OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President at a DCCC Event — San Francisco, CA
Source: WH, 4-4-13
San Francisco, California
8:24 P.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Well, first of all, let me thank Ann and Gordon for once again extending such gracious hospitality to all of us. I was reminded that I was first here in 2008, when I was running the first time, and I had much less gray hair. (Laughter.) But they were kind to me then and have been kind to me since, and I appreciate very much their friendship and support.
I want to acknowledge Steve Israel, who is here and has an often thankless, extraordinarily difficult but critically important job, and he’s done so with good humor and boundless energy. And so please give Congressman Steve Israel a big round of applause. (Applause.)
And of course I’m here because your neighbor told me I needed to be here. (Laughter.) And I am here because there are very few people in public office who I am more fond of and respectful than the person who just introduced me, Nancy Pelosi. She is thoughtful, she’s visionary, she’s as tough as nails. (Laughter.) She is practical. She never lets ideology cloud her judgment. She’s constantly motivated by how do we create a country that is more just, more fair, more dynamic. She knows why she’s in public life. It’s connected to her values — the values that she grew up with, the values that she’s raised her kids, and now spoils her grandkids with. (Laughter.) And I’m just so proud to call her a friend.
And I am here because I won my last election, but I’m here because my job is not simply to occupy the Oval Office. My job is to make sure we move the country forward, and I think we can best do that if Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House once again. (Applause.)
Nancy used a word that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these days. And that’s the word “citizenship.” I talked about it at the inauguration speech. I talked about it at the State of the Union speech. I actually talked about it at the convention, my acceptance speech. And the reason I care about the word so much is because there are times in today’s busy world, the media chatter, where there’s a government over here somewhere, and then there’s people and ordinary life and the private sector, and all that stuff is over there. And somehow the notion is that these two things are separate.
And some of the folks who most adamantly insist that government is something alien and distant are the same folks who claim the mantle of the Founders and believe that their views best represent the original intentions of those who fought for and formed this country.
And yet, when I read the Declaration of Independence, when I read the Constitution, when I look at all the great documents and laws that have been passed that built this country up, what I see is this central idea that citizenship means we are the government — the government of and by and for the people — which means we have responsibilities that extend beyond voting or even writing a check.
It speaks to rights, but it also speaks to responsibilities and obligations. It suggests that we are responsible for ourselves, and our families, and our neighborhoods, and our cities, and our farmlands, and our neighbors, and our nation, and future generations. And so we don’t just think about “us,” we think about “we, the people.” That’s the idea that motivated me to get into public service in the first place. That’s what I think has always been at the heart of America.
And the reason that we’ve been able to make significant progress over the last four years and couple months is because a lot of you have believed it, too. That’s how I got elected in 2008. That’s how Nancy Pelosi became Speaker in 2006. That’s the reason that we were able to yank an economy on the verge of depression and get it back on track to growth and job creation. That’s the reason that we were able to pass a health care law that is already helping millions of people, and will help millions more when it is fully implemented next year. (Applause.)
That’s the reason we’ve been able to put people back to work building roads and bridges and water systems and new park trails all across this country. That’s the reason that we were able to double fuel efficiency standards on cars, begin the process of reducing carbons and making our economy more energy-efficient, and doubling the amount of clean energy that we’re producing through wind and solar and other renewables.
It’s the reason that we’ve been able slowly to nurse the housing market back to health. That is the reason that we’ve been able to keep this country safe while still being true to our values and principles of rule of law.
That is the reason why we’ve been able to help millions of kids all across this country go to college who couldn’t otherwise afford it. We’ve started to reform schools at the K-12 level.
We were able to do all this because you believed in citizenship. And the reason I ran for another term was because I think we’ve got more work to do. And the reason that Nancy wants to be Speaker again is because she thinks we have more work to do. (Applause.) I assure you that she does not like being away from her grandkids. (Laughter.) She could be doing a lot of other stuff. Steve makes enormous sacrifices. He’s got to travel all across the country raising money constantly and recruiting candidates. He’d love to be home. But we think we’ve got more work to do.
Now, this year, we have a window. Just completed one election. We would like to see some governing done in Washington before the next election starts. (Laughter.) And so we’ve got this opportunity that we need to seize to initiate serious gun safety legislation, reduce gun violence — (applause) — to make sure that we finally get a comprehensive immigration reform done, because we are a nation of laws but we are also a nation of immigrants, and those two things are not incompatible. (Applause.)
