItsOnUs.org — that’s ItsOnUs.org.  Take a pledge to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault.  It’s a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be part of the solution.  I took the pledge.  Joe took the pledge.  You can take the pledge.  You can share it on social media, you can encourage others to join us.

And this campaign is just part of a broader effort, but it’s a critical part, because even as we continue to enforce our laws and work with colleges to improve their responses, and to make sure that survivors are taken care of, it won’t be enough unless we change the culture that allows assault to happen in the first place.

And I’m confident we can.  I’m confident because of incredible young people like Lilly who speak out for change and empower other survivors.  They inspire me to keep fighting.  I’m assuming they inspire you as well.  And this is a personal priority not just as a President, obviously, not just as a husband and a father of two extraordinary girls, but as an American who believes that our nation’s success depends on how we value and defend the rights of women and girls.

So I’m asking all of you, join us in this campaign.  Commit to being part of the solution.  Help make sure our schools are safe havens where everybody, men and women, can pursue their dreams and fulfill their potential.

Thank you so much for all the great work.  (Applause.)

END
12:34 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency August 16, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Everyone Should Be Able To Afford Higher Education

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Everyone Should Be Able To Afford Higher Education

Source: WH, 8-16-14

Video Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hi, everybody. Over the next couple weeks, schools all across the country will be opening their doors. Students will suit up for fall sports, marching band, and the school play; moms and dads will snap those first-day-of-school pictures — and that includes me and Michelle.

And so today, I want to talk directly with students and parents about one of the most important things any of you can do this year — and that’s to begin preparing yourself for an education beyond high school.

We know that in today’s economy, whether you go to a four-year college, a community college, or a professional training program, some higher education is the surest ticket to the middle class. The typical American with a bachelor’s degree or higher earns over $28,000 more per year than someone with just a high school diploma. And they’re also much more likely to have a job in the first place – the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree is less than one-third of the rate for those without a high school diploma.

But for too many families across the country, paying for higher education is a constant struggle. Earlier this year, a young woman named Elizabeth Cooper wrote to tell me how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college. As 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.”

Michelle and I know the feeling – we only finished paying off our student loans ten years ago. And so as President, I’m working to make sure young people like Elizabeth can go to college without racking up mountains of debt. We reformed a student loan system so that more money goes to students instead of big banks. We expanded grants and college tax credits for students and families. We took action to offer millions of students a chance to cap their student loan payments at 10% of their income. And Congress should pass a bill to let students refinance their loans at today’s lower interest rates, just like their parents can refinance their mortgage.

But as long as college costs keep rising, we can’t just keep throwing money at the problem — colleges have to do their part to bring down costs as well. That’s why we proposed a plan to tie federal financial aid to a college’s performance, and create a new college scorecard so that students and parents can see which schools provide the biggest bang for your buck. We launched a new $75 million challenge to inspire colleges to reduce costs and raise graduation rates. And in January, more than 100 college presidents and nonprofit leaders came to the White House and made commitments to increase opportunities for underserved students.

Since then, we’ve met with even more leaders who want to create new community-based partnerships and support school counselors. And this week, my Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, announced a series of commitments to support students who need a little extra academic help getting through college.

This is a challenge I take personally. And to all you young people, now that you’re heading back to school, your education is something you have to take personally, also. It’s up to you to push yourself; to take hard classes and read challenging books. Science shows that when you struggle to solve a problem or make a new argument, you’re actually forming new connections in your brain. So when you’re thinking hard, you’re getting smarter. Which means this year, challenge yourself to reach higher. And set your sights on college in the years ahead. Your country is counting on you.

And don’t forget to have some fun along the way, too.

Thanks everybody. Good luck on the year ahead.

Full Text Obama Presidency July 24, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Economy at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Los Angeles, CA

Source: WH, 7-24-14

Los Angeles Trade-Technical College
Los Angeles, California

1:15 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, L.A.!  (Applause.)  Good to see you! Hello, Los Angeles!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody.  Now, if you’ve got a seat, sit down.  I know that a couple people have been getting overheated.  A tip for you — if you’ve got some water, then drink.  Standing in the sun is rough.  Bend your knees a little bit.  And I’m going to try to be fast.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  God Almighty, Jesus Christ — (inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s okay.

AUDIENCE:  Obama!  Obama!  Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Now, I have to admit that I’ve actually met that guy before.  (Laughter.)  That’s a couple of years ago and he had the same line.  He needs to update his material.

All right, everybody, settle down for a second.  First of all, I’d like everybody to say thank you to Katrice not only for the great introduction, but for the great work she’s doing helping to train people to get the kinds of jobs that we want and opportunity for people that don’t have it.  So, Katrice, thank you so much.  (Applause.)  We’re proud of you.

My understanding — we understand we also have — Congresswoman Karen Bass is here.  Where’s Karen?  (Applause.)  We love Karen.  There’s Karen Bass.  We’ve got — America’s Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, is here.  Give Tom a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

And we want to thank L.A. Trade Technical College for your hospitality.  (Applause.)  This is a school that does good work helping the unemployed retrain for new careers.  And that’s one of the things I want to talk about today.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you!

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

I always love being in California.  I spent a couple good years here in college myself.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Occi Tigers!

THE PRESIDENT:  Occi — that’s right, Occi Tigers.  Earlier today, I sat down at Canter’s with Katrice and a few Californians who wrote to me.  I get letters from folks all across the country and I read them every night.  And folks tell me their stories — about their worries and their hopes and hardships and successes. Some say I’m doing a good job.  Some say I’m an idiot — which let’s me know that I’m getting a representative sample.  (Laughter.)

But in addition to Katrice, a young woman named Kati Koster was there, and she told me about her life.  She grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Wisconsin.  Her parents taught her to value education, that that was going to be the ticket to the middle class.  First in her family to go to college; moved on to get her master’s degree from Pepperdine, stayed out in California.  (Applause.)

And she wrote to tell me that she’s always played by the rules, valued education, worked hard but she felt “trapped” because no matter how hard she worked it seemed like she couldn’t get ahead.  And she said, “If earning an education doesn’t open doors for someone like me to rise above my socioeconomic class…what does that say about our country?”  “What does it say about our values,” she asked.  She said, “I try not to be cynical, but one shouldn’t have to be rich or from a wealthy family in order to pay their bills, save some money, have fun, enjoy life.” She said, “I didn’t write this letter to complain.  I wrote because I don’t know what else to do, and as the President of my country I hoped you would listen to my story.”

So, L.A., I’m here because I am listening to Kati’s story.  I’m listening to Americans all across the country, everybody who works their tail off, is doing the right thing, who believes in the American Dream, just wants a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their family.  You are why I ran for President in the first place.  And I am always going to be listening to you.  (Applause.)

Now, the crisis that hit near the end of that campaign back in 2008 cost millions of Americans their jobs, their homes, their sense of security.  But today, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since September of 2008.  (Applause.) And this past year, we saw one of the fastest drops in nearly 30 years in the unemployment rate.  (Applause.)  The decisions we made not only to rescue the economy, rescue the auto industry, but to rebuild it on a new foundation — those decisions are paying off.

We’re more energy independent.  The world’s number-one oil and gas producer is not Russia, it’s not Saudi Arabia — it’s the United States of America.  (Applause.)  We’ve reduced our carbon pollution over the past eight years more than any country on Earth.  You saw an L.A. Times headline the other day that said “2014 off to the hottest start on record for California.”  That’s why we have to worry about climate change.

We’ve tripled the electricity we’re getting from wind power, generating enough last year to power every home in California.  We now generate 10 times the solar electricity, creating tens of thousands of jobs across the country.  California is so far ahead of the rest of the country in solar that earlier this year, solar power met 18 percent of your total power demand one day.  That’s the kind of progress, kind of leadership we need.  (Applause.)

But it’s not just the energy sector.  In education, our high school graduation rate is at a record high.  The Latino dropout rate has been cut in half since 2008.  (Applause.)  More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before.  Meanwhile, 401(k)s have restored their value.  Fewer homes are underwater.  Millions more families have the peace of mind of affordable health care when you need it because we did pass the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)

None of this was an accident.  We made some good decisions, but we also saw the resilience and the resolve of the American people.  And because of that, we’ve recovered faster, we’ve gone farther than almost any country on Earth since the economic crisis.  For the first time in more than a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that the number-one place to invest is not China; it’s the United States of America.  And our lead is growing.  (Applause.)

So — USA!

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  So there are reasons — we’ve got every reason to be optimistic about America.  We hold all the best cards.  We’ve got the best hand.  But the decisions we make now are going to determine whether or not working Americans like Kati continue to feel trapped, or whether they get ahead; whether the economic gains that we make just go to a few at the top, or they help to grow an economy and grow incomes and growing middle-opportunities for everybody.

And that’s what’s at stake right now — making sure our economy works for every working American.  That’s why I ran for President.  That’s what I’m focused on every day.  (Applause.)   This is the challenge of our time.  We can’t be distracted.  And if you’re in public office, and you don’t have an answer for somebody like Kati, if you’re not thinking about her and folks who are working hard but still struggling every day, why are you in public service?  (Applause.)

So today, I’m here to focus on one thing that we should be doing, which is training more Americans to fill the jobs we’re creating.  Right now, there are more job openings in America than any time since 2007.  That doesn’t always make headlines, it’s not sexy so the news doesn’t report it, but it’s a big deal.  And the job training programs can help folks who fell on hard times in the recession, help them find a solid path back to the middle class.

And I’m always impressed by people who have the courage to go back to school, especially later in life.  (Applause.)  Last month, in Minnesota, I met a woman named Rebekah, a wonderful young woman.  A few years ago, she was waiting tables.  She enrolled in a community college, retrained for a new career; today, she loves her job as an accountant.  Joe Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, teaches at a community college.  A lot of her students are in their 30s.  One of the women I met with this morning, Joan Waddell, wrote me to say she’s ready to get back in the game at age 60, after caring for a sick husband, but older workers like her need a little support.  And she wrote, “We are a great investment and we want to be part of the workforce.”  And if you’d met Joan you’d want to hire her because she is sharp.

So Americans are the best workers in the world — if we’re given a chance.  If we work together, we can help more of our fellow citizens learn the skills that growing fields require — in high-tech manufacturing, in clean energy, in information technology, and in health care.

Now, the good news is, earlier this week, I signed a bipartisan bill into law that would help communities update and invest in job training programs like these.  And I got to say I had so much fun actually signing a bipartisan bill from Congress — I said, why don’t you all do it more often?  (Laughter and applause.)  Why don’t you focus on getting some stuff done for the American people?  It feels good.  (Applause.)

So my administration has taken some steps on our own.  We’ve rallied employers to give the long-term unemployed a fair shot at a job.  We’re offering grants to community colleges that work with companies to expand apprenticeships.  We’re helping cities identify fields with job openings, and custom-tailor programs to help workers earn the skills employers are looking for right now, whether it’s welding metal or coding computers.  If your job has been stamped “obsolete” and shipped overseas, or displaced by new technology, your country should help train you to land an even better job in the future.  And that’s something we can do if we work together.  (Applause.)

So this is just some of what we should be doing to help strengthen the middle class and help Americans who are working to join the middle class.  And what I keep hearing from folks across the country is that if Congress had the same priorities most Americans did, if they felt the same urgency that you feel in your own lives, we’d be helping a lot more families right now.

I mean, think about what Congress hasn’t done, despite the fact that I’ve been pushing them to do it.  Congress won’t act to make sure a woman gets fair pay.  Why not?  I went ahead and made sure more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace — because I believe equal pay shouldn’t mean equal work — (applause.)  And when women succeed, America succeeds.  Why isn’t Congress doing something?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I get you, I understand that.

Congress won’t act to help more young people like Kati manage their student loan debt.  I acted to give nearly five million Americans the chance to cap their payments at 10 percent of their income.  I don’t want future leaders saddled with debt they can’t pay before they’ve even started off in life.  Why don’t we see House Republicans working with Democrats who’ve already said, we’re behind making student loans more affordable? (Applause.)

Today marks exactly five years since the last time the minimum wage went up in this country.  That’s too long between raises for a lot of Americans.  I’ve done what I can by requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of $10.10 an hour.  And since the first time I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. have gone ahead and raised theirs.  (Applause.)  And here is something interesting — states that have increased the minimum wages this year have seen higher job growth than those who didn’t raise the minimum wage.  (Applause.)  America deserves a raise.  It will be good for those workers and good for business.

So I’m not going to stop trying to work with Democrats and Republicans to make a difference in your lives.  But I’ve got to call things as they are.  What’s really going on is that Republicans in Congress are directly blocking policies that would help millions of Americans.  They are promoting policies that millions of Americans.  Just this year, on the other hand, they voted to give another massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.

AUDIENCE:  Booo –

THE PRESIDENT:  Just last week, they actually voted to gut the rules we put in place to make sure big banks and credit card companies couldn’t hurt consumers and cause another crisis.  They’re going in the wrong direction.  Our economy does not grow from the top down; it grows from the middle class out.  We do better when middle-class families and folks who are working hard to get into the middle class have a chance.  (Applause.)

