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

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 7-21-14 

East Room

10:39 A.M. EDT

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen.  (Applause.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen!

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

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

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

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

(The executive order is signed.)

END
10:47 A.M. EDT

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

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Fourth of July Celebration

Source: WH, 7-4-14

South Lawn

5:56 P.M. EDT

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!

MRS. OBAMA:  You’re welcome!

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  She can get her license!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
6:05 P.M. EDT

Political Musings April 30, 2014: Levin, Democrats push Boehner for unemployment benefits extension House vote

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Levin, Democrats push Boehner for unemployment benefits extension House vote

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Although Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH refuses to put the Senate passed unemployment benefits extension bill to a House vote, it is not stopping Democrats in the House of Representatives to try and push the speaker on…READ MORE

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Political Musings April 23, 2014: White House refuses Boehner, GOP unemployment benefits extension bill compromise

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

 

Full Text Obama Presidency April 21, 2014: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at the 2014 White House Easter Egg Roll

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

The 2014 White House Easter Egg Roll

Remarks by the President and the First Lady at the Easter Egg Roll

Source:  WH, 4-21-14

Watch the Video

South Lawn

10:34 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, hello everybody.  Is everybody having fun?  (Applause.)  Happy Easter.  This is the biggest event that we have at the White House all year long and it is our most fun event, because we have a chance to see families from all across the country coming through here.  My main and only job, other than officiating over the roll at some point, is to introduce, alongside the Easter Bunny, the person who makes this all possible — we love her dearly — my wife, the First Lady, Michelle Obama.  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you, honey. Hey, everybody.  Happy Easter Egg Roll Day.  Isn’t this exciting?  It is so wonderful to have so many of you here today.  We are celebrating the 136th Easter Egg Roll.  The theme of this year’s roll is “Hop Into Health, Swing Into Shape.”  Yes, I love it.

And it’s going to be a great day.  We have beautiful weather, because the Easter Egg Roll is blessed.  And we’re going to have fun stuff going on.  We’ve got the Egg Roll.  We’ve got some storytelling.  We’ve got entertainment.  We’ve got wonderful athletes and performers like Cam and so many others.  We’ve got obstacle courses and yoga and face painting and egg hunts.  It’s just going to be terrific.  As Barack said, we love this event.  This is the largest event that we do here on the South Lawn.  We’re going to have more than 30,000 people on the lawn today.

And we’re just thrilled that this theme is focusing on one issue that is near and dear to my heart, and it’s making sure that our young people are active and healthy.  So while you’re here, parents, look around.  You’re going to learn how to make healthy snacks that the kids will actually eat.  I’m going to be over there on the chef’s stage doing some demonstrations.

And I want to make sure that kids know that healthy eating and being active can be fun, because what today is about is having a whole lot of fun.  And I hope you all do that, because we want our kids to be the healthiest and the strongest they can be, so they can do well in school and live up to all of their God-given potential.  Isn’t that right, parents?  That’s what we want for you all.  (Applause.)

And we want to thank the Easter Bunny, as always, for being here.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the hundreds of volunteers who make today possible.  (Applause.)  Thank you to our volunteers who have been out here setting up the South Lawn, who are going to make sure you guys get through these activities and have a great time.

So you all just enjoy.  That’s all you have to do from this point on, is have fun.  And we’ll be down there to participate in the Egg Roll.  The President is going to read.  I’m going to read a little bit.  So we’ll meet you down on the South Lawn, okay?

All right.  Have a great time.  Bye-bye.  (Applause.)

END
10:39 A.M.

Political Musings April 19, 2014: House GOP Reps introduce alternative unemployment benefits extension bill

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

House GOP Reps introduce alternative unemployment benefits extension bill

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Two Republican Representatives, Charlie Dent from Pennsylvania and Mark Meadows from North Carolina introduced an alternative to the Senate passed unemployment benefits extension bill entitled the “GROWTH (Generating Real Opportunities for Workers and Transitional Help) Act” (HR 3885)….Continue

 

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

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 4-3-14 

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

Watch the Video

East Room

2:55 P.M. EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE PRESIDENT:  Dan is in the back there.

MRS. OBAMA:  Dan is in the back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  It feels good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MRS. OBAMA:  Get off the couch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations.  Good job.  (Applause.)

END
3:15 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency February 24, 2014: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at National Governors’ Association White House Meeting

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and Vice President at NGA Meeting

Source: WH, 2-24-14

State Dining Room

11:15 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thanks for making the Cabinet stand up for me.  (Laughter.)  I appreciate it.

It’s great to see you all.  And I don’t know about you all, I had a great time last night and got a chance to actually do what we should be doing more of — talking without thinking about politics and figuring how we can solve problems.