We have more work to do to make sure that we stabilize our finances in a way that still allows us to make investments in critical infrastructure and basic research. Somebody mentioned to me they heard my speech about the new BRAIN Initiative that we’ve put forward; just an entire sweeping horizon of possibilities when it comes to — (applause) — curing Alzheimer’s, and curing Parkinson’s, and so many diseases, but also just allowing us to do things that we couldn’t even imagine a year ago, two years ago. Now we’re on the threshold of cracking a code that could open up endless possibilities.
Now, in order to do that, we’ve got to be able to pass laws. There are some things I can do administratively, a lot of stuff that we can do administratively, but a lot of stuff we’ve got to do legislatively. Right now we’re constrained by what we get done. And I have said publicly and I will say it to this room once again that I believe that Republicans love their kids and their country as much as we do, and there are a whole bunch of folks out there who I believe actually want to cooperate with us but feel constrained right now because of their own politics.
I’m looking and probing for every crack and possible opportunity to join in a bipartisan fashion to solve these problems, because I think most of the problems out there are ones that, at least historically, have garnered support from Democrats and Republicans, and that’s — there is nothing inherently Democratic about building roads or funding research or looking out for the environment. It used to be a great bipartisan set of ideas.
And so my hope is, is that we can get some governing done this year, and I know that Nancy feels the same way. By the way, she’s already worked with her caucus to deliver votes on things that aren’t necessarily politically advantageous but are the right thing to do. She did it as Speaker, and she’s done it as Democratic Leader in the House. So we want to get this — we just want to get stuff done.
And I won’t say — I won’t speak for Nancy here, I will speak for myself. I would love nothing better than an effective, loyal opposition that is willing to meet us halfway and move the country forward — because that’s what the American people are looking for. The economy is growing but there is still a lot of folks out there who are struggling; still way too many people who are unemployed; people who haven’t seen a raise in a decade; people whose homes are still underwater; people who when they see $4-a-gallon gas know that that is money that’s coming straight out of their pockets or their retirement funds and is going to be very hard to make up. And they’re hoping that we can do some governing. And that’s what I intend to do this year, and the year after that and the year after that.
But I would be dishonest if I didn’t say that it would be a whole lot easier to govern if I had Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. (Laughter and applause.) Because here are the stakes — I actually think we’ve got a great chance of getting immigration reform done. I think we have a good chance of getting serious gun safety legislation done. But if we’re going to move forward on some of the other things I talked about in the State of the Union — making sure that we’ve got early childhood education for every child in America so that they can (inaudible.) (Applause.)
If we’re going to deal with the $2 trillion of deferred maintenance we’ve got in terms of infrastructure — not just roads and bridges, but a smart grid that can connect up clean energy to our cities and make sure that we continue to reduce not only existing loads of renewable energy, but also discovering those breakthroughs that are going to make all the difference down the future, then I’m going to need some more help in Congress.
If we’re going to deal with climate change in a serious way, then we’ve got to have folks in Congress — even when it’s not politically convenient — to talk about it and advocate for it, and break out of this notion that somehow there’s a contradiction between us being good stewards of the environment and us growing this economy. They are not a contradiction. We can grow this economy fast and faster if we are seizing the opportunities of the future and not just looking at the energy sources of the past. We’re going to need some help.
I’m going to need some help if we are going to continue to make progress in assuring that every young person in this country has a chance to go to college and that they can afford it. I’m going to need some help if we’re going to make sure that simple stuff — what should be simple — that everybody in America right now can refinance their homes. We could put $3,000 a year into the pockets of every single American just by passing a law in Congress that, by the way, Mitt Romney’s key economic advisor, chief economic advisor says was a good idea. For some reason, we still can’t get it through the Congress — 3,000 bucks. It’s like free money for families who right now are struggling. Think about what they could do with it, and what that will do in terms of boosting our growth. I need some help.
And my hope is, is that we’re going to see more and more Republicans who say, you know what, I didn’t come here just to fight the President or demonize Nancy Pelosi, I came here to get some stuff done. And they will be greeted with great enthusiasm by me and I think by Nancy, if we could get some more stuff done right now. But, realistically, I could get a whole lot more done if Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House. (Applause.)
So let me just close by saying this. And I know that Nancy’s people will have a chance to answer some more specific questions about their game plan, all the great candidates they’ve recruited, the significant financial burden that will have to be bent in order to help elect these candidates.
