Full Text December 2, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech for World Aids Day

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Getting to Zero on World AIDS Day

Source: WH, 12-1-11

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (132MB) | mp3 (13MB)

President Obama today marked World AIDS Day, speaking at an event called “The Beginning of the End of AIDS” where he outlined the progress that has been made in the global fight against the pandemic:

Because we invested in anti-retroviral treatment, people who would have died, some of whom are here today, are living full and vibrant lives. Because we developed new tools, more and more mothers are giving birth to children free from this disease. And because of a persistent focus on awareness, the global rate of new infections and deaths is declining. So make no mistake, we are going to win this fight.

AIDS has claimed 30 million lives over the past three decades, and while the rate of new infections is going down in many countries, the President acknowledged that it is not declining in America:

The infection rate here has been holding steady for over a decade. There are communities in this country being devastated, still, by this disease.

When new infections among young black gay men increase by nearly 50 percent in 3 years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter. When Latinos are dying sooner than other groups, and when black women feel forgotten, even though they account for most of the new cases among women, then we’ve got to do more.

So this fight is not over. Not for the 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV right now. Not for the Americans who are infected every day. This fight is not over for them, it’s not over for their families, and as a consequence, it can’t be over for anybody in this room — and it certainly isn’t over for your President.

20111201 POTUS World AIDS DayPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on World Aid’s Day event at George Washington University in Washington, Dec. 1, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The President announced that he is directing $50 million in increased funding for domestic HIV/AIDS treatment and care — an additional $15 million for the Ryan White program for HIV medical clinics across the country. and an additional $35 million for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. He also pledged that America will continue to be a leader in the global fight against the pandemic:

Now, as we go forward, we’ve got to keep refining our strategy so that we’re saving as many lives as possible. We need to listen when the scientific community focuses on prevention. That’s why, as a matter of policy, we’re now investing in what works — from medical procedures to promoting healthy behavior.

And that’s why we’re setting a goal of providing anti-retroviral drugs to more than 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women over the next two years so that they have the chance to give birth to HIV-free babies.

We’re not going to stop there. We know that treatment is also prevention. And today, we’re setting a new target of helping 6 million people get treatment by the end of 2013. That’s 2 million more people than our original goal.

Today’s event was sponsored by the ONE and (Red) campaigns and also featured remarks from Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, via satellite.

20111201 BonoMusician Bono, center, listens as President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a World AIDS Day event at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Watch the Video

Remarks by the President on World AIDS Day

George Washington University
Washington, D.C.

10:27 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, Sanjay.  It is an honor to be with you today and to follow President Kikwete and President Bush.  To Bono and Alicia, to the ONE campaign, thank you for bringing us together.  Because of your work, all across Africa there are children who are no longer starving, mothers who are no longer dying of treatable diseases, fathers who are again providing for their families.  And because of all of you, so many people are now blessed with hope.

We’ve got members of Congress who have done so much for this cause who are here today, and we want to thank them.  Let me also thank President Bush for joining us from Tanzania and for his bold leadership on this issue.  I believe that history will record the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief as one of his greatest legacies.  And that program — more ambitious than even the leading advocates thought was possible at the time — has saved thousands and thousands and thousands of lives, and spurred international action, and laid the foundation for a comprehensive global plan that will impact the lives of millions.  And we are proud that we have the opportunity to carry that work forward.

Today is a remarkable day.  Today, we come together as a global community, across continents, across faiths and cultures, to renew our commitment to ending the AIDS pandemic once and for all.

Now, if you go back and you look at the themes of past World AIDS Days, if you read them one after another, you’ll see the story of how the human race has confronted one of the most devastating pandemics in our history.  You’ll see that in those early years — when we started losing good men and women to a disease that no one truly understood — it was about ringing the alarm, calling for global action, proving that this deadly disease was not isolated to one area or one group of people.

