Full Text February 24, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech with Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt after a Bilateral Meeting



A Meeting with Danish Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt

Source: WH, 2-24-12

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark (February 24, 2012)
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark hold a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 24, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya Hebert)

Five months after becoming the first female prime minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt was at the White House today for a meeting with President Obama.

The two leaders talked through a range of issues — including counterterrorism cooperation and international security. The President also took time to thank Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt  for what he called the “extraordinary contributions” of Danish troops in the Helmand area of Afghanistan.

But in comparing notes, President Obama said that he learned that — just like Americans — Danes are focused intensely on creating jobs and growing the economy.

The President said:

[We] agreed that there has been some progress in resolving the sovereign debt issues, that there has been some progress with respect to the agreements between the EU and the IMF and Greece, the new government in Italy, new governments in Spain and Portugal are all making significant progress, but that there’s a lot more work to do. And we will be consulting closely with Denmark.

President Obama will meet again with a range of leaders from Europe in Chicago in May — for a NATO summit and a meeting of the G-8.


Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark after a Bilateral Meeting

The Oval Office

3:41 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I want to welcome Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt to the White House and to the Oval Office.  This is the first time that we’ve had a chance to meet, but obviously we’ve been very impressed with the first five months of her prime ministership.  I shared with her how much Michelle and I appreciated the extraordinary hospitality that was shown to Michelle and I when I visited Copenhagen in the past.  And I also wanted to just say how much we appreciate the great alliance and partnership that we have with the Danish people on a whole range of international issues.

Obviously, most recently, the operations in Libya could not have been as effective had it not been for the precision and the excellence of the Danish armed forces and their pilots.  But that’s fairly typical of the way that Danes have punched above their weight in international affairs.

In Afghanistan, I thanked the Prime Minister for the extraordinary contributions of Danish troops in the Helmand area.  They operate without caveat, have taken significant casualties, for which obviously all of us extend our condolences to the families that have been affected.  But because of the outstanding work that’s been done by Danish soldiers in Afghanistan, we’re seeing great progress in the areas where they operate.

We had a chance to talk about the economy.  As we were exchanging notes, it turns out that, like folks here in the United States, everybody in Denmark wants to talk about the economy all the time, and jobs and growth.  And we agreed that there has been some progress in resolving the sovereign debt issues, that there has been some progress with respect to the agreements between the EU and the IMF and Greece, the new government in Italy, new governments in Spain and Portugal are all making significant progress, but that there’s a lot more work to do.  And we will be consulting closely with Denmark.

And we exchanged ideas on how we can ensure not only economic stability in Europe but also growth in Europe, because if Europe is growing then that benefits the U.S. economy as well.  And we emphasized other additional ways that we can encourage trade and reduce economic frictions between the two sides of the transatlantic relationship.

In preparation for our meeting in Chicago, at NATO, in my hometown, we talked about the transition that was already agreed to in Lisbon, when it comes to putting Afghans in the lead in security over the next several years.  And we are going to be consulting with not only Denmark but our other allies in making sure that that is a smooth transition and one that is sustained, where we continue to help the Afghan government to support its own sovereignty and effectively control its borders.

We also discussed the extraordinary counterterrorism cooperation that’s taking place between our two countries.  And I thanked the Prime Minister for the excellent work that her intelligence team has done.  We are in constant communication on a whole host of issues.  The Danes are very much one of the leaders when it comes to counterterrorism, and are obviously familiar with the significant threats that are posed by terrorism.  So we appreciate that very much.

And we had a chance to talk about a wide range of international issues, including the situation in Syria.  And I have to say that all of us who’ve been seeing the terrible pictures coming out of Syria and Homs recently recognize it is absolutely imperative for the international community to rally, and send a clear message to President Assad that it is time for a transition, it is time for that regime to move on, and it is time to stop the killing of Syrian citizens by their own government.

And I’m encouraged by the international unity that we are developing — the meetings that took place in Tunisia that Secretary Clinton attended.  And we are going to continue to keep the pressure up, and are looking for every tool available to prevent the slaughter of innocents in Syria.  And this is an area where I think the Prime Minister and I deeply agree — it’s important that we not be bystanders during these extraordinary events.

At the same time, there are other threats in the region, including the situation in Iran.  And I thanked the Prime Minister and the Danish government for their leadership role in applying the toughest sanctions we’ve ever seen coming out of the EU.  Difficult sanctions to apply, but we both agree that we’re making progress and they are working in sending a message to Iran that it needs to take a different path if it wants to rejoin the international community, and that there is a expectation on the part of the world that they abide by their international obligations when it comes to their nuclear program.

So the final thing we talked about was the fact that we both have two daughters; they’re roughly the same ages.  (Laughter.)  We traded notes.  The Prime Minister’s daughters are slightly older than Malia and Sasha.  She assures me that they continue to behave themselves, even well into their teenage years.  So I’m encouraged by the report.


PRESIDENT OBAMA:  And I thank you very much.  I hope that you have a wonderful stay while you’re here, and we look forward to working with you again in the near future.