But let me close by saying this, go back to where I started this notion of citizenship. People ask me, does it feel different now in your second term than it did in your first? It does. Look, I would hope I’m better at my job now than I was when I first came in. I’ve got some nicks, bruises to prove that I’ve been to this rodeo before. Hopefully, I’m making better decisions and our team is better organized, and we know what works and what doesn’t, what some of the pitfalls are.
But the main difference really is a sense of perspective and realization that nothing worthwhile happens in six months or a year. It happens over decades. It happens over generations, that the story of America has been us steadily, through fits and starts, expanding opportunity, creating a more perfect union, seizing the promise of the future, fighting off some of our own worst impulses. And that any one of us, our job is not to do it by ourselves or get it all done in one year or one term or even necessarily in our lifetimes, but our job is to make sure that we’re pressing and pushing so that the whole country, over time, is moving in the right direction.
We did a screening of the Jackie — there’s a new movie about Jackie Robinson called “42,” which I usually don’t plug movies, but I strongly recommend people take their kids and their grandkids to see this. A lot of people don’t necessarily remember the story of Jackie Robinson or if they it’s sort of vague. His widow, Rachel Robinson was there. She’s 90 years old and gorgeous. And in the theater at the White House, I thanked her. I thanked the people who made the film, just for reminding me in very visceral terms that in her lifetime, she saw her husband being the first African American to play in Major League Baseball, and now she’s sitting there with me, in the White House. That’s a long time — 70 years. On the other hand, that’s a blink of an eye in terms of human history. And that required Branch Rickey, it required Jackie Robinson, and then it required –
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Chandler. The commissioner, Happy Chandler.
THE PRESIDENT: — and it just — it required a succession of people making tough choices, but the right choice. And then slowly things changed. A culture transformed itself.
I was just in another house here in, very close by. A wonderful young woman, singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile was performing. And she was with her wife — just got married I guess the day that I announced that I supported same-sex marriage. And she’s a young woman, and I’m assuming she’s thinking about all the people who were fighting the good fight not just in Stonewall, but well before that.
And so generation after generation, we just plug away, and sometimes we make progress and sometimes it feels like we’re not making progress. We just stay at it and stay at it. And then suddenly there’s a breakthrough, and the entire culture shifts.
And that’s what citizenship means. That’s why it’s so important, because it’s not going to happen all at once. And all of us have to carry the burden of moving things forward.
So I hope that when you hear from Nancy and Steve, I hope that all of you understand this is not just a one-off, this is not just checking this off the list. You’ve got to stay with them. And it’ll be frustrating, it’ll be slow, and there will be times where you lose hope, and there will be times where you won’t be mad at Nancy, but there will certainly be times where you’re mad at me. (Laughter.)
But if you stay with it, if you and your neighbors and your friends and your children and your grandchildren, if they maintain that sense that this is our government not somebody else’s, and we can change it, then I’ve got great optimism for the future of this country and for the future of citizens in America.
Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)
8:48 P.M. PDT
Remarks by the President at a DCCC Event — San Francisco, CA
Source: WH, 4-4-13
San Francisco, California
6:53 P.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Well, first of all, I want to thank Tom and Kat for opening up this spectacular home. They were bragging about the view — (laughter) — but Secret Service wasn’t going to let me look at the view. But I’m now in my second term, so I can — (laughter) — so I called an audible, and I went out there, and it is spectacular. And they were all apologetic. They said, well, you can’t see the bridge. (Laughter.) I said, it’s okay, I can see the Pacific Ocean; that’s pretty good. (Laughter.) So I was perfectly satisfied with the view, and I could not be more grateful and thankful to them for hosting us here tonight. So give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)
I want to thank Brandi Carlile for singing the — (applause) — there she is. Now, I just — the reason I know Brandi is because the White House photographer, Pete Souza, was a fan of Brandi’s before the rest of the world knew Brandi, and followed her around everywhere. He didn’t stalk her, he was just — (laughter) — he was a fan. And so Pete Souza gets credit, before Jimmy Fallon or anybody else, for Brandi Carlile being discovered, at least by me. (Laughter.) But we’re so grateful for her participating here tonight.
The main reason we’re here is actually not me. The main reason we’re here is because we have got a fearless leader who happens to be your neighbor, who day in, day out is fighting the good fight on every single issue that matters in terms of making this a more equitable, more prosperous, more generous, more competitive nation. And she has been an extraordinary friend of mine, but more importantly, she’s a friend to working families all across the country each and every day. I could not be prouder of her, and I expect that she is going to be once again the Speaker of the House — Nancy Pelosi. Love Nancy. (Applause.)