You’ve observed by now the reason the President and I like doing this every year is it’s nice dealing with people who know they got to get a job done, and they get a job done.  And I’ve gotten a chance to work directly with an awful lot of you in the days of the Recovery Act, and even when we were working on the gun violence; rebuilding from that super storm Sandy, which hit my state as well, and tornadoes and floods in a number of your states.

But it never ceases to amaze me how you all mobilize.  You just mobilize.  When crises hit your states, you mobilize and you rebuild.  And you rebuild your infrastructure not to the standards that existed before, but to 21st century standards.  You balance your budgets, you save neighborhoods, and you bring back jobs to your communities.

And the other thing I pick up — and I may be wrong.  I’m always labeled as the White House optimist, like I’m the kid who fell off the turnip truck yesterday, but I am the youngest here — (laughter) — and new.  But it always amazes me your sense of optimism.  You’re the one group of folks you go to with all the problems you have that you’re optimistic.  You’re optimistic about it being able to be done, getting things done.  That is not always the mood up in the place where I spent a large portion of my career.

And last night I got to speak to a bunch of you, particularly about the job skills initiative the President asked me to lead, and I had a chance to speak with some of you specifically, and I’m going to ask to — I’m going to get a chance to see more of you this afternoon.  But this is more than just — at least from the President’s perspective and mine — more than just a job skills initiative.  It’s about literally opening the aperture to the middle class.  The middle class has actually shrunk.

And we always have these debates with our economists — is the middle class $49,820 or $52,000.  The middle class to me, and I think to most of you, it’s really a state of mind.  It’s about being able to own your home and not have to rent it.  It’s about being able to send your kid to a park where you know you can send them out, and they’ll come home safely.  It’s about being able to send them to school, that if they do well in the school, they’re going to be able to get to something beyond high school if they want to do that.  And you’re going to be able to pay for it.  And in the meantime, you may be able to take care of your mom and dad who are in tough shape and hope that your kids never have to take care of you.  That’s the middle class.

And before the Great Recession, it was already beginning to shrink.  So together, we got to open — Mary, you and I have talked about this — about opening the aperture here for access to the middle class.  But we’ll be speaking a lot more about that in the next several months.  A couple of you invited me to come out your way, including some of my Republican friends.  And I’m going to be working with all of you.

But today I just want to say thank you.  Thank you for what you always do.  You come to town; you come to town with answers.  You come to town with suggestions.  You come to town to get things done.  And believe me, we need that and the American people are looking for it.

And I want to welcome you back to the White House, and introduce you now to my friend, your President, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Please, have a seat.  Thank you so much.

Welcome to the White House.  I know that you’ve already been doing a lot of work, and I’m glad to be able to come here and engage in a dialogue with all of you.  I want to thank Mary and John for their leadership at the NGA.  I want to thank my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, who is very excited I think about the jobs initiative, and is going to be — the job training initiative, and I think is going to be doing a great job on that.

Michelle and I had a wonderful time hosting you guys last night, and I hope all the spouses enjoyed it.  And I know Alex enjoyed it.  (Laughter.)  One good thing about living here is that you can make all the noise you want and nobody is going to complain.  (Laughter.)  And I enjoyed watching some of you with your eyes on higher office size up the drapes — (laughter) –and each other.

We don’t have a lot of time today, so I want to be very brief, go straight to Q&A and discussion.  We’re at a moment when our economy is growing; our businesses have now created over 8.5 million new jobs over the past four years.  But, as I’ve said several times, the trends that have battered the middle class for a couple of decades now are still there and still have to be addressed.  Those at the top are doing very well.  Ordinary families still feeling squeezed.  Too many Americans are working harder than ever, and just barely getting by.

And reversing these trends are going to require us to work together around what I’m calling an opportunity agenda based on four things.  Number one, more good jobs that pay good wages.  Number two, training more Americans to be able to take the jobs that are out there right now and the jobs that are created.  Number three, guaranteeing access to a world-class education for every American child all across our 50 states and our territories.  And making sure that hard work pays off — with wages that you can live on, savings that you can retire on, health insurance that you can count on.

And all of this is going to take some action.  So far, just in the past few weeks, I’ve acted to lift the wages of workers who work for federal contractors to pay their — make sure their employees are getting paid at least $10.10 an hour.  We’ve ordered an across-the-board reform of our job training programs, much of it aligned with some of the work that Mary has done during her tenure as head of the NGA.  We directed our Treasury to create a new way for Americans to start saving for retirement.  We’ve been able to rally America’s business leaders to help more of the long-term unemployed find work, and to help us make sure that all of our kids have access to high-speed Internet and high-tech learning tools in the classroom.

