Full Text February 14, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech with Vice President Xi of the People’s Republic of China Before Bilateral Meeting




Remarks by President Obama and Vice President Xi of the People’s Republic of China Before Bilateral Meeting

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Oval Office

11:29 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I want to welcome Vice President Xi to the Oval Office and welcome him to the United States.  This is obviously a great opportunity for us to build on the U.S.-China relationship, but also an opportunity to return the extraordinary hospitality that Vice President Xi showed Vice President Biden during his recent visit to China.

As I indicated during my recent visit to APEC and the East Asia Summit, the United States is a Pacific nation.  And we are very interested and very focused on continuing to strengthen our relationships, to enhance our trade and our commerce, and make sure that we are a strong and effective partner with the Asia Pacific region.  And obviously, in order to do that, it is absolutely vital that we have a strong relationship with China.

Over the last three years I’ve had a great opportunity to develop a strong working relationship with President Hu.  And we have continually tried to move forward on the basis of recognizing that a cooperative relationship based on mutual interest and mutual respect is not only in the interests of the United States and China, but is also in the interest of the region and in the interest of the United States — in the interest of the world.

On the basis of that understanding, we have established very extensive strategic and economic dialogues between our two countries.  We have been able to pursue a significant consultation on opportunities for both countries to improve their economic relationship and their strategic relationship, and also manage areas of tension in a way that is constructive.

That includes working together in the G20 to manage the world economic crisis that had such an impact not only on both our countries, but on the entire world.  And because of U.S.-China cooperation, I think that we were able to help stabilize the situation at a very difficult time.  It also includes the work that we’ve been able to do together in dealing with regional hotspot issues, like the Korean Peninsula, and issues like Iran that obviously have an impact on everybody.

Throughout this process I have always emphasized that we welcome China’s peaceful rise, that we believe that a strong and prosperous China is one that can help to bring stability at prosperity to the region and to the world.  And we expect to be able to continue on the cooperative track that we’ve tried to establish over the last three years.

We have tried to emphasize that because of China’s extraordinary development over the last two decades, that with expanding power and prosperity also comes increased responsibilities.  And so we want to work with China to make sure that everybody is working by the same rules of the road when it comes to the world economic system, and that includes ensuring that there is a balanced trade flow between not only the United States and China, but around world.

It also means that on critical issues like human rights, we will continue to emphasize what we believe is the importance of recognizing the aspirations and rights of all people.  And we expect that China will continue to take a growing role in world affairs.  And we believe that it is critically important that the United States and China develop a strong working relationship to help to bring stability, order, and security that ultimately provides a better life for both the people of the United States and the people of China.

So, Mr. Vice President, I hope you have a wonderful visit while you’re here.  I’m sure the American people welcome you.  I’m glad that you’re going to get an opportunity to get out of Washington.  I know you’ll be visiting Iowa, where you visited many years ago when you were governor.  And I understand you’re also going to be going to Los Angeles and maybe even taking in a Lakers game.  So I hope you enjoy that very much.

But I want to extend my deepest welcome to you, and look forward to a future of improved dialogue and increased cooperation in the years to come.

VICE PRESIDENT XI:  (As interpreted.)  Honorable President Obama, it’s my great pleasure to meet you again.  First of all, I’d like to convey the sincere greetings from President Hu Jintao, the National People’s Congress Chairman Wu Banguo, and Premier Wen Jaibao.

I am paying an official visit to the United States at the kind invitation of Vice President Biden.  And we have received the warm and extraordinary hospitality from our hosts.  So here, I want to thank you for your personal attention and what you did to help prepare and make sure a successful visit for myself.

The main purpose of my visit is to implement the important agreement you had reached with President Hu Jintao and to do some work to move forward the China-U.S. relationship along in the right direction, set by you and President Hu — that is for our two countries to work together to build a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interests.  And I hope to engage with a broad cross-section of American society during my current visit, so as to deepen mutual understanding, expand consensus, strengthen cooperation, and deepen the friendship between the Chinese and American people.

Yesterday evening, soon after my arrival in Washington, D.C., I met with a very distinguished group of veteran U.S. political leaders.  I sought their advice on the future development of our relationship, and their wise and practical suggestions have provided me with much food for thought.