And that’s part of what makes today so remarkable, because back in those early years, few could have imagined this day — that we would be looking ahead to “The Beginning of the End,” marking a World AIDS Day that has gone from that early beginning when people were still uncertain to now a theme, “Getting to Zero.”  Few could have imagined that we’d be talking about the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation.  But that’s what we’re talking about.  That’s why we’re here.  And we arrived here because of all of you and your unwavering belief that we can — and we will — beat this disease.

Because we invested in anti-retroviral treatment, people who would have died, some of whom are here today, are living full and vibrant lives.  Because we developed new tools, more and more mothers are giving birth to children free from this disease.  And because of a persistent focus on awareness, the global rate of new infections and deaths is declining.

So make no mistake, we are going to win this fight.  But the fight is not over — not by a long shot.  The rate of new infections may be going down elsewhere, but it’s not going down here in America.  The infection rate here has been holding steady for over a decade.  There are communities in this country being devastated, still, by this disease.

When new infections among young black gay men increase by nearly 50 percent in 3 years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter.  When Latinos are dying sooner than other groups, and when black women feel forgotten, even though they account for most of the new cases among women, then we’ve got to do more.

So this fight is not over.  Not for the 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV right now.  Not for the Americans who are infected every day.  This fight is not over for them, it’s not over for their families, and as a consequence, it can’t be over for anybody in this room — and it certainly isn’t over for your President.

Since I took office, we’ve had a robust national dialogue on HIV/AIDS.  Members of my administration have fanned out across the country to meet people living with HIV; to meet researchers, faith leaders, medical providers and private sector partners.  We’ve spoken to over 4,000 people.  And out of all those conversations, we drafted a new plan to combat this disease.  Last year, we released that plan — a first-ever national HIV/AIDS strategy.

We went back to basics:  prevention, treatment and focusing our efforts where the need is greatest.  And we laid out a vision where every American, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socioeconomic status, can get access to life-extending care.

And I want to be clear about something else:  Since taking office, we’ve increased overall funding to combat HIV/AIDS to record levels.  With bipartisan support, we reauthorized the Ryan White Care Act.  And as I signed that bill, I was so proud to also announce that my administration was ending the ban that prohibited people with HIV from entering America.  (Applause.)  Because of that step, next year, for the first time in two decades, we will host the international AIDS conference.  (Applause.)

So we’ve done a lot over the past three years, but we can do so much more.  Today, I’m announcing some new commitments.  We’re committing an additional $15 million for the Ryan White Program that supports care provided by HIV medical clinics across the country.  We want to keep those doors open so they can keep saving lives.  We’re committing an additional $35 million for state AIDS-drug assistance programs.

The federal government can’t do this alone, so I’m also calling on state governments, and pharmaceutical companies, and private foundations to do their part to help Americans get access to all the life-saving treatments.

This is a global fight, and it’s one that America must continue to lead.  Looking back at the history of HIV/AIDS, you’ll see that no other country has done more than this country, and that’s testament to our leadership as a country.  But we can’t be complacent.

I think this is an area where we can also look back and take pride that both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have consistently come together to fund this fight — not just here, but around the world.  And that’s a testament to the values that we share as Americans; a commitment that extends across party lines, that’s demonstrated by the fact that President Bush, President Clinton and I are joining you all today.

Since I took office, we’ve increased support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  We’ve launched a Global Health Initiative that has improved access to health care, helping bring down the cost of vaccines, and over the next five years, will help save the lives of 4 million more children.  And all along, we kept focusing on expanding our impact.

Today, I’m proud to announce that as of September, the United States now supports anti-retroviral treatment for nearly 4 million people worldwide.  (Applause.)  Four million people.  And in just the past year, we’ve provided 600,000 HIV-positive mothers with access to drugs so that 200,000 babies could be born HIV-free.  (Applause.)  And nearly 13 million people have received care and treatment, including more than 4 million children.  So we’ve got some stuff to be proud of.

But we’ve got to do more.  We’re achieving these results not by acting alone, but by partnering with developing countries like Tanzania, and with leaders like President Kikwete.