So just in case some Republicans are listening, let me give you an example of a place where Democrats and Republicans should be able to work together to make a difference.  I want everybody to pay attention to this.  Right now, our businesses are creating jobs, more companies are choosing to bring jobs back to America. But there’s another trend that is a threat to us.  Even as corporate profits are higher than ever, there’s a small but growing group of big corporations that are fleeing the country to get out of paying taxes.

AUDIENCE:  Booo –

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, hold on a second.  I want you — I say fleeing the country, but they’re not actually do that.  They’re not actually going anywhere.  They’re keeping most of their business here.  They’re keeping usually their headquarters here in the U.S.  They don’t want to give up the best universities and the best military, and all the advantages of operating in the United States.  They just don’t want to pay for it.  So they’re technically renouncing their U.S. citizenship.  They’re declaring they’re based someplace else even though most of their operations are here.  Some people are calling these companies “corporate deserters.”

And it’s only a few big corporations so far.  The vast majority of American businesses play by the rules. But these companies are cherry-picking the rules.  And it damages the country’s finances.  It adds to the deficit.  It makes it harder to invest in things like job training that help keep America growing.  It sticks you with the tab to make up for what they’re stashing offshore through their evasive tax policies.

Now, the problem is this loophole they’re using in our tax laws is actually legal.  It’s so simple and so lucrative, one corporate attorney said it’s almost like “the Holy Grail” of tax avoidance schemes.  My attitude is I don’t care if it’s legal — it’s wrong.  (Applause.)  And my attitude is, is that nobody begrudges our companies from turning a profit — we want them to be profitable.  And in a global economy, there’s nothing wrong with companies expanding to foreign markets.  But you don’t get to pick the tax rate you pay.  Folks, if you’re a secretary or you’re a construction worker, you don’t say, you know what, I feel like paying a little less, so let me do that.  You don’t get a chance to do that.  These companies shouldn’t either.

And the practice they’re engaging is the same kind of behavior that keeps middle-class and working-class families working harder and harder just to keep up.

So the good news is there’s a way to change this.  We could end this through tax reform that lowers the corporate rate, closes wasteful loopholes, simplifies the tax code so people can’t game it.

And over the past two years, I’ve put forward plans that would have cut corporate taxes and made our tax system more competitive — but Congress hasn’t done anything — as usual.  Now, some members of Congress, in both parties, have been working together on responsible corporate tax reform so we don’t have to keep playing whack-a-mole, trying to chase folks around, we’d finally start dealing with these special interest tax loopholes. But that’s going to take some time.  And in the meantime, we need to stop companies from renouncing their citizenship just to get out of paying their fair share of taxes.  We can’t wait for that. You shouldn’t get to call yourself an American company only when you want a handout from American taxpayers.  (Applause.)

That’s why, in my budget earlier this year, I proposed closing this unpatriotic tax loophole for good.  Democrats in Congress have advanced a proposal that would do the same thing.  A couple of Republicans have said they want to address it, too. Let’s everybody get together, Democrats and Republicans, to deter companies from rushing to take advantage of this tax loophole. And let’s make sure that we’re rewarding companies that are investing and paying their fair share here in the United States.

And this is not a partisan issue.  Just 10 years ago, a Republican-led Congress cracked down on corporations moving to offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands.  We should do it again.

I’m not interested in punishing these companies.  But I am interested in economic patriotism.  Instead of doubling down on top-down economics, I want an economic patriotism that says we rise or fall together, as one nation, and as one people.  (Applause.)

Economic patriotism says it’s a good thing when we close wasteful tax loopholes and invest in education, and invest in job training that helps the economy for everybody.  Instead of tax breaks for millionaires, let’s give tax breaks to families to help on child care or college.  (Applause.)  Let’s stop rewarding companies that ship jobs overseas; give tax breaks to companies that are bringing jobs back to the United States.  (Applause.)   Let’s put America back to work rebuilding roads and bridges and airports.  Let’s make sure the next generation of good manufacturing is happening right here in Los Angeles, and in Wisconsin, and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Economic patriotism says it’s a good thing when our fellow citizens have access to preschool, and college, and, yes, health care that is affordable.  (Applause.)  It’s a good thing when women earn the same as men for doing the same work.  It’s a good thing when nobody who’s working full-time has to raise a family in poverty.  (Applause.)  That’s not un-American.  It’s how we built America — together.  That’s what economic patriotism is.

So let me just close by saying this.  The hardest thing in politics is to change a stubborn status quo.  It’s even harder when Washington seems focused on everything but the concerns of you.  There are plenty of folks out there who count on you being cynical and say you’re not going to vote, you’re not going to get involved.  And that just gives more power to the special interests who already benefit from the status quo.

Cynicism is fashionable these days.  But I got to tell you, cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon.  Cynicism did not create the opportunity for all our citizens to vote.  Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or started a business, or fed young minds.

I believe in optimism.  I believe in hope.

AUDIENCE:  Yes!

THE PRESIDENT:  I believe in America making progress.  And despite unyielding opposition, there are workers with jobs who didn’t have them before because of what we’ve done.  There are families who have health insurance because of what we’ve done. There are students who are going to college who weren’t going before because of what we’ve done.  There are troops who have finally come home after serving tour after tour overseas because of what we’ve done.  (Applause.)

Don’t let the cynics get you down.  Cynicism is a choice — and hope is a better choice.  And if we can work together, I promise you there’s no holding America back.

Thank you, Los Angeles.  I love you.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
1:37 P.M. PDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 22, 2014: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at the Bill Signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and Vice President at Bill Signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Source: WH,  7-22-14

12:18 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.  It’s great to be here.  (Applause.)  Please, thank you very much.  Thank you, distinguished members of Congress and members of labor and business, and the community.  Today, as the President signs the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, we’re using this occasion also to present to the President a roadmap he asked — requested in the State of the Union message, how to keep and maintain the highest-skilled workforce in the world.  And this is a perfect build-on as to what the bipartisan consensus that Congress recently reached.

I had the best partners in preparing this report that I could ask for — Tom Perez at Labor, Penny Pritzker at Commerce and Arne Duncan at the Department of Education.  I talked to governors, mayors, industry leaders, presidents of community colleges and colleges, and unions, and a lot of members of Congress, many of whom are here.  And I have to acknowledge at the out front — at the outset, my wife, Jill, has been an incredible advocate for community colleges and the role they play in training the workforce.

But most importantly, I spoke with an awful lot of Americans who are — as all of you have, particularly members of Congress, who were hit exceedingly hard by the Great Recession, but are doing everything they possibly can to find a job — willing to learn new skills in order to have a decent, middle-class job.  One thing I hope that’s been put to rest — and I know we all share this view — Americans want to work.  They want to work.  They’re willing to do anything that they need to do to get a good and decent job.

And they show us that our single greatest resource is not — and it’s not hyperbole — remains the American people.  They’re the most highly-skilled workers in the world and the most capable people in the world.  And they’re in the best position to learn the new skills of the 21st century that the workforce requires.  There’s that phrase — all has changed, changed utterly.  Well, all has changed.  It’s a different world in which people are competing in order to get the kind of jobs they need, whether it’s in advanced manufacturing or clean energy or information technology or health care — all areas that are booming, all areas where America is back.

So the core question that we set out to answer — and I’m sure my colleagues did as well — was how do you connect?  How do you connect these workers who desperately want a job, who will do all they need to do to qualify, how do you connect them with jobs?  How do Americans know what skills employers need?  It sounds like a silly question, but how do they know?  And how do they get these skills once they know what skills are needed for the job?  And where, where do they go to get those jobs?

This report is designed to help answer those extremely practical questions.  It includes 50 actions that the federal government and our outside partners are taking now to help fill this skills gap.  There is this new strategy that we think will lead directly to more middle-class jobs.  These actions are going to help promote partnerships between educational institutions and workforce institutions.  They’re going to increase apprenticeships, which will allow folks to learn — and earn while they learn.  And it will empower job seekers and employers with better data on what jobs are available and what skills are needed to fill those jobs.

Let me tell you a story why all this matters.  And I’ve been all over the country and invited by many of you into your districts and states in order to look at programs you have that are similar to what we’re proposing today.  But I was recently — and I could talk about many of them, but I was recently in Detroit just last week.  And I met with an incredible group of women at a local community college.  Now, all of these women came from hardscrabble neighborhoods in Detroit.  They happened to be all women, it was coincidence, but they all made it through high school.  They ranged in age I’m guessing somewhere from 25 to their mid-50s.  But they all got a high school education, and they were absolutely determined to do more to be able to provide for themselves and their family.

Through word of mouth, Tom, they heard about a coding boot camp, computer coding — a coding boot camp.  And it’s called [Step] IT Up America.  And it was a partnership between Wayne County Community College and a company called UST Global.  Now, it’s an intensive, four-month — just four months, but intensive eight-hour day — I think it’s almost the whole day — don’t hold me to the exact number of hours, but intensive training program where these women happen to be, as I said, there were about a dozen and a half women learn IT skills needed to fill jobs at UST Global.

UST Global represents a lot of other IT companies as well.  Knowing vacancies exist — they estimate over a thousand vacancies just in the greater Detroit area.  And upon completion of this program, UST Global hires the students, and the lowest starting job is at $45,000 a year and the highest is $70,000 a year.  These are coders, computer programmers.  But there’s a key point:  UST Global doesn’t train these women out of some altruistic sense of charity.  They do it because it’s a very, very smart business decision.

There’s an overwhelming need for more computer coders -— as does not just UST Global, but the entire industry.  By 2020, our research shows there will be 1.4 million new IT jobs all across this country.  And the pay is in the $70,000 range.

I was so proud of these women.  As I said, my wife teaches in a community college.  Her average class age of people in her class is 28 to 30 years old.  Just think of yourself, what courage it takes.  You’re out of high school.  You’re graduated.  You’ve been bumping along in a job trying to make it.  You’ve been out, two, five, 10, 15 years.  And someone says, there’s this opportunity to take this program to learn Java, to learn a new language, to learn how to operate a computer in a way that you can code it.  It takes a lot of courage to step up.

It takes a willingness to be ready to fail.  These women were remarkable, but not just these women.  They write code, so they look — they weren’t out there.  They were — they knew someone who had gotten a job because of the program, and they thought they could do it.  So they learned an entire new language, and they displayed an initiative that was remarkable to see.  They showed up.  They worked hard because they want a good-paying job.  They want to make a decent living.  They want to take care of themselves and their families.

Folks, that’s what — as I know all of my colleagues believe — that’s what this is all about.  It’s not just information technology.  Manufacturing — 100,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs available today in the United States because the employers cannot find workers with the right skills.  That number of highly skilled manufacturing jobs is going to grow to 875,000 by 2020.

And, folks, I was recently up in Michigan.  And Dow Kokam has a plant there that’s — they couldn’t find anybody with photovoltaic technology, didn’t know how to run the machines.  So the community college and the business, they roll the machines right into the community college because of the help you all have provided in Congress, the funding.  And it’s like an assembly line.  These are good-paying jobs.

And in energy:  26 percent more jobs for petroleum engineers, average salary 130,000 bucks a year; 25 percent more jobs for solar panel installers, $38,000 a year; 20 percent more jobs needed — more electricians are needed, earning $50,000 a year -— all now and in the near term.  These are real jobs.  These are real jobs.

Health care:  There are 20 percent more jobs -— or 526,000 more that are needed in the health care industry -— registered nurses, jobs that pay 65,000 bucks a year.  There’s training programs in all of your states and districts, where you go out there, and while you’re a practical nurse, you can still be working and be essentially apprentice, while you are learning how to become — and taking courses to be a registered nurse.

Physician assistants — badly needed as the call for health care increases.  What’s the number, Tom, 130,000 a year roughly?  These are jobs all within the grasp of the American people if we give them the shot, if we show them the way, let them know how they can possibly pay for it while they are raising a family, and they’ll do the rest.

To maintain our place in the world we need to keep the world’s most skilled workforce right here in America, and to give a whole lot more hardworking Americans a chance at a good, middle-class job they can raise a family on.

But we also know the actions in this report are only a beginning, and as is the legislation.  The fact of the matter is that so many people over the last two decades have fallen out of the middle class, and so many in the upcoming generation need to find a path back.  Well, there is a path back if we all do our jobs — from industry, to education, to union leaders, to governors, to Congress, to the federal government.

And the mission is very simple.  It goes back to the central economic vision that has guided most of us — I can speak for the President and I — from the first day we got here.

The mission is to widen the aperture to be able to get into the middle class by expanding opportunity.  No guarantees, just expanding opportunity to American men and women who represent the backbone of the most dynamic, thriving economy in the world.  That’s a fact.  We are the most dynamic, thriving economy in the world.