The point is, this has to be a year of action.  And I’m eager to work with Congress wherever I can.  My hope is, is that despite this being an election year, that there will be occasions where both parties determine that it makes sense to actually get some things done in this town.  But wherever I can work on my own to expand opportunity for more Americans, I’m going to do that.  And I am absolutely convinced that the time is right to partner with the states and governors all across the country on these agendas, because I know that you guys are doing some terrific work in your own states.

There may not be much of an appetite in Congress for doing big jobs bills, but we can still grow SelectUSA.  Secretary Pritzker’s team has put together a terrific formula where we’re attracting investors from all around the world to see America as an outstanding place to invest.  And I mentioned this at the State of the Union:  For the first time last year, what we’re seeing is, is that world investors now see America as the number-one place to do business rather than China.  And it’s a sign of a lot of things converging, both on the energy front, worker productivity, our innovation, our research, ease of doing business.  And a lot of that work is as a consequence of steps we’ve taken not just at the federal level, but also at the state level.  So we’ve got to take advantage of that.

Secretary Pritzker has been helping a Belgian company create jobs in Stillwater, Oklahoma; helping an Austrian company create jobs in Cartersville, Georgia.  So we can do more of this, and we really want to engage with you over the next several months to find ways that we can help market America and your states to businesses all around the world and bring jobs back.

Since I called on Congress to raise the minimum wage last year, six states have gone ahead and done it on their own.  Last month, I asked more business leaders to raise their workers’ wages.  Last week, GAP said it would lift wages for about 65,000 of its employees.  Several of you are trying to boost wages for your workers.  I’m going to do everything I can to support those efforts.

While Congress decides what it’s going to do on making high-quality pre-K available to more kids, there is bipartisan work being done among the folks in this room.  You’ve got governors like Robert Bentley and Jack Markell, Susana Martinez, Deval Patrick — all expanding funding or dedicating funds to make that happen in their states.  And we want to partner with you.  This year, I’ll pull together a coalition of philanthropists, elected officials and business leaders, all of whom are excited and interested in working with you to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K that they need.

And while Congress talks about repealing the Affordable Care Act or doing this or doing that to it, places like California and Kentucky are going gangbusters and enrolling more Americans in quality, affordable health care plans.  You’ve got Republican governors here — I won’t name them in front of the press, because I don’t want to get you all in trouble — who have chosen to cover more people through new options under Medicaid.  And as a result, millions of people are going to get help.

States that don’t expand Medicaid are going to be leaving up to 5.4 million Americans uninsured.  And that doesn’t have to happen.  Work with us to get this done.  We can provide a lot of flexibility.  Folks like Mike Beebe in Arkansas have done some terrific work designing programs that are right for their states but also provide access to care for people who need it.  And I think Kathleen Sebelius, a former governor herself, has shown herself willing to work with all of you to try to find ways to get that done.

On the West Coast, you’ve got Governors Brown, Inslee, Kitzhaber who are working together to combat the effects of climate change on their states.  We’ve set up a taskforce of governors and mayors and tribal leaders to help communities prepare for what we anticipate are going to be intensifying impacts of climate change.  And we’re setting up climate hubs in seven states across the country to help farmers and ranchers adapt their operations to a changing environment.

In the budget that I’ll send to Congress next week, I’m going to propose fundamentally reforming the way federal governments fund wildfire suppression and prevention to make it more stable and secure, and this is an idea that’s supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

And finally, I want to thank those of you who have worked with Michelle and Jill Biden on their Joining Forces initiative to support our military families.  At your meeting here two years ago, they asked for your help to make it easier for servicemembers and their spouses to carry licenses for professions like teaching or nursing from state to state, rather than have to get a new one every time they were reassigned.  At the time, only 12 states had acted to make this easier for spouses; only nine had acted to make it easier for servicemembers.  Today, 42 states have passed legislation to help spouses; 45 states have made it easier for servicemembers.  We’ve got a few states remaining.  Let’s get it done for everybody, because it’s the right thing to do for those men and women who are working every day to make sure we stay free and secure.

The point is, even when there is little appetite in Congress to move on some of these priorities, at the state level you guys are governed by practical considerations.  You want to do right by your people and you see how good policy impacts your citizens, and you see how bad policy impacts your citizens, and that means that there’s less room for posturing and politics, and more room for getting stuff done.

We want to work with you.  And I’m committed to making sure that every single member of my Cabinet, every single person in the White House, every single member of my team will be responsive to you.  We won’t agree on every single issue every single time, but I guarantee you that we will work as hard as we can to make sure that you succeed — because when you succeed, the people in your states succeed and America succeeds, and that’s our goal.