Now, as we go forward, we’ve got to keep refining our strategy so that we’re saving as many lives as possible.  We need to listen when the scientific community focuses on prevention.  That’s why, as a matter of policy, we’re now investing in what works — from medical procedures to promoting healthy behavior.

And that’s why we’re setting a goal of providing anti-retroviral drugs to more than 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women over the next two years so that they have the chance to give birth to HIV-free babies.

We’re not going to stop there. We know that treatment is also prevention.  And today, we’re setting a new target of helping 6 million people get treatment by the end of 2013.  (Applause.)  That’s 2 million more people than our original goal.

And on this World AIDS Day, here’s my message to everybody who is out there:

To the global community — we ask you to join us.  Countries that have committed to the Global Fund need to give the money that they promised.  (Applause.)  Countries that haven’t made a pledge, they need to do so.  (Applause.)  That includes countries that in the past might have been recipients, but now are in a position to step up as major donors.  China and other major economies are in a position now to transition in a way that can help more people.

To Congress — keep working together and keep the commitments you’ve made intact.  At a time when so much in Washington divides us, the fight against this disease has united us across parties and across presidents.  And it shows that we can do big things when Republicans and Democrats put their common humanity before politics.  So we need to carry that spirit forward.

And to all Americans — we’ve got to keep fighting.  Fight for every person who needs our help today, but also fight for every person who didn’t live to see this moment; for the Rock Hudsons and the Arthur Ashes, and every person who woke us up to the reality of HIV/AIDS.  We’ve got to fight for Ryan White and his mother Jeanne, and the Ray brothers, and every person who forced us to confront our destructive prejudices and our misguided fears.  Fight for Magic Johnson and Mary Fisher, and every man, woman and child, who, when told they were going to die from this disease, they said, “No, we’re not.  We’re going to live.”

Keep fighting for all of them because we can end this pandemic.  We can beat this disease.  We can win this fight.  We just have to keep at it, steady, persistent — today, tomorrow, every day until we get to zero.  And as long as I have the honor of being your President, that’s what this administration is going to keep doing.  That’s my pledge.  That’s my commitment to all of you.  And that’s got to be our promise to each other — because we’ve come so far and we’ve saved so many lives, we might as well finish the fight.

Thank you for all you’ve done.  God bless you.  God bless America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
10:41 A.M. EST

Full Text December 2, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Tribal Nations Conference

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Obama at the Tribal Nations Conference

Source: WH, 12-2-11

20111202 POTUS Tribal NationsPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks during the 2011 Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of Interior, Washington, D.C., Dec. 2, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, for the third year, President Obama hosted the White House Tribal Nations Conference here in Washington, DC. The goal of the event is to provide leaders from America’s 565 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with members of the Obama administration — including the President. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and OMB Deputy Director Heather Higginbottom were all in attendance.

Speaking at the close of the conference, President Obama discussed the work he’s done to improve communications between tribal nations and the federal government — and his commitment to helping Indian communities realize prosperous futures. It’s a set of changes that is starting to take effect:

While our work together is far from over, today we can see what change looks like.  It’s the Native American-owned small business that’s opening its doors, or a worker helping a school renovate.  It’s new roads and houses.  It’s wind turbines going up on tribal lands, and crime going down in tribal communities. That’s what change looks like.

Before his remarks, President Obama signed an executive order to expand educational opportunities for First American students aimed helping to preserve Native languages, cultures, and histories, while ensuring that these young people are prepared for colleges and careers. Read the order here.

 

20111202 POTUS Tribal Nations Parents

President Barack Obama is joined onstage by his adopted Native American parents, Hartford “Sonny” Black Eagle and Mary Black Eagle, during the 2011 Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of Interior, Washington, D.C., Dec. 2, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at the 2011 Tribal Nations Conference

Department of Interior
Washington, D.C.

2:20 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you. Everybody please have a seat.  It is wonderful to see all of you. Thank you, Phyllis, for the wonderful introduction.

I want to thank all the tribal leaders who are here for making this year’s conference the most successful yet.  I want to acknowledge outstanding members of my team that have helped pull this together, but, more importantly, day in and day out are thinking about what we can do to make sure that all the tribes that are represented have a voice here in Washington.