But in order to thrive, their education and training has to be as just as dynamic and adaptable as our economy is.  So, folks, America is back.  We’re better positioned today than we ever have been.  According to A.T. Kearney, we are the most attractive place in the world for foreign investments by a long shot, of every other country in the world.  Since this survey has been kept, the gap between number one and number two is wider than it ever has been.  Manufacturing is back, folks.  They’re coming home.  Instead of hearing — my kids, instead of hearing about outsourcing, what are you hearing now?  You’re hearing about insourcing.  Companies are coming back.

We’re in the midst of — we take no direct credit for it — we’re in the midst of an energy boom.  North America will be the epicenter of energy in the 21st century — the United States of America, Mexico, and Canada.  We remain the leader in innovation.  We have the greatest research universities in the world.  We have the most adaptive financing systems in the world, to go out and take chances on new startups.  And American workers are the most productive in the world.  They want to work.

But to seize this moment, we need to keep the world’s most skilled workforce here in America.  And I think today in this bipartisan group — we’re ready.  The American people are ready.  And I know the man I’m about to introduce is ready.  He wakes up every morning trying to figure out how do we give ordinary Americans an opportunity.  This is just about opportunity, man.  Simple opportunity — how do we give them — because they — an opportunity because they are so exceptional.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I think everyone in this room shares that goal — providing for opportunity.  And the man I’m about to introduce, that’s all he talks about, it seems to me when he talks to me.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Everybody, please be seated.  Thank you.  Well, welcome to the White House, everybody.  And I want to thank Joe for the generous introduction, but more importantly, for everything he does, day in, day out, on behalf of American workers.  And I want to thank the members of Congress who are here from both parties who led the effort to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act.

When President Clinton signed the original Workforce Investment Act back in 1998, he said it was, “a big step forward in making sure that every adult can keep on learning for a lifetime.”  And he was right — the law became a pillar of American job training programs.  It’s helped millions of Americans earn the skills they need to find a new job or get a better-paying job.

But even back then, even in 1998, our economy was changing.  The notion that a high school education could get you a good job and that you’d keep that job until retirement wasn’t a reality for the majority of people.  Advances in technology made some jobs obsolete.  Global competition sent other jobs overseas.  And then, as we were coming into office, the Great Recession pulled the rug out from under millions of hardworking families.

Now, the good news is, today, nearly six years after the financial crisis, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s.  The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since September of 2008 -– by the way, the fastest one-year drop in nearly 30 years.  There are now more job openings than at any time since 2007, pre-recession.  For the first time in a decade, as Joe mentioned, business leaders around the world have declared that the number-one place to do business, the number-one place to invest isn’t China, it’s the United States of America.

So thanks to the hard work of the American people and some decent policies, our economy has recovered faster and it has gone farther than most other advanced nations.  As Joe said, we are well-positioned.  We’ve got the best cards.  So we have the opportunity right now to extend the lead we already have -– to encourage more companies to join the trend and bring jobs home; to make sure that the gains aren’t just for folks at the very top, but that the economy works for every single American.  If you’re working hard, you should be able to get a job, that job should pay well, and you should be able to move forward, look after your family.

Opportunity for all.  And that means that even as we’re creating new jobs in this new economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs.  And keep in mind, not every job that’s a good job out there needs a four-year degree, but the ones that don’t need a college degree generally need some sort of specialized training.

Last month, I met just a wonderful young woman named Rebekah in Minnesota.  A few years ago, she was waiting tables.  Her husband lost his job, he was a carpenter doing construction work.  He had to figure out how to scramble and get a new job that paid less.  She chose to take out student loans, she enrolled in a community college, she retrained for a new career.  Today, not only has her husband been able to get back into construction but she loves her job as an accountant — started a whole new career.  And the question then is how do we give more workers that chance to adapt, to revamp, retool, so that they can move forward in this new economy.

In 2011, I called on Congress to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, update it for the 21st century.  And I want to thank every single lawmaker who is here — lawmakers from both parties — who answered that call.  It took some compromising, but, you know what, it turns out compromise sometimes is okay.  Folks in Congress got past their differences and they got a bill to my desk.  So this is not a win for Democrats or Republicans.  It is a win for American workers.  It’s a win for the middle class.  And it’s a win for everybody who is fighting to earn their way into the middle class.

So the bill I’m about to sign will give communities more certainty to invest in job-training programs for the long run.  It will help us bring those programs into the 21st century by building on what we know works based on evidence, based on tracking what actually delivers on behalf of folks who enroll in these programs -– more partnerships with employers, more tools to measure performance, more flexibilities for states and cities to innovate and to run their workforce programs in ways that are best suited for their particular demographic and their particular industries.  And as we approach the 24th anniversary of the ADA, this bill takes new steps to support Americans with disabilities who want to live and work independently.  So there’s a lot of good stuff in here.

Of course, as Joe said, there is still more that we can do.  And that’s why we’ve rallied employers to give long-term unemployed a fair shot.  It’s why we’re using $600 million in federal grants to encourage companies to offer apprenticeships and work directly with community colleges.  It’s why, in my State of Union address this year, I asked Joe to lead an across-the-board review of America’s training programs to make sure that they have one mission:  Train Americans with the skills employers actually need, then match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.

So today, I’m directing my Cabinet — even as we’re signing the bill — to implement some of Joe’s recommendations.  First, we’re going to use the funds and programs we already have in a smarter way.  Federal agencies will award grants that move away from what our Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, who has been working very hard on this, what he calls a “train and pray” approach, and I’ll bet a lot of you who have dealt with folks who are unemployed know what that means.  They enroll, they get trained for something, they’re not even sure whether the job is out there, and if the job isn’t out there, all they’re doing is saddling themselves with debt, oftentimes putting themselves in a worse position.  What we want to do is make sure where you train your workers first based on what employers are telling you they’re hiring for.  Help business design the training programs so that we’re creating a pipeline into jobs that are actually out there.

Number two, training programs that use federal money will be required to make public how many of its graduates find jobs and how much they earn.  And that means workers, as they’re shopping around for what’s available, they’ll know in advance if they can expect a good return on their investment.  Every job seeker should have all the tools they need to take their career into their own hands, and we’re going to help make sure they can do that.

And finally, we’re going to keep investing in new strategies and innovations that help keep pace with a rapidly changing economy — from testing new, faster ways of teaching skills like coding and cybersecurity and welding, to giving at-risk youth the chance to learn on the job, we will keep making sure that Americans have the chance to build their careers throughout a lifetime of hard work.

So the bill I’m signing today and the actions I’m taking today will connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.  Of course, there is so much more that we can still do.  And I’m looking forward to engaging all the members of Congress and all the businesses and not-for-profits who worked on this issue.  I’m really interested in engaging them, see what else we can get going.

I’ll give you a couple of examples.  Our high school graduation rate is the highest on record.  More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before.  But we still have work to do to make college more affordable and lift the burden of student loan debt.  I acted to give nearly five million Americans the opportunity to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income — particularly important for those who were choosing careers that aren’t as lucrative.  But Congress could help millions more, and I’d like to work with you on that.

Minimum wage.  This week marks five years since the last increase in the minimum wage.  More and more states and business owners are raising their workers’ wages.  I did the same thing for federal contractors.  I’d like to work with Congress to see if we can do the same for about 28 million Americans — give Americans a raise right now.

Fair pay.  Let’s make sure the next generation of women are getting a fair deal.  Let’s make sure the next generation of good manufacturing jobs are made in America.  Let’s make it easier, not harder, for companies to bring those jobs back home.  Tomorrow, senators will get to vote on the Bring Jobs Home Act.  Instead of rewarding companies for shipping jobs overseas or rewarding companies that are moving profits offshore, let’s create jobs right here in America and let’s encourage those companies.

So let’s build on what both parties have already done on many of these issues.  Let’s see if we can come together and, while we’re at it, let’s fix an immigration system that is currently broken in a way that strengthens our borders and that we know will be good for business, we know will increase our GDP, we know will drive down our deficit.

So I want to thank all the Democrats and Republicans here today for getting this bill done.  This is a big piece of work.  You can see, it’s a big bill.  (Laughter.)  But I’m also inviting you back.  Let’s do this more often.  It’s so much fun.  (Laughter and applause.)  Let’s pass more bills to help create more good jobs, strengthen the middle class.  Look at everybody — everybody is smiling, everybody feels good.  (Laughter.)  We could be doing this all the time.  (Laughter.)

Our work can make a real difference in the lives of real Americans.  That’s why we’re here.  We’ll have more job satisfaction.  (Laughter.)  The American people, our customers, they’ll feel better about the product we produce.

And back in 1998, when President Clinton signed the original Workforce Investment Act into law, he was introduced by a man named Jim Antosy from Reading, Pennsylvania.  And Jim spoke about how he had been laid off in 1995 at age 49, two kids, no college degree.  With the help of job training programs, he earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science, found a new job in his field.

Today, Jim and his wife, Barb, still live in Reading.  Over the past 16 years, he’s been steadily employed as a programmer, working his way up from contractor to full-time employee.  In just a few months, Jim now is planning to retire after a lifetime of hard work.  A job training program made a difference in his life.  And one thing he’s thinking about doing in his retirement is teaching computer science at the local community college, so he can help a new generation of Americans earn skills that lead directly to a job, just like he had the opportunity to do.

Well, I ran for President because I believe even in a changing economy, even in a changing world, stories like Jim aren’t just possible, they should be the norm.  Joe believes the same thing.  Many of you believe the same thing.  I believe America is — I don’t just believe, I know America is full of men and women who work very hard and live up to their responsibilities, and all they want in return is to see their hard work pay off, that responsibility rewarded.

They’re not greedy.  They’re not looking for the moon.  They just want to be able to know that if they work hard, they can find a job, they can look after their families, they can retire with dignity, they’re not going to go bankrupt when they get sick, maybe take a vacation once in a while — nothing fancy.  That’s what they’re looking for, because they know that ultimately what’s important is family and community and relationships.  And that’s possible.  That’s what America is supposed to be about.  That’s what I’m fighting for every single day as President.

This bill will help move us along that path.  We need to do it more.  Let’s get together, work together, restore opportunity for every single American.  So with that, I’d like to invite up some of the outstanding folks who are sitting in the audience who helped make this happen.  And I’m going to sign this bill with all those pens.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
12:48 P.M. EDT

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 June 13, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration and Economic and Education Initiatives for Tribal Communities

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration

Source: WH, 6-13-14 

Standing Rock Indian Reservation Cannon Ball, North Dakota

4:58 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello Dakota Nation!  (Applause.)  Hello Lakota Nation!  Chairman Archambault, tribal leaders, people of Standing Rock, people of Indian Country — Michelle and I are honored to be in this sacred and beautiful place.  It’s easy to see why it’s called God’s country.  (Applause.)  And because I’m among friends, I’m going to try something in Lakota.  But I can’t guarantee it’s going to come out perfect.  Háu, mitákuyepi!  (Applause.)  I’m going to practice.  I’m going to be even better next time.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back!  (Applause.)  I want to thank Governor Jack Dalrymple and the members of Congress who are here today:  Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Senator John Hoeven, Congressman Kevin Cramer.  We’re so grateful that you took the time to be here.

And I know that your annual Flag Day powwow officially begins this evening.  So we’re a little early.  But thank you for giving us a sneak peek of the celebration.  And we are grateful for the chance to pay tribute to all the veterans of America’s armed forces who have joined us here today, as well as those who have walked on, and whose flags are proudly displayed here today.  Thank you and to your families for your extraordinary service.  We are very, very grateful.  (Applause.)  I want to acknowledge our outstanding Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewel, who’s here.  (Applause.)

This visit holds special meaning for me.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love Michelle, too!

THE PRESIDENT:  Of course you love Michelle.  Who doesn’t love Michelle?  (Laughter and applause.)

When I was first running for President, I had the honor of visiting the Crow Nation in Montana.  And today I’m proud to be making my first trip to Indian Country as President of the United States.  (Applause.)

I know that throughout history, the United States often didn’t give the nation-to-nation relationship the respect that it deserved.  So I promised when I ran to be a President who’d change that — a President who honors our sacred trust, and who respects your sovereignty, and upholds treaty obligations, and who works with you in a spirit of true partnership, in mutual respect, to give our children the future that they deserve.

And today, I’m proud that the government-to-government relationship between Washington and tribal nations is stronger than ever.  Sally Jewell has been doing great work.  Her predecessor, Ken Salazar, did great work to make sure that we were listening to you.  And as head of our new Council on Native American Affairs, she makes sure that the federal government and tribal governments are coordinating with each other at all times.  And Kevin Washburn, my Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs and a member of the Chickasaw Nation, is here as well.

You see, my administration is determined to partner with tribes, and it’s not something that just happens once in a while.  It takes place every day, on just about every issue that touches your lives.  And that’s what real nation-to-nation partnerships look like.

We’ve responded and resolved longstanding disputes.  George Keepseagle is here today.  (Applause.)  A few years ago, my administration reached a historic settlement with George and other American Indian farmers and ranchers.  And I signed into law the historic Cobell settlement, leading to the Land Buy-Back Program, a $1.9 billion fund to consolidate individual Indian lands and restore them to tribal trust lands.  (Applause.)