So thank you very much, and I look forward to having a great discussion.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
11:27 A.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency February 23, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the National Governors Association Dinner

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the National Governors Association Dinner

Source: WH, 2-23-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks to National Governors Association
February 23, 2014 8:42 PM

President Obama Speaks to National Governors Association

State Dining Room

7:11 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Have a seat.  Well, welcome to the White House.  Everybody looks fabulous.  I am truly honored to be one of Michelle Obama’s guests tonight here at dinner.  (Laughter.)  I want to thank all the governors and their better halves for being here tonight, especially your chair, Mary Fallin, and your vice chair, John Hickenlooper.  (Applause.)

Tonight, we want to make sure that all of you make yourselves at home, to which I’m sure some of you are thinking that’s been the plan all along.  (Laughter.)  But keep in mind what a wise man once wrote:  “I am more than contented to be governor and shall not care if I never hold another office.”  Of course, that was Teddy Roosevelt.  (Laughter.)  So I guess plans change.

I look forward to working with each of you not just in our meetings tomorrow, but throughout this year, what I hope to be a year of action.  Our partnership on behalf of the American people, on issues ranging from education to health care to climate change runs deep, deeper than what usually hits the front page.

Being here tonight, I’m thinking about moments that I’ve spent with so many of you during the course of the year — with Governor Patrick in a hospital in Boston, seeing the survivors of the Boston bombing, seeing them fight through their wounds, determined to return to their families, but also realizing that a lot of lives were saved because of the preparations that federal and state and local officials had carried out beforehand; with Governor Fallin at a firehouse in Moore, thanking first responders who risked their lives to save others after a devastating tornado, but once again seeing the kind of state-federal cooperation that’s so vital in these kinds of circumstances; spending time with Governor O’Malley at the Naval Academy graduation last spring and looking out over some of our newest sailors and Marines as they join the greatest military in the world, and reminding ourselves that on national security issues, the contributions of the National Guard obviously are extraordinary and all of you work so closely with them.

So if there’s one thing in common in the moments like these, it’s that our cooperation is vital to make sure that we’re doing right by the American people.  And what’s common also is the incredible resilience and the goodness and the strength of the American people that we’re so privileged to serve.  And that resilience has carried us from the depths of the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes to what I am convinced can be a breakthrough year for America and the American people.

That of course will require that we collectively take action on what matters to them — jobs and opportunity.  And when we’ve got a Congress that sometimes seems to have a difficult time acting, I want to make sure that I have the opportunity to partner with each of you in any way that I can to help more Americans work and study and strive, and make sure that they see their efforts and their faith in this country rewarded.

I know we’ll talk more about areas where we can work together tomorrow.  So tonight, I simply would like to propose a toast to the families that support us, to the citizens that inspire us and to this exceptional country that has given us so much.  Cheers.

END
7:16 P.M. EST

Political Musings January 20, 2014 First Lady Michelle Obama turns 50 and fabulous with star-studded dance party

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

First Lady Michelle Obama turns 50 and fabulous with star-studded dance party

By Bonnie K. Goodman

First Lady Michelle Obama has had a busy birthday week leading up to turning “50 and fabulous” on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 and capping it all off with a star-studded dance party called “Snacks & Sips…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 25, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Wish Everyone a Happy Holiday Season

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPT

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Wish Everyone a Happy Holiday Season

Source: WH, 12-25-13

WASHINGTON, DC—In this week’s address, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  They also thanked our brave troops and their families for their service and sacrifice, and reminded everyone to visit JoiningForces.gov to find ways to give back to our military families this year.  Both the President and First Lady said that during this holiday season, we should all come together to find ways to support our communities, continue caring for each other and keep working to be the best parents, children, friends, neighbors, and citizens we can be.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, Wednesday, December 25, 2013.

Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 25, 2013

THE PRESIDENTHello everybody, and happy holidays.

THE FIRST LADY: We know how busy this time of year is for everyone, so we’re not going to take much of your time.

But we did want to take a moment to wish you all a Merry Christmas, from our family to yours.

THE PRESIDENT:  This is a season for millions of Americans to be together with family, to continue long-held holiday traditions, and to show our gratitude to those we love.  And along the way, some of us might even watch a little basketball or eat some Christmas cookies, too.

THE FIRST LADY: Here at the White House, over the past few weeks, we’ve had about 70,000 people from all across the country come visit us and look at our holiday decorations.

This year’s theme was “Gather Around: Stories of the Season.”

And in every room of the house, we tried to tell a story about who we are as Americans and how we celebrate the holidays together.

And we made certain to highlight some of the most powerful stories we know – the stories of our outstanding troops, veterans, and military families and their service and sacrifice for our country.