First of all, my outstanding Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar.  We are so proud of him.  (Applause.)  Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Larry Echo Hawk.  (Applause.)  Hey! And our outstanding solicitor for the Department of Interior, Hilary Tompkins.  (Applause.)

Now, today, I’m here not only as President.  As I’ve mentioned before, I am also here as an adopted member of the Crow Nation.  (Applause.)  So I’d like to recognize my adoptive Mom and Dad, Sonny and Mary Black Eagle, who are backstage.  They’re going to be coming out here in a little bit.  I’m so grateful they took me into their family.  I bet they’re grateful that I never went through the “terrible twos” — (laughter) — or “terrible teens.”  They got me after I was a little more polished.  (Laughter.)

Ken Salazar, he works so hard on the issues that matter to all of you.  And we also have members of Congress here as well who are great partners in this effort.  And I finally — I want to give a shout-out to the young people who are here as part of the White House program called “Champions for Change.”  (Applause.)  Really remarkable young people.  I had a chance to meet them backstage.  There’s Teressa Baldwin, who’s working to prevent teen suicide among Alaska Natives.  LeVon Thomas, who’s bringing green jobs to the Navajo Nation.  Dallas Duplessis, who started a gardening club to promote healthy eating in Tulalip, Washington.  She wrote, “Our goal is not to be couch potatoes, but to grow some potatoes.”  (Laughter.)  I think Michelle would like that one.

Standing in this room, with leaders of all ages, it’s impossible not to be optimistic about the future of Indian Country.  Obviously, we face tough times.  But you still believe that tomorrow can be better than today.  You’re out there making your communities better places to live.  What you expect — and what you deserve — is a federal government that helps, not hinders, your efforts.  You deserve leaders in Washington who fight for you every single day.

That’s one of the reasons I ran for this office.  When I visited the Crow Nation during the campaign, I said my job was not just to win an election; it was to make sure that Washington starts focusing on you.  I promised a true government-to-government relationship — a relationship that recognizes our sometimes painful history, a relationship that respects the unique heritage of Native Americans and that includes you in the dream that we all share.

And together, we’re building that relationship.  I told you I would bring tribal leaders to Washington to reflect — to develop an agenda that reflects your hopes and your concerns.  And now, for a third year in a row, we have kept that promise. (Applause.)  I told you that when I was President, we wouldn’t just pay lip service to the idea of consultation.  And today, we’re holding every Cabinet agency responsible for working together with Indian tribes.

I told you I’d appoint Native Americans to senior positions in the White House.  And I know that many of you have worked with Kim Teehee of Cherokee Nation, my senior policy advisor for Native American issues; and Charlie Galbraith of the Navajo Nation, in our office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

We’re working to make our government-to-government relationship even stronger.  We asked Congress to recognize the power of tribes to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence, whether they’re Indian or non-Indian.  (Applause.)  And in the wake of the Carcieri decision, we’ve asked Congress to restore the Secretary of the Interior’s authority to take land into trust for federally recognized Indian tribes.  (Applause.)

So this new relationship represents a major step forward.  It is change.  But I promised even more than that.  I told you that as President, I would work with you to tackle the most difficult problems facing Native American families.  And that’s exactly what we’ve done.  We passed the Tribal Law and Order Act, and began making Indian Country a safer place to live.  We permanently authorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, and made quality health care accessible to more Native Americans.

Just this week, we streamlined leasing regulations, which will lead to more homes, more businesses, more renewable energy on the reservation.  That’s what change is.  (Applause.)

And finally, we said that even as we include Indian tribes in the broader promise of America, we’re going to keep native traditions alive.  So when Michelle launched Let’s Move! in Indian Country, she brought lacrosse players to the White House, and invited Native American children to plant the “three sisters” crops in the White House vegetable garden.