And Nancy wouldn’t be — I think would be the first to say that she could not do what she does if it weren’t for her extraordinary members. Right now, her chief rebounder, assist person, handyman — (laughter) — the guy who is making this enormous effort work is Steve Israel. So we want to thank Congressman Steve Israel. (Applause.) And we’ve got three other members here today. Mike Honda — where’s Mike? There he is in the back. (Applause.) Jared Huffman. Jared is right there. (Applause.) And Eric Swalwell. There he is. (Applause.)
All right, now, first of all, Tom used that analogy I think two days after I went two for twenty at — (laughter) — at the Easter Egg Roll, guarded by a number of 6-year-olds. (Laughter.) So clearly I have not been playing enough basketball for anybody to want to use that analogy. But what I think is absolutely true is that the way I have always thought about politics, I know the way Nancy thinks about politics, is that we are a team. And when I say “we,” I’m not simply referring to the people in Washington.
If you noticed, during my inauguration address and my State of the Union, I talked about citizenship; I talked about what it means to be a citizen. And the notion of citizenship is not simply a matter of voting, it’s not simply a matter of writing a check to a candidate who you like. The notion of citizenship is that all of us have obligations to this nation, to our fellow citizens, and to future generations, and that each and every day we are tested and asked to participate in ways large and small to push that boulder up the hill a little bit, and to make sure that when our time here has passed, we can say, America is stronger, it’s more prosperous, and opportunity is available to every single American.
That’s not just my job, it’s not just Nancy’s job — it’s your job, as well. And the fact that all of you are here is an indicator that you take this notion of citizenship seriously. And because you do, Nancy and I, and Steve and others, we’ve had an opportunity over these last four years and a couple of months to make some extraordinary changes in this country.
We were able to yank an economy that was on the verge of a depression out of depression. And although we’re not all the way back, the economy has stabilized, our financial markets have stabilized, housing is beginning to come back, and families are starting to feel a little more hopeful about their prospects for the future.
Because of you, because of our team, we have been able to assure that people who already have health insurance have better health insurance; that they’ve got preventive care, they’ve got contraceptive care; that insurance companies can’t drop them for no good reason; that young people can stay on their parent’s plan until they’re 26. And by next year, we’ll know that 35 million people, most of whom work, are never again going to have to say to themselves that because of a preexisting condition or simply a lack of money, that they end up bankrupt or end up in an emergency room when they or their family members get sick. That happened because of all of you. (Applause.)
Because of you, we were able to make sure that serving your country didn’t depend on who you loved, and as a consequence of some of those changes, we’re now starting to see a extraordinary transformation in our culture that assures that the LGBT community has full and equal citizenship in this country. (Applause.) That happened because of you.
Because of you, roads have been built that needed repair, and people were put back to work. Because of you, research has happened that is looking to cure everything from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s to juvenile diabetes. Because of you, we’re actually seeing genuine improvement in our schools, and states all across the country — including very red states — have embarked on a reform agenda that makes certain that our kids can compete in this new global economy.
Because of you, millions of young people have health insurance — they have health insurance but are also able to afford college, and couldn’t afford it before. And because of you, despite a very aggressive agenda on the other side to block action, we’ve been able to double fuel efficiency standards on cars. We’ve been able to take mercury out of our air. We have been able to reduce carbon emissions in this country and have made not only this a healthier place to live, but have also begun to address in a serious way one of the biggest challenges of our time, and that is the challenge of climate change. That all happened because of you. (Applause.)
But here is the thing: We’ve got a lot more work to do. That’s why I ran for a second term. The plane is nice — (laughter) — but the truth is, is that being in the bubble drives me crazy. So if I didn’t think I was actually going to get something done, I wouldn’t have run.
Nancy has gorgeous grandchildren. And if it weren’t for the fact that we have more work to do, I’m sure that she wouldn’t be going after the speakership again. The reason we do so, and the reason you’re here, is because we know we can do so much more to make this country what it can be.
Now, over the next couple of months, we’ve got a couple of issues: gun control. (Applause.) I just came from Denver, where the issue of gun violence is something that has haunted families for way too long, and it is possible for us to create common-sense gun safety measures that respect the traditions of gun ownership in this country and hunters and sportsmen, but also make sure that we don’t have another 20 children in a classroom gunned down by a semiautomatic weapon — by a fully automatic weapon in that case, sadly.