PRIME MINISTER THORNING-SCHMIDT:  Thank you, Mr. President.  And thank you so much for your kind words.  And the Danish people have a very strong sense of closeness to the United States, and we always have had that sense.  We have close economic, political ties with each other.  But not only that, we exchange tourism, students, ideas, and culture.  But perhaps most important of all, we have — we share common values.  And I think in a turbulent time, this is very, very important.

So basically, the friendship and the alliance between our two countries is in very good shape right now.  And I thank you for that.

As you said, we discussed the current situation.  Denmark holds the presidency of the EU right now, and we talk about the debt situation most of the time, in Europe.  I conveyed the message to the President that I am convinced that we will see ourselves through this crisis.  We have now put some very important measures in place.  We have fiscal conservation, we have reforms, and we have focus on growth and jobs right now.

In doing that, in this endeavor, I think a closer transatlantic relationship will be important.  We are dependent on each other and we should have closer trade with each other, and I think that would be part of creating sustainable growth in our own countries.

As you were saying, Mr. President, we also have close ties in terms of security.  It is clear — it has been for a long time — that Danish soldiers are serving alongside American soldiers in Afghanistan, and I used the opportunity today to thank you and the American people for the great effort you have put in Afghanistan.  It is greatly appreciated worldwide.  And I know that the Danish people really appreciate the global leadership that you and your people have taken also within that context.

I look forward, of course, to coming back to the States, to your hometown, Chicago, to participate in the NATO summit.  And what we will be discussing there is Afghanistan, of course.  One of the major issues there is transition to the next phase in Afghanistan, and where — what we want to see is the Afghans taking responsibility for their own security.  And we are, in Europe, with all the Danish leadership, trying to gather donors in this — in securing that the Afghans are capable of taking over their own security.

We have some great samples of our alliance.  We have worked together, again, in Libya, where we made sure that Libya came out on a path of democracy.  And I think, again, the Americans showed leadership in that context.

Another area that we discussed, as you’ve said, was Syria, which is quite the opposite situation.  It is horrendous what we see in Syria right now.  But I think it is also very, very true that we have worked together in that area.  We must continue that endeavor, and just today we have seen that, of the leadership of the League of Arab States, there has been a step forward in trying to put pressure on Syria, which is very, very important.  The same goes for Iran.

Another area in security where we work together is in terms of piracy, and I used the opportunity of thanking sincerely the President for the courageous operation that led to the freeing of two aid workers that worked for the Danish Refugee Council.  They are now safe because of the Americans.  Thank you for that.

So basically our security — our cooperation in terms of security are very great indeed.

I will finish here just by saying that I think our meeting here today has confirmed the friendship and the alliance between our two countries.  There’s a lot we can do that — you’re always welcome to come to Denmark — and I think it is very, very important that we have these kind of meetings to renew the friendship, and this is what you’ve done today.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much, everybody.

3:51 P.M. EST

Full Text February 25, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address — Energy Plan Embraces A Home-Grown All-Of-The-Above Approach to American Energy Challenges



President Obama talks about how important it is to embrace an all-of-the-above approach to addressing our nation’s energy challenges.

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address
President Barack Obama tapes the weekly address, White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 2/24/12

Weekly Address: An All-Of-The-Above Approach to American Energy

Source: WH, 2-25-12

President Obama talks about how important it is to embrace an all-of-the-above approach to addressing our nation’s energy challenges.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3


WEEKLY ADDRESS: An All-Of-The-Above Approach to American Energy

In this week’s address, President Obama spoke to the American people about the importance of taking an all-of-the-above approach to addressing our nation’s energy challenges. With only 2% of the world’s oil reserves, we cannot simply drill our way to lower gas prices, as some in Washington have suggested.  Americans understand that we must have a long-term strategy that uses every available source of energy—including oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear, biofuels, and more.  We also cannot fail to recognize the important role that increasing the efficiency of our cars and trucks can play in both reducing our dependence on oil and saving consumers money at the pump.  Finally, at a time when oil companies are making record profits and American families are paying record prices, we must end, once and for all, the $4 billion a year in tax breaks oil companies receive.  There are no quick fixes to this problem, but together we can make a serious effort to overcome our energy challenges and help create American jobs.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
The White House
Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hello, everybody.

In the State of the Union, I laid out three areas we need to focus on if we’re going to build an economy that lasts: new American manufacturing, new skills and education for American workers, and new sources of American-made energy.

These days, we’re getting another painful reminder why developing new energy is so important to our future.  Just like they did last year, gas prices are starting to climb.  Only this time, it’s happening earlier.  And that hurts everyone – everyone who owns a car; everyone who owns a business.  It means you have to stretch your paycheck even further.  Some folks have no choice but to drive a long way to work, and high gas prices are like a tax straight out of their paychecks.

Now, some politicians always see this as a political opportunity.  And since it’s an election year, they’re already dusting off their three-point plans for $2 gas.  I’ll save you the suspense:  Step one is drill, step two is drill, and step three is keep drilling.  We hear the same thing every year.