While our work together is far from over, today we can see what change looks like.  It’s the Native American-owned small business that’s opening its doors, or a worker helping a school renovate.  It’s new roads and houses.  It’s wind turbines going up on tribal lands, and crime going down in tribal communities. That’s what change looks like.

So we should be proud of what we’ve done — together.  But of course, that should sharpen our resolve to do even more.  Because as long as Native Americans face unemployment and poverty rates that are far higher than the national average, we’re going to have more work to do.  And I wake up every day focused on how to get this economy growing and create jobs for every American, faster.  We’re working to rebuild an economy where no matter who you are, no matter what you look like -– black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American –- you can make it if you try.

And that’s why I proposed the American Jobs Act — to help all Americans, including First Americans, make it through these tough times.  It’s why my administration has addressed the obstacles that are unique to Indian country by guaranteeing loans for homeowners and small business owners and tribes.  It’s why we’re working to equip your communities with high-speed Internet access.
And even as we meet at this moment, we have to prepare the next generation for the future — which is why, earlier today, I signed an executive order to launch the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education.  (Applause.)

Secretary Duncan — who is here — Secretary Salazar, they’re going to work together on this effort to prepare Native American youth to compete for the high-skilled, good jobs of tomorrow.  We’re going to find ways to reduce the dropout rate.  We’re going to help students who’ve already dropped out re-enter the education system.  And we’re going to strengthen our Tribal Colleges and Universities.  They are cornerstones of their community and they deserve our support.

So we’ve made progress together.  And a lot of that progress is possible because of all of you — because the ideas that you’ve shared at the last two conferences, and that you’re sharing at this conference.  And that’s why I’m looking forward to hearing the results of the discussion that you have today.  I want to know what we can do to keep tackling the tough issues — from education to jobs to health care to public safety.

It would be nice to say that the work was done, but we know the truth.  We haven’t solved all our problems.  We’ve got a long road ahead.  But I believe that one day, we’re going to be able to look back on these years and say that this was a turning point.  This was the moment when we began to build a strong middle class in Indian Country; the moment when businesses, large and small, began opening up in reservations; the moment when we stopped repeating the mistakes of the past, and began building a better future together, one that honors old traditions and welcomes every Native American into the American Dream.

We’ve got to finish what we started.  So today, I want to thank all of you for everything that you do.  I want to ask you to keep going.  And when you go back home, making your communities better places to live, I want you all to know that you’ve got a partner in Washington.  You have an administration that understands the challenges that you face and, most importantly, you’ve got a President who’s got your back.  (Applause.)
So thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
2:30 P.M. EST

Full Text December 2, 2011: President Barack Obama & Former President Bill Clinton Announce $4 Billion Investment Better Buildings Initiative — Making Buildings More Energy Efficient

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Announces $4 Billion Investment to Make Buildings More Energy Efficient

Source: WH, 12-2-11
President Obama and President Clinton tour Transwestern BuildingPresident Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton take a tour of the upgrades of the Transwestern Building in Washington, Dec. 2, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

This morning, President Obama met with former President Bill Clinton to announce the next piece of the “We Can’t Wait” campaign — a $4 billion effort to improve energy efficiency in buildings across the country.

The two were joined by Tom Donohue — the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — and Randi Weingarten — the president of the American Federation of Teachers.

The group toured a building in northwest Washington that’s currently seeing an efficiency upgrade. That improvement employs around 250 full-time workers and will save the building $200,000 a year on its energy bills.

Making our buildings more energy efficient is one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways for us to create jobs, save money, and cut down on harmful pollution, President Obama said:

It is a trifecta, which is why you’ve got labor and business behind it.  It could save our businesses up to $40 billion a year on their energy bills – money better spent growing and hiring new workers.  It would boost manufacturing of energy-efficient materials.  And when millions of construction workers have found themselves out of work since the housing bubble burst, it will put them back to work doing the work that America needs done.  So this is an idea whose time has come.