We’ve made major investments to help grow tribal economies — investments in job training and tribal colleges; roads and high-speed Internet; energy, including renewable energy.  And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Native Americans — like all Americans — finally have access to quality, affordable health care.  (Applause.)

But I realize that a powwow isn’t just about celebrating the past.  It’s also about looking to the future.  It’s about keeping sacred traditions alive for the next generation, for these beautiful children.  So here today, I want to focus on the work that lies ahead.  And I think we can follow the lead of Standing Rock’s most famous resident, Chief Sitting Bull.  (Applause.)  He said, “Let’s put our minds together to see what we can build for our children.”  (Applause.)

So let’s put our minds together to build more economic opportunity in Indian Country — because every American, including every Native American, deserves the chance to work hard and get ahead, everybody.  (Applause.)  That means creating more jobs and supporting small businesses in places like Standing Rock — because young people should be able to live and work and raise a family right here in the land of your fathers and mothers.  (Applause.)  Let’s put our minds together to advance justice — because like every American, you deserve to be safe in your communities and treated equally under the law.  (Applause.)

My administration has gone further than any in history to strengthen the sovereignty of tribal courts, particularly when it comes to criminal sentencing and prosecuting people who commit violence against women.  And Standing Rock has done a terrific job at building a court system that is open and efficient, and delivers justice to your people.  (Applause.)  So we want to support more tribes as they follow your lead and strengthen justice in our communities.  And that includes protecting important rights like the right to vote, because every Native American deserves a voice in our democracy.  (Applause.)

Let’s put our minds together to improve our schools — because our children deserve a world-class education, too, that prepares them for college and careers.  (Applause.)  And that means returning control of Indian education to tribal nations with additional resources and support so that you can direct your children’s education and reform schools here in Indian Country.  And even as they prepare for a global economy, we want children, like these wonderful young children here, learning about their language and learning about their culture, just like the boys and girls do at Lakota Language Nest here at Standing Rock.  We want to make sure that continues and we build on that success.  (Applause.)

Before we came here, Michelle and I sat with an amazing group of young people.  I love these young people.  I only spent an hour with them.  They feel like my own.  And you should be proud of them — because they’ve overcome a lot, but they’re strong and they’re still standing, and they’re moving forward.  (Applause.)  And they’re proud of their culture.  But they talked about the challenges of living in two worlds and being both “Native” and “American.”  And some bright young people like the ones we met today might look around and sometimes wonder if the United States really is thinking about them and caring about them, and has a place for them, too.

And when we were talking, I said, you know, Michelle and I know what it feels like sometimes to go through tough times.  We grew up at times feeling like we were on the outside looking in.  But thanks to family and friends, and teachers and coaches and neighbors that didn’t give up on us, we didn’t give up on ourselves.  Just like these young people are not giving up on themselves.  And we want every young person in America to have the same chance that we had — and that includes the boys and girls here in Indian Country.  (Applause.)

There’s no denying that for some Americans the deck has been stacked against them, sometimes for generations.  And that’s been the case for many Native Americans.  But if we’re working together, we can make things better.  We’ve got a long way to go.  But if we do our part, I believe that we can turn the corner.  We can break old cycles.  We can give our children a better future.  I know because I’ve talked to these young people.  I know they can succeed.  I know they’ll be leaders not just in Indian Country, but across America.  And we’ve got to invest in them and believe in them and love them, and that starts from the White House all the way down here.  (Applause.)

I understand that the Lakota word for “children” — “wakanyeja” — comes from the word “wakan” — “sacred.”  That’s what young people are — they’re sacred.  They’re sacred to your families and they’re sacred to your tribe, and they’re sacred to this nation.  And every day that I have the honor of serving as your President, I will do everything I can to make sure that you see that our country has a place for everyone, including every single young person here — and all across the Dakotas and all across America, and that you’re getting the support and encouragement you need to go as far as your hard work and your talent will take you.  That is my commitment to you — to every single young person here.  (Applause.)

This community has made extraordinary contributions to the United States.  Just look at all these flags.  So many Native Americans have served our country with honor and with courage.  And now it’s up to us to keep strong what they have built — to keep America the place where no matter who you are and what you look like, or where you come from, you can make it.  And that you don’t have to give up your culture to also be part of the American family.  That’s what I believe.  And coming here today makes me believe it that much more.

Hechetu welo.  Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

                                       END                 5:10 P.M. CDT

RELATED LINKS

Full Text Obama Presidency June 11, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Worcester Technical High School Commencement Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Worcester Technical High School Commencement Ceremony

Source: WH, 6-11-14 

Worcester Technical High School

Worcester, Massachusetts

4:44 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, be seated.  Good afternoon.  (Applause.)  It is great to be back in Massachusetts, and it is great to be here at Worcester Tech.  (Applause.)

I want to thank Reggie for that outstanding introduction.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Naomi for those inspiring words.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your outstanding, fabulous principal, Sheila Harrity, who has done so much to make this school a success.  (Applause.)  Let me just say, when you’re the National High School Principal of the Year, you’re doing something right.  There are a lot of principals out there, and we could not be prouder of what she’s doing.

I want to thank your Mayor, Joseph Petty; your outstanding Governor and a great friend of mine, Deval Patrick; wonderful Congressman, Jim McGovern.  (Applause.)  And most of all, I want to thank the class of 2014.  (Applause.)  Thank you for allowing me to be part of your special day.  And you all look great.  And I want to thank all the parents and all the grandparents, and the family and the friends — this is your day, too.  Part of the reason I’m here is because I’ve got to practice, because Malia is graduating in two years.  So I’m trying to get used to not choking up and crying and embarrassing her.  So this is sort of my trial run here.

I have to say, I do not remember my high school graduation speaker.  I have no idea who it was.  (Laughter.)  I’m sure I was thinking about the party after graduation.  (Applause.)  I don’t remember the party either.  (Laughter.)  I’m just telling the truth here.  You will remember the speaker at this graduation because there’s a lot of Secret Service around, not because of anything that I say that’s so inspiring.

But I know this day has been a long time coming.  Together, you made it through freshman initiation.  You survived Mr. O’Connor’s English class, which I understand is pretty tough.  (Applause.)  Everybody has got to have, like, a Mr. O’Connor in their life just to kind of straighten you out.  And now it’s the big day — although I notice that none of you are wearing your IDs.  Rumor has it some of you haven’t been wearing them for years.  (Laughter.)  Today I’m exercising my power as President and granting an official pardon for all of you who did not follow the rules there.  Consider it my graduation gift to you.

I know a lot of folks watching at home today will see all of you in your caps and your gowns and they’ll think, well, maybe this is just another class of graduates at another American high school.  But I’m here today because there is nothing ordinary about Worcester Tech or the Class of 2014.  (Applause.)  You have set yourselves apart.  This high school has set itself apart.

Over the past four years, some of you have learned how to take apart an engine and put it back together again.  Some of you have learned how to run a restaurant, or build a house, or fix a computer.  And all of you are graduating today not just with a great education, but with the skills that will let you start your careers and skills that will make America stronger.

Together, you’re an example of what’s possible when we stop just talking about giving young people opportunity, when we don’t just give lip service to helping you compete in the global economy and we actually start doing it.  That’s what’s happening right here in Worcester.  And that’s why I’m here today.  I mean, I like all of you, and I’m glad to be with you, but the thing I really want to do is make sure that what we’ve learned here at this high school we can lift up for the entire nation.  I want the nation to learn from Worcester Tech.  (Applause.)

Of course, your journey is just beginning.  Take a look around at all the smiles from the parents and the grandparents and all the family members.  Everything your families have done has been so that you could pursue your dreams, so that you could fulfill your potential.  Everybody here has a story of some sacrifice that’s been made on your behalf.  And whether you’re heading to college, or the military, or starting your career, you’re not going to be able to take them with you now.  Some of your moms and dads probably wish they could hang onto you a little bit longer.  Some of you, maybe they’re ready to get rid of you.  (Laughter.)  Regardless, though, you are now entering into a stage where it’s up to you.  And what you can do is remember some of the lessons that you’ve learned here and carry them with you, wherever you’re going.

And I want to talk about three of those lessons, a couple of which have already been mentioned by the previous speakers.

First of all, I want you to remember that each of us is only here because somebody somewhere invested in our success.  (Applause.)  Somebody invested in us.  I know that’s true for me.  I was raised by a single mom with the help of my grandparents.  We didn’t have a lot of money growing up.  At times, we struggled.  When my mom was going to school at the same time as she was raising my sister and me, we had to scrape to get by.

But we had a family who loved me and my sister.  And I had teachers who cared about me.  And ultimately, with the help of a community and a country that supported me, I was able to get a good education.  And I was able to get grants and student loans, and opportunities opened up.  And all of this happened because people saw something in me that I didn’t always see in myself.  And that’s not just true for me, that’s true for Michelle, who grew up the daughter of a blue-collar worker and a mom who stayed at home and then became a secretary — never went to college themselves.

That’s true for Duval, who grew up initially on the South Side of Chicago and didn’t have a lot, and somebody reached out and gave him a hand up.

It’s true of this city.  This is a town that’s always been home to smart people with big ideas.  The Mayor mentioned Robert Goddard, the father of the modern rocket.  He was born here, performed some of the earliest tests on rocketry.

But Worcester has also prepared its workers for the jobs that those big ideas would bring.  And that’s why they opened a technical school here more than a century ago — with a class of 29 ironworkers and 23 woodworkers.  And that school became Worcester Tech.

Along the way, the economy changed.  Innovation made it possible for businesses to do more with less.  The Internet meant they could do it anywhere.  Schools like this were finding it harder to prepare students with the skills that businesses were looking for.

And then a guy named Ted Coghlin came along.  (Applause.)  And Ted is known as the “godfather” of Worcester Tech, because about 10 years ago he set out to make this school what he knew it could be — a place where businesses train new workers, and young people get the keys to a brighter future.

And he put his heart and soul into it.  And eventually, that’s what happened.  Ted helped raise money for a new building — and the state and federal government chipped in, as well.  And businesses helped create everything from an auto service center to a bank right inside the school.  And top-notch teachers got on board — led by Principal Harrity and the assistant principals here, and an outstanding superintendent.  And before long, Worcester Tech was on its way to becoming one of the best schools in this city.

And today, so many students want to come to Worcester Tech that there’s a waiting list more than 400 names long.  (Applause.)  The number of students scoring “proficient” or “advanced” in math has gone up 100 percent; in English more than 200 percent.  (Applause.)  Ninety-five percent of students now graduate in four years.

And just as impressive, many of you are leaving here with more than a diploma.  You’re already certified as nursing assistants and EMTs and home health aides and preparing to become IT associates.  (Applause.)  And with the credits that you’ve earned, some of you are already on your way to a college diploma.  And as Ted said, “Our students deserve the best so we can help them become the best — for their future and ours.”

The point is, a lot of people made an investment in you.  I can’t imagine a better investment.  But as you experience your success and as you experience setbacks, you need to remember everything that’s been put into making sure that you had opportunity.  Which brings me to the second thing I hope you remember when you leave here:  You’re going to also have to give back.  (Applause.)  This community invested in you.  You’ve got to make sure that you use those gifts.

When my Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, came to Worcester Tech earlier this year, he said he had never seen a school more open.  If you live near the school, you can come in and get your car detailed for a fraction of what it would cost someplace else.  So I’m giving a little free advertising to the detailing operation here.  (Laughter.)  You can eat a meal cooked by students in the culinary arts program.  (Applause.)  One teacher called the hair salon the “city’s best kept secret.”  (Applause.)  Your veterinary clinic cares for about 250 pets a month, so I could have brought Bo and Sunny here.  (Laughter.)  You guys would have taken care of them.

So Worcester Tech isn’t separate from the broader community.  You’re a vital part of the community.  So part of what you’ve learned here is that we are at our best, we are strongest when we are working together and when we’re looking out for one another and we have responsibilities towards each other, and all of us have contributions to make.  You’re giving back to folks who gave you so much.  And whatever you do next, I hope you keep giving back.  That may mean staying in Worcester and working for one of the companies that helped train you.  If it means going to college or the military, or using your skills to help more students get the same opportunities that you’ve had here, no matter what it is that you do, no matter what path you take, I want to make sure that you understand the incredible leadership that we now expect from you.

I understand that every year at exam time, you hear from a motivational speaker.  And one of them this year was Colin Powell, because when you’re getting ready to take a test it never hurts to get a pep talk from a general.  (Laughter.)  But the best part is that you decide to do the same thing for younger kids.  So this class — those of you in the National Honor Society — rolled out the red carpet for students at nearby Chandler Elementary.  And so those younger kids left here feeling fired up, inspired by your example — looking up to you, imagining that they could do what you did.  And they’re going to keep on looking up to you.

And there are going to be people across the country who are watching you.  And when they see you succeed, when they see you working hard, when they see you overcoming setbacks — that’s going to inspire them as well.