THE PRESIDENT:  Our extraordinary men and women in uniform are serving so that the rest of us can enjoy the blessings we cherish during the holidays.  But that means many of our troops are far from home and far from family.  They’re spending some extra time on the phone with their loved ones back home. Or they’re setting up video chats so they can watch as the presents are opened.  So today, we want all of our troops to know that you’re in our thoughts and prayers this holiday season.

And here’s the good news: For many of our troops and newest veterans, this might be the first time in years that they’ve been with their families on Christmas.  In fact, with the Iraq war over and the transition in Afghanistan, fewer of our men and women in uniform are deployed in harm’s way than at any time in the last decade.

THE FIRST LADY: And that’s something we all can be thankful for.

And with more and more of our troops back here at home, now it’s our turn to serve – it’s our turn to step up and show our gratitude for the military families who have given us so much.

And that’s why Jill Biden and I started our Joining Forces initiative – to rally all Americans to support our military families in ways large and small.

And again and again, we have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve gotten as folks from across the country have found new ways to give back to these families through their schools, businesses, and houses of worship.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s the same spirit of giving that connects all of us during the holidays.  So many people all across the country are helping out at soup kitchens, buying gifts for children in need, or organizing food or clothing drives for their neighbors.  For families like ours, that service is a chance to celebrate the birth of Christ and live out what He taught us – to love our neighbors as we would ourselves; to feed the hungry and look after the sick; to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.  And for all of us as Americans, regardless of our faith, those are values that can drive us to be better parents and friends, better neighbors and better citizens.

THE FIRST LADY: So as we look to the New Year, let’s pledge ourselves to living out those values by reaching out and lifting up those in our communities who could use a hand up.

THE PRESIDENT:  So Merry Christmas, everyone.  And from the two of us, as well as Malia, Sasha, Grandma, Bo…

THE FIRST LADY: And Sunny, the newest Obama.

THE PRESIDENT:  We wish you all a blessed and safe holiday season.

THE FIRST LADY: Happy holidays everybody, and God bless.

Full Text Obama Presidency December 8, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at 2013 Kennedy Center Honors Reception

Remarks by the President at 2013 Kennedy Center Honors Reception

Source: WH, 12-8-13

 

s

East Room

5:20 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, good evening, everyone.  On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.  This is truly one of our favorite nights of the year, and not just because of everyone who visits the White House — this group also usually wins “best dressed” award.  (Laughter.)  All of you look spectacular.  I am a little disappointed that Carlos Santana wore one of his more conservative shirts this evening.  (Laughter.)  Back in the day, you could see those things from space.  (Laughter.)

I want to start by thanking everyone who dedicates themselves to making the Kennedy Center such a wonderful place for the American people to experience the arts — David Rubenstein, the Kennedy Center trustees, and of course, Michael Kaiser, who will conclude 13 years of tremendous service as the president of the Kennedy Center next year.  (Applause.)  So on behalf of Michelle and myself, we want to all thank Michael so much for the extraordinary work that he has done.

As always, this celebration wouldn’t be what it is without the enthusiasm of the co-chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, George Stevens.  George.  (Applause.)  And his son, Michael.  And together, for years they’ve put on this event to honor the artists whose brilliance has touched our lives.

President Kennedy once said of such creative genius that, “The highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may.”  Now, that’s easy to say when — as they do for these artists — the chips usually fall in your favor, whether at Woodstock or the Oscars or elite venues all over the world.

But the fact is that the diverse group of extraordinary individuals we honor today haven’t just proven themselves to be the best of the best.  Despite all their success, all their fame, they’ve remained true to themselves — and inspired the rest of us to do the same.

Growing up in Harlem, Martina Arroyo’s parents told her she could be and do anything.  That was until she said that she wanted to be an opera singer.  (Laughter.)  Her father — perhaps not fully appreciating the versatility required of an opera singer — said he didn’t want his daughter to be like a can-can girl.  (Laughter.)  In her neighborhood back then, opera was not the obvious career path.  And there weren’t a lot of opera singers who looked like her that she could look up to.

But Martina had a dream she couldn’t shake, so she auditioned relentlessly and jumped at any role she could get.  Along the way, she earned money by teaching and working as a social worker in New York City.  And when she got a call from the Metropolitan Opera asking her to fill in the lead for “Aida,” she was sure it was just a friend pulling her leg.  It wasn’t until they called back that she realized the request was real, and she just about fell over in shock.  But in that breakout role she won fans around the world, beloved for her tremendous voice and unparalleled grace.

Martina has sung the great roles:  Mozart’s Donna Anna, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Verdi’s Lady Macbeth, and, of course, Aida.  She’s played the world’s stages, from Cincinnati to Paris to Israel.  She’s broken through barriers, broadening our notion of what magnificent artists look like and where they come from.