As part of today’s announcement, President Obama directed all Federal agencies to make at least $2 billion worth of energy efficiency upgrades over the next two months. Additionally, 60 private companies, hospitals, cities, states, colleges, and universities, among others, have collectively committed another $2 billion in energy efficiency retrofits to 1.6 billion square feet of property—roughly the equivalent of 500 Empire State Buildings.

The investments announced today are part of President Obama’s Better Buildings Initiative, which set a goal of improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings by 20 percent by 2020. The initiative will reduce energy bills for businesses by $40 billion per year, and one report found it could create up to 114,000 jobs.

More information:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by President Obama and Former President Clinton on We Can’t Wait: Better Buildings Initiative

Transwestern Building
Washington, D.C.
11:28 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT CLINTON:  Well, I never got to open for The Rolling Stones, so I’ll try to do my best for the President.

Thank you all for being here, and I want to thank all the people involved in the tour that we just received for their commitment to energy efficiency and all the people they put to work.

Mr. President, I want to thank you and Secretary Chu and Gene Sperling and your whole team.  Tom Donohue and Randi Weingarten, thank you for joining together today for what you are doing.

When the President asked me to work with his Jobs Council on improving energy efficiency in buildings, I think he did it because the Clinton Global Initiative and my own climate change project have been working on these kinds of things for several years now, and I believe as strongly as I can say that this is good business, creates jobs, makes us more energy independent and helps to fight climate change.  It’s the nearest thing we’ve got to a free lunch in a tough economy, because all of the savings can be paid back within a reasonable amount of time — I mean, all the costs of the construction — through lower utility bills.

So we’ve been working on that.  And the President has an announcement to make about that today.

I just want to say how grateful I am to Rich Trumka and the AFL-CIO and to Randi Weingarten for the work that labor has done in putting up some of the pension funds from California and some other funds they have to actually invest their own money gambling that they can get a reasonable return and putting people to work.  And I appreciate the support that Tom has given to this, because there are a lot of construction firms that are going to lose really skilled, gifted workers if they can’t find something to do, because there’s not a big demand for new buildings today and therefore the best opportunity to preserve and rebuild this sector is through greater energy efficiency.

I want to thank all the people who have been involved in this.  And Mr. President, I just want to say how grateful I am for the meeting we just attended.  The President’s Jobs Council and economic team put together a meeting that we were just present at — there were nearly 50 people there.  And he’ll tell you what they said they would do.  But — I hate to sound like a broken record — we could create an almost unlimited number of jobs out of this, even in this lousy economy, even with all this embedded mortgage crisis, if we can work out the financing.

And I am grateful to be able to support this, to offer the continued effort of our climate change project and the Clinton Global Initiative to help the partners we have that are involved in this and anybody else that wants it.  But I’m especially grateful that the President didn’t let this fall through the cracks.

You know that I haven’t been in that job for a long time, and I’m getting older, but I have some memory left.  And a thousand people ask you to do a thousand things.  And one of the tests of whether things work out or not, since you can’t do all thousand, is whether you can actually set up a process to do things and follow up.  And I am full of gratitude and praise, Mr. President, for you and your whole team, not just for your commitment to green energy, but for your commitment to energy efficiency, which gives you — on buildings like this, averages 7,000 jobs for every billion dollars invested — by far the greatest bang for the buck of any available investment I know.

So, thank you, Tom.  Thank you, Ricky — Randi.  And Mr. President, thanks for giving me a chance to work on this.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, good morning, everybody.  I want to first of all thank Randi and Tom for their participation.  And I am thrilled that President Clinton has been willing to take this on.  As he pointed out, partly thanks to me, he’s home alone too often.  And this has been a passion for him for quite some time.  So I am very grateful for his involvement.

I thank everybody at Transwestern and all the folks who are participating here for giving us this remarkable tour.

There are the equivalent of 250 full-time workers as a consequence of the project that’s taking place here.  It is a win for the business owners; it is a win for the tenants of this building; it is a win for the construction workers who are participating and for the property manager that’s doing such a great job.  So this is a great example of what’s possible.