And that brings me to my final point, which is I hope you leave here today believing that if you can make it, then there shouldn’t be any kid out here who can’t make it.  (Applause.)  Every child in America, no matter what they look like, or where they grow up, what their last name is — there’s so much talent out there.  And every single child — as Ted understood when he helped transform this school — every single child should have the opportunity like you have had to go as far as your talents and hard work will take you.  I’ve seen you do it, so we know it’s possible.

Now, it’s a challenging time.  I think sometimes I worry that your generation has grown up in a cynical time — in the aftermath of a Great Recession, in the aftermath of two wars.  We live in a culture that so often focuses on conflict and controversy and looks at the glass half empty instead of half full.  And you’re graduating at a time when you’ll no longer be competing just with people across town for good jobs, you’re going to be competing with the rest of the world.

But when I meet young people like you I am absolutely certain we are not just going to out-compete the rest of the world, we are going to win because of you.  Because we are Americans, that’s what we do.  We don’t settle.  We outwork.  We out-innovate.  We out-hustle the competition.  (Applause.)   And when we do, nobody can beat us.

And that’s what you’ve shown at this school — not just helping a few kids go as far as their hard work will take them.  I want all of you to be part of the process of helping all our young people achieve their God-given potential.  And as President, my job is to make sure every child in America gets that chance.  And Deval Patrick’s job is to make sure that everybody in the Commonwealth gets that chance.  And the Mayor, his focus is making sure everybody in this town gets that chance.  Every community is different.  But if Worcester can bring teachers and business and entire communities together for the sake of our young people, then other places can, too.

And that’s why I’ve challenged high schools all across the country to do what you’re doing here — better prepare students for the demands of the global economy.  We’re getting started this year with a competition that pairs schools and employers and colleges to combine quality education with real-world skills.

As part of that initiative, I launched something called ConnectED, working with the private sector to connect America’s students to high-speed broadband and advanced technology, just like you’ve got here at Worcester Tech.  Already, companies have committed to donate $2 billion to this effort.  And starting later this week, schools and teachers and students will be able to go to WhiteHouse.gov and access resources in time for the new school year — because I want to encourage more schools to do what you’re doing.  You’ve set a standard.  You’ve set a bar.  More schools can do it across the country.  (Applause.)

If you’re going to college, I also want to make sure that when you graduate you don’t have a mountain of debt.   (Applause.)  So we’re not only working to make college more affordable, we’re working to help more students pay back their loans that they take out when they go to college.  It is not fair to students who do everything right to get saddled with debt that they have to pay off not just for years, but in some cases decades.   We can do better than that.  (Applause.)

And even though they had votes and they couldn’t make it, I want to give a plug to a couple people.  Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman John Tierney, both from Massachusetts, who introduced bills that would make it easier for students to repay their student loans.  (Applause.)

It’s the same idea we used to make it easier for your parents to pay off their mortgages.  Now today, that idea was defeated by Republicans in Congress, which was frustrating, especially –

AUDIENCE:  Booo –

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, don’t boo.  Just remember to vote.   (Laughter and applause.)  So I know that it’s frustrating for parents.  It’s frustrating for students who are working hard and doing everything right.  There are too many politicians in Washington who don’t have the right priorities.  We need to straighten them out.  And maybe they forgot where they came from and who invested in them along the way.  (Applause.)  And when a bill to help you pay off your college doesn’t pass, it’s a disservice not only to your generation but to our history as a nation that strives to put quality education within the reach of every American.  So we’re going to have to keep on putting pressure on Congress.

But in the meantime, where Congress won’t act, I’m going to do whatever I can on my own.  (Applause.)  So on Monday, I announced executive actions that are going to help students like you find the right options — and give millions of Americans who are already making their loan payments a chance to cap those repayments at 10 percent of their income.  Because a quality education shouldn’t be something that other kids get — it should be something that every kid gets.  And that has to be a priority for this country.  (Applause.)

I tell you all this not just because you stand to benefit from changes in laws, but because you’re going to have to be a part of helping to shape the law.  You’re going to have to shape public opinion.  You’re going to have remember everybody who invested in you.  You’re going to have to remember the experience of being part of this incredible community.  And then, when you go out into the world, whether you are a businessperson, or you are in the military, or you are an academic, or a doctor, or whatever it is that you’re doing, you’re also going to be a citizen.  You’re also going to be somebody who has a voice in how this country operates.  And you’ve got to push so that others get the same chance you did.

And making sure that every young person has the same opportunities you’ve had — it won’t be easy.  Progress takes commitment.  It takes hard work.  We have to fight through the cynicism.  It’s going to take work from parents and from teachers, and members of the community and from students, but I know we can do it — and I know it because of you.

If Melinda Blanchard can get so good at welding that a bunch of college kids ask her help building a solar-paneled house for a competition in China, I know that we can get more young people excited about learning.  (Applause.)

If Greg Carlson can help the robotics team at Worcester Tech win the world championship — (applause) — and still find time to mentor a robotics team at the middle school where he started out, then I know we can help guarantee every child in America a quality education.

If Derek Murphy can start his own web development company — (applause) — and graduate with 18 college credits, I know we can help more students earn the skills that businesses are looking for.

You’re already doing it.  You’re already blazing a trail.  You’re already leading.  You’re already giving back.  You don’t need to remember what I said today, because you’re already doing it.

And if it can happen in Worcester, it can happen anyplace.  (Applause.)  And if it does — if more communities invest in young people like you, if you give back, if we all keep fighting to put opportunity within the reach of everybody who is willing to work for it — America will be stronger, your future will be brighter.  There is no limit to what we can do together.

So congratulations, Class of 2014.  You’re going to do big things.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
5:10 P.M. EDT

 

Full Text Obama Presidency June 10, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks in Q&A with David Karp, CEO of Tumblr on Easing Student Loan Debt

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Q&A with David Karp, CEO of Tumblr

Source: WH, 6-10-14

State Dining Room

4:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Hi.

THE PRESIDENT:  You don’t have to be so formal.  (Laughter.)  Sheesh.  Come on, now.

MR. KARP:  This is unusual.  Thank you.  Thank you, everyone, and welcome to the White House.  Thank you for having us, Mr. President.  I’m David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, and it is my tremendous privilege to be here with President Obama today and joined by the Tumblr community.  Thank you for joining us, everyone.

Yesterday, the President signed an executive order intended to curb the pain of student debt.  Americans now hold more than a trillion dollars in student debt, one of the greatest expenses they’ll incur in their lifetime.  And the generation that’s just reaching college age is beginning to wonder if it’s even worth it.

One-third of Americans who have applied for an education loan this year also happen to use Tumblr, so last week we asked our audience if they had questions that they’d like to ask the President about the cost value and accessibility of higher education — turns out they had quite a few.  We’re not going to be able to get through all of them today, but the President has been kind enough to give us some time at his house to answer some of those questions.  (Laughter.)

So again, huge thank you for making yourself available today.  Anything you’d like to add before we start?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, this is a rental house.  (Laughter.)  I just want to be clear.  My lease runs out in about two and a half years.

Second of all, I want to thank David and the whole Tumblr community for participating in this.  We’re constantly looking for new ways to reach audiences that are relevant to the things we’re talking about.  And, obviously, young people disproportionately use Tumblr.  A lot of Tumblr users are impacted by student debt.  So for you to be able to give us this forum to speak directly to folks is wonderful, and I’m looking forward to a whole bunch of good questions.

MR. KARP:  Thank you.  Okay, so everybody is clear on how the questions work — so since we closed for questions at 5:00 p.m. yesterday, we brought together a team of influential Tumblr bloggers who helped us select some of the best questions.  There are — a few of them, anyway, are joining us in the audience in the State Dining Room here today.  Neither the White House nor the President have seen any of these questions in advance.

Should we get started?

THE PRESIDENT:  Let’s go.

MR. KARP:  All right.  So, first came in from Caitlin (ph).  I appreciate your willingness to work with legislators to attempt to retroactively diffuse the cost of some student’s loans by creating new repayment plans, but this seems to me like an attempt to put a band aid on a broken leg.  What are we doing to actually lower the cost of a college degree — excuse me — of college tuition so these loans will no longer be necessary?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s a great question.  Let me give people some context for what’s happened over the last 20, 30 years.

I graduated from college in ’83; graduated from law school in 1990.  And although I went to a private school, through a combination of grants, loans and working I had a fairly low level of debt that I was able to pay in one year without getting an incredibly well-paying job.  I was able to keep my debt burden pretty low.  Folks who were 10 years younger than me, they probably paid even less.  And if you went to a state school at the time, typically people would come out with almost no debt whatsoever.

Today, the average debt burden, even for young people who are going to a public university, is about $30,000.  And that gives you some sense of how much the cost has escalated for the average young person.

Now, you mentioned earlier some people are wondering, is this a good investment.  It absolutely is.  The difference between a college grad and somebody with a high school diploma is about $28,000 a year in income.  So it continues to be a very smart investment for you to go to college.  But we have to find ways to do two things.

One is we have to lower the costs on the front end.  And then, if you do have to supplement whatever you can pay with borrowing, we’ve got to make sure that that is a manageable debt.  And about 12 months ago, maybe 16 months ago, I convened college and university presidents around the country to start working with them on how we could lower debt — or lower tuition, rather.

The main reason that tuition has gone up so much is that state legislatures stopped subsidizing public universities as much as they used to, in part because they started spending money on things like prisons and other activities that I think are less productive.  And so schools then made up for the declining state support by jacking up their tuition rates.

What’s also happened is, is that the costs of things like health care that a university community with a lot of personnel has to shoulder, those costs have gone up faster than wages and incomes.  The combination of those things has made college tuition skyrocket faster than health care costs have.

There are ways we can bring down those costs, and we know that because there are some colleges who have done a very good job in keeping tuition low.  We also have to do a better job of informing students about how to keep their debt down — because, frankly, universities don’t always counsel young people well when they first come in; they say, don’t worry about it, you can pay for it — not realizing that you’re paying for it through borrowing that you’re going to end up having to shoulder once you graduate.

MR. KARP:  What does that help, what does that support look like?  So Chelsea sent in a very similar question from Portland.  So she asks:  “Colleges help students get into debt.  They don’t often help offer financial planning services before school, after they graduate.”

Do you guys have a plan to help students make sound financial decisions?  I mean, these are teenagers who are making decisions sometimes amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars that are going to follow them through their entire lives.  Hopefully, they have parents who can help them navigate those decisions.  But if they don’t, are they on their own?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we are already doing something we call Know What You Owe.  And the idea is to work with every college, university, community college out there so that when you come into school, ideally even before you accept admission from a school, you are given a sense of what your annual loans might be, what your financial package is going to translate into in terms of debt — assuming you go through a four-year degree on schedule, and what your monthly payments are likely to be afterwards.

And so just that one step alone — making sure that schools are obliged to counsel you on the front end when you come in, as opposed to just on the exit interview once you’ve already accumulated the debt — that in and of itself can make a big difference.

MR. KARP:  Understood.  We didn’t get first names for everybody.  So Haiku Moon asks — (laughter) –

THE PRESIDENT:  That might be the first name.  That’s a cool name.  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  “It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I realized what I wanted to do with my life.  Now I have a degree that has very little to do with that goal and a mountain of debt.  I can’t help but wonder if I wasn’t pressured to go to college and was better prepared to make that decision, and if I was better prepared to make that decision, that I might be in a better place to pursue my dreams today.  How can we change the public education system to better prepare and support young people making this huge decision?”  I mean, again, teenagers deciding what they want to do for the rest of their lives.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, one of the things that Haiku Moon is alluding to is that high school should be a time in which young people have greater exposure to actual careers as opposed to just classroom study.

And I went to a wonderful school in New York called P-TECH, went there for a visit.  What they’ve done is they have collapsed high school basically into a three-year program.  You can then extend for another two years and get an associate’s degree.  IBM is working with them so that if, in fact, they complete the curriculum that IBM helped to design, they know they’ve got a job at IBM on the back end.  And that’s just one example of what I’d like to see a lot more high schools do, which is give young people in high school more hands-on experience, more apprenticeships, more training.

If you are somebody who is interested in graphic design, I’d rather have you work at a company doing graphic design your senior year or junior year to see if you actually like it, to get a sense of the training you need.  You may not need a four-year degree.  You might only need a two-year degree.  You might be able to work while getting that degree.  All that can save you money.  So that can make a really big difference for high school kids.

At the same time, one of the things that we initiated several years back is something called income-based repayments.  And that’s something I really want to focus on, IBR for short — income-based repayments.  What we did in 2011 was to say all student loans going forward, if you have a debt and you decide you want to go into a job that — like teaching or social work, that doesn’t necessarily pay a lot, you shouldn’t be hampered from making that choice just because you’ve got such a significant debt load.  So what we said was that we will cap your repayments of your loans at 10 percent of your income above $18,000.  And by doing that, that gives people flexibility.  It doesn’t eliminate your debt.  But what it does is it makes it manageable each month so that the career that you choose may not be constrained, and we then have additional programs so that if you go into one of the helping professions — public service, law enforcement, social work, teaching — then over time that debt could actually be forgiven.