And along the way, she’s helped people of all ages, all over the world, discover the art form that she loves so deeply.  For a lot of folks, it was Martina Arroyo who helped them see and hear and love the beauty and power of opera.  And with her charitable foundation, she is nurturing the next generation of performers — smart, talented, driven, and joyous, just like her.  For moving us with the power of her voice and empowering others to share theirs too, we honor Martina Arroyo.  (Applause.)

Herbie Hancock played his first concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra when he was 11 years old.  Two years later, he heard a classmate play jazz piano at a variety show and thought, “That’s my instrument, and he can do that?  Why can’t I?”  It turned out he could.  (Laughter.)

By 23, Herbie was playing with Miles Davis in New York and on his way to becoming a jazz legend.  And he didn’t stop there.  In the seventies, he put his electrical engineering studies to work and helped create electronic music.  In the eighties, his hit “Rockit” became an anthem for a fledging new genre called hip-hop.  At one recent show, he played alongside an iMac and five iPads.  (Laughter.)  And a few years ago, he became the first jazz artist in 43 years to win a Grammy for best album.

But what makes Herbie so special isn’t just how he approaches music; it’s how he approaches life.  He tours the world as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.  He’s done so many benefit concerts that Joni Mitchell once gave him a watch inscribed with the words:  “He played real good for free.”  (Laughter.)  And we know this because he’s played here for free a lot.  (Laughter and applause.)  We work Herbie, I’m telling you.  (Laughter.)

But we just love the man.  Michelle and I love this man, not just because he’s from Chicago.  Not just because he and I had the same hairdo in the 1970s.  (Laughter.)  Not just because he’s got that spooky Dorian Gray doesn’t-get-older thing going on.  (Laughter.)  It is his spirit, it is his energy — which is relentless and challenging, and he’s always pushing boundaries.  Herbie once said of his outlook, “We’re going to see some unbelievable changes.  And I would rather be on the side of pushing for that than waiting for somebody else to do it.”

Well, Herbie, we are glad that you didn’t wait for somebody else to do what you’ve done, because nobody else could.  For always pushing us forward, we honor Herbie Hancock.  (Applause.)
When a 22-year-old Carlos Santana took the stage at Woodstock, few people outside his hometown of San Francisco knew who he was.  And the feeling was mutual.  Carlos was in such a — shall we say — altered state of mind that he remembers almost nothing about the other performers.  (Laughter and applause.)  He thought the neck of his guitar was an electric snake.  (Laughter.)

But that did not stop Carlos and his band from whipping the crowd into a such frenzy with a mind-blowing mix of blues, and jazz, and R&B, and Latin music.  They’d never heard anything like it.  And almost overnight, Carlos Santana became a star.

It was a pretty steep climb for a young man who grew up in Mexico, playing the violin for tourists, charging fifty cents a song.  But as a teenager, Carlos fell in love with the guitar.  He developed a distinctive sound that has drawn admirers from Bob Dylan to Herbie Hancock.  And he gave voice to a Latino community that had too often been invisible to too many Americans.  “You can cuss or you can pray with the guitar,” Carlos says.  He found a way to do both.  (Laughter.)

And today, with 10 Grammys under his belt, Carlos is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time.  And he’s still attracting new fans.  Back in 2000, his album “Supernatural” beat out Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys to get to the Number 1 on the charts.  Kids were listening to Carlos who hadn’t even heard of Woodstock.

But despite all his success, Carlos says he still feels blessed to “be able to play a piece of wood with strings and touch people’s hearts.”  So for blessing all of us with his music, we honor Carlos Santana.  (Applause.)

Now, when you first become President, one of the questions that people ask you is, what’s really going on in Area 51?  (Laughter.)  When I wanted to know, I’d call Shirley MacLaine.  (Laughter.)  I think I just became the first President to ever publicly mention Area 51.  How’s that, Shirley?  (Laughter and applause.)

We love Shirley MacLaine.  She’s unconventional, and that makes her incomparable — with nearly 60 years of reign as one of the most celebrated stars in movie history to prove it.  “There are some performers that are indelible,” said one fan about Shirley.  “We fall early and we fall hard for them and we follow them for the rest of their lives.”  Now, that fan just happens to be a legend in her own right, who we honored here two years ago — Meryl Streep.  But Meryl is not the only one who fell hard.

Shirley has been drawing fans, including me, since — well, not since she first lit up the big screen — because in 1955 she was in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Trouble with Harry,” but she’s still spitting fire with the same old spunk, most recently playing the American grandma in “Downton Abbey,” which Michelle I think got some early previews for.  (Laughter.)  Along the way, Shirley has racked up just about every Hollywood award that is out there.  That’s why her nickname, “Powerhouse,” is so fitting.  The truth is Shirley earned that nickname for hitting the most home runs on the boys’ baseball team when she was a kid.  But I’d say that it still works pretty well to describe her today.