Well the American people aren’t stupid.  You know that’s not a plan – especially since we’re already drilling.  It’s a bumper sticker.  It’s not a strategy to solve our energy challenge.  It’s a strategy to get politicians through an election.

You know there are no quick fixes to this problem, and you know we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.  If we’re going to take control of our energy future and avoid these gas price spikes down the line, then we need a sustained, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy – oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear, biofuels, and more.  We need to keep developing the technology that allows us to use less oil in our cars and trucks; in our buildings and plants.  That’s the strategy we’re pursuing, and that’s the only real solution to this challenge.

Now, we absolutely need safe, responsible oil production here in America.  That’s why under my Administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years.  In 2010, our dependence on foreign oil was under 50% for the first time in more than a decade.  And while there are no short-term silver bullets when it comes to gas prices, I’ve directed my administration to look for every single area where we can make an impact and help consumers in the months ahead, from permitting to delivery bottlenecks to what’s going on in the oil markets.

But over the long term, an all-of-the-above energy strategy means we have to do more.  It means we have to make some choices.

Here’s one example.  Right now, four billion of your tax dollars subsidize the oil industry every year.  Four billion dollars.

Imagine that.  Maybe some of you are listening to this in your car right now, pulling into a gas station to fill up.  As you watch those numbers rise, know that oil company profits have never been higher.  Yet somehow, Congress is still giving those same companies another four billion dollars of your money.  That’s outrageous.  It’s inexcusable.  And it has to stop.

A century of subsidies to the oil companies is long enough.  It’s time to end taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s never been more profitable, and use that money to reduce our deficit and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising.  Because of the investments we’ve already made, the use of wind and solar energy in this country has nearly doubled – and thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.  And because we put in place the toughest fuel economy standards in history, our cars will average nearly 55 miles per gallon by the middle of the next decade – something that, over time, will save the typical family more than $8,000 at the pump.  Now Congress needs to keep that momentum going by renewing the clean energy tax credits that will lead to more jobs and less dependence on foreign oil.

Look, we know there’s no silver bullet that will bring down gas prices or reduce our dependence on foreign oil overnight.  But what we can do is get our priorities straight, and make a sustained, serious effort to tackle this problem.  That’s the commitment we need right now.  And with your help, it’s a commitment we can make.  Thank you.

White House Recap February 18-24, 2012: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Barack Obama Sings “Sweet Home Chicago” — Speaks at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture Groundbreaking Ceremony — Signs the Payroll Tax Extension into Law & Unveils Home-Grown Energy Plan


WHITE HOUSE RECAP: February 18-24, 2012

The Obama White House has had a great week — featuring BB King, the Boeing Dreamliner, a speech about American energy, a payroll tax cut extension, and special musical guest Keb Mo.

West Wing Week

West Wing Week: 2/24/12 or West Wing Week 100!

Source: WH, 2-24-12

It’s hard to believe that when West Wing Week was born, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was still around, American troops were still fighting in Iraq, the American auto industry was on the brink of collapse, and nobody knew that President Obama could sing — what a difference 694 days makes. We’ve got a great week for you — featuring BB King, the Boeing Dreamliner, a speech about American energy, a payroll tax cut extension, and special musical guest Keb Mo.

Weekly Wrap Up: “Sweet Home Chicago”

Source: WH, 2-24-12

Your Voice, Your $40: On Wednesday, the President signed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which extends the payroll tax cut and emergency jobless benefits through the end of the year. He credits the Americans who added their voices to the debate by letting their representatives know what $40 means to them—“This got done because of you…You made it clear that you wanted to see some common sense in Washington.”

President Obama, In Performance: Some huge names in music—Mick Jagger and B.B. King, among others—joined the President and the First Lady for a night of blues on Tuesday as part of the PBS “In Performance at the White House” series. By now, we’re no strangers to the President’s impressive pipes, and he certainly held his own against the music legends as he sang a few lines of “Sweet Home Chicago.”

New Museum on the Block: Tourists and locals alike appreciate Washington, D.C.’s museums. In 2015, a new one will open its doors—the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The President, who was accompanied by the First Lady at the future museum’s ground breaking on Wednesday morning, remarked that, “This museum should inspire us…It should stand as proof that the most important things rarely come quickly or easily. It should remind us that although we have yet to reach the mountaintop, we cannot stop climbing.”

CC2C: Dr. Jill Biden and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis hit the road this week for their three-day “Community College to Career” bus tour to highlight the integral role community colleges play in developing a flexible, highly-skilled 21st century workforce.

Welcome to Miami: President Obama visited the Sunshine State on Thursday and stopped at the University of Miami to check out their Industrial Assessment Center (IAC)—a smart and important piece of the administration’s “all-of-the-above” approach to domestic energy sources. He also spoke to the Hurricanes about securing a future for America built on home-grown energy, and his blueprint to help us get there.

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