Now, the problem with it was that we passed this law in 2011; it only applied going forward.  It didn’t apply retroactively.  So yesterday what I did was sign an executive action saying that the Department of Education is going to be developing rules so that going backwards anybody can avail themselves of this income-based repayments, because I get a lot of letters from people who took out loans in 2005 or 2000 — they are also in a situation where they’re making regular payments but it’s very hard for them to make ends meet.  And we want to ideally finish what’s called the rulemaking process — nothing is easy around here — hopefully by the time — say, the end of next year, the rules will be in place, that will be the law, and then everybody and not just folks who borrowed after 2011 can take advantage of that.

But there’s not a lot of knowledge of this, and I hope that the Tumblr community helps to spread the word that this is something already available for loans that you took out after 2011 and hopefully by next year it will be available for people even if you took out your loans before 2011.

MR. KARP:  Where do we find information about it?

THE PRESIDENT:  You should go to whitehouse.gov, the White House website.  It will then link you to ED.gov, which is the Education Department website.  But whitehouse.gov I figure is easier to remember.  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  Can you elaborate real quick on encouraging public service?  So Josh from Oak Park sent in a really good question about this:  “The U.S. has a long history of encouraging college-age men and women to give back to their larger communities through organizations like the Peace Corps, through organizations like Teach for America.  Couldn’t we make a larger commitment to that by creating tuition loan forgiveness programs for those students who agree to work in those fields or work in those geographic areas in need of skilled employees?”  So you can imagine family practice doctors, you can imagine public defenders.

THE PRESIDENT:  I mean, right now we have some programs like this in place but they’re typically relatively small, relatively specialized.  So there are some loan-forgiveness programs for primary care physicians who are going out to rural communities or inner cities or underserved communities.  There are some programs that are available through the AmeriCorps program for people who are engaged in public service.  They are not as broad-based and widespread as I would like.  And we have tried to work with Congress — so far, unsuccessfully — to be able to get an expansion of these areas.

And let’s take health care as an example.  We know that the population is aging.  We know that we have a severe shortage of primary care physicians.  A lot of young doctors are going into specialized fields like dermatology or plastic surgery because you can make a relatively large profit, you don’t end up having a lot of liability, and that’s not really what we need more of.

And so my hope is, is that over time Congress recognizes that young people are our most precious asset.  There are some areas that we know we need people to get into the field, our best and brightest, and right now the financial burdens are precluding them from doing it.  And we could open up those fields to a huge influx of talent if we were a little smarter with it.

MR. KARP:  So you’ve touched on health care in public service and health care in general.  You talk a lot about STEM fields.  So how do we promote — this is one Orta (sp) asked:  “How can we promote growth in STEM fields without putting humanities on the back burner?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I want to say I was a humanities major.  (Laughter.)  I majored in political science and I minored in English.  And I was pretty good in math, but in high school — I actually loved math and science until I got into high school, and then I misspent those years.  (Laughter.)  And the thing about the humanities was you could kind of talk your way through classes, which you couldn’t do in math and science.  (Laughter.)

So a great liberal arts humanities education is still critically important, because in today’s global economy, one of the most important skills you have is your ability to work with people and communicate clearly and effectively.  Having said that, what is also true is that technology is going to continue to drive innovation.  And just to be a good citizen, you need some background in STEM, and we are not producing enough engineers, enough computer scientists, enough math teachers and science teachers, and enough researchers.

And so I’m putting a big emphasis on STEM in part because we have a shortage; not because I’m privileging one over the other, but because we don’t have as many people going into the STEM fields.  And it starts early.

Part of what we’re trying to do is work with public schools to take away some of the intimidation factor in math and science.  Part of what we’re trying to do is make sure that we are reaching to demographics that are very underrepresented — and, yes, I mean you, women.  Girls are still more likely to be discouraged from pursuing math, science, technology degrees.  You see that imbalance in Silicon Valley, you see it in a lot of high-tech firms.

And so we’re trying to lift up curriculums that are interesting for kids, work with schools in terms of best practices.  One of the things that we’re also discovering is that young people who have an interest in math and science, when they go to college, oftentimes they’re steered into finance because that’s been perceived as the more lucrative option.  And we’re trying to work with universities and departments of engineering, for example, to help mentor young people to understand that — if you look at the top 100 companies in the country, you’ve got a lot more engineers running companies than you do folks who have a finance background.

And so there are great opportunities.  And one of the things that every young person should be thinking about is, A, what’s their passion, what do they care about, but they should also be taking a look at where is there a demand.  And frankly, if you’ve got a science or engineering background, the likelihood of you being unemployed is very low, because there’s always going to be a need — and it doesn’t preclude you from writing a haiku at some point and figuring out some creative outlet.  But having that discipline and that skillset is still going to be invaluable.

MR. KARP:  Well, you just described it as really hard to navigate — again, a teenager making the decision between passion or an industry that’s going to have demand for them.  So great question:  “At this point, I’m stuck between majors.  I know the field I have a passion for has a limited number of jobs, all of which pay very little.  Assuming I get the job, the low income will make it difficult to pay the substantial debt I’ll most likely be in from that education.  There are other fields I know I could succeed in and receive the higher salary, but I’m afraid that one day I’ll realize I hate what I do.”

Question was, how did you decide on your career, and what advice do you have for somebody who is coming up trying to navigate that marketplace with demand or their passions?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well –

MR. KARP:  By the way, one vote for keeping kids out of finance.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Or the law, by the way, because — (laughter) — we have enough lawyers.  Although it’s a fine profession.  (Laughter.)  I can say that because I’m a lawyer.

I think everybody is different.  But I do think that, first of all, when I first got out of school I worked for a year in a job that I wasn’t interested in because I wanted to pay off my loans.

Now, I had the luxury, as I said, that my loan burden was only — was small enough that I could pay it off in a year.  But work is not always fun, and you can’t always follow your bliss right away.  And so I think that young people should be practical.  I know a lot of young people who work for five years in a field that they may not be interested, but it gives them the financial stability and the base from which then to do what they want.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The main advice I would give young people starting off, though, is ultimately you are going to do best at something you care deeply about.  And some people have probably heard this said before, but if you really enjoy what you do, then the line between work and play starts vanishing a little bit.  You still have to grind it out, but you can get into that mindset where the creativity or the effort and the sweat that you’re putting into what you do doesn’t feel like a burden, it feels like an expression of what you care about.

And so I think your career is not going to be a straight line all the time.  I think there may be times where you got to take a detour and you got to do something practical to pay the bills.  There are going to be times where you see an opportunity, and you’re making a calculated risk that I’m going to start some wacky company called Tumblr.  (Laughter.)

And how you balance the practical with your highest aspirations is something that will be different for each person.  Everybody is going to have different circumstances.

MR. KARP:  What do you say to kids right now who ask you — they see their passion, they want to build big stuff for the Internet.  They want to build the next big app or the next big social network.  What do you tell them, when they say, hey, look, David, Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates, all these guys –

THE PRESIDENT:  Just dropped out of school.

MR. KARP:  — might not necessarily deserve to get a company up, but dropped out of school?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  I mean you wouldn’t know it looking at you, but you’re like LeBron or Durant.  (Laughter.)  I mean, you guys don’t have the same physiques — (laughter) — but there are only going to be so many Zuckerbergs or Gates who are able to short-circuit the traditional path.

If you can, more power to you.  But let me put it this way: Had you not — let’s say Tumblr had been a bust, right?  Or Facebook had just ended up being some dating site that nobody was really interested in.

MR. KARP:  We’d be in a hard place.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, but the truth is also you had the foundation where you could go back to school, right?  I mean, it wasn’t as if you were suddenly operating without a net.  I’m assuming that you would have been readmitted to whatever institution you were in.  And if not, then you would go to another school and you’d do fine.

So the issue is not whether you may not want to take a risk at some point.  The point is that for the average young person an investment in college is always going to be a smart investment.  Making sure you know what it is that you’re investing in is important.

One of the biggest areas where we see a problem is young people who are going, let’s say, to technical schools or community colleges or some of these for-profit universities, they’re promised a lot.  But they haven’t done the research to see, okay, does typically a graduate coming out of one of these schools get a job in the occupation?  Are they actually making money?  If you’re going to have $50,000 worth of debt, you better have factored in what are the employment prospects coming out.

And so I think it’s good for young people — not only good, it’s imperative for young people to be good consumers of education, and don’t just assume that there’s one way of doing things.

We tell our daughters — Malia is now — she’ll be 16 next month, and she’s going to be in the college process.  And we tell her, don’t assume that there are 10 schools that you have to go to, and if you didn’t go to those 10, that somehow things are going to be terrible.  There are a lot of schools out there.  There are a lot of options.  And you should do your research before you decide to exercise one of those options.

Having said that, the overwhelming evidence is that a college education is the surest, clearest path into the middle class for most Americans.

MR. KARP:  Is the White House right now offering any of those tools to be a good a consumer, to navigate all the choices out there?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, yes.  So if you go to whitehouse.gov, which will link you to the Department of Education, one of the things that we’re doing is to — we’re starting to develop a scorecard for colleges and universities so you have just a general sense of what’s the typical graduation rate, what’s the typical debt that you carry once you get out, what is the employment rate for graduates five years afterwards.  And over time, one of the things that we’re trying to do is develop a ranking system that is not exactly the same as the typical college-ranking systems that you see in U.S. News and World Report, for example.

Part of the problem with the traditional ranking systems of schools is that, for example, high cost is actually a bonus in the ranking system.  It indicates prestige, and so there may be some great schools that are expensive, but what you’re missing is a great school that may give you much better value, particularly in the field that you’re in.

Now, there’s some controversy, I want to confess, about — that a lot of colleges and universities say, you know, if you start ranking just based on cost and employability, et cetera, you’re missing the essence of higher education and so forth.  What we’re really trying to do is just identify here are some good bargains, here are some really bad deals.  Then there’s going to be a bunch of schools in the middle that there’s not going to be a huge amount of differentiation.  But what we are trying to do is make sure that students have enough information going into it that they don’t end up in a school that is pretty notorious for piling a lot of debt on their students but not really delivering a great education.

MR. KARP:  Back to the debt, which is top of mind for everybody here today — so Megan (ph) from Tulsa asked an interesting question:  “Of my $220,000 in student loans –

THE PRESIDENT:  Yikes.

MR. KARP:  — from college and law school” — there you go — “less than half is receiving the benefit of loan forgiveness.”  Why is there no discussion on the mounting private student loan debt?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there is a discussion.  The problem is we just end up having less leverage over that.  I mean, the truth is, is that both legislatively and administratively we have some impact on federal loans.  Private loans — if you take — if you go to a private company and you’re taking out a loan, we have the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that is trying to regulate this area and make sure that you have full information about what you’re getting yourself into.  It’s another version of Know Before You Owe.  But it’s harder for us to restructure some of that debt.

Now, one thing that I think is really important for everybody to know here — because this is actual action you can take, as opposed to just listening to me blather on.  This week, there will be a vote in the United States Senate on a bill sponsored by Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Massachusetts.  And what this bill would do would allow students to refinance their existing loans at today’s rates.  The reason that’s important is because rates have been low, and typically there’s going to be a pretty big spread between the rates that a lot of students — the interest rates that a lot of students have on their debt right now, versus what they could do if they refinanced, the same way that a lot of people refinance their mortgages to take advantage of historically low rates.

And so this vote is coming up.  It will come up this week.  I think everybody on Tumblr should be contacting their senators and finding out where they stand on the issue, because — and, by the way, this is something that will not add to the deficit, because the way we pay for it is we say that we’re going to eliminate some loopholes right now that allow millionaires and billionaires to pay lower rates of taxes than secretaries and teachers.  And so it would pay for itself.  It’s a good piece of legislation.  It directly affects folks in their 20s and 30s, and in some cases, their 40s and 50s and 60s.  But particularly the young people who use Tumblr, this is something that you should pay a lot of attention to.  Make sure that you are pushing your senators around this issue.

MR. KARP:  Particularly important if you know you’re facing that debt already or you are already today facing that debt.  What’s the best way, though, for people who are — again, they’re thinking about higher education, they’re in school today, and a thoughtful question.  What is the best way for students to have a voice in their own education?  So much education today, I think really — I don’t know, I mean, so many teenagers who feel like education is happening to them.  They’re going through the motions.  They know that this is what they’re supposed to do, and so they follow along.  How do we make sure kids are driving?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, at some point it’s going to be up to the young person to drive that education.  It’s not inevitable that you just fasten your seatbelt and just go on a ride for four years or two years or whatever it is.  I mean, I have to say that in my own college experience, I think the first two years I was there thinking I’m just happy to be here and I’m having fun and I’ll just sort of go through the motions.  My last two years was when I really became much more serious about what I was doing and much more intentional about what I was doing.