And that’s because Shirley MacLaine’s career isn’t defined by a list of film roles and musical performances.  Through raucous comedies, and stirring dramas, and spirited musicals, Shirley has been fearless and she’s been honest, and she’s tackled complicated characters, and she’s revealed a grittier, deeper truth in each one of those characters — giving every audience the experience of cinema at its best.  It’s a motto she has lived by:  “Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb.  That’s where all the fruit is.”  For her risk-taking, for her theatrical brilliance, for her limitless capacity for wonder, we honor this American powerhouse — Shirley MacLaine.  (Applause.)

And finally, in a world full of brilliant musicians, there’s only one Piano Man.  The son of a Jewish father who left Germany for America to escape the Nazis, Billy Joel started piano lessons as a boy growing up on Long Island.  His father was a classical pianist, so that was Billy’s training too — until the night he and millions of Americans watched The Beatles play the Ed Sullivan Show.  Most people thought, “I want to hear more music like that.”  But Billy thought, “I want to make my own music like that.”  And from then on, it was all rock and roll to him.

With lyrics that speak of love and class and failure and success, angry young men and the joy of becoming a father, he’s become one of the most successful musicians in history, selling more than 150 million records.

Above all, Billy Joel sings about America:  About the workers living in Allentown after the factories closed down.  About soldiers home from the war, forever changed, bidding “Goodnight Saigon.”  Commercial fishermen struggling to make a living in the waters off of Long Island, sailing the Downeaster Alexa.  The sights and sounds of that city like no other, which can put anyone in a “New York State of Mind.”  And of course, the rag-tag bunch of regulars at the bar where he started out, shouting at him again and again to “sing us a song.”

Billy Joel probably would have been a songwriter no matter where he was born.  But we are certainly lucky that he ended up here.  And the hardworking folks he’s met and the music that he’s heard across our nation come through in every note and every lyric that he’s written.  For an artist whose songs are sung around the world, but which are thoroughly, wonderfully American, we honor Billy Joel.  (Applause.)

So, Martina Arroyo, Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Shirley MacLaine,  Billy Joel — each of our brilliant honorees has given us something unique and enriched us beyond measure, as individuals and as a nation.  Together they bring us closer to President Kennedy’s vision of the arts as a great humanizing and truth-telling experience.

Their triumphs have lifted our spirits and lifted our nation and left us a better and richer place.  And for that we will always be grateful.   So we thank you all.

God bless you, and please join me in saluting one more time our remarkable 2013 Kennedy Center Honorees.  (Applause.)

END
5:36 P.M. EST

Political Musings December 7, 2013: On eighth day of Hanukkah Obama hosts two holiday receptions

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

On eighth day of Hanukkah Obama hosts two holiday receptions

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With all the Christmas receptions the White House will host throughout December, at least two were dedicated to the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. On Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 President Barack Obama along with First Lady Michelle Obama hosted two Hanukkah…READ MORE

Political Musings December 7, 2013: Michelle Obama unveils White House Christmas decorations with minor Sunny mishap

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

Michelle Obama unveils White House Christmas decorations with minor Sunny mishap

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The holiday season is in full swing at the White House, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the White House decorations and the official holiday theme, “Gather Around: Stories of the Season,” to the…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 5, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Evening Hanukkah reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by The President at evening Hanukkah reception, 12/5/2013

Source: WH, 12-5-13 

Grand Foyer

8:03 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody. (Applause.)  Welcome to the White House and Happy Hanukkah.  I should say that normally we just have one Hanukkah reception, but this year we’re hosting two.  We have so many friends to celebrate with we had to do it twice.  I welcomed a whole other group this afternoon.  But I want you — don’t tell them, this is actually my favorite group right here.  (Laughter.)  It’s our own little Hanukkah miracle — the party was supposed to last for one hour and it’s lasted for eight.  (Laughter.)

I want to welcome so many friends and leaders from throughout the Jewish community.  We are honored to be joined by one-third of our Supreme Court:  Justice Ginsberg — (applause) — Justice Kagan, who is here somewhere — (applause) — there she is.  And Justice Breyer is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got some outstanding members of Congress, members of my administration with us, including our new Director of Jewish Outreach, Matt Nosanchuk.  (Applause.)  Where’s Matt?  Matt is out here somewhere.