Just now I’ve had a set of large and small talks with Vice President Biden.  He and I had an extensive, candid, and in-depth exchange of views on the bilateral relationship and international and regional issues of shared interest.  Building on our discussions last August in Beijing and Chengdu, the Vice President and I reached some new consensus.

I look forward to my in-depth discussion with you, President Obama, in our meeting today.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you, everybody.

11:41 A.M. EST

Full Text February 14, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Urging Congress to Extend the Payroll Tax Cut & Unemployment Insurance




Remarks by the President on Extending the Payroll Tax Cut

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South Court Auditorium

10:55 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Well, good morning.  And let me start with a quick public service announcement for all the gentlemen out there:  Today is Valentine’s Day.  (Laughter.)  Do not forget.  I speak from experience here.  (Laughter.)  It is important that you remember this.  And go big — that’s my advice.  (Laughter.)

Lately, I’ve been saying that this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class in America, and for folks who want to be in the middle class.  We face a choice.  We can settle for a country where a few people do really, really well and everybody else struggles just to get by.  Or we can restore an economy where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  And that second option is, I strongly believe, the kind of America that we want for our kids and our grandkids.  That’s who we are. That’s the America that we believe in.  That’s what we have to roll up our sleeves and get back to doing, is creating an America where everybody is doing their fair share, everybody gets a fair shot, everybody is engaging in fair play.

We’re still fighting our way back from the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes, and we’ve still got a lot of work to do and a long way to go.  It’s going to take time to recover all the jobs that were lost when the recession was at its depth.  But the fight is beginning to turn our way.

Over the past two years, our businesses have added over 3.7 million new jobs.  Our manufacturers are hiring more new workers to make more new things here in America than at any time since the 1990s.  So our economy is growing stronger.  And the last thing we need, the last thing we can afford to do, is to go back to the same policies that got us in this mess in the first place.  The last thing we need is for Washington to stand in the way of America’s comeback.

First and foremost, that means Washington shouldn’t hike taxes on working Americans right now.  That’s the wrong thing to do.  But that’s exactly what’s going to happen at the end of this month — in a couple of weeks — if Congress doesn’t do something about it.  The payroll tax cut we put in place last year will expire.  The typical American family will shell out nearly a thousand dollars more in taxes this year.  You’ll lose about $40 out of every paycheck if Congress does not act.

And that can’t happen.  Not now.  And it doesn’t have to.  Congress needs to extend that tax cut — along with vital insurance lifelines for folks who’ve lost their jobs during this recession — and they need to do it now, without drama and without delay.  No ideological sideshows to gum up the works.  No self-inflicted wounds.  Just pass this middle-class tax cut.  Pass the extension of unemployment insurance.  Do it before it’s too late.  And I will sign it right away.  (Applause.)

Now, the good news is over the last couple of days, we’ve seen some hopeful signs in Congress that they realize that they’ve got to get this done and you’re starting to hear voices talk about how can we go ahead and make this happen in a timely way on behalf of the American people.  That is good news.  But as you guys know, you can’t take anything for granted here in Washington until my signature is actually on it.

So we’ve got to keep on making sure that the American people’s voices keep breaking through until this is absolutely, finally, completely done.  Until you see me sign this thing, you’ve got to keep on speaking up.  Until you see that photograph of me signing it at my desk — (laughter) — make sure it’s verified, certified.  If it’s not on the White House website, it hasn’t happened.  And I’m going to need to make sure that your voices are heard.

Last December, when we had this same fight, your voices made all the difference.  We asked folks to tell what it was like — what it would be like if they lost $40 out of every one of their paychecks — because we wanted to make sure that people understood this is not just an abstract argument, this is concrete.  This makes a difference in the lives of folks all across the country in very important ways.

Tens of thousands of working Americans flooded us with their stories, and some of them are here with me today.  And their feedback has been pretty unanimous.  Allowing this tax cut to expire would make people’s lives harder right now.  It would make their choices more difficult.  It would be $40 less for groceries to feed your kids; it would be $40 less for the medications you depend on; $40 less to cover bills and the rent; $40 less to take care of an elder parent, or to donate to a church or a charity.  And when gas prices are on the rise again — because as the economy strengthens, global demand for oil increases — and if we start seeing significant increases in gas prices, losing that $40 could not come at a worse time.