As President, my most pressing challenge is doing everything I can every single day to get this economy growing faster and create more jobs.  This morning we learned that our economy added another 140,000 private sector jobs in November.  The unemployment rate went down.  And despite some strong headwinds this year, the American economy has now created in the private sector jobs for the past 21 months in a row; that’s nearly 3 million new jobs in all, and more than half a million over the last four months.

So we need to keep that growth going.  Right now, that means Congress needs to extend the payroll tax cut for working Americans for another year.  Congress needs to renew unemployment insurance for Americans who are still out there pounding the pavement and looking for work.  Failure to take either of these steps would be a significant blow to our economy.  It would take money out of the pocket of Americans who are most likely to spend it, and it would harm small businesses that depend on the spending.  It would be a bad idea.

I think it’s worth noting, by the way, I noticed that some folks on the other side have been quoting President Clinton about it’s a bad idea to raise taxes during tough economic times.  That’s precisely why I’ve sought to extend the payroll tax this year and next year.  It doesn’t mean that we lock in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans — I don’t think President Clinton has been on board for that — for perpetuity.  But just thought that might be worth mentioning.

That’s why it’s so disappointing last night, by the way, that Senate Republicans voted to block that payroll tax cut.  That effectively would raise taxes on nearly 160 million hardworking Americans because they didn’t want to ask a few hundred thousand of the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share and get the economy growing faster than everybody.  And I think that’s unacceptable.

We’re going to keep pushing Congress to make this happen.  Now is not the time to slam the brakes on the recovery.  Right now, it’s time to step on the gas.  We need to get this done.  And I expect that it’s going to get done before Congress leaves.  Otherwise, Congress may not be leaving, and we can all spend Christmas here together.

Now, our longer-term challenge is rebuilding an economy where hard work is valued and responsibility is rewarded, and the middle class and folks who are trying to get into the middle class regain some security — an economy that’s built to compete with the rest of the world, and an economy that’s built to last.

And that’s why we are here today, in a place where, clearly, there is some building going on.  President Clinton, leaders of business, leaders of labor, we’re all here to announce some new steps that are going to create good jobs rebuilding America.

This building is in the middle of a retrofitting project to make it more energy efficient.  Already, this retrofit is saving this building $200,000 a year on its energy bills.  And as I mentioned earlier, by the time it’s finished, it will have created more than 250 full-time jobs in construction here in this building.  Consider President Clinton is coming down from the New York, the fact that the owners of the Empire State Building did the same thing; they are retrofitting that iconic landmark from top to bottom.  It’s a big investment, but it will pay for itself by saving them $4.4 million a year in energy costs.  And it’s estimated that all the retrofitting that they’re doing will pay for itself in about four and a half years.

Making our buildings more energy efficient is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways for us to create jobs, save money, and cut down on harmful pollution.  It is a trifecta, which is why you’ve got labor and business behind it.  It could save our businesses up to $40 billion a year on their energy bills -– money better spent growing and hiring new workers.  It would boost manufacturing of energy-efficient materials.  And when millions of construction workers have found themselves out of work since the housing bubble burst, it will put them back to work doing the work that America needs done.  So this is an idea whose time has come.

And that’s why, in February, I announced the Better Buildings Initiative.  It’s an ambitious plan to improve the energy efficiency of America’s commercial buildings 20 percent by the year 2020.  And I asked President Clinton and my Jobs Council to challenge the private sector, as part of the initiative, to step up, make these cost-saving investments, and prove that it works, so that other companies follow their lead.

Now, I believe that if you’re willing to put people to work making your buildings more efficient, America should provide you some incentives to do so.  That’s something that would require congressional action.  And we have asked Congress to work with us to move on providing more effective incentives for commercial building owners all across the country to move forward on these energy-efficient steps.  But we can’t wait for Congress to act.  And if they won’t act, I will.

Which is why, today, I’m directing all federal agencies — all federal agencies — to make at least $2 billion worth of energy-efficiency upgrades over the next two years.  None of these upgrades will require taxpayer money to get them going.  We’re going to use performance-based contracts that use savings on energy and utility bills to pay the contractors that do the work.  And it should keep construction workers pretty busy.  In fact, this is something that the Chamber of Commerce has said is critical to private sector job creation.