Too many young people see — and I’m grossly generalizing now, so excuse me — but I use myself as an example as well.  I think too many of us see college as a box to check or a place to have fun and extend adolescence, as opposed to a opportunity for each of us to figure out what is it that we’re good at, what is it that we care about, what is it that we’re willing to invest a lot of time and effort and energy into, how do we hone some skills or interests or attributes that we already have.  And as a consequence, I think young people waste a lot of time in school.

Now, again, I’m generalizing, because there are a whole bunch of folks who are working while going to school, while helping out their parents — in some cases, they’re already parents themselves.  And so everything I just said does not apply to you.  It’s interesting — one of the reasons I think I did well in law school was because I had worked for three and a half years so that by the time I got to law school I actually knew why I was studying the law, and I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of it — not to mention the fact that the idea of just going to class for three hours a day and then reading didn’t seem particularly oppressive to me, whereas young people who had come straight out of college thought, this is horrible.  Try working for a while and then you realize that this is a pretty good deal.  (Laughter.)

But I think that part of what we as adults have to do goes back to what I said about high schools.  Education is not a passive thing.  You don’t tip your head and somebody pours it into your ear.  It is an active process of you figuring out the world and your place in it.  And the earlier we can help young people — not lock them in.  Look, nobody expects that somebody who is 16 automatically knows exactly what they want to do, and people may change their minds repeatedly.  But what we can do is expose young people to enough actual work and occupations that they start getting a feel for what they would be interested in.  And I really want to work with more school districts, and I’ve asked the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to work with more school districts, and we’re actually giving grants to school districts that are thinking creatively about how high school can be used more effectively.

I don’t want a young person who knows that they want to go into the trades to just waste four years of high school and then they’ve got to go through two years of apprenticeship and classwork before they become a contractor.  I’d rather have them doing contracting while also getting some other educational exposure so that they’re getting a jump on the things that they want to do.  And they can save a lot of money in the process.

MR. KARP:  So Beth asked a question close to that point.  Instead of pushing all students into college, shouldn’t we focus on the other side — increasing the minimum wage and making it viable, livable to enter the workforce straight out of high school?  Should we be doing both?

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  Well, here is what I would say:  There are very few jobs now where you’re not going to need some advanced training.  One of the great things about being President is I get to visit companies and worksites and factories.  And if you go into the average auto company today, for example, first of all, it’s not at all what you’d imagine — it is spotless and it is quiet, and it is humming, because it is all mechanized and computerized at this point.  And even if you have a four-football-field-sized assembly line, most of the people there are working with machines and they’re working on computer keyboards.

So having some basic training in math, some familiarity with computers, some familiarity with programming and code — all that is a huge advantage if you are trying to get a job on an assembly line.  Now, if that’s true for assembly line work, that’s certainly going to be true for any other trade that you’re interested in.

We do have to do a better job of giving young people who are interested an effective vocational education.  And there are tons of opportunities out there for people — here’s an interesting statistic:  The average trade person in Wisconsin — and what I mean by that is an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter, a machine tool worker — the average age in Wisconsin is 59 years old.  Now, these jobs typically pay 25, 30 bucks an hour, potentially, with benefits.  You can make a really good living doing that, and there are a lot of folks who love doing it.  It’s really interesting work and highly skilled work.

So I don’t want somebody to find out about that when they’re 30, after they’ve already taken a bunch of classes and stuff that they ended up not using; now they’ve got a bunch of debt.  I’d rather, if they got that inclination, to figure that early and be able to go straight into something that helps them get that job.

MR. KARP:  So one question we heard a lot from our community that I wanted to make sure to mention today:  Recently — I think you’ve been following — the Department of Ed’s Office of Civil Rights and DOJ have extended Title IX protections to trans students.  What do you see as the next steps to ensure equal treatment of trans people in schools in America?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Title IX is a powerful tool.  It’s interesting — yesterday I had the University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball teams here.  This is only the second time that the men’s and women’s basketball teams won the national championship in the same year.  The previous year was 2004, and it was UConn again.

But what was interesting about it is that the men were kind of a surprise.  It was nice.  The women were dominant.  I mean, the UConn Husky women’s program, they rule.  And they are incredible athletes.  And talking to these young women, they’re poised and they’re beautiful, and some of them are 6’6” and they’re wearing high heels, and supremely confident and competitive.  And that’s a huge shift from even 20 years ago or 30 years ago.  The reason for that was Title IX was applied vigorously in schools, and it gave opportunities — it’s not like women suddenly became athletes.  They were athletic before.  Michelle, when I work out with her, she puts me to shame.  (Laughter.)  But it had more to do with restrictions and opportunity.

So the point I’m making is, is that Title IX is a very powerful tool.  The fact that we are applying it to transgender students means that they are going to be in a position to assert their rights if and when they see that they are being discriminated on their college campuses.  And that could manifest itself in a whole variety of ways.

MR. KARP:  Brilliant.  This one was sent in a few days ago:  “Mr. President, my name is Nick Dineen, and I attend school at the University of California-Santa Barbara.  I was the RA for the floor that George Chen lived on last year as a first-year college student.  I knew him.  Elliot Rodger killed him and five more of my fellow students.  Today, another man has shot and killed at least one person and injured three others at a private Christian school in Seattle.  What are you going to do?  What can we all do?”  And of course, another mass shooting this morning.

THE PRESIDENT:  I have to say that people often ask me how has it been being President, and what am I proudest of and what are my biggest disappointments.  And I’ve got two and a half years left.  My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage.

We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens.  And it happens now once a week.  And it’s a one-day story.  There’s no place else like this.  A couple of decades ago, Australia had a mass shooting similar to Columbine or Newtown.  And Australia just said, well, that’s it — we’re not seeing that again.  And basically imposed very severe, tough gun laws.  And they haven’t had a mass shooting since.

Our levels of gun violence are off the charts.  There’s no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this.  Now, we have a different tradition.  We have a Second Amendment.  We have historically respected gun rights.  I respect gun rights.  But the idea that, for example, we couldn’t even get a background check bill in to make sure that if you’re going to buy a weapon you have to actually go through a fairly rigorous process so that we know who you are, so you can’t just walk up to a store and buy a semiautomatic weapon — it makes no sense.

And I don’t know if anybody saw the brief press conference from the father of the young man who had been killed at Santa Barbara.  And as a father myself, I just could not understand the pain he must be going through and just the primal scream that he gave out — why aren’t we doing something about this?

And I will tell you, I have been in Washington for a while now and most things don’t surprise me.  The fact that 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town couldn’t do anything about it was stunning to me.  And so the question then becomes what can we do about it.  The only thing that is going to change is public opinion.  If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.  I’ve initiated over 20 executive actions to try to tighten up some of the rules in the laws, but the bottom line is, is that we don’t have enough tools right now to really make as big of a dent as we need to.

And most members of Congress — and I have to say, to some degree, this is bipartisan — are terrified of the NRA.  The combination of the NRA and gun manufacturers are very well financed and have the capacity to move votes in local elections and congressional elections.  And so if you’re running for office right now, that’s where you feel the heat.  And people on the other side may be generally favorable towards things like background checks and other commonsense rules but they’re not as motivated.  So that’s not — that doesn’t end up being the issue that a lot of you vote on.

And until that changes, until there is a fundamental shift in public opinion in which people say, enough, this is not acceptable, this is not normal, this isn’t sort of the price we should be paying for our freedom, that we can have respect for the Second Amendment and responsible gun owners and sportsmen and hunters can have the ability to possess weapons but that we are going to put some commonsense rules in place that make a dent, at least, in what’s happening — until that is not just the majority of you — because that’s already the majority of you, even the majority of gun owners believe that.  But until that’s a view that people feel passionately about and are willing to go after folks who don’t vote reflecting those values, until that happens, sadly, not that much is going to change.

The last thing I’ll say:  A lot of people will say that, well, this is a mental health problem, it’s not a gun problem.  The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.  (Laughter.)  It’s not the only country that has psychosis.  And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than anyplace else.  Well, what’s the difference?  The difference is, is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses and that’s sort of par for the course.

So the country has to do some soul searching about this.  This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me.  And I am prepared to work with anybody, including responsible sportsmen and gun owners, to craft some solutions.  But right now, it’s not even possible to get even the mildest restrictions through Congress, and we should be ashamed of that.

MR. KARP:  Thank you for taking the time to answer that one.  Obviously an incredibly difficult and disappointing conversation to have.

It looks like we have time for one more question, so let’s switch over to a lighter one.  There are plenty of young people out there today who are watching your career incredibly closely.  They’re thinking about their futures, their careers, their educations that they’re going off to pursue.  Astonishment asked, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I haven’t projected out 10 years.  I’m really focused on making sure that I make every day in the next two and a half years count, because it’s an incredible privilege to be in this office.  And even when I’m frustrated with Congress or I’m frustrated with the press and how it’s reporting things and Washington generally, I also know that there’s something I can do every single day that’s helping somebody and that sometimes without a lot of fanfare we’re making it easier for a business to get a loan, and we’re making it easier for a young person to get an education, and we’re making it easier for a family to get health care, and making sure that each day I come away with something that we’ve done to make it a little easier for folks to work their way into the middle class, to stay in the middle class, to save for retirement, to finance their kids’ college educations — that’s a good day for me.

I know what I’ll do right after the next President is inaugurated.  I’ll be on a beach somewhere drinking out of a coconut.  (Laughter.)  But that probably won’t last too long.

And one of the things that Michelle and I have talked about a lot is we’re really interested in developing young people and working with them and creating more institutions to promote young leadership.  I’m so impressed when I meet young people around the country.  They’re full of passion.  They’re full of ideas.  I think they’re much wiser and smarter than I was, part of it maybe is because of Tumblr — I don’t know.  (Laughter.)

And so there’s just huge potential.  And the challenge is they’re also fed a lot of cynicism.  You guys are fed a lot of cynicism every single day about how nothing works and big institutions stink and government is broken.  And so you channel a lot of your passion and energy into various private endeavors.

But this country has always been built both through an individual initiative, but also a sense of some common purpose.  And if there’s one message I want to deliver to young people like a Tumblr audience is, don’t get cynical.  Guard against cynicism.  I mean, the truth of the matter is that for all the challenges we face, all the problems that we have, if you had to be — if you had to choose any moment to be born in human history, not knowing what your position was going to be, who you were going to be, you’d choose this time.  The world is less violent than it has ever been.  It is healthier than it has ever been.  It is more tolerant than it has ever been.  It is better fed then it’s ever been.  It is more educated than it’s ever been.

Terrible things happen around the world every single day, but the trend lines of progress are unmistakable.  And the reason is, is because each successive generation tries to learn from previous mistakes and pushes the course of history in a better direction.  And the only thing that stops that is if people start thinking that they don’t make a difference and they can’t make changes.  And that’s fed in our culture all the time.

It’s fascinating to me — I don’t consume a lot of television, but generally, the culture right now is inherently in a cynical mood in part because we went through a big trauma back in 2007, 2008 with the financial crisis, and we went through a decade of wars that were really tough.  And that’s the era in which you were born.

But look out on the horizon, and there’s a lot of opportunity out there.  And that’s what I’d like to do after the presidency, is make sure that I help young people guard against cynicism and do the remarkable things they can do.

MR. KARP:  Beautiful.  Mr. President, thank you so much for taking time to answer our questions today, really.

THE PRESIDENT:  We had a great time.

MR. KARP:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Appreciate it.  It was great.  Thank you.

MR. KARP:  Was that okay?  I’ve never talked to a President before.

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s a natural.  He could have gone into journalism.

MR. KARP:  I’ve never talked to a President before.  Thank you so much.  Hey, real quick, guys, before we go, I would really like to thank the President for having us over to his rental property today.  (Laughter.)  It really does mean a lot to our community to know that America’s leader is listening to us.  I hope we’ve all come away with a clear picture as to the issues that we’re facing.  Please make sure to follow WhiteHouse.tumblr.com.  And lastly, please wish — excuse me — Sasha a happy 13th birthday from us.

THE PRESIDENT:  It is Sasha’s birthday today.  (Applause.)

MR. KARP:  Now that’s she’s 13, guys — (applause) — now that she’s 13, according to our terms of service, she’s officially old enough to use Tumblr.  (Laughter.)  Let us know.

THE PRESIDENT:  So she wasn’t before then?  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  She wasn’t.  Sorry.  We can let this one slide.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to have to talk to somebody about that.  (Laughter.)

Thank you, guys.  Had a great time.  (Applause.)

END
5:10 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 9, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Executive Order Signing Easing Student Loan Debt

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Opportunity for All: Making College More Affordable

Source: WH, 6-9-14

1:51 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Everybody have a seat.  Welcome to the White House.  And I want to thank Andy for the terrific introduction.  And this is commencement season, and it’s always a hopeful and exciting time, and I’ll bet we might have some folks who just graduated here today.  Raise your hands.  Let’s see — yes, we’ve got a couple of folks who are feeling pretty good.  (Laughter.)