One local entrepreneur named Thierry — where’s Thierry?  He’s right here.  He told us that $40 would cover the gas that gets him to his day job, or, alternatively, the Internet service his small business depends on.  So he’d have to start making a choice — do I fill up my gas tank to get to my work, or do I give up my entrepreneurial dream.  “Forty dollars,” he wrote, “means a heck of a lot.”  Means a heck of a lot.

And that’s what this debate is all about.  This is what’s at stake for millions of Americans.  This is why it matters to people — it matters a heck of a lot.  And I’m asking the American people to keep their stories coming.  Tell us what $40 means to you.  If you tweet it, use the hashtag “40dollars.” (Laughter.)  Call, tweet, write your congressmen, write your senators.  Tell them, do not let up until this thing gets done.  Don’t let taxes go up on 160 million working Americans.  Don’t let millions of Americans who are out there looking for work right now, and the economy is starting to improve but they don’t have a job yet — don’t leave them without a lifeline in terms of cutting off their unemployment insurance.

When a plane is finally lifting off the ground, you don’t ease up on the throttle.  You keep the throttle on full.  You keep going.  And our plane is up there, but we’re not at cruising altitude yet.  (Laughter.)

After all, extending this tax cut and the unemployment insurance is the least of what we should be doing for working Americans.  It’s just a start.  We need to rebuild an economy where middle-class folks can focus on more than just getting by and folks who want to get in the middle class have those ladders to get into the middle class.  We’ve got to rebuild an economy where the middle class thrives and more Americans have a chance to earn their way into it — an economy built to last.

Yesterday, I released a blueprint for how we get there.  It’s a blueprint for an economy built on new American manufacturing, and new American energy sources, and new skills and education for American workers, and a new focus on the values that are the bedrock of this country — values like fairness and responsibility for all and from all.  We’re going to be better off if we start building that economy right now.

And we can do it, because we’ve done it before.  We have a common challenge; it’s time for us to meet it with a common purpose, and to show a sense of seriousness that’s equal to the task.

So on behalf of all the hardworking Americans who are standing behind me, I want to thank you for helping to tell your story, and tell the story of why this is so important.  And I just want everybody, all across the country, to keep the pressure so that we get this done.  It is going to make our economy stronger, and it’s going to put us in a position where we can start really rebuilding on behalf of not just this generation but future generations.

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

11:03 A.M. EST

History Q & A February 14, 2012: Why do we Celebrate Valentine’s Day? The Roman Origins & Christian History of Valentine’s Day



Valentine’s Day: Why Do We Celebrate It? (Hint: Naked Romans)

Source: National Geographic, 2-13-12

An illustration of the Roman Lupercalia festival.

Ancient Roman priests are depicted striking women in a Lupercalia fertility rite.

Illustration by Labrouste Del., Mary Evans Picture Library/Alamy

John Roach for National Geographic News

Where did Valentine’s Day come from? (Think naked Romans, paganism, and whips.) What does it cost? And why do we fall for it, year after year?

Valentine’s Day History: Roman Roots

More than a Hallmark holiday, Valentine’s Day, like Halloween, is rooted in pagan partying. (See “Halloween Facts: Costumes, History, Urban Legends, More.”)

The lovers’ holiday traces its roots to raucous annual Roman festivals where men stripped naked, grabbed goat- or dog-skin whips, and spanked young maidens in hopes of increasing their fertility, said classics professor Noel Lenski of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The annual pagan celebration, called Lupercalia, was held every year on February 15 and remained wildly popular well into the fifth century A.D.—at least 150 years after Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Lupercalia was “clearly a very popular thing, even in an environment where the [ancient] Christians are trying to close it down,” Lenski said. “So there’s reason to think that the Christians might instead have said, OK, we’ll just call this a Christian festival.”

The church pegged the festival to the legend of St. Valentine.

According to the story, in the third century A.D., Roman Emperor Claudius II, seeking to bolster his army, forbade young men to marry. Valentine, it is said, flouted the ban, performing marriages in secret.

For his defiance, Valentine was executed in A.D. 270—on February 14, the story goes.

While it’s not known whether the legend is true, Lenski said, “it may be a convenient explanation for a Christian version of what happened at Lupercalia.”

(Valentine’s Day Pictures: Animal Pairs.)

Valentine’s Day Cards

The first Valentine’s Day card was sent in 1415 from France’s Duke of Orléans to his wife when he was a prisoner in the Tower of London following the Battle of Agincourt, according to the association.