The private sector and community leaders are also stepping up to the plate alongside the federal government.  President Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative have been tremendous partners in rallying them to join this effort.  So in June, at CGI America, we announced initial commitments of $500 million to upgrade 300 million square feet of building space; some of these projects are already underway.

The good news is, today, we can announce that we’re going even bigger.  We’ve received larger commitments.  We now have 60 major companies, universities, labor unions, hospitals, cities and states, and they are stepping up with nearly $2 billion in financing to upgrade an additional 1.6 billion square feet of commercial industrial space by our target year of 2020.  That’s more than 500 Empire State Buildings.

I just had the chance, along with President Clinton, to meet with representatives of these 60 institutions that are involved and hear firsthand how they can put Americans back to work but also improve their bottom lines.

So you’ve got companies like Best Buy and Walgreens that are going to upgrade store lighting, which is going to save them money.  You’ve got manufacturers like Alcoa that are going to make their manufacturing plants more efficient, dramatically reducing their operating costs which means they can compete more effectively all around the world.

You’ve got property management companies that are upgrading their buildings to make their real estate portfolios more attractive to businesses, and one is already upgrading 40,000 units of military housing all across the country, which will give our military families lower utility bills and a higher quality of life.  And all of this will create jobs.

So over the past decade we’ve seen what happens if we don’t make investments like these.  We’ve seen what happens when we don’t come together for a common purpose — wages flatline, incomes fall, employment stalls, and we lose our competitive edge.  But we’ve also seen what happens when we do what’s right.  When Bill Clinton was President we didn’t shortchange investment.  We didn’t say, we’re going to cut back on the things that we know are going to help us grow in the future.  We didn’t make decisions that put the burden on the middle class or the poor.  We lived within our means.  We invested in our future.  We asked everybody to pay their fair share.  And you know what happened?  The private sector thrived, jobs were created, the middle class grew — its income grew — millions rose out of poverty, we ran a surplus.  We were actually on track to be able to pay off all of our debt.  We were firing on all cylinders.

We can be that nation again.  That’s our goal.  We will be that nation again.  But we’re going to have to fight for it.  So there’s work to be done.  There are workers, like these guys, who are ready to do it.  There are businesses that are ready to step up.  We’ve just got to get organized, get mobilized, and move.

And so I just want to thank everybody who’s participating here for stepping up to the plate and showing extraordinary leadership.  I am confident that this is going to be one important piece of the puzzle to get the economy moving again.

Thank you very much, everybody.  Thank you, guys.

Q    President Clinton, any advice to your friend — President Clinton, do you have any advice to President Obama about the economy?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Oh, he gives me advice all the time.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON:  I just want to — I’ll say again, this announcement today — the reason you should be encouraged by this, you can run the numbers and see how many jobs he announced.  But this meeting we just came from, as Dick Parsons said, represented trillions of dollars in potential investment.  And if the President, by doing this, can trigger pools of investment so that you have more buildings like this, keep in mind it can also change what goes on in every rural place and small town in America.

Upstate New York, which is in trouble — every little county has got one bonded contractor.  That bonded contractor can guarantee to every public school, every state, county, and local building, every little office building in Chappaqua, New York, where Hillary and I live, what the savings are going to be.  They’ve got software.  We have to have breakthroughs on financing.  That’s really the long-term potential significance of what the President announced today; and the fact that he did something that only a President can do — he got all these people together, and then to have the AFL-CIO and the AFT and others sort of lead the way, and saying we will put our members’ pensions into this because we can get a good return, it’s a stable return, we’ll put our current members to work and other working people to work, and get a return on the pension.

This is a big deal.  That’s the significance to this.  This announcement the President made today is the jobs that you can multiply 7,000 times a billion, but it’s potentially, literally 50, 70, 80 times that because of who’s involved.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thanks, guys.

END
11:45 A.M. EST

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