Immigration reform is something that I believe that we can get done over the next couple of months. It’s interesting how clarifying to the mind Democrats getting 70 percent of the Latino vote was in suggesting that maybe we needed to get — finally fix a broken immigration system, and making sure that we’re both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
But even if we’re able to get those two things done — and I’m hopeful that we do over the next couple of months — we’re going to have some big challenges. We still have to rebuild this country. We’ve got about $2 trillion worth of deferred maintenance. We could be putting back to work Americans all across this country not just rebuilding roads and bridges, but building state-of-the-art schools and a smart grid that would make sure that we’re wasting less energy, and link cities that are using energy with wind farms in the Dakotas and in the plains of Colorado.
We’ve got still more work to do to make college more affordable. We’re going to have a lot more work to do to make sure that hard work pays off, which is why passing a minimum wage increase is so important — because there are a lot of families out there, even who have jobs, who are having a tough time each and every day.
And something that I know is near and dear to Tom and Kat’s hearts, and to Nancy’s — we’ve got more work to do in terms of dealing with climate change and making sure that we’ve got an economy that is energy-efficient, that is productive, that is cutting-edge, and thinks about not just the energy sources of the past, but also the energy promise of the future.
And the thing that I’m going to have to try to work to persuade the American people a little more convincingly on is this notion that there’s a contradiction between our economy and our environment is just a false choice — that if we invest now, we will create jobs, we will create entire new industries; other countries will be looking to catch up, they will be looking to import what we do. We will set the standard, and everybody else will have to adapt.
But — and I mentioned this to Tom and Kat and a few folks right before I came out here — the politics of this are tough. Because if you haven’t seen a raise in a decade; if your house is still $25,000, $30,000 underwater; if you’re just happy that you’ve still got that factor job that is powered by cheap energy; if every time you go to fill up your old car because you can’t afford to buy a new one, and you certainly can’t afford to buy a Prius, you’re spending 40 bucks that you don’t have, which means that you may not be able to save for retirement — you may be concerned about the temperature of the planet, but it’s probably not rising to your number-one concern. And if people think, well, that’s shortsighted, that’s what happens when you’re struggling to get by. You’re thinking about what’s right in front of you, which is how do I fill up my gas tank and how do I feed my family.
And so part of what we’re going to have to do is to marry a genuine, passionate concern about middle-class families and everybody who is trying to get into the middle class to show them that we’re working just as hard for them as we are for our environmental agenda, and that we can bridge these things in a way that advances the causes of both. And that’s going to take some work.
But the most important thing that it’s going to take is people in Washington who are willing to speak truth to power, are willing to take some risks politically, are willing to get a little bit out ahead of the curve — not two miles ahead of the curve, but just a little bit ahead of it. And that’s why your presence here is so important.
Look, my intention here is to try to get as much done with the Republican Party over the next two years as I can, because we can’t have perpetual campaigns. And so I mean what I say. I am looking to find areas of common ground with Republicans every single day. I want to make sure that we’re working together to stabilize our finances. And I think actually that we can come up with a fiscal deal that instead of lurching from crisis to crisis every three months, we lay the groundwork for long-term growth — controlling our deficits, controlling our debt, but also making sure we can invest in our future. I want to get an immigration deal done. I want to find some common-sense gun safety legislation that we can get done. And I do believe that there are well-meaning Republicans out there who care about their kids just as passionately as we do.
Despite all the rhetoric on television, I actually believe that Americans have a lot more in common than our political rhetoric would give us credit for. But having said all that, I know Nancy Pelosi. I’ve seen her courage. I know that she is willing to do the right thing, even when it’s not politically popular. And I want her once again as a fully empowered partner for us to be able to move our agenda forward.
And so I’m going to expect that you guys are fighting for issues, helping to move public opinion; engaging in organizing and engaging in advocacy and public policy work — all the stuff that — and I’m looking around this room, it’s full of do-gooders here — all the stuff you do. But I also want to make sure that you are paying attention to what can we do to support the prospect of Nancy Pelosi being Speaker once again.
If we do that, then I’m confident that not only can we deliver on this profound issue of climate change, not only can we make sure that clean energy is the norm here in America, but I also think that we can give America that sense of confidence and forward movement that’s always been our hallmark that characterizes who we are. To do that, I’m going to need you and Nancy is going to need you.
And so I hope that this is not the end of your involvement. I hope it is the beginning. If, in fact, all the energy that’s represented in this room is fully deployed, then I feel pretty good about Malia and Sasha, I feel pretty good about these young people right here. They’re smarter than we are. If we hand off the kind of America that we should be handing off to them, I promise you they will take it to ever greater heights.
All right, thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
7:12 P.M. PDT