During the Revolutionary War, Valentine’s Day cards—mostly handwritten notes—gained popularity in the U.S. Mass production started in the early 1900s.

Valentine’s Day Candy:

Fifteenth-century Aztec emperor Moctezuma I believed “eating chocolate on a regular basis made him more virile and better able to serve his harem.”

The Origin of Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day

The origin of Valentine’s Day is mysterious. Valentine’s Day comes from a figure in Christian history but the exact identity of St. Valentine is difficult to prove. Tradition holds Valentine was a priest in Rome, who aided and sheltered Christians in persecution under Claudius II. In addition, he married Christian couples under the newly found faith of Christianity. Valentine was caught, and sent to Rome to renounce his faith. Valentine was be beaten with clubs and was be beheaded. He was executed on February 14, sometime around year 270.

One tradition holds that Valentine himself sent the first “Valentine” card:

While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who may have been his jailor’s daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.

Several “Valentine” names are mentioned in history with a connection to St. Valentine: One is described as a priest at Rome, another as bishop of Interamna (modern day Terni, Italy), or  martyred priest in Africa. Two of these two individuals seem to have suffered in the latter half of the third century and were buried on the Flaminian Way outside Rome, but at different distances from the city.

Valentine's Day

To confuse the understanding of Valentine’s Day and St. Valentine, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day around 498 A.D.  Many Christian historians believe that Pope Galasius did this to Christianize the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, which was a bloody and strange observance.

All of this uncertainty might lead one to believe that St. Valentine was just a made up saint. A figure of the imagination of Christians looking for a story. A myth. Such inconsistencies cause doubt and leave a rather murky past for this holiday. But, one piece of evidence may prove that St. Valentine was an actual historical figure.  A catacomb was discovered from the third century that was dedicated to Valentine.

Regardless if there was one or two individuals named Valentine, it is clear that ancient Christians believed in Valentine as an actual historical figure that they dedicated a tomb to in his honor.  His story inspired early Christians to continue their faith under persecution. It wasn’t until famous writers, such as Geoffrey Chaucer, who made it popular to send love notes to lovers on Valentine’s Feast Day.

History Buzz February 14, 2012: Molly Michelmore: New Book by Washington & Lee Historian Examines Tax and Spend Politics


History Buzz



New Volume by W&L Historian Examines Tax and Spend Politics

Molly Michelmore, assistant professor of history, Washington and Lee UniversityMolly Michelmore

Molly Michelmore, assistant professor of history at Washington and Lee University, hopes that her new book Tax and Spend: The Welfare State, Tax Politics, and the Limits of American Liberalism (University of Pennsylvania Press, February 2012) will not only help readers to think more clearly about taxes and government spending but also to re-think their ideas about what exactly constitutes welfare.

Michelmore traces the development of taxing and spending policy, two areas not usually examined together, from the New Deal of the 1930s through the Reagan revolution of the 1980s, providing a new interpretation of post-New Deal American liberalism in the process.

According to one review, “This most important book has the potential to transform how we think about the historical origins of the current crisis in the welfare state.” Another review declared that the book “shows why many Americans have come to hate government but continue to demand the security it provides.”

“Nobody ever talked about how taxes pay for the welfare state,” said Michelmore, “but it seemed that taxing policy and spending policy should be examined together. It’s impossible to talk about any kind of American political debate without thinking about how you’re going to pay for the things that people want.”

Drawing archival evidence from Congress, the White House, federal agencies and grassroots organizations, Michelmore shows how Democrats –even at the height of their power in the mid-20th century—adopted a political program that essentially hid government benefits from the people receiving those benefits.

“One of the things I point out in my book is that there has been a timidity on the part of liberals, including Roosevelt, the New Dealers, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy, to really embrace the idea that the state can be good,” said Michelmore. “Instead, they have done their best to obscure what it is that they’ve achieved. As a result, few Americans realize that, if you look beyond Cover of Tax and Spend, W&L History Professor Molly Michelmore's bookthe obvious programs that we call welfare, the middle class is quite dependent on federal assistance. It’s not simply the poor.

“But we have this erroneous idea as a nation that welfare is an illegitimate give-away program that taxes hard-working people in order to give money to irresponsible people who don’t want to work, can’t take care of themselves and make bad choices.”…READ MORE

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