I also want to welcome representatives from the State of Israel who are joining us.  As some of you recall, I had just an extraordinary, magical visit to Israel earlier this year and was proud to reaffirm the alliance between our two great democracies.  (Applause.)  I also had the opportunity to go to an expo where I saw the best of Israeli technology.  And there’s been such a burst of innovation and creativity that’s taking place — including, by the way, I saw a robot that served me matzah.  (Laughter.)  We were thinking about having that robot here to serve latkes, but we couldn’t get him — (laughter) — so maybe next year.

Obviously, on a note of seriousness, tonight our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family in South Africa.  They’re grieving the loss of a man, a moral giant who embodied the dignity and the courage and the hope, and sought to bring about justice not only in South Africa, but I think to inspire millions of people around the world.  And he did that, the idea that every single human being ought to be free and that oppression can end and justice can prevail.  (Applause.)

That’s what –

JUSTICE:  Yes.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That was a Supreme Court Justice who said “yes.”  (Laughter.)  That’s what Nelson Mandela taught us, and it’s that same spirit that brings us here tonight.

And over the last eight days, Jews around the world have gathered with friends and family to light the menorah and retell the story that has been kept alive for more than 2,000 years.  And it’s a story of miracles, of a light that burned for eight days when it should have only lasted for one and a people who surmounted overwhelming odds to reclaim their historic homeland, so they could live their lives in peace and practice their religion in peace.

It’s a story that has been repeated countless times throughout Jewish history.  And as we light the candles tonight, we’re reminded that we’re still writing new chapters in that story today.  In 1922, Abraham and Hayyah Ettinger donated this menorah to their congregation in a small town that’s now the Czech Republic.  And tragically, the Ettingers — and their prayer hall — were lost in the Holocaust.

Yet even in the face of tragedy, Jewish communities around the world kept alive a light that would not be extinguished — the hope that freedom would triumph over tyranny.  And tonight, we’re honored that the menorah that once belonged to the Ettingers will be lit by two Holocaust survivors from the former Czechoslovakia — Margit Meissner and Martin Weiss.  (Applause.)  The triumph they represent and the triumph this menorah represents, the progress that it represents, the notion that we can join together here tonight reminds us that we can never take our blessings for granted and that we always need to keep working for peace and the freedom that we seek.

And that’s why we continue to stand up for our values around the world.  That’s why we stand alongside and partner with those allies who share those values, including the State of Israel.  Together with our Israeli friends, we’re determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  (Applause.)  And we’re testing whether it’s possible through diplomacy to achieve that goal, understanding that we have to remain vigilant.

For the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program.  And key parts of the program — (applause) — key parts of the program will be rolled back, even though the toughest of our sanctions remain in place.  And that’s good for the world and that’s good for Israel.  Over the coming months, we’re going to continue our diplomacy with the goal of achieving a comprehensive solution that deals with the threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons once and for all.  And through it all, as always, our commitment to Israel and its security will remain iron clad and unshakeable.  (Applause.)

Building a future of security and peace is not easy.  But the story of Hanukkah, of survivors like Margit and Martin — leaders like Nelson Mandela — remind us that those who came before us overcame even greater obstacles than those that we face.  So let’s take strength from their struggles and from their sacrifice.  Let’s give thanks for miracles large and small.  Let’s recommit ourselves to building a future that shines with hope and freedom and peace.  I want to thank all of you for the contributions you’ve made to communities across the country and the many friends who have been so supportive to Michelle and myself during these years.

And with that, I want to welcome Rabbi Joshua Sherwin, a lieutenant in the United States Navy, to say a blessing.  (Applause.)

RABBI SHERWIN:  Thank you, Mr. President.  As Hanukkah formally ends this evening, it is appropriate for us to gather to remind ourselves and the world the true meaning of this holiday.  In that spirit, at this wonderful gathering, we now kindle the menorah and recite two blessings as we kindle these lights — the she-asa nissim, thanking God for the miraculous capability to bring light to the darkest corners of the world and for the leaders who are dedicated to strengthening religious freedom in our days just as the Maccabees did in ancient ones.

The second bracha — we’ll all join together in the shehecheyanu, the simple yet powerful prayer of thanks giving for the blessing of life, for the gift of light and for the privilege of celebrating this Hanukkah together.  I invite you to join me.

(Prayer is sung.)

THE PRESIDENT:  They came in a little late, but that’s okay.  (Laughter.)  There is only one last piece of business that I need to do.  This was prepared for us.  Some of you may be aware that Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah converge only every 70,000 years.  (Laughter.)  So presumably, this is the first and the last time that this may be used.  (Laughter.)  This was prepared for us.  This is called a Menurkey.  (Laughter.)

And I just wanted to make sure that those of you who were not familiar with the Menurkey — (laughter) — that we had our own here in the White House.  (Laughter.)  Enjoy the reception, everybody.  Thank you so much.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
8:15 P.M. EST

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