Of course, once the glow wears off, this can be a stressful time for millions of students.  And they’re asking themselves, how on Earth am I going to pay off all these student loans?  And that’s what we’re here to talk about.  And Andy I think gave a vivid example of what’s going through the minds of so many young people who have the drive and the energy and have succeeded in everything that they do but because of family circumstances have found themselves in a situation where they’ve got significant debt.

Now, we know, all of you know, that in a 21st century economy, a higher education is the single best investment that you can make in yourselves and your future, and we’ve got to make sure that investment pays off.

And here’s why:  For 51 months in a row, our businesses have created new jobs — 9.4 million new jobs in total.  And over the last year, we’ve averaged around 200,000 new jobs every month.  That’s the good news.  But while those at the top are doing better than ever, average wages have barely budged.  And there are too many Americans out there that are working harder and harder just to get by.

Everything I do is aimed towards reversing those trends that put a greater burden on the middle class and are diminishing the number of ladders to get into the middle class, because the central tenet of my presidency, partly because of the story of my life and Michelle’s life, is this is a country where opportunity should be available for anybody — the idea that no matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, how you were raised, who you love, if you’re willing to work hard, if you’re willing to live up to your responsibilities, you can make it here in America.

And in America, higher education opens the doors of opportunity for all.  And it doesn’t have to be a four-year college education.  We’ve got community colleges, we’ve got technical schools, but we know that some higher education, some additional skills is going to be your surest path to the middle class.  The typical American with a bachelor’s degree or higher earns over $28,000 more per year than somebody with just a high school education — 28 grand a year.  And right now, the unemployment rate for workers with a bachelor’s degree is about half of what it is for folks with just a high school education.

So you know that this is a smart investment.  Your parents know this is a smart investment.  That’s why so many of them made such big sacrifices to make sure that you could get into college, and nagged you throughout your high school years.  (Laughter.)

Here’s the problem:  At a time when higher education has never been more important, it’s also never been more expensive.  Over the last three decades, the average tuition at a public university has more than tripled.  At the same time, the typical family’s income has gone up just 16 percent.

Michelle and I both went to college because of loans and grants and the work that we did.   But I’ll be honest with you — now, I’m old, I’ve got to admit — (laughter) — but when I got out of school, it took me about a year to pay off my entire undergraduate education.  That was it.  And I went to a private school; I didn’t even go to a public school.  So as recently as the ‘70s, the ‘80s, when you made a commitment to college, you weren’t anticipating that you’d have this massive debt on the back end.

Now, when I went to law school it was a different story.  But that made sense because the idea was if you got a professional degree like a law degree, you would probably be able to pay it off.  And so I didn’t feel sorry for myself or any lawyers who took on law school debt.

But compare that experience just half a generation, a generation ago to what kids are going through now.  These rising costs have left middle-class families feeling trapped.  Let’s be honest:  Families at the top, they can easily save more than enough money to pay for school out of pocket.  Families at the bottom face a lot of obstacles, but they can turn to federal programs designed to help them handle costs.  But you’ve got a lot of middle-class families who can’t build up enough savings, don’t qualify for support, feel like nobody is looking out for them.  And as Andy just described vividly, heaven forbid that the equity in their home gets used up for some other family emergency, or, as we saw in 2008, suddenly home values sink, and then people feel like they’re left in the lurch.

So I’m only here because this country gave me a chance through education.  We are here today because we believe that in America, no hardworking young person should be priced out of a higher education.

This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of young people willing to work for it.  I mentioned my generation, but think about my grandfather’s generation.  I just came back from Normandy, where we celebrated D-Day.  When that generation of young people came back from World War II, at least the men, my grandfather was able to go to college on the GI Bill.  And that helped build the greatest middle class the world has ever known.

Grants helped my mother raise two kids by herself while she got through school.  And she didn’t have $75,000 worth of debt, and she was raising two kids at the same time.  Neither Michelle or I came from a lot of money, but with hard work, and help from scholarships and student loans, we got to go to great schools.  We did not have this kind of burden that we’re seeing, at least at the undergraduate stages.  As I said, because of law school, we only finished paying off our own student loans just 10 years ago.  So we know what many of you are going through or look forward — or don’t look forward to.  (Laughter.)  And we were doing it at the same time — we already had to start saving for Malia and Sasha’s education.

But this is why I feel so strongly about this.  This is why I’m passionate about it.  That’s why we took on a student loan system that basically gave away tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to big banks.  We said, let’s cut out the middle man.  Banks should be making a profit on what they do, but not off the backs of students.  We reformed it; more money went directly to students.  We expanded grants for low-income students through the Pell grant program.  We created a new tuition tax credit for middle-class families.  We offered millions of young people the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income — that’s what Andy was referring to.  Michelle right now is working with students to help them “Reach Higher,” and overcome the obstacles that stand between them and graduation.  This is something we are deeply invested in.

But as long as college costs keep soaring, we can’t just keep throwing money at the problem.  We’re going to have to initiate reforms from the colleges themselves.  States have to invest more in higher education.  Historically, the reason we had such a great public education system, public higher education system was states understood we will benefit if we invest in higher education.  And somewhere along the line, they started thinking, we’ve got to invest more in prisons than we do in higher education.  And part of the reason that tuition has been jacked up year after year after year is state legislators are not prioritizing this.  They’re passing the costs onto taxpayers.  It’s not sustainable.

So that’s why I laid out a plan to shake up our higher education system and encourage colleges to finally bring down college costs.  And I proposed new rules to make sure for-profit colleges keep their promises and train students with the skills for today’s jobs without saddling them with debt.  Too many of these for-profit colleges — some do a fine job, but many of them recruit kids in, the kids don’t graduate, but they’re left with the debt.  And if they do graduate, too often they don’t have the marketable skills they need to get the job that allows them to service the debt.

None of these fights have been easy.  All of them have been worth it.  You’ve got some outstanding members of Congress right here who have been fighting right alongside us to make sure that we are giving you a fair shake.  And the good news is, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  And that’s something we should be proud of, and that’s something we should celebrate.

But more of them are graduating with debt.  Despite everything we’re doing, we’re still seeing too big a debt load on too many young people.  A large majority of today’s college seniors have taken out loans to pay for school.  The average borrower at a four-year college owes nearly $30,000 by graduation day.  Americans now owe more on student loans than they do on credit cards.  And the outrage here is that they’re just doing what they’ve been told they’re supposed to do.  I can’t tell you how many letters I get from people who say I did everything I was supposed to and now I’m finding myself in a situation where I’ve got debts I can’t pay off, and I want to pay them off, and I’m working really hard, but I just can’t make ends meet.

If somebody plays by the rules, they shouldn’t be punished for it.  A young woman named Ashley, in Santa Fe, wrote me a letter a few months ago.  And Ashley wanted me to know that she’s young, she’s ambitious, she’s proud of the degree she earned.  And she said, “I am the future” — she put “am” in capital letters so that I’d know she means business.  (Laughter.)  And she told me that because of her student loan debt, she’s worried she’ll never be able to buy a car or a house.  She wrote, “I’m not even 30, and I’ve given up on my future because I can’t afford to have one.”  I wrote her back and said it’s a little early in your 20s to give up.  (Laughter.)  So I’m sure Ashley was trying to make a point, but it’s a point that all of us need to pay attention to.  In America, no young person who works hard and plays by the rules should feel that way.

Now, I’ve made it clear that I want to work with Congress on this issue.  Unfortunately, a generation of young people can’t afford to wait for Congress to get going.  The members of Congress who are here are working very hard and putting forward legislation to try to make this stuff happen, but they have not gotten some of the support that they need.  In this year of action, wherever I’ve seen ways I can act on my own to expand opportunity to more Americans, I have.  And today, I’m going to take three actions to help more young people pay off their student loan debt.

Number one, I’m directing our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to give more Americans who are already making their loan payments a chance to cap those payments at 10 percent of their income.  We call it “Pay As You Earn.”  We know it works, because we’ve already offered it to millions of young people.  It’s saving folks like Andy hundreds of dollars potentially every month. It’s giving graduates the opportunity to pursue the dreams that inspired them to go to school in the first place, and that’s good for everybody.  And we want more young people to start their own businesses.  We want more young people becoming teachers and nurses and social workers.  We want young people to be in a position to pursue their dreams.  And we want more young people who act responsibly to be able to manage their debt over time.  So we’re announcing steps that will open up “Pay As You Earn” to nearly 5 million more Americans.  That’s the first action we’re taking today.

The second action is to renegotiate contracts with private companies like Sallie Mae that service our student loans.  And we’re going to make it clear that these companies are in the business of helping students, not just collecting payments, and they owe young people the customer service, and support, and financial flexibility that they deserve.  That’s number two.

Number three — we’re doing more to help every borrower know all the options that are out there, so that they can pick the one that’s right for them.  So we’re going to work with the teachers’ associations, and the nurses’ associations, with business groups; with the YMCA, and non-profits and companies like TurboTax and H&R Block.  And tomorrow, I’m going to do a student loan Q&A with Tumblr to help spread the word — you’re laughing because you think, what does he know about Tumblr?  (Laughter.)  But you will recall that I have two teenage daughters so that I am hip to all these things.  (Laughter.)  Plus I have all these twenty-somethings who are working for me all the time.  (Laughter.)

But to give even more student borrowers the chance to save money requires action from Congress.  I’m going to be signing this executive order.  It’s going to make progress, but not enough.  We need more.  We’ve got to have Congress to make some progress.  Now, the good news is, as I said, there are some folks in Congress who want to do it.  There are folks here like Jim Clyburn, John Tierney, who are helping lead this fight in the House.  We’ve got Elizabeth Warren, who’s leading this fight in the Senate.  Elizabeth has written a bill that would let students refinance their loans at today’s lower interest rates, just like their parents can refinance a mortgage.  It pays for itself by closing loopholes that allow some millionaires to pay a lower tax rate than middle-class families.

I don’t know, by the way, why folks aren’t more outraged about this.  I’m going to take a pause out of my prepared text.  You would think that if somebody like me has done really well in part because the country has invested in them, that they wouldn’t mind at least paying the same rate as a teacher or a nurse.  There’s not a good economic argument for it, that they should pay a lower rate.  It’s just clout, that’s all.  So it’s bad enough that that’s already happening.  It would be scandalous if we allowed those kinds of tax loopholes for the very, very fortunate to survive while students are having trouble just getting started in their lives.

So you’ve got a pretty straightforward bill here.  And this week, Congress will vote on that bill.  And I want Americans to pay attention to see where their lawmakers’ priorities lie here:  lower tax bills for millionaires, or lower student loan bills for the middle class.

This should be a no-brainer.  You’ve got a group of far-right Republicans in Congress who push this trickle-down economic plan, telling hard-working students and families, “You’re on your own.”  Two years ago, Republicans in Congress nearly let student loan interest rates double for 7 million young people.  Last year, they tried to strip protections from lower-income students.  This year, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly to slash Pell grants and make it harder for thousands of families to afford college.  If you’re a big oil company, they’ll go to bat for you.  If you’re a student, good luck.

Some of these Republicans in Congress seem to believe that it’s just because — that just because some of the young people behind me need some help, that they’re not trying hard enough.  They don’t get it.  Maybe they need to talk to Andy.  These students worked hard to get where they are today.

Shanelle Roberson — where is Shanelle?  Shanelle is the first in her family to graduate from a four-year college.  (Applause.)  Shanelle is not asking for a handout, none of these folks are.  They’re working hard.  They’re working while they’re going to school.  They’re doing exactly what we told them they should do.  But they want a chance.  If they do exactly what they’re told they should do, that they’re not suddenly loaded up where they’ve got so much debt that they can’t buy a house, they can’t think about starting a family, they can’t imagine starting a business on their own.

I’ve been in politics long enough to hear plenty of people, from both parties, pay lip service to the next generation, and then they abandon them when it counts.  And we, the voters, let it happen.  This is something that should be really straightforward, just like the minimum wage should be straightforward, just like equal pay for equal work should be straightforward.  And one of the things I want all the voters out there to consider, particularly parents who are struggling trying to figure out how am I going to pay my kid’s college education, take a look and see who is that’s fighting for you and your kids, and who is it that’s not.  Because if there are no consequences, then this kind of irresponsible behavior continues on the part of members of Congress.

So I ran for this office to help more young people go to college, graduate, and pay off their debt.  And we’ve made some really good progress despite the best efforts of some in Congress to block that progress.  Think about how much more we could do if they were not standing in the way.

This week, they have a chance to help millions of young people.  I hope they do.  You should let them know you are watching and paying attention to what they do.  If they do not look out for you, and then throw up a whole bunch of arguments that are meant to obfuscate — meaning confuse, rather than to clarify and illuminate — (laughter) — then you should call them to account.  And in the meantime, I’m going to take these actions today on behalf of all these young people here, and every striving young American who shares my belief that this is a place where you can still make it if you try.

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.

END
2:12 P.M. EDT

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